Greece is the Word! Santorini


Our third stop in the Cyclades was Santorini. This island was the one that I was the most excited about and have heard the most about. It didn’t disappoint and it totally lived up to all the hype! It was unique and special. My pictures do not do it justice!

We arrived by ferry and when the alarm sounded just before the big door started to come down, everyone cheered. Even though it was hot and crowded while we waited to exit, people were so excited to be on Santorini and it made our arrival special!

If you also arrive by ferry, you will dock at the port of Athinios. However, cruise ships arrive in the old port, Skala Pier, and there aren’t cars from that port. If you are a cruise ship day tripper, your choices to get up to Fira, from the bottom of the cliffs are:

  • via donkey (but this seems cruel)
  • steps (I hope you are in shape and good at avoiding donkey poop!)
  • or by cable car (seems the most sensible)

Since we arrived at Athinios, we got in our air conditioned van with our driver and started heading up! If you are prone to motion sickness, you might not be a fan of the drive!

For the next 6 days, we would be staying at Celestia Grand Executive Villas just outside of Fira. It was amazing…and as I’m posting this, I see that the villas are undergoing a renovation so, wow, they will be even more amazing! This was our villa and the view!

We stayed in the Artemis Villa. We had 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms plus a living room, upper balcony and mini kitchen. This was our private pool and the view was killer. We got to have a fabulous breakfast each morning delivered right to the patio. It was heaven!

We chose the Celestia Grand in part for it’s location just outside of Fira and in part for the fabulous reviews which were all spot on. When we wanted to go into Fira, we just hopped on a shuttle and got there in a few minutes. It was easy. We did walk to town one morning and we also walked back one afternoon but the walk was kind of hot and not too pleasant. We really wanted to experience a week on Santorini but we wanted some peace and a break from the crowds of Fira and Oia. This small hotel was the perfect solution!

The best part about staying here was our awesome host, Niko! He took care of everything for us. He ordered our breakfast each day, (which was delicious!). He booked a cruise around the island, he made dinner reservations for us and he arranged a rental car for a day. He gave us tips on activities and suggested a wonderful beach resort to spend a few glorious hours at. There is so much to do on the island. We didn’t have to arrange anything! He checked on us every day. We felt like he really cared about us and the property. I seriously almost cried when we left this amazing place!

Another thing we did to pass our time on Santorini was go for a hike. We hiked from Fira to Oia. I’m not sure I would do this again and if I did, I would leave earlier in the morning so it was a little cooler. I was very, very hot! However, it was a beautiful hike with incredible views. It took us about 5 hours to get to Oia. In Oia, we walked around, had lunch and shopped. We took a shuttle back to the hotel. (we didn’t walk back because we aren’t completely cazy!)

Oia-  We didn’t spend a lot of time here but we did hit Atlantis Books, do a little shopping and we ate a very nice lunch at the rooftop restaurant Meltini.

If you are headed to any of the islands, you should check out Santorini Dave. Look at his website, Facebook page or sign up for his newsletter. His advice on our Fira to Oia hike was perfect. As were his great tips on restaurants (Lucky’s Souvlakis was one of his restaurant recommendations. It was so good and I’m craving the fries in the pita right now!) Dave really has the most comprehensive and extremely detailed site about the Greek Islands!

One thing that was on our “must do” list while in Santorini was to visit the ancient Minoan site of Akrotiri. This settlement was destroyed in 1627 BC by a volcanic eruption. The covered archaeological site was well preserved, well organized, well marked and really fascinating. It’s been an active site of excavation since 1967. We were very happy we went there.

and then, of course, there are the sunsets…

Yes! You should go to Santorini. It really is amazing. Next up-Paros…

Greece is the Word!

We traveled to Greece in June 2017. We visited Athens as well as 4 islands in The Cyclades. (Mykonos, Santorini, Naxos and Paros). We chose to travel to Greece because we wanted to go to a warm, sunny, family friendly location with ancient ruins and amazing history. Mission Accomplished!

Our itinerary was this…

I’m going to start out by telling you what I would do differently if I had to plan this trip to Greece again. Then I will get to the good stuff!

Here is what I got wrong planning our trip to Greece

Allocating our time.  If I was planning this all over again, I would stay just 1 night in Athens on the front end of the trip. (I liked having a few days on the tail end). I would distribute those extra days to the islands. More time on each island!

I would add another night in Mykonos, because we all liked it. I was worried that it would be too crazy and crowded but early June was quiet so if you aren’t going in July or August, you can stay longer! It really is so beautiful!

We also really liked Paros a lot and wished we had more time there! It had upscale shops, good restaurants and no huge cruise ships. I would have added another 2 nights there.

Transportation between islands. I would consider flying whenever possible over ferry travel. I debated this in my planning stage -especially arriving on Santorini. The islands in the Cyclades are far apart!

Ferry travel. I was worried about using the smaller high speed ferries because of the seasickness factor. I read a lot about high winds but I think in June, you don’t get the winds. I would just go for it if I booked a similar trip again. We wasted time traveling between islands and it wasn’t quite as relaxing and scenic as I had imagined in my head.

Disembarking in Santorini

Tips for traveling by ferry in Greece:

-If you have a business class ticket you don’t have to arrive super early and there is no need to worry about getting a nice seat.
-Wear sunscreen and a hat while waiting to board-you might get burned!
-Have a bottle of water because it’s hot!
-Pack light for carrying your bag up and down ferry stairs.
-The escalators worked getting on but they didn’t work on any ferries getting off.
-If your bag is carry-on size, you don’t have to leave it unattended downstairs.
-Bring a deck of cards and/or something to read.
-Wear sea bands if you are prone to seasickness.
-Be prepared for some chaos as well as pushing and shoving.

The boarding and disembarking process for the ferries was an unorganized, hot, pain in the ass. I can’t imagine what it is like during peak season! The least organized boarding was in Athens. The most organized was Naxos. The best decision we made was traveling business class vs. economy on the ferries. We used Blue Star Ferries for most of the trips. However, we did use Gold Star Ferries Superrunner from Mykonos to Naxos. Nice service on both.

Clothes.  We traveled with just a carry-on bag and that was awesome! But, next time I would take a smaller bag with just 1 pair of shorts, 1 pair of pants and more lightweight sundresses…I was so hot. Dresses are the key to hot weather, not shorts. And, they look nice and appropriate for both sightseeing and dinners out.

Here is what I got right in planning our trip to Greece

The Hotels! Woot woot! A+ for me because we were all very happy with each hotel. I could nit pick on a couple things (and I might) but for the most part, we were really happy!

The Islands! I really stressed out about what islands to choose for our first time in Greece. I though about Crete a lot as well as Hydra and Ios but I liked the way it all turned out.

The Sights! I feel like we saw the main attractions and the towns without doing too much to the point of being exhausted.

Here is what was totally unexpected

The Greeks. We were really surprised how appreciative the Greek people were for having us in their country. We really had a great experience just about everywhere we went. So many friendly Greeks!

Greek Flag on Naxos

The food. It was delicious! Fresh, simple and quality ingredients. Great local honey, tomatoes, potatoes and yogurt. Watermelon salad is so delicious and I made it for months after we got home.

Octopus was everywhere! And in various stages-being cleaned, beaten, dried and cooked.


The Pelicans. I saw the most enormous pelican on Mykonos. OMG! People were petting it as it meandered through the lovely alleys of Mykonos Town.


Cats. So many cats everywhere!

The Donkey Wrangler. We weren’t planning on riding the donkeys anyway because it seemed cruel but then we saw this guy and then there was no way we were going to torture the donkeys more. Wow!


The flu. Our youngest daughter got hit with the flu about 20 minutes prior to boarding the ferry in Athens. Now we always travel with a barf bag in her backpack!

One thing we took away from this trip is that we don’t like to be at a location for less than 3 nights. It’s too much travel, packing and unpacking. We are going to try to stick to this as much as possible during bigger trips. 

Coming up…my opinion on the different hotels and the Greek islands that we visited.