Whenever you have the opportunity to reasonably help someone check off a dream from their “Bucket List”—shouldn’t you go for it? It was in that spirit that John and I decided to organize a 2-week tour of Greece for a group of 29 Texans! In the summer of 2011 we had found ourselves traveling to Santorini with our good friends the Pappas and a group of teenagers. At the time, John asked Gus what was next on his list of things to do in Greece. Gus answered that he’d always wanted to sail the Greek islands. Just like that, the idea for our 2013 “Trip of a Lifetime” was born!
John and I have both sailed a handful of times in Greece and loved every scenic minute. As an American I know what I enjoy when I visit, as well as what sights are a must for a first time Greek tourist. We set about creating a trip that would allow everyone to get a good overview of this beautiful country. The adventure began with several days in Athens to fully bask in Greek culture, before leaving to board yachts to sail the Ionian Islands for a week. After a week on the water, everyone enjoyed a three-day tour of our beloved island Lefkada. The last leg of the adventure was a land tour to visit the ancient city of Nafplion, on the way back to Athens and flights home.
Whenever we’re in Athens, John and I enjoy staying in the center of town so we can walk to all the main attractions. A glance at any Greek travel brochure will confirm the “must see” stops. There’s the Parthenon sitting high on the Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum and the ancient Agora. We always try to catch a show in the ancient theatre Herodes Attikos (check here for scheduled times). Just next to Plaka, is Monastiraki and Thision a must see. Visit Kolonaki for high-end shopping with some of the best stores in Europe. Last but not least, Lycabettus is a wonderful stop for its incredible views of the city, especially at night. An evening dinner on the top floor of most 5-star hotels will afford you a wonderful view of the lights of Athens. Our group enjoyed dinner at GH Attikos. We would also suggest dinner in the roof top restaurants of either the Royal Olympic hotel or the King George hotel. Any of these are great lodging choices for a memorable stay in Athens.
Athens is a very large, noisy, crowed city–like New York! I particularly enjoy the excitement and richness of large cities that blend ancient roots with modern times. There’s something magical about strolling around the base of the Acropolis on cobbled stone streets that people have walked for thousands of years. Take time to wander around, shop, eat, relax and visit with friends on the same streets in the same neighborhoods knowing that others have done the same since before Christ!
One of my favorite Athens destinations for stopping and shopping is the Lalaounis jewelry store. You can find a few select locations in Athens, Santorini, Paris and New York, as Lalaounis is one of the most famous jewelers in Greece. They have a museum and a shop located in the Agora area just below the Acropolis.
Wherever you go, take time to breathe in the history and create your own memories. I enjoyed hearing that one family in our group took time to visit the original Olympic Stadium, then ran the track and topped off their experience by sitting on the King’s and Queen’s thrones. What fun!
Athens is a great city to explore. With its many key sites, and all the historic and art museums to visit, consider mapping out your time to make the most of your vacation. If city touring becomes too much, balance your itinerary with a quick day trip to a close Island of Aegina or a day trip to Delphi—a wonderful, easy getaway to add variety. Our group thoroughly enjoyed their introduction to Greece during these first days in Athens. Then it was time to climb aboard a chartered Auto Bus for a scenic road trip to Lefkada. Next: Our week of sailing.