In the summer of 2018 I was lucky enough to go on a 2 week vacation to Greece with three of my best friends in the world. For almost a year we saved up and planned for this trip which started off in Athens. I’ll come back to what Athens was like, but to be completely honest none of us felt particularly comfortable there - especially at night. We took an 8-hour ferry to get to our first island - Santorini.
We’ve all seen countless pictures of the white cliffside buildings with blue roofs that have become the symbol of Greece. And it is even more beautiful in real life. We stayed in Santorini for about a week in one of the larger towns, Fira. We booked a very affordable hotel room to share and had a 5-10 minute walk to the city center. Overall the island is pretty cheap, with Oia as an exception. This is probably the most touristy and expensive town so we tried to avoid spending to much time there. One of my favourite days there was when we rented an ATV for the day and drove all around the island. We payed about 30 euros per vehicle, which came out at 15 euros per person. Traffic in the cities can be a bit crazy, but riding along the water was absolutely stunning.
You can find countless rooftop bars and restaurants with the most amazing views. Restaurants were almost fighting each other to get us to come in and have a drink many of which cost around 7-12 euros. There are quite a few bars and “clubs”, but most of the nightlife doesn’t happen during weekdays. Friday and Saturday there are lots of people in the streets, and you can find anything from exclusive VIP places to dark jazz bars with cobblestone floors.
There are plenty of cheap meal options - a traditional gyros (pita bread with meat, lettuce, onions, sauce and sometimes fries) can cost you as little as 3€ and restaurant meals at inexpensive places will cost you between 9-12€. There are lots of great breakfast restaurants along the cliffside, but of course the price rises if you want that instagram-worthy view. Groceries are fairly cheap and if you have acces to a kitchen this is a great way to save some money.
Ios - the party island
When we asked a local what there is to do on Ios, he said “only partying” with a grin. I somewhat agree that this is maybe not an island for a family vacation, but there were some things to see that weren’t the inside of a bar. We rented a lovely AirBnB outside of the town Chora where we had a 15 minute walk to the nearest restaurants and grocery store. The atmosphere in Ios was very different from that of Santorini, as most of the island only opens during tourist season. This means that in every place we went there was almost exclusively tourists - and young ones for the most part. We met big groups of Norwegians, Australians and Brits almost everywhere and to be honest had a great time. If you are the type of person who doesn’t want to meet new people or hear your own language while on vacation, then maybe this is not the destination for you.
The nightlife in Ios was absolutely insane and there was always someone to talk to or somewhere new to go. Bar crawls are a popular activity, but we didn’t bother with that since some of the groups got as large as 50 people, completely cramming up every one of the small bars they visited. There is everything from large clubs to small bars with live music and almost everywhere you go there is guaranteed to be a dance floor. I’m very glad that we very a group of 4 girls looking out for each other though, as I would probably not travel here alone.
Activities and sights
There is not an overwhelming amount of sightseeing to do here, but there are a few interesting places that you should visit. Firstly the Panagia Gremiotissa Church which takes a small hike to get to. But from here there are three little chapels at the top of the mountain from where you can basically see the entire island. Catch the sunset at the top and make your way back through the town.
Ios is also know for its beautiful beaches, and we did visit a few of them. Perhaps it was because of the time of year we went, but everywhere we went we had to pay between 5-7 euros for a day bed to even be allowed on the beach and many places did not have shaded areas (which is a problem when you get sunburnt after 10 mins under the intense Greek sun.
Last on our agenda was Athens again. The first two days we were here before sailing to Santorini, we didn’t get to see a whole lot. But the second time around I got stubborn and insisted on us seeing the Acropolis. It was truly stunning and worth the steep price of 20 €. I would recommend doing some reading and research before going there though, as it was a lot more fun to walk around the ruins knowing the myths and legends surrounding them.
Apart from the town being very beautiful and clearly rich in culture and history, there was one downside though. Maybe we were unlucky or had chosen the wrong neighbourhood to live in, but there were constantly men catcalling and staring at us in a very unsettling way. I have never felt this scared walking around a foreign city before, because the looks and calls didn’t feel good-natured or friendly. I think the amount of respect for women in Greece is very different from what I’m used to. One man literally followed us for an entire block just yelling “SEX SEX SEX” at us. I don’t know what he was trying to accomplish with that, but it sure wasn’t fun at the time. We didn’t really dare go out drinking in Athens so our experience with that side of the city was limited.
Overall we had an amazing trip, and I can’t wait to get back to Greece in the not-too-distant future. Santorini felt like an actual paradise and was my favourite part.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more travel experiences and advice.