Those who say big is beautiful have clearly never been to Greece. A rich history, vibrant culture, dramatic landscapes, cerulean waters and warm people, this small country has much to offer. Mercy Oomen always wanted to visit Greece so she was very happy when she finally got to check this off her list. Planned as a romantic getaway, she and her husband planned to explore three of Greece’s gems – Athens, Mykonos and Santorini. And they’re glad they did, because this holiday was a treasure trove of unique experiences.
After a long, tiring flight from New Delhi, we touched down at Athens International Airport and were greeted by a large crowd of people. The mandatory security checks usually take longer than usual here because Athens is the main airport that connects Greece to the world. Once this was done, we were guided on a smooth ride to our hotel that gave us glimpses of some of the city’s best sights and sounds.
ATHENS – THE CULTURE CAPITAL
Athens, the largest city in Greece, is called the cradle of Western civilisation and the birthplace of democracy. With thousands of years of history, it has had a pivotal role to play in moulding sciences, fine arts and philosophy, apart from drawing new boundaries and establishing itself as a trade centre. Years later, this multicultural city is as enthralling as ever.
After a sumptuous breakfast, we set off on a tour of the city, meandering through its by-lanes and streets. Our guide drove us through the city with quick stops at the Greece Parliament House, the Unknown Soldier’s Tomb, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, National University Library and other important landmarks. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at the Panathenaic Stadium, the birthplace of modern Olympic Games, which is an awe-inspiring sight even today.
After lunch, we visited the magnificent Acropolis, an ancient citadel set on a rock above the city. Everyone has heard of this imposing structure, which dates back to the 5th century BC and was built as a temple to the Gods. We also managed to spend some time at the Acropolis Museum, one of the most important museums in the world, which is home to some of the most important pieces of ancient Greek art. I could spend hours here walking through the aisles and seeing the rich heritage of Greece unfold right before my eyes.
Next, we visited the Parthenon – an important and characteristic monument of the ancient Greek civilisation. Dedicated to Athena, the patron goddess of Athens, the structure was built between 447 and 438 B.C. With time to spare, we used the metro subway and the local bus service to explore Athens and pick up some souvenirs. If you’re keen on shopping here, I strongly recommend a visit to the colourful local flea market, which has an array of eating houses and curio outlets.
MYKONOS – PICTURE-PERFECT PARTY ISLAND
No Greek holiday is complete without a visit to the spectacular Mykonos Islands, and so we took the high-speed ferry to this popular spot. The island group, which derives its name from Apollo’s son, is the Greece you see in the movies, all whites and blues and absolutely beautiful. The islands look like picture postcards of quaint white houses, with blue windows, doors and chimneys, surrounded by fuscia flowers, hand-painted streets, churning windmills, random pigeon keepers and several churches. The main island of Mykonos is known to be the summer retreat for the rich and famous, while others throng to Little Venice for its great night life.
We spent two wonderful days in Mykonos, walking through its narrow, cobbled, winding streets, being greeted by friendly residents, occasionally stopping to sip hot tea and buy something that caught our eye. One of the most interesting things here is that every house is set above the street, with a flight of wooden stairs leading up from the road to the entryway. Many people here have painted these stairways in rainbow colours, complemented with blooming bougainvillea trees, which makes for a pretty picture.
We also took some time off to enjoy the relaxed vibe along the waterfront, where a fleet of fishing boats cast their reflections in the azure waters. After a while, we stopped in at a waterfront café with a view of quaint windmills standing tall on the hillside. If you are a water sport enthusiast, there’s no better place than Mykonos for a spot of sailing, surfing and more.
SANTORINI – THE ISLAND OF ROMANCE
After a couple of days in Mykonos, we were ready to see more of Greece. We took a ferry to the beautiful volcanic island of Santorini. With beautiful beaches, spectacular scenery and an active volcano, this is considered one of the most romantic places in the world. I have to say that these high-speed ferries, plying at regular intervals, are a great way for both tourists and locals to explore the Greek islands.
We started our exploration with a visit to the local winery for some wine-tasting, followed by a leisurely stroll through a village, built in the Cycladic architecture style. After lunch, we spent a lazy afternoon basking in the sun on the unique black-sand beaches. If you’re keen to work on your sun tan, I’d recommend Perivolos or Kamari, which are some of the country’s best beaches.
Day two in Santorini saw us taking a 9km hike, which connects the towns of Fira and Oia, and this was one of the most difficult and scenic parts of our trip. We covered the trek in three hours, with many short stops along the way to click pictures and enjoy the view. I advise the use of proper walking shoes to avoid any mishaps here as the uneven path is made of cobbled stones and loose gravel. Fira, the main city, with fantastic sea views and pristine white-washed buildings was exactly what you’d expect from a Greek island. And then there’s a little bit extra for those interested in history in the form of the Museum of Prehistoric Thira, which is full of fascinating Minoan artifacts. Then we went on to Oia, climbing 200 steps to reach the top of the village, for one of the most breathtaking sunsets we’ve ever seen.
Once we had chilled out and enjoyed the delicious calm of Santorini, we returned to Athens and readied for our flight back home. Our island-hopping Greece trip was the perfect combination of excitement and relaxed romance. This getaway was the best combination of history, culture, landscapes topped off with grand cocktails and mouth-watering meals served in small cafes on packed city streets and sun-kissed beaches. When it comes to describing our holiday in a few words, I’d say it was fabulous, unique and surreal but these words don’t do justice to Athens, Mykonos and Santorini. If you’re in the mood for some wonderful magic, choose Cox & Kings’ Greek Sojourn to make you feel like Alice in Wonderland.
No. of Days: 8D/7N
Place(s): Athens, Mykonos, Santorini
Package URL: http://www.coxandkings.com/duniyadekho/exotic/greek_sojourn_-_value-_winter_2016/tourId/32668-422/
About The Author
Mercy spent 39 years as a banker with the RBI, during which she also undertook women counselling and upliftment programmes. Now, as former treasurer and board member of YWCA India and current YWCA Delhi board member, she continues her social work, extending her efforts to include the elderly and children. When she’s not immersed in helping others, she loves listening to old Hindi film songs, gardening, cooking and travelling.