Postcard picture perfect! It’s just like what you’ve seen in the travel brochures, but it’s something you need to experience in person. Join us in exploring a Greek odyssey of Mykonos, Rhodes and Santorini.
Having watched Mamma Mia and The Durrell’s TV series set in Corfu, going to Greece has always been a highly anticipated vacation which has now finally become a reality. White washed stone houses clinging to cliffs overlooking the Aegean Sea and freshly caught seafood in a rustic village taverna. It was these images that enticed us to once again take to the seas on a Mediterranean cruise departing from Athens. The most anticipated stops on the cruise were Mykonos, Rhodes and Santorini. You need to visit these islands before turning up your toes!
Mykonos is known as the party island. The Ibiza of Greece located in the Cyclades group in the Aegean Sea, offering popular beaches like Paradise and Super Paradise. We arrived by tender in the harbour and headed straight for the village. A maize of cobble paved streets, white washed villas with blue trim adorned by flowering bougainvillea everywhere. A real photo opportunity that would turn your friends green with envy. I did however find it very expensive, double the price of what you would expect to pay anywhere else in the EU. €100 for a bottle of champagne and €20 per oyster was a little rich for my blood. After exploring the village we hired scooters (€30 each for the day) to discover the rest of Mykonos and then headed to Jackie O’s, a very popular beach club often frequented by celebrities.
Delos – The birthplace of the Goddess Artemis and Apollo. A UNESCO world heritage archaeological site featuring Aegean civilization ruins dating back to the 3rd millennium B.C
Sunset Cruise – there are many traditional boats and catamarans offering sunset cruises. Take advantage of this idyllic setting to enjoy snacks and drinks while watching the sun set over the Aegean Sea.
Explore the Village – Meander through the streets, enjoy a Greek coffee with Baklava or a traditional savoury pie and see the windmills.
Head to a beach/bar – Spend the day on a lounger lapping up the Mediterranean sun at one of the popular beach resorts at Paradise, Super Paradise or Kalafatis beaches.
The largest of Dodecanese islands, Rhodes was once occupied by the Knights of St John during the crusades. The old town is well preserved medieval town with an ancient castle, cobbled roads, city walls and museum’s and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. After a little shopping and exploring the old town, we hired a Suzuki “Jeep” and did a little exploring to see the rest of the island. We were advised to visit the “Seven Springs” and the Acropolis in Lindos. This is a charming village worth visiting and offered stunning beaches, shopping, and great dining opportunities.
Old Town – Visit the Palace of the Grand Masters, meander the cobbled streets to discover hidden stores. Shopping here was relatively inexpensive compared to the other two islands.
Lindos – Head there to visit the Acropolis, shop in the village, relax at one of the beach resorts or just go for relaxed lunch.
Catamaran – see Rhodes and its coastline from the water stopping off at secluded spots for a swim in crystal clear waters. Most packages include lunch and drinks.
This to me was a breath-taking picture-perfect experience. We had to tender into the port of Santorini which is located at the bottom of a huge 400m high cliff. There is not much to see in the port and there are limited ways to get to the top town of Fira. Your options are the cable car, donkey ride, walking or a ferry and bus ride to the top. The cable car only costs €6 one way and you were at the top in just over two minutes. Tip: if you’ve got a fear of heights, face the cliff on the way up to calm the nerves. It’s over before you know it.
The next option is by donkey. We were advised by the cruise line not to support this method. Donkeys are made to carry overweight tourists up a steep road (with over 600 steps) and can do up to ten return trips a day. These roads are very slippery, and the donkeys often hurt themselves and are exposed to heat all day. Please reconsider if you were thinking about this option. Walking is also not really recommended for the same reason.
The final option is to take a ferry boat to the other side of the island from where you can catch a bus up to the town of Oia. All the post cards you see of the whitewashed villas with pools overlooking the Aegean Sea are taken there.
We took the thrilling cable car to the top of Fira. The queue to go up moved quickly but coming down was another story. With five cruise liners in the bay the queue to come down snaked around the village square for a few hundred meters. Fira is a charming village with many restaurants and shopping opportunities. When we initially got to the top, it took us all of five minutes to find a tour guide selling tickets to a two-and-a-half-hour tour of the top of the island which included a stop at the famous Blue Dome Church which was followed by a visit to Oia. Here we meandered through the cobbled walkways while taking in the magnificent surroundings. We also enjoyed some baklava, ouzo, local wine and a traditional Greek cheese and spinach pie.
This is a destination we would like to return to for a few days.
Fira – Explore the town to shop and enjoy the restaurants. With many great photo opportunities you will spend a few hours here.
Oia – Explore the town, shop, and sample local delicacies. With many great photo opportunities, you will spend a few hours here. If you can, wait until sunset for some special once in a lifetime pictures.
Volcanic Island Cruise – head to the volcanic islands of Santorini’s caldera region. Swim in hot springs and take in the views from an active volcano. An alternative is to get there by car and do a hike around the area.
Traditional Greek Restaurants – OPA! Experience true Greek dining buffet style, dance to ‘Zorba the Greek’ and break plates.
After Mykonos, we returned to Athens where we disembarked the ship. We had a very informative Uber driver who took us from the port to our hotel and on his advice, we took in the extended version of the changing of the guards in front of parliament. We then wondered through the Monastiraki region with its markets and antique shops before enjoying a traditional lunch.
Tip: Order your taxi via Uber. Rates are much lower and regulated.
We had previously visited Athens so elected not so do the usual tourist things the following day. We visited the Archaeological Museum of Athens and did a little more shopping before packing for our flight home.
Gerald Durrell wrote about his time in Corfu musing that “Gradually the magic of the island settled over us as gently and clingingly as pollen.” Well, the Greek isles have settled over us too and are clinging and drawing us back again one day.
Planning a trip to Greece? See our Travel Resources page to help plan your trip.