(Καλημέρα) Kalimera. This is my attempt at a 10-day vacation in Greece. With so many islands to choose from, and the mainland being so vast, how do you even begin to plan this out? After several nights of researching stuff, I came up with a hybrid approach of the touristy and the not-so-touristy.
There are the destinations that always come to mind when someone thinks of Greece such as the Acropolis and the islands of Mykonos and Santorini. I figure those had to be on the itinerary. During my research, I came across other places that were equally or even more interesting to me. My 10-day summer tour only scratches the surface of Greece but I think that I managed to cover most of the main spots in my opinion. You be the judge.
Day 0: A glimpse of the Ionian islands
The international airport is in Athens. You can start your vacation here but I wanted to begin somewhere else. From Athens, you can fly to most major islands in an hour or less using airlines like Sky Express. The Ionian islands are located west of mainland Greece. The island of Zakynthos (Ζάκυνθος) is the southernmost island in the Ionian cluster and is where we would spend the next 3 nights.
As I write this post while returning home, I consider Zakynthos to be my favorite Greek island so far. It’s only an hour flight from Athens. On the island, there are several towns to stay at. I decided to stay in a hotel in Tsilivi; a touristy town full of hotels and restaurants by the shore. Tsilivi is about 15 minutes from the largest and main town of Zakynthos called Zante town. We arrived at the hotel around 7pm with enough time to change and eat a nice greek dinner before sleeping. Then food on this island is really good and so are the prices.
Day 1: Zakynthos
This day starts at 8:30 AM with a tour. Starting from the bus stops closest to your hotel, you are driven as a group to the pier and to you set sail on a large boat. You get great views.
You sail out to sea searching for sea turtles. We spotted some.
Then you sail beside sea caves. Zakynthos has plenty of them.
Then of course, why not jump out of the boat and go for a swim.
Finally, the boat sails to Marathonisi island (a.k.a. turtle island) for some beach time.
Overall, this half day tour is well worth the 20-25 Euros. After washing out the sand and changing clothes, we headed to Zante town and the Dionysios Solomos square. Turns out that the locals have a siesta time here to; most shops were closed during the middle of the day.
The taxi driver recommended a restaurant called Stathmos which turned out to be great for traditional Greek food. After a few meals here, you’ll soon notice that stray cats are everywhere and will watch you eat hoping for some seafood scraps. It’s tough not to give in. After lunch, we headed back to the hotel to cool off at the pool.
The hardest part of the day is deciding where to eat dinner. We ended up eating at the M-eating restaurant; really good.
Day 2: Shipwrecked at Zakynthos
The highlight of any trip to Zakynthos is Navagio shipwreck beach. I booked a tour that sails around the island and combines other activities as well. This island is larger than I thought. The first swim stop was at Oasis beach.
Then is was over an hour of scenic sailing to get to the other side of the island.
In the distance, you can then finally see what you’ve been waiting to see; the shipwreck beach.
It’s incredible how this shipwreck managed to remain here for the past few decades. You can even go inside and climb on top.
During the summer, it gets packed with visitors as you can see. Doesn’t matter, just take photos and enjoy.
Although I didn’t have time, it is worth mentioning that you can hike up for 30 minutes or so to a viewpoint where you can look down upon the shipwreck beach.
After saying goodbye to the shipwreck, the boat proceeded to sail around the island until we approached the Keri and Agalas caves. And its time for one last swim.
After the tour was over, we ate dinner at a restaurant called Ideal, really good one. This was our last night here and it wasn’t easy saying goodbye. I hope this isn’t my last time in the Ionian sea. There are 6 other islands (Corfu, Paxos, Lefkas, Ithaca, Kefalonia, Kythira) to check out.