Our Grecian adventure: Where we went, what we loved, and travel tips if you're going!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

When Dan and I started talking about honeymoon destinations, the first place I thought of was Greece. It's the one place I've always wanted to go, and I thought there was no better time to go then on our honeymoon! Luckily, Dan agreed, and since I was in the throes of wedding planning, he took on planning the honeymoon. 

He totally nailed it! 

We went to four different places in Greece: the islands of Rhodes, Mykonos, and Santorini, and the city of Athens. All of them were so unique and wonderful in their own ways, so I've broken them down below. 
Rhodes lighthouse
Palace of the Grand Masters at night
The Stadium at Temple of Apollo
What we loved about Rhodes:
We decided to stay in Rhodes Town, which is at the north of the island. Our hotel, The Mediterranean, was located directly next to the Casino, although, we didn't even step in there! We wanted to be within walking distance to Old Town Rhodes, which we were! And, bonus: the hotel gave us breakfast and lunch or dinner every day, so we only had to pay for one other meal out! Our favorite place there were the Palace of the Grand Master, a colossal structure in the heart of Old Town. It was intermingled with the shopping area, and gave us a reprieve from the sun. We also took a morning to walk out to the Temple of Apollo and Stadium (about three miles from our hotel), which was incredible to see. There's not much left of the Temple anymore, but the stadium (which was buried until the early 1900s) is in amazing shape. There's just something so incredible about walking among structures that existed before Christ. There's just so much history there! There's an incredible lighthouse in Rhodes, and it used to house one of the Ancient Seven Wonders of the World (no longer there, unfortunately). The beach, and therefore, the Aegean Sea, were directly across from the hotel and we loved walking out to that view every morning. The hotel had a nice, albeit, small pool, but most people opted for the beach, so it wasn't ever too crowded. Rhodes will always hold a special place in our hearts... it was our first stop! 

What we didn't love about Rhodes: 
The hotel was okay. The room was small, but we didn't spend tons of time in it. It also had two twin beds pushed together (it was so small, I'm pretty sure a larger bed wouldn't have fit through the doorway!). The bathroom was also teeny-tiny -- like, the door touched the sink when you opened and closed it. Other than that, Rhodes rocked!
First view of The Acropolis (on the mountainside) 
The Acropolis at night
Temple of Athena, The Acropolis

What we loved about Athens: 
Umm, so much. Athens is so full of amazing history. We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel, about 3/4 miles outside of the city center, but they had an awesome shuttle bus that ran on a schedule to take us back and forth. Athens has amazing shopping, both upscale and touristy (the Plaka market is awesome!). Our first full day there, we went to The Acropolis, which was absolutely AMAZING! The structures there are absolutely incredible -- they're HUGE, for one, and it makes you wonder how so many years ago, people were able to put these things together. Unbelievable! We got to visit a lot of other historical sites there too: Ancient Agora (where Socrates and Plato taught!), Hadrian's Library, Temple of Zeus, and the first modern Olympic Stadium (first used in the 1896 Olympics)! When we weren't seeing all of the history, we moseyed through different market areas and ate our faces off (the buffet breakfast at the hotel was AMAZING!). We went to a great restaurant named Arcadia where we stuffed ourselves on stuffed zucchini flowers, baked cheese with fig spread, and chicken pasta with dried tomatoes. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! The Acropolis Museum was also incredible... so many artifacts they've discovered over the years! 
Temple of Zeus
The Archway!
The Olympic Stadium
Ancient Agora
What we didn't love about Athens: 
Lord was it HOT there. Especially when you're standing on the mountain top of The Acropolis. In hindsight, we should have gone as soon as they were open (they opened at 8, we didn't get there until around 10). At that time, there were a lot of elementary tour groups coming through. And as much as we love children, Dan likened them to packs of locusts swarming around and descending at will. They were everywhere! 
Mykonos skyline
The view from our hotel room!
The iconic Mykonos windmills
What we loved about Mykonos: 
Mykonos is so picturesque! Lots of white buildings with blue roofs. We spent a lot of time walking around the shopping area... lots of little pathways between the buildings, which was really neat. Our favorite store was Ionnhas Knitwear shop -- she had such beautiful handmade pieces! We definitely did a lot of shopping on Mykonos! Dan discovered his love for Loukamades (honey fritters) and I discovered my love for medium-sweet Frapes (which is essentially iced coffee, but for some reason, way frothier and way better). We went out to the island of Delos by ferry. Delos is an uninhabited island that is home to remnants of an ancient civilization. The museum there is fascinating, and I even found a statue that looks just like my best friend's dad! Our hotel was The San Marco, about two miles out of town, and also included breakfast. Our room was HUGE and looked right out over the Aegean Sea. You can't beat that! 
Delos island, entrance to Cleopatra's house
We had to stop for some Ferrero Rocher and Baklava gelato!
I'm telling you, this guy looks exactly like my friend's dad! :) Statue doppleganger!
What we didn't love about Mykonos: 
Mykonos is known as the party island, but our nightlife is about non-existent these days. The hotel did offer a shuttle, but most of the times it ran were at night, so it made it difficult to get to and fro during the day. Mykonos also had a lot of little bugs! We made the mistake the first evening of leaving our room windows open... and paid the price later in the form of bug bites. Lesson learned. Mykonos is also VERY hilly. For example, Dan had located a lighthouse about 2.5 miles from our hotel. We planned to take a morning run out to it and then back. Yeah, in the first three minutes of the run, there was, like, a straight incline uphill (I might be exaggerating, but not by much). We made it... maybe a half mile before we threw in the towel. But, if you ever need amazing hill training, Mykonos is your place! ;)
Fira, Santorini's beautiful sunset!
The line up of donkeys! 
ATV adventures -- Dan was in heaven!
What we loved about Santorini: 
By far, our favorite island! Santorini has it all -- history, culture, shopping, water sports, and the nicest people we encountered! Our hotel was The Majestic, and boy was it! We got a room upgrade since it was our honeymoon, so our room had a downstairs and a bedroom upstairs. We also got a free bottle of Vinsanto, the sweet wine that Santorini is famous for! Oh, and in addition to the included breakfast, they also delivered it as room service for no cost! Now THAT'S a nice way to wake up on the honeymoon! Our hotel was just a seven minute walk outside the city of Fira, which we loved. We rented an ATV to ride around the island one day, and got to see the Red Beach, the Black Beaches, and the White Beach. We went to Ancient Akritiri, an entire civilization found underground in the 60s (they theorize that only 3% of it has been uncovered at this point!). You actually get to walk through parts of it, which is awesome! We also traveled up to Thira, an ancient civilization that was on a mountainside, but it was closed when we got up there. We even stopped at the oldest winery on the island and went through their wine museum -- very neat to see the differences of growing wine on the island. Their sweet wines are made from sundried grapes. DELISH! Dan and I also planned a snorkeling expedition and got to snorkel in the Aegean Sea! We stopped in two locations and the amount and variety of fish we saw was just incredible! The food on the island was amazing -- we had a great dinner right on the bluff in Fira, a place called Nassou, and stopped at a small stand in town called Yogi Gyros. Excellent! Our last night on Santorini, we went to Oia, where the sights are absolutely amazing. 
The Red Beach of Santorini
Snorkeling time! 
Oia's skyline!
Oia's beautiful (but crowded!) sunset!
What we didn't love about Santorini: 
Nothing! Okay, maybe a few things. Oia was very windy -- like, blow you over windy. Additionally, everyone talked about the fabulous sunset there, and it was fabulous, but you're literally crammed into a small area on the island with 400 of your best friends also trying to see it. The sunset we saw in Fira was just as beautiful and more private and romantic. :) 

Our trip was to totally incredible, but we did come back with a few tips: 

-Use a travel agency. Although Dan planned the itinerary, the travel agency set up the hotels and all our transfers from airports to hotels. I can't tell you how relieved I was by that. I get stressed when dealing with public transportation in places I don't know, especially when signs are in Greek! It was amazing to step off a plane, see a sign with our last name on it, and immediately get wisked off to our destination. Grateful for that! 

-Go directly to the information center when you get somewhere. Sometimes there will be a small brochure at the gate of the historical site when you get there. But there's usually better info at the museum or information center. On Delos, for instance, it took us about 20 minutes to get our bearings. But the museum had an AMAZING map that was filled with information. Start there! 

-Eat the chocolate croissants. As many as you can. 

-Bring your own washcloths. Two of the hotels had them. Two did not. I know that seems silly, but I like my washcloth! 

-Buy water when you're in town at a grocery store or gas station. On the islands, the water is salty, so bottled water is the only way to go. The hotel will offer it, but at a premium. Buying it elsewhere is way cheaper! 

-Be careful what you shoot. We saw a lot of people (okay, us too) get yelled at for taking pictures at the historical sites. I may or may not have stood behind a headless statue and taken a picture with it. We got yelled at for that. We also saw a girl get yelled at for her mom taking a picture of her jumping in front of a building at the Ancient Agora. A man with a very loud whistle blew it and screamed, "No jumping pictures!" Good to know! 

-Most everything and everyone will be in and speak English. My extent of spoken Greek is "OPA!" But we had no trouble at all getting around, speaking to others, ordering meals, and finding what we were looking for. People were really great to us! 


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