I can hardly believe it’s already been three weeks since I returned from Greece! My sisters and I spent six all-too-short days exploring the islands and eating all the feta in sight.
To back up a little, this trip came about when a visit from Jessica at Easter left us brainstorming a sister adventure. With Jessica having time off of work, me finishing school, and Jenny graduating from Clemson, we all had a gap in our schedule at the end of May. Jessica and I quickly saw it as an opportunity to surprise Jen with a trip for graduation, so we told her to leave that week open for a beach trip, and we got to planning. After exploring a couple of options around France and Spain, we ultimately settled on Greece as our destination. After we made the decision, we quickly booked flights and accommodations, and before we knew it, we were hopping on the plane! We got super lucky by finding a good deal on our flights, which was a huge factor in deciding where to go. We also knew that in going to Greece we wanted to spend the majority of our time in the Cyclades. After some research, we decided on visiting Santorini and Mykonos, and to bookend our time with a night in Athens on each end of our trip. I’ll go into more details on our time on the islands in a separate post, but for today, I wanted to share a glimpse into our planning and our time in Athens!
I’m probably entirely biased because of my time living in Copenhagen, which is gorgeously clean and safe, but Athens isn’t somewhere I’d want to spend more than a few days. We had a day and some change here, and I didn’t feel the need to stay much longer than that. Granted, there are plenty of day trips to interesting places in the immediate Athens vicinity, but in terms of the city itself, it just felt a little grimy and grungy. We used credit card rewards points to book our hotels, both of which were really nice. We chose to take taxis to and from the airport/ports for a couple of reasons: 1) there were three of us, and by the time we paid for individual metro/bus tickets, the price would almost be the same and 2) from what I read ahead of time, the metro wasn’t super safe/clean and 3) we just didn’t feel like lugging our crap back and forth on public transport. So convenience won out, and we were able to grab a cab from the airport easily and arranged the rest ourselves. Uber isn’t techically legal in Greece, so we opted for conventional taxis and transfer services.
During our full day in the city we booked a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, which was a great way to get our bearings in the city and enabled us to cover more ground. We got off for a few of the major stops, and anytime the neighborhood looked interesting. We got to explore the old market area of Athens, stopping for some shopping and gelato, before moving on towards more of the ruins. Our first stop was the Arch of Hadrian before making our way towards the Panathenaic Stadium. We took an interesting tour there before hopping back on the bus and heading for the Acropolis. Now, I’m not sure if it was the heat or the lack of water, but by this point I was a little cranky. When visiting some of the main tourist sights, you can expect to feel a little hustled. The ticket booth was trying to sell the more expensive options, with sights outside of the city that we didn’t want to see, and the snack stand didn’t sell water or soda, just sugary frozen lemonade that you weren’t allowed to take into the actual site just a few feet away. Insert some cranky eye rolls here. Once we finally made our way up and into the Acropolis, I was completely awed by the history and the architecture. Walking the same paths as ancients has this crazy way of making the world feel so big and so small at the same time. We took our time walking around each site, and it was so incredible to see the very places I’ve spent so much time studying in books. This is the part where I get all liberal arts on you, but I really and truly believe that travel not only enriches our understanding of the world around us but our understanding of ourselves. Doing so makes us better citizens and better stewards of this beautiful gift we’ve been given. In the (paraphrased) words of St. Augustine, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page“.
The official recommendation list from our time in Athens:
- Spend 2-3 days max in the city – the islands are where you want to be 😉
- If you’re traveling with 2 or more people and convenience has a price tag to you, skip the public transportation and go for the taxis
- While hop-on-hop-off bus tours are generally cheesy, they’re a great way to get around the city center (and rest your tired feet when needed)
- Realize that tourism is a huge industry and expect to be sold to quite a bit. Just stay firm about what you actually need to purchase, and for the love, do not high five or fist bump the random guys selling bracelets on the street. They’ll put one on your wrist and then try to make you buy it.
- If your memories from history class have faded, do a little bit of brushing up on Greek history before you go. It’ll make a world of difference when you’re standing in front of the Parthenon if you actually know what it was used for and its significance in ancient Greek culture.
- Eat at outdoor cafes whenever possible. And always get the loukoumades (but split them with someone if you can, because holy sugar rush).