Last month, my husband and I got back from a vacation to Greece, a destination that had been at the very top of our travel bucket list. We stuck to a strict budget and hoarded vacation days in order to take two weeks off to travel to the Greek islands.
Greece definitely lived up to its expectations, but it was also full of surprises and things that I didn't expect. Here are some takeaways from my trip. Hopefully, you'll find them helpful — whether you're planning already your next getaway or just daydreaming. (Or just maybe I can convince you to put Greece at the top of your must-visit list!)
The weather is excellent well beyond July and August.
Local restaurants don't really serve pita bread.
Every island has a very distinct feel.
And the country is made up of thousands of them.
Wine can actually be as cheap as water.
But there's also a ton of variety and so many delicious Greek wines.
The winds are really important, and they can even dictate where you travel.
There's a word I heard often while I was traveling in Greece: Meltemi. The Meltemi is a strong, seasonal wind that blows across the Aegean sea. And it can seriously mess with your travel plans. At one point, I was advised to change my ferry from the late afternoon to the early morning because the island of Folegandros was expecting some severe wind, and boy am I glad I listened.
I arrived in Folegandros just in time to enjoy the breezy weather and take advantage of some great hiking trails, but I heard horror stories of ferries getting canceled and others getting stuck in the open, extremely choppy water for hours. Plus, on all of the islands, locals suggest visiting specific beaches depending on the wind conditions so that you're sheltered from strong currents and breezes.
There's so much variety when it comes to Greek cuisine.
Some of the best beaches can only be reached by boat.
The beaches in Santorini are nothing to write home about.
And TBH, it's the only island I visited that I wouldn't return to.
When it comes to cheese, there's way more than just Feta.
The ferry system was surprisingly organized and extremely efficient.
There's way more to Athens than the Acropolis.
Speaking of Athens, there are amazing beaches right beyond the city.
Most of the food is really affordable.
In Greece, people eat dinner really late.
Many islands have an extensive network of great hiking trails.
You'll probably want to rent a car.
Driving can be really difficult.
The fresh seafood is what dreams are made of.
But there are also tons of options for people who prefer meat…or even a vegetarian diet.
Not all the beaches are sandy.
And they're often clothing-optional.
Greek tavernas give oceanfront dining a new meaning.
Have you been to Greece? What islands did you love the most? What tips would you give to others planning a trip?