Guide to the Greek Islands

September 9, 2019

 Who's ready for a little trip recap??

 

I still can't believe Austin & I spent over a week in Greece. Traveling to Greece had been a dream destination of mine for quite some time and it was absolutely amazing making it come true!

 

I talked to you guys a little bit on Instagram to see what you wanted to know about the trip and I mainly received questions about how we booked, what islands we decided to go to, how we picked where to stay, etc. When booking, I knew I wanted a trip that was completely stress-free. I wanted to sit back and relax. That's why we booked with a tour group!

 

We booked with EF Ultimate Break, which is a travel company that books guided tours for anyone ages 18-29. I decided on EF Ultimate Break for their age restriction. We really wanted to travel with people similar to our age; that way we could make friends and really relate to the people we were about to surround ourselves with. 

 

We decided on The Greek Island Getaway! Booking through EF took so much stress off of our plates. They booked our flights, all transportation during the trip, hotel stays and even some meals were planned and included in the price point. This was IDEAL. Plus, there were more than enough days that included downtime for Austin and I to be alone and explore together so it was a win-win.

 

I highly recommend booking a guided tour if you're traveling internationally and unsure of where to stay or what to do!

I'm going to run through what each day on the trip looked like. This will cover where we stayed, what we used for transportation as well as my recommendations for places to eat and drink!

 

Day 1 

 

We landed in Athens at about nine in the morning, after leaving Indianapolis at 10:30am the previous day. We had a 2 hour flight to Philadelphia with a 4 hour layover; then had a connecting 10 hour flight into Athens. All that, coupled with the 7 hour time change, and we were looking at a full day of travel. Even though it was long, it went very smoothly and we landed excited for the day! We waited at the airport for a little bit while we met up with the rest of our group and our tour director. Then got on a bus and headed to our Hotel. We stayed right in the center of Athens at a hotel called the Athens Tiare

 

Our hotel was within walking distance of Monastiraki Square, which was super convenient!

 

We did a walking tour all together around part of the city. Then Austin and I took some free time to explore a little more on our own to grab a late lunch. We ate outside at Anafiotika Cafe Restaurant, which was so incredibly quaint and beautiful. I had my first official greek salad here and fell in love ( & made sure to eat greek salad every day for the rest of the trip LOL ).

 

We spent the rest of the day exploring the city together before listening to live music at the square, then walking over to Misafir Resturant for dinner with our group. If you are staying in Athens and need a place for dinner, this is it

 

The rooftop garden will blow you away! We literally sat with the Acropolis in perfect view. This restaurant gets a 10/10 from me on decor, views, food, atmosphere, and well, basically everything. 

 

Day 2

 

We woke up insanely early to catch a bus to the Ferry, which took us to Santorini.

 

Ferry rides are the main way to get from island to island at a reasonable price point. We were able to see quite a few of the other island traveling this way including Mykonos, which I really enjoyed. It was a long ferry ride though. Apparently we were on the "fast one" and it still took about 5 hours to get to our destination.

 

We arrived at Olympic Hotel in Santorini which was stunning! Austin & I lucked out with a top floor room with a balcony over-looking the pool. Our hotel was just a couple miles outside the town of Thera.

 

Thera and Oía are the main scenic towns in Santorini and are definitely where we wanted to spend most of our time. 

 

Once arrived, we were tired and hungry after an early morning and a long ferry ride. We walked just down the street from our hotel and found Mike's Resturant. We had our first gyros ( amazing btw ) then headed across the street to a coffee shop where I grabbed a Freddo Cappuccino, which is basically a Greek iced coffee. I highly recommend eating as many Gyros and drinking as many Freddo Cappuccinos as you possible can while in Greece : )

 

Austin used the rest of his downtown to go relax by the pool and I used mine to get ready and take some photos ( peep the balcony image below that I took with my tripod ). Then we were off to grab a bus to Thera for dinner with our group!

 

Thera completely took my breath away. I mean the view actually made me speechless. THIS was the dreamland I had always envisioned Greece to be.

 

Ovi ( the best tour director ever ) took us to Rastoni Café Restaurant and this ended up being the most memorable dinner of my entire life. Rastoni had over 180 degree views over-looking the water. We spent time just capturing photos and taking it all in before eating a wonderful meal and ending the night with the most beautiful sunset I'd ever seen. If you're in Greece, I'd say it's a must to have dinner right over the water. It was magical. 

 

Afterward, we walked around the markets / shops in Thera to do a little shopping. Then decided to grab drinks with some people in our group!

 Day 3

 

First thing in the morning Ovi had a bus arranged to take us to a black sand beach on the island. UM YES PLEASE.

 

Mera Beach was so beautiful and honestly reminded me of Hawaii. The Aegean Sea was crystal clear and peaceful; made for such a perfect morning.

 

Afterward, almost everyone on our tour group decided to go on the optional cliff side wine tasting tour, but with this day being our only full day in Santorini, and Austin & I not really being 'wine people', we decided to take the day to explore Oía on our own; which was something I knew I really wanted to do.

 

Oía was just as beautiful as I had imagined. Equally as beautiful as Thera. We ate at this cute little place called Lotza, which had incredible views over-looking all the cliff side buildings just above the water. This is also where we discovered spicy feta dip. If you've never had spicy feta dip, do yourself a favor and try it if you have a chance. Honestly, I think I'm obsessed with most Greek food. Everything was so incredibly fresh!

 

We explored Oía while taking pictures and eating gelato along the way : )

 

Then I spotted Amoudi Bay. Austin & I talked about the bay before and knew it was something we would like to do if we had the chance. There are 200 large steps you have to take to get to the bottom, but it's supposed to have an incredible view. We had nothing but time, and wanted to see as much as possible, so we went for it. 

 

Amoudi Bay was stunning; filled boats and a few restaurants right along the water. Austin convinced me to keep hiking around the side of the bay and this is actually where we took my favorite photo of us ( peep the top image of this post ). We even hiked further around the side and found a spot where people were jumping off and swimming. With most of Oía being cliff side, it was neat to find a little swimming spot. 

 

By the time we hiked back up to the top, we were sweating like crazy but experiencing the bay made the the 200 step hike well worth it.

 

To end the day, we grabbed a couple Greek beers to catch the sunset, then bused back. We made sure to stop at Mike's again for some late-night Gyros before heading to bed. After this day, I felt like I checked off every thing I wanted to do in Greece; except for a boat tour, but with our limited time in Santorini, I knew that would have to be saved for Ios. 

 Day 4

 

We had a slightly later start to our morning so we were able to sleep in a little and lay by the pool before leaving Santorini and taking a ferry to the island of Ios. This was a super short ride, only about an hour. We arrived at Far Out Beach Club, where we were staying. It was right across the street from a STUNNING beach. I could literally walk from my room and be on the beach in under a minute. I mean the location couldn't be any more perfect!

 

We had a quick bit of time to go to the beach before it was time for the dinner and bar crawl that Ovi set up for our group. We headed into the town of Chora, which is where basically everything, but the beach, is located in Ios. Chora is the cutest town where a majority of the paths are only accessible by foot. 

 

We ate at Sally's Rooftop Resturant ( highly recommend ) then headed to the bar crawl. If you're ever in Ios, you HAVE to do the bar crawl. SO so soooo much fun. It was one of my highlights of the trip that I didn't even realize I wanted to do.

 

Let's break down some of my favorite bars in Chora, shall we?

 

ALT bar : They are known for their extremely unique shots. I mean, they seriously have an insane shot menu. I ended up roasting marshmallows on the bar, had my mouth tingle from eating a flower & opened a fortune cookie that allowed me to win another shot! Every shot let you experience something fun and new : )

 

Delta House Bar : The inside literally looks like a frat house! They thought of all the little details; like serving all the drinks in red solos cups and having composite photos on the wall. You can order beer bongs, shot gun beers, and the bartenders serve you over the 'kitchen countertop'. It actually felt like I was back in college with my friends and it was the best time! 

 

Circus Bar : I feel in love with this bar. For real though. I don't normally like live music, but this was the best live music I've ever heard at a bar. Circus has unreal talented in-house musicians that play the best alternative music you can actually dance to, too! I could spend hours and hours in here just listening to the music. 

 

Shush Bar : It's a SLIENT DISCO. I thought this might be kind of weird to be honest, but I was wrong. There were 3 different channels of music you could be on. Depending on the channel you were one, your head set would change colors: blue, red, or green. This would let people around you know if you were listening to the same song or not. ALSO, if you saw a group of people jamming out to blue, you could switch over. It made the whole experience really fun and let you connect more with the people around you! The owner of the bar would even come over everyone's headsets and say "NOW EVERYONE BOUNCE WITH ME ON GREEN LET'S GOOOO" and you freaking would! LOL 

It was a blast. 

 

Those are my top 4, must visit, bars in Chora.

 

At the end of the night, right across the street from the bus station, we found a gyro place and a crêpe place right next to each other. Both of which were open late and packed with people leaving the bars. They made for a perfect late night snack before catching the bus or cab back to the hotel. 

 

What I found with Ios is that it wasn't crazy touristy / gimmicky. It was full of a TON of young people just trying to lay by the beach during the day and party at night and I was very much into it. 

Day 5

 

We woke up later in the day (naturally) then grabbed brunch at Almyra by the Sea restaurant and ate more spicy feta dip, of course. 

 

Today was essentially a free day in Ios and I knew it would be perfect day to check 'boat tour' off my trip to-do list.

 

I brought this idea up to our tour director the day before and within a couple hours he set up a boat tour for our group (another amazing perk of booking with a tour group) ! At 1pm we headed out with most of our group for a day on the water.

 

We swam through caves, snorkeled a ship wreck, then were taken to our own private beach. Obsessed.

 

Afterward, we spent the rest of the day at the beach, then headed into Chora again at night to basically have a repeat of the night before because it was just so fun.

Day 6

 

Woke up and had brunch at Faros Beach Bar Restaurant, where I had another greek salad and freddo cappuccino; then relaxed at the beach to soak up some sun for our last full day in the islands. 

 

A small group of us headed into Chora for dinner. We had a super relaxing and long meal together at a place called The Nest.

 

This was a very laid back day. A day to do nothing but enjoy the weather and the people we were with!

 

Day 7

 

Up and at it with an early morning ferry ride back to Athens. It was super sad to leave the islands but it was everything I could have wanted and more. 

 

This was, by far, the longest ferry ride. Apparently we weren't on the 'fast ferry' this time around and the trip was a full SEVEN hours. We finally got to Athens then took a bus to our last hotel, Arion Hotel.

 

I was so out of it, tired, & hungry after traveling all morning / afternoon that Austin, aka the sweetest human ever, surprised me with gyros in our room while I was getting ready. Who knew all it took was a gyro to cheer me up ; )

 

We spent the last day in Greece with our group to see the Acropolis of Athens as well as the Parthenon. This was such a neat thing to experience in person. We did a guided walking tour of everything then had free time to take a few photos and take it all in. It did not disappoint! 

 

Austin & I  ended up being convinced into dancing in the middle of the restaurant at our farewell dinner haha then opted for drinks at A for Athens Cocktail Bar with Ovi and a small group from our tour. This is another instance where having a tour director really pays off. He took us to this specific bar, because he knew it had an incredible atmosphere and would give us the best view of the Acropolis at night. If it was just Austin & I, we definitely wouldn't have known to come here! 

I also received another couple of questions I didn't get to touch on above so I will answer them here:

 

How was Greek Restaurant etiquette with seating, payment and tipping?

 

Everything was very similar to that of the United States!

 

But I do want to share 2 fun food facts that I learned :

 

1. There was never any lettuce in greek salads ( I would know I had 7846 of them ).

2. Gryos were not made with lamb. It was always pork or chicken!

 

What things weren't worth doing?

 

I recommend avoiding day long ferry rides if you can. A couple hours is no problem, but the day that we had an hour long bus ride, then a 7 hour ferry ride, followed by another hour long bus ride... it was a lot. Especially when we did all of that literally the day before our travel day home. It was like having back to back FULL travel days. So I recommend looking into a quick flight possibly from Athens into which ever island you are traveling to or investing in a faster ferry if that is an option. Other than that, I really did love all of my experiences on this trip. 

 

Things I didn't get to do but wanted to do?

 

I would have loved to do a boat tour in Santorini, or just have more time in Santorini in general! Our tour director told us that if we had just one more day in Santorini he would have 100% booked us a boat tour! He said it always ends up being the highlight of everyone's trip. Apparently on a Santorini boat tour you can see volcanos, swim in hot springs and visit private islands, which sounds amazing to me because I would live on a boat if I could.

 

All in all this was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

 

I hope you guys enjoyed this post! If you ever have any questions about my trip or have ideas for future blog posts, don't hesitate to reach out! : )

xo Caitlin

 

 

 

 

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