You know you are excited to arrive in Athens when you travelled a total of 23 hours and still take on a seventeen kilometre walk around the Acropolis and neighbourhood! Greece has always been on my wish list because it was home to one of my wonders. I did however plan my solo trip with ample time in Athens.
The city is very safe and clean. Standard rated hotels are better than you’d expect and the Mediterranean inspired breakfasts definitely fuel you for a lot of walking and sightseeing. Street dogs and cats are only referred to street pets because that is where their homes are. They are however taken care of by the government and in great conditions with matching attitudes.
Greece is a country of ruins and be prepared to see many very significant ruins indeed! The Capital alone has developed into a modern society whilst the buildings of many centuries past still claim their significance in between green trees, modern architecture and streets. Don’t be surprised to walk down a narrow street of high apartment buildings and suddenly find an open space. When you look down, you will see ancient brick walls down below! The country has a law where any excavations, whether for historical or urban development, finds ruins – it has to be stopped and moved elsewhere to preserve those very ruins. You will find this true even right under the new National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Don’t break the “no photos” rule in here, those Greeks protect their treasures at all cost!
Then there is the Acropolis. Entire blog posts can be dedicated to that complex! It is a steep walk up along a very authentic looking cobble stoned alley. First the Theatre of Dionysos surprises you, followed by the Erechtheion and then there it is – the Parthenon! If you haven’t visited Greek and Roman ruins before you would swear they created Legos! The Parthenon is a broken building, but wow, when you get to stand near the gigantic pillars you get emotional because that was what Greece was all about! Good to know is that a ticket to the Acropolis also gives you three days’ worth of entry to other neighbouring sites as the Ancient Agora, Temple of Zeus and clock tower.
People who visit group tours in Greece will mostly find itineraries that kick off in Athens and follow on to cities such as Olympus and Delphi and ease off the sightseeing with some island time in Santorini or Mykonos. This route starts off by following a modern freeway until you reach historical sightseeing. I didn’t get to visit Olympus, but my next stop was Delphi. Before reaching this very important place in Greek history, you do experience some amazing treats for the eye. Not only do you pass through little towns like Livadeia and Arachova, which screams out “You are in Greece!”, but you get to see the majestic Parnassus mountain ranges. Did you know Greece is a top ski destination too?
Upon arrival to Delphi’s open air museum I saw my first significant sanctuaries. This area was indeed very important for the old timers, including Alexander the Great. Delphi was the place of the sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena Pronaia, including a stadium and a theatre. More importantly, it was here where the Pythia – who was the priestess – served as the oracle. Her main purpose was to share a glimpse of the future to those who asked. What would a visit to Greece be without stopping at the memorial of General Leonedas of Sparta? He was that muscled general that the 300 blockbuster movies were based on.
There is also a very good reason why every city in every country has a Greek restaurant. Opa! Greek food is amazing! Kalouri for one Euro on the street, to moussaka and dolmades from fancy restaurants, to Greek salad without lettuce. That’s right – Greek salad doesn’t have lettuce. Of course you must have Souvlaki in the motherland! Breaking plates in a restaurant is not a custom so please reconsider.
When you prepare for our group tours to Greece, definitely have a think about adding extra nights pre- or post-tour in Athens. The neighbourhood of Plaka that surrounds the Acropolis is magnificent for early morning and late night strolling. Cafes, restaurants, delhi shops and corner supermarkets stay open until late and the locals also make the most of their neighbourhood and night life. The hotels near Syntagma square offer excellent access to ancient sights, modern sights and of course public transport such as busses, trams and taxis. When your hotel is located here, you are only short walks away from the National Library, National University and famous buildings with enormous statues of philosophers, gods and icons.
Our trio of Greek tours is fresh, yet classic and has something for everyone!