White cobblestone streets against the majestic clear blue of the sea. Greece is a magical place. It’s a place that warmly welcomes many types of travellers. Whether you want to sunbathe on the pristine beaches for weeks on end, explore the islands by quads, shop the many boutique stores or partake on some crazy boating adventures, Greece will provide abundant opportunities.
Greece was my first stop in Europe before heading to Slovenia for my exchange semester. Getting into Athens mid morning, having not slept for 24 hours and having very limited time in the big city, I knew I had no choice but to ignore my exhaustion and head out to explore. In all honesty, my friend and I didn’t have anything planned other than seeing the Acropolis. And all we really saw was the Acropolis! Sometimes travelling isn’t about seeing all the tourist sites possible, but simply about going with the flow and enjoying the culture the city has to offer. Essentially that is exactly how we spent our day. My friend and I met a nice guy from California while taking the long and very hot bus ride into the center of Athens to get to our hostel. We explored the Acropolis with him and then slowly wandered the streets of Athens while getting to know each other. The atmosphere in the center was very energetic with other travellers and many locals enjoying the beautiful weather on the numerous little patios lining the streets. We spent the day and long into the night on an impromptu bar hop through the city of Athens. It was so nice to be able to enjoy the last of the beautiful summer weather! Basically our first day included drinking delicious sangria, mojitos and beer. It was great until we realized we needed to leave at 5:30am because the port to get to the island of Paros was very far from our hostel. The pros of having fun outweigh the cons of not sleeping.
Departing bright and early from Athens on a 5-hour ferry ride to the island of Paros wasn’t as bad as we had imaged. The ferry alone was so amazing that it is definitely worth mentioning. We took Blue Star ferries and I was blown away. The ferry is pristine and resembles a small cruise ship! My friend and I sat in these sofa type chairs (so comfy) and had our own large table right next to a full-length window to view the sea. I highly recommend Blue Star when travelling from island to island in Greece. Anyhow, the ferry was taking us to the relaxing island of Paros. Paros is the second largest island in the Cyclades. Knowing we had some big partying ahead of us in Ios, we opted to start our island hopping trip by relaxing on the beach. The beaches in Paros are beautiful. My recommendation is to rent a quad (very cheap) and quad to as many beaches as possible! Our hostel recommended Golden Beach in the southeast of the island and the Kolibithres beach area in the northwest of the island in the Bay of Naousa. After swimming, sun bathing and drinking iced coffee all day we had a sunset dinner at Golden Beach. The fish in Greece is amazing. I can’t get enough being I’m from Calgary, Canada!! I had fresh squid with a small salad and my friend had fresh scampi. We also gulped down a ½ litre of wine for only 4 euros. The total meal was less than 10 euros each. Pretty awesome right? The sunset backdrop and delicious meal was even worth getting lost in the dark for 2 hours trying to get back to our hostel.
Next on our Greek adventure was Ios! Ios is the place to be if nonstop partying is your thing! It is without a doubt one of the best places to party of all the islands. But it’s not just the partying that draws people in; Ios is home to some amazing beaches and spectacular backdrop scenery. While my friend and I stayed in the center of the action in the hilltop old town of Chora, we travelled to Mylopotas Beach during the day to spend our time feeling a little less than average at the beach. Mylopotas Beach is a must see! During the summer months the beach is loud and electric with parties and young people. However, everything about Ios charmed me: the sunset view from Francesco’s Hostel (stay there!), Mylopotas Beach, the winding narrow cobblestone paths of the old town, the many authentic restaurants, the numerous clothing and jewelry shops, crazy night life and the cheap kebabs!
We saved the most iconic for last: Santorini. Oh Santorini…how lovely you were. Fira and Oia really are postcard perfect places. The highlight of my Greek trip was, without question, the 10km walk from Fira to Oia. I was in complete awe the whole time. The view is breathtaking from every possible angle. Every kilometer closer you walk to the little town of Oia still seems so far away; but it’s not at all discouraging because you never want the hike to end anyway. I really recommend this hike if you’re going to visit Santorini. Renting quads the day after the hike was a godsend! We visited a red sand beach and black sand beach that day. They were both equally as unique as I imagined. The area of Perissa is where the black sand beach is located. This area is a great place to spend an afternoon! There is a boardwalk along the beach that features several restaurants, ice cream ships, and bars. If Greece is your destination, do yourself a favour and head over to to the idyllic Santorini!