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Katie went to...Greece!

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

Hello and welcome to I Went Somewhere!


Today's adventure takes us to the mesmerizing ancient country of Greece. As one of the oldest countries in the world, this is a place that has it's fair share of sights to see.


So, get your notebooks out and sharpen your pencil...we're going to #Greece.

 

Hello! Tell us a little bit about you and where you traveled to?


Hi! My name is Katie McGregor. I’m a college student currently based in Tacoma, Washington. I’m double majoring in Studio Art and Communication so I have a lot of interest in photography, media writing, and painting. I’m most active on my Instagram page, where I share photos from my various travels and hiking adventures, and have recently created a website for my photography and paintings.


I have lived in Washington state all of my life, but I took my first trip overseas to Greece this past January.


Coming into college, one of my main goals was to participate in a study abroad program. My travel dreams came true when I was accepted into a class that would take me to Greece to study Bronze Age Religion. I traveled with a class of about 20 students and was accompanied by our fabulous professor who grew up in Greece before moving to the states.


How great was this trip?


We spent the first two weeks of our trip in Athens. During this portion of our stay we took some day trips to ancient locations on the mainland including Mycenae, Epidavros, Delphi, and Cape Sounion. After that we drove up North to spend two days at the Meteora Monasteries before flying out to Rhodes for five days and Santorini for two days. We ended our trip with a couple more days in Athens. The trip as a whole was a month long.


Here’s a quick rundown of what we did in each location:


Athens: Even with class, we had a lot of time to explore Athens. I would usually head out with a couple of friends and explore by foot. This sometimes meant walking up to 12 miles in an afternoon, but it was so worth it. We visited the Acropolis Museum and the National Archeological Museum (be sure to carve out at least a whole afternoon for this one), as well as the Agora and its museum. Some other must-see places in Athens are the Acropolis, Aeropagus, the Panathenaic Stadium, Lycabettus Hill, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (try to go during the changing of the guard), and Plaka. Athens is a huge metropolis, so this barely scratches the surface, but we found something interesting around every corner.


Mycenae: The ruins here are incredible and are filled with history. We experienced Mycenae on an extremely wet and stormy day, making it hard to enjoy everything as much as we wanted to, but the ruins were still impressive. The museum provides some great context for everything as well. On our way back to Athens from Mycenae we stopped in Nafplio which is known as a must-visit port town. It’s a very pretty little town and even has its own Medieval castle!


Epidaurus: The theater here is the main attraction. It was built with incredible acoustics so I would suggest testing them out while you’re there. We also visited the ancient healing Sanctuary of Asklepios which is well worth walking through. There is a small museum in the area as well which we spent a little time in.


Delphi: Delphi is amazing and needs at least four hours to be fully appreciated. Again, the museum here is worth a visit, but the highlight of Delphi is the Sanctuary of Athena. It is an extremely sacred space and to this day has a special energy to it. I would also recommend drinking some water from the Castalian Fountain. Rumor has it, the water from the fountain has healing powers. On our way back we stopped in Arachova for dinner. This cute little ski village built into the side of Mount Parnassus is a great place to explore. We had a wonderful time running through the cobblestone streets and watching the sunset from the top of the village clock tower.


Cape Sounion: Sounion is on the Southernmost tip of the Attic Peninsula and offers expansive views of the ocean. It is considered one of the most scenic sunset spots in all of Greece. The main feature of the Sounion, however, is the ruins of the Temple of Poseidon which are rich with history and myth. The Sounion cliffs are also considered to be the place where King Aegeus ended his life due to his dismay that Theseus was supposedly not successful in killing the minotaur of Crete. This is how the Aegean Sea got its name.


Meteora: Meteora is one of the most incredible places I’ve ever visited. The Monasteries of Meteora are perched on these massive rock formations; six of them are still open and running. Visitors are allowed to come and explore the grounds and enjoy the views. We visited the Monastery of Great Meteoron, the Monastery of Varlaam, the Monastery of St. Nicholas, and the Monastery of Roussanou.


Rhodes: We spent most of our time in Rhodes relaxing and recuperating. But we did take some time to visit the Acropolis of Rhodes as well as the Acropolis of Lindos. We also took a trip to the Faethon Miniature Horses Farm which is a sanctuary for the last 9 Rhodian Miniature Horses on the planet!


Santorini: Santorini is the classic Greece vacation spot. We were based in Fira, but drove over to Akrotiri (a completely preserved Minoan Bronze Age Settlement), and Oia within one day. The iconic views in Oia are worth witnessing in person but I would also recommend stopping by Atlantis Books. It is quite possible the coolest book shop I have ever come across and the staff is very friendly.


What was the best part?


One of my favorite parts about Greece was the people. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Greek hospitality is no joke! Everyone we encountered treated us with the utmost kindness. I think that it’s very special to come out of a trip like this with such fond memories of the people from the host country.


My favorite night in Greece happened towards the beginning of our trip. Three of my roommates and myself walked to our favorite cafe, Kekkos Traditional Cafe and Pastry, to talk to the owner about taking his photo for our own personal keepsake. He was kind enough to let us not only take the photo but, to our surprise, he invited us back into his kitchen where he fed us an amazing dinner of home cooked lamb straight out of the oven. Not only this, but he gave us one of his fresh salads, handmade pastries, and Greek wine. We ended up standing in his kitchen eating off of the counter and talking with him for over three hours. Not only was this the best meal I had during the trip, but it was the best experience because we came out of it with a new friend.


What did you do while you were there?


We didn’t really go on any guided tours. Since our professor grew up in Greece, he would often walk us through sites. Other than that, I found that I enjoyed exploring the most when it was just myself and a couple of friends wandering through whatever city or village we were in.


Aside from everything I have already mentioned, one of the really neat things that I got to experience was Greek musical theater. The Acropol Theater in Athens was putting on a professional production of Matilda: The Musical in January. The whole show was in Greek but the production was so good that I didn’t need to be able to understand what was being said to enjoy the musical. The cast was fabulous as was the pit orchestra and set. Theater is an extremely old practice in Greece so I would highly recommend experiencing some form of it if given the opportunity. Tickets for the show were only about 13 euros so it was a steal for such a high quality production.


How did you learn and prepare for this trip?


Our professor prepared us for the trip by teaching us basic Greek and provided us with other information that helped us adapt to a new country. This included giving us a basic walking tour of the central part of Athens upon arrival. He also prepared us for the culture shock, so I felt like I knew what to expect upon landing in Athens.


Aside from this, I spent quite a bit of time doing my own research. This meant watching a lot of YouTube videos and reading blogs from other people who had visited Greece. The internet was my best friend.

In hindsight, there are things I would do differently for my own personal comfort, but after months of educating myself, I felt like I was adequately prepared for my first overseas trip. There are certain things that can really only be learned after experiencing something yourself and then adapting.


How did you get there?


I go to school in Tacoma so our class flew out of the Sea-Tac airport. We flew with Lufthansa to Frankfurt, Germany and then from Frankfurt to Athens after a short layover. Our first flight to Frankfurt was about 10 hours and from there to Athens it was between 2 and 3 hours.This was my first international flight so I have nothing to compare it to, but it was a good experience. The flight attendants were very friendly and there were no issues with the plane. The airport experience in Sea-Tac was good, and there were no problems in Frankfurt either. We took the reverse route on our return back to the United States.


When we traveled between the mainland and the islands we flew with Olympic Airlines. Something to take note of is that flights only run to and from the islands out of the Athens airport and each island only has one respective small airport of its own. This limits options. While the Rhodes Airport isn’t ideal (it isn’t terrible, it just isn’t great), it is the only option. Our luggage was handled roughly at these smaller airports, but none of our bags were lost.


When traveling on the mainland, we would take buses. This was the easiest way for our large group to get around. Renting cars is an option, but driving and parking in Athens can be a nightmare. An alternative option is taking the Metro from the airport to the city and then traveling by foot, Uber, or bus.


Where did you stay?


We stayed at a couple different places throughout our trip. For our first two weeks in Athens we stayed in apartments provided by the College Year in Athens Study Abroad program. From that point on, we stayed in various hotels. The hotels are as follows:


Meteora: During our trip to Meteora we stayed in the Divani Meteora Hotel in Kalampaka. My experience here was great, very nice rooms with good views, and they serve a very nice breakfast to their guests.


Rhodes: In Rhodes we stayed at the Hotel Mediterranean. The hotel is located right on the beach and has many oceanside view rooms. The staff was extremely kind to us during our stay and the hotel bartenders were very friendly as well.


Santorini: In Fira we stayed at Noni’s apartments. The rooms that we were housed in ranged from suites to traditional Cycladic cave apartments. All of the rooms were lovely and the apartments have a view of the the caldera of Santorini. The rooms are located on a peaceful part of the caldera, but are within a short walking distance of the town center. The staff here was very friendly as well and even provided us with breakfast that they personally brought to our rooms.


Athens: Upon returning to Athens we stayed at the Athens Gate Hotel. The hotel is flanked by both the Acropolis and the Temple of Zeus so chances are your room will have a nice view. The Rooftop Restaurant has an amazing view and the staff was very accommodating to food allergies. However, this is also the only hotel where I had issues. I had an allergic reaction to something on the bed sheets (maybe the detergent they washed them with?) and ended up with hives all over my arms and legs. As well as this, while the majority of the staff was great, several staff members were surprisingly rude to us. Both of these things were was surprising to me because this is a 4 star hotel.


Where and what did you eat?


We ate at so many amazing places throughout the trip. Greek food is absolutely amazing and you can eat on a budget nearly anywhere you go. Here are just a few of my favorites.


Kekkos Traditional Cafe and Pastry: This is my favorite little cafe in Athens. It is family owned, and like I said, the owners are some of the kindest people I have ever met. They spoiled us with free pastries, meals, wine, and even full cakes. The owner, Dimitris, even gave us daily Greek lessons while we would eat. We ate breakfast at Kekkos nearly every day in Athens. Not only is the food amazing, but you can get a filling breakfast and warm drink for as little as 3 euros. It is in a great neighborhood as well and is a fun place to people watch.


Lycabettus Sky Bar: The Sky Bar is a good place to go if you want to have a classy experience without completely breaking the bank. It is located at the top of Lycabettus Hill, which is the highest point in Athens. There are two ways to get to the top of the hill. The tram costs 7 euros but it is free to take the stairs. Both are fun experiences and the view at the top is well worth the trip. At the Sky Bar you’ll be treated to 360º views of Athens and top notch service. The one thing to note is that this is a classy bar so the food and drinks are slightly more expensive than what you would find downtown, but it is well worth going to at least once while in Athens (I liked it so much that I went twice). Four of us were able to share two desserts, a couple of drinks, and bottle of a nice Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Blend for about 50 euros total. This was the most expensive food experience I had throughout the whole trip but was worth the money.


O Elvis: On the complete opposite end of the price spectrum lies Elvis. Located in Athens, Elvis is a cute little Elvis Presley themed souvlaki shop that is especially great if you just want to grab something on the go. You can get two filling kebabs with fries and bread for about 3 euros. The staff is very friendly and the meat is delicious.


Just Pita: Gyros are a must-eat when in Greece. I tried so many gyros throughout the trip but my favorites were at Just Pita in Athens. This little gyro joint has street seating and they’ll cut the meat right off of the slab right in front of you. Just Pita is also on the lower end of the price range so you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck.


DaVinci Artisan Gelato: Last, but certainly not least, I would highly recommend stopping by DaVinci. This is a chain gelato shop with various locations throughout Greece. We went to the Athens location multiple times. It was the best gelato I found in Greece. They use a lot of fresh fruit and local ingredients in their flavors and the service is outstanding.They also carry some amazing flavors that are unique to Greece which ended up being some of my favorites.


How much did it cost?


Due to the current economic crisis that Greece is suffering from, the prices for food, transportation, and experiences, are very low. Greece is not a very expensive place to travel to. We had tuition to account for, so the price I paid for the trip isn’t necessarily accurate to what it would be to the everyday traveler. I will say, however, not taking flights and lodging into consideration (we got special deals through our Study Away Program), I spent less than $1,000 while in Greece– probably more around $700. This covered a whole month of food, museums, site admissions, souvenirs, and class excursions. I wasn’t overly frugal so one could certainly live off of less for a month.


As far as finding the least expensive option when it comes to food and souvenirs, we just did our research. If you eat in the tourist part of town, chances are you’ll be overcharged. Granted, the prices won’t be terrible, but I found that with a little bit of exploring it’s not too hard to find a hidden hole-in-the-wall gem with good prices. This applies when it comes to shopping for souvenirs as well. Shops will try to pull you in with “amazing” sales. Don’t fall for it. Something we discovered is that if you walk into a tourist shop and speak a little bit of Greek to the cashier, they’ll give you a discount. This doesn’t work everywhere, but they’ll be less likely to try and scam you if you act like you know what you’re doing.

Unless you’re doing every single tourist trap attraction, Athens is fairly inexpensive, and even then admission prices to sacred sites and museums aren’t too bad. The islands are a little more pricey, but still not terrible. However, I was in Greece during the off season, so prices may fluctuate depending on what time of year you visit.


Would you go back and do it again?



I would certainly go back to Greece. I would love to return on my own time and experience the country without being in a class. The whole country is chalk-full of living history and modern development. Well worth the time, effort, and money. It’s truly an amazing place to experience.


My personal experience with taking a class in Greece was fabulous, I would recommend it to any students looking into studying abroad. The College Year in Athens program is well worth looking into.


Advice for people planning to do something similar?


I don’t think there are many things I would have done differently, but I also had a whole month to take my time and explore. If I hadn’t been there for a month I probably would have been more meticulous about my use of time, and would have prioritized going to the more famous locations with the hope that I would find some hidden gems along the way.


Some short bits of advice I would offer are:

  • Be careful of pickpockets. Nobody in my class had anything stolen, but pick-pocketing is still common, especially in tourist areas. Just be aware of your surroundings and don’t keep anything in your back pocket.

  • Don’t get scammed. Much like pick-pocketing, there are people on the streets who will try to force-sell you trinkets or invite you into bars and then make you pay once you’ve accumulated a large tab. Just say no and don’t try to be polite about it. όχι (O-he) means no in Greek and it’s the most important word you can learn.

  • Branch out from the tourist areas. The tourist part of town does have some great attractions, but some of my best experiences occurred when I was just wandering around random parts of the city and finding the hidden gems.

  • Be friendly. This sounds simple, but just being nice and outgoing will go far in Greece. Like I said, Greek hospitality is a real thing and you’re much more likely to experience it if you’re nice to the people you encounter, especially those working in customer service.


Any other experiences or businesses you wish to mention that made your trip better or more comfortable?


Another great company that we interacted with, specifically in Rhodes, was WizArt Tattoos. This might sound like an odd thing to include, but a lot of people like to get tattoos as souvenirs while in Greece, especially during summer vacations. Being in a class of 20 or so college students, it was a given that several of my classmates would make impulsive trips to the tattoo parlor. WizArt is a fabulous shop. The artists were extremely helpful and obviously knew what they were doing, taking the time to make sure tattoo translations and placements were correct. I accompanied my roommate to get a tattoo and it was an all around great experience. She had gotten previous tattoos in the states and said her tattoo experience in Rhodes far surpassed anything she had experienced back home. Not to mention, tattoo prices are much lower than they would be back here in America.


Where can we go to connect with you?


Instagram: @katiejmcgregor


Have a travel story you want to share?


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Catch you next time. Happy travels!

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