September 1, 2017
When people imagine Greece, they tend to think about the bright, blue water in contrast with the white washed buildings in Santorini or the architecture and historical sites of Athens. These imageries and over-hyped landmarks are what led me to travel to Greece. I wanted to see the real deal and see if the country is really as beautiful as the photographs I’ve seen because what is beautiful is subjective (i.e. I did not find Paris beautiful). Further, it has been nearly 4 months since I’ve last travelled, and I had to endure multiple stressful/emotional situations. Therefore, taking a trip was my escape from reality. Reflecting back on my travels this year, I’ve been traveling to countries that have been cold so I figured it’d be a nice, relaxing change to explore a country known for its paradise while ending summer with a BANG! I did not want to restrict myself to only exploring two islands so I purposely made an effort to island hop in the most unorganized way; it was not the most time-efficient way looking back.
A local shared with me that Santorini is known as one of the most romantic places in the world, and he was surprised I was exploring the island by myself. I learned to understand why most people choose Santorini as a honeymoon destination, but I also learned that there is so much more to Santorini than a honeymoon destination. There is so much to see and explore in Santorini! Wineries, shopping centres, and restaurants were open until 12am-1am. The reason most places stayed open was because Santorini thrives on tourism!
First day in Greece was one of the hardest! I arrived late at night and jet-lagged, but I was awestruck of the views from my hotel at night. The pool lit up at night, and I was excited for what to see and explore the next day.
Staying in Santorini was super expensive! The cheaper options were staying at an Airbnb or staying further away from most of the liveliness of the island. I figured it might be a while before I travel to Greece again, and I decided to reward myself in staying at a luxurious, highly rated hotel: Chromata Santorini.
Chromata Santorini was the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at! The staff were amazing, and the concierge provided unique recommendations of places and restaurants to explore. In addition, the concierge called taxis for picking and dropping me off to my destinations, making it easy for me to go anywhere I wanted without renting a car. Breakfast was included, and there were beautiful views of the inactive volcano and pool while eating breakfast!
One of the first things I did while in Santorini was the hike from Fira to Oia. The hike from Fira to Oia takes approximately 2-4 hours with great views of Santorini along the way!
I was talking to a local in a shop about places to explore. The local shared with me to not forget to check out Atlantis Books! Apart from this bookstore, the only other one equivalent to it is in Venice Italy. The bookstore leads you underground, and it also has a rooftop view of Oia. You can read and collect first edition books here!
Sunset watching is HUGE in Santorini because it supposedly offers the best ones in the world. There are many popular spots to watch the sunset, one being in Oia, but it’s always crowded. Sometimes, the best views to watch the sunset are not on land but by sea.
I booked a sunset tour with Ocean Voyager 74. The itinerary consisted of swimming/snorkeling at Red Beach, swimming/snorkeling at White Beach, Greek BBQ, swimming/mud bath at the hot springs, and watching the sunset below the Oia Village.
Pyrgos is the highest point of Santorini, and there are panoramic views of the island! Along with great views, there are also great restaurants such as Cava Alta to check out.
Venetsanos Winery, which was the first winery I went to, offered beautiful views overlooking the inactive volcano and caldera of Santorini. It was high in elevation and the architecture consisted of white calderas.
After I bought the wine from Venetsanos Winery, I headed to Gaia Winery. It was such a contrast in views. Gaia overlooked the beach! It was smaller, quaint, and also offered great tastings. Even though it was smaller, you still had to book in advance because it is usually booked throughout the day. I learned that every winery makes their own Vinsanto, sweet wine, which is made from grapes dried in the sun after harvest. I could not help but purchase a Vinsanto from Gaia Winery.
Gaia Winery was also close to Perissa Beach, unique for its black sand!
After spending several days in Santorini, I flew to Athens to take some time to explore the city and its surrounding areas. Historically, there was so much that encompassed Athens, but I spent the least amount of time here. I stayed at Royal Olympic Hotel and took day trips from Athens to other areas of Greece. The highlight of this city was in the Acropolis!
I read somewhere, don’t recall which article/blog/website, that Delphi was also known as the “middle point of the world.” There were many archaeological sites in Delphi such as the Sanctuary of Apollo, Ancient Delphi, gymnasium, Sanctuary of Athena Pronea, and the Church of Agios Nikolaos. Near the archaeological sites was also a museum, which helped visitors or history enthusiasts construct an image of the sites looked like in the past.
Hydra, Poros, and Aegina
From Athens, Hydra, Poros, and Aegina, were nearby, and Viator offered a day cruise to explore all three islands. Hydra, Poros, and Aegina were known as the Saronic Islands. Hydra became famous because it was the location for A Girl in Black and Boy on Dolphin (Telegraph Media Group Limited, 2018). My favorite part of Hydra was that the island was walkable. There were no vehicles allowed on this island, and the only modes of transportation was by walking or riding on a donkey! Poros is comprised of two islands, Sphairia (volcanic rock) and Kalaveria (planted with pine trees) (The Culture Trip, Ltd., 2018). One of the first things I noticed while the cruise approached the island were the rows of boats situated in front of the island. Besides that, Poros had a clock tower that was located on the top of the hill, which you had to climb to! However, the views from the clock tower was worth it. Out of all the three islands, Aegina was situated closest to Athens, which made sense that this was the last island to explore before heading back to Athens. The highlights of this island were the Ancient Temple of Athena Aphaia, gelato stand outside of the temple, and the church of Agios Nekatorios.
Zakynthos is famous for the Shipwreck Beach, and visiting this island without going to the beach would be similar to visiting Greece without making a stop to Santorini – my opinion at least! Other highlights of this area was swimming near the Keri Caves and turtle spotting. While exploring Zakynthos, I stayed at Lesante Luxury Hotel & Spa, which offered breakfast, beautiful views of their pool, along with a spa area, located downstairs!
On my last day in Greece, I wanted to make it memorable so I booked a photograph tour with @shotztours. I’ve read great reviews regarding the tour, where reviewers shared how Olaf took you to hidden gems of Santorini and also taught you how to have more control of your camera. Prior to the tour, I already felt confident in my composition for most of my photographs. I’ve had mixed feelings of learning to shoot manually 100% of the time. The problem I’ve found and also the anxiety leading up to shooting manually is sometimes, you don’t have the time, especially when you’re trying to capture a fleeting moment. Olaf taught me how I can maintain some level of control while shooting in auto (semi), which I was excited to learn! Intention is key, and most importantly, reflecting on why I’m moved to capture a shot. Olaf told me to ask myself more questions of why I’m taking this shot or why I don’t like it. Most of the time, if I don’t like my work, it’s because I’m not asking myself enough questions, and I’m not capturing something closest to how I feel/portraying the accuracy of my perception.
I ended my last night in Greece at Santos Winery with some last views overlooking Santorini while tasting some wine. Greece, it’s hard to not fall in love with you!
Planning for Greece was super stressful for me, but the trip itself paid off! It was one of the most relaxing trips I’ve ever experienced, mainly because the culture in Greece is very laid back. Below are some tips I learned along the way when traveling to Greece:
- Island hopping is fun but not always practical if you’re exploring islands that are on opposite sides of each other!
- If choosing to island hop, explore islands in regions because they’re located close to one another.
- Hotels in Santorini are expensive but worth it mainly for the views – best to experience once in a lifetime because it enhances the trip.
- When in Santorini, it is worth booking a sunset cruise because overlooking the sunset in Oia can be crowded but less crowded from the sea. Note: Sunset watching is HUGE in Santorini because it supposedly offers the best ones in the world!
- Although Santorini is known for being one of the most romantic places in the world, traveling solo in Santorini is just as fun!
Where have I travelled in Southern Europe?