Over the last week since our return from Greece many people have been asking us about our experience, especially as it relates to the economic crisis. As such we thought our next blog should definitely be a recap of our tour of Greece and our best advice for traveling there.
The biggest question we keep getting from those debating a trip to Greece this summer is, “Should I still go even with all of the economic chaos?” The answer is undoubtedly, yes! Whether it is a war, a political vote, an economic crisis, or any other current event, the media will always multiply the real effect by 10. Our best advice: be mindful of what you hear, but take it with a grain of salt and don’t be afraid to go see for yourself. Greece might be in quite a rut economically, but Greece still remains safe, hospitable, and absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous. The hospitality and kindness that we experienced there, even on the verge of economic turmoil, was the definition of selflessness.
So check out Couple’s Coordinates review of Greece below and then get over to www.Skyscanner.com and book your flight. Because Greece is a magical place that you definitely ought to visit this summer:
Based on reviews that we have heard, Athens seems to be quite polarizing. We were quite skeptical of what to expect based on some strong opinions we had heard expressed, but we are happy to report that we both loved Athens. The city really has a sense of magic about it. The historical monuments, structures, and art will blow your mind. The local beach towns just outside of Athens like Nea Makri (where we stayed) are reminiscent of small beach towns in Southern California with family run hotels and delicious restaurants. Athens has a great sense of charm and beauty to it, and if you go into it with an open mind, you’re sure to love it.
Where to stay:
We loved staying in New Makri. It is about 30 – 45 minutes by car from the center of Athens, but we saw that as a bonus. The seaside here was beautiful for sunset strolls and even better for watching the sunrise over the water. You really get the small beach town vibe here and the locals are very hospitable. Not to mention you’re only about 10 minutes from Rafina Port where you can catch a ferry to the Cyclades Islands.
What to do:
-Parthenon – The Parthenon, just like almost every historical monument in Europe seems to be constantly under construction as restoration is imperative in order to keep it looking as original as possible. You’ll likely find a crane and a ton of steel rebar in the middle of the Parthenon, but that doesn’t meet you won’t still be in awe.
-Erecthion – Alex was ballsy enough to get on the steps but had security guards blowing whistles and yelling at her literally within 1 or 2 seconds. Luckily Michael snapped a couple pictures quickly enough. Be sure to be quick and sneaky if you plan on getting pictures like this!
-Acropolis Museum – This museum has sculptures, paintings, and many pieces of the structures and original artifacts from the Acropolis that have either fallen off or been removed. Be sure to check out the Parthenon exhibit on the 3rd floor!
Where to eat
A movie we just watched not long ago called The Art of Travel closed with a quote that we all ought to be mindful of. “The art of travel is to deviate from one’s plans.” How often have you made plans, gotten super stoked for a place, event, etc. and then been let down? Some of our favorite travels and adventures have been spontaneous and many of our best days traveling have resulted from deviating from our plans.
Our day in Athens is the epitome of this. After visiting the Acropolis and the museum, we were walking around and planning to get some food in a quite touristy area before heading to the Temple of Zeus. Well, Zeus or “the weather” had other plans. It proceeding to start pouring rain. We grabbed an umbrella from a stand nearby and proceeded to hop in the first cab we could find. We told our cab driver to take us to his favorite restaurant in Athens and what transpired ended up being far better than our original plans. We are going to refer to our cab driver as our Greek Grandpa because that is exactly what he was. He drove us to his favorite restaurant, dropped us off and told the owners to treat us as his family, and then told us that he would return and drive us home afterward. Michael offered to pay him, but he refused to accept our money. “You’ll pay me after I take you home,” he said. “For now, you go eat.”
The owners opened the waterfront patio for us and started bringing us starters, samples, wine, etc. For about an hour we were wined and dined until we looked up and saw that our Greek Grandpa/cab driver was waiting for us outside. He drove us home, gave us his phone number and told us to call him next time we are in town so that we can come over and have his wife cook us a nice authentic Greek meal. Long story short – go to Athens – eat at Captain John’s, but more importantly, deviate from your plans. That is the true art of travel.
Where to stay
Mama’s Pension – Christina and the rest of the family running the restaurant are absolutely amazing. It is essentially a hostel, but has the feel of a hotel or B&B. Christina will pick you up and drop you off at the ferry station so you don’t have to spend money on a cab. Every morning you can head down to the common area (which has an amazing view) for free coffee and tea and she will even make you breakfast for 5 Euro. The price is just right at about 50 EUR a night and the location is prime as it is just about 3 KM from Mykonos town.
What to do
Beach parties – What more needs to be said? Mykonos is a party island. Although, to be quite honest, our best memories of Mykonos will likely be tanning nude and relaxing on a private beach…not partying at the bars.
Definitely be sure to start at Kalua Beach Bar in the afternoon. If you want to get a free glass of wine, when the sun is getting low, pretend like you’re about to leave and they will probably try to convince you otherwise. Enjoy some time on the beach or out in the water, and definitely swim out to the rocks in the middle of the sea if you please.
Rather than spend an hour waiting for a cab and wasting money, get around the Couple’s Coordinates way and hike! There is a trail that leads from Kalua Beach Bar to Paradise Beach where all of the major Mykonos beach parties are. Most notable is Tropicana Beach Bar which features a wild Italian MC in a banana hammock encouraging as much debauchery as possible. From here you can continue on to Super Paradise as well, but that is a bit more of a walk (2 hours) so make sure you have time and energy or wait for a cab.
Rent ATVs – The best form of transportation in Mykonos is ATV/quads. They rent for about 25 EUR a day and are awesomely fun. It is a huge problem trying to get a cab in Mykonos and you can find yourself waiting for over an hour even if your hotel calls one for you. Your best bet is either renting a car or taking the ATV like we did.
Tan Nude – To quote a friend of ours named Nicole, “It’s Greece…and tan lines are gross. Please tan nude.” Our favorite beaches we found were Agios Sostis which is gorgeous and offers beach massages, and a small private cove that is just over the mountain near Lia. If you head to Lia Beach, climb the hill to your left and you’ll find a private cove that will make you feel like you’re in the movie Cast Away.
Where to eat
The Taverna right next to Mama’s was where we ate both nights because the first meal blew our mind so much. This place has authentic Greek food and is family owned. We even saw the owners at the table next to us watching over the restaurant as they picked basil leaves and placed them in a bowl. This family was incredibly hospitable and even gave us some wine and dessert on the house! This is our only recommendation as it is all you need. Best authentic food we had in Greece, hands down. Go there. DO it.
Where to stay
If you’re looking to be right in the center of nightlife, activity, shopping, and still in a gorgeous spot, Fira is for you. If you’re looking to be directly in the center of tourism, but arguably the most beautiful town on the island, stay in Oia. However, if you’re looking for beauty and seclusion, stay in Akrotiri.
The Couple’s Coordinates suggestion is Apanemo Hotel in Akrotiri. This family owned hotel has a 3 level pool, 4 stars, and a 9.1 rating on Booking.com. And guess what? It only runs about 150 EUR a night.
Akrotiri is great because it provides seclusion, relaxation, proximity to Red Beach and the lighthouse, and an amazing view of the volcano, Fira, and Oia.
What to do
Whether you’re looking for a quick hike or a rather arduous one, Santorini has something for you. The hike up the volcano is an incredibly popular choice and is on the shorter end. We chose the hike between Fira and Oia which clocks in at about 10 KM (or just under 7 miles). The hike passes through all of Fira, the whole of Imerovigli and the entirety of Oia. It is probably one of the most beautiful hikes we’ve ever been on. Definitely worth it in every way.
One of the most difficult things to do while traveling is to find time to workout. Not only to find time to workout, but more importantly to find time to keep up with your standard fitness regiment. Fortunately for us, we found a small gym named Maina just outside of the center of Fira and were able to use the cardio machines and weights for only 10 EUR per day. We definitely suggest this as your go to gym in Fira!
After a 10 KM hike in 90+ degree heat you’ll definitely want to get wet. Amoudi Bay at the end of Oia offers a nice place to swim and a nice cliff which, of course, Michael jumped from. Be careful though because you have to walk down a very long staircase of slippery marble steps to get there.
Ride a donkey
We were a bit exhausted after the hike and didn’t feel like hiking back up the stairs from hell. As such, we opted to pay 5 EUR to ride donkeys all the way up back into Oia! It’s a great bit of fun and rather entertaining because the donkeys tend to think they’re racing one another.
Rent ATVs – No different from Mykonos, ATVs are the preferred transportation option on Santorini. The difference here is that Santorini allows more powerful ATVs. In Mykonos the quads are all 50cc while in Santorini you can rent 150cc, 200cc, 250cc, and even 300cc ATVs! Vroom vroom!
Roka – For an affordable, authentic Greek meal be sure to check out Roka in Oia! It is a bit off the beaten tourist path and has a lovely sea view of the back side of Santorini. Aside from the amazing food the best part has to be that it is an escape from the crazy tourism in Oia. We started with a beetroot salad and then shared the veal stew and the octopus in a sweet wine reduction, both were the best we have ever had. Our waiter informed us that all of the ingredients were local and that the fish and produce were delivered fresh every morning.
Chef’s Garden – A must try if in Fira! Chef’s Garden offers some authentic Greek Cuisine as well as organic farm to table modern style dishes. We both thought this was a restaurant that would have a line out the door on a daily basis if it were located in Santa Monica! Be sure to try a number of things because the prices are super affordable! One thing you have to be sure to get is the fresh peach juice. You actually feel as if you are biting into a fresh peach. Alex’s favorite dish was fish with fresh veggies, and Michael loved the chicken and potatoes. For breakfast order the Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts. It’s enough for two people and absolutely mouthwatering. The fact that we ate at Chef’s Garden 5 times in just 3 days is a testament to the quality of their food. You’ll find anything from American style breakfast to lunch, and specialty dinner entrees. The healthy options were a big reason we frequented Chef’s Garden, because as you can see from our time in Athens and Mykonos, we compromised a bit on our nutrition. But hey, you can’t go to Greece and not have calamari and gyros!
Despite the economic crisis in Greece, the people and the country still remain beautiful. We truly hope that they can find a way to resolve these issues and that the country holds its sense of magic forever. Greece will always have a piece of our hearts.