Delphi feature image

Amazing Ancient Sites in Greece

Amazing Ancient Greece- www.afriendafar.com

We’re heading back to Greece on the blog today after a long break! Once we visited the beautiful Greek Isles of Santorini & Hydra, we returned to Athens ready to see some of the amazing  Greece. Our first stop was the Acropolis, of course! It worked out well for us to go later in the day, and even though there were still plenty of fellow travelers around, it can get much worse since it’s the main site folks cruising try to hit on their day trip from the port. While we’re on practicalities, definitely wear good walking shoes with traction so you don’t slip on the stone paths in Athens. Also, be prepared to climb up to the Acropolis; it’s named “high city” for a reason!

Amazing Ancient Greece- www.afriendafar.com #athens #greece

I’d highly recommend either investing in a tour guide or downloading an audio tour (thanks, Rick Steves) ahead of time so you learn about the history of the birthplace of Western civilization. A few of my favorite stops in the Acropolis were the amphitheater, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Parthenon, the giant Greek flag at the overlook with great views of the city below, and the Erechteion. I am always in awe to be able to see places like the Parthenon in person and marvel at what a feat of engineering it is. I’m also amazed it’s survived until now since it “has been rocked by earthquakes, set on fire, shattered by exploding gunpowder, looted for its stunning sculptures, and defaced by misguided preservation efforts” (read more in this fascinating Smithsonian article). Because of pollution & the effects of acid rain today, the Parthenon is pretty much in a continuous state of restoration.

 

Perhaps because of all the scaffolding at the Parthenon, I really loved the Erechteion, especially the Porch of the Caryatids. The six majestic statues are replicas of the originals, five of which you can see at the stunning Acropolis Museum. The sixth one is in the British Museum in London since it was taken by the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Lord Elgin and is yet to returned. I loved that after visiting the Acropolis you can see it pretty much everywhere else in the city, high on the hill. If you’re out at night, it’s quite a stunner!

Ancient Agora- A Few Ancient Ruins in Greece- Erechtheion Caryatids- www.afriendafar.com #greece #acropolis #ancientagora

Your 12 euro Acropolis ticket also includes admission to the Ancient Agora, where you can see the market place and center of government where daily life was lived out in ancient Greece. There’s a lot to explore here including the rebuilt Stoa of Attalos which houses the Agora Museum, the lovely little Church of the Holy Apostles, many a ruin, and the well preserved Temple of Hephaistos. The temple was very impressive to me, especially the beautiful friezes depicting various scenes from Greek mythology.

 

On our final day in Greece, we enjoyed a leisurely morning in Athens before setting off for Delphi where pilgrims would travel to visit the oracle of Apollo. I’d researched various one day tours to take but in the end we decided to do it ourselves as a day trip. So we rented a little Fiat and drove the few hours to Delphi. The drive was gorgeous since it was spring, and yellow wildflowers were in bloom along the roadside! By the time we had a late lunch in the cute little town and got out to the site, we virtually had the place to ourselves, which I love!

A few highlights of the Delphi’s Sanctuary of Apollo were walking the Sacred Way, seeing the omphalos (navel) which ancients believed was the center of the world, the beautiful Treasury of the Athenians, the Temple of Apollo which would’ve housed the oracle, the theater, and the stadium where the Pythian Games were held. The view above the theater with Mt. Parnassos in the background was spectacular. We also stopped by the Sanctuary of Athena, whose circular tholos with three standing Doric columns was one of the famous Delphi photos I’d seen before visiting. Pilgrims who traveled to Delphi also worshiped Athena in addition to Apollo. I’d highly recommend finding time to visit Delphi if you can fit it into your Greek itinerary!

If you’ve been to Greece, do you have any to add to this list? Which one do you most want to visit?

Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.
Greece Cat feature

Cats of Greece

Cats of Greece- www.afriendafar.com #afriendafar #catsofgreece

The cats we saw everywhere around Greece surprised me, made for a fun photography subject, and became a running joke our entire trip. If you Google “Cats of Greece,” the results that come up range from “The Plight of the Feral Cats of Greece- Advocacy for Animals” to “I hate cats. Should I even go to Greece?” to “A Rolling Crone: Greece is Going to the Cats.” While I could definitely see how the stray cats could be disturbing or distressing for some visitors, I found them to add to the charm of the Greece, the islands particularly.

Cats of Greece- www.afriendafar.com #afriendafar #catsofgreece

Meagan and I each have a cat child so when I saw a cute zipper pouch with a kitty and a Santorini scene, I knew I found the perfect souvenir to bring back. I also just had to send a Kitty Cats of Greece postcard to my sister back home who doesn’t particularly like cats. I always enjoy discovering the quirks of places I travel to and appreciated how Greece tourism has embraced the cat theme in its marketing and selling. Which cat would you bring back from Greece as a souvenir? My personal favorite was Mr. Mustache Cat!

Cats of Greece- www.afriendafar.com #afriendafar #catsofgreece

Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.

The Hydra Trading Company

The Hydra Trading Company- Sign- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #shopping #greece

During our stay on Hydra island in Greece, we stumbled upon a lovely home décor store down one of the streets. We were walking to Flora’s Bakery and I spotted a cute sign for The Hydra Trading Company. I could already tell by the beautifully designed sign which featured a peacock and the lobby of the building that we were in trouble. You see, Meagan and I have this dream of opening our own global home décor store and are obsessed with finding sublime shops and buying home goods while abroad.

The Hydra Trading Company- Browsing- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #shopping #greece

Since my husband was waiting for us, my sister, niece and I had to return the next morning for our shopping adventure. Our walk from our pension to the shop was a wandering one, my favorite kind, where we discovered new cobblestone streets, adorable donkeys, gorgeous homes, and blooming bougainvillea before arriving at The Hydra Trading Company.

The Hydra Trading Company- Global Home Decor- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #shopping #greece

A stunning display case greeted us as we entered the first floor of the former firehouse and made us excited for what awaited us on the second floor shop. When we entered the shop, my niece exclaimed “It’s like Anthropologie- for real!” and it’s a perfect description. There are amazing bowls, glasses, plates and more in the kitchen section. Fun gifts to buy include stationary, journals, olive wood stamps (including donkey and cat ones), French and Greek linen and cotton bags, and COOL SOAP, 100% natural olive soaps made in neighboring Aegina.

The Hydra Trading Company- View out the Shop's Window- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #shopping #greece

The shop also has a fantastic view of the church towers of Hydra town out its window. We enjoyed browsing global home decor items such as baskets, pillows and textiles including Suzanis. In addition to the shop, there’s a connected gallery that displays works by local artists. If you’re planning a trip to Hydra, make sure you find time to visit this charming shop to pick up a few gifts and souvenirs to take home with you. If you enjoyed this post, like them on Facebook or visit their site.

The Hydra Trading Company- Kitchen Items- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #shopping #greece

[This is not a sponsored post. We loved visiting this shop while in Hydra and want the world to know about it.]

Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.
There are Pirates in Hydra- Square with Bougainvillea in Hydra- www.afriendafar.com #greece #hydra

The Idyllic Greek Isle of Hydra

As much as I loved visiting Santorini, staying on Hydra felt like a true relaxing vacation. My sister and niece joined us at this point of the trip, and we chose this particular island for its proximity to Athens and the donkeys. More specifically, this is the only island in Greece that does not allow motorized vehicles and thus uses donkeys for its main form of transportation, to carry both people but mainly goods including bricks and refrigerators as we witnessed.

Greek Isle of Hydra- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #greece

HYDRA

Greek Isle of Hydra- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #greece

When we first arrived on Hydra, it was later in the afternoon so all the day trippers and tour groups had left for the day, and we had the town mostly to ourselves to wander around. We kept seeing  May Day wreath decorations as is tradition in Greece to protect against the evil eye. As I’ve mentioned in many a post before, I love going for walks and exploring new places! After walking from our hotel to the harbor, we stopped for drinks and a snack at the harborside Pirate Bar. Then we moseyed along the harbor looking at all the boats, old cannons, and anchors and up to the windmill featured in the Sophia Loren movie, Boy on a Dolphin.

Greek Isle of Hydra- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #greece

Instead of going back the way we came, we followed a local going up a hill path. At the top we found a beautiful little church, and we were greeted with stellar views of the harbor below. I was once again reminded why I venture off the beaten path. I also made a friend with a pirate. There was a little boy who lived nearby who came out to play dressed up with his eye patch, hook and sword. He kept pretending to stab me, and then I’d play dead. At one point he dropped his eye patch into some bushes and tears almost ensued. He only spoke a few words of English, and I only learned a few Greek words. I tried to reach the patch but proceeded to make it fall deeper into brush. Thankfully my husband saved the day and was able to retrieve the lost toy!

Greek Isle of Hydra- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #greece

A Day at the Beach

Greek Isle of Hydra- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #greece

Our second day on Hydra we took a local boat taxi to Vlychos Beach where we spent a relaxing afternoon laying out and swimming. The water was quite chilly but was still fun. We took a break from our time in the sun to lunch on fresh fish, potatoes and Greek salad at the nearby Marina Tavern. As nice as it was to relax on the beach, my favorite part of the day was our walk back to Hydra town along the coast. Everywhere you turned there were stunning sea views and we went through the cute little town of Kamini before reaching Hydra’s main harbor. It was a perfect (half) day at the beach!

Greek Isle of Hydra- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #greece

Planning Practicalities

Greek Isle of Hydra- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #greece

 

Where to Stay: The lovely Pension Erofili is close to the harbor and has a fantastic courtyard and delicious breakfast spread.
Greek Isle of Hydra- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #afriendafar

Ferry from Athens: The only choice is Hellenic Seaways, if you’re doing it on your own.

Greek Isle of Hydra- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #greece
Where to Drink: The Pirate Bar as previously mentioned and The Hydronetta Bar for sunset.

Where to Buy Baklava: Flora’s Pastry Shop also has other sweet treats including ice cream.


What to Pack: Check out our Greece Packing List post to pack for a week in a carry on.

Greek Isle of Hydra- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #greece
Where to Shop: The Hydra Trading Company (expect an entire upcoming post dedicated to this gem of a shop).

Greek Isle of Hydra- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #greece

Are you ready to add Hydra to your Greece itinerary? Have you been to Hydra? Tell us in the comments below!

Meagan grew up in the North Georgia Mountains and spent her first trip abroad in Italy. She’s been traveling all over the world ever since, learning Spanish, Japanese, and Thai. She travels for the food, the culture, and the history.
Santorini is a Dream-Favorite Spot in Oia- www.afriendafar.com #greece #santorini #oia

Santorini is a Dream

Friends, as I may have mentioned before in my Packing List post, Greece has been at the top of my list for quite some time. Santorini in particular had caught my imagination and my eye since it seems to be one of the most photographed travel destinations anywhere. Even though I’d done my planning and preparation for the trip, nothing could make me anticipate just how much beauty this Greek island possesses. I found it to be true in Santorini that even though it’s been hyped up it exceeds expectations and is so worthwhile to visit. I only wish we’d had more time to explore the island but isn’t that usually the case?

Santorini is a Dream-Bougainvillea with the caldera view- www.afriendafar.com #greece #santorini #oia

Oia

Oia (pronounced e-ah) is the perfect little village you see depicted in the postcard picture views of Santorini. While nearby Fira also has caldera views, Oia is built on a slant down to the caldera and has the famed whitewashed buildings and blue domed churches. It’s perfect for wandering around and taking a ton of photos because everywhere you turn there’s beauty. As you walk along the caldera in the direction of the windmill, there’s a crowded lookout perfect for taking in stunning views. If you want a space here at sunset, make sure you show up early.

Santorini is a Dream

Speaking of sunset, I’d read how it’s an event in Santorini, but nothing prepared me for the actual experience. First of all, we didn’t stakeout a viewing area very early since we were enjoying a leisurely dinner, so we checked out two different places. I didn’t love the first spot we went to, and it was madness getting through the throngs of people both coming and going. On top of that, we heard two heated arguments about photography and the sunset which made me glad that even though we did plan on seeing the sunset we didn’t have all these high expectations. I was happy with the second spot we ended up at for the sunset. After the sun dipped into the Aegean Sea, there were cheers from the crowds of people watching.

https://afriendafar.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/santorini-shot-of-the-week.jpg

My Trip Details

Accommodation: Pelogos Hotel near Oia
Transportation: We flew to and from Santorini, but many people take ferries, and it’s a common stop if you’re on a cruise. On the island, we took taxis and buses. If we’d stayed for longer, it would’ve been nice to rent a car or ATV to explore more of the island.
Snack Break: Lolita’s for gelato
Dinner Recommendation: Karma and order the Soutzoukakia (Greek meatballs)
When to Go: High season is July-August so if you want to avoid crowds and high prices then go during shoulder season in April-June or September-October. We found May to be a perfect time to visit because of the weather. Plus, we were glad there weren’t even more tourists.

Santorini Views

Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.
athens2

Perfect Shopping Outing in Athens

I had an absolutely stunning stay in Greece! It’s such a beautiful place, and we had a fun time exploring a country that’s been on the top of my travel list for quite some time. I highly recommend a trip to see a couple of Greek Islands as well to explore the ancient sites of Athens and surrounding areas.

Shopping in Athens- www.afriendafar.com #athens #greece

 

One of our favorite outings in Athens was a joint shopping and dining adventure. Before the trip, we’d read multiple places about visiting the Melissinos “The Poet Sandal-maker of Athens” shop for handmade, leather sandals. The store is located near Monastiraki, not that far from the Ancient Agora site we visited earlier in the day. The Poet’s grandfather opened the shop in the 1920s to make sandals for the working and upper class, including for theater productions, and later his son, the Poet’s father, sold them to tourists in the 1950s. The sandals became extremely popular when celebrities, including Sophia Loren, Jackie O., and John Lennon bought them. Even today celebrities still buy the sandals and signed photos of various ones are displayed in the stop!

Shopping in Athens- www.afriendafar.com #athens #greece

It’s a unique experience visiting the shop and trying on sandals that are then fitted exactly to your foot. I also was commissioned by Meagan to bring her a pair back, and thankfully, she chose a lace-up sandal, the Sophia Loren, which was perfect since the laces can be used to fit them. I tried on several before I decided on the gladiator style Cleopatra for around $45. My sister and niece bought the John Lennon and Maria Callas (I just love the fun names!) sandals. Make sure you allow for plenty of time to try on and get the sandals fitted.

Shopping in Athens- www.afriendafar.com #athens #greece

Special instructions that went along with the sandals included putting clear nail polish over the nail heads so that when you sweat it doesn’t bleed on you and using olive oil to turn the sandals are darker color. While at the shop for an hour, my husband enjoyed browsing on his phone and petting the dog in the shop. He did a little TripAdvisor research for lunch and found us an amazing deli (though not your typical American deli) for lunch, which ended up being one of our best meals of the trip. More on that dining outing another time! Are you drooling over our sandals yet?

Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.
Santorini Collage

What to Pack for a Week in Greece

Check out my packing list below from the week I spent on my European vacation visiting Santorini, Hydra, and Athens! Greece had been at the top of my bucket list for a while so I was so excited to finally make it to a place I’d been dreaming about for quite a while.

What to Pack for Greece

Packing light is so freeing and makes travel so much easier. I packed all of this (and more) into a small carry-on, and still had room to bring back some great souvenirs!

What to Pack for Greece

Here’s what I packed for a week in Greece!

If you’re spending the majority of your time on the islands, you’ll want to bring light and airy clothing. I packed a lightweight scarf for breezy nights on the water, as well. You’ll want skirts, shorts or cropped pants for when your walks take you down to the shore. Hydra doesn’t have any cars, so you’ll need to bring comfy walking shoes and sandals.  Also Athens cobblestone are particularly slippery so bring shoes with traction. One last thing: don’t forget your swim suit! This is THE place to wear it!

Greece Packing List

2 pairs of pants – I packed my go-to cropped denim and some adorable, breezy printed pants. It’s still a little cool in the evenings, especially on the water, so these are perfect for sunset strolls. [The printed pair are from Old Navy this season, but I can’t find them online. Here’s a similar pair.]
3 tees – I packed olive green, white, and heather grey. I didn’t want my entire suitcase to be blue, and green is my favorite color!
1 black tank –  It’s always classic and easy, and I can dress it up with my jeans and some fancy jewelry.
2 dresses – I packed the blue and white striped dress that you see here, and another blue one that can be worn as a beach cover-up, a dress, or a skirt. So many options! Besides, who doesn’t want to wear blue and white while exploring Santorini? It’s the perfect dress! [Similar: J.Crew, J.Crew Factory, and Gap] You may recognize it from Meagan’s Florence post- I borrowed it from her.
3 pairs of shoes – I brought my cute Keds, which I’ll wear at the airport and for walking, some brown sandals, and some black sandals. I bought some sandals there, of course, and leaving my older ones behind.
1 swim suit – Are you seeing a theme with my colors? I couldn’t help but to pack items that fit the Mediterranean color scheme!
A Baggu backpack – My trusted Baggu backpack joined me in Cuba, and it was the perfect day bag in Greece as well. Those blue and white stripes – so perfect!
1 floppy beach hat – in navy, of course!
My camera and camera case – Check out my camera strap here. It’s the perfect accessory for any adventurer.

Cute Camera Strap

My most important packing tip:
Be sure that every piece you take can be worn multiple times or with multiple other items. You’ll have so many more outfit options! Even the bold, printed pants in the picture above can be worn with 3 of the shirts that I packed.

Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.