When I imagine what Heaven will look like, I think of Greece. My family and I took a trip to Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos for my high school graduation and I will always remember the serene and idyllic views. I've been dying to go back ever since we left in 2014 and I got to make that happen this year! Andrew and I celebrated five years together which also happens to coincide with my birthday. Though, we didn't vacation exactly on my birthday and our anniversary, it was so special to see him nonetheless. Loving someone for that long deserves a celebration, so I made sure that happened!
We were on a time crunch, but I definitely wanted to make sure Andrew got to see at least one of the Grecian islands. While Athens is historically significant, nothing compares to the Greek islands. My favorite is Santorini. When most people think of Greece they think of Santorini for the blue walls, white topped houses, chapels on the cliff sides, and beach scenes. It really is Heaven on Earth.
Our trip to Greece was a mad dash. We met in Athens, spent one day sight seeing, flew to Crete the next day, spent one and a half days in Crete, and then flew back to Athens. It's doable, but be prepared to be exhausted! Travel exhaustion is the best kind of exhaustion, though!
Did you know you can buy a pass that gets you into all the major historical sights in Athens? Also, did you know if you attend a European College or University, your ticket is free?! If you attend a University outside of Europe, your ticket costs 15 euros. Buy your ticket at Temple of Olympian Zeus because the lines at the Acropolis will be outrageous! Make sure you keep the ticket at each location you visit and the guard will rip off a piece at each place.
What your multi-location pass includes:
- Acropolis & Museum
- Theatre of Dionysos
- Odeon of Herodes Atticus
- Ancient Agora
- Roman Agora
- Temple of Olympian Zeus
Also, don't miss a quick visit to the Panathenaic Stadium that seats 70,000 people and hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. The Parliament building isn't far and has an impressive Changing of the Guard that takes place every hour on the hour. If you have more than one day, visit Lykavittos Hill, the highest of the eight hills in Athens. You can take the main path up starting at the top of Loukianou or take the funicular railway from the top of Ploutarhou. The National Gardens are also supposed to be beautiful during the summer.
It's important to know a lot of these places are ruins, so you'll have to imagine what they were once like. After a while seeing each place becomes repetitive which is why I don't think you need more than one day in Athens, unless you're really trying to take things easy.
If you have time, take a taxi down to the harbor and dine at one of the seaside restaurants. Any local restaurant in the city will be absolutely delicious. We didn't seek any place out specifically and had wonderful dining experiences. There are loads of restaurants near the Ancient and Roman Agora as well as fun souvenir shops.
I recommend purchasing a multi-day transport pass. The city is switching from physical tickets to the equivalent of London's Oyster Card or a "card tapping" system. Basically you load up money and tap on at certain locations. Not all transportation sites are updated yet, so many of the gates are just left open. This means you can ride transportation for free, but if you get caught the fines are very very steep, so I don't recommend. A train from Athens airport into the main city costs 5 euro if you're a University student and 10 euro for a regular adult ticket each way. Once you're in the city, there's a very simple metro system that we only took once. Our AirBnB was close to the center of town so we walked most places. The buses were hit-or-miss and many drove right passed us even though we had our hand out to signal that we were going to ride. That's why I recommend booking an AirBnB close to the center city. In that case, you won't need public transport at all. If you're in a pinch, Uber is reliable in Athens.
I 100% recommend Toni's apartment on AirBnB. It was worth every penny and he was an excellent host. We could walk everywhere we needed to go and there was no issue with the apartment. Sign up for AirBnb using this link and get $40 of travel credit!
Crete is Greece's largest island and it feels that way when you're on it. We flew in on a very early morning flight to Crete, took the public bus (2.50 euro for a ticket) to center city Chania, where our host kindly met us at the bus stop.
When you come to any Greek island, expect to have a relaxing time. There aren't a ton of sights to see, so you'll find yourself perusing the streets, popping into shops, and taking your time with meals. The town is divided by the Venetian fortifications that date back to 1538. The Old Harbor is where most of the activity is and you can find loads of shops and restaurants in that area without any trouble. There's also a famous Food Market in a massive cross-shaped building. You can buy all the classic Greek souvenirs like honey, sea sponges, cosmetics, and candy. I found some of the best prices at the Food Market while all the shops near the Old Harbor were over-priced.
On our final day in Chania, we decided to scuba dive. Andrew and I love the water and knew we couldn't come all the way to Greece without doing some kind of aquatic activity. We found Fun Dive and couldn't recommend them more! If you're not an experienced diver, they will walk you through a mini-course and take you diving that very same day. They're accustomed to having people of all experience levels, so I really encourage anyone to go if you're interested! We got to see Crete from a whole different perspective. There's also a sunken airplane from World War II that is part of the dive! It was so so cool and reminded me of why I love diving so much!
We dined at a ton of random places that had a good atmosphere and traditional food, but if there's one place you must eat at, it's Taverna Tamam. It's an old converted Turkish bathhouse one street back from the Old Harbour. Tables spill out into the street and it has the coziest atmosphere with de-li-cious food! Expect to wait a little bit, because it's the hot spot of the island and rightfully so!
Crete has gorgeous AirBnBs for incredible prices. That's why I love visiting islands and "off-the-beaten-path" places because your money goes so far! We found this highly rated, two story AirBnB that sleeps six people. We didn't even touch two of the beds or go into most of the rooms, but wow we were so impressed by the quality of this home. It was so well priced, in the best area, and the hosts were incredibly hospitable. Our host picked us up from the train station and gave us a driving tour of Chania which was so unnecessary but so appreciated. He even stopped and got us a coffee for the ride. Talk about tip top service! It was by far one of the best AirBnBs I've ever booked and I didn't even have to break the bank. I couldn't recommend this AirBnB more. Sign up for AirBnb using this link and get $40 of travel credit!
I wish we had more time to see other islands, but what a full four days we had together. It was a wonderful weekend celebrating life & love, something that I don't do enough, but am consciously working to do more of. How fortunate I am to have someone in my life that is willing to fly halfway around the world for the weekend to see new places and experience life with me. I love solo traveling, but there's nothing better than sharing my travels with Andrew. There is so much more to come with us, and I am incredibly grateful our hearts found each other.