We were invited to our dear friend's daughters wedding a few months back. They did not have to twist our arm! Their venue of choice was the charming laid back isle of Skiathos. Nearby where they filmed the movie, Mamma Mia! The charm and grace of this small island about a 30-minute flight from Athens is a very memorable place to spend a week or two.
Our trip to Greece will focus mostly on Skiathos island. We went to a friends wedding there, after spending one and a half days in Athens to help cure our 17-hour jet lag!
Boise Idaho, to Athens via Seattle and then London. There is really no easy way to get to Athens flight wise. Despite its size, it is not one of the major hubs in Greece as you might expect it to be! We flew Delta to Seattle, and then Norwegian air into London (Gatwick). Norwegian is a no-frills economy airline, but the price is hard to beat. A 7-hour layover was waiting for us when we landed in London. Since Lorie and I just cannot sleep on a plane (Despite trying every time!), we just had to wander around to stay awake for our Easy Jet flight to Athens. We arrived in Athens at 9 pm local time, 30 hours after we left Boise the previous day!
We chose our 1 1/2 day layover in Athens for the following two reasons. First to get rid of some of our jet lag, but mostly to see some sights in Athens! The neighborhood of Plaka would serve as our area of choice for our brief 2-night stay. This area is perfectly central to many of the sites that we planned to visit on our one full day here. Parthenon, Acropolis and Panathenaic stadium were all within walking distance of our hotel. We stayed at Hotel Metropolis in the Northern part of Plaka. It was a nice stay for two nights. The rooftop views and pool area were stunning, and they had a marvelous breakfast buffet for our two mornings there. I would highly recommend!
Plaka is without a doubt one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in Athens, with its narrow streets, lovely neoclassical buildings, small cafes, traditional taverns, and ancient ruins in almost every corner. Plaka is in the heart of the center of Athens, just under the Acropolis, but has a totally different style than the rest of the city center, creating a feeling of nostalgia of the old Athens. Even though it is very commercial and popular with tourists, it is the ideal place to enjoy a nice walk, as there are plenty of things to do and see, while strolling around its small beautiful streets.
An impressive example of Greek architecture, the Parthenon is a cultural landmark like no other! Once serving as a treasury and at another time a Christian church. Now it is a must-see sight and the highlight of visiting Acropolis. There is some current restoration going on here now as of June 2019 to the building's exterior. We definitely recommend going as early as possible to beat the heat now, along with the crowds! At the Panathenaic stadium, some 50,000 people filled the stands here at this all marble stadium for the first Olympics in 1896! Yet it's history goes back even further. You can literally feel the history there while standing in its marble center! Despite being quite run down ... as I suppose it should look ... you will revel in all of its charms.
On to Skiathos!
Skiathos is the most popular of the Sporades islands, which are just East of the Volos. Many folks return here from year to year due to the unique island charm. Skiathos is abundant with forests, mountains, and water. There are fig, almond, olive and grape trees all around. The movie Mamma Mia was filmed on the nearby island of Skopelos making it quite popular. While Skiathos embraces tourism it still maintains a small island feel. We arrived at the very cozy small airport, world-renowned for its very small runway! A must stop is to watch a plane or two land or take off from a nearby viewing venue. We first visited Skiathos town from the airport which is the heart of the island. All major events/activities take place here. A lot of restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops, with a very lively nightlife!
Walking down the streets here you can just feel the charm and relaxed atmosphere. We visited the #Bourtzi old castle and restaurant for a lovely meal, then just wandered around for a couple of hours soaking in the atmosphere. Be sure to at least plan for several hours here. We did later come back a few times during our visit as well. We stayed at the opposite side of the island which is about a 25-minute drive. Skiathos palace hotel, was a very nice venue for our friend's daughters wedding, with lush tropical landscaping and late Spring blooms of color. From here you can access a couple of nearby beaches. Martha beach and the much larger Koukounaries bay beach were close walking distance for us. We enjoyed both of these a few times during our stay.
Wedding - Congrats to the brand new Mr. & Mrs. Brown! (Edward & Sally)
Our best friends daughter was the focus of this week for her dream Greek isle wedding! The entire week Lorie and I felt like we were in a dream - but in Sally's dream! It really was that special. We were so honored to have been invited, and even further honored when Sally requested that I be the Master of ceremonies for her wedding. Sally's Instagram: @muasallyvictoria
Dinner the night before the wedding was like being in a movie scene! Nearly 50 of us took over a restaurant (Alexandros Taverna), and the tables spilled into an alley walkway in Skiathos town. The food was incredible, the entertainment was incredible, but best of all the bride & groom had a wonderful evening. You could just see the joy on their faces all night long! The following day the wedding was spectacular. Cheers to the new Mr. & Mrs. Edward Brown!
Hiking enthusiasts will be happy to learn that the island of Skiathos is quite mountainous with several different moderate hikes. We did the one near the base from our hotel that takes you to the highest spot on Skiathos, with a view of several different beaches from both sides of the island. For the real adventurous, you can even hike down to all the beaches and back up from the same central location! The photo on the bottom left really captured the insanely blue water!
Since the economy here has still not fully recovered from the turmoil of years past, your money here will stretch quite far! Stay off the beaten path like we enjoy doing, and you can find taverns with drinks for as little as $2.00 each! Couple that with a $3.00 Gyro ... are you kidding me ... yes, please! Depending on which hotel you choose on Skiathos, some places are walkable to, while others will not be. However, they have an outstanding bus system on the island that makes getting around anywhere simple and easy.
We were on the island for 6 days, before it was time to board our flight back to Athens, and then on to Barcelona via Rome, for a
7 day Mediterranean cruise on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the seas. The island has an incredibly laid back environment which is just perfect for a one week or more getaway to just often relax, but still, have plenty of time to enjoy what it has to offer. Come back often for updated travel tips!