Never been to Greece? Think flowing Ouzo, beach parties, seafood, and much, much more.
Having never visited Greece, I didn’t know what to expect, but in the end it proved to be the pinnacle of my entire trip through Europe, and a welcome change of pace. From the minute our plan hit the tarmac, the entire cabin roared with cheers and applause! That confirmed it – we had arrived in the Cyclades, Mykonos, to be exact. Mykonos is one of 227 of the inhabited islands in Aegean Sea. It has a reputation for its nightlife, but the food, scenery and culture is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
Mykonos Town, or Chora, as it’s known to locals, is the heart of Mykonos. Massive cruise liners dock so tourists can explore for the day, and those staying out of town zoom in on their quad bikes and scooters to do the same. People wander through the colourful narrow walkways, popping into little shops for souvenirs, handmade leather sandals and jewellery, or a delicious jam-packed Nutella and strawberry crepe.
Little Venice is a short walk away and is the place to go for the best seafood in Mykonos. We grabbed a table right on the water at Katerina’s Restaurant, where the waves were splashing over our feet. The iconic Mykonos Windmills sat in the background and well-fed pelicans eyeballed us from metres away, out for their next snack!
Hiring a quad bike to get around the island is the best thing you can do. It’ll cost about 20 Euro per day, which will give you the freedom to see different beaches, bars, cafes, and townships. Book in advance if you can but, if not, head to Hercules Car & Bike Rental in Chora – they are cheap and have a huge range. You can book anything from quad bikes to a five-star dune buggy, and they come in all colours of the rainbow.
If it’s parties you’re after, Mykonos is it. The younger crowd heads down to Club Tropicana on Paradise Beach, where you can snooze on a sun bed and swim all day, then dance on tabletops with the masses that flock in at night.
Other beach clubs worth seeing are at Super Paradise Beach and, as the name suggests, it outshines Paradise Beach on every level. These are more luxurious beach clubs with a slightly older crowd and million-dollar yachts anchored off-shore, close enough so the sounds from the DJ pump over the ocean and on to their private party decks. The crowd is friendly and the Greek locals are side-splittingly funny. There’s no shortage of entertainment in Mykonos but what happens there stays there, so you’ll have to go and see for yourself!
Our next stop was Santorini, a three-hour ferry ride from Mykonos. You often see photos of Santorini but it doesn’t prepare you for seeing it yourself. As the ferry pulls into port, Santorini is above you – about 400 metres above you, in fact. The scenery is other-worldly and the ocean simply goes on forever.
Our quaint little hotel was in Fira, the capital of Santorini. We had a cave room, which is a traditional room carved out of volcanic rock that looks out over the Caldera. There was a Jacuzzi on our balcony from which we could enjoy the sunset, and staff served us breakfast there too. There’s something spectacular about having your eggs 300 metres above sea level, with cruise ships sitting quietly on the calm blue water below.
Quad bikes are a must in Santorini too, and there are a lot more road rules than in Mykonos, but if you miss out on seeing the many different beaches, you will regret it. In one day we visited Kamari Beach, where all the sand is pitch black, and Red Beach, which is made up of pebbles as bright as the outback. We made our way down windy roads to little rocky coves that had cafes on the shoreline, and we also stopped in Oia to check out the shops and bars in the village. According to locals, this is the place to catch that famous sunset, but we also had a great view in Fira. A few words of advice on Santorini: stay longer than one day; take advantage of the very cheap authentic Greek gyros; and if the sun sets at 8pm get a table for dinner around 7pm or you’ll miss it!
The final stop on our Greek adventure was Athens. I’d been told Athens wasn’t anything special but was surprised at the amount of culture and history I was standing on. For the few days I was there, people in the street would remember me and ask how I was. There are no other people like the Greeks – happy, friendly and fun.
We visited the Acropolis and the ruins surrounding it and were dumbfounded by its history. Get to the ruins early if you’re visiting Greece from June to August, as it gets extremely crowded and hot after about 10am. The view from the top of the Acropolis was sensational. There were old white buildings and vibrant green trees as far as the eye could see. It’s not hard to see why they built temples for the gods on that hill. The ruined amphitheatres and temples are amazing, as is wandering through the city streets seeing ancient ruins from more than 2000 years ago.
The Plaka is a buzzing shopping hub where you can chat to the locals and, of course, eat. If you don’t mind a drink, you’ll love the free shooters of Ouzo you are offered after a meal in Athens. Apparently they are used to aid digestion after eating, and we weren’t complaining!
Posted 28th November, 2014 @ 1.06pm