Greece has always been at the top of my bucket list. It was #2 on my list to be exact. I assure you that I can not accurately describe in words how over the moon excited I was to take this trip! I will say this right off the bat: this certainly was not the cheapest vacation I have ever taken. I started out with a budget and went way over. I had to take side job after side job to cover this dream of mine, but it was worth every penny.
Greece has so many islands, all which are very spread apart. Unless you are taking a cruise or traveling for a long period of time, you need to plan what islands you want to see. It isn’t one of those places that you can island hop day by day and see all there is to see, like my trip to the British Virgin Islands or Croatia (which is next up on my list to do a barbeboating trip). I had two weeks in Greece so I chose the Cyclades Islands . I decided on three stops: Mykonos, Santorini, and Athens. I was so happy with these choices! Each stop was so polar different from the other, and it really mixed things up. Mykonos was party time, Santorini was relaxing time, and Athens was a beautiful city.
My stay in Ornos Beach
San Francisco to Mykonos is quite the journey. Long travel days are not ideal, but if that’s what I have to do to get to places like this, then that’s what I have to do. I will never skip a place to see in the world because the flight is too long. After a long day and night of travel, I arrived at my Ornos Suites Airbnb in Ornos Beach, Mykonos at about 2:00am. I was about 90 feet from the sand, which is why I chose Ornos Beach. It was really difficult to find Airbnb properties that were oceanfront on Mykonos. I was excited to check out my surroundings, anxious for my first Greek cocktail, and feeling a little hungry. I assumed I would have zero options at that hour. Wrong!!! All the bars and restaurants stay open super late, and are straight up crack-a-lackin all night long. Ornos Beach was beautiful and actually ended up being my favorite after I had explored the entire island. Mykonos beaches are filled with beach clubs that thump music played by world renown DJs from the day to the night to the morning. It doesn’t stop. I wouldn’t call this island the most relaxing. It was party time….all the time. Ornos Beach was just the right amount of party mixed with the ability to unwind and relax. I would say it is one of the more quiet beaches on Mykonos. It is a beach cove lined with amazing restaurants in the sand. The bars play music here, but they don’t have that beach club vibe that most of the other beaches had in Mykonos.
Being that I enjoyed my first meal and cocktail at 3:00am it was safe to say that I was sleeping in the next morning. A bit of an understatement as I woke up at 4:00pm panicking that I would miss my sunset table reservation at Scorpios Sunset Party. Scorpios is said to be one of the best beach clubs in Europe, and I can see why. This is by far my favorite beach club I have ever been to in my life! And it is the ONLY place to be on a Sunday. They throw their weekly sunset party on Sundays, and honestly it is a “must see” when visiting Mykonos. The music and vibe at this club were so good! Dress to impress in your sexy beach wear and get ready to see a very beautiful crowd of people. I danced the night away, which turned into dancing the morning away back at one of the bars in Ornos Beach, and then lead to watching one of the most beautiful sunrises I have seen. I’m not much of a morning person so this was a huge perk of not being adjusted to the time difference just yet.
On day two I slept half the day away, and I rented an ATV to explore the island. I landed at Lohan Beach House. Lindsay Lohan went from Hollywood star to Beach Club Owner in Greece. Talk about reinventing yourself! This beach club has a sexy boho chic vibe with a great DJ on a beautiful beach. I want to copy her decorating style and make my home look exactly like her club. It was beautiful…you go girl!!
Mykonos Town is filled with all the classic white and blue traditional Greek homes. Wandering around here truly makes you fall in love with Greece. It also has tons of shopping, and lots of bars and restaurants. I visited Mykonos Town once in the day and once in the night. Just exploring the streets of Mykonos Town is worth the trip to Greece alone! While here, you can also check out the Windmills and Little Venice. The entire area is pretty small and walkable. At night you can choose from an array of amazing restaurants (OMG the food in Greece is so good) and do…what else…shake your booty all night long at any one of the fun bars that are everywhere. I chose to eat a seafood dinner at Nice and Easy Restaurant . It’s right on the water and the seafood was to die for!!
More beaches to see exploring on a quad.
We wanted to see every square inch of Mykonos, so we rented a quad to do more exploring. Honestly, this is a “must do” recommendation of mine. Riding a scooter or quad in Mykonos is extremely common, and it is how most tourists get around on their own. Of course you can rent a car, take the bus, or call an Uber but I really encourage you to explore on a quad at least for one day…if you are experienced enough to drive one of course. Most people don’t wear helmets, and although this was a bit scary to me, I went with it. Not only did I go with it, but I ended up getting comfortable enough to cruise around in a bikini. LOL. Driving through the mountains and seeing the most beautiful views of Greece would have been enough of an adventure, but we beach hopped the day away.
Elia Beach: This is the most beautiful beach on Mykonos (IMO). It was also the most relaxing on the island. Definitely the most family friendly as well. The water was crystal clear! It was absolute paradise. There is a restaurant and bar here, so you can post up for the whole day in total relaxation mode.
Psarou Beach: This beach is where the world famous beach club Nammos is located. We had planned on spending an entire day here, but the locals talked us out of it. Although it is the most famous club in Mykonos, it is also crazy expensive. We were told to expect to spend $1,000 in our afternoon there. Although an experience to dance on tables, spray champagne on each other, and stare at multi-million dollar yachts sounded amazing…we opted to save our duckets.
Paradise Beach and Super Paradise Beach: These beaches are right next to each other but are separated. Seriously, these places were wild. They had world famous DJ’s thumping the beach while everyone, and I mean everyone, danced their butts off. I’m sure it has become clear through this blog by now that coming to Mykonos means sleep when your dead!!
ON TO THE SECOND LEG TO THE ISLAND OF SANTORINI
We took the ferry from Mykonos to Santorini, which took close to three hours. The ferry was really nice and fast. That baby was cookin’, and it was so beautiful to see all the little Greek Islands along the way.
I can’t even put into words (again) how magnificent the views on this island are. This island is straight up and straight down, but truly the most beautiful views I have ever seen. Santorini was so different from Mykonos! It is so incredibly romantic, scenic, and relaxing. I was ready for this after all that hooting and hollering in Mykonos.
My Stay in Oia
I chose to stay in a traditional cave Airbnb property in Oia. It is called Armenaki. It was awesome! It was a true cave room that had the most postcard worthy view of any other place I have ever stayed in. A cave room is exactly what it sounds like…a room that’s a cave. It was sort of a studio tube in the mountain with a bedroom, full kitchen, bathroom, and breathtaking porch. It was perfect for a couple. I love staying in hotels, but this Airbnb property was a genuine Greek experience. Let me just say that this is one of those vacations that I am so thankful I took while I am able and in shape. The hike up/down from our cave room to town was no joke, and would never work for anyone with any sort of disability, elderly, young children, or someone who isn’t in decent shape. If you fall into any of these categories, I would suggest staying away from the mountainside properties in Oia, and recommend going to a hotel.
Hike Oia to Fira
The hike from Oia to Fira is a must! You need to be in good shape, but it is just breathtaking! The hike is around 8 miles (one way). It is much more challenging from Oia to Fira, as it’s all uphill. If you were going Fira to Oia, you can count on a pretty easy walk downhill. I can officially say I sweat out all of those Mykonos toxins on this day. Ha ha! But you don’t do this hike for the work out, you do it for the views. These words come to mind: grandiose, magnificent, stunning, unbelievable, and scary. Again, just the most amazing views I have ever seen in my life. Fira is much more laid back than Oia. Oia is filled with romantic restaurants, art galleries, and very high end hotels. Fira is the Capital of Santorini, and has bars, cheaper eats, great souvenir shopping, and cheaper stays. It is a really great place to stay if you don’t want to pay the Oia prices, but still want to be close by.
Exploring Santorini by road.
Next up was exploring the other side of the island. We rented an ATV and ventured out to explore. I wore a helmet everywhere in Santorini. The roads were nothing like the back road feel of Mykonos, and felt much more like highways. Although a lot of people went without helmets, I did not feel safe. You’re welcome mom! 😉
Astarte Suites: I was invited to stop at the Astarte Suites to have a drink and enjoy the beautiful hotel. Huge perk to writing a Travel Blog! I initially wanted to stay at this hotel for my Santorini leg, because it simply looked like the most beautiful hotel on the island from the internet. I decided to go Airbnb, but if I had chosen a hotel, this would have been my dream place to call home for my time on the island. It was everything I imagined!!! It starts off with a stairway to heaven. It’s true! These steps have become pretty Instagram famous, and I see the stairway entrance to this hotel everywhere on the internet. Astarte Suites had a very boutique feel, yet so luxurious and high end. It was relaxing, while still playing great music that was loud enough to create a vibe, but not too loud to disrupt the peacefulness of the property. The best part was the most beautiful infinity pool overlooking the ocean. This is the definition of pool goals! And of course, the cherry on top was the swan floatie. You can never go wrong with a swan floatie!
Red Beach: The road to Red Beach feels like you are headed to no where. If you feel like you are lost the entire time, you are on the right path to Red Beach. After questioning our directions for quite a while, we decided to ask Siri for help. Believe it or not, she got us there. This is an absolutely beautiful beach with red rock and sand. It has a restaurant and bar too, so you can post up.
Parissa Beach: This is a very laid back beach lined with restaurants. Most of the restaurants own umbrellas on the beach in front of their places. After a meal, they will set you up with an umbrella and chairs, and serve you drinks in the sand.
Exploring Santorini by sea
OOOOMMMMGGGG!! Exploring Santorini by sea was my favorite day of the entire Greece trip! It was the one thing I wanted to do that was somewhat of an “excursion”. The problem (which is always the problem) was that my husband hates group activities. So that leaves us always having to do days like this privately which is usually four times the cost. We knew we wanted to rent a boat without a captain. A boat in Santorini without a captain is so over the top expensive. So I found the absolute cheapest option possible. I kid you not, this boat looked like a big dingy with a motor. It was a total piece of crap. Piece of crap that cost $400 for the day! But it didn’t matter. It was all ours for the entire day to explore the beautiful ocean around Santorini. Old Betsy did the job, and we had the most amazing day! Having the freedom to explore at our own pace was the best. We swam in caves, bobbled in the water at the volcano eating cheese and drinking wine, went to lunch at a private beach club that you can only get to by boat, and watched the sunset before heading back to the marina. It was a full day at sea, and we swam in the ocean all day long.
THIRD LEG IN ATHENS
The ferry ride from Santorini to Athens is about 5 hours. We opted for first class, which is not much more, but it was very nice to have a bit more plush of a ride for that length of time. As we arrived at our Airbnb by cab we unloaded our bags to the sidewalk. We couldn’t locate the apartment right away, and apparently weren’t paying enough attention, because bam….we got robbed. Our backpack was plucked within minutes out of our pile of stuff sitting right next to us. This bag had our computer, Ipad, credit cards, batteries, money, and worst of all, our passports. What do you do when you loose your passports and you are out of the country?
Step 1 – Call your parents for advice. LOL.
Step 2 – File a police report so that you have proof of your loss and you can hopefully make a claim through your insurance back at home.
Step 3 – Head down to the US Embassy to have emergency passports issued.
We only had three days in Athens and one of them was now designated to spending it at the Embassy. I was really thankful this happened at the end of our trip! This was completely our fault and we know better! We consider ourselves to be very aware travelers but this goes to show you, anything can happen. Lesson learned…never again! On a more positive note, the US Embassy treated us like gold. I have to say, in a bad situation such as this, it felt pretty good to be an American.
Enjoying our final days in Greece
Athens is an absolutely beautiful city! Our Airbnb property was a penthouse apartment with a view of the Acropolis. This was the cheapest leg of the trip, and I got this penthouse for just over $100 per night. So cool to sit out on our patio enjoying some wine while staring at this beautiful site. Right below our apartment, the streets were lined with little alleyways of great bars, coffee shops, and shopping. We loved roaming around this area and getting lost in these alleys. Besides getting our bag stolen upon arrival, I never felt unsafe here. We roamed around into the wee hours of the night, and I never felt threatened.
With one day left to spare, we decided to head up to the Mont Parnes Casino on the recommendation of my aunt. I had planned to spend an entire day at the Acropolis, but we decided to sacrifice that day for the day spent at the Embassy, since we were able to stare at the Acropolis from our balcony. So we headed to the Casino to see if we could get a stroke of good luck. The gondola ride up to this casino was a bit scary, but wow what a view! Athens is huge, and we got a bird’s eye view of just how big the city really is. Once up there, we didn’t hit it big, but we ended up winning a couple hundred bucks to pay for our day of fun. It felt good! We finished our trip off with a huge shared plate of seafood spaghetti at the harbor in Athens. We cheersed a lot to how every moment of this trip was different. Opa! As always, I was feeling like I wanted a couple more days to spend here. This truly was the trip of a lifetime. Check off number two on the Bucket List for Jessica Lynn!!