Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Athens & the Greek Islands Travel Destinations

Greece is a great destination for solo travelers. It is safe in most areas, the people are laid-back, street food is cheap and delicious where else can you grab a souvlaki pita for €2.50? and the sun shines far more than it does in Northern Europe, where I reside. Many airlines have direct flights from U.S. and European cities to Athens and Crete. Aegean and Olympic Air offer domestic flights from Athens to several islands.

Best of all, it is easy to island-hop via ferry, especially in the off-season, when there is no need for reservations. Traveling in mid-October, pensioners met me off the boat, eager to accommodate an independent traveler. They offered simple rooms with baths for €25 30 a fraction of July-August rates, when backpackers, sun-worshippers, and cruise travelers on port excursions flock to the islands.

After a day in Athens spent exploring the Acropolis and Monasteraki Flea Market, I hopped on a Metro to Piraeus, gateway to the Greek islands. After learning about The Mistral on Solo Traveler, I signed up for the weeklong photography course. Our instructor was as knowledgeable as he was affable, but of 15 students, only three of us seemed more than mildly interested in photography. While the hotel’s staff is gracious and the food outstanding and plentiful, I found myself with Brits who go back to The Mistral repeatedly there are direct flights to Heraklion from the UK, hesitant to venture out of their comfort zone on holiday. Not really for me, but I enjoyed the Greek menus and photo excursions to Chania, Rethymno, and Samaria Gorge.

Samaria Gorge
In the weeks before and after Crete, I traveled independently with no problem. Pensioners were happy to accommodate a solo traveler and eager to please with amenities like free WiFi and view terraces. On Syros, the least commercial island I visited, I rented a whole apartment with bedroom, living room, kitchen, bath, and terrace for €25.

Wherever you go in Greece, there are a few cultural differences you will need to get used to. You cannot drink water from the tap, but the bottled stuff is cheap and readily available. In addition, you cannot throw paper down the toilet a custom that takes some getting used to for Westerners.

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