Tuesday 17th October 2023 – (Over) One Year Later
It’s taken me even longer to finish writing up the trip into the blog posts on the website here – I finished the last post today, Tuesday, 17th October 2023, a full year and a month since I returned from Greece in September 2022. Despite appearances, it takes quite a while to compose each post as I need to dig through my photo archive to find suitable pictures to accompany the articles and translate my notes into something that is, hopefully, more readable and entertaining.
As before, let’s start with some highlights…
Overall, I feel like the trip was more successful than the previous years: aside from my ferry cancellation on Astypalea, everything went mostly as planned, and I got to visit quite a few new places. Here are my top highlights:
1. Visiting Athens
I’ve wanted to see the historical sights of Athens for many years. Still, part of me avoided it: anxiety at visiting such a big city alone and preferring to stay on islands over the mainland. When I realised I couldn’t hide in Crete forever, I forced myself back to Piraeus and spent what turned out to be a great couple of days in Athens, seeing the Parthenon, Athens Museum, the Ancient Agora and more.
2. Exploring the Peloponnese with Ed
Although it was quite a busy week, the time I spent at the start of the trip exploring the southeastern Peloponnese with my friend Ed was a highlight. We visited Mystras, climbed Mount Taygetus, and took a short ferry across to the tiny island of Elafonisos.
Although I visited Paros briefly back in 2017, I couldn’t say I’d explored the island and had been wanting to return ever since. During this trip, I spent two full weeks on the island, the first week with a friend who’d never been to Greece before and the second-week solo. Despite its popularity making it one of the busier islands, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and can see why it receives so many visitors each year.
New islands are invariably exciting but aren’t always great destinations. At first, I was disappointed by the beaches I found on Astypalea, but I’d started with the worst places. When I finally found Steno Beach, it made me so happy. Combined with the great food and traditional Greek atmosphere, it ticked all the boxes I needed for a great holiday destination.
My third visit to the island best known for its party atmosphere was the best yet. Despite its reputation, Ios has so much more to offer than late-night revelling: superb beaches, great food, a relaxed atmosphere and (usually) fantastic weather. I spent an entire week there and enjoyed every second.
5. Notable Mentions
To avoid making this list too long, I’ll pick out a few other notable mentions as I couldn’t exclude them:
- Kos: my girlfriend came to visit me for a week, and despite spending over three weeks there in 2021, I still enjoyed being back again.
- Crete: my most visited Greek island. I returned to save money because the Cyclades were expensive, but I always enjoy it. My time in Stalis was surprisingly great, thanks mainly to the fantastic accommodation I found at Minois Boutique Hotel.
- Sifnos: it wouldn’t be a highlight section without mentioning Sifnos. I chose it as the finale of my 2022 trip, and this time, my girlfriend and parents joined me, making it an even more memorable experience. It’s a shame we only spent four nights there (limited by my girlfriend’s work schedule), but I still loved every minute and it remains my number 1 Greek island.
No trip is perfect, and given the choice to replay the trip, I’d do a few things differently:
Although I included it as a ‘notable mention’ highlight above, it wasn’t necessary to spend three whole weeks on Crete, especially in basically the same location. Yes, I saved money, but with better planning and more ambition, I could have done more with this time. For example, I eventually ended up in Aegina and Agistri and could have spent longer in this part of Greece, perhaps visiting Hydra, Poros and Methana.
I enjoyed my time on Kos but didn’t do much once my girlfriend left. I told myself that I’d already seen most of the tourist attractions on my previous visit, but I’m sure there were places I hadn’t seen that would be worth a look.
Learnings for Future Trips
Ironically, one of the learnings I took from the previous year’s trip was booking hotels at shorter notice to give me greater flexibility. This shouldn’t be confused with planning; I discovered, as I ended up on Crete for three weeks, that could have been better utilized had I put more thought into it.
2. Fear Factor
One of the main things that had stopped me from visiting Athens was a fear of the unknown: spending time alone in a big city. Although I’m less averse to seeing new Greek islands, I still favour revisiting places I’ve been before as it’s a comfortable option. There are still plenty of new islands to explore, and next time I need to push myself to include more of them in my itinerary.