I’ve decided that Athens is underrated. Every time I did research, I would come across posts saying that it wasn’t worth visiting. My guess is that people expect it to be like Rome, where the historical sites like the Acropolis sprawl across the entire city, or like most European cities with their quaint old towns that look like they belong inside a snow globe. It definitely isn’t that. There are historical sites scattered around, but most of them are limited to that hill where the Acropolis sits, and the rest of it looks like a city. Which isn’t a bad thing! I had a lovely time in Athens.
Our first day was more of an afternoon, because we’d flown in from Santorini in the morning. We had two nights in Athens, and each time we’d pick a neighborhood nearby and wander around a bit and find somewhere to eat. Something that strikes me every time I’m outside of the US is the number of green spaces and parks in cities in other countries – this was something that I loved about Panama City as well. It’s so nice to walk around at night and have kids playing soccer and families walking around and enjoying the place where they live. Another highlight of our time here was trying ouzo! It’s always fun trying a local drink in a new place.
The next day, we started at the Acropolis! This is one of those “must see” sites in Europe according to all the lists. I quite enjoyed it – there were loads of tourists, sure, but it’s an extensive site and there are really nice views of the city from the top. After we were done at the historical site, we headed over to the Acropolis Museum. Something that I loved here – they did a really clever job of representing the pieces that had been taken from Greece and could be found at other museums. The blank space where those sculptures should have been was clear. Another aspect that was super cool was the basement, which had a section that had some of the original city walls and showed more of what life would have been like in early Athens.
After we’d hit the highlights of Athens, our next day we began our road trip! After picking up the car, we headed along the Peloponnese peninsula. The drive along the Gulf of Corinth was stunning. We stopped at the Epidaurus Theater, which is considered to be the most perfect ancient Greek theater. I had initially thought it would just be the theater, but the site was much more extensive! Most of the archeological sites we went to were huge. It’s a great reminder at how extensive the Greek civilization used to be. We had lunch in Nafplio and then headed to Mycenae, another very interesting archeological site that’s on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Not only was the site itself cool, but there were beautiful views from the top of the hill.
After an overnight in Patras, with an Airbnb that we had a really hard time unlocking, we headed back over to the mainland! It was a two hour drive to Delphi. We parked overlooking a gorgeous valley, and there were a few cafés where we could get lunch overlooking the scenery. Delphi itself is one of the more impressive sites that I saw in Greece. It’s absolutely massive, with tons of areas to explore and some impressive preservation work on the buildings.
Once we were done exploring Delphi, we headed up north! I’ve wanted to visit the monasteries at Meteora for ages, because I’ve seen pictures and I’ve always thought they looked stunning. The drive up is mountainous, with some high elevation climbs and beautiful views. Once we got up there, we stayed two nights in Kalampaka, with an Airbnb that overlooked the rock columns. The town was small and cute, and we had a nice time wandering around to find a good dinner spot.
We went to five monasteries, which involves about a million stairs. According to my Health app, it was 77 flights, all told. Also of note, I bought a full length skirt for this trip because the monasteries actually do not allow women to wear pants. You can borrow a skirt there if you want, you don’t actually have to bring your own, but I like to be prepared. The monasteries were beautiful, but the views from the top were the real selling point. It reminded me a bit of Viñales in Cuba, although this was a more arid version instead of the tropical landscape there.
On our last full day, we headed back down to Athens! We stopped at a winery near Mount Olympus, who had fully forgotten we were supposed to arrive even though I’d emailed them multiple times to set up our tasting. Even though they were surprised to see us, we still got to hear about their process and taste a few wines! I feel like I don’t see as wide of a selection from Greece – I can’t tell if they just don’t stock it in Utah (entirely possible) or if it’s a broader trend across the American West? Regardless, I enjoyed trying some from a region that I don’t taste very often.
The rest of our drive back was uneventful. Something I would advocate for if you’re planning a trip to Greece – Ardemida was a great area to stay in near the airport. Athens is kind of a haul from the airport, so we booked Airbnbs in Ardemida instead for both of the nights where we had early flights the next day and it was a great option. Cute little town, lots of good food, access to the beaches, and only about 10 or 15 minutes from the airport with good availability for Ubers! It made the logistics much easier on the tail ends of the trip. After our last night there, Colin headed back to the US, and I flew back to Croatia for part two: Dubrovnik.