Opa!!! How to make the most of 9 days in Greece

Why Greece?  The simple answer Mama Mia!  Just kidding, we were deciding our next adventure, which was supposed to be Peru, but tickets were SO expensive.  We started scouring for tickets and Greece was extremely cheap during the month we went, probably because it was freezing, but it was worth it.  Plus we have always wanted to go to Santorini, so we checked that off the bucket list.

Planning:

I will tell you, this was probably one of the most difficult trips to plan because Greece’s tourism is seasonal.  A lot of the tours were limited that we could do in the winter versus the summer. Just make sure, if you want a more relaxed trip, going in the summer is much more feasible for you.  In the winter, it’s cold, there aren’t as many options, unless you are flexible and in Santorini, they close 90% of the island.  But if you go during tourist season, most tour companies and hotels charge you anywhere from 2-3 times as much.

I used a lot of websites to figure out what to do and see:

Time of the Year Traveled:

  • February 2015 (Middle of Winter)
  • Total Cost: $1600 for Lisa and $1800 for me because I had to pay for medicine, cough drops and souveniers.  The cost includes airfare, hotels, tours, food, cab rides, and any other purchases. I think for 10 days, we did very well for ourselves.

Transportation:

  • Swiss Air- We took Swiss Air from the US to Greece. The airline wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t horrible either. What we learned is in other countries, there aren’t always plugs that are easily accessible to plug your phones.
  • Aegean Air- This was the flight from Greece to Santorini. The flight is 30 minutes long, it was the best flight ever.  Some people love the boat ride from Athens to Santorini that is about 6-8 hours long depending on what ferry is available.  For $160 round-trip, we decided it was worth it.  *One of our tour members said if you look ahead early enough, you can get round-trip tickets for $80 round-trip!
  • Cab- Taxis in Greece are cheap. From the airport to the hotel, it’s a flat fee of $35 during the day and $50 at night. I would recommend getting a cab versus a shuttle service.  It’s also cheap in Athens, a 20 minute ride might cost around 5-8 Euros.  One night, we got ripped off for a 5 minute ride around the corner, he charged us $3.50.  The next morning, we saw him again, we asked for directions and instead of hopping in the car, we walked around the corner just to make him feel what it’s like to be gipped!

Hotels:

  • Herodion We LOVED this hotel. The staff was amazing and the rooms were fairly large.  We really liked that there were two beds and a couch.  The hotel had a modern look to it.  It was clean, fairly priced, and the service was excellent.  It includes breakfast in the morning and their selection of foods is amazing.  $83 a night per Hotels.com
  • Airotel Parthenon– We had a great experience at this hotel too.  The front desk staff was incredible. Debbie helped us with every single question and need and trust me I have a lot of questions.  The rooms were roomy and clean.  The breakfast had a good selection and very good coffee. $58 per night per Hotwire.
  • Amalia We stayed here when we went to Meteora.  It was so cute. The bathroom was huge and the space in the room is good as well.  It was one of the largest room we stayed in during the trip.  The hotel had a nice lobby and the breakfast was amazing.  We did feel very bad because there were only 6 of us at the hotel and they did an entire spread for us.
  • Alexander’s Boutique Hotel We stayed here in Santorini.  I will have to say, we had the PERFECT view here.  The hotel is very unique, it is built in a cave formation.  I totally understand why igloos are so warm after sleeping here.  The place was wonderful and so unique.  The beds were comfortable, the view was incredible, and the bathrooms were very big!  In Athens, it’s hard to find that. We also go breakfast delivered to us in the morning. We met Alexander, the owner of the hotel and he was so nice, including the fact that he was willing to take us to dinner.  The manager there, Atif was so nice!  He took care of all our needs, he even went out to dinner with us…and he saved me by speaking with a pharmacist to get me cough medicine when he was trying to close. $71 per night per Hotwire.

*You probably cannot find this good of a price now just because its tourist season, but we got a steal on the hotels, especially because each hotel we stayed at provided free breakfast.

Tours & Excursions:

I used Viator and KeyTours.

Corinth Bridge

This is the bridge that links the Sarconic Gulf with the Gulf of Corinth.

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Epidaurus-Mycenae

Mycenae is a site of ancient ruins for Agamemnon. There isn’t much left, but you can walk through the Lion’s Gate and get a glimpse of what it would have been like to be part of this kingdom.  For more information, click here.

Epidaurus was created as a theater.  In the theater, they once used it as a place of healing for the sick.  The theater is very large and the way it was designed, if you stand in the center everyone in the stadium can hear what you say very clearly.  For more information, click here.

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Meteora

Here, there are 24 monasteries built on top of these large rock formations.  It is considered in the “middle of the sky,” because it literally feels as if you are in a different world.

If you get a chance to go, please do.  There are 6 active monasteries and the history behind each one is fascinating.  Each monastery had a different feel and a different story behind it.

For more information, click here.

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Battle of Thermopyles

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Poros-Hydra-Aegina

Boat Ride

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Poros

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Hydra

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Aegina

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Delphi

Delphi is one of the most important sites in Greece. It is considered the center of the world back in ancient Greece.  Here you can find the Temple of Apollo close by.  You can also see how each room was built, some to place treasure, others to entertain, etc…

For more information, click here.

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Acropolis Museum

This place was amazing.  Make sure to check out the hours that it is open because on certain dates, it closes early or stays open late.  I would recommend you do this on your own, versus a tour.  Click here for the site.

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Cape Sounion

This is the Temple of Poseidon or what remains.  On this day, it was so rainy and windy, that we all struggled to keep our umbrellas under control, let alone take nice pictures.

For more information, click here.

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Scootercise- Trikkes

This was such an amazing experience.  The tour guides (more like owners) were fantastic.  They were friendly and because we went there in winter, we got a private tour.  We didn’t know how to get to the meeting point, so they even arranged transportation.

This is much easier than segways, I would definitely recommend it.  Plus, my picture taking skills got me the tag line “You have a PH.D in photography.”  Um…yes I do!

Click here for the site.

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Hamman Baths

This was an awesome experience.  The price was extremely fair for the service you got here.  You start off in a nice wash room (in a bathing suite of course) and then you get on a table where someone will massage and wash your body and hair.  It feels like heaven.

*This is also where I learned that Lisa is ticklish in the shoulders.

After the bath, you sit in the tea room for tea and snacks.  I would highly recommend this for a relaxing evening activity.  Please email them to book a time before you go.  They are very responsive and they take VISA!

Click here for their services.

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Things to See in Athens:

Acropolis

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Theatre of Dionysus

This is right across from the Museum. We spent almost 1 hour searching for this.  It’s a small entrance right across from there.

Temple of Zeus

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Mount Lycabettus

You can hike to the top or take the Funicular. I recommend the Funicular. It’s an easy ride to the top and it’s on 7 Euros per person.

We went around 5 PM, so that we could take pictures in the sun and at dusk.  It has the best view of Athens!

Click here for more info.

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Temple of Hephaestus

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Parliament & Temple of the Unknown Soldier

Be warned that you cannot point towards the solider.  They will slam their gun to the ground. Also, you can’t have two people stand for a picture in front of them.  All I have to say to that is if there are rules, put them up in writing.

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Syntagma Square

Benaki Museum

This is one of the most famous museums. There are multiple locations, but the most famous one is located a few blocks from the Parliament building.

Again, check the hours here. They open late on some nights and close early on other nights.

Arch of Hadrian

Stoa of Attalos- Ancient Agora

Technopolis

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Gazi

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Dromeas Runner

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Zappeion

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Choragic Monument of Lysicrates

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Library of Hadrian

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Vouliagmeni’s Lake

This lake was beautiful.  It apparently has healing powers and is cleaner than a pool. The water stays warm all year round, so people go in to swim and it’s supposed to help with things like arthritis. Here is more info.

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Tower of the Winds

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Olympic Stadium

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Church of Soteira Kottakis in Plaka

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Metropolis Church

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Kapnikarea

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Here is another church, which I forget the name, but it’s is the smallest most random church in the center of Plaka.  It’s just a tiny door in the middle of the city.  If you walk along the street, you would just think it’s a very random building, until you see candles and pictures of Jesus.

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Other Places:

  • Plaka
  • Monastraki (Flee Market)
  • National Gardens
  • Thissio

Streets of Athens

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Things to see in Santorini:

Santorini in a Nutshell

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Megalochori

Emporio

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Perissa Beach (Black Beach)

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Red Beach

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Volcano

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Mini- Parliament

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Pyros- Tallest point of Santorini with the best 360 degree views

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Venetian Castle

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Ancient Thera

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Famous Doors- Atif told us these are a few of the famous 3 doors. I’m not sure why, but that’s what he said.

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Port- This is where you take the cable cart to the volcano

Alexander’s Boutique Hotel

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The sexy little yellow car that took us all over Santorini

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Food:

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Favorite Sight:

Meteora- This was our favorite place. It was fascinating and beautiful as well.  If you can get there please go.  It’s a far drive, so make sure that you do a dual tour and make the trek.  You won’t regret it.

Favorite Memories:

  • Lisa falling asleep everywhere.  I literally mean everywhere.

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  • My selfie-stick is everywhere!  And this is how I walk around with it.
  • wpid-cymera_20150216_061610.jpgBeing photo-bombed and getting free wine.  We got photo-bombed on our first use of the selfie-stick.  He promised us wine, well of course we don’t really drink.  But we came back a few days later and asked him if he remembered us. He paused for a second and he said you are the selfie girls. Come in and wine is on us!  And they gave us free dessert too!wpid-img_20150208_144800.jpg
  • I got really sick when we headed to Santorini all the shops were closed.  Atif came with us and luckily he had the guy open up the pharmacy for me, but the guy looked like he was going to kills us.
  • wpid-cymera_20150216_085729.jpgwpid-cymera_20150216_064206.jpgWhat I buy as gifts for people: Soap, Evil Eyes, Nuts, and Spices. That combined with my medicine costs, put us in trouble for the purpose of savings, but even with that, we were still under budget.  Our entire trip: Excursions, car rental, food, flights, hotel, etc… costed us below $1800 for 10 days. Lisa laughs at what I buy.wpid-cymera_20150216_063236.jpgwpid-cymera_20150216_064227.jpgwpid-cymera_20150216_084206.jpgwpid-cymera_20150216_060919.jpg

Tips:

  • Pack light. I totally over-packed and had to carry this giant luggage everywhere.  Lisa had the same amount of outfits and look how much more I packed?  And it made a mess everywhere.
  • wpid-cymera_20150211_033218.jpgwpid-cymera_20150216_063336.jpgwpid-cymera_20150216_064257.jpgPre-plan ahead. It was absolutely worth getting all the tours ahead of time because it saved a lot of time for us.
  • Exchange your cash in the US.  I told Lisa to exchange cash to Euros in the US.  When I went to my bank, they did not have any Euros and told me it was cheaper to exchange it there.  That is not true, when we got to the airport, to the hotel, and into random stores in the city, the exchange rate was $.20 to $.30 higher per dollar.

Trip Highlights:

  • Pretending it’s sunny and warm. So you look at our pictures and think, wow Greece was such nice weather.  Wrong, it was cold, windy, and miserable.  When it wasn’t raining, it was snowing, but that never stopped us and part of the reason I got sick was from this.  We did NOT want everyone to see including our future kids to think we only packed one thing…A coat, so we would take our coats off just for pictures.  On our tours, all the friends that we made would make fun of us.  For example, the picture below was at Meteora. It was snowing that morning and so windy.  The wind was so strong that it hurt, but we took our coats off for a new picture.  We sacrifice a lot for a good picture.

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  • Being there during the protest for the debt crisis protest.

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  • Being proposed to by a random waiter in Santorini.  He expects me back next summer actually.  Lisa and I were just eating our food before our flight and the waiter started chatting and next thing you know, he’s trying to become my husband.  Again…we have no idea how this happens.
  • Meeting Damien who can take amazing jumping pictures in one try!  We were at the Parthenon and we saw him wandering, so we asked him to take a picture.  First try, we got this!  We decided it would be good to keep him around, just kidding.  He was traveling alone, so we had him tag along!  He’s actually a med student in Dallas and we still keep in touch with him.  Also, without his guidance, we probably would have missed some of the sites we needed to see.

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wpid-cymera_20150216_061057.jpgLessons Learned:

  • Greeks do not know how to give directions.
  • Taking random pictures saves you in random situations.  One day, we got completely ripped off by a taxi cab driver. He took us to the WRONG place and he also made us pay 4 times as much.  List took random pictures outside and after we went back to the hotel, the concierge said they can call him in for doing that and he was probably illegally doing it.  Lisa had a picture of his car, blurry, but it was better than nothing and we hope he gets caught!
  • We always have battery issues.  This time we had to depend on two phones and a camera to take the amount of pictures that we did.wpid-cymera_20150216_085650.jpg
  • wpid-20150206_164023.jpgBring pens.  Every single time we were on an airplane or out somewhere, we could never find a pen. Every trip this happens, especially when it comes to filling out the customs papers.
  • Bring an adapter.  We completely forgot this because we are completely ignorant that everywhere is like America.  Luckily all our hotels had adapters, but they didn’t always fit, so we had to make makeshift ones.
  • wpid-fb_img_1423590586644.jpgUpdate your GPS before you leave.  We did not, so in Santorini we just had to wing it and I am the worst co-pilot ever when it comes to giving directions.
  • No place is as good as America.  From all our travels, we realized that people don’t follow rules or proceed in an orderly fashion anywhere. In the airplanes, it became a mess because people from the back would try to get out first causing a bottleneck.  Even though America is not perfect, at least we understand lines.

Imperfect Moments:

Overall, I would say we had such an easy trip.  We had very few obstacles and got to see everything we wanted. If we never went back to Greece, there isn’t anything Lisa or I would regret not doing.

  • Car Rental Fiasco.  I always book everything ahead of time, including the car rental from Santorini.  I guess I did not know how small the airport was, but it’s tiny.  There were 3 rental car places and none of them had our reservation. I had the airport call the number listed and they would pick up and then hang up.  I was so upset waiting for someone, I actually sat in this wheelchair until the airport closed completely.  Luckily there was one taxi left and he called the place. Of course, they claimed they did not have a reservation, I started yelling, which is when Lisa knew that guy was in trouble.  The taxi cab driver took us to the only open car rental on the island and we got a car, but from all the frustrations, I was livid.  Then I emailed them for a credit and to explain what happened, Holiday Autos had nothing to say except sorry.  I am still demanding something be done because it was their fault and the fault of their vendor.
  • wpid-cymera_20150216_064217.jpgBad juju for the taxi cab driver from hell.  Our trikke tour went longer than expected and we had a segway tour right after.  Well, we missed it, but we thought we could get another one if we could get to the place in time.  We decided to take a taxi.  I went to the end of the street and asked one guy if he knew where this was. He said yes, but because of the protests, it would be 12 Euros. Lisa had a bad feeling, but I didn’t at the time, so we hopped in.  Well, the guy took us all the way across town and we had to figure our way back.  When we get back, we find out it was 5 minutes from our hotel and where we picked up the cab. That guy not only overcharged us, he wasted our time on our last day and made us miss SEGWAYS!
  • Where am I?  We were trying to find the Theater of Dionysus and literally we were 5 minutes away from our hotel, but everyone we asked kept telling us different directions.  I swear we asked about 15 people and they told us conflicting directions.  I was so tired of walking and finding this place!

What We Learned About Each Other:

I will have to say that on this trip, we definitely had a moment of realization and appreciation for each other.  We met each other when we were young, wild, and free and bonded over our love of Hannah Montana. Sadly, to date our love of Disney, Miley, and Justin Bieber has not changed.  But we did realize how different we truly our from our lifestyle, viewpoints, to even our personalities.

As we spoke to each other, we understand that it doesn’t mean we love each other any less. Actually, I think we love each other more if that’s even possible after this trip.   We learned a lot of things and some of the reasons why we have become the person that we are today.  For example, I am a planner because I have been forced to be, but not because I enjoy it.  I enjoy organization and making the most of each trip, but the planning process is very stressful.

I think overall, we realized we are more different than “twins,” but the love for each other is not any less. We appreciate each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  Honestly, we are a perfect pair.  My good side for pictures is Lisa’s bad side.  So we never fight over which side to be on. I am horrible at directions, she is really good with directions. Even our phones compliment each other. My phone takes really good forward facing pictures, her phone is much better at taking selfies.

And I love after so many years, we still learn new things about each other all the time.  It is just proof that you can’t know 100% about everyone in a short amount of time.

Lisa:

  • Lived with her dad growing up because her parents had the restaurant in two different locations
  • Pickier with foods than I thought. I knew she was picky, but this trip, I learned she is super picky
  • Does not care for make-up. Her dad didn’t like her with make-up growing up, whereas my parents make sure we always have some on.
  • Twin doesn’t take her contact lenses out and sometimes they stick to her eyeballs
  • She is a light packer.  We go on the same trip and I take almost double what she takes with the same amount of outfits, but she didn’t pack warm enough, so she says she’s a light packer, not a good packer, there is a difference (Her words, not mine LOL).
  • Loses things easily
  • Really good with directions
  • Does not drink water
  • Ticklish in her shoulders
  • If it comes to breakfast or sleep, she chooses sleep
  • Sleeps in her clothes to save time. This cracked me up!
  • Lisa wishes she would have focused on academics
  • Her income is at poverty level and we never knew it
  • She is okay watching shows on repeat
  • Really good at backing a car out, I mean insanely good.  We got stuck in one long, narrow street in Santorini.  I would have honestly just sat there and cried until a man came and backed me out, but Lisa backed out without even thinking.  I was so impressed.
  • Her nails grow really slow

*She NEEDS Chinese food:

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Linda

  • Frequently gets bronchitis-Poor twin could not sleep because when I’m sick it intensifies my snoring.  She could not sleep one night and I felt so bad, I wanted to get her ear plugs.
  • I take the bad genes from my mom and dad and have really dry hands and feet.  I have bad eye-sight from my Dad and many other minor problems.
  • Good at planning, but it’s not what I love. I hate being a planner because it makes me such an adult, a control freak, but when you have no plans and free-flow through life, you just keep going in circles.  It’s such a double-edge sword.
  • I am a tea hoarder. Yes, I am.  I would call downstairs to ask them to bring tea and hop in the shower, Lisa always had to be the one to open the door and get the tea, hehe.
  • Chose coffee over food anytime.  One morning we were so late and I grabbed coffee and food.  The bus driver did not allow coffee on there.  I was so upset, I told Lisa that he could take my food, I don’t care. I just want my coffee.
  • Afraid of steps.  She thinks it is SO crazy I can jump out of a plane, but I’m scared to climb a ladder or steps.

***Ladies and gentleman, we broke the fighting streak with the selfie stick. We did not fight once over a bad picture. Why the heck didn’t people give me that selfie stick sooner in life or why didn’t I invent it?!?

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