The Greek Islands

Welcome to another Travel Tuesday readers! If you need an escape from the beginning of yet another working week then sit back with a nice cup of tea (or large glass of wine, there’s no judgement here) and escape to the wonderful Greek Islands!

The words ‘Greek Islands’ summon up thoughts of bronzed bodies lying on white sandy beaches with crystal blue water lapping at the shoreline and sunshine beaming down, followed by warm nights of drinking Ouzo and partying with locals who have lived in the village for generations. I’m happy to say that it’s not an uncommon occurrence however there is much much more that makes up the 6,000 islands and islets.

Although there are 6,000 islands and islets, only 227 are inhabited and of those 227 there are approximately 10 that are common holiday destinations. Instead of focusing on each island, I’ll be letting you know which island to visit if you have a budget, if you have cash to splash, if you want to get the adrenaline pumping, and where to go if you have kids to entertain. Hopefully you’ll find something that will suit you!

BUDGET:

Starting with my kind of travel (mainly because I am a terrible money saver) is the budget travel. Kythnos is one beautiful island you’ll be shocked it’s still a secret! The island has 70 beaches, quaint villages, cobblestone streets, and a super laid-back vibe making it a perfect place for a relaxing vacation on a small budget. It’s AUD$37 one-way from Athens by ferry (though be warned, that ferry ride is over 3 hours), and hotel accommodation can be found for a bargain AUD$70 per room per night!

If you’re thinking “that’s really great but I want to take really cool Instagram pictures and party until dawn” then don’t stress, I’ve got you covered. Head to Santorini. Yes, that place in all the travel guides and on all the postcards, can be visited on a budget. If money is more important than time you can catch an 8-hour slow ferry from Athens for less than AUD$60. If you’re short on time though you can get a direct flight from Athens to Santorini during the summer months for around AUD$160 and be there in 45 minutes.

Accommodation-wise the best option will be a hostel. They’re cheap, a great way to meet fellow tourists, and usually have the inside scoop on where the best ‘happy hour’ is. If hostels aren’t your thing, but you’re travelling alone or on a really tight budget, then I suggest booking a private room at a hostel property. You get the benefit of the hostel price and atmosphere but you still retain your privacy. One recommended by Time Travel Blonde is the Cave-Land Hostel. If you want to read her full article then you can find it HERE.
Meanwhile, if there is a group of you, definitely check out AirBnB. Not only will you save money on accommodation, you will most likely have access to a kitchen meaning breakfast will cost you a box of cereal and pint of milk, and you can save money by having pre-dinner drinks and nibbles in your digs and eating only an entree when you do go out. (NOTE: if you’re from the US and reading this going “but an entrée is the most expensive meal!”, in Australia an entrée is what you call an appetizer).

LUXURY

Mykonos. The name screams celebrities and nightlife, and there is a reason for that – it’s the Greek playground for movie stars, pop singers, and those just blessed with big bank accounts. The famous name that arguably put Mykonos on the Hollywood radar would be Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. She visited with her sister in 1961 and fell in love with the place. Of course it took a number of years for her to meet her future husband Aristotle Onassis (who had been visiting the island since the 1950’s) and become Jackie Onassis, bringing with her new name a new influx of guests including Grace Kelly and Mick Jagger.

Nowadays you’ll see everyone rocking $200 bikinis and boardies, looking like they just walked in from a day on a yacht (when in reality we all know his man-bun and her shimmery décolletage took at least an hour to perfect). These picture perfect people will likely be found dancing to world famous DJ’s at the 3,000 capacity club Cavo Paradiso. One thing to note is the nights in Greece start late, so if waiting until the wee hours of the morning to start your night sounds more nightmare than dream, why not make lunch your scene? A leisurely lunch, starting mid-afternoon and finishing well after sundown, is relaxed yet sociable and a great way to be seen. Sometimes the bill is more expensive than your hotel room if you’re dining somewhere like the newly opened Scorpios however if you’ve got the cash, and you want to be seen, it will be worth it.

You’ll likely get bored of the same people every day, or need a new backdrop for your Facebook updates, so why not hire a boat and get off the island for a day? Get a few friends together and go fishing and snorkeling in some of Mykonos’s most beautiful spots, or hire speedboat and explore the beauty of the Cyclades, the choice is yours.

If you’re going to rub shoulders with the rich & famous during the day you will have to be accommodated like them too. You’ll need a villa with unobstructed ocean views, an infinity pool, privacy, plenty of space – basically the whole shebang! The beautiful villa featured in the below picture is located near Fanari and can be booked through Luxury Retreats.

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‘Crystal Sea’ – Fanari, Mykonos

ADVENTURE

Lying on a sandy beach catching some rays while a cocktail is bought to your lounger sounds like a dream to most. Not you though. Why lie on a beach when there are mountains to hike, waves to surf, ATV’s to drive? Anything that gets the heart pumping a little faster than normal is what you love.

While most islands offer things like snorkelling, sailing, and cycling, I would suggest you make sure the island of Naxos is on your ‘must visit’ list. Why? Because of a little place called Mount Zeus. The reason this name is so familiar is due to ancient Greece storytelling. The locals believed that Zeus, the God of sky and thunder, and one of the 11 Olympians, was born in a cave on the mountain and named it after him.
There are two routes from the base to the top. If you want to see the cave you can choose the harder of the two hikes. While shorter in distance at only 6km round-trip, this route is steeper in parts and if you want to explore inside the cave bring a reliable light source and watch your footing as it can get slippery. The other route is 8km round-trip and is a much easier walk due to the gradual incline.

Once you’ve hiked this historic mountain, and seen the birthplace of a Greek God, there is plenty more to see and do on the island. Given the island has been inhabited since 4 BC, you can find historical artifacts, quaint fishing villages, traditional fruit picking, and all surrounded by beautiful beaches.

To get to this well-kept secret it will cost you AUD$66 on the high-speed ferry and take you about 4 hours to arrive from Athens. Once on the island you may want to rent a vehicle for getting around due to the mountainous terrain between towns. 4WD’s, cars, motorbikes, and mountain bikes are all available for hire.

FAMILY

Want to holiday but have a couple of ratbags to drag along with you? Greece has you covered too. If I was travelling with children (and children at heart) I would go for Crete.

For those little Dr Doolittle’s why not check out the Cretaquarium with their vast array of sea life to discover and educational ‘Behind the Scenes’ tours available the family will be occupied for hours.
Kids want more animal action but are over stingrays? Take them to Dinosauria Park with dinosaur displays that actually move and make noises!

If you have more of an energizer bunny type child, then spend the day at Water City. Between multiple children’s pools and slides, a wave pool, more exciting slides for the older kids and adults, a lazy river, a few racing slides, and a giant swimming pool surrounded by trees providing some nice shaded areas there is a water area for all ages.

If you’re there for a while there’s plenty to fill every day, you can take the family on hikes, mountain biking, to discover the old town of Chania, to visit underground cave; there is literally something for everyone.

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Dinosauria – Crete, Greece

I know there are many great things about Greece, and many more islands I could have written about, however if I did then this blog post would never have ended and there is just not enough Red Bull available for that! Although I have used the above suggestions, keep in mind that you can find luxury in Santorini and budget options in Crete and take your family to Mykonos. The great thing about Greece is its diversity within the islands.

If you guys have any other suggestions or experiences you’d like to share then comment down below!

Final note – A few days ago (on 21 July, 2017) the island of Kos was sent into emergency overdrive after a 6.7 magnitude earthquake happened approx. 20km offshore. The earthquake caused flight delays and a closure of the main harbour, however most services have returned to normal. While 120 people were injured, 2 nightclub patrons were sadly killed when a wall toppled onto them. Although this is the height of the tourist season, calm is being restored throughout the island and tourists seem to be taking it in their stride, as are the locals.

This will make life for the Greeks even harder however they are a resilient people and I know they will recover and rebuild.

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