Spring Break: It Was All Greek to Me

It has been a few weeks since my last blog post and that is because two weeks ago I was on my spring break which I spent in Greece! While studying abroad in France is amazing, Greece has been my dream destination since I watched Mamma Mia for the first time when I was eleven years old. And in initially taking off for Greece, I had no idea what was in store there, except for what I had seen in Mamma Mia and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, or what I had read in The Odyssey, and I am pretty sure that is a slightly outdated guidebook for Greece. But honestly, if you are studying abroad, or just have the inkling to travel for your Spring Break, Greece is the way to go! There are equal parts adventurous and educational trips to take to geological and historical sights, as well as plenty of beautiful beaches where you can relax. In a different theme than most of my blog posts, this week I am going to discuss how my friends and I ended up having what can only be described as every college student’s dream spring break.

Part One: Mykonos

Most people – or rather partying college kids – know this island for its wild nightlife. And even upon our arrival in Mykonos, our driver asked if we had come to Mykonos just to party. My group of friends and I are not super crazy party people – we enjoy the occasional night out but had no intentions of going out every night. Luckily, Mykonos is a great island for more than just nightlife. Our first day in Mykonos, we explored the “downtown” area which is a gorgeous bunch of little white buildings situated along the water. In this area we also found “Little Venice” and the infamous windmills that the island’s postcards are known for. There was plenty of touristy shopping to be done, as well as food to eat! While my friends and I initially had the fantasy of swimming in the beautiful clear blue waters of the Aegean sea, it was far too cold for anyone to get in.

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The next day we took a ferry out to the tiny island of Delos which is the perfect place to go if you have any interest in seeing Greek ruins! The only real attraction on the island are the ruins and there are tons of them. I did not make it to Athens this trip, which was a bummer because I did not get to see the Parthenon and other famous ruins the city has to offer, but Delos definitely made up for that!

Overall, Mykonos was a quaint and cute little island. Nightlife ended up being pretty quiet because we were there before the tourist season began but it was still a fun island to visit for a few days. But on Wednesday, it was off to our next adventure . . .

Part Two: Santorini

While we may have flown into Mykonos, my friends and I decided to take a sea jet from Mykonos to Santorini, and it was a great decision! If you plan on island hopping around Greece, I definitely suggest taking a ferry at some point to get between islands. The ride was super quick and smooth, which is good because my stomach is notorious for having a terrible relationship with boats. But this ride was so smooth, I had zero motion sickness. The trip was also so pretty because, as we traveled between the islands, we viewed the beautiful blue sea from outside the windows and other islands nestled in between. Upon arrival at the Santorini port my friends and I were picked up by our AirBnB host’s staff who drove us to our house in Perissa and gave us any information we needed about the area and how to get around town. We settled in at our house then took a taxi to Thira, the downtown area of the island where we, again, explored all of the touristy little shops along the cliffside that overlooked the water.

However my friends and I were getting a little sick of paying for expensive taxi rides to and from downtown so we decided to check out a car rental shop, as per the recommendation of the staff of the AirBnB, just to see what they had and see how it compared to approximately $100 in taxi rides a day.  And renting a car turned out to be way cheaper than constantly getting a taxi. So here the downlow on renting a car in Greece: First of all, DO IT. With your own car, you can explore whatever island that you’re on at your own pace. Second of all, make sure you get insurance from the rental company! A lot of my friends and I were nervous because we thought we might need international licenses and had heard horror stories of people renting cars without them, getting into accidents, and then getting pinned with all the damage costs and the rental company reporting the car as “stolen.” However, the company that rented us a car was very helpful and told us that we could pay a small extra fee for insurance, just in case there was an accident. Luckily, there were no accidents on our trip! Third, you have to be twenty-one to drive so if you or your friends are not, then you won’t be able to rent the car. And forth, if you cannot drive manual, either learn or cross your fingers for an automatic car to be available. Only two people in our group knew how to drive a stick shift, but we luckily picked up the last automatic the rental company had!

The car ended up being an amazing investment. The next day, we drove an extremely short distance to the black sand beach right by our house in Perissa. It was the perfect spring break kind of day, too. The beach is right in front of a restaurant/bar which sets out umbrellas, chairs, and couches on the beach for anyone to use. Plus the food is amazingly delicious and extremely cheap. I cannot recommend this restaurant enough, if you are ever in Santorini. So my friends and I sat out on the beautiful beach, sipping smoothies until about 5 pm. Then, as the sun was setting, we all hopped in the car and drove almost the entire perimeter of the island. We literally chased the sunset down until we ended up in Oìa, the most beautiful part of the island to watch the sunset. It is the area you see in most movies with all those little white houses and pools on balconies that overlook the edge of the cliff and the sea below it. It was an incredible view that finished up an amazing day.

The next day was full of adventure! We woke up early to make our reservation to take a boat tour of the volcano of Santorini (which formed the island) and the hot springs near it. However, we were terribly confused trying to find the “Old Port” twenty minutes before our boat was supposed to leave only to find out that the Old Port was unreachable by car and we would have to take the cable car down the cliff. So we parked the car and ran. If you have ever been to Santorini, perhaps you are familiar with the layout of Thira – if you have not, let me tell you: It. Is. All. Stairs. So, yes. My friends and I sprinted up several stair flights to reach our cable car. Once seated on the cable car, we sat there for a good few minutes, stewing in our anxiety. Another family sat in an adjacent cable car, looking visibly in a hurry as well. So I started chanting “Let’s go!”, my friends joining in, and then the other family joining with us until the lovely cable car employees started the cars and got us down the cliffside.

We made it to our boat tour just in time and had an amazing time. We hiked up to the top of the volcano, where you could smell the sulfur and feel the heat under your feet. There was also a beautiful view of Santorini and the other surrounding islands. But be warned, if you do this tour, wear comfortable shoes! The island is steep and covered in lava rocks that are constantly rolling and sliding around under your feet, so even in the best of shoes, you will probably slip down the hill at some point. Afterwards, the boat took us around the volcano, to where the hot springs are located. The boat anchored down a good 100 meters or so away from the hot springs, which means that my friends and I had to swim from the boat, into the “open” sea, which was freezing in early April. But it was worth it once we got to the red, muddy waters of the hot springs where we buried our feet in the clay and warmed up in the red, lukewarm water. Then we had to brave the freezing cold Aegean sea again to swim back to the boat, but we all felt pretty proud of ourselves afterwards!

When we arrived back at the Old Port, we were struck with the dilemma of how to get back up the cliff. Then we saw an old Greek man holding a sign that said “Donkey Ride 5 Euro.” And, of course, we paid those 5 euros and rode donkeys up the cliffside. It was a hilarious and amazing experience. I have never ridden a donkey before, and it was way more difficult than I ever imagined. If you have ever seen Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and remember the scene where Lena arrives in Greece then falls off her donkey, it is almost exactly like that. The saddle felt like it was sliding off on one side, the donkeys had their own agendas and would bump into the cliffside or each other, plus they rock the rider a lot more than horses do, so I felt like I had to hold on or fall off. But it was very much worth it! The view was incredible and the ride itself was so fun to take with friends.

That night was our last spring break night together so we decided to have a fun “girls night.” We dressed up then went to a fish spa called “Dr. Fish Spa” where we got the dead skin eaten off our feet by tiny little fishes! It sounds a little strange, but I honestly cannot recommend it, and recommend this specific spa, enough. We paid fifteen euros for a half hour treatment where we got complimentary sangria, which tasted amazing (plus, before our flight the next day, we came back and got a major discount – twelve euros for one hour and two glasses of sangria). The staff is super nice and friendly, plus they have free wifi that you can use while you are getting your feet eaten!

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Afterwards we found a nice restaurant to enjoy one last Greek meal. The food was extravagant and amazing – I ordered stuffed calamari and the waiter brought out basically a whole squid stuffed with cheeses and veggies.

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My three Greek recommendations are: One, island hop! Each island has something different to offer so you should visit multiple islands. Two, rent a car! It’s cheap and you will be able to see the whole island. Three, stay in an AirBnB! There are plenty of cheap AirBnB homes in Greece and it saves money to have a working kitchen! Overall, spring break was an incredible experience and if you are looking for your ideal, dream spring break experience, Greece is the way to go!

Also: check out my new recommendations page to see some of my favorite places in each city I have visited so far (including Santorini and Mykonos)!

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