A Road Trip Through Greece: Athens, Nafplio, Olympia, Delphi, Meteora, Santorini
Every few years my sister and I take a Sister Trip (usually something adventurous since she is not about that beach life). This blog will detail our trip to Greece.
We named it the
“olive ya” Road Trip.
(sound it out slowly, it’s lame I know but we all do lame shit with our families lol)
We actually made this a road trip around the country- yes, as in; we rented a car and drove from one city to the next. This was surprisingly fun for both of us. Greece is a beautiful country with exquisite food and culture. There is so much to learn and take in, and each city we visited allowed us to catch a new perspective of history. We went during off season- around the end of March, so we saved a lot of money on airfare and hotels and also the attractions weren’t nearly as crowded as compared to if we went in June or July for example. *All hotels, restaurants, and vendors have links if you click them.
My first travel tip: GO DURING OFF SEASON! SAVE MONEY, NO LINES!
First stop- Athens
We stayed at the Divani Caravel. Arrival to the hotel was quick from the airport, I took a cab. The location was central and we were able to walk to all of our destinations fairly easily. Staff at the hotel were friendly and accommodating, and check in and check out was seamless. We did not eat any dinners at the hotel because we wanted to enjoy more local cuisine in the neighborhoods. On our day of departure we did take advantage of the continental breakfast, which was fairly average for a hotel- mostly cold items and nothing local. Felt like I was back in the US at the Holiday Inn.
The Room: we had a two-bedded room which was very small. The decor was somewhat outdated, and the beds were rather firm for my liking but I’m sure some people would prefer a firmer mattress. (Personally I sleep on memory foam at home). The larger beds sometimes are 2 twin beds put together and we found this an issue all over Greece. There was a safe in the room and a very small closet. Thankfully we packed light. It was a very tight fit for 2 people. The pool was free but it cost additional money to use the gym, which was odd.
Overall, this is a nice hotel but nothing that I’ve been raving about or left feeling like I had some extraordinary experience. Good price, Good service, average hotel, if I return I’d stay somewhere else.
Our first night in Athens we had dinner at Dionysos restaurant. This restaurant is famous for a really beautiful view of the Acropolis. The Octopus was delicious and the olives and risotto were top notch. The terrace tables at sunset are really where the memories are made. The views from the inside are lovely also, but if you have a choice, sit outside and really take it in. Overall, the meal was costly, which, is probably due to the location and view- both very nice especially if you’re used to looking at high rise NYC skylines such as myself lol. The food was delicious and the service was friendly. It’s a great place for sunset dinner but not the sorta place you need to return to daily.
We visited the Acropolis and the museums in Athens and walked around the city just taking in the people and the local coffee and snacks.
The next day we rented a car from Hertz. My sister got an international drivers license, which basically consisted of her filling out some paperwork ahead of time and paying a fee. You can get more information about International Driving Permits HERE.
So the road trip begins!
Our next stop was the city of Corinth, which happens to be on the way to Nafplio, which was our next destination. For Christians, Corinth is well-known from the two letters of Saint Paul in the New Testament, First Corinthians and Second Corinthians. Corinth is also mentioned in the Book of Acts as part of the Apostle Paul’s missionary travels. Ancient Corinth was one of the largest and most important cities of Greece. The Romans demolished Ancient Corinth in 146 BC, built a new city in its place in 44 BC, and later made it the provincial capital of Greece.
From Corinth we drove to Nafplio, which is approximately 2 hours from Athens. Nafplio is a beautiful little seaport town in the Peloponnese region. It is full of small quaint restaurants, mom and pop shops, and adorable streets with the charm of the old days. We stayed at the Amalia Hotel. The hotel was nice, and very traditional. Our room had a balcony that overlooked what I’m sure was an olive tree farm. I would have preferred a hotel closer in town since we had to drive in each day and park and then wander around.
We didn’t have much on our agenda other than relaxing and eating and perusing around town. In the morning I started my day with a Frappe, which is a very strong Greek iced coffee, and sit contently and people watch. I got a beautiful tan leather bag from a local vendor- a family owned shop that had been in business for over 100 years.
We departed the next morning and started out on our trip to the next destination-
As for Olympia, I will say this; we should have made it a day trip. Yikes. We checked into the Olympic Village Resort and Spa. I don’t want to even give a link for the “resort” because I personally wouldn’t refer even my worst enemy to stay there. It was just uncomfortable and I’ll leave it at that.
That being said- the Olympic Stadium (yes as in the original one) was absolutely fascinating!!!! My sister and I ran through the stadium and walked through the ruins. It was shockingly small for what we initially expected, but then again, we can’t compare the Olympic stadiums of today to that of the original. We saw the Olympic Village ruins, which are in shockingly good shape considering they’ve been around since 8th century B.C. The extensive ruins include athletic training areas, a stadium and temples dedicated to the gods Hera and Zeus. The Archaeological Museum of Olympia exhibits findings from the site. The Olympic flame of the modern-day Olympic Games is lit by reflection of sunlight in a parabolic mirror in front of the Temple of Hera and then transported by a torch to the place where the games are held. To be at the original Olympic Village in and of itself was just so exhilarating.
There are many tour buses that go to Olympia, and there is also a train station there as well. Or, you can rent a car like we did and drive, parking was easy.
Next, we took a slight detour to try to find the one and only Temple of Apollo Epikourios.
After driving what was possibly some of the most frightful, narrow, winding, mountain roads (no signs, no speed limits, herds of lamb, goats, etc) we – much thanks to my Verizon service (to this day I don’t know how I had service up there) and google maps, found it!!!!!
The columned temple of Apollo Epikourios is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rises majestically in the mountains of Arkadia. It is one of the best-preserved monuments of classical antiquity and a testament to classical Greek architecture. The temple was built at the height of the Greek civilization in the second half of the 5th century BC (420-400 BC). It was dedicated to Apollo Epikourios by the Phigaleians, who believed the god of sun and healing had protected them from plague and invasion. The temple appeared to have been forgotten for almost 1700 years until it was rediscovered in the 18th century and attracted intense interest from scholars and artists. The isolation of the site ensured many significant features survived largely intact.
Also- in full disclaimer, by the time we got there, the site was closed and I may or may not have hopped the fence to run in and see this truly remarkable site. Oh- I also threw up on the side of the road on the way back, (I don’t do well with mountain loops and circles and my sister was driving like a maniac probably just to get on my nerves lol).
Worth the trip!!!
Up next was Delphi.
Delphi is a town on Mount Parnassus in the south of mainland Greece. It used to be regarded as the center of the world in ancient times. It’s the site of the 4th-century-B.C. Temple of Apollo, once home to a legendary oracle. This extensive archaeological area literally sits along the side of Mount Parnassus and contains the remains of the sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena Pronaia, as well as an ancient stadium and theater. This site is so well preserved that when I sat in the theatre I could actually picture what a show would have felt like in 400 B.C.
We stayed at the Amalia Hotel Delphi. We had a balcony that overlooked the mountains, and in the morning the sky was clouded with mist and the air was cool and honestly it was just amazing. It was something out of a NatGeo documentary. We really liked the hotel, its location was perfect walking distance to the main road and also easy driving distance to the archeological site.
Our next stop, Holy Meteora.
This by far was the most unique city on the whole trip. The city of Holy Meteora is an area consisting of several rock formations in central Greece hosting one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries. More than 20 monasteries were built in the beginning of the 14th century, 6 remain today, and they initially accessible only via ladders that could be withdrawn by the monks when in threat of trespassers, and today are accessible only through very narrow cliff passages, stairways, and hoisted pulley system devices. Out of the 6 active monasteries, we visited 3 of them.
It was spectacular; the tradition, the frescos, the ancient history, the relics, the religious reverence, the simple wonderment of the architecture. (how on God’s earth they built these in the 1300’s is absolutely a mystery of mankind).
It is one of my top 5 travel places ever.
We stayed at the Divani Meteora Hotel. The accommodations were nice and we could take a short 1-mile drive into town and walk around. There are lots of little restaurants and shops, but the highlight of the whole 24 hours we spent there was the monasteries. The monastery of Hosios Loukas is situated on Mount Helicon. It was founded in the early 10th century AD by the Venerable (Greek: Hosios) St. Luke (Greek: Lukas), whose relics are kept in the monastery to this day. Pictured here. So amazingly well preserved!!!!!!
And our last stop on the Duke’s “Olive Ya” road trip tour was the beautiful Santorini.
We drove from Meteora to Athens and took a flight from Athens to Santorini ($75, you can also take a ferry but it’s a lot more time consuming).
We stayed at the Adamant Suites. All the photos you see of Santorini online, yes, that’s what it really looks like. It is like something out of a fairy tale. The island cliff sides are covered with dome roofs of gleaming white buildings. There are walkways from one view to the next. The sea is such a deep blue, so vibrant, you really need no filter. From what I was told, the Aegean Sea in that area cannot contain Algae, therefore, without the presence of Algae, there is no plant life to turn the water the greenish hue of most seas. That’s why the blue is so vibrant. We would have breakfast on the terrace that overlooked the water. There was a Jacuzzi on the balcony, which made the crispy evening much more bearable. There was no beach, but, there was plenty of local shops and restaurants to wander around and keep us busy. We went during off season which saved us a lot of money, but the one downfall was that there were many places on the island that were closed. We got our airport transfers and rented 4 wheelers from Santorini Cab Company, and the owner and his wife were so friendly and helpful!
My favorite meal on the island was from Pelican Kipos. The coffee was just out of this world, and the “Greek salsa” (I don’t know what it was called but we ate it with grilled pita and it was life changing). The restaurant has a wine cellar in a 400+ year old cave in the basement. Looking back, don’t get me wrong, I love my sister, but Santorini is for lovers lol. There is only “so much” you can do on the island, if you know what I mean.
In summation: I loved Greece. Bring extra suitcases to stock up on olive oil and olives and seasonings and honey. The monks make the honey and olive oil and its nice to buy from them as they have limited means of income.
Things to Remember to Bring:
– International drivers license
– Outlet adapters
– Extra passport copies