I left Switzerland on a train, or should I say 4 trains and a bus ride, headed for Amsterdam to stay with Jackie, where we would spend a few days relaxing and prepping for our 3 week island hopping trip to Greece!
We first arrived to a major city in Greece called Thessaloniki, which is the 2nd largest city but also was the cheapest one to fly into at the time. We were here for 2 days until we could get a boat to our first island. We spent those days walking the old city, wandering the streets shopping, stopping for glasses of house wine, which we learned to embrace throughout Greece – it’s tasty and cheap, eating the delicious food that this city is known for and just being tourists in general.
We boarded a ferry headed for our first island, called Alonissos. We didn’t know much about this island when we initially booked it, just that it was cute, and a way to work our way south to the other islands. We had no idea that we would actually enjoy the island so much!
On our first morning here, we decided to actually go scuba diving, as that is how I actually met Jackie – on a liveaboard boat in Thailand scuba diving 4 times a day for 4 days, and Jackie was wanting to get more dives in before she heads back to Thailand in January to get her divemaster certification. When we arrived at the dive shop that morning, which was conveniently located beneath our hotel room, the craziest thing happened. We saw a couple sitting on the patio next door and the guy yells out “Jackie”! We looked at each other and thought, that’s strange, someone else nearby shares your name…then we heard it again, and the guy said “it’s Chris and Verana from Thailand”, and our jaws dropped! This Austrian couple were also in Jackie’s dive group on our liveaboard in the Similan Islands in Thailand. What a SMALL WORLD! We had all met 6 months prior, and here we are finding ourselves on the same Greek island at the same dive center heading out to dive together once again! So wild! Similan Islands, Thailand liveaboard buddies! So wild to run into each other 6 months later!
Our dive instructor, Panos, was a super friendly local guy who helped us to decide where to have dinners (in old town) and he and his lovely wife even joined us for dinner and drinks the night of the day we went diving. He also helped us to secure a motorbike which we would use to cruise around the island to find all of the scenic view points and locate the prettiest beach to hang on our second day on the island. I’m so lucky that Jackie drives a scooter at home in Amsterdam, so she had a license for it which made it so much easier for us to get around the islands over the next several weeks!
Views from the appropriately named, Sunset Bar
We found a lovely beach and had a few nice meals, then our time on this island was over. We headed out on a ferry bound for a city on the coast, from where we would grab a bus to Athens. We learned that the port in Athens is really the largest one and one that we needed to make our way to in order to get to the islands that we were hoping to visit. Goodbye Alonissos!
We spent a lovely evening in the Plaka area of Athens, which is super cute with cobblestone streets lined with restaurants and tables of people eating outside, lights, music and dancing!
The next morning we headed for the Acropolis and put our tourists hats on for a few hours, wandering about and taking in the wonder that is the Parthenon and surrounding buildings making up the old city. I’ve been before, but its just as amazing as it was years ago when I was there last.
Gorgeous views of Athens from the Acropolis
That evening we boarded another ferry that took us to an island called Syros. Now, this island, well, we have no idea how we ended up here. It wasn’t very exciting and it was quite small and there wasn’t a lot to do here. I think we ended up here because all of the accommodations on the more popular islands were fully booked when we went to book a place to stay the night before. We completely were winging it on this trip and thought that because it wasn’t high season anymore, we could book things the day before. We thought wrong. It was a shoulder season but happened to still be packed everywhere! We spent our 2 days on this island on a beach making plans for the remainder of our 2.5 weeks so we didn’t have to stress about it anymore!
Enjoying our new breakfast staple, Greek yogurt with local Greek honey…while on a beach in Greece. This is the life!
After Syros, we headed for Paros, and island that we heard was lovely but didn’t know too much about. We ended up having an amazing time here and truly loving all of the scenery that this island provided. Each day we took our motorbike around, and stopped off in the cute villages to wander about, having lovely lunches on the water, then making our way to the nicer beaches on the perimeter of the island. Paros island has the houses like everyone thinks of when they think of Greece, white painted homes with blue shutters. It must be a requirement on the island because its covered with them, and that makes it particularly stunning!
We left Paros on yet another ferry headed for Mykonos. We were staying just outside of Mykonos City, close enough to all of the action, but far enough out to be on an actual beach. We absolutely loved our location here, where we stayed at a small family run hotel on the water, a 10 minute walk to Mykonos town, and the owners helped us out in any way they could. We got a motorbike our first afternoon there, and took off exploring. The next few days would be spent on the motorbike, driving up and down and around the huge hills/mountain that are prevalent on Mykonos. We also hit up several beaches, including some real stunning ones with insane views.
My favorite picture of the harbor and Mykonos town, taken from the motorbike while exploring!
We really embraced the Greek way of eating late dinners, with one even beginning as late as 1am…craziness! Mykonos is known to be quite expensive, so we saved by having our now traditional breakfast of Greek yogurt with honey and some fruit, then typically had lunch on a beach consisting of random veggies and dips. This allowed us to have a couple of lovely meals out on the town and even some partying at the clubs. I highly enjoyed my time on this incredibly gorgeous island!
From Mykonos, we headed to Santorini, and island that I was secretly the most excited about. I’d heard that it is supposed to be the most beautiful of the Greek islands and boy, it did not disappoint! We first arrived into the port on the caldera side, or the side that is nothing but huge cliffs with villages stacked on top of each other above the cliffs. It’s simply stunning. We stayed in Fira, which is one of the 2 main cities to stay in, and we felt like we made the best choice in that location. We got a motorbike once again and cruised the entire island over the next couple of days, taking in the red sand beaches and black lava rock beaches and more incredible views. Santorini Caldera views from Fira
Red beach views
We also happened to be there for Volcano Day, which is an annual holiday remembering the volcanic eruption that occurred and created the Santorini that we know today. We found out that they were going to be setting off fireworks over the actual volcano that Saturday night, so we thought ahead and got reservations at a restaurant on the caldera overlooking the volcano and the sunset. It was an amazing dinner and even better views for the evening! Dinner views picture on Volcano Day!
Incredible sunset before the fireworks show over the volcano!
We really enjoyed the black sand, or black volcanic rock beaches. The sun was hot and the water was cold. We found a restaurant that offered free lounge chairs and umbrellas for customers, and ended up enjoying the best seafood feast of our trip on a beach there!
We also really enjoyed checking out the other town on Santorini that is quite famous for its caldera views, called Oia. It truly is picturesque, and supposedly when you see pictures of Santorini, its usually pictures from this town. I absolutely loved Santorini and if there is one Greek island that I’d go back to in a heartbeat, it would be this one.
Our last Greek island was Crete, where we spent a few relaxing days in Chania, a town on the north west side of the large island. The old town is so adorable, with an area called Little Venice, reminiscent of the actual Italian city. We also went scuba diving again here, and it was actually incredible. The diving Chania is known for is cave diving, which neither Jackie nor myself had ever done. It was so neat to scuba down into underwater caves, seeing the sunlight streaming in, going through many swim-throughs where sometimes you just barely fit! What a fun experience!
After 3 full weeks, our time in Greece had to end. Jackie and I had the best time together, with many hours put in on the motorbikes, exploring and in search of the best scenic views, beaches and most amazing Greek food!