Greece – the perfect holiday destination in my books! It’s got something for just about everybody, with fantastic weather to boot! The small town centres made up of white stone buildings, the cobblestone paths, smiling people, various beaches, hot night life, lingering sunsets and fresh food. What’s not to love??
I traveled to Greece as part of my European trip in 2011 – after making my way down Italy solo, it was great to have a travel companion in my friend Bec, who met me in Athens ready for a week of island hopping. One thing I knew, was that my hotel stays were at an end, as over the next week Bec had organised backpackers accommodation for us to lodge in. I can’t say I was all too excited…but I was game enough to give it a go.
Athens was scorching hot and more intimidating than I’d thought it would be. It’s not somewhere I would feel comfortable walking by myself at night, and there are certain places that women shouldn’t walk even in the day!There are, however, a few hot spots in town not to be missed. In particular the Acropolis – from up top, you can see for miles, and miles, and feel as though you’re king of the mountain.
Our first island stop was Mykonos. To those of you who travel here and stay at a campsite or backpackers lodge, I have two words for you – Party. Central. Bec and I stayed at Paraga Beach, said to be the best beach on the island. The days were gorgeous, the water divine and one of my favourite moments there was munching away on a Greek salad, sipping a vodka or two by the pool, looking out onto the ocean. When the bars along this beach close at night, the party continues over at Paradise Beach, a neighbouring beach stay, and it doesn’t stop until 8am the following day (for those of you with stamina and the right party attitude). Further along from there is one of the hottest party destinations – Cavo Paradiso. It’s said to host the best parties on the island, and is a clubbers paradise. We never actually went inside the club, for reasons I don’t clearly remember – but I’ll put it down to the fact we were simply having too much fun on the beach with our new friends! The town centre of Mykonos is fantastic – white as white stone buildings seem to grow out from one another, with bright blue or green doors and shops a plenty. We happily lost ourselves along the winding cobblestone paths.
The perfect place to wind down after that much partying, our next stop was Paros. The couple’s island. We might not have been each other’s ideal dates, but we did know how to unwind and relax in each other’s company. Lazing on the beach, dining by the water, reading a good book – bliss! Our second day we decided to hire quad-bikes and make our way around the island. The entire island. We rode from 10am to 6pm, making short pit stops along the way to eat or take 5 on one of the beaches (each one completely different from the next!). This was hands down one of my favourite days of my entire trip, and holds some of our favourite memories from Greece.
After Paros, we jumped on board another ferry to take us to Greece’s most famous party destination – Ios. The party started in our shuttle to our accommodation, with the latest party anthems blaring through the stereo and people already talking about getting their first drinks. Bec had booked us in to stay at Far Out Beach Club which is situated directly across the road from the beach. I can totally do this whole backpackers thing! It was a good thing I was in such a mind set, as even Bec was a little unsure about our particular accommodation here. I can’t really describe it any other way, than to say it was like a giant, tin kennel. Standing room only in the middle of the ‘room’, and thin mattresses on wooden slat frames…But hey, how much time were we going to spend in there anyway? We had bars, and a pool and a beach right on our doorstep! Daqueries on the beach was our first item of business, and once the sun was down we keep the daqueries going at the poolside party. Day two saw us back on the beach, before we met with 8 other travellers boarding a speed boat for our afternoon excursion! Swimming through ocean caves, lunch and snorkelling at a secluded beach (only accessible by boat), a short education on some of the islands followed by an 8 metre cliff jump. Being a bit of a thrill seeker, I was totally game…but that’s not to say I wasn’t a little unnerved once I got up there, realising just how high 8 metres was, and looking down at the crystal clear water – which from that height looks to be ankle deep. An unbelievable experience!
That night we decided to see what town had to offer, and thought we’d follow up on a dinner recommendation from one of the girls at the water sports hut. So we showered, dressed and dolled up a little then caught the next bus into town. We made our way through the cobblestone streets until we found the place – Katogi. You could tell it was very popular as they had no room for the two of us when we arrived (it’s also quite a small venue), but we were more than happy to wait and have a drink at the bar first. We were rewarded for our patience with a free shot of Ouzo – down the hatch! We didn’t need to wait long before we were seated, with another shot at the table to keep us going. This place, hands down, has some of the best tapas I’ve ever had (sorry Spain!). They really seemed to care about the food that they brought out – it was cooked with as much love and pride as incredible ingredients, with the cuisine closer to French-Greek fusion. We washed each delicious mouthful down with glasses full of sangria. The women running the restaurant were also fantastic – friendly, funny and more than hospitable (Read any review online and you’ll see just how many other people are raving about this spot).
After dinner and one more shot, it was time to head out. First stop was Astra, a tiny (and incredibly popular) cocktail bar, where the funky, deep-house music pumps hard and loud and the drinks keep flowing. My favourite cocktail was the Green Destiny and my favourite part about the place was that everyone was out to meet new people and make new friends (even if it was just to dance and belt out your voices to your favoruite hits). From there we went to Circus Bar – this place had more of a laid back, pub kind of feel, with classic songs performed live by the owner of the bar, and rum and cokes and Jaeger shots lined up along the bar (although they do also offer fresh fruit cocktails). With sing alongs, and prizes for taking the seven deadly shots, the highlight of the entertainment is the flame flaring. Owner, come performer, come bar tender steps behind the bar for this and puts on an incredible show – lighting the ends of two bottles and flaring like nobody I’ve seen before! We had met a guy named Jake* at the door here, who seemed to know a lot of people there. After a few drinks he asked us if we’d been to Slammer Bar. We said no. He said we had to go. So he took us out and around the corner to our next stop – the name speaks for itself really, and I’ll explain why. First order of business is straight to the bar for a drink. They take your order (‘One shot please!’), then hand you a helmet. Next, they mix up a special concoction and pour it into a very large shot glass. You take this, drink it as fast as you can, then just as you finish they knock you on the head with one of the few things they have behind the bar! I copped it with a large rubber mallet, while Bec took the brunt of a milk crate! The helmet certainly takes most of the force, but not all of it. Granted I’d had a few drinks by this point, but I don’t remember it hurting (for long) instead it gave a bit of a buzz, which lasted only a moment before you were rushed at with high fives from those around you. Definitely my most alternative night club experience! All in all – an outstanding night!
It was just about time to head back to Athens at this point, but we couldn’t leave the islands until we’d been to Santorini. So we booked our seats on the morning ferry, got some accommodation for the night when we docked, then hopped on the shuttle to take us up and over the hills. Having not known much about the islands before going there, I expected Santorini to be small. But it’s far from it! There was no way we would be biking around this place. A bus was our best bet to get us around! We checked into our motel, then caught the next bus, hopping off at Fira. This place seemed to be the tourist hub, being the bigger of the towns. With plenty of shops (particularly shoes and jewellery), eateries and at the same time playing host to a number of large cruise ships that dock near by. After browsing and eating some yiros for lunch (I couldn’t get enough of it) we decided to make our way down to the water – what better way than just how the Greeks did many years ago. On the back of a donkey! Admittedly, I did feel a little sorry for the creatures, standing lined up along the stairs, getting tourists hoisted on their backs and clopping all the way down then back up the steep stairways on the hill side. So I made sure my donkey felt extra appreciated for getting me down there. To get back up to the top, we caught a cable car (much quicker than on foot!)
One MUST SEE in Santorini is Oia – this seemed to be the centre of the art on the islad, while a number of doorways lead to some gorgeous cafe’s and restaurants with the most breathtaking views! We ducked into one such place for a light dinner (more Greek salad – it’s simply too good!) before we made our way to the viewing platform to watch the sun slowly set over the ocean, bathing us in a warm, orange glow. It’s easy to see why so many wedding take place here (there were two the evening we were there). Another incredible, memorable moment.
Stayed at: Athens – Easy Access Hostel, Athens; Mykonos – Paraga Beach Hostel; Paros – Ampeli Studios; Ios – Far Out Camping; Santorini – Can’t recall