Greece had always been on my bucket list and it was more than just the whitewashed houses on the edges of the blue Mediterranean sea and the Acropolis that I wanted to see. I knew that there was more to the birthplace of the Western civilization than what Google images and Instagram let on… So I went on a research spree and came up with an itinerary that would help me “explore” Greece and yet be on a budget. Once, my itinerary was ready I was not very confident that it could be done but now that I am back from my Greek vacation I know for sure that the itinerary works like a charm 🙂
Of course my 11 days of vacation was not enough to see all that I wanted to see in Greece and I know I will need at least another 10 days worth of vacation time to be able to explore the islands that I could not in this trip, namely Corfu and Crete.
Trip Duration: 11 days including travel (8th June to 18th June)
Season: Summer (beginning of peak season)
Style: Budget but not backpacking
Places Covered: Athens, Ios, Santorini, Kalampaka (Meteora)
Travel Companion: Husband
Modes of Transport:
- Flight, Train, Regional Buses, Ferry (Inter city)
- Metro, Tram, City Bus (Intra city)
Arriving At Athens
Date: 8th June (1Day)
We set out for Athens from Mumbai on 8th June by Emirates Airlines that goes via Dubai. The flight departs from Mumbai at 10:10 am IST. It is a 3 hours long flight and reaches Dubai at 11:40 am local time. We had a layover for about 4 hours and 40 mins (Emirates has discontinued giving meal coupons btw) and we departed from Dubai at 16:20 hrs (local time). We landed at Athens at 20:25 hrs local time and had the good fortune of witnessing a beautiful sunset while descending into Athens’ Eleftherios Venizelos Airport.
While during the flight I was lamenting how I wasted a whole vacation day in travel and that there was nothing much that we could do in Athens that day once we landed but we were in for a surprise and let me just say Athens doesn’t sleep on the weekend… More about it in my upcoming posts 😉
Date: 8, 9, 10, 11 June (4 Nights, 3 Days)
When someone tells you that 4 nights is too much in Athens, I want so say they don’t know what they are talking about… Cause we didn’t just do 4 nights, we actually did 5 nights in Athens and I still feel that we could probably have stayed longer.
However, to each their own and if you are going to Greece only for the islands then you may want to cut your stay in Athens to probably 2 nights but if you are like us and want to probably explore every inch of the city then go for at least 4 nights…
Date: 12, 13, 14 June (2 Nights, 2.5 Days)
We took an early morning ferry (first ferry of the day actually) on the 12th at 7:30 am from Athens (Piraeus port) to Ios. The Hellenic Seaways ferry was doing a Piraeus – Santorini round with stops at Sifikos and Ios. The journey to Ios took us about 5 hours and we stepped on land finally at about 12:30 pm.
Ios (pronounced eeos) is a lesser known albeit a beautiful island in the Cyclades archipelago, which is the same cluster of islands that contains Santorini and Mykonos. The difference however lies in the fact that Ios is still a little hidden from the blatant commercialization that Santorini and Mykonos seem to be destined for and hence is more budget friendly and less crowded, the two factors that made Ios an obvious choice for our itinerary. That said Ios has a charm of its own with 16 beautiful beaches out of which at least 7 are inaccessible via road and need to be trekked to… Other than that the night life and the pub/club crawling culture all night long was so tempting that we knew we had to experience it to tell the tale!
Date: 14th June (0.5 days) [Big Mistake!]
My biggest mistake while planning the trip was booking an afternoon ferry from Ios to Santorini instead of the first ferry in the morning… Ios to Santorini is just an hour long ferry ride and arriving in the morning itself would have given us a whole day to explore Santorini.
Yes, one day in Santorini is enough unless you plan to relax, rejuvenate and genuinely pamper yourself in the many luxurious spas dotting the entire island or simply lose yourself shopping at the various upscale (and downright expensive) boutiques that have cropped up all over Oia. We were however on a budget, which meant skipping the spa sessions and expensive shopping sprees and hence we earmarked only 1 day for Santorini.
However, because of my folly in booking the wrong ferry we ended up only getting about 10 hours in Santorini in which we could only cover the town of Oia and Thira (both in North Santorini). If we had more time we would have liked to explore the beaches in the South.
Renting a car in Santorini is the best way to explore the island!
We took the last ferry out of Santorini, which meant sitting at the Athinios Port at 1:00 am waiting to board a Blue Star Ferry to Piraeus Port (Athens).
Kalampaka (Stop over at Athens)
Date: 15, 16 June (2 Days, 1 Night)
Now this was the surprise part of the trip because I had planned it without letting my husband in on it. It was supposed to be a surprise for him because as much as I love beaches and the ocean, he is in his element in the mountains… So when we arrived at the Piraeus port in Athens at an early hour of 7:00 am, he assumed we’d be taking a metro to the Athens city center where he thought I had booked another AirBnb apartment. We did take a metro but instead of turning up at the door of an apartment he found himself being led to the Regional Bus Station. We took the 10:30 am bus out of Athens to Trikala (4.5 hours of journey) and then changed buses for a 40 mins ride to Kalampaka town.
Imagine his delight when he realised that on the way to Trikala we would be crossing Thermopylae, the place where Leonidas and his men fought the Persian invasion attempt by Xerxes (300, anyone?)… I knew then that my surprise had worked!
Our final destination Kalampaka that we arrived at, at around 3:30 pm is a small town in central Greece that is a gateway to a wonder called Meteora. Meteora is a formation of monolithic pillars and hill-like humongous boulders dotting the region. The main attraction in Meteora are 6 Orthodox Christian Monasteries built on top of some of these rock formations that are only accessible by foot and that includes trekking up the hill, climbing innumerable, steep steps and in some rare cases getting on all fours and scrambling up steep cliff-like rocks.
We stayed the night in Kalampaka, trekked more the next day and finally took the evening train (5:30 pm) out back to Athens.
Date: 16, 17 June (1 Night, 1 Day)
We arrived in Athens from Kalampaka on 16th June at around 10:45 pm (the train was late by 20 mins) and by the time we settled into our new AirBnb apartment it was almost midnight. Like I said earlier Athens doesn’t sleep on the weekends and it being a Friday night, we immediately changed and went clubbing…
We partied till about the 4:00 am after which we went home to catch some zzzzzzs and finally checked out of our apartment at 3:00 pm in the afternoon. Since our flight out of Greece was later in the night, we had earmarked this last day in Athens for shopping and souvenir grabbing (more about it in another post).
Departing Greece (Athens)
Date: 17th June
We had our Emirates flight out of Greece at 11:30 pm local time with a 4 hours stopover in Dubai. We were finally in Mumbai the next day at 2:30 pm IST and in our beds in Pune by 6:00 pm IST
Would I want to change something in our itinerary?
Nothing is perfect and neither was my itinerary but it worked for us. However, there are a few things that I would still like to change about it…
- As I mentioned earlier I would have preferred to have taken a earlier ferry out of Ios to Santorini just to have a little more time to explore Santorini’s southern beaches.
- I wish we could have extended our vacation from 11 days to say 20 days and included the islands of Crete and Corfu in our schedule.
- I would have loved to include another day in Athens so that we would have been able to do a day trip to Delphi.
Have you been to Greece? What did your plan look like?
P.S. you are free to base your vacation plan/itinerary on mine and if you need more info, do drop me an email or leave a question for me in the comments section. I’d be happy to help!