Greece is one of the most magical places on earth. You can look at magazines and read dozens of blogs describing the breathtaking landscape and history, but nothing will compare to seeing it with your own eyes. If only there was a way to bottle up the crisp breeze, the deep blue Aegean Sea and the architecture of the whitewashed buildings. For me, Greece has always been a bucket list destination so when it was time to plan our honeymoon it was an easy choice. Andy and I wanted to truly experience the culture of Greece, along with its rich history and its beautiful volcanic base. For our trip, we decided to make three stops Athens, Santorini and Crete.
1st STOP: ATHENS
Athens is the capital of Greece with a history dating all the way back to 5th century BC. For a history buff this is an amazing place to visit. The city is surrounded by ancient landmarks like the Acropolis, the Temple of Zeus and the Panathenaic Stadium. If you plan on island hopping, Athens is a great point of entry into Greece as most connections fly into the Athens International Airport therefore it’s worth spending a couple of days exploring the city.
ATHENS HOTEL: ROYAL OLYMPIC HOTEL
Andy and I wanted to stay in the heart of Athens, so we decided to book our stay at the Royal Olympic Hotel. The 5-star hotel is located right in front of the Temple of Zeus and it’s about a ten-minute walk from the Acropolis, Monument of Philopappos and the Panathenaic Stadium. My favorite part about the hotel is the beautiful Rooftop restaurant which features panoramic views if the entire city. It’s a perfect place to enjoy a breathtaking breakfast, lunch or dinner.
My Travel Tip: Try to get dinner around sunset for a romantic setting. The surrounding monuments light up at night so even after the sun goes down the views are spectacular.
ACROPOLIS OF ATHENS
Our first historical stop was the Acropolis of Athens. It’s a site you can’t miss! Getting to the Acropolis from our hotel was an easy 10-minute walk. The pedestrian streets are also quite pleasant because they feature tones of cafes, gelatos bars and restaurants. I recommend taste testing the food – it’s incredible! If you can order an authentic Greek Salad – the fresh scent alone will make your mouth water! There are two car-free streets you can take towards the Acropolis called Apostolou Pavlou in Thission and Dionissiou Areopagitou in Makrianni, from there it’s a short uphill walk. Once you enter the Acropolis there are tons of ruins to explore.
The Parthenon is the most famous and recognizable building of the Acropolis. It served as a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena and sits at the highest point of Acropolis. It’s made mostly out of marble, truly a sight to see. If you look back in time, the most important part of the Parthenon was not the outside but the inside which housed a massive statue of Athena, it was over 39 feet tall. Although the statue had been lost in 5th century CE the history still lives on. When Andy and I visited, construction was being done to preserve what is left of the monument. I would recommend putting at least 5 hours aside to spend at the acropolis.
My travel tip: Where comfortable shoes! You’ll be doing tons of walking, and most of the ruins are made out of marble which can get very slippery so watch your step! If you can, also pack water and some snacks. Taking a break with the Parthenon as your setting is a once in a lifetime experience. Enjoy every moment.
OTHER HISTORICAL STOPS TO CONSIDER IN ATHENS …
- THE TEMPLE OF OLYMPIAN ZEUS
Outdoor sanctuary dedicated to Zeus the ruler of Olympian gods.
- THE PANTHENAIC STADIUM
The site of the first modern Olympic games in 1896. The stadium is made entirely out of marble. Today it hosts ceremonial events and live music concerts.
- MOMUMENT OF PHILOPAPPOS
An ancient Greek mausoleum and monument. It is the tomb of Caius Antiochos Philopappos, a member of the royal family of Commagene and small historic kingdom in Turkey.
- ATHENS WAR MUSEUM
Showcases Greece’s military history with weapons, uniforms and aircrafts.
2nd STOP: SANTORINI
Take out your camera and take photos every chance you can get because Santorini is one of the most Instagram worthy destinations on the planet. The volcanic landscape is truly something out of a story book. The white villas sitting on top of the red colored cliffs were without a doubt built to meet pure perfection. And we got to witness it first hand in Fira, which is the capital city of Santorini.
SANTORINI HOTEL: DAEDALUS HOTEL
We stayed at the Daedalus Hotel for four days. It was a perfect location, walking distance from shops, restaurants and of course the beautiful views of the volcano. We decided to rent a car to get around the entire island. It takes about 40 minutes to drive from one end of Santorini to the other. I highly recommend doing this because the scenic view is so beautiful. The drive from Fira to Oia is spectacular. Andy and I did this during sunset and parked on the side of a cliff facing the ocean. Watching the sun go down was so romantic.
Most people on the island get around on ATV Four Wheelers which you can rent near your hotel. This is a fun way to explore the beaches. Red beach is one of the most famous beaches of Santorini. It’s surrounded by deep red volcanic cliffs, and although it’s beautiful to see approach with caution. There are several signs warning tourists about possible landslides and rockfall. Andy and I hiked the area for about an hour, took some photos and then enjoyed lunch at a nearby restaurant.
AGIOS GEORGIOS BEACH – BLACK BEACH
We also spend an entire day at the Agious Beorgios Beach, also known as black beach because of it’s deep, dark volcanic sand. (The sand gets super-hot so remember your flip flops!) The area is filled with umbrellas, bars and restaurants so it’s a great place to wind down, sun bathe and just relax. For anyone who loves water sports you can also rent paddle boards and banana boats.
On our last and final night in Santorini we decided to visit the town of Oia, which is known for its charming streets, taverns and shops. Oia is a calmer town then Fira. We got there just after sunset and witness a bunch of donkeys walking down the alley, it was a typical Grecian scene and it was fun to watch. After that we drove back to our hotel in Fira – again the drive alone is worth it because of the scenic route. The next day we took a fast ferry to Crete which is one of the largest islands in Greece.
3rd STOP: CRETE
The last stop on our trip was designed with one intention: relaxing! We wanted to stay in an all-inclusive spa resort to enjoy the final moments of our honeymoon.
HOTEL: PORTO ELOUNDA GOLF AND SPA RESORT
The Porto Elounda Golf and Spa Resort is a 5 star hotel – fun fact, the prime minister of Greece has vacationed there. The resort is located in Oxia which is a quiet town. After checking into the hotel, we entered our room with beach front views and a complimentary dinner waiting for us. After a long day of travel this was a nice surprise. During the day we enjoyed the beautiful private beach followed by local actives in the evening. I also got a chance to slip in some blog photos while we were there. Overall, our stay was pleasant, but we realized that we do prefer a more lively setting. Getting outside of the resort would have been fun if we had a bit more time to explore in Crete. Next time we go there I am looking forward to staying near pink beach which is about a 4 hour car ride from Porto Elounda. Crete is one of the biggest islands in Greece in comparison it’s the size of New Jersey so if you plan to explore be sure to really scope out the areas you want to see before booking your hotel. The key is finding a place central to all the areas you want to visit.
BEST TIME TO GO TO GREECE
The best time to go to Greece is between mid-April to mid-June to catch spring and early summer. July and August tend to be the hottest. The autumn season is also beautiful – that’s between September and mid-October.
We took our trip July 17th through the 28th. Fortunately, we had just missed the major heat wave so the temperature was between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
SAFETY IN GREECE
Andy and I felt very safe in Athens. Most of the monuments are in the city center which is filled with tourists. Everyone in Greece speaks English so getting around is very easy. One area you should avoid is Omonia Square. It’s a small area where homeless people may congregate during the day and at night. As always be street smart, that applies anywhere you go.
Island is completely safe and very easy to navigate. According to the locals there are undercover police officers everywhere therefore crime is very low. Locals are very kind and super helpful.
Crete is considered a very safe island. Andy and I felt great being here. In Greece, they value tourists tremendously, and go to great lengths to make sure you are safe. Crime rate is very low.