Greece: Come for the Ruins, Stay for the Beaches
The never-ending parties of Mykonos can’t compete with Mark’s 10 pm bedtime.
Where in Greece did you visit?
We went to Athens the first day then to Mykonos, which was a 2-hour ferry ride away. We stayed there for three nights then took another ferry to Santorini.
Which of those three was your favorite?
Mykonos. In my opinion, the islands were better than Athens, hands down. Athens is interesting if you are into history and museums. We kind of just wanted to get to the beaches as soon as possible.
But you can find beaches anywhere…
We’re beach people. My wife was especially anxious for a beach vacation. She was 5 months pregnant at the time and it was 102 degrees in Athens, very hot. It was exhausting hiking up to see the sites like the Parthenon and busy too. Lots of cruise ships were in port, so we had to wait in hour-long lines. We were done, spent.
That’s understandable. So you didn’t get a chance to see everything?
There were some museums we didn’t get a chance to see, but if you’re into museums, you could spend quite a long time there. We’re not into museums and historical stuff; we just wanted to see the main sites.
There’s like six or seven hills in Athens that each have ruins you can see in the distance. We just saw the main historical sites, got some cool pictures, and ate good food after. I had a really good gyro.
Are Gyros a Greek staple, or is it more touristy food?
They are a little touristy, but its good man. I don’t think I’ve ever had one before. We did try a few different things. Most meals come with lots of meat, salads with tomatoes and olives, and bread. Every meal comes with bread. The first night in Athens we visited a popular neighborhood with lots of shops and small streets. Live music played and man it was hopping. People were dancing and having a good time. It was fun.
Sounds lively, is the culture radically different than others?
The Greek people are very cultural and their food and music are very identifiable. You know you’re in Greece. It wasn’t like Hawaii where you get off the airport, drive to your hotel, and look out to see all the beautiful things where everything is manicured, green, and lush. Greece is more antiquated, humble. There were cool white houses and churches on hills. Hawaii, Cancun, or the Caribbean can sometimes feel similar, but nothing feels like Greece.
Greece doesn’t sound “resort” oriented. How were the accommodations?
The thing I learned about Greece is that it’s not really ideal for big groups. Greece has a few 5-starish hotels, but they’re small. There aren’t any large hotels to accommodate. The best places were these little boutiques, very high end ones, but only 30 or so rooms and they would never do groups. Their income comes from repeat customers. They have an established clientele. They know them by name. Also there’s not a ton of hotels to choose from and the demand is high. If you have a big group and you do want to visit Greece and the islands, I’d suggest a cruise.
Good advice! So Mykonos was your favorite, what did you like about it?
It’s got a lot of great beaches and the clearest emerald waters I’ve ever seen. There are several beaches in fact, and you can take a water taxi between them. The beaches are smaller though, so you have to make do with what you have.
The downtown is called little Venice, it’s all walking, no cars with tons of little shops, streets, and restaurants. Overall, Mykonos hosts a younger crowed, it’s got a fun nightlife. We’re not necessarily night people, so our evenings were quiet and spent watching movies. But the party is there if that’s what you are looking for.
I’d definitely go back to Mykonos, but the whole island is seasonal and only open from May to October.
You visited Santorini last, what makes it different that Athens or Mykonos?
They’re known for their romantic scenery. You know, for honeymoons and romantic getaways that sort of thing. The sand is coarser and rockier but still beautiful. Sunsets were awesome.
Was there a lot to do outside of the beaches and sites?
It’s mainly just a beach and then the nightlife, again if you’re into that. The Greek islands are very R&R. There’s not much to do outside the hotels. They don’t have zip lines, parasailing, or jungle ATV tours that you would find at big resort locations. You really go to see history. We went and visited an underground city on Santorini, which was buried in ash from a massive volcano eruption thousands of years ago. On a tour we learned that they are still uncovering new things. But there are no people; not like Pompeii where they are preserved. They’re convinced they all fled, but all their houses, art, and other things are all preserved. That was pretty cool.
So Greece has gone through some economic troubles, did you see any signs of that?
Not really, nothing was noticeable.
How far would you say a dollar can get you?
It was expensive, which kind of surprised me considering their economic issues. Meals were for 40 to 50 dollars and more so for dinner. It was pricey. You had to pay for beach chairs and umbrellas, and there was no room to lay a beach towel. You have to pay for everything everywhere, which might come as a surprise to people who are used to all- inclusive resorts.
Last, but not least, what would you do differently next time?
I’d like to go to Crete next time. Similar food just like Greece, and bigger I think. We loved Mykonos, so we would definitely visit again.