In the summer of 2017, the travel bug bit again! This time, I was heading to Greece for two weeks. Once again, I booked a tour with Expat Explore. During the previous summer, I had spent a month in Europe, touring the most spectacular destinations, and meeting some of the BEST humans from around the world. You can view the blog post from that trip here.
During the first week, the group stay on the main land. We started in Athens, touring the Acropolis before heading northbound towards Kalambaka to explore the Meteora.
When I grew up dreaming of visiting Greece, I pictured the sapphire domes of Santorini and deep aqua colors of the beaches. However, exploring mainland Greece was the BEST decision about this trip. It’s often the places we have no expectations for that blow us away the most. Meteora was no exception.
These stunning rock formations appear as if they’re floating in the sky as we climbed and climbed and climbed to reach some of the most incredible views.
There are seven monasteries hidden atop of Meteora. I was able to visit two on this day: The Varlaam Monastery and the Great Meteoron Monastery. The Great Meteoron is the highest, largest, and oldest monastery in Meteora. It is expected that you cover your shoulders and legs. No worries if you forgot to pack extra clothes though, as they have plenty of scarves and shawls that you can borrow to cover yourself while you tour.
The next stop was Delphi! Delphi, the “navel” of the earth, is probably best known for the legendary oracle. The mysterious “Phythia” would answer questions for the Greeks about colonization, religion, and power. Because of this, people visit from all over the world the once very wealthy and powerful city atop Mount Parnassus. While here, I was able to visit the amazing museum of Delphi, the Treasury of the Athenians, the Sanctuary of Apollo, and Temple of Apollo.
While hiking to the top, you should expect at least a half hour to an hour of climbing. Whether you choose one of the shorter routes, go up halfway, or reach the top, the views are breathtaking from every direction!
I have a slight obsession with Europe and all of the stunning, unique neoclassical buildings. Nafplio was just a day stop for me on my trip to Greece, but I loved every second! From eating lunch at one of the local cafes, exploring the picturesque narrow streets, walking along the sea-front promenade, checking out the amazing views, this town will not disappoint!
Up next was Mycenae… And what a day we had in Mycenae! First, we visited the tomb of Agamemnon and the famous Lion’s gate (pictured below). More climbing, more views, who could complain? Of all the places I traveled throughout mainland Greece, the climb up Lion’s Gate was the most mild of them all. Check out my collection of favorites from this day:
If you’re still reading, THANK YOU for staying with me. I could talk about Greece ALL. DAY. LONG. At the conclusion of week one, we headed to the port to take a ferry over to our first island: MYKONOS!
Welcome to the party island!! Mykonos is probably best known for the party beaches. There is just so much to do in Mykonos – Luckily, we had three full days and nights here. People rent ATVs to go beach hopping, but going by boat has my vote! There are so many beaches to see in Mykonos, and we went with the South Coast Cruise. Other Mykonos highlights:
1. Wandering the town – No GPS, just get lost! It’s more fun this way!
2. Windmills! When you get to Chora, stay to the left and follow the path. You won’t miss them!
3. Petros the Pelican – The Mascot of Mykonos
4. Lunch in Little Venice
5. Go beach hopping! (More on this below)
What’s a cruise around Mykonos without stopping at Paradise beach. If you’re looking for a great time, this is THE party beach where you need to be! Definitely grab 2 for 1 drinks at Guapaloca (they’re amazing, trust me!) and jump on the dance floor. You can also wander over to Tropicana Bar as they are right next to each other. These very same beaches are also the place to go if you want to experience some of the best nightlife Mykonos has to offer!
After the three nights in Mykonos, we were back on a ferry for our final three days/three nights in Greece. Luckily, we save the BEST for last! Here are my favorite highlights from this magical island:
RED BEACH: The red beaches are worth a visit to see the contrast of colors alone. Upon walking down, there is no shortage of local musicians playing Greek melodies. The beach is rocky, and you may have to do a bit of climbing up and down steep and curved stairs to actually get down by the water. I went by bus, but you can also book a cruise excursion that’ll take you around to the different beaches. The picture below features some of these boats, where you’ll actually see many people jumping off into the water for a quick swim before the next stop!
BLACK SAND BEACH: The beauty of these black sand beaches is directly proportional to how HOTTT that sand is! But looking at those crystal clear waters, you can guess that it’s totally worth it. I mean look at all those shades of blue. Luckily, there are white paths throughout most of the beach so you only have to take a few steps before your feet are actually in the water. Also pictured below are the white sand bags in the water that help everyone get past some of the slippery rocks until you are deep enough in the water to float or swim.
FUN FACT- The water in Santorini is like bath water, whereas the beaches in Mykonos were very cold (Note: This trip was in the last two weeks of June)
Profitis Ilias is the highest point in Santorini where you can admire views of the entire island.
SANTO WINERY: Santorini is known for it’s wine, so popping into a winery for a tasting will be well worth your time. Pictured below is a photo from Santo Winery in Thira. It features a beautiful venue for weddings (which you are likely to see) and overlooks the island of Santorini (Fira in the background).
Jump on one of these unique boats at the port of Athinios and cruise around the Aegean Sea for the day! First stop is to the volcano to climb 1.5 km up the active crater.
After exploring (or taking a guided tour) the volcano, you’re guaranteed to break a sweat. Luckily, the next stop is to jump into the hot springs of Palea Kamen. The further out you swim, the warmer the water becomes. You can also give yourself a facial and see many others indulging in the sulfur baths!
HIKE FROM FIRA TO OIA
This 12 km hike from the town of Fira to Oia is HANDS DOWN one of my favorite experiences of my trip to Greece! If this is something you’re interested in, here are my tips and some things to know:
- It becomes very hot as you are walking along the edge of the coast the entire time, and there is hardly any shade. Therefore, it is suggested to go either early in the day, or in the evening.
- An additional perk to starting later is you can arrive in Oia for the sunset!
- Quality walking shoes and heaps of water are essential.
- To start, head to the entrance to the cable cars.
Leaving behind Fira (photo above) you’ll zig-zag throughout the little streets, walk along hotel stairs, around restaurants, and you might not be sure if you’re even on the right path to take this hike. Every so often, you’ll come across these signs (below) that’ll assure you’re going the right way.
You will see many beautiful churches along the way. Fun fact – The darker blue domes through Greece represent the sea and the Greek flag. The light blue domes represent the sky and being closer to God. The Greeks are a very religious culture and 98% of the country practices religion.
The three hours of hiking it completely worth watching the sunset at Oia!