I visited Greece four years ago and the trip still stands out in my mind as one of the most incredible vacations to date. Greece is exceptionally beautiful. It’s crowded and touristy in many places, but there are still some less discovered gems that are worth visiting. The food is unbelievable – I don’t think I have ever eaten so much lamb, yogurt, and feta cheese in my life (In fact, I went vegan for 30 days after I returned). We discovered cappuccino freddos and frappes early in the trip and never looked back. I still miss those drinks on a hot summer day!
We started our two weeks in Greece as one would expect, in Athens. Because of everything we had heard from friends who had already visited Greece, we only stayed about 24 hours in Athens. In hindsight, we would have all wanted a little more time there. With just one day, we had to plan accordingly to see certain sights in limited amount of time. Also, it was July so we had to plan around the heat too 🙂
Getting There: Flew direct from JFK to Athens. When we arrived, we took the metro most of the way from the airport, then a short taxi ride to our hostel.
Where to Stay: Because we only were there one night, we found a decent hostel that was pretty cheap and right in the heart of Plaka (old town): Students and Travelers Inn. The location was perfect as it was very close to the Acropolis, maybe 10 minutes walk. It was a deal: room was about 18 euro per person including private bath. Free wifi but it didn’t really work very well. This was no frills, but fine for just overnight.
Where to Eat:
- Strofi – Came recommended. Has a view of the Acropolis which seemed appropriate for our first night in Greece. The food was excellent. We ordered a bunch of small plates to share and 2 fish dishes (bream and fried cod). Small plates were fried feta with honey, wine leaves with mince meat, fava beans, garlic bread, stuffed tomatoes.
- Mentor Cafe – Post Acropolis we walked down another side of the pedestrian road on the perimeter of the Acropolis and found many outdoor cafes. We stopped at Mentor Cafe. Service wasn’t great, but food was really yummy.
Things to Do: With limited time, we prioritized seeing the Acropolis. Go early to avoid heat and crowds (opens around 8am). We made it through most of the main sites within 60-90 minutes.
Athens flea market – Mix of crappy tourist stuff and nicer wares (leather, glass) and antiques. Sellers were not aggressive at all. We found some great leather purses here and beautiful lamps!
Also located on mainland Greece, Nafplio is a charming seaside town that was, at the time, not super popular with tourists. There were a few European tourists there, but I don’t think we saw any other Americans. It’s a small town with quiet side streets, cozy restaurants, and proximity to some nice beaches. Reminded me a lot of Italy (likely because of the gelato too!)
Getting There: We took the bus from Athens, which takes about 2 hours 15 minutes and costs 13 euro (in 2013). The bus drops you right in the center of town, very short walk to our hotel. The only trouble we had was actually getting on the bus in Athens – the bus station was a total mess and few people spoke English. Mass confusion which was quite unpleasant.
Where to Stay:
We stayed at Omorfi Poli – a really cute little hotel right near the water. We had a large room for the five of us with one double bed, a room with two twins, and a loft area with one twin. But only one bathroom! Free wifi included with the room. Because the hotel was in town, there was no pool but we were able to get to the beach everyday. Nice to stay in town as you are close to shops, restaurants, port. The hotel had a cafe downstairs (Le Bistro Grec) where we had breakfast everyday and drinks/snacks in the afternoon. Best yogurt ever. Breakfast was usually about 10 euro including drinks. The service was great, though the area was a little noisy at night as there were a few bars on the street below.
Where to Eat:
- Arapakos – Heavy on seafood and right next to the water. Ordered lots of food to share: grilled halloumi, grilled octopus, multicolored salad, snapper, and the grouper with amazing olive oil and bread of course. We ordered rose – so good (best wine we had for the whole trip, Greek wine generally not very great).
- Mezedepioloe o Noulis – A family-owned place for dinner near the hotel. Really cute little taverna, reminded me of the small tavernas in Italy that I had visited the year prior. Portions were huge. Everything was really tasty except for the wine. Ordered some rose, looked weird and smelled off. Exchanged it for a Mythos instead. Olives and delicious bread to start. We had spanokopita, lamb with artichokes, saganaki, fava, zucchini fritters, stuffed tomatoes, mixed greens
- Antica Gelateria di Roma – Promised best gelato outside of Italy. It was pretty close.
- O Kipos – Many of the restaurants along the port were just cafes, but this spot was a good find. Live music, sat outside overlooking the port and fortress at sunset. One of our favorite dinners (ordered moussaka, honey salad, saganaki with honey and sesame, liters of rose)
Things to Do:
The town is pretty quiet, lots of boutiques on the side streets that are open late (good for post-dinner walking around). We didn’t really go out late there so not sure what the scene is like, but seemed relatively quiet. Definitely a few people out partying though 🙂
Most of the time in Nafplio we were at the beach. We debated going to Hydra and Spetses for a day trip, but would have to get up super early to take bus to Tolo and be on a boat by 8:45 so we declined.
- Karathona Beach – Not very far, about an 8 euro taxi ride from center of town. Taxis dropped us at a beach club called Blue Sky. By later in the afternoon (around 3) we knew why – this was definitely the young people place to be. Club was free, able to get chairs with umbrellas, no cost to hang out for the day. Water was great, not rough, sandy, pretty warm. View was gorgeous, beach is in a cove with cliffs and mountains all around.
- Palamidi Fortress – We didn’t visit the fortress in Nafplio, but it can’t be missed from nearly anywhere in town. You can choose to drive or climb the many steps to the top for what are probably some gorgeous views.
From Nafplio, it was a return bus trip to Athens and then we were on our way to Santorini…