Greece is a beautiful, picturesque, authentic, and totally photogenic country. Greece is comprised of a mainland and more than 6,000 islands and islets. The culture of Greece has evolved over thousands of years and many There is a lot to see and experience in Greece. This time we visited the Greek Islands of Crete and Santorini and the Capital Athens. Two things we can describe as absolutely exceptional: the sheer beauty of the Greek landscapes and the incredible taste of the Greek cuisine.
Greece, over 6,000 islands of incredible beauty and history
Why do we love Greece? Because getting to Greece from Italy is extremely simple and cheap. Because Greece with over 6,000 islands is very similar to the Philippines that has over 7,000 islands. And because I was born in Sicily, an island of Greek origins. Greece is a perfect travel destination for me.
Just landed on the Island of Crete
We had a direct flight to Iraklion, on the Island of Crete. Our flight landed very late, so we decided to spend the night in the capital before moving to Chania.
The next day, with our red rental car we drove to our Airbnb in the center of Chania. We actually spent only three nights there but we wished we could have stayed longer. Artemis, our host, was extremely gentle and gave us many pieces of advice. The apartment we rented does not have a private parking but we never had difficulties finding one. The place is clean and centrally located: shops, bus stop, municipal market, Venetian harbor are less than 5 min away by foot. Artemis also provided me with nice toys and I really appreciated that. I can definitely recommend this place:
The dangerous beach of Seitan Limani
The first beach on our list was Seitan Limani. Getting there is a real adventure itself, especially if you are not used to mountainous roads. Driving down was almost terrifying.
In fact, it was very steep and very winding and very narrow, plus many small rocks that kept on falling from the mountain to the road. Once we reached the parking area we gave up getting to the cove for a swim, because my parents are not totally crazy and with a little child like me it was not a good idea to follow the slippery path that takes to the beautiful beach.
Stravos, the beach of Zorba the Greek
After Seitan Limani, we visited the famous beach of Stravos. This is the beach where they shot the movie “Zorba the Greek” with Anthony Quinn. I liked the place and, seeing many kids in the water, I felt like swimming myself with the help of my floaties. After sunset, we had dinner at a local restaurant that had great food and small prices.
Driving to the beautiful Balos Lagoon
The next day, we woke up early and we drove to the Balos Lagoon. It is important to get there early or you might need to walk for kilometers for the big parking lot gets full fast. I loved the driving. In fact, despite being a dirt road, it is absolutely safe to drive there for the road is large. All along the track, there were plenty of friendly goats that almost talked to me.
The beautiful Balos Lagoon
After parking our car, we went down on a narrow path that leads to the breathtaking Balos lagoon. It took around 20 min to reach the beach and, since it was early, there were not so many tourists on the beach yet.
We rented a waterfront umbrella for 9.00 euro that included two sun beds. The landscape is unique and so are the white sand beach and the crystal clear water. If you want to visit this beach, get there as early as possible. In fact, after midday, the first boats start unloading many tourists on the up-to-then quiet place.
Going back from Balos
After spending such a wonderful time in Balos, we went up the same path again and after 30 min we reached the top. However, I was a good girl and I did not ask my dad to carry me for too long. it was more than lunchtime as we drove back on the gravel road. We saw hundreds of cars parked on the side of the street, so these people must have walked for kilometers just to reach our parking lot.
The Gramvousa (Gramboussa), the best restaurant in Crete
At the end of the dirt road, there was one of the best restaurants my family has ever been. The Gramvousa (Gramboussa) Restaurant was suggested by our host Artemis and she could not have been more right! The food was memorable and the price absolutely fair. In fact, we just paid 30.00 euro in total for one of the best lunch we ever had. We highly recommend this place as the best restaurant in Crete:
Back to our apartment and after such a memorable lunch, we were not really looking forward to dinner. So, we went for a walking in central Chania and we had a light dinner in a local eatery.
Elafonissi, the most beautiful beach in Crete
After visiting the Balos lagoon, we could never expect that on the Island of Crete there could be another beach even more beautiful than Balos. Much to our surprise, we were wrong. The beach of Elafonissi is the most beautiful beach of Crete. It is a scenic lagoon with shallow, turquoise waters, white and pink sand.
It is a paradise! Like in Balos, for 9 euro we rented two sun beds and an umbrella and spent the whole day at the beach. I became friend with Zara, a four-year-old Australian girl. We had a great time together on this amazing beach. Unfortunately, it was getting late and we had to get to the car and drive back to Chania for it is a bit far.
Sunday morning in Chania
After a nice rest, we had a Sunday morning walk to the Old Venetian Harbor of Chania. There was a beautiful lighthouse and this busy harbor was full of shops and nice restaurants, though we would not suggest eating there for the best food is found in non-touristy places.
Going back to Iraklion
Time to get back to our red car to drive back to Iraklion (also Heraklion or Herakleion). We checked in at our hotel that was very close to the center and rested for a while. In the meantime, dad returned our rental car at the airport. It was a short drive from the center and easy to get back by bus. In less than a hour daddy was back at the hotel and we were ready to go and visit the city of Heraklion.
Ferry to the Island of Santorini
The next day, after breakfast, we finally took the ferry to Santorini. The Island of Santorini had always been mom’s dream destination and her dream was now about to come true. After three hours of navigation, we arrived at the harbor where buses where waiting. We got a line bus to Fira terminal and then walked to our hotel.
Finally in Fira, Santorini
Fira (also called Thera or Thira) is the capital of the biggest settlement of Santorini. The Island is what remains of a volcanic eruption that destroyed the earliest settlements on a formerly single big island.
After getting lost in the narrow streets of Fira with its shops, bars, and restaurants, it was almost the right time for sunset. Actually, that is the reason why this Island is famous for. The sunset lived up and even went beyond our expectation. The view was magical and for a moment everything stopped with unmatchable beauty. And so is the night.
Great fun for the family on our quad
However, no matter how beautiful, we could not only wait and watch sunsets. So, the next day, we decided to rent a quad to move more freely around the Island. I was never scared and indeed I enjoyed it very much.
We first drove to Perissa Beach, a beautiful black sand beach close to the archaeological site of ancient Thira. Back to our quad, we left Perissa for the Red Beach, one of the most unique beaches in Greece. We bought some local grapes and we enjoyed the view while eating fruits. We then visited the beautiful Akrotiri Lighthouse for its incredible view. This is the most beautiful lighthouse in the Cyclades.
The village of Pyrgos
At lunchtime, we drove to the village of Pyrgos, about 8 kilometers southeast of Fira. Pyrgos is the highest village of the whole island with great panoramic views of both sides of the island. The Kantouni Restaurant in Pyrgos is one of the best in Santorini and offers delicious food with a good service at reasonable prices.
Sunset at Imerovigli
For the second sunset on the Island of Santorini, we chose Imerovigli, the balcony to the Aegean. This village is famous for its beautiful sunset and its clear view of the caldera.
Oia, the best view of Santorini
On our last day on the Island, we could never miss the romantic and picturesque village of Oia on the north of the island, 11 km away from Fira. Oia is one of the most photographed places in Greece, while the Castle of Oia is the most famous place for sunset sightseeing in the world!
Ferry to Piraeus (Athens)
Unfortunately, we had no more time left, so we returned our quad, got our luggage, and got on the bus to the harbor for our last ferry to Athens.
From Piraeus to Athens
We arrived late at night at the Piraeus Harbor and we spent the first night on the mainland at a simple but clean hotel. The next day, we got a taxi to our hotel in Athens. Traveling on a small budget, our main rule for choosing hotels in big cities like Athens is the closeness to the metro station. That way we save money compared to centrally located hotels but we still remain at a walking distance from the center of the city.
Our first day in Athens and at the Acropolis
We spent the whole day around the Acropolis. Despite being the end of September, it was still very hot, so we decided to visit the temples in the late afternoon.
The place was so awesome that people tended to lose all sense of time while looking at the beauty of the Parthenon. We remained almost two hours inside the temple area but when the guards told us that the place was about to close and that it would be taken over by the military, my dad got angry with the personnel. Actually, he was convinced that we had been inside the archeological area for only 30 minutes!
Evening in the Greek capital
After being sent away, we had a relaxing walk thru Athens’ old town so that mom could buy her overpriced Pandora charm.
Our last day in Greece
The next day was also our last day in Greece. So, we went back to the Acropolis and Syntagma Square and from there we visited Athens by day.
Greek food, Greek sea, Greek beaches, Greek landscapes, Greek people, Greece, we will be back soon!