The first tip I’d have for anyone pondering a trip to Greece is this: GO TO GREECE!
Greece is truly one of the world’s great countries. It is packed full of soaring mountains and stunning beaches, has some of the nicest people in the world and is a foodies paradise. And there might be just a little bit of history there also.
Moreover, Greece needs you to visit. The economy has been struggling the last several years and tourism income is vital to the country. It is one of the cheapest countries in Europe. In fact, the Independent lists it as the best travel value in the world for 2014.
1. Go to Symi
Santorini is the poster-child of Greece, and rightfully so. The whitewashed village perched high atop the cliffs overlooking a vast caldera is one of the most beautiful and photogenic places on earth.
But I liked Symi better.
Symi has a relaxed vibe, a more authentic feel. Make no mistake, the small port town is touristy, but the locals were really nice and as soon as we stepped off the harbor and started to climb the impossibly steep steps around town, we left the touristy areas and entered a more authentic Greece.
We went to the same grocery store each day and the owner gave us a free bottle of wine on two of our visits. Our guesthouse manager, Fotini from the Dorian Hotel, actually mailed us a Christmas card! The hospitality of the people is off the charts!
Plus, Symi is just as beautiful as Santorini, but in a different way. Check out these photo essays as evidence.
2. When visiting Meteora, stay in Kastraki
Many visitors to Meteora stay in Kalabaka. It is larger, has more accommodation and dining options and is overall a pleasant town.
But Kastraki is right at the base of the monasteries, is a quieter, more beautiful town and also has great places to eat. It makes a much better base for hiking in the area.
We stayed at the Papastathis Guesthouse and I’d highly recommend it to anyone. It is the closest guesthouse to the monasteries – you can walk out your door and hike to the first monastery in about 10 minutes. The owners were very nice and accommodating and the breakfasts were simple yet delicious.
3. Seek out apartments with kitchenettes
We saved a lot of money by staying in guesthouses with in-room kitchenettes. We ate Greek yogurt with honey for breakfast and kept a stockpile of olives, feta cheese, bread, olive oil, vinegar and amazing spicy cheese dips for snacks and lunches. I made pasta for dinner on several occasions.
In Santorini, for example, we made every meal except for one in our kitchenette. With almost every restaurant in town being very expensive, we saved a considerable sum of money eating our own food and shopping at the grocery stores allowed us to live more like the locals.
4. Travel in October (or in the off-season)
I am sure the Greek islands are great any time of year, but we thought October was perfect. The average high was right around 75 degrees in the islands and it was still warm enough to swim. The crowds were gone and we got some excellent deals on accommodations, sometimes getting rooms for 66% off peak season prices.
I work in the tourist industry myself, and I can attest that at high season it is hard to be nice to the tourists when you are constantly busy. I felt like the locals were more relaxed and friendlier due to the fact that the tourism season was over.
5. Go to the Bell Bar
There are locations all over Greece. Click here to learn more.
6. Watch the sunset in Santorini from here:
Every evening tourists flock to a promontory on the west end of town to take sunset photos (see photo below). Although it is a great spot, you will share the place with many other tourists. It was busy during our visit in late October – I can’t even imagine it during the high season.
Our 2nd and 3rd night, we watched the sunset from the spot above, sharing our little space with only a few likeminded individuals. It was more photogenic and we had it to ourselves.
I don’t know exactly how to get there, but it is midway down the pedestrian street towards the caldera. Print off the above photo and ask a local.
7. Two days is enough to see Athens
Athens is pretty cool. The acropolis museum is world class and worth a long visit. The Parthenon and environs are fascinating and beautiful, but really two days is plenty to see the sights. I see no reason to linger – get out and enjoy the rest of this great country.
8. Bring your hiking shoes
A country famous for its beaches and party scene, it might seem strange to say that Greece is a hikers paradise. The Greek Isles and the mainland are both very mountainous and there are trails all over this great country. Tear yourself away from the beach and you will see.
9. Look for hotel deals online
I receive no money from Booking.com but if they want to pay me since I’ve bragged about them on this site, I will be happy to accept remuneration.
I became a big fan of booking.com on this trip. Even many of the hostels and cheap hotels use this website which is a major player in Europe. Booking.com is loaded with photos and there are reviews by real guests. Traveling in the off-season, we were able to find some excellent deals.
10. Don’t get bitten by whatever attacked this guy:
That does not look good.
11. Help me finish this post.
Have you been to Greece? What are some tips you have for visiting this great country?
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To see more of my photos of Greece, click the photo below