11 Highlights From My First Trip to Greece


One of my biggest travel surprises of 2016 has to be how hard I’ve fallen for Greece!

The two weeks I spent there was one of the best trips I’ve taken in several years.

And that was wonderful, because this was the first real trip I’d taken after ending my full-time travels and finding a base in Lisbon. I was nervous about it — I’d arrived in Lisbon so burnt out, so unwell, so stressed and anxious, and so over travel. So Greece was me dipping my toe back into the travel waters to see how I felt about it.

Greece was me realising that I could never be fully over travel.

Greece was me learning that finding a base was the best decision I could have ever made. That I can still travel as much as I used to, but that I function so much better when I have a home to return to between trips.

Greece was the place that helped me rediscover the joy I once had for exploring new places.

And while I took a slightly unconventional route around the country — visiting Corfu and sailing around the Ionian rather than hitting up Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos — I still fell madly in love.

Here are the highlights from my time in Greece.

Greek food in Corfu
My first meal in Greece: of course I had to go for the gyros and Greek salad!

The Food, Of Course

Like I could go to Greece and not write about the incredible food I found there!

I don’t think I had a single bad meal over the two weeks I spent in the country, even when I was eating in some no name town where I felt like I could be stabbed.

My meals were all about the freshest Greek salads with enormous slabs of feta cheese on top: so good that I doubt I’ll ever eat a Greek salad outside of Greece again! It was all about the fresh bread and virgin olive oil. The tastiest olives I’ve ever tried. The rich moussakas. The tender kleftiko. The lamb souvlakis. The grilled octopus. It was ordering a plate of fried feta for an appetiser and that being perfectly acceptable.

Practically everything I ate in Greece was the best version I’ve ever tasted of that dish, and it had the country shooting up into my top five places around the world in which to eat.

I’m already planning a return to Greece next year and a lot of my motivation comes from missing the incredible food.

Corfu fortress
Views from Corfu’s fortress

Discovering that Corfu Isn’t Full of Chavs

Corfu doesn’t have the greatest reputation in the U.K.

It’s kind of known as a bit of a hotspot for chavs who are heading out on cheap package holidays to drink themselves to oblivion in their resorts. Even though we were heading to Corfu in the shoulder season, I was concerned that was all we’d experience there.

But it wasn’t at all!

Corfu Town doesn’t really attract the obnoxious British holidaymakers I was fearful of running into, and I fell in love with its chilled-out vibe. Wandering through the Old Town was my favourite activity from our four days there: I loved gazing up at the crumbling, colourful buildings and feta-hopping my way across the cafes and restaurants in town. And I can’t not mention Corfu’s old fortress, which was full of fascinating history (it’s been a part of so many sieges from the Ottomans over the years!) while still being fun to clamber all over.

I would totally return to Corfu Town in the future and that’s something I never thought I would say!

Lauren and Dave selfie
I didn’t take any photos in the museum, so here’s one of me and Dave on his birthday!

Celebrating Dave’s Birthday at Corfu’s Banknote Museum

You think I’m joking, but I’m not.

Corfu’s banknote museum is easily one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. Entry to the museum was free and the old lady who worked there gave us an hour-long tour for free, too.

And who knew that one of the best ways to learn about the history of a country is through its banknotes?

We saw banknotes dating from 1822 (which were enormous) to the present day, some of which were issued during the Second World War by the occupation government, some bills were worth 100 billion drachmas due to hyperinflation after the war, and my favourite were the 5 drachma bills that were actually just 10 drachma notes that had been cut in half, because they’d been the smallest denomination at that time!

If you’re ever in Corfu, go to the banknote museum! It’s so worth a visit.

A secluded bay in Greece with a yacht floating on crystal-clear water

Spending the Night Sleeping Under the Stars

As our sailing trip drew to a close, one of our final nights on the yacht was spent tied up in a secluded bay with only a few other boats around for company.

The water was so calm I felt as though I was on dry land, the other people on the yachts surrounding us were quiet so we barely knew they were there, and the night’s sky was cloudless. That night, Dave and I kept our hatch open so that we could look up at any point and see the Milky Way twinkling above us.

This was easily my favourite place where we spent the night and I wish we could have stayed for longer.

dave in greece

Swimming in the Warmest, Clearest Ocean Ever

I was expecting the water in Greece to be chilly, because that’s all I’ve ever experienced in the Mediterranean, so I was pleasantly surprised by just how warm the ocean was on our sailing trip — the temperatures were similar to what I’ve experienced in Southeast Asia!

And the visibility was ridiculous. We would be tied up in water depths of 20 metres and you could easily look down to the ocean floor and see the hundreds of fishes swimming beneath us.

All of that transformed me from a nervous ocean swimmer to a water baby who was forever jumping off the side of the boat and spending all day splashing around in the sea.

And you know what? It was so. much. fun.

kioni

Checking Out Kioni

One of the prettiest places we stopped at on our sailing adventure was the cute fishing village of Kioni. I mean, just look at that location! I loved gazing up at the colourful buildings from the water and then later wandering through the olive groves and cypress trees.

While we didn’t spend much time in this tiny village, it was the prettiest stop on our trip and I could have totally stayed there for several days.

kalamos
Mornings in Kalamos

Mornings Spent Overlooking the Calm Ocean

Mornings were my favourite time to be on the yacht. The water was calm, barely anyone else on neighbouring yachts were awake, so the only sound was the gentle lapping of water against the boat, and the sun was just high enough in the sky for it to be warm, but not sweat-inducing.

Those mornings were some of my biggest highlights. Frying up eggs for breakfast with Dave in the kitchen, stretching out in the cockpit and reading my Kindle in the sunshine, and excitedly waiting to find out where we would be exploring later that day.

greece waters

Having Our Own Private Bay for the Day

One of my favourite days was when we moored up in a tiny bay on the island of Ithaca. That photo above shows pretty much the entire spot.

We were the only yacht tied up here for the afternoon, meaning we had out own little bay to ourselves. We snorkelled with the fishes, swam out to the little beach to sunbathe, and basked up on deck, feeling like we were the only people around for miles.

Probably because we were.

lauren-hair

Embracing My Sea Hair

For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated my hair. Every hairdresser I’ve been to has commented on how thick and uncontrollable it is. It’s curly, it’s frizzy, and the smallest drop of water is enough to cause it to jump up into an afro.

On the boat, however, I realised why so many people are obsessed with sea salt sprays for their hair. Thanks to all that sea water, I was able to let my hair hang free and natural, and it was far less frizzy than usual (here’s a photo of what my hair is usually like when I don’t do anything to it). I thought I’d go crazy without my hair straighteners to tame my hair, but I actually grew to love it.

It’s great to know that if I ever did decide to buy a yacht and sail around the world, I wouldn’t have to worry about my wild mane getting in the way.

sailing in the ionian

Moments with Vodka North

On every sailing trip, there’s something called *The Moment*. It’s been a mainstay of every trip Dave and his friends have taken, and I love getting to join in with them.

Someone runs downstairs to blast out some music through the yacht’s speakers — always Mr Brightside by the Killers — someone else fills everyone’s cup with a generous pour of Vodka North (a Nordic berries-flavoured vodka that’s hard to find outside of Greece), and we all cheers to being in a beautiful part of the world. We then down our drink and jump off the side of the yacht into the water.

This never fails to boost my mood and leave me feeling so alive.

The village of Frikes in Greece

Meerkating in Frikes

Frikes was one of my favourite mooring spots, and it’s mostly because we were one of the first yachts to take our spot there. We were then in prime position in the harbour to do some meerkating.

The winds were strong in this part of Ithaca, and those coupled with the large wake from passing ferries meant that mooring was a bit of a challenge for anyone who arrived later on in the evening. And that meant we could spent our afternoons with a Vodka North in hand, wincing as we watched the disastrous attempts at mooring, backs straight and necks craned, looking just like meerkats.

When we had dinner that night, we sat and watched someone attempt to moor for a full forty minutes in the darkness before giving up to head somewhere else.

How Can You Sail the Ionian, Too?

I’ve had quite a few readers reach out to ask how you can take a similar sailing trip around the Ionian, and given that I’m probably not going to be writing any more posts about Greece, I’mwhacking that information to the end of this post.

We chartered a 47ft yacht through Sunsail, leaving from Lefkas, for an eight-day trip. It cost roughly $1000 per person for the week (there were only five of us, but we had enough room for eight people, so you could definitely cut down the costs if you travelled with more people).

I was fortunate that both Dave and his best friend know how to sail, so we didn’t have to hire a captain for our trip. If you don’t know anyone who can sail, you can hire a skipper through Sunsail, who will sail the boat, moor for you, and take care of anything technical. It’ll be pricier to do this, but you’ll still be able to do essentially the same as we did, but without having to panic about how to actually sail.

As you can tell, I’d definitely recommend the experience!

Plotting My Return to Greece

I know that practically every time I write a post about a place I’ve visited, I end it by talking about how I’m already making plans to return.

Greece is no exception, but I’m totally convinced I’ll revisit next year. I’m already putting together plans to head out for another sailing trip next autumn, and Dave and I are talking about heading back in the summer to check out the islands on the Aegean side.

And to eat, of course.

Have you been to Greece? What was your highlight from your time there?

Greece is an amazing country!

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40 Comments

  1. October 14, 2016
    Reply

    I’m loving your photos. You said you were going to up your photography game and you have! Such amazing water!

    • October 14, 2016
      Reply

      Ah, thank you so much! That means a lot :-)

  2. Lulu
    October 14, 2016
    Reply

    Are you ever planning on seeing the Caribbean?

    • October 14, 2016
      Reply

      Yep, definitely! I just haven’t managed to get there yet. But soon, hopefully :-)

  3. October 14, 2016
    Reply

    2017? You go, future girl :)

    • October 14, 2016
      Reply

      Hahaha, whoops!

      And that is what happens when I try to post every single day!

  4. October 14, 2016
    Reply

    I think thousands of Italian and other tourists would disagree that the Ionian island route is “unconventional” : ) Corfu is Greece’s 3rd most visited island (after Santorini and Crete) and receives dozens of direct flights from all over Europe. You are much, much more likely to find a secluded little island known to few in the Aegean. I hope you get to visit!

    • October 14, 2016
      Reply

      Ah, that comment was aimed more at us sailing around tiny islands and villages in the Ionian than visiting Corfu. Not many visitors to Greece charter a yacht to explore the country.

  5. October 14, 2016
    Reply

    Lovely and romantic trip! I love Greece, and food… of course :)

    • October 19, 2016
      Reply

      Of course! I don’t think I can ever eat it outside of the country again :-)

  6. John
    October 14, 2016
    Reply

    The color of that water looks like reason enough to visit!

  7. October 14, 2016
    Reply

    I LOVE Greek food and somehow I’ve yet to go to Greece. This post is making me want to book a vacation right now. There’s a stigma in the US about Greece right now, all we hear in the media is that it’s broke and not to go there. Glad to see that it’s just the media being a bit crazy.

    • October 14, 2016
      Reply

      Oooooh, you definitely need to go! The food will blow your mind! :-) And it’s totally fine to go there — there was money in all the ATMs, credit cards worked fine, etc. As a tourist, the financial crisis won’t affect your trip, and visiting is great for the country, as it means that you can ensure your money goes to the locals and families who need it most.

  8. Atanas
    October 14, 2016
    Reply

    Greeks had managed to keep their food free of GMO. That`s why it`s so tasty. Even that`s enough reason to go there. Plus, the sun, the secluded beaches, the uzo, sirtaki… Greece is always a good choice!

    • October 14, 2016
      Reply

      Absolutely! I can’t wait to go back :-)

  9. October 14, 2016
    Reply

    You guys definitely chose the right islands to visit in Greece – first time I went to Ios and Santorini and they were great but.. the Ionian island were my favourite. I did a small ship cruise there for 10 days back in 2008 and LOVED it. I also loved Corfu town but unfortunately didn’t know about the banknotes museum (although a visit to the currency museum in Ottawa, Canada was one of my best museum visits ever). My favourite island was Paxos and Anti-paxi and I loved visiting Parga on the mainland, up near the Albanian border. I am dying to get back to Greece!

    • October 14, 2016
      Reply

      Ah, we were planning on visiting Paxos and Antipaxos, but it was pouring down with rain on the day we wanted to visit. The colour of the water around there looks incredible!

  10. October 14, 2016
    Reply

    Looks amazing! I’m in Athens for the month of October. Going to do some daytrips to islands near here, but I’m not getting to Corfu or any other islands that are more distant. I’ll definteily have to come back.

  11. October 15, 2016
    Reply

    The main reason I want to go to Greece is to try to food. That Greek salad looked delicious!

    Your sea hair looks beautiful!

    • October 20, 2016
      Reply

      Thank you! And yes, Greece is one of the best countries ever for eating. The food is so, so good!

  12. October 15, 2016
    Reply

    Greece is one of my dream destinations! It looks so lovely from your pictures.

    • October 19, 2016
      Reply

      It’s definitely worth visiting — it more than met my expectations! :-)

  13. October 15, 2016
    Reply

    Real Greek salads are the best! If you make it to Crete you can try the Cretan salads which are a bit different to the usual Greek salads, but just as delicious.

    • October 16, 2016
      Reply

      I love the giant slab of feta you get on top of them! Why can’t you find that anywhere else?!

  14. October 15, 2016
    Reply

    I would love to visit the islands one day! I’ve down a short trip through the mainland, my absolute favourite part of the country is Meteora. I think nothing (even those picture perfect islands) can beat the magic of the monasteries on top of the cliffs!

    • October 19, 2016
      Reply

      I would love to get to Meteora next year when I head back! It looks spectacular.

  15. Mario Mironov
    October 16, 2016
    Reply

    Greece is amazing. I love the food, but it is a bit hard to find a nice restaurant without them taking you for walking wallet full UK money. If you leave this on the side the food is great, the beaches are nice and many. In small Halkidiki there are hundreds of small beaches.

    • October 19, 2016
      Reply

      Ah, fortunately, I didn’t really experience that side of Greece on this trip. But yes, the food is so amazing!

  16. October 17, 2016
    Reply

    The food! The water! And off course your hair! It suits you;-) Though I like your new blonde look.

    Perhaps I can convince my parents to take another sailing trip in Greece, worth a try…

  17. November 6, 2016
    Reply

    I visited Mykonos (yeah, I know!) in June this summer, with my 14-year old daughter and her friend. It was actually great, because it was still pre-season and not crowded at all. We had a wonderful time. Our best food experience was the N’ice Cream-place, where they had gorgeous and unconventional ice cream tastes (how about olive?), as well as quite a few vegan varietes for my vegan daughter :)

    Sailing in the Greek archipelago sounds terrific, I’d very much like to do that in the future.

    • March 2, 2017
      Reply

      That sounds so amazing! I’d love to try olive-flavoured ice cream :-)

  18. Lisa
    March 28, 2018
    Reply

    Hi! maybe I missed this part but when did you travel to Greece? I hope to travel in October and I’m afraid of the cool weather although many travel sites suggest the beaches are still warm in Santorini. Any sites you would recommend? I wont be on a yacht, for sure haha. Thanks!

    • March 29, 2018
      Reply

      I was there in mid-September. The weather should still be nice and warm in October, although the touristy islands would definitely be quiet. Maybe that’s a good thing though :-)

  19. October 7, 2018
    Reply

    Greece is by far my favourite place in the world. As you say, the food and beaches are incredible – but for me, the Greeks are the friendliest folk I’ve ever met!

  20. Edmond
    November 12, 2018
    Reply

    As others are mentioning, Greece is incredible. For me the most favorite place in the world. For all the reasons you mentioned and for many more. Among them is also the fact that Greece’s other islands all together is a near endless array of breathtaking landscapes and diversity in every way.
    But also the mainland which you have not visited yet is overfilled with absolute spectacular beauties. It’s 80% mountains and many alpine or other regions. It’s many mountain lakes, its 800 natural hot-springs (one of the most in the world), and so on. Crete hosts the longest gorge in Europe(Samaria gorge), and the Vikos gorge in North Greece (epirus province) is the deepest gorge in the world. And the Greek people are great and very warm.

    I always like how people experience Greece for the first time as I have done in my own ways. But I also know that there are still SO many surprises and gorgeous experiences in Greece still waiting to be explored.

    • January 8, 2019
      Reply

      I definitely need to see more of the mainland, that’s for sure. I visited Athens last year for the first time and loved it!

  21. Christine
    February 14, 2019
    Reply

    Greece is the most amazing country. I’ve been visiting since 1985! But one of my all time highlights was Meteora on the mainland. Those awe-inspiring monasteries sitting perched high on pinnacles of rock. Then the Acheron River, Zagora Gorge, all close to Parga. The islands of Paxos, Anti-Paxos, Symi, Skiathos, all favourites of mine. Have just enjoyed reading your book – and now this Blog. Good luck on your future travels – you are one lucky girl.

  22. Hannelie
    April 10, 2019
    Reply

    So awesome! Thanks for sharing. I want to go to Greece!

  23. Sharon
    May 31, 2019
    Reply

    I’m really enjoying your blog. I’m glad you like Greece, I’m a Brit that has lived here for 30 years and I still have so much to see. Athens is fantastic when you get away from the main tourist parts. Philopappou hill is my stress releaver. My partner and I go there for Sunday morning walks and never get bored with it. Hope you get back here soon !!

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