Santorini

I had no expectations for Santorini. I thought I saw too much of it on instagram and I imagined it to be too touristy for my liking. However, I thought I’d probably never get a chance to go there with the family again, so we added this island to our itinerary.

I have to admit I was very wrong about Santorini. Yes, it was touristy, but October was a perfect time to visit. The temperatures were high during the day, evenings not yet cold and tourist numbers manageable. A lot of them would go back to their cruise ships in the evenings, so the island didn’t feel crowded at all.

I honestly didn’t expect to be so positively surprised by the beauty of Santorini. I didn’t expect such impressive panoramic views and those iconic white houses I saw on instagram to be located on extremely steep cliffs, looking like icing on the cake. The day we arrived, it was already quite late, but we made it just in time to watch the sunset. We wandered up through Fira’s tiny winding streets not realising that there was a breathtaking view waiting for us just around the corner. The colours of the sky, little islands nearby and water were changing quickly; there were clouds hanging above parts of Santorini, making some of the tiny white houses disappear. You could feel that sleepy evening silence creeping in and everything sinking into the darkness. Sharing that moment with my family was a beautiful bonding experience.

The next morning we spent swimming and enjoying on one of the black sand beaches. After lunch, we decided to do a little hike from Fira to Oia. That was my absolute favourite thing to do in the island and probably a highlight of the whole holiday. The walk was only about 10km one way, well marked and a pretty easy (as long as you don’t do it in midday heat). I’ll share some photos, however I have to warn you that they don’t give you that sense of freedom and happiness I was feeling while walking on this rugged island.

The views were breathtaking all along the way and I almost had to force myself not to take photos every second step. We stopped a lot just to appreciate the view, so the walk took much longer than expected. I have absolutely no regrets, there is no point in doing this walk if you don’t have enough time to appreciate the surroundings. We made it to Oia just in time for another incredible sunset.

This little town felt much more “spacious” than Fira. I have no idea how to explain it, but it had a sleepier atmosphere, the streets felt a bit wider and the views didn’t seem to disappear in narrow streets.

Even though the walk we did was very popular, it is something I will never forget. Doing it with my family and sharing the excitement, the feeling of freedom, the surprising vistas along the way and seeing their smiley faces it’s what life is all about.

I think you can see as many photos of Santorini as you like, but until you are standing on the cliff there, appreciating the surrounding view, feeling wind and sun in your face and being nearly blinded by the whiteness of the houses, you don’t realise what the island is all about. Perhaps it would had been a very different experience if we visited during the peak season, but I believe that the magic of the place can’t really be hidden even under the crowds of tourists.

My holiday in Greece was over. The joy of it is still alive today.

Paros

Deciding which islands to visit in Greece is probably one of the hardest things when planning your holiday there. There are roughly 6000 islands, with over 200 being inhabited. Even if you were on a reaaaaally long holiday, it would still take hell lot of time to see them all. Obviously, some of them are much more famous with tourists than others, so I was trying to find just the right balance between touristy and unique when planning my family holiday.

Paros attracted me with its beautiful beaches, stunning little towns and good public transport options for getting round the island. It turned out that the beginning of October was just the perfect time to go, as the days were still hot, but manageable and there were few tourists around. Also, after I booked my trip, I learned that one of my now best friends is from there, so she sent me some stunning photos from her holiday in the island. I could not wait to go!

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If I remember correctly, it took us roughly 4 hours to get from Piraeus Port to Paros by slow ferry. The journey itself was really relaxing and we even managed to spot some dolphins.

As soon as we got out of the boat in Parikia (Paros port town), we found a brilliant little spot for lunch, called Hellas Taverna. I have to say their Gyros (kebab style dish) was one of the best ones I tasted in Greece.

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We had a short walk around Parikia and were astonished by its beauty. There were little streets, with white houses and beautiful blossoms everywhere. Wandering in these beautiful little and almost empty streets felt like a dream…

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We then caught a bus to Naousa, where we stayed for the next couple of days. Our accommodation had a beautiful balcony with the view to the town and a bit of Aegean sea. It was also really close to Piperi beach, which was convenient for the family with different interests in beach life (I absolutely hate lying on the beach for hours).

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Naousa felt much smaller than Parikia, but it was cosy and had some interesting streets to explore as well.

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The next day we decided to walk to Kolimpithres beach, which was just over 3km (or 2 miles) away. When we got there, the beach turned out to be really different from any I’ve seen before. There were beautiful rock formations everywhere and several sandy parts of the beach were separated from each other by these rocks. Finally, I didn’t mind spending a day on the beach since I could do some rock climbing too!

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I have to say, I imagine that during the season this beach gets packed and I don’t think I would want to be there with the crowds. Otherwise, highly recommended!

We also found a perfect place near the beach for lunch, with loads of happy cats and the biggest baklava slices!

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The walk back to Naousa was fabulous. It was just before the sunset, so warm evening colours were making the landscape even prettier.

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…we also spotted a very creative cat. Clearly proud of its work 🙂

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Getting out of Paros wasn’t as straightforward as we thought it would be. Why? Well the transport workers decided to go on strike exactly the day we had to leave. We weren’t informed about it, so we’re waiting at the port for a while and only when the ferry was “late” we checked to see what was happening. We managed to get tickets for the fast ferry later on that day, which were much more expensive. I have to say that the journeys on slow ferries were much more enjoyable, with more space to relax outside, so I would never pay for the fast ferry again (unless I had no choice).

Two and a half days were definitely not enough for this stunning island and I would like to go back there for at least a week. Strangely, I have a feeling I’ll definitely find myself wandering around the streets of Parikia again one day….

 

 

Athens

Both of my parents had their 60th birthdays last year, so we thought the best way to celebrate was to have a family holiday somewhere warm. It’s incredible how difficult it can be to plan a holiday when you choose to travel from two different countries.  There was no point for me flying to Lithuania from Scotland first, just so I can take the same flight as the rest of my family. Finally, after checking hundreds of flights & dates, I found a perfect destination – Greece.

Greece has been on my list for quite a while and I was happy I would get to see it with my family. I arrived to Athens late on Saturday and headed to the hostel I booked for the night. My parents and brother were arriving on Sunday afternoon, so I had a bit of time to explore the city by myself.

As soon as I got out of the metro, I realised the neighbourhood  was a real party district. Success! Loads of people were out and about, the bars were buzzing and I loved the vibe of the place. It was nearly midnight when I got to the hostel, so there weren’t many people chillin in the common area. Well, I was a bit disappointed, I fancied going out for a drink with some new random friends, but that didn’t seem like a possibility. I got some food and a beer and chilled on the rooftop terrace instead.

The next day I decided to go for a wander while waiting for the family to arrive. I remembered the entrance to Acropolis was free that day, so I joined the crowds and explored this very iconic place. It was hot, crowded, so I had a quick walk around and headed out hoping I would come back here with my parents. I’m glad the visit was free, as I’m not sure that 20 euro entrance fee is worth paying for… It’s just my opinion though. Unfortunately, by the time my parents arrived, the Acropolis was closed, so they didn’t get to see the inside, but we stayed on the Areopagus Hill to watch the sunset. It was a beautiful experience.

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The next day we left super early to get a ferry to one of the islands, but I’ll talk about our island experiences in the next couple of posts. We returned to Athens on the last day before catching the flights back and had another day to explore this beautiful city.

We found this amazing place called the Brunch Factory. The make brilliant food with incredible portion sizes (almost impossible to finish) and the atmosphere there is lovely. I’m still dreaming about their pancakes….

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What I also liked about the city was that it kept surprising us. You’d walk around and almost out of nowhere some beautiful ruins would pop up, or you’d find yourself in a beautiful little streets where residents find ways how to introduce as much greenery as possible.

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We also decided to go up Mount Lycabettus, since we kept seeing it from the distance and wondered what was up there. As soon as we started going up the hill we spotted a massive wild tortoise just roaming around. I’ve not seen a tortoise this size before, so I was super excited. The tortoise could not care less and strolled past me with no interest whatsoever. No offense taken.

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It was hot, so going up was a bit of a mission, but the views of the city were fantastic.

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I loved this beautiful city and would recommend it to anyone. Now I can’t wait to start writing about my Greek island adventures! 🙂