Gyro Land, I Mean Greece

The beginning steps of planning this trip involved writing down each of our top three countries we wanted to visit and Greece landed on every one of those lists, so as you can imagine we were pretty excited for this part of our journey. We love Greek history, we love Greek architecture, and of course we LOVE Greek food.

We touched down in Athens first. Accommodation wise, we chose to stay at the AthenStyle hostel in the heart of Monastiraki. The hostel itself wasn’t all that great, but we were only crashing there for a night so we were able to manage. The rooftop bar though, was incredible. The view is absolutely worth the book at this hostel. Drinks at the rooftop bar were very reasonable, I got the drink special which was a fruit wine, it was 4 euro and absolutely delicious. If you want to see the sunset, make sure to plant your butt in a chair around 5 p.m. or may the odds be ever in your favor.

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Our main reason for coming to Athens was to see the Parthenon and the Acropolis. Lucky for us, Athens offers an all inclusive ticket for people to see the Parthenon, the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Roman Agora, Kerameikos, and Olympieion for 30 euro, or if you bring your student ID unlike I did, you get the same pass for 15 euro. I usually don’t get excited over this type of historic touring, but Athens changed me. I loved getting to see the Acropolis and Parthenon up close and personal. The views from the top were stunning and so worth the 30 euro I originally thought I would regret spending.

The excitement in Athens only heightened from there with the food. I will be dreaming about the gyros in Athens for the rest of my life. We were lucky enough to stay adjacent from the BEST gyro place in all of Athens, Savvas. I honestly cannot put into words how great their pork gyro was, but I will say it was good enough to ruin the rest of our gyros in Santorini and Mykonos. I’m not gonna lie to you guys, the rest of our trip really consisted of a whole lot of eating and really not much else, so I’m just going to go ahead and list some of our favorites…

-Hymopeeo: This is a juice bar off one of the side streets of Monastiraki. They have all kinds of fruit and vegetable juices for 2.50 euro each. You can also order greek yogurt and fruit with honey for 2.50 euro. The son and mother that work here are so adorable and love to chat with tourists, I definitely recommend staying while you eat just for a few minutes to talk to them.

-Altomoda: Go here for gelato. It’s not Italy, but if us Italian study abroad students recommend any gelato places, you know it’s good. They have about 10 different flavors for 2 euro each. (I was so excited to eat my red velvet gelato, I didn’t have time to snap a picture)

Off White: This isn’t a place we ate, but they have take away mojitos which deserves a spot on my list. The mojitos are 5 euro and amongst the best I’ve ever had. What American doesn’t enjoy the liberties of public drinking they can’t do in their hometown?

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Quik Pitta:  They serve the traditional gyro platters for around 3 euro and their greek salad for 5 euro is to die for.

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*If you sit outside at this restaurant or really anywhere in the city center, be wary of your belongings. I had the proudest momma moment for myself the day we ate here when two Grecian children tried to steal my iPhone while distracting me with a map and I was able to catch them red handed. I made arguably the biggest restaurant scene in all history of restaurant scenes but it was worth it to have my iPhone sitting in my palm right now.*

-Savvas: They deserve a second mention solely for their falafel platter. We ordered it for all four of us and it was more than enough for dinner. The platter was around 12 euro and it had falafel, hummus, pita chips, a tomato and cilantro mixture, potatoes and pickles.

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After a second run in with almost losing my phone in the Athens airport, we finally made our way to Santorini. We stayed at the Fira Backpackers Place, which was another iffy hostel that I’m not sure I would stay at again. Next time on the islands I will most likely try for an Airbnb instead of a hostel, there were multiple issues during our stay and the staff was very unpleasant. However, we were able to meet some pretty awesome people in our hostel, one specifically from Cyprus who ended up coming out to the bars with us the one night.

Our first day in Santorini was perfect for a beach day, it was 82 degrees and sunny. We rode the bus to Perissa and then took a boat taxi for 5 euro between red, white and black sand beach. From the central bus station in Santorini to the boat taxi, transportation is made elementary. Believe me, it’s impossible to miss the boat taxi, the second you step off the bus you’ll hear a man screaming at the top of his lungs, “RED BEACH, WHITE BEACH, BLACK BEACH.”

If you have the choice I definitely recommend going to black sand beach, it’s the last stop on the water taxi and the prettiest by far. You can rent an umbrella and two chairs for 10 euro, it comes with a lock box to hide all your valuables which is super helpful. There is a restaurant on the beach as well where you can order all kinds of typical Greek foods/drinks, they are rather pricey however so we opted out.

Side note: “Black sand” beach, doesn’t actually mean sand in most European areas. Sand almost always means rocks, which I have come to prefer over the years. Rocks don’t stay as easily on your body and don’t get lodged into various body parts I don’t want to mention.

On our way back to the bus, we stopped at one of the restaurants on the water called The Cave of Stolidas. I ordered the dorado fish special for 10 euro that included, the fish, tomatoes, potatoes, a stuffed vine leaf and a glass of wine of your choice. I’ll be honest, I am always a little nervous to order fish while I’m abroad solely because they are SO fresh that you can see every detail of the fish. I was able to stomach the thought of eating this little guy and let me tell you he was fantastic. It was a light and buttery fish that was the perfect amount of seafood for me.

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We heard the bar scene in Santorini was pretty fantastic so of course we HAD to check it out. We first went to Murphy’s which is a more chill bar where you can get basically any two drinks for the price of one. Usually whatever drink they have on special is the best choice, the night we were there it was the vodka cooler which is a spin off of a vodka tonic mixed with lemonade.

Highlander’s was the second bar we went to and they had the same deal going with similar drinks. Highlander’s was definitely our favorite, it’s a techno/dance music themed bar which is right up our alley. We sang our little hearts out and danced all night to try and work off that gyro weight.

Day two in Santorini was my favorite day of our trip thus far because I got to drive an ATV for 10 hours. We rented two 300 cc ATV’s from Moto Thira for 30 euro, you can fit two people on one bike so we only paid 15 euro a person which is super cheap for 24 hours. We first went to Kamari where we were able to snag four chairs and two umbrellas for free. The beach was very secluded and the people of the town were among the nicest we’ve met thus far. There is some sort of a boardwalk area in Kamari with restaurants, shops and pool bars, pretty much everything to satisfy you. If I ever go back to Santorini, I plan on staying in this part of the island because it is much more secluded and cheaper than the rest of the island.

Our next ATV stop was the ever so famous, Oia sunset, which just so happens to be my most favorite part of Santorini. If you want to see the sunset you definitely have to get there early, we got there around 4 p.m. and it was already packed, luckily we were able to find good seats still and planted our butts there for three hours. We somehow stumbled upon Red Bull’s “Art of Motion,” competition while we were in Oia which basically is one big parkour contest. Watching competitors from all over the world jump off buildings for three hours definitely helped pass the time waiting for the sunset. I could’ve done without the 15,000 people climbing over Bianca and I trying to take pictures, but the sunset in Oia is an absolute must see if you travel to Santorini.

We ended our day with some more of my favorite falafel from Falafeland and the typical Greek donuts at Lukumum. The falafel pitas are around 4.50 euro and they can be filled with hummus, tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, eggplant and other vegetables. The donuts from Lukumum are incredible, they cost around 7.50 euro but can definitely be split between 2 or 3 people. The donuts can be filled with nutella and topped with fruit, nutella, honey, strawberry praline, whipped cream, anything your pretty little heart desires. We ordered the nutella filled donuts topped with strawberry praline and whipped cream, my mouth is watering just thinking about them.

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Our last stop on our Greece tour was to Mykonos. Mykonos was a really nice change of pace from the rest of Greece, it’s way more relaxed and chill which my anxious personality definitely appreciates. The white houses, blue stairwells and colorful flowers hanging everywhere are so picturesque, I have the photos to last me a lifetime.

We lucked out in Mykonos where we struck a deal with our hostel owner to actually rent out a studio apartment instead of our mixed dorm for the same price. The apartment was such a relief after our mediocre hostel experience in Santorini. If you’re ever in Mykonos I definitely recommend booking through Studio Eleni, the owners are so sweet and accommodating. Maria owns a bunch of places in Mykonos and the chances of her switching you to an apartment over a hostel is high if you go with a group.

 

We didn’t have a whole lot of time in Mykonos but we made a point to get one last beach day in before the season ended. We chose to go to Paradise Beach after reading many reviews calling it the “Vegas” of Mykonos. The clubs on the beach do close down for the season after September however, so we were unable to experience this so called “Mykonos Vegas,” nonetheless, I was able to experience the back of my eyelids for a good five hours.

We rented four chairs and two umbrellas for 30 euro and ordered food/drinks while we were on the beach. The food was less expensive than I expected, I got a Greek salad for around 6 euro and a water for 1.50 euro. I tried the yogurt place as well which 0/10 definitely would not recommend to a friend. The yogurt for some reason tasted stale and the “fruit” toppings were questionable at best. All yogurt issues aside, our time spent at Paradise Beach was one of the most relaxing days I’ve had in awhile and I was able to build on my tan so I was very happy.

We ate at a significant amount of places in Mykonos as well, amongst my favorite were…

Pepper: Order the tirokafteri (spicy feta cheese dip with pita chips) it’s only 6 euro and to die for. The drinks are cheap and the service is fantastic!

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-Souvlaki Story: They sell typical gyros and platters, the platters are a little pricey (28 euro) but huge so you can definitely share. They have a special “souvlaki story,” sauce which is a sweeter take on tzatziki, I wasn’t a huge fan of it, but everyone else really enjoyed it.

-Jimmy’s Gyros: One of the best places in Mykonos for gyros (wasn’t as good as Savvas, but we’ll take it). They sell pork and chicken gyros for around 5 euro, which is a little more expensive than most places but for their ratings it’s worth the try.

Along with the great food recommendations for Greece, here are some overall tips to improve your stay in this beautiful country…

Tips for Greece:

-Travel in the off season, end of September/early October, the prices drop drastically for virtually everything.

-If you do travel in the off season don’t expect to go out to the clubs in Mykonos, Paradise Beach because they will all be closed.

-Be wary of the children who approach you with maps and other objects to distract you, they seem innocent but they will rob you blind before you know it.

-You don’t always have to stay in the main places of Santorini and Mykonos, Oia and Kamari are beautiful areas to look for Airbnbs, as well as, Paraga and Paradise Beach.

-The streets are very dusty in Greece so expect two things, to have your allergies run wild and your shoes to be very, very dirty.

-Fly Aegean Air, it is one of the best airlines I have ever flown with and their prices are unbeatable. They give you candy and meals for short flights and as an added bonus, the seats aren’t suffocating like other budget airlines.

It may seem like all we did on our Greece trip is eat, and you may be right, I may have gained a few (15) pounds but my skin is five shades darker and my camera roll is full of the iconic Santorini sunset so who’s the real winner here? My next blog post is going to be my favorite to write as I am on my way back to my Italian home, Florence. I cannot wait to drink all the macchiatos, eat all the gelato and carbo load until I explode.
Ciao for now!

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