Hiking the Greek Islands – A 9-night/10-day Greece Itinerary!! Im excited to FINALLY fill you in on this trip of a lifetime that I took in September.
Day 1-3 Athens
Greece has been my #1 dream destination since Jaime and I conquered Italy 6 years ago, so when my mother-in-law suggested a trip, I said “Ne Parakolo,” or, “yes please” and the trip planning was set in motion. My mother-in-law has been traveling with REI adventures for years and I’ve always been intrigued by her trips but also a little terrified by the whole “adventures” component. I’m about a 5 on the 1-10 adventure travel scale. Alas, an REI hiking trip was my best shot at getting to Greece so we signed up and I started researching camel packs and putting off training immediately. I’ll get into that later, I’m sure you are eager to hear about Hiking the Greek Islands and my A 9-night/10-day Greece Itinerary.
We arrived in Athens in the morning after about 15 hours of travel. I had planned to sleep on the flights but there were too many good movies to catch up on. I finally saw Lady Bird, so good. My goal was to stay awake all day to try to fight the jet-lag. It was rough but thanks to some fantastic greek coffee and the awesome sights, we made it happen! A cab from the airport to anywhere in the city center is $38 Euros and is about a 35 minute ride. Our rooms at the Royal Olympic Hotel weren’t ready yet so we dropped our luggage off, grabbed some coffee at Flat White Artisan Cafe, and began our adventure.
Our first stop was Temple of Olympian Zeus. While impressive, we decided that the 6€ admission wasn’t worth it and we could have viewed it from the street. If you have the 30€ entrance pass to many of the Athens sites, which is a good deal if you are going to the Acropolis (and you should, obviously,) it’s worth a visit.
From here we strolled to the Ancient Agora of Athens, stopping for street Gyros for lunch and admiring the wares of the street vendors along the way. Rick Steves has a great audio tour for the Ancient Agora on his app. While we were in the neighborhood, and since they were included on our pass, we also took in the nearby Roman Agora and Tower of the Winds.
In our ongoing efforts to not fall asleep, we did a little shopping at the nearby Monastiraki Flea Market, a seemingly endless maze of streets filled with shops selling typical souvenirs and some hidden treasures. These are the best prices that we found on all of our travels to the islands so if you have your eye on something to bring home, this is the time to get it, or even better on your way out of town, so you don’t have to lug it around on the rest of your travels.
Is it time for bed yet? We realized that we could take metro back to our hotel. The metro was a simple, inexpensive and clean. We toasted our first day in Greece with a glass of Prosecco by the beautiful hotel pool, unpacked and got ready for dinner. Our initial restaurant destination was closed so we happened upon God’s Restaurant, where we were ushered in by the son of the owner, who was too charming to refuse, plus the food on everyones plates looked fantastic. There are hosts out on the street inviting you into every restaurant but they are not aggressive. We sat down to salad, Risotto with Chicken and Bacon, and Fisherman’s Pasta, which I highly recommend. It was my first of many delicious seafood dishes. Success! We made it until bed time in Greece.
Since our Athens hotel was selected by the tour group, I hadn’t done any research beforehand. Imagine my surprise when I walked out of the elevator to find a 180 degree view of ancient Greece from the Acropolis to the Temple of Zeus.
After breakfast we went to experience the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The ceremony takes place every hour on the hour, but there is a bigger ceremony with full dress uniforms on Sundays at 11am. It’s worth the visit.
From there we looked for the best route to make a stop at the the Olympic Stadium for the first modern olympics, it happened to take us through the National Garden. A large, lush public park filled with statues, playgrounds, and fountains, it is a destination in itself and an interesting place to get a glimpse at lifestyle of the modern Athenian. The Olympic Stadium however is not really worth a special trip or the separate admission fee.
Over a lunch of Spicy Feta Dip, Greek Eggplant Dip (Melitzanosalata,) Tzatziki, and Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmas) we plotted our return to the shops, where we picked up a few souvenirs for the kids.
It was finally time to join the tour group at the hotel and meet our guides and meet our fellow travelers. After a few introductions we took off on foot up through The Plaka and the charming neighborhood of Anafiotika to Areopagus (or, Mars Rock) to watch our first of many spectacular greek sunsets.
I would come to learn that REI adventures, and our tour guides Nefeli and Alexandros specifically, had the art of catching a sunset down to a science. After that magical moment with our new friends, we arrived at our restaurant to a table set for 18 and feasted on a family style dinner including Moussaka, Orzo with Truffle Oil, and an amazing sweet waffle desert topped with scoops of ice-cream and hazelnut sauce. Amazing!
Another beautiful day for our tour of the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum. Our local Athenian guide, Marisa, treated us to history lesson filled with passion and humor. I highly recommend a guided tour as you explore the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike. I got so much more out of my visit, with piece of Greek History and Mythology sprinkled along the way. To get the most out of your Acropolis visit, wear sun protection, comfortable hiking shoes and carry water. September in Greece is warm and sunny, not hot, but a long day with the crowds at the Acropolis can be tiring, especially if you are carrying some jet-lag.
Straight across from the entrance of the Acropolis is the new Acropolis Museum. It’s a beautiful museum housing the original artifacts from the Acropolis, it’s also a nice break from the heat with a beautiful café for a lunch stop. As the museum is built over an extensive archaeological site, the floor, outside and inside, is often transparent using glass and thus the visitor can see the excavations below. It’s designed in an amazing way that truly makes you think about the ancient artifacts and entire neighborhoods buried under the modern streets of Athens.
After a quick stop in the lovely gift shop filled with beautiful designed and unique items, we walked back to our nearby hotel and traveled by tour bus to the Ferry. Our guides had our tickets waiting for us so we were able to explore the port and grab our first of many Freddo Cappuccino. Nóstimo! Delicious!
It was time to scurry with our luggage onto the ferry. They push you right along but they are just trying to stay on a busy schedule. The ferry to the islands is quite luxurious with large, comfortable reserved seats, a well-stocked restaurant bar, and large outdoor decks to enjoy the sunset with a Greek beer or wine.
Stay tuned as we dock at our first of the Greek Islands for eating and hiking and exploring for a planned day… and an unexpected bonus day!