Europe, Greece, Travel

A Brief Piece of Greece

So you’re thinking of going to Greece… Well that’s an INCREDIBLE idea. Honestly, I never thought of going there as a strong independent single (emphasis on single) woman; however, it was the only country in Europe that my friend and I could agree on flying to from Dubai. Greece to me always seemed like a honeymoon destination, even more so because that’s where my parents honeymooned. I figured I’d spend a few days in Athens and then maybe go to an island or two and wait until the rest of Europe started to warm up. Well a week turned into a 3.5 week long trip in Greece, and I loved every second of it (except for the one sick day).

Where should you go?

That’s a hard question considering there are hundreds of stunning inhabited islands along with amazing mountains in the north. In addition to the plethora of islands, there is also an absurd amount of tourists in Greece from June to August. That’s why if you plan on going island hopping, I recommend visiting the touristy ones (i.e. Santorini and Mykonos) before June or after August. I was on both of these islands in May and the season was starting to pick up. I cannot imagine how bad the traffic is on these islands during peak season on the road and through the winding pedestrian streets. 

The islands in Greece are divided into different clusters. The different island groups include: the Ionian islands, the Sarconic Gulf Islands, the Sporades Islands, the Cycladic Islands, the Dodecanese Islands, Crete, and the North Aegean Islands. Each of these groups consists of many islands. I remember when I was trying to figure out which ones to go to, I had a very tough decision to do. The factors that I considered when choosing where to go were prices, ease of getting to the islands from Athens and then different islands, how touristy the places would be, and the social “life” on the islands. Read more about the different islands on Rick Steve’s Guide.

In reality, I can only speak about the places I went to and the stories I heard from locals and other tourists. I ended up traveling to: Athens, day trip to Aegina, Vouliagmeni and Sounio (driving distance from Athens), Naxos, Santorini, Ios and Mykonos. I would highly recommend all of those places, however if you’re going during low season, definitely skip Naxos. It was very cute, but everything was closed which seemed like a waste.

Where should I stay?

I stayed in a mixture of Airbnbs and hostels as I was budget traveling. If you are traveling in a group of 2 or more, an Airbnb is definitely a good option and not super expensive (depending where you are and time of the year). The hostels I stayed in were very good and sociable which was important for me as a solo traveler. If I ever go back, I would love to get a private villa in Santorini with my own private pool and view over the Mediterranean Sea. One can dream right?

 

 

How to get around?

If you plan on island hopping, ferry is your best bet and if you go during peak season, MAKE SURE TO BOOK AHEAD OF TIME. I preferred to use the Viva.GR website to look up ferry prices. My friend and I wanted to go to Hydra for a day, but the ferry was sold out so we couldn’t do it. You can also get an easy flight from Athens to Santorini if your budget allows for it. If you plan to go up north of Athens to, for example, Meteora, Delphi or to see Vikos Gorge it’s a good idea to rent a car, however buses are available.

On the islands, ATVs are a very common mode of transportation along with scooters. There are buses that run throughout the islands as well. Most islands, except for Hydra, you can rent a car on while you’re there. Hydra is a pedestrian only city – still a little sad I did not get to check it out. Also don’t worry about not being able to find a rental place, as soon as you get off the ferry you will be bombarded by Greek workers offering their services.

What to eat?

Where to even start on this topic…I could eat Greek food every day. If you’re a budget traveler, get ready to eat souvlaki for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…and maybe drunk at 4am as well. Everywhere you can get cheap souvlaki, gyros, and kebabs. I liked to tell myself that I was eating all the main food groups when I ate my soulvaki – protein, carbs, vegetables, fruit (tomatoes), and dairy!

If you’re trying to keep to the healthy lifestyle because you’ll be flaunting that beach bod all week, then the Greek salads are the way to go and are my favorite! You cannot go wrong with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and feta cheese. Another Greek delicacy I found a liking to was Moussaka. I loved comparing this dish from place to place. Basically it is a Greek lasagna with eggplant (sometimes potato), ground beef, and a béchamel sauce. On the islands, it’s a good idea to eat all the seafood you can. On Aegina, my friend and I enjoyed amazing grilled Octopus and fried anchovies.

If you’re having a cheat day, I definitely recommend trying the cheese saganaki, which is cheese and fried dough deliciousness. Another favorite of mine was the yogurt. It was literal perfection. I found it very interesting here that they ate it as a dessert and not for breakfast. The baklava is another dessert that can’t be missed. Also note that each island has its own delicacies. For example Aegina was a pistachio haven. I bought some delicious pistachio butter while I was there; I highly recommend it.

What to drink?

Like any country, Greece is home to many types of unique drinks. If you like to try the local alcohols, you will first need to try Raki. This is definitely not my favorite drink and kind of reminded me of tequila in potency, but hey ,when in Greece. Another Greek delicacy is Ouzo, which is considered to be the national drink of Greece. This drink should be enjoyed alone or mixed with sprite or lemonade to get rid of the licorice flavor. I hate licorice and doing this mixture was surprisingly good. The other local drink of Greece is Masticha. I honestly don’t remember drinking it (not because I was too drunk), so I have no opinions on this one. For beer, there are a bunch of local beers like Alfa, Mythos, and Fix.

When I was in Athens, my friend and I went to a wine bar which was home to many local wines found throughout Greece. So if you’re a wine connoisseur definitely check out the wines that Greece has to offer. Of course when you’re dehydrating with alcohol, some water should be consumed. Speaking of water, you will have to buy bottled water on islands, but it is fine to drink tap water in Athens.

What to do?

What does Greece have to offer? Literally everything. First off, the Greek people are SOOOO nice and friendly. If you have any questions, they are there to help you. In a nutshell, Greece offers anything from hanging out on beaches, to some crazy nightlife, to scuba diving, to relaxing in your own white housed blue roofed villa to incredible art galleries to some of the oldest historical sites to some good and inexpensive (compared to the rest of Europe) shopping. I will say the shopping in Santorini and Mykonos is quite high end, but they have such cute stuff. In the north, there are many places to hike along with old ruins to see. It’s very popular to rent an ATV and drive it around an island to explore what it has to offer. Each island has it’s own charm that is unique and worth a visit. To find out more about what I did on each island, check out each individual post (COMING SOON).

Is it safe?

From my experience, I would say Greece is a safe country to visit. I had no problems with locals and even sketchy people I walked by in Greece seemed to mind their own business. I will say that you should always be wary of pick pocketers in any touristy area. Like any other big city, I would also say be careful in Athens and going out of the touristy areas at night. I learned also that since I “looked” Greek or at least could camouflage myself easily, I had no problems. So if you’re a blonde hair blue eyed person, you may have a different experience than I did with the locals.

Can I travel alone there?

Umm, OF COURSE! As I noted in the beginning, I was nervous being a single person in Greece. I always thought of Greece as a honey moon destination. Little did I know that I would have the best 3.5 weeks of my life and would meet so many people. As long as you put yourself out there at hostels or walking tours, you’ll be just fine! Literally the first day in Athens, my friend and I made friends with the local barista. It is that easy!

Other important information:

Currency: Euro

Language: Greek

High Season: June to August

Since Greece thrives on tourism, all the people will speak English in the touristy areas. The Greek people, however, get super excited whenever you try to speak Greek. Literally as soon as I would say thank you in Greek, people would smile and appreciate the fact that you are not an ignorant traveler and are trying to be a part of their culture. So just to culture you a bit, below are some terms you should learn and practice. I could not, for the life of me, get the intonation correctly for thank you for at least a week. Do not be afraid to try speaking in Greek when you are there. You can always ask them to help you with your pronunciation.

Terms you should know:

Efharisto – thank you (emphasis on TO)

Yassu – hi

Signomi – excuse me

Paracalo – you’re welcome (emphasis on LO)

Neh – yes 

Ochi – no 

Is your flight booked?!

If you haven’t booked your ticket by now, I say GO FOR IT. You will not regret that decision for a second. The people are nice, the food is great, they have some of the worlds most beautiful beaches, and amazing nightlife. Greece is not only romantic for a honeymoon getaway, but a great destination for solo travelers as well. I hope you enjoy this stunning European destination as much as I did.

Xo, Carley

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