My Greek Odyssey 2021

2021 was a massive year for me. The lockdowns due to COVID-19 (now, hopefully, a thing of the past) had taught me that life is too short to spend it working all the time. In March, I gave my three months’ notice at work and, by the end of June, had rented out my flat, sold my car, and made plans to spend the entire summer in Greece.

I had investigated the possibility of moving to Greece, but it didn’t work out. I had difficulties obtaining a Visa (the UK had left the EU), combined with perhaps more than a bit of trepidation at such a huge upheaval. Limited by the 90-day cap on travel within the Schengen Zone, I could still spend significantly longer in Greece than ever. Thanks to a healthy savings reserve, I intended to travel frugally but without working.

The Itinerary

With so many islands at my disposal and so much time available, the itinerary plans initially didn’t come easy, but when my parents proposed a trip to Crete in early July, joining them seemed like the ideal way to start my journey. We spent nine nights in Palaiochora in southwest Crete – a part of the island I’d never seen before – then I began a road trip, first dropping my parents back at Chania Airport before continuing east along the southern coastline.

Planning my onward travels was made somewhat easier by the limited ferry options I had for getting off Crete. I chose an easterly route to Karpathos on a ferry from the port town of Sitia. From there, I originally intended to bypass Rhodes by stopping at Chalki and then onto Tilos. Unfavourable ferry timings saw me change plans, swapping Chalki for Rhodes – a surprisingly enjoyable switch.

My time on Tilos ended prematurely when, after arriving at an island-wide blackout due to power failure, I opted to head to Kos a day early. I intended to stay for about a week, but here, my reluctance to plan too far ahead bit me on the backside: I couldn’t find overnight accommodation on Amorgos that would enable me to transit from the Dodecanese into the Cyclades, where I planned to visit some of the Lesser Cyclades islands such as Donousa, Schinousa and Iraklia.

What did I do? I contemplated heading north to Kalymnos and beyond, but I couldn’t see how I’d get to the Cyclades without backtracking, which I was keen to avoid. I wanted to see more of the Cyclades – a mix of new and familiar islands – so I decided to wait it out on Kos until I could make the Amorgos connection work.

A little over three weeks later, I finally left Kos, made the overnight connection on Amorgos and arrived at… Naxos! My fourth visit to the island in four years; it was, until discovering Sifnos in 2020, my favourite Greek island, which still holds a special place in my heart. That said, I’d already seen most of the island before and had to admit to being a little bored after spending so much time relaxing on Kos; I wanted to be active and explore, so in hindsight, it was probably a bad decision.

Luckily, I’d only booked five nights on Naxos, and they passed quickly enough. My next stop was Ios, another familiar island that exceeded expectations on my first visit in 2017. Its reputation as a party destination had given me cause for concern, as nightlife isn’t my thing. Instead, I found a traditional Greek island with amazing beaches, great food and a surprisingly peaceful atmosphere.

From two familiar islands to a new one: Sikinos. I was hungry for a fresh experience on a less touristy island. I also knew I wanted to finish my time in Greece on Sifnos. Sikinos lies immediately west of Ios and is on a ferry route to Sifnos, so it seemed the obvious choice. It’s definitely off the beaten track, with just 18km of paved roads and two small settlements. I had a fun three days there despite struggling to find decent meals most of the time.

The finale, Sifnos, was as fantastic as I’d hoped. It had impressed me so much in 2020 that I was desperate to return, and this time, I booked a full 11 nights to soak it up. My parents – keen to see what all the fuss was about – joined me for the last few days on the island, then we flew back to the UK together via a ferry connection to Piraeus.

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