All trips are exciting because of the uncertainty that awakens the unknown. This was the feeling that we experienced when we started this adventure, travelling for the fist time on a cruise. In this first chapter we will narrate our visit to some of the beautiful and exotic Greek Islands, one of the world’s top travel destinations, with some tips about what to see and how to get around this charming islands.
First destination was the island of Corfu, the second largest of the Ionian islands, in the entrance to the Adriatic Sea, heart of the Mediterranean Sea. The Old Town of Corfu, located in a strategic location, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Getting Around Corfu
It is a large but manageable island. The cruise ship port is a couple of kilometers from the capital of the island, bearing the same name, and about 500 meters from the marine station, to which you can easily walk in just over 5 minutes. From there you will find different ways of getting around the island.
Once inside the station, there are two car rental companies, one next to the other, so prices do not differ. This seemed like the best option, given that we were travelling by ourselves and the time that you have in cruise stops is usually quite limited. For 45 € we rented a small car and, map in hand, we began our tour.
However, it is also possible to travel by bus or taxi, although the latter may be a bit more expensive.
Recommended visits in Corfu
You have to establish an itinerary based on the available time, considering that you must be back on the boat about 45 minutes before the departure time to the next destination. We had around 4 hours and a half, so, between the various routes offered this location, we chose visiting the most popular landmarks: Achilleon (where the famous palace of Sisi is located) and Kanoni, from where we enjoyed magnificent views of the Ionian Sea and the charming Vlacherna Monastery, situated on a small island joined to the mainland by a jetty.
Much to our regret, we didn´t have enough time to visit and enjoy some of the best beaches around the island, such as Paleokastritsa, Achavari, Barbati, Arilas, Kerasia or Glyfada. Unfortunately, the limited time just allowed us to briefly cross the center of the capital, where you can find the Venetian Fortresses (during the Second World War, the city was taken by the Italians), the City Hall, the Headquarters of Grimaldi and the palaces of St. Michael and St. George. Sure worth it, but it was not possible to see everything and we had to choose.
Together with Santorini, this small island is part of the Cyclades Islands in the Aegean Sea. Its origins and historical events are unclear, appearing in some books as a refuge for pirates, back in the sixteenth century.
Simply lovely, if we had to describe it in two words. Undoubtedly, it is a piece of land with charm. Everything is well maintained, from the spotless white of the facades of their houses to the divisions of the cobblestone streets, well-defined by lines in the same pristine white. It is a joy to wander through its narrow streets, full of light and color, thanks to its doors and balconies, sometimes painted in blue, others in red, and often adorned with lush bougainvillea. The city center is full of small stylish shops, even those of local and unknown brands.
Getting Around Mykonos
As mentioned above, the island is not very large. The cruise ship does not dock at port, doing so at a certain distance. From there, you approach the island in small boats. The port is just in town, so you can enjoy the visit in a relaxed walk, from the moment you step on shore.
If, after walking around, you fancy a dip in one of its beautiful beaches, away from the city, the best option is to rent a motorbike or take the bus. Except in the center of the city, because of its narrow streets, traffic is fluent and easy to follow.
Recommended Visits in Mykonos
Among the main points of touristic interest we find the City Hall, the Archaeological Museum, the Naval Museum of the Aegean, the Orthodox Church at the harbor, the windmills and Little Venice. The latter location is especially nice, as it seems like a small replica of the Italian city, where houses are built on the sea. In addition, the area is very exclusive and attractive, full of small elegant restaurants and charming terraces by the sea, where you can enjoy the spectacular and well-known sunset of Mykonos.
Since we had about seven hours (it was one of the longer stays) and the temperature was perfect for it, we decided to take a dip in the nearest beach, just behind the famous windmills that you find in most sunset photos taken in Mykonos. You can access it on foot, as it is about 20 minutes from downtown, and the idea of swimming in its clear waters of turquoise color, before having a cold Greek beer accompanied by a serving of fried fish from the area, was just perfect.
We ended our stay in the Greek Islands with a visit to Santorini, a fascinating morphological conformation that was formed after a violent volcanic eruption that swept across the Mediterranean, leading to the creation of its peculiar shape. One side of the island is formed by steep cliffs and, on the opposite side, you find a fertile and vast plain.
The whole island and its corners are beautiful, and again, as it happens in Mykonos, the pristine white of the facades, with the addition of bright blue domes of its churches, create an attractive combination of light and colours.
Getting Around Santorini
This island is larger than the previous one, but not more complicated. The cruise ship docks again at a distance of the harbor, so you get to land in the small boats.
The capital, Thira (Fira), is located on top of a cliff, and there are only three ways to get there, from the port: funicular, donkey or walking. The funicular is 5 euros per person, each way, and takes about four minutes to reach the city. Riding a donkey costs the same, although the road is rough and slow, so animal lovers (as in our case) may ask themselves: Should I make a poor donkey carry me if there is more secure, convenient and fast transport available? However, for the most daring, there is always the option of patiently walking up. It´s just 588 steps!
After visiting Fira, if there is time, it is advisable to visit the village of Oia. The bus departs from the central square of Fira, costs € 1.20, runs every ten minutes and takes twenty five to get there. From the same station, you can take other buses to different parts of the island or you can rent a car and choose the route that suits you best. On this occasion, we decided to take the bus.
Recommended Visits in Santorini
Santorini has diverse and beautiful places to visit. Starting from the capital, Fira, that lacks of major outstanding monuments but has a nice maze of narrow streets, with shops and restaurants, and spectacular views, thanks to its privileged position over the sea.
As for Oia, it is a small village located on the northwest tip of the island. It is known as the most elegant version of Fira, especially for its full of modern art galleries, quality craftsmanship and great shopping streets. It is also known for the famous photo with the blue domes of Santorini.
Another possibility -probably renouncing to one of the previous options, if you visit on a cruise- is the excursion to Nea kameniei Volcano, guilty of the rugged geographical appearance of the island, and the bathing in hot mineral springs.
As for the beaches, there are many hidden coves that share the same volcanic aspect of the island, that contributes to the striking and appealing contrast between the black and red sand and the blue water of the sea.
Here ends the first part of our cruise, with a short but interesting visit to the Greek islands. We hope to have aroused the curiosity in those who do not yet know this beautiful place, awakening fond memories in those who already had the pleasure to walk it´s streets. If you liked the story, remember to like and share, and please come back to check the second chapter, with Dubrovnik and Venice. You will not be disappointed!
Estern Mediterranean Cruise
Part 1: Greek Islands
Text © Alicia Jiménez + Photos © Nano Calvo
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