Greece By Land and Sea: Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Naxos, Paros and More

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Ooops! After almost missing our flight, due to very early boarding, we were on our way to Greece! We have been planning this trip for years, but got the best delayed gratification bonus with our daughter getting to come with us!


Our first stop was in Athens for several days. We stayed at Home & Poetry Hotel in Plaka. It was located in a 150 year old mansion with Hadrian’s Gate at one end of the street and Acropolis at the other. The neighborhood was very walkable and charming. Our hotel had a rooftop café with an acropolis view where a complementary breakfast buffet was served daily, along with a made to order menu. We took our complementary bottle of wine up to the rooftop to take in the sunset and the acropolis view when we arrived the first night. We weren’t the only ones wining and viewing that evening either. It was nice to chat with other tourists regarding their travels. 

Acropolis and Museum Tour

Early the first morning we got up for a tour of the Acropolis, including Parthenon, and the Acropolis Museum. We highly recommend this tour.  We learned so much from our very passionate and knowledgeable tour guide. We saw the Theatre of Dionysus remains on the way up, which is actually nicely preserved. Some of the marble seats had very legible engraving. 

Odeon of Herodes Atticus is an awesome restored theatre that you can look down into a little further up. This theatre is still in use for concerts/events. 

It’s heart stopping once you actually get up to the top of the acropolis amid the towering marble remains. There we explored the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Temple of Athena Nike, etc while learning details about the Acropolis. Such interesting history and fascinating structures. We were also able to meander up to the highest point of the Acropolis for an amazing view of Athens. This is an extremely large and sprawling city. We were on the side that’s viewed from our hotel, so instead of seeing the tiny little people up there, we were the tiny little people up there! We descended on a slightly different route in order to take it all in. Our tour continued at the Acropolis museum.

Acropolis Museum

The museum is incredible, even just walking up to the entrance. When they started excavating to build the new Acropolis Museum, they (not surprisingly) started finding more things to add to the museum! The museum is actually built on top of this excavation site, and as you look down you will be able to see old remains before you go inside. When you get inside, part of the first floor is glass, so you can see down below where it is still being used explored. The tour inside was thoroughly educational. It’s fascinating to see how much of ancient history has survived.

Plotka, Athens

While in Athens, Plotka particularly, we enjoyed shopping at the many tourist-centric shops, eating at the outdoor cafés and gelato shops. The Greek cuisine was hardy in Athens with Spanakopita-the spinach pies, Souvlaki-chicken/pork, peppers & potato stuffed gyros and Moussaka. Other than fresh seafood, we didn’t really do nutritious Mediterranean dining like I expected. It was delicious and we ate well though.

Melissonos-art The Poet Sandal Maker

We were able to visit Melissonos-art The Poet Sandal Maker late in the day and see him at work. Even though we did not have time for a custom pair of sandals made by him, we did buy some handmade, Greek sandals at one of the other shops.  And we were just happy we got to visit Melissonos-art and see him at work.

Changing of the Guards

I was excited to see the changing of the guards at the presidential palace. These guys are synchronized even when they can’t see each other. It was a cool experience. 

Olympic Theater

Bud wanted to make sure and see the Olympic theater while we were there. It’s expansive and adorned with the Olympic Rings and lots of flags.  

Celestyal Cruise

From Athens, we boarded a Celestyal Cruise ship to visit key islands. (I didn’t feel like this cruise ship lived up to the hype on its website, and customer service was severely lacking in some areas, so I can’t recommend them.) I’m a fan of the combination land and sea trip, so maybe with another cruise line instead! I did love the choice of islands that we were able to visit as part of our cruise tho. 


The first stop was Mykonos with wonderful windmills. You could walk right up to these, which were not very far from the port. We ate at a wonderful family restaurant with sea view. The food was amazing. It was called Rouvera, again walkable from port. We would go back here. Mykonos was also the first stop where we were able to explore a typical picturesque Greek Isle neighborhood. These villages are charming and unforgettable with their narrow stone paths trailing among the white stucco homes and shops. The stark exteriors are adorned with bright colored doors and window frames.  Adding to the fairy tale facades, are the most beautiful bougainvillea trees and vines.


Overnite, we sailed to Turkey, docking in the port at Kusadasi. I highly recommend taking an Ephesus guided tour here to make the most of your stop. Otherwise, there are shops at the port and a Starbucks-that doesn’t open early. Kusadasi Castle on Pigeon Island is about a 15 minute walk from cruise pier. Open daily other than Sundays, but you can walk around the grounds. 


Next island up was Patmos. We tendered here from the ship. It was a great island to explore even within walking distance of the port. There was a town center of restaurants and shops surrounded by a village of stone and stucco homes with natural wood trim and pretty painted doors. The bougainvillea and other flowers were beautiful. 

On the distant hilltop tho, the real draw to the island is the Holy Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, the chapel, convent and windmills. On the way up/down is the equally sought out Cave of the Apocalypse where John wrote the Book of Revelation. I would love to come back and spend more time here on Patmos. 


From Patmos, we cruised to Rhodes. This is a fascinating island with the Old Town Medieval City, the Palace of the Grand Master, the once Great Hospital that is now a museum, and the Street of the Knights. It also has beautiful beaches and so much more. 

We started with the Old Town which is actually a medieval city built by the Knights of St John in the fourteenth century. It’s a step way back in time, but still home to about 6k people. The Archaeological Museum and adjacent garden, Palace, shops, squares with fountains and Church of the Virgin of the Burgh were all highlights in the Old Town. 

There is also New Town, which developed beginning in the 1500s and continued growing into a modern city. The combination of old, new, historical, modern and waterfront make this part of Rhodes another great area to explore. Walking past Mandraki Harbor, you will see the two deer statues at the entrance close to St Nicholas Fortress with lighthouse and the nearby windmills. We continued on to a nearby beach to spend the afternoon. There were plenty of umbrella lounge chairs to rent and great service. It was a little tricky getting in and out of the water via the pebble beach. Sand would have been much more kind to my bare feet. (Mental note-wear water shoes next time.) We had a great time tho and were so glad that we had all packed Turkish towels for just such an occasion. 

On the walk back to our ship, we ducked back thru one of the 11 gates of the Old Town wall to grab some gelato and then we exited thru another one. We had a fabulous day exploring and playing  on this extraordinary island. 


The next morning we woke up to Crete. We were docked at Heraklion. From the cruise ship port, we could easily follow the well marked yellow <<<port/city center>>> line into the city. We took a stroll past the Megaron Hotel and palm trees towards the capital city. We noticed a cute little trolley train, so this might be a good tourist option. We weren’t in Crete long so we just did some shopping, checked out a local fish market, enjoyed the views and then headed back to the ship. 


Our next, and final stop before heading back to Athens, was Santorini. Again, we tendered to the island from the ship. We got on a bus for our booked excursion and wound our way up the mountain via the switchbacks. Santorini is on the rim of a caldera and it’s surreal to be up there looking down the cliff at the blue dome church roofs, as seen in so many photos. This is the iconic view of Greece that is captured so often. 

It’s a narrow and crowded path, thru the village on Sunset Boulevard, to get to the best viewing spot, but worth it! The sunset we experienced in Santorini was gorgeous!

After Santorini, we had one more night on the ship, and then docked in Athens early the next morning. 


We went to the airport in Athens to catch a plane to Naxos, where we had reservations for the rest of our trip. We stayed at the waterfront Liana Hotel & Spa, which was fabulous. We loved our room with a view, the private beach with food/drink service, the beachside breakfast buffet and the location. We walked to the nearby restaurants and shops in our little corner of Naxos.

One day we took the bus to the capital town of Chora that was about 30 minutes away. Here we visited the Temple of Apollo then explored the stone paths of houses, shops and restaurants. We followed the paths to the 13th century Kastro Castle. Here we had the most wonderful lunch on the rooftop. 


From Naxos Chora, we ferried over to the island of Paros. The Seajets ferry was very nice!! We explored the shops and houses here in Parikia (Paris Town or Chora) where we arrived. The village is much like the other ones in the islands with the whitewashed cubed structures accented with fun colors. We had gelato at a cute little shop while exploring. As it began to get dark, we ferried back to Naxos where we took a bus back to our little ocean front community on the island. It was a fun adventure.  


We had one more night on the island of Naxos and chose one of the busiest restaurants for dinner, Giannoulis, because that’s a good sign! This family owned restaurant definitely treated us like family too! They started with a shot of ouzo all around. This is a popular Greek drink that is very taste specific. I think you need a black licorice love to like it. After our absolutely delicious meal, and even tho we were stuffed, they sweetly brought us a plate of desserts! Pun intended. We highly recommend Giannoulis when on Naxos. 

The last day we spent at the beach and lunching at O Barbounis, which was another packed and amazing restaurant. Loved the map of Naxos table covering as well as the delicious food!

Naxos Airport

Time to head back to the small airport in Naxos. There were two flights leaving about the same time so it was bursting at the seems. People were waiting inside and out for a plane shuttle of the Greek Isles. Such a pretty view flying over the different islands of the Mediterranean. 

We arrived back at Athens International Airport where we started. The trip went so fast with packing so much in. We are all looking forward to going to Greece again one day!!

Next up is a girls trip to Maine for Fall leaf peeping!

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