Help a Reader Travel: Greek Islands

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As I mentioned last Monday, I get many emails from blog readers and calls from friends asking me all sorts of travel destination questions. Unfortunately, I have not been to every destination asked, so I figured I’d put those questions out there for my blog readers to answer! Last week was very successful helping a reader figure out where to stay in Maui. It was great to see everyone’s suggestions and point of views on where to stay.  I figured I’d continue on with this Monday feature as a few other folks have emailed me asking for trip help!

So this weeks travel destination includes the Greek Islands, specifically Mykonos and Santorini. I received the following email from reader Rebecca:

“I have a trip planned to Santorini and Mykonos in 10 days. I have my hotel arrangements figured out (all Starwood of course!), but need some suggestions for restaurants. Do you have any? Also, any other recommendations on things to do would be much appreciated.”

Greece is very high up on my list to visit, but I have yet to get there! Greece is actually a GREAT place to use your Starwood points as there are no other real recommended chain hotels in the islands where you can use your points. While the point redemption is high, the paid rate is outrageous and many allow cash & point redemption. There are two Starwood hotels in Santorini, one in Mykonos, and another in Crete. There are a few others elsewhere, but those three islands seem to be the most popular for the Starwood brand. From reviews I’ve heard from many others, you will not be sorry with your hotel selection!

If you’ve been to Greece before, let’s help out reader Rebecca! Also, if you have recommendations on any other aspect of vacationing in Greece, feel free to comment away to help other interested readers as well!

Just a reminder – I will include these blog posts in my Trip Reviews page. Comment away!

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  1. if you leaving Pireaus during the day, take the slow ferry if you are not pressed for time. I didnt go to the touristy islands, but went to sifnos, on the way the ferry stopped by a few islands- great site seeing from the boat.
    There is a bakery/shop across from the car entrance to the port, buy some food and coffee for the ferry and make a picnic of it

  2. With in-laws in Athens, I go to Greece pretty regularly. The #1 tip I can offer for this summer is: be prepared! Their economy is hanging on by a fingernail and new elections are scheduled for this weekend. Depending on the results, there may be service interruptions, strikes or other issues. As long as you’re not in Syntagma Square, you shouldn’t have to worry about violence, but it’s very likely that the trains will not, as they say, run on time. Trip insurance would be a very, very good idea, but check the policy to make sure it covers pre-existing political unrest.

    As for your *actual* question – you MUST try Lucky’s Souvlaki in Fira – it’s just a little counter-service joint but they make excellent gyros. It’s a bit back from the caldera-view area, across from an Internet cafe. Most of the Fira restaurants along the edge of the caldera are interchangeable; they will be tasty (because all Greek food is tasty) but unmemorable. It’s worth it to have dinner or drinks down there at sunset; the experience is everything the guidebooks promise. Oia is a more upscale town, harder for the cruise-ship crowds to get to and thus with restaurants that stand out a bit more.

    Our best dining experience on Santorini was near the Red Beach, way on the other side of the island by Akrotiri (both of which you should visit, if the latter is open). There are a couple of fish tavernas perched on the ocean, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, that will serve you seafood they caught earlier in the day. They have dining tables on piers out into the water; just sit yourself down and ask for what’s fresh.

  3. Go to greektravel.com for more information than you will ever be able to comprehend before you go. We did Santorini and Paros in September and loved every minute of it.

  4. I just returned last week from 3 days in Crete, 3 days in Santorini, 2 days in Mykonos, and 3 days in Athens. This may be a little long, but here are my notes:

    SANTORINI

    Places to eat: our favorite restaurant was actually a small, nondescript restaurant called Salt & Pepper in Fira. It’s located on the main road leading toward Firostefani, about a 5-7 minute walk from the main shopping area in Fira. The place is a one-man show: the guy who greets you at the door and waits on your table also cooks all the food. The food isn’t fancy, but it’s very good. My guess is that the cook/owner isn’t a formally trained chef, but rather just a guy who likes to cook for friends and family and finally decided to open a restaurant last year. If you want homestyle Greek food prepared by someone who takes pride in his cooking, I highly recommend Salt & Pepper. (Note: this place is cash only)

    Other places we ate at:
    Pirouni in Firostefani: good food, nice view, but nothing remarkable. It was close to our hotel and a solid choice when we didn’t feel like going far.

    Aktaion in Firostefani: despite decent reviews on other websites, we were disappointed with this one – spinach pie at lunch was obviously reheated from last night; other food was literally unmemorable (I don’t remember what else we ordered). Moussaka was good though.

    Dimitri’s and Katina’s Fish Tavern in Ammoudi Bay/Oia: right on the water, though your view of the sunset is partially blocked by the rocks. Walk over to the parking lot for a better view at sunset, then come back for dinner. Very fresh seafood – they show you the fish available in the case and you point to the one you want, then they grill it outside for you; a little pricey, as you have to buy the whole fish and they charge by weight (45-60 euros per kilo). Order a salad or some boiled greens to go with the fish. The fried calamari is good too.

    Things to do: the ancient city at Akrotiri is open again after being closed for 5 years. We were suprised how small it was: just one excavated area is available for viewing, and you view most of it from an elevated walkway like at a museum. It’s not one of those ruins where you’re allowed to walk around the site freely. Entrance fee is 5 euros; we spent about an hour there and were impressed by how old it was, but disappointed by how litle was visible.

    Transportation: we didn’t rent a car, which was fine since Santorini is small and buses can take you almost anywhere you want to go. We visited both Akrotiri in the south and Oia in the north in one day. There is a lot of walking, especially on stairs and inclines. Many areas (such as the Fira shopping district) are not accessible to vehicles. Definitely bring your walking shoes; heels are not recommended.

    Other notes: wear sunscreen! A hat might be useful too. Don’t forget sunscreen on your legs and feet if wearing shorts/skirts.

    MYKONOS

    Places to eat: Bakalo was our favorite. They’re only open for dinner. Hubby got the lamb shank and I got the seafood orzo pasta. Both were fantastic. One of the best meals on our trip. Highly recommended.

    Other places:

    Katerina’s in Little Venice has good risotto; the table next to us ordered the calamari with grilled vegetables, which looked awesome (and with generous portions). I wish I had gotten that instead of my salad.

    Fato a Mano: Food was good, but nothing to write home about. Their lunch special is a small greek salad, moussaka or fried calamari, and a glass of wine for 19 euros, which was okay. We appreciated the free fruit dessert.

    Things to do: definitely visit Delos if you have the chance. The island is a 30-minute boat ride away, with departures at 9am, 10am, and 11am every day except Mondays. Roundtrip tickets are 17 euros. Plan to spend at least 2 hours there wandering around the ruins. Bring water, good walking shoes, and sunscreen. A must-see and a good half-day trip.

    Notes: Mykonos is pretty relaxed during the day; you see more people out and about at night. Restaurants and shops are open late, even for Greek standards – we had dinner at Bakalo at 1:30am and were not the only ones eating.

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