Greece- As many of my friends and family know I’ve booked A LOT of trips this year! And I’m so stoked for all of them! But many people have wondered A. how the crap can you take so much time off? and B. how do you afford them? So I’ll try to include my budgets/ spending habits for my trips starting this year! (I do have… a tad of back posting to do: Havasupai from last year, Zion National Park/ Kolob Canyon/ Las Vegas from this year, and also a 2nd road trip to Bryce Canyon & Capitol Reef National Parks to post about. I Will get to those but first… I’m too excited to post about my Greece trip so doing that first.
First off: FLIGHT. I have an amazing friend who watches flight deals (particularly out of SLC or nearby airports) and posts them to Facebook. So last Thanksgiving when all the airlines were throwing fare wars, we booked a trip to Athens for mid May at a cost of $450 RT from SLC with Delta airlines. Now Delta tried to change our itenerary about 39499834 times BUT we called them up and ended up with a quick flight with 1 layover in JFK. AWESOME.
So we flew out bright and early at 8:50 on a Thursday morning and overnight from JFK and arrived in Athens shortly before 11 AM on Friday the 12th. It was pretty easy to buy metro tickets from the Athens airport into the city (although it only runs on the half hour so we had to wait for the 11:30 train) and cost was 8pp with the 3 person deal. Normally 10 pp to Athens.
We checked into our airbnb around 1, changed and off we went! First stop: The Temple of Zeus.
Left: main gate for temple with the Acropolis hill in the background.
Our Airbnb was awesome! A small apartment in the city (about at 15 min walk to the Acropolis) and only cost $60 which we split between 3 people so $20 pp. The walk to the Temple of Zeus was crazy! You just round a bend and these huge columns just rise out of no where!
Plus you get stellar views of the South slopes of Acropolis Hill and the Parthenon!!!!
Pro tip: The pass to visit all ancient sites is only $30 and will save you a lot of time standing in line, particularly at the Acropolis. If you visit all of the sites on it, it will also save you a few bucks! We visited 4 of out of the 7 places and it was awesome to skip all the lines.
The Temple of Zeus is just a 5-10 min walk to the Acropolis entrance and is an easy do before hand!
We decided to visit the New Acropolis Museum next. It is not included in the pass but is only $5. sooo worth it for the incredible art work, history, and air conditioning!!!! The set up is really cool as it is built directly over archaeological digs of ancient Athens so there’s glass floors everywhere to allow you to look down on the ancient city.
The museum is however SUPER picky about taking photos and although there are NO SIGNS ANYWHERE, there are several employees who will tell you no photos. Luckily they do allow you to take photos with the ORIGINAL Caryatids (although you cannot use flash) from the Temple of Erechtheion on the Acropolis hill.
We had decided to save the Acropolis for last so after an hour or so in the museum, we strolled through the Plaka markets to find some lunch. Ended up spending around 3 euros on a cheese sandwich and continued to the Roman Agora on the North side of the Acropolis. This site is relatively small in comparison to the Ancient Agora but still a great place to visit and is one of the few that actually gives you an informational pamphlet at the entrance to learn about what you are seeing.
So quick history lesson: An Agora is essentially a large public open space for meetings and markets. Highlights of the Roman agora include the Wind Tower (pictured behind me in the above picture) and the Gate of Athena Archegetis. The Tower of the Winds is essentially a giant time piece and featured a combination of sundials, a water clock, and a wind vane. (although now it is more of an empty tower but still cool to imagine) It was actually constructed prior the the other parts of the Agora.
After the Roman Agora, it is a quick walk to the Ancient Agora which seems to be at least 4-5 times the size with incredible views and statues!
The Ancient Agora includes tons of different archealoical sites but my favorites (pictured below) are the the Stoa of Attalos, Palace of the Giants, and Temple of Hephaestus.
The first thing you see as you enter the Ancient Agora complex are the statues from the Palace of the Giants and the North slopes of the Acropolis. We immediately headed to the Stoa of Attalos which is on the West side (and by far one of my favorite places in Athens)
A Stoa is essentially a covered walk way or portico and this one was reconstructed (so def not the original but impressive all the same!)
This stunning building was beautiful to photograph from just about every angle. On the first level it houses the museum of the Ancient Agora (included in entrance fee) which is largely a collection of bronze statues and various pottery. My favorite is the massive bronze shield that was used by the Spartans.
On the second level is a collection of statues.
The view of the temple as you approach. (not too many stairs here and this view makes it appear MUCH smaller than it is… see below)
I really loved this temple because A: it’s huge and B. unlike the Parthenon it is not covered in scaffolding, the frieze along the ceiling was all beautifully in tact, and I loved the effect of seeing all the growth of grass and wild flowers within.
Now it was time to backtrack through the plaka to go up the south slopes of the Acropolis for some sunset views! It’s ordinarily about a 20 minute walk back (made longer by some stops for souvenirs along the way) We tried to visit Hadrian’s Library (which is in the same area and also included in our ancient sites pass) but it appeared the entrance was closed and we couldn’t find any other way to get in. So we viewed it from the fence and carried on our merry way.
It’s a bit of a climb (especially if you have already been walking all day) but the Parthenon really is incredible. It is HUGE and I can’t wait for them to finish with the restoration projects. The bonus of going later in the day was that we largely had the place to ourselves so we had a rest and enjoyed the view.
There are 6 caryatids that support the porch of the Erechtheion temple which was dedicated to both the gods Athena and Poseidon.
Fun facts: I was actually thrown off as to how much smaller the porch was than the rest of the temple. I learned that the porch was actually constructed to conceal the giant 15-ft beam needed to support the southwest corner after the building was drastically reduced in size and budget following the onset of the Peloponnesian war.