I visited its cliché destinations on a non-cliché period, making the whole experience pleasantly intimate and sweetly diverse.  The Athens-Mykonos-Santorini combo for 9 days in an ‘almost summer’ season simply mean no huge crowds, no sweltering heat and cheaper ‘everything’.  Yet, it also implies a fairly quiet stay – fewer parties and open resorts compared to its action-packed summer peak.  If your goal is to see the country’s natural beauty and feel its real local vibe, then you simply need to ‘copy and paste’ the following tips and tricks and you’re all set to see the raw and unpretentious Greece at its finest.  


1.  TRAVELING FROM DUBAI? USE CAREEM.

For a more comfortable and convenient ride to the airport, use Careem.  Simply download the app if you haven’t already and after a few taps, your Lexus will be waiting in front of your door.  Make sure to check their special offers, they usually have promo codes during peak holiday periods for discounted airport trips of up to 30%.

2.  SEE THE 'MUST SEE' IN ATHENS IN A BREEZE.  JOIN A FREE WALKING TOUR.
Get acquainted to the country’s capital by signing up and showing up on a ‘tips basis’ walking tour. The city’s fairly compact (don’t expect a Rome or a Barcelona), so in a span of 2 hours, you’d pass by most of the meaningful and historical sites.  It’s pretty quaint though so expect to see something nice and pretty in every corner.      


3.  WITNESS THE 'WOW' VIEW FROM MOUNT LYCABETTUS. 













Go to the highest point in Athens, Mount Lycabettus and see the panoramic view of the whole city and the Aegean Sea.  Enjoy a cup of coffee here while soaking in the view.  You can either take the funicular if you have cash to spare or hike if you’re fit and don’t mind the climb.  If you’re in between both and in a group of at least 3, just hire a cab and make the driver wait for an hour (we did this, by the way), but make sure that you’re good in bargaining since he won’t use the meter.   


4.  ENJOY A ROMANTIC SUNSET VIEW WITH THE PARTHENON VIEW.















Arrive before sunset and find the best spot at the open rooftop bar at the ‘A for Athens Hotel’ and experience a romantic ambience with the Parthenon and Syntagma Square as your backdrop.  Go for a bottle of red and slowly enjoy it while feeling a bit surreal staring at the historical site.     

 
5.  BE AMAZED BY THE BEGINNINGS OF THE OLYMPICS.














Visit the Panathenaic Stadium where the Olympic flame started its journey.  Built at around 300 B.C., the massive site is in the middle of the city that you simply can’t miss it.  If you’re looking for nice sites for photo opportunities, this is one of the many.


6.  YOUR TRIP TO ATHENS IS INCOMPLETE WITHOUT THE ACROPOLIS.















The most visited spot in the city, it’s the heart of the Athens experience.  Filled with lots of stories, it brings mythology to life.  Be sure to allocate at least half a day to go around the hill and see the famous ruins – Parthenon, Agora, Erechtheus, Temple of Zeus and Temple of Athena Nike.  Majority, if not all tourists will visit the place so be ready to brave huge crowds once you enter the queue.    


7.  FLY FROM ATHENS TO MYKONOS.  TAKES ONLY 35 MINUTES.

If you don’t have the luxury of time, be practical and simply take the domestic flight (Olympic Air isn’t that bad) instead of saving a few bucks through a ferry ride which takes 5 hours.   


8.  LIVE INSIDE THE OLD TOWN AND EXPERIENCE THE REAL MYKONOS VIBE.















If you wish to wake up in the morning seeing the postcard-like blue and white painted structures, cobblestone streets and harbor view, book a hotel in the old town of Mykonos near ‘Little Venice’.  Navigating the area is like going through a maze that’s a bit confusing since they all look the same, yet it’s part of the whole experience.  And yes, the locals are so warm and friendly that they’ll help you find your way.  You won’t get bored here as it hosts a plethora of cozy restaurants, bars, shops and nightclubs.        


9.  BEACH-HOP.















Jump from one beach area to another as each one has its own vibe.  My favorites: Paradise Beach for the party-like feel and Psarou Beach for the relaxed atmosphere and amazing view from the cliff!  Let the sun toast you while intermittently dipping your bodies at the crystal clear turquoise waters from morning til noon.  Don’t forget to bring some wine and bites (and perhaps a book too) to complete your relaxation.      


10.  HAVE SOME GYROS AND GREEK SALAD FOR THE WIN.















Speaking of food, make sure to go local in most days.  My staple was the combination of gyros and Greek salad.  The former is meat (can be chicken, beef or pork), fries and veggies wrapped in a pita-like bread while the latter is your typical veggie salad made up of cucumber, tomato, olives and feta cheese.  Oh, and I have to say that Greece has the freshest and sweetest tomatoes ever!            


11.  SAVE THE BEST FOR LAST - END YOUR TRIP IN SANTORINI.

The best way to reach Santorini from Mykonos is through a 2.5 hours scenic non-stop ferry ride.  Best to book it in advance as there are days when there are fewer boats.  For sure you’ve Googled Greece before deciding to consider the country and most definitely, Santorini’s stunning photos popped on your screen.  You won’t be disappointed once you see the views as you’ll realize that those photos in Google are actually true!           


12.  EXPERIENCE ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME.  STAY IN OIA.















If you’ll indulge in an accommodation, choose to do so when in Santorini.  We stayed at Residence Suites, one of the more reasonable options in the area and were so glad we did.  Waking up seeing those whitewashed houses and blue shutters in the idyllic village on top of a cliff overlooking the most still waters with volcanoes as background is a true once-in-a-lifetime scene that’ll stay in your thoughts.  While here, explore the narrow streets with its blue domed churches and numerous art galleries and tavernas.  


13.  SEE A REAL-LIFE MOVIE BY WATCHING SANTORINI'S SUNSET.















I thought it was overrated, but I was indeed blown away by the whole sunset experience.  We decided to buy the cheapest bottles of prosecco (and had one each), guard the best spot in Oia’s castle and stayed there a couple of hours before sunset.  The wait was so worth it and our photo collection can speak for itself.  Another fun thing to do is to have a proper seafood dinner while watching the sunset.  Do this in one of the restaurants in Ammoudi Bay.


14.  DISCOVER MORE AT FIRA, PYRGOS AND IMEROVIGLI.















If you’re staying at Oia, you’ll be tempted to just stay there.  But it’s also definitely worth it to visit Fira, Pyrgos and Imerovigli.  Fira is the ‘happening’ place where most of the shops, restos, bars and cafes are.  While Pyrgos is a less touristy village also with various churches and small white paved streets.  You have a few options in hopping around, hire a car or an ATV, take a taxi or do what we did – take the bus where each trip is only EU 1.80 per person. 


15.  RELAX IN STYLE AT THE AIRPORT LOUNGE BEFORE FLYING BACK HOME.
Why scramble for seats at the airport gate and pay extra for fast food meals if you can comfortably relax and dine in style without paying a dime?  If you’re fond of travel, make sure that your credit card has either a ‘Lounge Key’ or ‘Priority Pass’ access which allows you to use premium airport lounges all over the world.  

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29 APRIL 2018

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