Greece has been on my wish list for a long while. Each year W and I hoped to go and even created different itineraries for our ‘almost trips’, but every time something would come up and we had to cancel our plans. Recently, this very special item was finally ticked off of our list thanks to the Municipality of Astypalea and the Familiarisation Trip hosted by the City of Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Often, when you have high expectations for a place, you end up disappointed. I couldn’t help but have high expectations for my first visit to Greece, how couldn’t I? The best thing is, it certainly did not disappoint. In fact, Greece was everything I imagined it to be and more. It was one of the best trips I’ve done in many different ways and for different reasons, and it was one of the most special countries I ever sat foot on.
You all know how I love to plan, but the thing is, during this trip my plans changed a few times and we ended up seeing more than we expected to. I think it turned out to be the almost perfect itinerary for our first visit to Greece, and I say almost because I could have certainly stayed longer.
Our 12-day Greece itinerary started with our flight leaving from Munich to Athens. Munich’s airport was on strike and of the 50 something flights that were supposed to leave between 11am and 12am that day, only 10 took off, including ours! This was definitely a good sign and a good way to start the trip.
The first day was dedicated to traveling. After a 2 and a half hour flight, we arrived in Athens and took a bus straight to Pireaus Port, where we embarked on a long 10-hour-ferry-journey to Astypalea. After spending the night on the ferry, we arrived in Astypalea just in time for an unforgettable sunrise.
5 days in Astypalea
This enchanting and special island came as a beautiful surprise in my life of travels. Was the 10-hour ferry ride worth it? Definitely, and I would certainly do it again. There are many reasons why Astypalea deserves more attention, one of them is how authentic this island is, different of the touristy islands. Not to mention how romantic and stunning this place is.
Activities on the island vary from enjoying the beaches (once it’s warm enough), trekking, trying the local food, visiting the Astypalea Castle and its capital Chora, boat rides (during summer), the museum and infant cemetery, enjoying the stunning sunrise and breathtaking views, and even going to the club!
Where to stay
I would recommend staying anywhere near Chora and from there explore the rest of the island. We stayed at the beautiful and cosy Kallichoron, only 2 minutes by foot to the center and with a breathtaking view of the windmills and castle.
I highly recommend you to rent a car to explore the entire island, even though it’s not huge, still it’s impossible to explore it on foot. We had a rental car from Delis Car Rental Services, one of the few, if not the only rental company on the island.
Getting to Astypalea from Athens
By ferry: so far there is only one company doing the route to Astypalea, Blue Star Ferries, which stops on other islands on the way taking between 9 to 10 hours to get there! I know, it’s a very long journey, that’s why I highly recommend you to invest a little bit more and buy either the ‘Air seats’, go to the business class, or even better, pay for a cabin where you can comfortably sleep and have a private bathroom.
By plane: if the long ferry journey isn’t for you, there is the option to go by place. However, there is only one airline that flies to Astypalea, Olympic Air, which offers only a few seats. My advice is to make your reservation well in advance (at least 2 months ahead) to make sure you will get a vacant seat.
1 day in Paros
Paros came as a surprise on our itinerary, but I am very glad it did. On our way from Astypalea to Mykonos, we were to have a long boat connection on the island and ended up deciding to stay one night. It is a beautiful and easily lovable place, with stunning views and beaches, the pretty Naoussa Harbor surrounded by pretty cafes and restaurants, narrow streets and white washed houses.
Where to stay
Stay anywhere in Naoussa, near its harbor, where you find cafes, restaurants and bars, shops and narrow streets to explore by the sea. We stayed in a very cosy hotel with probably the best view we could get, Katerina Mare.
Rent a quad/ATV in town (it will cost approximately 30€ per day plus the gas) and go explore the beaches and villages.
App tip: iParos by LifeThink (free). We used it to find things to do on the island and get around, very useful!
Getting to Paros from Astypalea
You can easily go from Astypalea to Paros with the ferry, the journey lasts around 4 hours. It is the same boat that goes from Athens/Piraeus to Astypalea and from Astypalea to Athens/Piraeus that always makes a stop on the island.
3 days in Mykonos
In any of my previous planned itineraries for Greece, I included Mykonos. The island was exactly how people told me it would be: touristy, busy, all about partying and luxury, all true. Though, they forgot to mention how amazing the beaches are, and how charming Little Venice is. Even though Mykonos wasn’t my favorite island, I must say it is a must in Greece and I definitely would go back.
Where to stay
If you don’t like all the noise of tourists and bars, stay away from the center city and try to find accommodation in quiet places around the island. In Mykonos you can find hostels, rooms, apartments and houses to rent, Bed and Breakfasts, hotels and luxury hotels. We were lucky to stay at a friend’s house, which had a stunning view for the perfect sunset.
Some would prefer renting a quad/ATV to explore the island, but I honestly preferred renting a car, the roads can be very tricky and dangerous in Mykonos. For us, the car worked out perfectly, especially because unluckily it rained a bit while we were there. In any case, you will need a vehicle to get around and explore the beaches.
We rented our car with iCar, which also offers electric cars. I loved the idea.
App tip: Mykonos by LifeThink (free). One of the best apps I’ve used so far for a city, with all the hot tips for the island.
Getting to Mykonos from Paros
The best option is of course, by boat. During the low season, there are only high-speed boats, which take around 1 hour from one island to the other and is a bit expensive (50€ per person). During the high season there are more options, so it’s best to check them online.
2 days in Athens
We finished our itinerary spending 2 days in the Greek capital, Athens. I think 2 or 3 days is a great length to explore the city. I also believe that visiting Athens is a must when in Greece, you just shouldn’t miss visiting the Acropolis and get the feeling of how exciting the city is.
Where to stay
The best place to stay in Athens is in the center city, anywhere around the Acropolis. It makes it a lot easier to visit all the main attractions in town on foot, which I loved. We stayed at the Electra Athens Hotel, and the location was perfect for us.
If you stay in the center, you can do everything on foot. You won’t even need to use public transportation unless you need to go to further places in town or to the airport and the ports (Piraeus and Rafina).
Getting to Athens from Mykonos
You can either fly, or take the high-speed ferry, which takes around 4 hours. For me the best option is the ferry unless you are in a hurry, they are very comfortable with everything you need on board.
What I would change on the itinerary
Throughout our trip I spoke to different people, including locals, and they all found our itinerary ideal. I also loved it, but there are still a few things I would change to make it even better:
- I would go to Athens first then to the islands. For some reason, I always prefer going to the city first, then head to the sea.
- Stay one more night in Paros, the island has more to offer than many expect.
We were on a press trip to Astypalea organized by the Municipality of Astypalea, Elementi Travel Agency and LifeThink. We received complimentary stay at Katerina Mare and a discount with iCar. We were also on a familiarisation trip hosted by the City of Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau. As always, views and opinions are my own and I only recommend what I like and believe my readers will like too.