Greek Isles Tour: Part 2

Posted by on Oct 29, 2013 in Featured, Greece | 0 comments

After spending a week enjoying the quintessential Greek Isle experience in Sifnos and Folegandros, Mike and I prepped ourselves for the big guns: Santorini and Mykonos.  Travel articles for these two islands promised big things – from Santorini’s “most beautiful sunset in the world” to “the most iconic party beaches” of Mykonos.  For us, they also held a taste of home as my parents, brother, and brother’s girlfriend (Roxanne) were joining us for our final five days in Greece.


Even as Mike and I disembarked the ferry in Santorini – albeit seasick from the choppy ride – I noticed a big difference from the other two islands I had previously visited.  There were more people, touristy kiosks, and drastic landscape unlike anything I have ever seen. The island’s dramatic topography is basically the result of a huge volcanic eruption – there is a large lagoon in the center which formed after a land mass (called a caldera) sunk into the sea. The lagoon is surrounded on three sides by plunging 300 meter cliffs.  Amazingly the main towns on the island are perched on these steep layers of dried lava making for an absolutely stunning and unique scenery.  

Santorini cliffs over the caldera

We had arrived a day before my family so we checked out the black sand Perissa beach (very southeastern tip of the island) before meeting them near our rental house in Oia (northwestern tip). Perissa beach is pretty and it is enjoyable to stroll the 3 km of beach, bars, and restaurants.  However, if you only have 2-3 days in Santorini, I would focus your time in the visually stunning towns of Oia and Fira.  I would only venture to Perissa if you have allowed for more time on the island and want some beach time or are an avid beachgoer.  For us, the real fun began when we arrived in Oia.

Mike and Kat – Oia, Santorini

As Mike and I disembarked from the (Perissa to Oia) bus, it was as if the reunion with my family was in slow motion.  Beaming from ear to ear, I literally ran, arms outstretched, into one of the most satisfying hugs of my life.  I couldn’t have been more thrilled to welcome my parents, Brian, and Rox on our journey. We giddily checked into our pristine rental house perched on the tip of the island and settled into a bottle (or two) of wine while we planned our upcoming days.  

Cocktails at our house while watching the sunset

The thing that makes traveling the Greek Isles so gratifying to me is that you can gain a deep understanding of Greek culture, sample a wide variety of Mediterranean cuisine, and observe unique beauty while still relaxing.  In contrast to the fast paced Athens, the Greek Isles (even the busier Santorini and Mykonos) are meant to be savored.  The six of us took advantage of this and spent our remaining days in Santorini strolling the picturesque towns of Oia and Fira, shopping for beautiful Greek things, cocktailing on our outdoor patio, watching Oia sunsets, and dining on delicious food.  Coinciding perfectly with our trip, it was also Roxanne and my birthdays (one day apart) so every moment on the island felt like a celebration.

Enjoying birthday cake

While I was sad when we had to leave, I was excited to see what Mykonos, the “island of the winds”, had in store for us.  My first impression of the island is that it truly holds up to its name….IT IS WINDY.  As we wove up the steep hill to our scond rental house, I could actually feel our tiny car swaying in the gusty gales.  Luckily, the wind died down a bit after the first day. Another immediate realization about Mykonos is that the island seems much bigger than the previous three we had toured.  There are several towns and much more ground to cover.  That being said, you go to Mykonos for the beaches and nightlife.  We stayed within walking distance to one of the nicest beaches, Elia Beach.  Unfortunately, due to sub par planning on my part, we weren’t near much else.  The quaint traditional village of Ano Mera was the closest form of civilization and it was a far cry from the bumping nightclubs.  But, we didn’t care.  We were there to eat, drink, and be merry but didn’t need (or want) scantily clad Europeans clubbing beachside until the wee hours.  

View of famous Mykonian windmills

We instead spent our time relaxing at the beach or strolling the main town of Chora.  A few people even took an easy half day trip to the nearby (and archaeologically significant) island of Delos.  And, while we did have some minor hiccups like being joined by 4 mice in our rental house, we still had a ball.  Since it was the end of the Greek tourism season, the island was much quieter than normal so we missed out on the crazy party scene and packed nude beaches.  But, given that I was at the tail end of nine months of travel and with my parents, I was happy that we timed our visit in the off season.  My only regret is that we did not fully explore the myriad of beaches.  But, I guess that just gives me something to look forward to if we ever return.

Mom and Dad walking Elia Beach

Mom and Dad walking Elia Beach

Santorini and Mykonos were the perfect way to end our exploration of the Greek Isles.  Sharing the experience with my family made it even better.  Overall, I think that I preferred the totally secluded and untouched islands of Sifnos and Folegandros to the busier, more developed Santorini and Mykonos. But experiencing the latter with my family made the second half of our Greek Isle tour truly special. The drastic landscape of Santorini is unmatched and the fun mix of beaches and nightlife make Mykonos stand out.  I already miss the outstanding Greek hospitality where the answer to every question is “Why not?”  I am craving the Greek flavors.  And I am already nostalgic glancing through our many photos.  A trip to these magical  islands should be at the top of everyone’s travel list.  

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