Greece is one of those places that every traveler dreams about visiting. Whether it’s for its history, its food or seeing what is considered one of the best sunsets in the world, Greece is an amazing place to visit. I wasn’t planing on going to Greece but my other plans changed so it was the perfect opportunity for me to go. I spent a week in Greece, splitting my time between Athens and Santorini.
Eastern Europe is still a bit foreign to me compared to the West and before arriving in Greece, I was a little worried that the locals wouldn’t speak much English. Once I got there, I quickly realized that had nothing to worry about. They are also some of the nicest people I’ve ever met on my travels. I took a walking tour of Athens one morning and our guide said that we (the Greeks) won’t hurt you but we will rob you. Good to know. I never felt uncomfortable walking the streets alone but was very mindful about keeping my belongings close.
Toilets in Eastern Europe aren’t up to the same standards as Western Europe, meaning you will have to toss your paper into the trash bin next to the toilet instead of flushing it. Seems a little gross but you get used to it.
One of the best parts about Athens was that you could drink the tap water, and it was really good water too. Having water being so accessible, especially during the high temperatures was really nice. However, you can’t drink the tap water in Santorini because the water comes from the sea and isn’t clean to drink.
I only had two full days in Athens and wanted to see as much as possible. It was extremely hot (over 100°) which made being outside all day a bit of a challenge. Athens is full of ruins with the best and most popular being the Parthenon. It’s a pretty rocky hike to the top but it’s completely worth it, even if you do drip sweat the entire time. Because the Parthenon sits atop The Acropolis, you also get amazing views of the city and the other ruins.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus as it stands today doesn’t look like much. It was once the largest temple in Greece with a total of 104 columns. About a century after the temple was completed, it fell into ruins and was never repaired. What we see today are the last 16 columns that are still standing.
I also had time to visit Hadrian’s Library, or what’s left of it?
Athens Olympic Stadium was a highlight for me. Maybe because it wasn’t in ruins? This stadium was the site were the first modern Olympic games were held in 1896 and it’s also the only stadium built entirely of marble.
Santorini was like a dream come true. I’m still in awe that I was able to spend a few days on one of the Greek Islands. I’ve done a lot of traveling this year and really wanted Santorini to be my relaxing beach vacation with very little touristy things thrown in the mix.
I spent my first couple of days on the east side of the island in Perissa where the black sand beaches are. I had never seen black sand beaches before and they are beautiful and HOT. It was impossible to walk on the beach barefoot because you would probably burn your feet from the heat. I loved being able to relax and not do anything, something I hardly ever do when traveling.
The next two nights I stayed in Fira, the capital of Santorini. Fira felt much more touristy than Perissa. The city is full of shops and restaurants and is the main bus hub to get to all other cities on the island.
My last full day in Santorini I went to Oia, known for it’s white washed and blue buildings. Oia is also where people go to see one of the best sunsets in the world and I can’t argue with that. Locals and tourists all find a spot to watch as the sun goes down and it really was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. The best spot to see the sunset? Head North towards the Byzantine Castle Ruins, you can’t miss all the people eager to watch as well. Get there early as it does get really crowded.
Another gem while in Oia was visiting Atlantis Books. I read about this book store in a magazine on a flight earlier last month and book marked it right away. I love visiting book stores in different countries and this one looked so charming that I couldn’t resist a visit. They even stamp your book with their logo as a little momento.
The food in Greece is amazing. I love trying different foods, it’s one of my favorite parts about traveling. No one can make a better salad than the Greeks. Real Greek salad is made without lettuce and with some green peppers and capers. I was in food heaven. Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of the Greek salads I ate even though I had so many. I was probably too excited to eat that I couldn’t take the time to snap a quick pic.
If you’re a vegetarian, a good option is Falafellas near Hadrian’s Library. It’s cheap and delicious. Order at the window and find a place outside to sit and enjoy. For a non-vegetarian alternative try Tylixto Greek Wrap for a gyro which is also cheap and just as delicious. This place is close to Hadrian’s Library as well.
This place I found away from all the touristy restaurants in Athens but I can’t remember the name. I decided to have something other than a Greek salad for lunch and tried a Cretan salad instead. It’s a little similar to a Greek salad as far as the tomatoes, cucumbers and olives but it’s served on large croutons and with different cheese. It was good, but I’ll stick to my Greek salad when in Greece from now on.
Ta Serbetia stou Psyrria was recommended to us by our tour guide. I ordered the Baklava, a sweet desert with layers of filo and chopped nuts and honey. The staff was super friendly and even brought ice cream and sangria at no extra charge. Not sure if they do that for everyone but I definitely appreciated it.
Other foods I tried but do not have pictures to show for were moussaka, which kinda looks like lasagna but made with minced lamb, eggplant, tomatoes and cheese on top. I also tried fried feta cheese cheese wrapped in filo and covered in honey. It’s served as an appetizer and you’ll have a hard time sharing.
While traveling, I also like to drink local. Greece surprisingly has some pretty good beers. I honestly can’t remember which is which but they were all very refreshing. My favorite beer I found was Crazy Donkey Beer in Santorini.
Greece is one of those places I would go back to in a heart beat. Maybe not during the hot summer months again. Okay, definitely not in summer. There is still a lot more that I want to explore on the mainland and the islands. Until then, I’ll try to perfect the Greek salad to the best of my ability.