Greece is indeed one of my favorite countries. As a kid, I spent a lot of time on the Greek islands and I’m happy that I got to see so much of this wonderful country before it became so adapted for tourists. Anyway, when you come to Greece you know you are in Greece. The narrow streets, the white houses with blue doors, the orange trees, the smell of olives, fresh Greek salads everywhere, beautiful ceramics and marketplaces with all the traditional Greek herbs like oregano and thyme. It's a special feeling, indeed.
Over the years I’ve been to quite a few destinations all over Greece. Crete, which is the biggest island, has some amazing places. Agii Apostoli, Georgiopouli, and Chania (the biggest town) are all great locations. However, I think I prefer the smaller islands, mostly because they still have that genuine Greek feeling that I love so much.
Crete is probably the most famous island in Greece. I've been there three times, but the last time I visited it was too adapted for tourists. When you find restaurant menus in Swedish, it has gone too far if you ask me. Like I said, I prefer smaller, genuine places where you live like the locals. But, if you want nice beaches, big hotels and great swims in the Mediterranean - Crete is a great choice. It all has to do with our preferences, right? Agii Apostoli had some really nice hiking paths and the sunset was pretty spectacular (see proof below). Also, you could find some really nice beaches, and when I was there they were not that crowded either. Oh, and the water was so blue it was crazy.
Samos is a small island, very close to Turkey. If you go, I highly recommend that you participate in a guided tour around the island (by bus). You get the chance to meet ceramists who live high up in the mountains and you can buy the most beautiful creations. You also get to try local specialties, visit wine yards and of course - see amazing nature and all the wonderful beaches. I remember that we visited a small farm up in the mountains, and they served us this traditional dessert - yogurt and honey. That was before I went vegan, but I remember that even though it was super simple, I thought it was really delicious.
I also remember that we stopped by some really pretty fishing villages when driving around the island. At one place we were even able to see some mini turtles and it was so cool (that was before I went to Mauritius and saw giant turtles, hehe). The photo below is from one of the wine yards we visited, where we got to try both red and white wine. I still haven't drunk a better white wine than the one we got to try there. Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of it, which is a shame.
Santorini is probably one of the most hyped places to go right now. Everyone seems to go there and I totally understand why. Santorini is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. You have probably seen the classic white houses with blue roofs and doors, located on steep mountain hills with the ocean beneath (see below)? Those photos are all from Santorini. Those views are to be seen everywhere and it is also said that the world’s most beautiful sunset can be seen from Oia, Santorini. I’ve watched that sunset and I’m the first to agree with that. No words can describe the beauty of it. Just look at it (photos below were shot on film).
If I were to visit Greece today, I'd probably rent a car and a house in the mountains somewhere. Just to see more of the day-to-day life in Greece, away from all the tourists. If you've never set foot in Greece, go wherever you like. You'll love the atmosphere, the food, the culture. Make sure to enjoy the lovely beaches, but also reserve a day or two to explore the culture and daily life of the Greek families. Visit an artist, go to a wine yard or learn about archeology or other historical places (there are lots of them in Greece). Also make sure to enjoy the lovely Greek food, like the classic salad with tomatoes, onion, olives and feta cheese, moussaka and ouzo (licorice tasting spirit). For the meat eater there is also souvlaki (skewers), keftedes (meatballs) and if you like fish you can eat all kinds of seafood.
Greece is also the country of cats. There are cats everywhere. You’ll see them at restaurants, where they come and beg for food (I always give them something because they’re so cute) and they’ll probably also visit you at your hotel. You should also be prepared for cockroaches, which is probably the most disgusting thing that exists. Did you know that they can survive 9 days without their head? After 9 days they starve to death. I mean, how disgusting is that? Let's change the subject.
So, to sum things up a bit. It may sound like I'm a bit skeptical about visiting Greece, but I'm not. I just want to encourage you to explore areas that are not crowded by tourists. By doing so, you'll get a more authentic feeling about Greece. Some of you might prefer big hotels with pools just for kids and all-inclusive and all that - and that's fine! Maybe you just want a vacation, don't care too much about seeing stuff, just want to get away from laundry, cooking, and whatnot. Then go wherever you like and enjoy your time there - you deserve it! But if you're more like me, and want to explore and see stuff, then rent a house somewhere (hello AirBnB), go on road trips and see as much as possible. Maybe you can find some hidden beaches to claim as your own or a nice family restaurant in the mountains somewhere. Whatever you do, I'm sure you'll fall in love with Greece and all its beautiful islands.