Let me start by saying that I only paid $1,040 for my entire trip to Greece! That included my flights, transfers to/from the hotel, a 4-night stay in the hotel, two full-day excursions with lunch, and breakfast each day. I went to Greece with a few friends from work. We booked our trip through Gate 1 Travel, and I highly recommend them! We bought the 6 Day Athens Special. We also added the Full day Delphi Tour with lunch, and the Full Day Cruise to Hydra, Poros & Aegina with lunch to our itinerary. While in Greece, we had about three days in Athens, one day in Delphi, one day to visit Hydra, Poros, and Aegina, and about one day worth of travel time.
As part of our Gate 1 Travel package, we stayed at The Stanley Hotel. This hotel was exactly what we were looking for. The rooms were not excessive, and provided us with what we needed: bed, bathroom, closet, safe and a small balcony. Our package also included breakfast, which was AMAZING. The breakfast was an endless buffet of Greek salad, meats, eggs, fruits, and so much more. I am by no means a morning person, but I was willing to sacrifice 30 minutes of my sleep to partake in this delicious feast.
As much as I love reading travel blogs before a trip, I also really enjoyed reading the information from Rick Steves’ Europe. His website and books provide you with a ton of useful information. After reading a few chapters from his book on Greece, I was able to learn a lot of Greek history to prepare myself for our trip. I found the Rick Steves Audio Europe™ app to be one of the most useful things on my trip. From the app, I was able to download the free self-guided walking tours, including his Athens City Walk, Ancient Agora, and The Acropolis. These were super fun to listen to, and came with a map to download or print to help guide you through each tour. His app also has radio interviews, travel tips, and cultural insights.
I have also talked about my love for free walking tours. Literally Google “Free walking tour [insert country name]” any time you go on a trip. You will likely have multiple results show up, so I suggest reading through the different itineraries and reviews to find the tour that works for you. I can say that I have never had a negative experience. For our trip to Greece, I booked our tour through Athens Free Tour. I cannot say enough about how great our experience was. Our tour guide Jonathan was absolutely amazing. We loved him so much that we used the phrase “#ThingsJonathanTaughtUs” throughout our trip. For our tour, we met Johnathan at Hadrian’s Arch and began our tour talking about the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
While Jonathan was talking to us about the Temple of Olympian Zeus, he began pointing out the columns that remained, and asked if anyone knew what style of columns were used to create the temple. I looked around and did not see anyone’s hand raised, so I eagerly said “Corinthian.” Like a true teacher’s pet, I gleamed when Johnathan seemed impressed that an American knew the answer. He then proceeded to ask me if I could name all three of the columns, to which I confidently answered, “Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian” (#ThingsRickStevesTaughtMe).
We then proceeded to Greek Parliament, or Syntagma Square, to watch the changing of the guards.
After watching the changing of the guards we walked to Mitropoleos Cathedral, where we took a short break while Johnathan told us about the most recent anarchist protests taking place in Athens.
From there we walked to the University, where we saw protesters beginning to gather to protest the arrest of an anarchist who had attempted to murder the former Prime Minister with a Molotov cocktail #ThingsJonathanTaughtUs.
Next Jonathan took us to Monastiraki and told us all about the Roman Agora, the Plaka neighborhood, the view from Mars Hill, the Acropolis, the Odeion of Herodes Atticus, and the Theatre of Dionysos.
For his final surprise, Johnathan took us to Anafiotika (literally means “little Anafi”). Thanks to Rick Steves, I knew that Anafiotika is a charming “village” that was built by people from the Cycladic island of Anafi. This village is nestled beneath the Acropolis, and makes you feel as though you are miles away from the hustle and bustle Athens. Without Johnathan there to guide us, we would have gotten lost in the narrow paths that reminded me of a labyrinth, lined with flowers, and full of cats lounging in the sun.
As I mentioned before, I have never had a negative experience with my free walking tours. That being said, Johnathan was by far my favorite tour guide- If you ever head to Greece, I highly recommend him!
After our tour, we were ready to sit down and have a drink. A few of my friends who have been to Athens before recommended a couple rooftop bars that have a great view of the Acropolis: A for Athens (the top floor of a hotel with an amazing view), and 360 Cocktail bar. However, we decided to go to City Zen #ThingsJohnathanTaughtUs. We were literally the only tourists there. Definitely a local bar with an incredible view. 10/10 recommend.
During the rest of our time in Athens, we were able to explore more of the areas that Johnathan mentioned to us. One of my favorite places in Athens was Mars Hill. A few friends recommended that I go there for sunset, and while we did not make it to a sunset, the view during the day did not disappoint.
Outside of the places mentioned above, here are some other favorites:
- Alexander the Great Greek Restaurant – this was right outside of our hotel. This restaurant had a cute little outside seating area and the food was delicious.
- Avli – This place was recommended by Johnathan. It is SO CUTE and is definitely a hidden gem.
- Nancy’s Sweet Home – Again, this place was recommended by Johnathan. Make sure you get there early, sometimes the line will wrap around the block!
- DaVinci – Honestly, I felt like I was back in Italy. I am not even embarrassed to admit that I got gelato from here at least 5 times (maybe even twice in one day).
- Most of the museums and sites are free on Sunday, so if you can, save those until Sunday #ThingsJohnathanTaughtUs.
- Another way to get into museums for free is to use a student ID. Say you’re a student from England and you can get in for free.
- Definitely try Moussaka. My friend recommended it to me and it was so good!
- Eat gyros literally everywhere
- One of my friends told me to check out any taverna (taverns). They have some of the most incredible food, and they are all pretty good. Basically, just go to any taverna that looks like it is full of Greeks and trust that there will be good food!
- Try some Ouzo! This Greek liqueur is an acquired taste, and turns milky/white when you pour it on ice. You might feel it after one sip, so sip with caution!
During our Full day Delphi Tour, we were provided with a tour guide. She took us through the Treasury of the Athenians, the Temple of Apollo, and the Delphi Museum.
After spending the day in Delphi, we stopped in the ancient town of Arachova, where we walked around and explored all the cute little shops.
Before heading back to Athens, we stopped to have lunch in the village of Delphi at the Chalet Maniati. This was the cutest little restaurant tucked away from the main road. We enjoyed an authentic Greek meal, followed by some delicious baklava.
Full day cruise:
Similar to our Full day Delphi Tour, for our Full Day Cruise to Hydra, Poros & Aegina we were provided with another amazing tour guide. For our cruise we stopped in:
- Hydra – less than a two hour boat ride from Athens
- Poros -smallest of the three islands
- Aegina – known for it’s delicious pistachios and the Temple of Afea
We took a bus to the port, where we boarded the cruise ship to Hydra. At each location we were given time to leisurely explore each island on our own.
This was one of my favorite places in Greece.
Hydra is uniquely characterized by the lack of cars and motorcycles. The transportation of goods (and people) relies solely on the use of donkeys, which can be seen throughout the island.
Make sure you stop by Flora’s Pastry Shop! We walked into the quant little shop and even met Flora! After we bought our baklava (a must try sweet in Greece!), we walked outside and enjoyed our sweets near the lemon trees in Votsi Square.
Also make sure you check out the Andreas Miaoulis Monument. There is a ledge surrounding the monument that overlooks the harbor, and is a great place for pictures (special shoutout to my friend Ryan who graciously took the same picture over and over until I got one that I liked).
We spent the least amount of time in Poros. I recommend walking up to the Clock Tower for a good view. Afterwards, just take some time to walk around and explore some of the alleys.
Definitely make sure that you explore the Archaeological Museum of Aegina and then walk around back to the Temple of Apollo (literally the perfect place to bring your lunch and eat). Like I mentioned, Aegina is known for it’s delicious pistachios. I definitely encourage you to try all of the different pistachio products. My favorite was pistachio butter- I did not buy some, but looking back, I wish I did!
I honestly could not have asked for a better first trip to Greece. As I mentioned in the beginning, we booked our trip through Gate 1 Travel, and I will definitely look into using them again. While I love the experience of backpacking through new cities, and meeting people from all over the world in hostels, I would definitely recommend Gate 1 for group trips. We received a discount for signing up in pairs, and were able to add affordable excursions to our package. This trip was a great taste of Greece, and I cannot wait to go back!