Oh Greece! With your emerald blue waters, stunning islands, green silver shimmery Olive Trees, history, and food! How could a traveler not fall in love? While hiking and walking through all of the sites I tried to be in the moment as much as possible imagining what life was like when many of the sites were first created. That led me down the rabbit hole of deep thoughts, like, “When and why did we stop being hunter/gatherers? What made humans want to create communities? What made some humans explorers? Why do all cultures around the globe have similar myths?” I channeled my inner philosopher vibes. This is what traveling does to me, it makes me question and get deep especially when I visit places like Greece.
GREECE IN THREE WORDS:
If I had to describe Greece in three words they would be:
Gritty. Historical. Picturesque.
Wow! It feels like Athens goes on forever. The city isn’t dirty but rather it looks and feels as if it has been lived in for 2500 years. And Delphi, talk about a true hidden treasure! Crete Island has so many cute villages to discover! I was mostly thrilled to swim in the Medediterrian Sea. The economic crisis is real here folks the graffiti expressing it, strikes, and protests that probably didn’t make your local news broadcast, all of these things make you feel it. And I am willing to bet that change will be coming soon to Greece because the people are for sure going to make it happen!
WHAT SURPRISED ME ABOUT GREECE?
Here are a few things that surprised me about Greece. On our tour to Delphi our guide told us that half of the population of Greece lives in Athens. She also told us that the Ministry of Culture has mandated that all historical sites remain as is, I wondered about this when I saw copies made of broken artifacts. The reason for the mandate is to show what has happened historically, like it or not. And a lot of the artifacts are housed at the History Museum in London and at the Louvre in France! So keep an eye out on your future visits. Another surprise is that I already really loved Greek food and when you’re here it’s at another level! I also learned that Greece is one of the world’s largest honey exporters. And nature surprised me on how beautifully blue water can be and of course the pink sand and really all beaches!
WHAT DO VEGETARIANS EAT IN GREECE?
Lots of Greek food! My faves: souvlaki: a pita filled with falafel, tzatziki, lettuce, tomato, and fries. Mezze plates with hummus, tzatziki, smoked eggplant, cheese dips, and veggies usually olives, tomato, and cucumber. And pies filo dough layered with cheese, zucchini, or spinach. And for my sweet tooth loukoumades (Greek doughnuts), bougatsa, baklava. Don’t forget Greek coffee, bagels, and yogurt with honey and walnuts.
TIPS- In this section I've laid out tips if you're interested in traveling here...
ATHENS- Know that the airport is far and in the afternoon traffic can be bad. Don’t take day tours to nearby historical sites, rent a car and go at your own pace instead. You can buy a pass to visit many of the touristy things, just know that three of the six sites are intact not rubble and buying this pass is worth it if you want to skip the lines. Ride the Metro it’s cheap and easy.
CRETE- Rent a car when you land, driving is really easy on the main National Highway. On the old road and through the villages the roads can be narrow and windy. Stay in Kissamos or Chania to visit Balos and Elafonsi beach. Balos has some fees (cash only) entry is one Euro per person, parking is a couple more. The road to get to Balos is a bumpy dirt one so if you get car sick easily pack a bag. Getting down to the lagoon is a hike, easier going up than down. At the lagoon you can rent chairs. And it’s really dirty there because of the people, donkey poop, and this algae that looks like shredded paper. All sites in Crete get really packed when the tour buses load in another reason to get your own car and be early. You could visit Balos and Elafonsi in a day but I would go separately. Another reason why I loved renting a car is going to different villages/towns. The ports at some of the towns are so nice! Having lunch or dinner catching the sunset was really great. So when you leave this side of the island go to the other side to check out the Dikteon Cave and Knossos Palace. And drivers beware, locals have changed some of the signs so that you will pass through their village to stop and make purchases.
See my list above. Crete wasn’t impossible for vegetarians but didn’t offer as many options as Athens.
ATHENS- You’ll be fine staying anywhere near the Acropolis. Plaka is a cute neighborhood and what you imagine when you think of Greece.
CRETE- As mentioned stay on one side of the island and then go to the other side. We were able to rent a car landing in one airport and drop it off at the other airport on the other side of the island. My most favorite town was Rethimno.