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Greek Island Hopping in a Week

When I was researching our trip to Greece, I had a tough time finding suggestions for a short trip. We knew we wanted to get out and visit some of the islands (beause let's be honest…that's where all the magic is according to Google Images), but we only had a week to do it. Everything I researched on hopping the Greek islands suggested taking a month or more, otherwise you would be better off just picking a resort on one of the islands and staying there. Multiple forums said that it was next to impossible to see the islands with only a week.

That wasn't going to jive with us, so we did our best piecing together snippets from blogs and forums to come up with an itinerary that still allowed us to get a feel for the islands, but could still logistically fit within a week. And you know what they say about research on the internet: If you find there is a missing piece in the information, write about it yourself.

So even though I have blogged this Greece trip to death, I wanted to write one last post on the details of our trip so that others can see the Greek Islands, even if they only have a week too!

 

The Islands:

We decided to stick to the Cyclades Islands because they had the shortest travel time. It would have taken half our trip just in transportation to get to the other famous islands like Crete and Rhodes, so we definitely didn't want to do that. We also decided to only pick 2 islands because a major goal of this vacation was relaxing. If we had wanted to put the focus more on exploring I think we could have easily fit a third island in within our time frame, but that would have meant much less beach time so we were very pleased with our decision to stick with two.

We knew that Santorini was FOR SURE one of the islands we wanted to see (it's the classic Greek island and is pretty much on every Greek postcard) but we were stuck for a long time on which island to pick for our second choice. We narrowed it down to Paros or Naxos because they were both on the ferry route from Pireus to Santorini and according to much Googling they had some of the best beaches and a fairly local vibe. (The other usual top spot to hit, according to the internet, is Mykonos, but we weren't really on this trip for a party-scene or the nightlife, so we opted to skip it).

Paros is known for it's action-y water sports scene and Naxos is supposedly the most lush of all the islands. We decided since we had a baby along we weren't going to be doing much water sports, so we decided to go for Naxos. While Naxos didn't turn out to be lush, exactly, we were very pleased with our choice! Naxos was awesome!

 

Our itinerary:

I've broken down our itinerary by day so you can see how we fit it all in. Plus, I'm sure it'll be great to remember the nitty-gritty details ourselves when they start to get fuzzy. The prices are what we paid for travelling in September so they are subject to change depending on the season.

Day 1: Flew into Athens

Hotel: SoHo

$50 per couple per night

Day 2: Caught 7:25am ferry in Pireus to Naxos, arrived at 12:45pm.

Hotel: Marine Dream

$30 per couple per night.

Read more here

Day 3: Naxos

Hotel: Marine Dream

Read more here, here and here.

Day 4: Ferry at 12:45 from Naxos to Santorini (the same ferry that dropped us off before). Arrived at 3pm and spent the evening in Oia

Hotel: Villa Dmitris

$56 per couple

Read more here.

Day 5: Beach, exploring Fira, caught the 1am ferry back to Athens

Hotel: Spent the night in a cabin on the ferry (It was the most expensive “hotel” of the whole trip, but we thought it was totally worth it to get a good night's sleep so we could be ready for our big day exploring Athens the next morning.)

$94 each

Read more here and here.

Day 6: Arrived in Athens at 8am and spent the day in the city.

Hotel: SoHo

$50 per couple per night

Read more here and here.

Day 7: Flew home in the morning

 

Advice from our research that really helped us:

  • Don't take a ferry the same day you have a flight. The ferries get cancelled all the time for various reasons (weather, wind, strikes), so give yourself some wiggle room on either side.
  • Be early for everything. The best ferry seats go quickly so you want to get in line early!
  • Bring cash. Few places take cards.

 

What we would have done different:

Overall the trip was perfect! The only thing we would have changed would be to have done the trip in reverse with the night ferry from Pireus to Santorini and ending with Naxos. Santorini was more about walking and exploring and Naxos was more about relaxing. It would have been nice to have the relaxing part at the end of the trip after we had worn ourselves out exploring, instead of the other way around.

 

Some useful links:

Finding the right Greek Island – Lonely Planet

Which Greek Island is right for you?

Matt Barrett's Greek Island Guides:

Santorini

Naxos

Paros

Ferry Scheduler/booking agent – We used this website to plan our ferry schedules as it was a little bit more reliable and less confusing than the actual ferry website. We also booked our over-night ferry cabin through them and were very pleased with their service.

 

I hope this post helps someone out there realize their dream of visiting the Greek Islands, even if they only have a short time to do it! Good luck and na diaskedásoun to you, whoever you are! :)

 

 

Traveling with a baby: Guest interview by Michi

This trip to Greece was our first time travelling with a baby. Luckily it wasn’t our baby so we got to learn a lot without having to worry about mistakes. Chris and Michi were basically pros at it and we just followed along making googly faces at her while wondering why she was making any of her repertoir of baby noises and smells.

Chris and I were so impressed that Chris and Michi travelled all the way to Europe for 4 whole weeks in multiple countries with their new(ish) little baby. We get told this phrase a lot:

“It’s a good thing you guys are travelling so much now before you have kids! Once you have kids it’s all over.”

Seriously such a downer to think about! So the fact that Chris and Michi successfully brought their baby with them on a grand tour of Europe was super encouraging! If they can do it, certainly we can too!

Since every current and future parent needs to hear that they don’t have to give up their wanderlust dreams just because they have a new little mini-me, I invited Michi to do a little guest interview on our blog to share their experience of taking a major trip with a young baby and offer some useful tips to other new parents.

 

Here we go:

By: Michi Hoeger

 

 

How old is your baby?

6 months when we traveled to Europe

What was the BEST part about travelling with a baby?

Everything is better with a baby :). Mostly watching her discover and react to new things!

What was the HARDEST part about travelling with a baby?

Naps. Some days we either had to miss out on seeing something or she had to miss out on sleep. Neither is fun when traveling. Also she is distracted easily so nursing was often time consuming when out and about. If your baby will take a bottle bring a hand pump and a little cooler cuz it will make life easier!

Were you worried about anything when you were planning to travel with her?

I was worried about everything! The plane, the trains, would she be scared, would she disturb others, would she get sick, etc…

What was the most surprising part about travelling with a baby?

How much I worried for nothing! She did so well! It almost seemed like she was so into every new thing, that no discomfort, strange sound, or lack of sleep could bother her. She was happy all the time!

Do you have any tips for packing light with a baby?

Only take what you use daily at home. I took a bunch of precautionary things that I never used. Do take medicine of course, but the usual things I have in my diaper bag was all I really needed. Although it takes up more room, I would still suggest taking a few clothes for all seasons. We checked the forecasts but there were a few surprise rainy days and I was grateful to have been prepared.

What did you pack that was most essential to the survival of your trip? (baby-related)

The Baby Bjorn carrier! With all the new discoveries she wanted to be close to someone she trusted. She also fell asleep great in it (most of the time), so we could still get a full day in without stressing her too much.

And hats. The sun hat as well the beanie we used everyday.

What did you pack that you felt you could do without in the future? (baby-related)

The stroller. At least in Europe where there’s lots of public transportation and uneven roads we barely used it. It was more of a cart for our things :).

Did you not bring anything on your trip that you wish you had? (baby-related)

A rain cover for the baby carrier.

 

What was the craziest thing that happened during your trip involving the baby?

She got soooo much attention from everyone and people even wanted to kiss her. It was just really unexpected.

 

What was your favorite memory from the trip regarding the baby?

One night in Germany it was getting late and she was so tired that she was starting to laugh at everything. We were waiting for our last train home and I said, “baby doesn’t want to sleep, she thinks it’s party time”. This made her roar with laughter so I kept repeating, “is it party time?”, and she would laugh hysterically every time. It was so cute and a young couple waiting for the same train were laughing the whole time too.

 

Do you have any advice for people who are nervous about taking a big trip (i.e 3.5 weeks in Europe) with a young baby?

Plan enough time for hiccups on the schedule. Plan a few slow days or relaxing days so both baby and parents can recover. We didn’t really have time for any relaxing, so we took advantage when baby was doing well to cram in more activities so that the next day could be slower.

 

____________The End___________

Thanks a bunch Michi! You guys are super inspiring and it was a blast to travel with you guys! We sure do love you!

 

If you have any helpful and inspiring suggestions to add about traveling with a young baby, please share in the comments! We’d love to hear them!

 

 

C2’s Tips for Visiting Athens, Greece

We have a lot to say about Athens after this last trip. 4 days total in a city over a lifetime qualifies us to offer advice, right? ;)

I guess we can call it “lessons learned” from one beginner traveller to another. Hopefully there’s something here that another newbie out there will find useful!

1. Read up on Ancient Greek history and study a little bit of classical art history before you go. The whole Greece experience will be so much more significant and meaningful if you know a little bit about the monuments and artifacts you are seeing. Watch some movies about Greece too (you know… Disney’s Hercules, the Percy Jackson series, Troy, Clash of the Titans). They may not add to your historical knowledge, but will get you super excited about your trip :)

2. Do not, under any circumstaces, buy drinks from the stalls outside the Acropolis (unless you are literally dying…but only then!) You will spend a large portion of your euro (that could otherwise have been spent on baklava) on a simple watery lemonade (becuase they were out of bottled water) THAT THEY WON’T EVEN LET YOU TAKE THROUGH THE GATES! You will be forced to stand to the side and chug your icy lemonade until your brain freezes and the guards laugh at you. Learn from our mistakes and prepare ahead to buy water at the bottom of the hill for 50 cents. Or you could even save the 50 cents (for more baklava) and use the drinking fountains at the top of the hill. The water is warm and doesn’t taste the best (but hey… a baklava fund is a baklava fund.)

Chris trying to chug his $10 lemonade so the guards will let us in.

 

3. Also do not, under any circumstances, attempt to take photos with a sock puppet, Flat Stanely, or any other sentimental object in front of the Parthenon. It’s apparently disrespectful and the guards will blow their shrill whistles at you until you put it away. Feel free to dance around, do some crazy poses, and even make rude hand gestures though. That’s totally fine. But don’t take a photo with your daughter’s favorite toy to bring back to her as a souvenier. The whistle-blowers will take. you. down.

 

4. Your ticket to the Acropolis will get you into the Temple of Zeus for free! It’s not widely advertised, but just show them the receipt and they’ll let you right in!

 

5. The dream of cheap Greek food is a reality… you just have to know where to look. Get out of the touristy spots. Sometimes even one street over has significantly cheaper food. Also, try asking for a gyro pita when you go out to eat (depending on the restaurant). Most places will automatically give you the gyro plate, which is usually a lot more food and a lot more expensive, but the gyro pita is cheaper and much better on-the-go food. It took us a while to figure out the difference and learn to order accordingly.

6. Budget for a lot of bottled water. While Greek tap water is technically safe to drink, it tastes pretty nasty (and that is coming from a girl who grew up on Las Vegas water!) and if you are out exploring there are few clean places to refil your bottle. You’ll buy a lot more bottled water than you planned on so you should budget accordingly. Trust us on this one.

7. Bring bug spray/itch cream. It’s been a long time since we were bitten by so many bugs!

8. Learn to say “thank you” in Greek (efharistó). It’s a nice gesture :)

9. Always have cash on hand. Very few places take cards.

10. As of 2013, fanny packs are still totally a thing in Greece. I’m not sure if that’s advice or not… but I guess if you have always wanted to rock a fanny pack and look hot doing it then Greece is the place!

 

 

That’s all for now! If anyone has any other great tips to share about visiting Athens, please share them in the comments below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and advice!

 

Chillin’ in Naxos
I think if we were planning this trip all over again, in hindsight we would have been sorely tempted to just stay on Naxos the entire week. I can totally see now why, when others talk about Greek island hopping, they plan for months at a time and some never leave. It doesn't get much better than breakfast alfresco next to the bright blue Meditteranean Sea with nowhere to go but the beach!
 
A few observations about Naxos:
  • We picked Naxos after researching the Cyclades Islands because it claimed to be the most lush of all of them. I think in this case “lush” is relative.
  • The farther you get from the main touristy spots the more naked people get. The Naxians sure like to feel the breeze around their nethers…that's all I have to say.
  • There isn't a lot to do on Naxos besides relax and eat good food. There are a few ruins, but they are far inland and from the postcards we saw they didn't seem worth visiting. Shopping is limited, and there isn't much in the way of snorkling, diving, or other water sports. It's really great in that way though because you really can just sit and relax without feeling like you are missing out on something exciting elsewhere. A perfect place for me and Chris! I can actually chill without getting antsy about seizing the day and seeing it all, and Chris actually gets to relax without me pretending to relax, but really just dragging him off the beach on on to some adventure elsewhere :)
  • Be prepared to drink A LOT of bottled water. While the tap water is technically potable, it tastes pretty bad. And that's coming from a girl who grew up on Vegas tapwater!
  • There were definite perks to going during the off-season. We basically had the hotel and beach to ourselves. The restaurants weren't crowded. Everything was just chill. The one downside is a lot of the menu items weren't available. The theme of the trip became, “We no have.” The food they did have though… delicious!
 
 

 

A Few DOs and DON’Ts for the Norway-In-A-Nutshell Tour

As I’ve said before, this was our 2nd time doing the Norway-in-a-Nutshell tour (The first was when Julie came to visit) so that pretty much makes us NIAN experts, right?

Not quite?

Ok, fine, maybe not experts, but at least we learned A LOT the second time around. And, as it will likely not be our last considering the list of people who say they are coming to visit in the coming years, we thought it would be useful to document some of the DOs and DON’Ts for posterity and to keep in mind the next time we go.

DO take your time!

The first time we did it, we did the entire route (roundtrip from Bergen) all in one day. While it was great and definitely still fun doing it that way, this time around we stretched it over two days, staying overnight in Aurland. It was much slower paced, and we got to experiene a lot more Norwegian culture than we did when we were just passing through. Much more preferable in our opinion. But if you only have one day, still go for it! Because it’s fun :)

DON’T follow the set schedule.

Well, you can if you want to, but we learned the schedule can actually be a lot more flexible than it says on your ticket. I’m sure the tour people want you to stick to your timetables, but we found it really doesn’t matter what time you catch each of the different transportation legs. Which means if you want to spend more time in one location, as long as you know there is another bus/ferry/train coming later in the day you can skip your assigned time and just catch the next one.

We found that out when we arrived in Flåm, which was overrun with tourists. Our assigned train didn’t leave for another 2 hours, but there wasn’t much we wanted to see and do there that was worth storing the luggage and fording the raging river of people, so we were keen to leave and get back to Bergen sooner. We asked the lady at the ticket desk and she told us to just hop on the train that was leaving in 10 minutes. We realized that we could have been doing that the entire trip! We would have liked to have 2 hours to explore Voss (but we thought we had to rush straight from the train to the bus) rather than the 2 hours in Flåm and in hindsight we realized we could have done just that. It’s actually quite flexible!

DO stay overnight in Aurland.

Or another town along the way, but we would really recommend Aurland. We initially narrowed it down to Aurland and Stalheim because we wanted something that was close to half-way through the tour. We ended up in Aurland in the end because they had a cheaper hotel rate, but after driving through Stalheim we were thrilled we picked Aurland. It was on the edge of the fjord (Stalheim was up in the mountains), we had the run of the town, and there were relatively few other tourists despite being in the middle of high season (compared to staying in Flåm). Plus, the hotel was right in the center of town vs being squirrled away up on a high hill (Stalheim) so it was easy to get out and explore.

Staying overnight definitely gave us more of a dose of Norwegian culture that you miss if you are doing the entire thing in one day and now that we’ve done it both ways we would highly recommend making it a two-day trip. We (remember, we are “experts”…) would also highly recommend staying at the Aurland Fjord Hotel in one of their fjord-view rooms. It’s a little bed-and-breakfast-type place with quaint rooms, nice views,

DON’T forget to keep a few 10 nok coins handy for when nature calls. Norway is an expensive country so you’d think they’d cut you a break when it comes to relieving yourself, but alas… it’s not to be. You can go for free on the ferry and trains, but if you are in-between anywhere you’ll likely need a coin to use the bathrooms.

 

 

And lastly, definitely DO bring food and water. Especially if you are planning to fit the tour into a single day. There are a few opportunities to buy food and snacks along the way, but it’s a bit rushed and crowded with limited selections so it’s much more enjoyable if you have your own lunch and snacks to munch on. Trust me. (Although we would recommend the hot chocolate on the ferry. It’s only 10 nok – yes the cost of a precious bathroom trip – but it’s actually quite delicious! Even in the middle of August!)

 

So there you go. Our “expert” tips for the Norway-In-A-Nutshell tour. Now go explore some fjords!