Places to visit:
Athens: Acropolis, Parthenon, Acropolis Museum, Temple of Zeus, Thiseio
Santorini: Perissa Beach, White Beach, Red Beach, Fira, Imerovigli, Sunset
Things to keep in mind:
- Athens is not a very expensive city. You can find decent hotels in budget prices. However, if you want local flavor, plan to stay with them using services like airbnb.
- If you plan to fly to other islands, airlines like Ryan Air and Aegean Airlines offer cheap tickets if booked in advance. They don’t allow check-in baggage without paying, so better to travel light, or you can also deposit your luggage at Athens airport.
- If you plan to fly to Santorini islands, airlines like Ryan Air and Aegean Airlines offer cheap tickets if booked in advance. They don’t allow check-in baggage without paying, so better to travel light, or you can also deposit your luggage at Athens airport.
Going to Athens is like going back in time. It is the center of Greek civilization on the banks of Aegean Sea. Athens is named after Athena, the Goddess of wisdom and daughter of Zeus. Wherever the sight goes in Athens, there is an element of history there. Walking on the streets of Greece is akin to watching a historical documentary by our own eyes.
It is huge monument complex built on the top of a hill, around 2500 years old. The complex has a huge theatre, many temples and stone structures dating back to 5th Century BC. It was the center of Greek art and culture. Lot of structures are in ruins but the authorities are trying to preserve the monuments and preservation work is going on in many parts of the complex.
A visit to Athens is not complete without going to Acropolis. Lot of things as we see in the world today, originated from Greece. Democratic systems were practiced first by the Greeks. Olympic games can be traced back to Greece. Athens was the pivot of Western civilization. They had their own religion that had mythological Gods like Zeus, Poseidon and Apollo. The religion is not practiced these days but it is interesting to learn about their beliefs, architecture and way of life.
Greece has a large number of Islands in the Aegean Sea and Mediterranean Sea. Some of the most touristic ones are Mykonos and Santorini. While Mykonos is more of a party place, Santorini is famous for its blue seas, beaches and sunset views. After spending a day in Greece, I took a Ryan Air flight to Santorini. Ships also ply between Athens and Santorini. But if you can book in advance, you can get a very cheap Ryan Air flight. Ryan Air doesn’t allow any check-in baggage unless you pay for it. So make sure you carry very little luggage or else, store your baggage at Athens airport.
Santorini was formed by the volcanic eruptions in that area. That’s the reason why is has beaches of black and red color. Fira is the administrative region is Santorini.
Since the terrain of the island is uneven, some people chose to rent an All Terrain Vehicle for local travel. If you rent a car, that’s perfectly fine as well.
Views of the blue seas around Santorini
Last but not the least, Santorini is famous for its beautiful sunset views. In evening, there are dramatic color changes from orange to red before the sun finally sets in the blue Aegean waters.
It is a neighborhood in Greece, which is famous for many restaurants serving Greek food and playing Greek music. It is across the Temple of Hephaestus. At night, the temple is fully lit and looks stunning from the rooftops.
Temple of Zeus:
Down the hill from Acropolis is the temple dedicate to Zeus, king of the Olympian Gods. The temple structure, as it exists today, is an array of tall columns. It was plundered and now only a portion of it remains.
Exploring Acropolis can easily take half day. The most important structure in Acropolis in Parthenon, which is an ancient temple dedicated to Greek Gods. The temple is huge but sadly most of it is in ruins because of the military expeditions during Ottoman era. When Ottomans captured Athens, they converted Parthenon into a mosque. An explosion during that time destroyed it partially, but the Government is working to rebuild it to its original form while preserving its historical identity. Another good thing about Parthenon is that if offers a panoramic view of Athens city. Apart from being destroyed, there were some structures that were taken to England by a diplomat. The government is trying to get it back from England to Acropolis.
For someone who has not seen black sand beaches in the past, coming to this island was a treat. I was dumbstruck by seeing what nature can offer. Another interesting this about beaches in Santorini is that the seabed is not made up of sand and plants. It is barren volcanic stone. So as soon as you go into the water, the familiar feeling of sand under your feet is not there. The waters are blue and the locals offer some water sports activities as well like surfing and banana ride.
This is a must do thing in Santorini. Different kinds of cruises are available here. So depending on your budget, you can accordingly choose. I went for a cruise, which has a capacity of 13-14 people. It was a luxury Yacht and an experience of a lifetime. Sailing in the blue waters of Santorini with the friendly breeze of Aegean Sea is an unforgettable experience.
Cruises normally start from the northern tip of the island, called Oia. There is a small port here, too small to be a port actually. Only 1 boat can dock here. It is so small that it is a tourist attraction in Santorini. The cruise first goes to the volcano site where it passes between two volcanoes, one of which is very old and the other one is relatively new. Before going ahead, the boat docks for few minutes where you can take a swim in the warm waters.
Next stop is the White Beach. Since the boats can’t go till the beach, it stops at around 150 meters from the beach. They have snorkeling kits and it is an amazing swim till the beach in the blue waters. Snorkeling gives you the chance to see the seabed as well, which is volcanic rock. After a nice swim, we were served lunch which was delicious.
The next stop is the Red Beach. The entire rock behind the red beach is also red in color. The Yachts wait on these beaches for around 30-40 minutes, so that you can swim to the beach and come back.
The seas are mostly calm and serene. Waters are deep blue against a backdrop of barren islands. Santorini is a treat to the eyes.
View of Athens from Acropolis
View from Imerovigli
Right across Acropolis, is the Acropolis Museum. Here the tools, art works and statues of ancient Greek era are displayed. The best part was a short film that is played to show the history of Acropolis and Parthenon. It is very interesting and helpful in understand the chain of events beginning from ancient Greek history till present date.
View of Santorini in background from Yacht
Sunset in Oia
It is the main city and shopping center of the Island. There are the famous white and blue buildings of Santorini. It has beautiful churches and lot of souvenir shops. You can also have Greek meals at the cafes here.
It is a locality near Fira that has lot of luxury hotels and infinity pools. If staying here in out of your budget, you can definitely take a walk here, in the narrow and beautiful streets, with a view of the Aegean Sea. This place offers one of the best sunset views from the Islands.