I am currently on my train back from Naples up to Rome. My girlfriend and I decided to do a 16-day Europe trip that would take us to 4 countries. Greece, Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy.
It’s been a blast so far and I would really recommend such a trip to anyone. I’m going to do you guys a huge favor and give ya’ll some great advice that I wish that I knew at the beginning of this trip.
I will go over each country and give my honest opinion and advice on each of them. But for sake of simplification, this post will only resolve around Greece. Specifically, Athens, Zakynthos and Santorini. I have roughly 50 minutes until my train arrives in Rome, so let’s what magic I can make happen.
If you ever plan on visiting Greece, which I strongly recommend that you do, then you need to read this post.
My girlfriend and I decided to visit Greece for 5 days (yes, I know it’s nowhere near enough time, but what can you do). If you are flying to Greece from another country, chances are that you will be flying into Athens International Airport "Eleftherios Venizeloswhich” which is Athens primary airport. We flew into ATH from Philadelphia.
Most oversea flights will arrive in Athens between 7-10 AM. Now the thing was that we didn’t even want to stay in Athens. Our original plan was to fly into Athens and then take a connecting flight to the island of Zakynthos where we would spend 2 days there and then take another flight from Zakynthos to Santorini and spend 3 days there, unfortunately we knew that our flight to Athens would arrive too late for us to catch the next flight to Zakynthos.
The thing with those flights from Athens to other Islands is that most of them are very early. Between 5:45AM – 9:00AM. After that there’s a huge gab in departure time and the price drastically increases.
The bottom line was that we couldn’t fly into Athens and then take another flight to Zakynthos the very same day. It just wasn’t possible. So, if your plan is to visit the islands in Greece and you’re coming from outside the country, prepare to add an extra day to your itinerary for a day long layover in Athens.
I am going to be honest, I wasn’t impressed with Athens. Sure, it’s historical, there’s a lot to see, the food is great and unlike with the islands in Greece, the transportation in Athens is reliable. Uber does work in Athens which is something you cannot say for the rest of Greece. However, that pretty much sums Athens up for me. I probably wouldn’t visit again.
If you’re spending a day in Athens make sure to stay close to the airport. Athens is quite large so if you’re planning on taking an early flight out of Athens, it would probably best to stay within 30 minutes of the airport.
Here are a few things you should definitely check out while staying in Athens:
Herod Atticus Odeon
The Temple of Poseidon at Sounion
Now on to the fun stuff.
The island you really want to visit is Zakynthos. Visiting that island has literally been a dream of mine for the past 3 years now. So, visiting was literally a dream come true. Not as touristy and well know perhaps as Santorini or Mykonos, but nevertheless it’s a top-notch destination.
There are only a few regional airlines that fly to the islands. The one that we used was Aegean Airlines. Which by the way was fantastic for the most part. There is also Olympic Airlines, which is a subsidiary of Aegean, so they’re pretty much both the same. I would recommend sticking to this airline as I’ve read some horror stories about other airlines. Long delays, cancelled flights and so forth.
When you book those regional flights be sure to go on the airlines website directly since a lot of times Expedia and other travel companies don’t necessarily have the best deals on those flights.
We didn’t have one single problem flying throughout Greece. Only advice I would give is to be sure to arrive to the airports early. Especially when in Zakynthos, Santorini, etc. You wouldn’t believe how pact it gets. Even at 5 in the morning. In these small airlines have very limited staff. So be there early!
Zakynthos is most well-known for Navagio Beach or Shipwreck beach. It’s located on the north-west part of the island and is only accessible by car if you want to visit the cliff and look down on the beach. Visiting the beach itself requires a boat.
Honestly, you really odd to do both. My best suggestion would be for you rent a car at the airport for the duration of your stay on the island. Zakynthos is a pretty big island; however, you can really see everything you need to in two days. Three days tops. Like I mentioned earlier, the islands in Greece do not have Uber and taxis are a rip off. They do not use a running meter and pretty much charge you how much they deem necessary.
So, do yourself a favor and rent a car while visiting the islands.
When it comes to finding a place to stay in Zakynthos, or any island for that matter, select a hotel. I know, I always usually recommend Airbnb, however, in order to truly get a great experience, I think Greece is one of the few places were hotels are actually better. We stated at the Avalon Hotel, which I highly recommend. Fantastic hotel, great staff and an amazing view. Two nights for about $350, which really isn’t bad. Breakfast was included and we even managed to check-in by 8:00AM. I would recommend staying there.
Now if you want to plan on visiting Navagio beach, you can go on viator.com and book a boat excursion that will take you to the shipwreck beach. Just be sure to select a good one. I recommend selecting one that is smaller, more private. Even if it’s more expensive, trust me, less people is better. It’ll be worth it.
Another huge tip; there is an app called ‘Greekguide’ it’s on app store and you can download it. Depending on where you are, different versions exist. The app works for Athens, Zakynthos, Santorini, Mykonos and a few other islands. YOU REALLY WANT TO GET THE APP. It’s extremely useful.
It gives recommendations on where to eat, what to do, and a bunch of other useful tips.
Overall, I loved Zakynthos. The place is phenomenal. The people are super nice, it’s cheap, not very touristy and the scenery itself is breathtaking. Without a doubt will I be returning.
After we spent two days in Zakynthos we went on to visit Santorini. Now there are no direct flights from Zakynthos to Santorini. So, you’ll have a layover in Athens.
What can you say about Santorini that hasn’t already been said? No one has ever asked themselves “why do I want to visit Santorini”? With that being said, I really don’t need to persuade you as to why you should visit. Just google ‘Santorini’ and you will already be convinced.
I’ll rather give you some good old advice as to what to do once you get to Santorini, in order for you to make the best out of your vacation.
The biggest thing problem with Santorini is the fact that you need a reliable for of transportation. Once again, I would strongly recommend renting a car.
My girlfriend and I had to learn the hard way. The entire island has about 30 taxis. Public transportation is a disaster and it’s just too expensive to get around the island relying on other people. So, when you get to Santorini, rent a car at the airport. Or, take a taxi to your hotel and then make you way on into the city and rent a ATV. Yes, I said ATV. It’s a really common thing on Greece’s islands.
They’re super fun to drive, easy to park anywhere, and pretty affordable. You can rent a nice ATV for about €40 a day. Which includes insurance just in case you decide to drive the damn thing off a cliff or something.
Another thing you need to be aware of when planning a trip to Santorini. This is another thing we had to learn the hard way. Apparently, these people don’t really believe in street addresses as there aren’t any. Not really. It’s really easy to get lost so make sure you carry with you a map. A PHYSICAL MAP. In Greece, the cell reception sucks. So, forget Google maps. That shit sucked ass. When you’re in Santorini you got to go old school. Follow street signs, look at maps, shit, ask some of the locals for direction.
Santorini is divided into towns. You have Oia which is up north. That’s where rich old people stay who can afford to spend €500 a night on a hotel room. Then you have Fira, centrally west located. That’s where all the partying happens. You’ll find your average 22-year-old drunk college kid there. All the way down south is Akrotiri. You have the white and red beach there.
Now where you should stay depends on what you want to get out of your stay in Santorini. Do you want to get wild and party hard, well then stay close to Fira. If your goal is to relax and enjoy a nice vacation with a significant other, then your best bet is to stay in or around Oia.
We stayed in Oia and it was breathtaking. No, we’re not old and we’re not rich either. But some things are worth the money. There are so many hotels to choose from and it can honestly be confusing. I recommend checking out the Aperanto Suites. We loved our stay there. Totally worth the money.
I could keep on talking about Greece for hours. The bottom line is, enjoy it, souk it all in and make sure to follow my tips. Rent a car, make sure you have enough cash on hand, arrive at airports early etc. Also, be sure to book hotels and flights early. Because they will sell out and prices do go up. I would recommend visiting Greece in April, May or late September. Don’t go during peak season as it just gets too busy with tourists.
If you do all that you’ll be fine and have the time of your life.
Embrace The Layover