Back in November last year, Scoot had a really good deal for direct flights to Athens from Singapore. It was really too good to miss! We paid SGD 950 for the 2 of us (return included) with 20kg baggage for each of us, each way. HOLY MOLY?! Enduring the 11 hour flight was nothing with a deal as sweet as that. The timing of the departure flight from Changi Airport was at 2.45am which was perfect to knock out in the flight after some light meal. Our return flight was on Tuesday morning at 11.30am from Athens. Considering it was a weekday return, we were lucky for a really empty flight that we scored ourselves a full row to snooze and catch up on NETFLIX. Would I do it again? Definitely, when it works out to only SGD 425 per person!
Route Overview: Athens (4N) –> Mykonos (3N) –> Naxos (3N) –> Santorini (3N) –> Milos (3N) –> Athens (1N)
Commuted Via: 4 Ferries and a Domestic Flight from Milos to Athens
Arriving in Athens around 9am, we followed the suggestion of a fellow passenger on our flight to take the bus to get ourselves to the city centre instead of the metro (as suggested based on my online research). X95 bus (Airport to Syntagma) costed us 6E per person for the 45 minute journey. From what I gather, metro tickets cost around 9E and it’s said it be slightly faster. We were not in a rush to get to the city, so we didn’t mind the slightly longer route which let us sightsee Athens.
Travel Tip: X95 runs every 15-20 minutes depending on the season. The bus station is located between between Exit 4 and 5 at the arrivals level of Athens airport. Also, the bus route is available 24 hours a day – 7 days a week. If you are not staying in Syntagma (the heart of Athens), some other bus routes might possibly work for you. For more information, this website will be helpful.
The food scene in Athens was so vibrant and bustling that each time we walked past a street in the city, at least one restaurant called out to us, me at least. Our first meal upon touch down in Athens was in Ta Karamanlidika Tou Fani. Oozing with tradition, style and old world charm, this meze/deli house has won the tick of approval from locals of where to eat in Athens. There is a well-priced menu including hot and cold meze plates, deli meats, aged Greek cheeses and more sizeable dishes too.
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Based on recommendation from the waiter we tried their cold cut platter, aubergines & zucchini with feta cheese, greek salad as well as hand-made stuffed vine leaves. Evidently, we got carried away and ordered far too much. Lunch costed us 33.50E. To end of our first meal experience, we got served a complimentary dessert on the house.
During our time in Athens, we had dinner at Tzatziki twice. The exterior of this place was enough to lure me in each time. The bonus was, of course, really affordable and huge portions of gyroz. Refer to the below picture, I surely wasn’t kidding about the size. We brought our friends, the second time we visited Tzatziki, hence the 4 gryoz pictured. Dinner for 2 approximately was just 10E. Major win!
Walking past Savvas turkish place, stone’s throw away from Monastiraki Station, we knew we had to check it out during our time in Athens especially when it was mentioned by our guide during the Athens free walking tour. Except for the fact, that again we over ordered, Savvas is definitely a must visit for some turkish cuisine while in Athens. This 3-storey building boasts an amazing roof garden with the view of the Acropolis that it is advantageous to visit for dinner with the sun setting at the background. Dinner for 2 was 31.50E.
Dessert and Drinks
- Lukumades – Traditional greek home-made delight
2. A for Athens – definitely the most popular bar in Athens since it was brimming with people when we dropped by and couldn’t get ourselves seats
View of Monastiraki and Acropolis from A for Athens
3. Little Kook – very whimsical and quirky cafe, portions are definitely good for sharing
4. Brettos – the oldest distillery in Greece since 1909 and boasts the world’s famous ouzo in 4 flavours
If you have time for just one thing to do in Athens, I’d highly recommend signing up for Athens free walking tour! It would you be the best 2.5 hours you have spent. Trust me! The tour guide is usually a local who provides you with so much insight to the things you will be seeing around the city. Something, guide books definitely won’t be providing you with.
There are usually two timings for the tour during summer – 12 noon and 6pm. The 12 noon walking tour starts to give us time to catch the guard change at Syntagma Square which takes place every Sunday at 11am. There are changings every hour in the day, but on Sundays it is the official ceremony with the official costumes.
The meeting point for walking tour begins at The National Library of Greece and covers the major archaeological sites. The walking route starts with The Academy, continues to The Parliament, Ermou Street (pedestrian only street), Monastiraki flea market, Hadrian Library, Roman Agora, Ancient Agora and concludes at the guide’s secret spot – Retaining wall of Pnyx.
Pnyx hill offers a panoramic view of Athens city with the Acropolis region in the background. Other more popular spots for good views of Athens, would be Filopappou Hill as well as Mt Lycabettus. From my experience, heading to Mt Lycabettus involves a lot of stairs. So, be prepared with comfortable shoes if you heading up to the summit. Also, if you are driving to the Mt, there is a huge open-air parking ground right at the top, before it’s stairs to conquer. Do not make the mistake we did, of being paranoid of not getting a parking lot and parking right at the bottom of the hill, because it really IS a long way up (hill)!
Roman Agora in it’s full glory
Fun Fact: The literal meaning of the word agora is “gathering place” or “assembly”. The agora was the center of the athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life of the city.
It is recommended to do the walking tour on your first day in the city, as it gives you a great overview on Athens. It also gives you an understanding on the background of the Greek culture and history. After that, exploring the city would be more enjoyable with the knowledge you have gathered. The tour guides usually expect a tip for their time spent but trust me, it is well worth your dollar. On average, a 10E tip per person would go a long way to covering their daily expenses.
We continued the rest of the day exploring the other sites that the walking tour did not cover i.e. Arch of Hadrian, Temple of Zeus and Panathenaic Stadium. We took a break exploring Plaka neighbourhood before we conquered the grounds of Acropolis grounds.
Plaka neighbourhood – lined with restaurants along pedestrian streets
If you are planning your time to Athens, I would recommend splitting the bigger sites i.e. Acropolis to another day and also to hit the site early in the day before the crowd comes in. And before the mid day sun peeks, staying indoors in Acropolis Museum would be a good idea.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus
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The common misconception that occurs is that people often refer to the above image as Acropolis. In fact, the word Acropolis refers to the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon (pictured above). A spot good for a panaromic view of the city as well as admiring the Parthenon from afar would be Mars Hill. Not too far away from the steps of Parthenon.
Travel Tip: Depending on the time of the year you are in Athens, please check carefully the opening hours of each site if you are planning to enter them. Do note, entrance fees apply for the sites if you are planning to enter them. For students, even if you are not an European, do remember to bring your student card as it allows you entry into the site for half the ticket price. Goes a long way, for sites like Acropolis that cost 20E -30E to enter. For more information on fees as well as opening hours, this website would be helpful. There are also Acropolis combo tickets that cover you entry to 7 sites.
Another neighbourhood sandwiched between Acropolis and Plaka is Anafiotika. This tiny village gets you incredible views of the city below without throngs of tourists.
As we were in Athens on 1st of May (Labour Day), we were told the best thing to do is to head to beach as the city is shut due to protests. We, among with most of the locals, headed to the beach stretch in Athens starting from Voula Beach. If you are travelling to Athens, in the same period as I did, do note ferries DO NOT operate on 1st of May. So, planning your schedule accordingly would be beneficial.
A very popular and common spot to explore out of Athens city is Cape Sounion. A relatively easy drive (approximately 80km), this site is worth a visit. We squeezed in a trip to Temple of Poseidon right before our flight to catch sunrise. It would be a good half a day trip out of Athens city and it is recommended to rent a car (around 20E-30E for a day) to explore the area outside the city centre.
Another option for a half day trip would be exploring Delphi, nearly 200km away. Delphi was our personal favourite throughout our entire 17 day Greece travel. Taking the route via Elefsina and Thebes (Thiva), would offer more scenic views as opposed to the quicker route of taking the freeway.
Temple of Athena
In ancient times, Delphi was considered to be the center of the universe and was guarded by a python dragon that was killed by Apollo. The ruins of Temple of Apollo as well as the ancient theater that seated 5,000 spectators and hosted plays, poetry readings, and festivals will blow you away.
Another spot further away from Athens is Meteora. Meteora roughly translates to “suspended in the air” and is home to six active monasteries open to tourists year-round. We did our research before we set off for our travel and picked Delphi over Meteora for the sheer fact we didn’t want to spend about 5 hours (one-way) on the road. And, we couldn’t plan our days such that we could spend a night in Meteora as well. I would suggest staying a night in Meteora if you are planning on visiting this beautiful site otherwise 10 hours on the road to and fro doesn’t seem worthwhile at all. Further information to help you plan your trip to Meteora can be found here.
Thanks to our mishap in our first Airbnb accomodation (SGD 100/night) near Syntagma, we managed to explore Plaka when we stayed at an alternative apartment our host provided us with. Both neighbourhoods were really good as most sites are within walking distance. The metro system in Athens is quite easy to work around with. Tickets costs 1.40E for 60 minute of travel but do remember to validate them so that you don’t end up with hefty fines.
- There is no difference purchasing the tickets from ticket offices in Athens or online way in advance. So it’s better to secure your spots early depending on your preferred time of departure.
- Even if you have gotten an email confirmation of your ferry tickets, you have to head down to the ticket office to exchange it for physical tickets. Hence, it is advised for you to book all, if not most, of your ferries from a particular company so that it saves you time from running to multiple ticket offices.
- There are plenty of sites online you can use to purchase ferry tickets. Ferryhopper was my personal favourite. 3 of our 4 ferry tickets were bought via Ferryhopper and the last ferry ticket was purchased via Dolphin Hellas because the tickets were cheaper when compared. It is always good to do your homework before your purchase the tickets on any particular site as a 40 minute ferry ride can cost up to 50E.
- It is possible to change your timings or departure date as long as you head back down to the ticket office 24 hours before your original departure date and time. Knowing that was really a blessing as we contemplated delaying our arrival in Milos as Santorini blew us away we wanted to have 1 more night amidst the blue domes. But, it’s best to call or email to check if changes are allowed before heading down.
- Ferries, more often than not, get delayed, super-delayed some times. We had a really terrible experience while travelling to Mykonos from Athens. Our 2.5 hour ferry ride ended up to be 8 hour ride because the vessel made a turn back to the port due to some technical issues. Who would have thought! So while planning your commute to the islands, do not pack the day you are commuting with many activities and keep it a rather light day.
- Among the 2 ferry companies we commuted with, Sea Jets and Blue Star Ferries, I would recommend Blue Star Ferries for a more comfortable ride. Some ferries assign you seats, but when you enter the ferry, literally no one follows the seating number. Even the captains on board, usher you to sit at any sector to get everybody seated fast so that the vessel can take off as planned or without any further delay.
- Finally, DO NOT rule out domestic flights as an alternative when commuting between islands. The 4 ferries costed us a whooping 370E for the 2 of us, which averaged out to 46E per ferry ride. That was the amount we paid for our domestic flight to Athens from Milos per person. The only consideration with flights is to ensure your luggage allowance has been catered for.
After spending 4 days in Athens, we were ready to hit our first island – Mykonos! The 4 islands we picked to visit in our maiden trip to Greece were all within the Cyclades islands, which comprises of about 300 islands.
Stay tuned for my next post on Mykonos, the party island and the island of winds!
Till then, efharisto.
All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.