GREECE TRAVEL GUIDE
Athens, Crete, Santorini
April 19-29, 2019
Arrive in Athens
Hotel- NJV Athens Plaza– Perfect location- Very central to all the sites.
Activities- We toured the Acropolis and Parthenon with a private tour guide, Aliki Pelteki who was kind, informative and amazing! At the bottom of the Acropolis sits a rock which is called the Areopagus. This is where Paul delivers the message in Acts 17:22-34. It was such a cool experience to know you are walking on the same ground that is mentioned in the Gospel. Next, we visited the New Acropolis Museum and ate dinner at Kuzina Athens. We were exhausted from the travels but it’s best to hit the floor running so jetlag doesn’t completely take over!
Arrive in Crete
Resort- Creta Maris Beach Resort– Beautiful all inclusive resort- keep scrolling to “things we would have done differently” for more information.
Activities- Check into the resort and enjoy the beach/pool!
Resort- Creta Maris Beach Resort
Activities- Pick up rental car and start touring the Island! Crete is a very large island so it’s easy to spend ALL day in a car driving from one beautiful beach to another! We were driving anywhere between 2 and 4 hours to and from places.
Stops: We drove along E75 heading towards Chania and stopped at any and every little side of the road parking stop. The drive is stunning and every view is breathtaking.
Chania- On of our favorite spots in Greece! It’s an old port on the northwest coast of Crete. It’s full of markets and waterfront restaurants. If we were to ever go back we would stay here in one of the many boutique hotels that overlook the markets.
Resort- Creta Maris Beach Resort
Stops: Balos Beach (JUST WOW!) This is a MUST! Even after driving abut 7 miles on an unpaved road that hangs over the cliff.. I’d still say it’s worth it! However, a boat ride may be a safer bet ;) We stopped for lunch at Kaliviani Café- A cute, road-side restaurant on our way back from Balos.
Elafonisi Lagoon/Beach – Supposedly known for their pink sand, but we weren’t really wowed by the color of the sand. There were sections with a slight pink tint but it wasn’t overwhelming. However, the water was crystal clear and just beautiful!
We then headed back to Chania for dinner! I’m telling you we couldn’t get enough of it!
Resort- Creta Maris Beach Resort
Activities: Let’s take a breather….. We spent the morning by the beach at our resort! After lunch we drove to Spilies Beach for a breathtaking beach arched caves, turquoise water and smooth rocks instead of sand!
Ferry Ride from Crete to Santorini – (3 hour boat ride)
Resort: Porta Fira Suties– Could not recommend this place more! If we ever go back (which we hope to) we will absolutely stay here again! Breakfast was included every morning and they would set up the spread on our patio. (allllll the heart eyes)
Resort: Porta Fira Suties
Activities- Breakfast on patio, Tour of Santorini- Locations we stopped at: Highest point in Santorini: Monastery of Prophet Elias, Megalochori Village, The Black Beach, Lunch at @41_Fortyone (which is on the Black Beach), Akrotiti (The Greek Pompeii), Santo Winery
This happened to be the Greek Orthodox Good Friday. We were able to take part in the most amazing tradition in Pyrgos. This article is a great read on their Good Friday tradition. And this article explains several of the Easter traditions. We arrived early and found a rooftop to sit on to watch as each flammable can was lit, one by one. As we left and walked further and further away from the city, we were able to see the full picture of this tradition. It looked as through the whole city was on fire.
Resort: Porta Fira Suties
Activities- Breakfast on patio, morning spent at resort pool, early afternoon walking around Fira, 2PM pick up time for our Sunset Cruse with Caldera Yachting Santorini. Our cruise included: dinner and transfer to and from resort. The cantina boat passes by the Red Beach, Indian Head Mountain, Venetian Lighthouse, Oia, and the volcanic islands. You have a few opportunities to swim and snorkel (if it’s not too cold) and you can even swim to a natural hot spring! We were among 12 others all from various Countries. This was a highlight of the trip for us! It was beautiful, relaxing, informative and just plain fun! I can't say enough about how great the crew of the boat were. It was also a once in a lifetime experience to sit around a table and eat dinner with two newly married couples, one from Japan and one from India!
At midnight we walked up to the Greek Orthodox church that was right above our resort to take part in the Midnight Celebration Service. This article goes into detail about everything we experienced and the meaning behind it. I have chills just thinking of this night. It’s a huge celebration with fireworks, church bells and candles celebrating Jesus’ resurrection!
Santorini to Athens
Hotel- NJV Athens Plaza
Activities- Breakfast on patio, morning walking the streets of Fira and we spend the early afternoon by the pool.
We left Santorini mid-afternoon and arrived in Athens around 6PM. Because it was Easter Sunday most of Athens was closed. But we were able to walk through the old town and get one last look of the Acropolis. We ended our last night with street side gyros and then headed back to the hotel to prepare for a long travel day.
We said goodbye to Greece and traveled 19 hrs back to Nashville, TN.
What We Would Have Changed:
Crete- If we were to do it all over again, we would have stayed in the northwest side of the island in one of the many boutique hotels in Chania. Being on this side of the Island you have an easier drive to Balos Beach, Elafonisi Lagoon/Beach, and Seitan Limania Beach. You can also spend SO.MUCH time just walking through Chania! Linking a few just so you can get an idea of the area and price! I think we could have come out cheaper staying here.
We would also probably spend one less day in Crete and add it to our time in Santorini.
Tips on how to start saving for your dream vacation:
Rob here, the guy lucky enough to be married to Annaclaire and the person behind most of the pictures you see. Annaclaire asked if I would type up something on budgeting for a big trip so here goes nothing….
I would say my four biggest things when it comes to budgeting and saving for a trip like Greece are:
Know what you have
Know your monthly expenses
Set a goal
Once you know what you have and your expenses, it is easy to see what is left over at the end of the month. If you struggle to do this, I would strongly encourage you to download a savings app. I currently use Clarity Money which is great but does require some work on your part(like creating your own excel spreadsheet to track spending trends). I think if nothing else this is a great app to start with just so that you can begin to see your spending habits - trust me, you will be shocked!
Once you know what you have left over from your paycheck each month there is still some work to do. You can’t just save for vacation because unfortunately, life happens. So, decide what you would feel comfortable with putting away for an emergency savings account monthly. When you have decided, make this amount direct deposit from your checking to your savings every month and forget about it. Consider it like your phone bill, it is a necessity. My dad always said "even saving $25/month is better than nothing". I agree, but most articles I've read say you need to have 6 months of your salary put away. I know this sounds extreme but it may be a good way to judge how much of that extra income you want to have moved to your savings each month.
Now that you have set aside all money necessary to live each month, you know what you could put towards a vacation. I say could because you likely have more goals than just going on vacation. It may be wise to set aside some money for these goals too. Regardless, now is when you do what I could argue is my most important tip you should do to reach that goal. You must separate your money. You will likely not reach your goal if the money is sitting there at your fingertips. A second savings account is extremely important especially if the amount you can put towards your vacation each month is small. Those small amounts add up over time, but they also are easy to justify spending if they are easily accessible. Having this money separated where you have to go in and transfer from account to account adds one more barrier between you, and in our case, that dress you just have to have (love you Annaclaire!). Once you have the second savings account, set up a direct deposit again from your checking account for the amount you want to save each month towards your goal. Once you’ve done this it is as simple as leaving it alone until it grows enough to afford your trip. I learned this was a good process when I was saving for Annaclaire’s engagement ring. Once I had bought the ring, I hated to close the account, so I turned it into a vacation fund. I’ve realized while typing this that I could write a book on this subject, so I plan on making another guest appearance on Annaclaire’s blog soon to talk more about how we save, how I managed to come out of getting my Master's degree debt free and even more topics like CD’s and Credit Card points. Thanks for letting me take over for a bit!
Q: Did you use a travel agency?
A: Yes! We used Zicasso which then connected us to - Siva Travel Services. They were AMAZING and helped me build the bones of our Greece trip. I filled out a very detailed form of what I was looking for and our budget and then we had two in depth conversations with our agent before she sent us an itinerary. Once we received her first itinerary I researched all the islands/hotels/tours they suggested and made a few tweaks. (they also included unnecessary meals and a few tours we weren’t interested in so by doing our research we were able to take a few things out that helped lower the price)
Q: Would you use a travel agency again?
A: Probably not... I think it was a good call for me to use one on our first big overseas trip. I think if I were planning the whole trip myself it would never have happened. But now that I’ve been, I could easily do it and now have the confidence of booking future overseas trips! I also hope this blog is helpful enough for one of you to plan your own trip to Greece!
Q: How did you get to and from each Island?
A: Athens to Crete: Airplane
Crete to Santorini: Ferry
Santorini to Athens: Airplane
Q: Must Do’s on each Island?
A: Athens- Tour the Acropolis and Parthenon
Crete- Explore Chania, Balos Beach, rent a car!
Santorini- Stay at Porta Fira Suties in Fira and the Sunset Cruise
Q: How did you save for this trip?
A: We’ve had a separate “Vacation” savings account that we put money into every year since our honeymoon(it was actually Rob's engagement ring account he used to save up for my ring. After the honeymoon we decided to keep an extra savings account for future trips!) We had such a blast on our honeymoon, we decided that traveling was something important enough to save for. We’ve dipped into that savings account for a yearly anniversary trip but set a goal for our 5 Year Anniversary to be a BIG trip. So we put away a chunk monthly into this account for trips just like this! Read Rob’s section for more tips and tricks (he’s the real expert here)
Q: Which was your favorite Island?
A: Easy, Santorini! It was exactly as you imagine it- Simply stunning!
Q: Where did you stay?
A: Athens- NJV Athens Plaza
Crete- Creta Maris Beach Resort
Santorini- Porta Fira Suites
Q: How far in advance did you plan your trip/book hotel and airline?
A: We started this conversation in September of 2018 with the travel agency, but actually didn’t confirm it and buy our plane tickets until Feb of 2019. I’d suggest making up your mind quicker than three months before the trip so you can get your flights much cheaper. Also, if you’re not already aware of Scott's Cheap Flight Sign up here to be notified of cheap flights to amazing places!
Q: When is the best time to travel to Greece?
A: We LOVED going when we did! Getting to experience the Greek Orthodox Easter was one of the more special things I’ve experienced. It’s also not quite tourist season so the Islands aren’t over populated with tourists yet. We heard from mid May-August it is PACKED (especially in Santorini) The downfall of going in late April is that the seasons are just starting to change. So the average temp is about 67degrees and the water is too cold to get in. We also heard late September is a great time- like April, it’s not over populated, but unlike April the water is still warm from the summer so you are able to enjoy the ocean a bit more!
Download the Mobile Passport app. Coming back into the states I guarantee you we saved over two hours by having our passport info loaded into this app! It’s a MUCH shorter line.
If you get motion sickness on planes, boats, and/or back of taxis get ginger supplements! They worked wonders for Rob without any drowsy side effects!
Take a backpack as your carry on with multiple compartments. This helps keep you organized- especially when going through security (anyone else feel completely overwhelmed trying to take everything out and back in while putting your shoes on and making sure you have your phone and passport….no, just me?) This is the backpack I used and LOVED. I also ordered this one and it’s SO good for the price!!
Less is more when it comes to shoes. You only have 50lb to work with don’t waist it with unnecessary shoes. I wore tennis shoes and packed sandals and one pair of heels.
Plan your outfits according to your itinerary. Trust me, I know.. I’m the worlds worst. But when your going overseas for a long trip you’ll be SO glad you didn’t over pack. When planning my outfits I would take a quick mirror selfie of the outfit and add it to my album “Greece Outfits” so when packing I could look back at each outfit and pack the necessary pieces. This helped make sure I didn’t overpack as well as made sure I packed everything needed!
Thanks for stopping by!