Just got back
Greece has always been on my top ten bucket list destinations, and yet it took me 41 years to finally visit the beautiful country. This was a dream trip, starting off by flying on the American Airlines inaugural nonstop flight on June 3, from JFK to Athens. Greece is currently open for tourism both for vaccinated travelers and for those willing to take the proper testing prior to arrival. The process was streamlined, accessing the PLF (passenger locator form) from the travel.gov.gr website. Once submitted, the system generates a QR code within 12 hours of your landing. The QR code and your CDC vaccination card are the golden tickets to enter the country. Re-entry back to the States was equally streamlined- all travelers must have a negative PCR (Rapid Antigen ok) test result before boarding the plane. I was able to test at Domes Zeen on Crete, at a cost of 25 Euro, results back to me within 2 hours. English is widely spoken, the currency is Euro, steeped in history, delicious food and wine, blue water/white buildings- all of this and more. A special shout out and thank you to American Airlines, Eclectic Greece and Peter Vlitas/Internova Travel Group for helping to make my trip exceptional.
In a nutshell...
My itinerary was quite busy as the intention was to see as much as possible in my 16days. Athens, more than the Acropolis and the Parthenon- the food scene is thriving: a shopper’s paradise/especially for shoes: art: history: and a friendly/walkable city. Combine it with a stay at the Four Seasons Astir Palace, only 45 minutes away from city center. The sea access is magnificent, along with the fact that the property is open all year long. Mykonos, a 20- minute flight from Athens. Mykonos town is idyllic, blue/white buildings and pink bougainvillea. Getting lost without a map, - part of the discovery. I know that you might be inclined to rent a scooter or a car- that was too scary for me. It is very crowded on the island, and more enjoyable to have someone drive you around. Plenty of “taxi” transportation available. Paros, just over an hour by ferry from Mykonos. Simplistic and yet comfortable to stay, explore and enjoy. The town of Lefkes was the former capital of Paros during the middle- ages and a must see. Santorini, everyone’s romantic dream island. Yes, it is! As a single traveler I did not feel left out of the island’s beauty or the beauty of the sunset. The sunsets bring you to Santorini…. and there is more. The Akrotiri Ruins are one of the most important sites in the Aegean. I traveled to Santorini by ferry (just over an hour from Paros). Crete, the largest and most populous of the Greek Islands. I split my stay between Elounda and Chania, two nights each, driving time 3 hours. Honestly, Crete could have been a vacation by itself. I also would have felt comfortable to drive, although I did not because of my time constraints. The ruins of Spinalonga- a must see. Cretans are warm and friendly. My driver gave me olive oil from his father’s olive tree orchards- such a warm gesture of kindness. Ferry from Santorini to the port of Heraklion, just over 2 hours.
Athens: Sense Rooftop Restaurant (next to the Acropolis), GB Roof Garden Restaurant and Bar (at Grande Bretagne), Taverna 37 (Four Seasons Astir Palace) Papaioannnou, (next to Kefalari Suites). Mykonos: Pere Ubu (Kalesma), Kounelas Tavern Grill, Buddha-Bar Beach (Santa Marina Hotel) Paros, Glafkos, Tsachpinis, Lefkiano, Mr. E (Hotel Parilio) Santorini, OMMA Restaurant (chef Dimitris Stamoudis) Crete, Ocean Restaurant, Taverna, The Beach House all at Daios Cove. Beach House Restaurant at Domes Zeen.
Get any souvenirs?
Beautiful leather, from Chania. Shopped at Ilias- (bags, jackets, shoes)
What struck me most was…
that Athens is a thriving destination unto itself. We all go to Greece for the islands, and of course, the sunsets in Santorini are not to be missed. However, if you can go to Paris, Amsterdam, London or Rome for a long weekend from New York, why not Athens? The weather is temperate, the accommodations top-notch, great food, art, and of course history.
If you do one thing...
take the time to enjoy more than a one island experience. To taste Greece, to experience a bit of Greece, to feel Greece, - allow for a minimum 10- day trip.
The National Gallery in Athens. Newly re-opened after having been closed for 8 years. The space is beautifully designed along with no barriers between the art and the visitors. I loved being able to feel a part of the exhibitions without being roped off.
Can you imagine having your picture taken at the Acropolis with only a few people in the background? Or even more surprising to be in Mykonos with no music because of the pandemic restrictions? Not to worry, music has since resumed. Perhaps I waited 41 years to visit Greece because the timing was meant to be?
Electric Mountain Bike tour in Santorini, riding through the vineyards and into old towns, stopping along the way. Scuba diving on Crete, near Elounda. The water visibility was crystal clear. Catamaran Sailing with Sunset Oia Cruises. A spectacular way to see Santorini and swim in the blue waters surrounding the island.
All of it, I cannot wait to go back and discover more!