A Mediterranean Odyssey

Q.

Hi Shalome,

If you could help me out in any way at all…

My sister in law turns 50 in May 2018 and we are scheduled to go to Santorini from New Delhi May 20th to May 25th for her birthday celebrations.

Since we are going to Greece, I thought we could do Athens and Mykonos as well. Mykonos for no reason in particular, really, it seems to be a popular destination to visit in Greece and some of our friends have been there.

I am wondering how many days would be sufficient for these 2 cities and best places to stay within a fairly tight budget with my husband, and 2 girls aged 13 and 8.

We would like to visit some famous tourist sites, eat some local food, visit local markets, and yes maybe some soft adventure activities with the kids.

Also we would like to go to Spain after Greece since we are traveling all the way to Europe. I am in the process of getting quotes for flights between Athens and Barcelona and am yet to decide what works best for us.

What cities in Spain would you recommend apart from Barcelona and how many days would be sufficient?

We will fly back home out of Barcelona.

In the past we have visited places like England, France, Pakistan, Australia to name a few.. We live like locals as these are for long durations, like the whole summer. If we are not traveling on work, then we do just the usual touristy things.

Budget-wise we’re hoping to get some good deals, approximately 100 USD/night.

We can be away for 2 weeks total.

Anyway you can help will be appreciated!

Thanks so very much.

Elisha Suri Malhotra.

Hi Elisha

SUGGESTED ITINERARY

  • Athens: 3 nights min.
  • Crete / other island: 2-3 nights
  • Barcelona: 4 nights
  • Barcelona surroundings: 2 nights
  • Other destination in Spain: 3 nights min

Okay there are several things to consider and decide on here. I am going to make suggestions that, I hope, will clarify your options and narrow down your choices.

Having been to Greece as a teenager myself I know that as much as I loved the places we visited, my brother and I really did not enjoy the island hopping much. So I think that it’s wise that you have only two islands and Athens in mind.

I was a little surprised that you mentioned Mykonos because it’s generally labelled as an island for partygoers. If your friends who have been there have specific suggestions that work for your family, go ahead. Else, you may want to rethink your choice of Mykonos.

Panormos Village, Crete

There are roughly 230 inhabited islands in Greece to choose from, though, and it can be a daunting task trying to choose one that works for you. The Telegraph has a cool quiz made up of 10 questions to help you decide. (I think it may be interesting to do this quiz twice, once with your kids and once without, just to make sure you’re all on the same page.) You can also go through these articles that round up the best/most popular islands: here and here. Keep in mind that not all islands are interconnected by ferry; some only have ferry services to Athens.

Besides Santorini, I have visited Naxos, Samos, Paros and Anti Paros. But I would suggest you try Crete. There are direct ferries from Santorini to Crete that take you there in 90 minutes.

The largest of the Greek islands, Crete, is beautiful and popular, with mountains, beaches, ruins, amazing food (the Cretan diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world) there’s a lot to do. If you think you may want some quiet time The Mirror lists some hidden beaches. May is also considered a good time for outdoor activities. You could combine both and head to Balos Beach on the Gramvousa Peninsula, which can be reached only on foot or ship. If you decide to go you may choose to rent a car to get around, the Cretan bus service is known to be erratic. You can read more about Crete here.

Detail of Parthenon, Athens

A bigger island also means more accommodation options so you are likely to be able to find something that’s perfect for you. The Belmondo Hotel & Suites in Chania/Hania is simple but atmospheric, receives good ratings on TripAdvisor and its Standard Rooms will just fit into your budget of $100 per room / night. If I were you, though, I’d be tempted to spend a little more and try the characterful Veneto Hotel, housed in a 15th century mansion located in the old town of Rethymno. For roughly $230 / night you could have a Junior Suite that accommodates all four of you. The Telegraph and Lonely Planet list more hotel options.

Your journey to Athens would likely be an overnight one on of the three ferry routes available. Private, en-suite four-person cabins are available. Prices will vary depending on the route and ferry company you choose. I found a four-berth cabin for the price of $340 dollars. TripAdvisor has some good advice regarding Greek ferries.

As for hotels in Athens, you may find yourself paying a little more than you’d hoped else you may find yourself compromising on either the location or the quality of accommodation. The Acropolis House Hotel, for example, has a great location and is a friendly, family run establishment and fits into your budget but the bathrooms seem to leave a little to be desired. For roughly $20 more you could opt for the Hotel Metropolis, which is also in the Plaka area, also receives good reviews on TripAdvisor but has a much more updated feel.

However, I have no personal experience with either of these hotels so I suggest you review them both carefully before deciding. There are, of course, many other hotels to choose from but safety is a concern in Athens so do keep that in mind. Most people agree that the safer bits of Athens are the Plaka, Syntagma, Thissio, Acropolis areas. People also recommend you confirm that the room has a safe deposit box so that you are not forced to walk around with all your valuables.

As for Spain, you can see what I recommend in Barcelona in my Insider Guide to Barcelona. Your girls may also enjoy the CosmoCaixa – Science Museum and the maze in the Parc del laberint d’Horta. A Segway tour may also be fun but are generally fairly expensive.

Gyro: a perfect on-the-go meal

I would suggest you limit yourself to Barcelona and its surroundings for this visit. If you think you want to see more you can read my post on other places to visit in Spain, which includes the Costa Brava, just north of Barcelona.

In Barcelona I suggest you save your money for the sights, you’re likely to only use your hotel for sleeping. I would suggest you use an AirBnb. Or if you think your teenagers would enjoy mixing with younger people and the experience of staying in a hostel you could consider booking a private room in one of these hostels that relatives of mine have used in the past with their children: Equity Point, Passeig de Gracia and Generator Hostel. Currently prices for 4 people in a shared room start from 115 euros / $150 a night approximately.

In my suggested itinerary I’ve left a day or two open to allow for flight schedules that may eat up some of your time, an overnight ferry journey (depending on which island you choose), etc.

One word of advice: try and use backpacks rather than suitcases. You will end up carrying your own bags on and off ferries and up flights of stairs in hotels since porters are virtually non-existent in Europe.

READ

My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell.

I wish you all a wonderful trip!

Shalome

All photos: www.123rf.com