GREECE

Being one of my favorite countries in the world, there isn’t anything but good things to say about Greece. The beaches, the islands, the food, the history, & the architecture is all there and I can guarantee you won’t be leaving the country disappointed.

When to Go

The most popular times to visit Greece are the summer months of July and August. The sun is always shinning but the cities and islands will be packed with tourists. August is the main month that Greeks go on vacation to the islands or their hometowns so Athens usually isn’t as busy during this month but the islands will be even more. Because the high season runs from end of June to beginning of September, this is when prices will be the highest around the country. If you want to save a bit of money, try booking your trip at the end of May/early June or at the end of September. Spend as much time as you can in Greece as there is so much to see, but if you are limited on time, you have to go for at least 10-12 days.

Oia Santorini - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

Getting There

If coming from North America, you will likely fly into Athens as there are direct flights from Toronto (Air Canada), Montreal (Air Canada) and New York (United, Delta, Lufthansa, KLM, Air France, Emirates & Alitalia), otherwise you will likely connect from somewhere else in Western Europe.

Currency & Payment

Since Greece is a part of the EU, they use Euros here (€). $1US is equal to approximately €0.86. $1CAD is equal to approximately €0.68. Try to get some euros at your local bank before heading over as the exchange rates at the airport and in the touristy parts of the city aren’t great. Credit cards are accepted pretty much everywhere here and ATMs are frequently found. Tipping isn’t expected, although if you find the service good, you can leave some change.

Before you Go

  • Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months from your departure date
  • Pack converters to charge your devices. Power sockets in Greece are type C and F (two pronged round sockets). The standard voltage is 230V and the standard frequency is 50Hz.
  • If you have a student ID, bring it as it will save you money on entrance fees to sites.
  • Get Euros at your local bank before heading over to save on the exchange rates.
  • Download the map of Greece on your maps.me or Google maps app on your phone and pin all of the locations you want to visit.

 

Athens

The capital of Greece is a city you must stop by to see the historical Acropolis. If you can, spend two full days here.

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(c) 2017 Jordan Howard

Transportation

Taxis are very expensive to take in the city. It is best to take the metro as it is very efficient and clean. To get from the Airport to the city center, you can take the blue metro line 3 in the direction of Aghia Marina. Trains run every 10 minutes during the day and 30 minutes at night, 7 days a week from 6:30am (7:30am on weekends) to 11:30pm. The trip from/to the Airport to Syntagma station (Athens center) takes about 40 minutes. A ticket from the Airport to the city center will cost you €10 (or €5 if you have a student ID card). Children under the age of 6 do not need a ticket. If you are staying in Athens for 2 or 3 days and are planning to use the metro a lot, it is worth getting the €22 3-day pass that includes a round trip to/from the airport. If you are traveling with 2 or 3 people you can buy discounted metro tickets to/from the airport at the ticket booth. Make sure to validate your ticket before entering the metro gates as they sometimes have people checking and can fine you.

You can also take the bus from the airport to the hotel. The buses also run 24 hours so if you arrive or depart outside the hours of operation for the metro, you can always take the bus. Bus Route X95 runs right through Kolonaki and into Plaka. It costs €6 per person (€3 with student ID) to take and takes a bit longer than the metro depending on traffic (1-1½ hours). If you don’t know which bus to take, there info booth when you exit customs is very helpful and they can tell you as the bus schedule is listed right there.

Traveling within the city is best using the metro and by walking. Things in the city center aren’t far from each other and if staying in Plaka or Monastiraki areas, you may not need to take transportation at all. A regular priced metro ticket (valid for 90 mins) costs €1.40 but if you have your student ID you can purchase one for only €0.60. You can purchased reduced tickets via the ticket machines as well as the ticket counters. You can also purchase 24 hour metro tickets for €4.50 and 5-day tickets for €9.

Where to Stay

The Plaka and Monastiraki districts are the most central in Athens. You can walk everywhere from these locations, even to the Acropolis. Kolonaki district is also very nice and only one/two metro stops away from the city center. Here hotels will be a bit more expensive because it is the old wealthy area of Athens where you will find all the expensive shops. Below are a few hotels that were great.

  • Central Hotel in Plaka district
  • Hilton Hotel in Kolonaki district
  • Periscope Hotel in Kolonaki district

To Do

  • Visit the Acropolis, the one must-do in Athens. It costs €20 (€10 if you have a student ID) for admission in the summer times but is only €10 during the winter months of November to March. The wait to purchase tickets can be up to 3 hours in the summer time because you cannot buy them ahead of time or online. It is best to go early in the morning to line up when it opens at 8am. But even better, if you are in Athens for more than one day, head up to the ticket office the day before you want to visit right before it closes at 7:30pm (Acropolis is open until 8pm every day) and buy them then for the next day. Trust me, it will save you a lot of time. Also, bring your own water as it is expensive up there. Admission includes the Acropolis with all its monuments (Parthenon, Erechtheion, Nike Temple, Propylaia) and also the theater of Dionysus.
  • Visit the Acropolis Museum. Open, during summer months, Tuesday-Sunday from 8am to 8pm (Friday open until 10pm) and Monday from 8am to 4pm. Admission costs €5 per person or €3 if you have a student card or are under the age of 18. You can buy tickets online and at the entrance.
  • On your way up or down to see the Acropolis, stop by the Herod Atticus Odeon (outdoor theater). Check online to see if there are any shows scheduled for the time you are in town. Tickets are cheap if purchased ahead of time online.
  • Walk around the Plaka district, a great area for shopping and souvenirs.
  • Hike up Mount Lycabettus to see the sunset and take the cable car back down (or you can take the cable car up as well if you don’t want to hike). This is the highest point in Athens and it takes about 30 minutes to hike to the top. The cable car ride will cost you €7. There are also a few restaurants at the top you can eat at or have a snack/drink. They are a bit more expensive but have a great view.
  • Get a massage at Centro Di Massaggio in the Plaka district. The cheapest massages start at €10 for 45 minutes but they don’t use a lot of pressure. The €15 for 45 minute relaxing massage is really good and worth it! It is right behind the H&M on the corner of Voulis and Petraki streets. Try to get Dimitra and Ioanna if you can!
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(c) 2017 Christie Lee

Where to Eat

  • Kostas (Plaka) – a great souvlaki stand that opens around 9:30am and closes mid-afternoon. One souvlaki wrapped in pita will only cost you €2.80.
  • Mnisikleous steps restaurants – a street full of restaurants with a great atmosphere close to the acropolis.
  • Esopou/Taki streets (Monastiraki) – these small streets have a bunch of cute restaurants all around.
  • Falafellas (Monastiraki) – for great falafels pita sandwiches. Open Monday to Saturday from 11am-midnight (closed Sundays).
  • Sabbas (Monastiraki) – traditional Greek restaurant, known for their souvlaki.
  • ManiMani (Plaka) – traditional Greek restaurant, great for dinner.

Where to Drink

  • Taf Bar (Monastiraki) – an awesome bar hidden in the Monstraki area that also is an art gallery. Open every day from 10am to 3am.
  • 360 Bar (Monastiraki) – this bar has a 360 view of the city. You can spot it right when you exit the Monastiraki metro station. Open from 9am to 3:30am Monday – Saturday and 9am to midnight on Sundays.
  • 6 Dogs (Monastiraki) – great place for coffee or drinks. Open from 10am-3am Monday to Thursday, 10am-7am Friday and Saturday & 10am-midnight on Sunday.
  • Cinque Wine and Deli Bar (Monastiraki) – if you love wine, head here one evening to try some of the best from around the country. It is best to make a reservation as the place is very small and can probably only hold about 16 people.
  • Galaxy Bar (Plaka) – for drinks
  • Keramikos Area for clubs – St. Keramikos metro station (blue line), K44 Tora is a good place where locals will go as well.

 

Meteora

Meteora is a hidden gem in northern Greece that many people don’t know about. But if you just take a look at the pictures, you will see why you must visit the town. The landscapes are incredible and it will blow you away to see where the monasteries are built. I highly recommend taking a day or two to visit this town on your trip to Greece, you won’t regret it.

Meteora - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

Transportation

Getting to Meteora isn’t very easy as it isn’t very close. There is one train leaves daily from Athens Larissa station at 8:30am arriving at the Kalabaka station near Meteora at around 1:30pm. And one train leaves daily from Kalabaka station at 5:30pm arriving at the Athens Larissa station at around 10:30pm. You can do it as a day trip from Athens if you are short on time and you will get about 4 hours in the city. It is a long way to go for only 4 hours but it is totally worth it as the sites you will see will blow you away. A round trip ticket on this train will cost you about €20 per person and you can purchase the tickets online and save them to your phone. The other option is to rent a car. It is about 4 hour drive from Athens (one-way). If you rent a car, you will have a bit more freedom to explore around the village and you won’t really need to book a tour to take you to the monasteries because you can just drive there yourself.

To Do

  • Tour the 6 monasteries that sit amazingly on the cliffs. If staying one night in the town, you can take this €25 tour that lasts 4 hours. You will visit 3 monasteries and just see the other 3. If you are going just for the day by train, book this 3½ train to train tour for €35 per person. You will visit 2 of the monasteries and see the other 4. They pick you up and drop you off at the train station and will tour you around the town. There are tours you can purchase that include the train ride as well, but it is much cheaper to book it yourself and just do this train to train tour (you will save lots of money!). One monastery is closed every day (they rotate) so make sure to check which ones are open when you are there if you are doing it on your own.
  • Hike some of the mountains and watch sunset. There is also a hiking tour and sunset tour offered that you can go on for €25 per person. It is a 4-5 hour tour for each one.

Where to Eat/Drink

  • Food Factory on the main street has delicious local Greek food. Their gyros are amazing and a great item to take on your tour or hike.

 

© 2017 Christie Lee

Santorini

This is my favorite place in the world. The island is so beautiful and it the sunset in Oia is one of the best I have ever seen. Definitely visit this island if you are heading to Greece. You are also almost guaranteed the sun will be out during your whole stay.

Oia Sunrise - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

 

When to Go

The season to visit is from May to October. The island pretty much shuts down in the wintertime. The months of July and August are the busiest and that is when prices will be the highest. To avoid high costs, try to take a trip here in June or September. Three to four nights is a good amount of time to spend here.

Transportation

Taxis on the island are quite expensive. If you are traveling in a group of 3 or 4 then it is worth it though. You can also book shared taxis ahead of time from the airport or port to your accommodation. Some hotels can even help you with this and maybe can help you get a cheaper price if you book with them. Here are some general costs for shared taxis and normal taxis to get around the island:

  • Taxi from the port to Oia is around €50
  • Shared taxi from the port to Oia is €30 (for up to 4 people)
  • Shared taxi from the port to Fira is €20 (for up to 4 people)
  • Taxi from Kamari Beach to the airport is around €20

The bus is the most cost effective way to get around the city. They are all air conditioned and comfortable. It costs €1.80 to get from town to town and €2.30 to get from the port to Fira. The bus goes between Kamari/Fira, Fira/Oia, the port/Fira, the port/Perissa, Fira/Perissa, Fira/airport and a few other routes. If staying in Oia or Kamari, you will have to transfer buses in Fira but it isn’t difficult at all and buses come very frequently during the day.

The best way to see the whole island though is by renting a car or an ATV. You can rent one just for the day or for your whole stay. Renting an ATV is great if you are traveling alone or with one other person. If renting an ATV make sure you get over 300cc so you can get up the hills. An ATV that is 350cc will cost you €44. The rental doesn’t include gas though so if you are going to drive around the whole island you will likely spend about €10-12 more on gas. Most ATV rental companies are similar, your hotel likely partners with one where they can organize drop off and pick up there. You can find car rentals starting at around €50 per day (for a two person car). You can book ahead of time online and pick it up when you arrive at the port or airport or you can just rent one when you arrive. Make sure to download the maps.me map of Santorini so you can use it offline to navigate around the city.

Blue Domes Santorini - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

Where to Stay

If you can afford it, try to stay in Oia for a night. It is very expensive because it has the picture perfect sunset from this side of the island but it is worth it. A great place is the Oia Collection. The view of the sunset is amazing from the rooms and there is a mini market right next to it where you can buy everything you need. A few more expensive luxury hotels are located on the caldera (inward side of the island facing the volcano). Andronis and Mystique are two really high end hotels that have pools and a great view. You can also find many places that are cave homes.

If Oia is out of your budget, look around Fira or Kamari Beach. You can find many reasonable hotels and Airbnbs. Fira is a great place to go out and Kamari is more of a relaxing beach town – it is a black beach. The Boat House Hotel is a great place to stay in Kamari.

To Do

  • Watch the sunset in Oia. This is a must and what Santorini is known for!
  • Watch the sunrise at the Oia Castle ruins. I know it may be hard to wake up at 5:45am but it is totally worth it – and you can go back to bed after! You will get some unbelievable pictures with no one in them because no one else is up and the sunrise is beautiful as it comes over the caldera.
  • Cliff jump in Ammoudi Bay. The water is so clear and it is such a relaxing place to swim looking up at all of the houses and hotels on the caldera.
  • Walk around Fira and take pictures of the three bells and blue dome.
  • Visit the Red Beach, Black Beach and White Beach on the south side of the island.
  • Take a boat trip around the island. If your budget allows, it is best to do a semi-private or private boat tour around the island. Sunset Oia and Santorini Yachting Club are two companies that offer this. Their cheapest cruise is about 6 hours (from 9am-3pm) and costs €85 per person. It includes the transfer to and from your hotel, snorkeling gear, alcohol and food as well as their boats have Wi-Fi. With this price though, you are on a boat with about 50 people total. The boat will stop at the Red and White Beaches, the hot springs near the volcano for a mud bath and Ammoudi Bay. If you want to watch the sunset from the boat in Oia, it costs €95 per person. There are also other boats that these companies offer, for the same tour, that hold less people (16-24 max) which cost about €145 per person. Kamari Tours also offers boat trips around the island for a much cheaper price but it is a really large boat and you will be with a lot of people. They offer all-day tours (9-10 hours) for €45 per person. A bus transfer to and from your hotel is included in the price but that is all. On this tour you visit the volcano, the hot springs, Thirasia island and you go to Oia for sunset.
  • See a movie at the open air cinema in Kamari Beach. The movie starts every night at 9:30pm and costs €8 to go.
  • Stop by the Yellow Donkey Brewing Company (on the way from Kamari Beach to Fira) to taste the only local beers.
  • Do some winetasting at the local vineyards. There are many local vineyards on the island and if you spot one driving around the island, pop in and see what it’s all about.
  • Get a massage on Kamari beach. You will find people walking around offering services for about €50 per hour.
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(c) 2017 Christie Lee

Where to Eat/Drink

For restaurants that have great sunset views, make sure you reserve ahead of time to get a good table. It is best to book a few days in advance. Your hotel can help you with this.

  • Perigiali Restaurant (Kamari) – local Greek food and great seafood, located on the seafront
  • Albatross Bar (Kamari) – great for drinks, located on the seafront
  • Pinakio Restaurant (Kamari) – local Greek food
  • Ammoudi Fish Tavern (Ammoudi Bay) – great for seafood
  • Metaximas Tavern (Exo Gonia) – a local place where you won’t find many tourists
  • Anemoloos Tavern (Exo Gonia) – a local place where you won’t find many tourists
  • Kipos (Fira) – great grilled fish for €11
  • To Psaraki (Vlyschada) – local Greek food

 

Chania, Crete

Home to some of the best beaches in Greece, Crete is also the largest island in Greece stretching 260km wide. Chania (pronounced “Hania”) is the best town to visit as it has a beautiful Venetian harbor. Three or four days here is a good amount of time to spend. I wouldn’t really recommend going to Heraklion if you are short on time, but if you did want to see it, one day is good enough.

Chania Old Harbor - 2017 Christie Lee
(c) 2017 Christie Lee

Transportation

Within the main town, you can walk everywhere, but to really see the outskirts, the west side of the island, it is best to rent a car. There are some amazing beaches on the island but they aren’t very close to the town. There is one main beach in the town but it is worth exploring elsewhere as well. A taxi from the Chania airport to the city center is about €18, plus a charge for your luggage. There is a bus that leaves the airport every half hour (last one is at 11:45pm after the last flight lands) and takes you to the main KTEL bus station in Chania. It costs €2.50 per person and takes about 40 minutes. From there you can likely walk to your accommodation. If headed to the other side of the island, there are many buses that go from Chania to Heraklion daily. It costs €15.10 per person and takes about 3 hours. There isn’t really a need to book your tickets ahead of time, just get to the station 45 minutes early to buy your ticket.

Where to Stay

Hotel Ideon is a great family run hotel that has a really pretty rooftop patio where they serve breakfast (which is included). It is very close to the beach and a short 10-minute walk from the KTEL bus station. They recently renovated some of the rooms so try to request one of those.

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(c) 2017 Christie Lee

To Do

  • Walk the Old Harbor and streets in the old town. You can walk all the way to the lighthouse if you want where you will get a great view of the harbor.
  • Visit the Chania Market where you will find a lot of local produce being sold.
  • Go to Ravadoucha Beach (only rock)
  • Go to Falasarna Beach (sand) – gets really hot, make sure to bring an umbrella or you can rent one there with beach chairs
  • Go to Elafonisi Beach (sand) – the most popular and famous beach on the island
  • Scuba dive if you have enough time. There are many cool cave dives in the area.

Where to Eat/Drink

  • Manos Taverna – located right along the Nea Chora beach in the city and has delicious seafood and a great Greek salad.
  • Pallas restaurant – great to eat or for drinks located in the Chania harbor.
  • Barbarossa – great for late night drinks located in the Chania harbor.
  • Sarpidona street – you can find a bunch of local restaurants and bars here.
  • Portes restaurant – located in the Chania harbor.
  • Galasia Thea Tavern at Falassarna Beach. Local dishes for a reasonable price with an amazing view of the beach and sea.

(c) 2017 Christie Lee

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