The colorful beaches of Santorini

 Greece Day 6: Bus day. Started off with more yogurt and some bread from previous day’s market shopping then hopped on a bus. Due to some not very clear directions on the part of our hostel, we hopped on the wrong bus as we’d meant to go straight to Red beach and the Akrotiri light house but instead ended up in Kamari.
No matter, wanted to see black beaches as well so easy place to start. In the first 2 photos that huge high point is where the ancient ruins of Thira are found.

 We could see the switchbacks up there but weren’t feeling ruins today so we spent an hour or so on the black PEBBLES of Kamari beach enjoying the sunshine. Then we found out there are no direct transfers from Kamari to Akrotiri and we’d have to go back to Thira so we booked a taxi/ transfer to the town of Pyrgos in the center of the island for 15 euros.

 Kamari Beach
 Pyrgos blue domes 

Pyrgos was a fabulous little town with lots of blue domes and tons of cute little allies to explore. (more so then Oia and Thira) so we spent some time walking around and enjoying the churches.

 Now from here we were told there’s a bus from Pyrgos to Akrotiri (red beach) but whenever I tried to clarify which bus stop we were supposed to wait at we got pointed in different directions. Finally a bus driver told us to get on and that they’d take us to the proper stop. WHICH TURNED OUT TO BE IN THE MIDDLE OF NO WHERE. so anyways we found ourselves at a cross roads near Santo Wines where there WAS a bus stop but absolutely no schedule to consult. We had an idea of what direction we needed to go but that was about it.
LUCKILY an older couple from Chile stopped to ask for directions to RED BEACH!!! (not sure why they thought the 3 girls on the side of the road would have any idea) But since we did have an idea we pointed them in the direction of Akrotiri and like a lightbulb, we all simultaneously realized that this couple had an empty backseat. SO HITCHHIKE we did. They were so nice and I turned on my gps so we guided them right to red beach. SUCCESS. We’d made it

There is a short walk down a path to get to the beach which is then a combination of small pebbles and actual red and black sand. Very unique and with the crystal clear water, very beautiful! We went for a quick swim and then laid out for an hour or so to dry off. 
Black and Red pebbles 
Tippe and I playing in the water with the catamaran tours behind us 

 After playing at the beach we hit another snag. As it was now after 4 the bus only comes every 1.5 hours to Akrotiri….. so we sat around for an hour waiting for our ride back to Thira.
But then it was TREAT YO SELF time. Since it was my last night in town, we splurged on a fancy roof top restaurant. These views were all taken seriously from our table!

 Again the evolution of a sunset. Love the lone sail oat out sailing by Thirassia

I was wanting seafood and feeling adventurous so I ordered grilled Calamari (squid) It was huge and delicious! (minus the tentacles… those were tough and besides a few bites, left pretty much untouched)

 The sunset was shaping up to be quite beautiful. 

 So many colors! Thanks Santorini for showing off on my last night! 
 Cruise ships sailing away after the sunset in Thira 

After dinner we snagged some more gelato from the 50 shades of grey shop (seriously still dreaming of that gelato) and walked around Thira to enjoy the lights for a while more. We caught them also bringing the donkeys up for the night which was fun to see.

But my night was far from over. At 10:30 I got a transfer from the hotel to the airport for my flight with Ryanair back to Athens. Which unfortunately left super late at almost 1 AM which didn’t put me into Athens until almost 2. Then I had an airbnb booked for the night who picked me up and took me to a bed for the night. (I’d considered just staying in the airport but I’d read they aren’t very friendly to people snoozing in the airport and I wanted to lay down before 20 more hours of traveling) And my airbnb was great as my host was the cutest little Greek lady who had snacks and herbal tea waiting for me.
The next day she also had breakfast for me! And took me back to the airport for my returning flight at noon. It was a fabulous trip!

Cost for day 6:
Bus from Thira to Kamari: 1.80 euros
Private transfer from Kamari to Pyrgos: 15 total (so 5 pp)
Bus from Pyrgos to the cross roads: they didn’t charge us so that was nice
Hitchhiking from middle of nowhere to Red beach: priceless- also didn’t charge us
Bus from Akrotiri ruins (red beach) back to Thira: 2 euros
Breakfast/lunch: still made due with left over sandwich stuff and yogurt from previous days market shopping. ( we had a mini fridge in our hotel room to store stuff)
1.5 liters of water: 1 euro
Fancy smancy dinner: 16 euros
gelato: got 3 scoops this time so 5 euros
transfer from hotel to airport: 15 euros (the other girls stayed another night in Santorini so I was on my own at this point)
Ryanair flight back to Athens with early check in: $23
Airbnb for the night: $60
Cost for host to pick me up from Athens airport and take me back the next day: 20 euros
Total cost for last day/next morning: 150

Total cost for ENTIRE Trip including all night stays, food, and flights (so basically everything except souvenirs): $943

A boating tour around Santorini

Greece Day 5: Boating day
We booked a super ridiculously long 10 hour tour with King Thira boat tours through our hostel for $45 to take us to the Volcano, Hot springs, Thirassia, and Oia. They weren’t picking us up until 10 so we got up early to head to the market for some food for the day. I ended up with sandwich making materials, chips, water, 1 soda, and yogurt for breakfast for around 11 euros.

 The bus took us to the main port on the island (not the one directly under Thira as it is not bus accessible) where we boarded our very piratey-esque boat. Then we turned on the motors to get going set sail for a day of adventure.

 Thira from below 
 A zoomed in version of the lovely switchbacks we did just the day before to visit the port 
 The Volcano bay where we parked to take a short hike

It was a short ride of like 40 minutes to the Volcano bay. Entrance to the volcano site cost around 2 euros so if you go make sure you bring a bit of cash for that entrance fee. We had 2 hours of leisure to eat our yogurt we brought with us and hike around the volcano.

 All the boats parked. (ours is the 3 mast one on the right) You can see Thira in the background. 
 Volcanic rock with the Greek Flag and Thira in the background. 
 The trail cutting through all the volcanic rock. 
 The throng of people you start off with. The tour guide was walking with us and stopping at points of interest to talk about generic volcano information so never fear. You can easily do your own thing and pass the mob of unprepared flipflops and wedge wearers. 
 Nearing the top of the crater where there is a loop trail. 
 I love Cairn gardens
 Awesome views when you’re smack in the middle of the Caldera. 

 Volcanic rock with a view of Oia in the distance
 Thira in the distance. 
 The central crater

 Back on the boat it was another short 30 minute ride to the hot spring area. (above) The boat gets you as close as it can and then you’re in for a swim. It’s SO COLD at first but as you swim up that channel a ways it goes from ocean to heated pool to bath tub to hot tub! All the while you can feel different currents of hot and cold water. It is QUITE the swim as it is 100% deep the whole time so you’ve gotta be really good at treading water or an expert floater (like I am) haha

 I almost talked myself out of it since it was a little chilly but SO GLAD I did it. Even if you just make it to the mouth of the channel it will be warm enough and unlike any other experience. After the 30 min swim it was less than 10 minutes to Thirassia where we had 3 HOURS to dry off. Left: The port of Thirassia. We spent the first hour or so just sun bathing on the boat to dry off.

 3 hours though was WAY too long. 2 hours maybe. Still would’ve felt long but would’ve been better. For the last hour everyone had returned from eating lunch and was chilling on the boat. Then it started raining, all the shops in the port closed like 30 min before we even left… and it was a waste of time. My 1 big criticism is the pointless 3 hour stop at Thirassia.

 A long look at Oia, our final destination. 
 A rock with it’s own church

We had thought that we’d be watching the sunset from the boat but alas… it was a drop off in Oia to watch the sunset (what sunset?) which we’d done the day before. We were a tad bummed but as the sky was completely overcast and it was still drizzly, we were probably better off in town anyways.

BUT we did have to climb up from the port. SO MANY STAIRS (but not as bad as Thira) We had about 2 hours in Oia to kill until the bus would take us back to the hotel so we found a gelato shop that was out of the cold wind and had wifi and set up camp. Not the most thrilling evening but we did go to see if we missed anything at sunset and we definitely didn’t.

So all in all many pros and cons to the boat excursion we did. It was the cheapest boat excursion (as the catamaran tours started at 95 euros for 5 hour trips and didn’t take you to hike the volcano) and there were many cool experiences to be had. BUT the 10 hours thing just allowed for way too long of stops and felt like quite a waste of time. These were the options presented to us by our hostel. If you do enough digging before hand there are likely shorter options for cheaper. Next time I think I will dig a bit more.

Breakfast/lunch/dinner: 11.5 euros for a loaf of bread with deli stuff to make sandwiches, chips, apple, soda, and water for the day
Gelato: 2.50 for 2ish scoops (wasn’t nearly as good as the previous day gelato in Thira though)
Boat tour with King Thira tours: 45 euros pp
Entrance to Volcano: 2 euros pp
Hotel again divided by 3 people: 19
Total for day: 80 euros

The hike from Thira to Oia, Santorini

Greece Day 4: Santorini. As our flight didn’t get us in until well after midnight and we still had to get settled, we slept well into the next day only leaving our hotel, Villa Manos to walk into the main town Thira around 1. The walk was about 20 minutes (with 10 minutes on a narrow road with no sidewalk and almost no shoulder) but we did stop by a market and pick up cheap waters (1.5 liters for 35 cents!!! WHAT!?)

Thira is the capitol city of Santorini or the main town so we sought out the post office for post card stamps and explored the shops to pick up some souvenirs and wait out the hottest part of the day. (it was hot!) I loved all the church architecture and the walkways which had beautiful stone work done. Between the 3 of us we got caught up in quite a few shops with the longest being in a painting shop where we each got paintings haha. (but they were legit hand done for only 30 euros for like HUGE paintings!)

Thira itself is a fun place to explore with so many shops and hotels and restaurants around every corner. However make your way out to the coast and the views are very rewarding!

First on our checklist was to walk down to Thira’s port… which is quite the hike my friends for what goes down.. must come back up. I was hoping for a spot to jump in and swim but in Thira port, there is no such place. 🙁 We passed A LOT of donkeys on our way down as well but I had previously promised myself I wouldn’t ride one (though they looked to be pretty well taken care of despite things I had read earlier)

Looking back up at Thira on the way down to the port… about halfway down

The port! There are a few option to get back up from here. 1st is the cable car: cost is around 5 euros. 2nd are the donkeys: Cost around 7 euros
Third: the option we crazies decided to go with was to walk. The walk is paved switchbacks with wide stairs (approx. 600 of them!!!) and took us about 20 minutes to get back up (with rest stops) MAKE SURE you have water with you for you WILL need it. We all finished our massive 1.5 liters of water on the way back up.

Looking out from Thira at the volcano island (left) and the 2nd inhabited island of Santorini: Thirassia (right)

After our grueling climb back up from the port we immediately got more huge waters and started out on the coast hike to the town of Oia. (pronounced EEAh guys) It is approximately 11 km between the towns but as both towns are extremely long, you can count on adding at least another 6 km between walking through the towns)

Not too many blue domes in Thira but still some pretty architecture. From this view you can see the highest point of Santorini where the ancient ruins of Thira are. 

There are signs within the town to keep you on the correct path but I will say there are not THAT MANY. There WILL be moments of doubt, but when in doubt, stick to the coast and wider pathways.

YAY Blue domes! 

There are many beautiful stairs within the town. (like this) on your path to Oia, you won’t go up any of these as they mostly lead to hotels and restaurants.

A church in Thira
Making our way through the town. It took a long time to clear Thira. 
But finally, we were on a dirt trail out of the town looking back at the long coast. 

Starting to see Oia up ahead! Still a long way to go. 

One of the signs on the trail to keep you on the right path. Once you are out of the town, it is very easy to stay on the trail.

A Carin garden on the trail to Oia

There is a brief section of the trail that spits you out onto the main road. It is less than a Km on the road, but be careful as the shoulder is not very wide. Before long you will see the trail (with a sign) pick up again.

Looking back toward Thira. Part of what makes this trail so long is that the island is not a straight shot. You have to follow the curves and yes you have to go up all the hills. The trail goes up at LEAST 2-3 big hills instead of going around them. Make sure you have good footwear as there is loose volcanic rock in a lot of sections. 

Finally seeing the beginning of civilization up head with a church. The first thing we’d seen in miles.

There was also a cute dog at said church. 
Coming into Oia at long last! But still a ways to walk before we were ready for the sunset! 
Another beautiful church before we got into town. (sans blue dome though) 
Must. Stay on. The path. Blue domes in the distance!!! 

Ah a sign which actually tells you the distance! All the previous signs just gave you an idea (legit idea) of how long in time you will be walking. Say 3 hours. haha 

1st things first after all that hiking.. we were starving so we fell upon the first market we came across like ravenous wolves. I ended up with a very complete meal of a loaf of bread, apple, and bottle of coke. haha

From Oia looking back at Thira. 
The main square of Oia. To the right is the pathway to the buses. (as we learned later as we FOR SURE were taking the bus back haha) 

We got in with just enough time to stake out a good sunset watching spot. We explored the end and snapped a photo of the famous windmill. But then continues on to a better spot.

Basically follow the crowds but before you get to the rock where EVERYONE goes, take a right to a little side street where you get almost as many views for your shot, but a lot less people to contend with.

Now time to wait out the sun. (about an 1.5 hours since it set around 8:20) 

You can see a bit of the windmill peeping out by the dome (which to our sadness was not blue )

There area we were at also began to fill up with people but we had staked out our spots well where NO ONE could stand in front of us.

Lots of boats arrived to watch the sunset from the water.

The evolution of a sunset

As soon as that sun set out of site we hit the ground running to make it back to the buses. We got there in time to catch the first bus out (Barely) and the line looked pretty long as most people don’t shell out the money to stay in Oia… we must ALL get on the bus back to Thira.

Right: Thira lit up at night.

Now we knew we’d earned some gelato so we explored a bit of Thira until we came upon the MOST delicious gelato ever. They had a lot of different flavors but the 2 I settled upon was the 50 shades of grey flavor ( which they said was black vanilla, tasted like a cross over between white chocolate and vanilla) and Vinsanto which is their dessert wine on the island and had sun dried grapes (not rains) mixed in. Both flavors were sooo good, I will be forever dreaming of that gelato.
So we took our delicious dessert out to view the beautiful lights of Thira. We picked up our painting we had purchased previously and not wanted to hike with along with a few other souvenirs before making the scary walk back to Villa Manos. (it was after 11 that we started back and while the bus schedule claimed to go until midnight we couldn’t find any buses going our direction)

Day 4 costs: Breakfast at Villa Manos- a very small waffle for 5 euros
Our 2 giant waters total: 1.70 
Painting: 30 euros
Other various souvenirs: classified
Dinner of bread, apple, and coke from the market: 3 euros
Gelato: 2 scoops for 4 euros
Bus from Oia back to Thira: 1.80
Night at Villa Manos: 56 euros (again split between 3 people) so 19 pp
Total cost for day: 34.5 if you don’t count painting or 64.5 if you do
Total distance walked/ hiked: 17 miles 

Visiting Meteora

Greece Day 3: One of my most highly anticipated days of the trip!!!! METEORA

Not even kidding guys, I have been wanting to experience Meteora FOREVER. It’a short and steep climb ( on a bus! hehe) from the town to the first monastery St. Stephens which is.. by far the most accessible as there are NO STAIRS to reach this one, only a narrow foot bridge.

 There are monasteries everywhere you look, perched here and there, some of which I have NO idea how you get to
 St. Stephen’s monastery from the road. 

The inside of the monastery was soo peaceful and undisturbed as we were one of the first groups to get there in the morning. If you can picture any sacred place and invoke that feeling in your mind, you will understand how we felt exploring these beautiful monasteries.
For reference, the monasteries, as most churches in Greece, are Greek Orthodox and are still in operation today by diligent nuns AND monks.

To add to that, I’d also like to point out that St. Stephen’s is a Convent so it is run by nun’s. This is important as the monasteries only would not allow us females in on tours! So…. we visited the Meteora convents I should say. As they are first and foremost churches (not tourist traps) it is required to dress modestly with longer skirts and tops that cover your shoulders. (Women HAD to wear skirts, pants were not permitted however they did have wrap skirts you could borrow at each monastery)

Looking down on Kalambaka from St. Stephens. We are PRETTY sure this is the one monastery we could see from the town/ our hotel room! 
There were so many peaceful gardens within the monastery complex. 

We started our tour in a church which ABSOLUTELY took my breath away. If you have ever been in an Orthodox church then you know what I mean. Floor to ceiling gold and colorful paintings of the icons and the most ornate furniture and wood screen to hide the altar I’ve ever seen. I think the part that also blew me away was how devoted the monks must have been to build something so beautiful and devoted to God in such a challenging landscape.

It was also an incredible experience to witness the devotion STILL of people today as they moved around what I’m positive is our annoying tour groups, and worshiped within the small churches. It is to be noted that Meteora is a place people will consider pilgrimages they need to go to.

The entrance with the very narrow bridge to enter St. Stephen’s. 

 Brief history of St. Stephen’s Monastery: The foundation dates back to the 12th century, approx 1191 however the church within St. Stephen’s is recorded as being rebuilt in 1545 when many of the other buildings were added such as rooms for the monks. The monastery was also very heavily hit and damaged during WWII and the following civil war within Greece so a majority of what we saw/ pictured was recently done in the 20th century and in 1961 it was re-dedicated as a convent. While the grounds are not huge, the walls contain 2 chapels (only 1 of which we were allowed to visit) and enough room for 28 nuns to live within.
Operating hours (if you wish to go on your own) are daily from 9:30-1:30, 3:30-5:30 and closed on Mondays. I do recommend going with an organized tour however, especially if you are not familiar with Greek Orthodox as it was an amazing experience to learn about not just the history of the places, but the beliefs and reasons for the way they decorate the interior of their churches.

Another view of the monastery from the road. 
Other stunning monasteries from the road. (we unfortunately only visited 2) 
It will take a lot of stairs to reach that one I’m guessing! 

Taken from the bus. We were about to visit one of these 🙂 
Not only are the monasteries amazing, but the rock formations themselves are out of this world! 

The entrance to the 2nd monastery convent that we visited: The Holy Monastery of Varlaam. This one… had steps to get up to it but I will say it wasn’t too bad and if you look at the picture below.. the view while you climbed up was amazing and it was a lot more fun (to me) to feel I was making a climb for something so special.

The view of another monastery as you climb up to Varlaam

The beautiful courtyard at the top of the stairs and main entrance. You can see the road cutting along the cliffs across the way (how we got up there). I think there was a period of time when we could see as many as 4 or 5 monasteries at a time in the distance.

As we were not permitted photos within any of the buildings, this is the only photo I could get with artwork (as it is only the covered entrance to the church, we weren’t inside a building yet. AND YES I still asked permission before taking this photo) 

History of Varlaam: In 1350 a daring ascetic named Varlaam ascended to the rock. The monastery was named after him. He built three churches, a small cell and a water tank. After his death the rock remained abandoned for about 200 years. In 1517/1518 the two founders of the church, began to construct additional buildings. They renovated the little church of the Three Hierarchs and they erected the tower (more on this structure later). They also built in 1541/1542 the central church of the monastery dedicated to All Saints (which is the one guests are permitted to visit). The transportation of the materials lasted 22 years and the building only 20 days. 

“Since 1350, the ascent to the monastery was made by wooden ladders, each of which had about 25 rungs. The ladders were hanging from the rock with the help of pegs on the north side of the church and a gap was created between them. The monks often had to jump from one ladder to another risking even their own lives. This difficulty was due to the peculiarity and the morphology of the rocks. There were about 4 or 5 ladders consisting of 95 rungs at maximum. “

With the addition of the tower that was built, the monks and materials were hoisted by hand in a rope net using a pulley system. It was not until the 1920s when the stairs which we use today were carved into the rock to allow for easier access.

Although this is the 2nd largest monastery, only 7 monks currently reside and run the day to day functions. Again, women are required to wear long skirts with shoulders covered. Men are also required (in all monasteries) to wear long pants. No shorts permitted.

Buildings within the monastery to note: the old refectory( which is now a wonderful museum and not to be missed), the tower where you can see the old pulley system, behind the church is a room storing one of the MASSIVE barrels that they used to collect rain water, and the chapel of Three Hierarchs which “is a small aisle-less church with very beautiful frescoes and it was built in 1627.”

 The tower with the pulley. To the right of this building is where the ladders for the monks would’ve been
A beautiful spot behind the church

I also forgot to mention that in both monasteries there are “modern” restrooms available. (for women with our long skirts be aware these are of the “squatty potty” variety where there is no toilet but merely a flushing hole in the ground)
Hours for Varlaam Monastery are daily from 9AM to 4 PM and it is closed on Friday.

Between the 2 I enjoyed Varlaam more as the experience to get in was much more exciting, the museum is a lot larger and has a lot more information contained, the church itself has frescoes from the 1600s that have NOT been retouched at all so that is really cool. (St. Stephen’s as mentioned before the chapel was rebuilt as WWII so while the frescoes are a lot more vivid in color, they are  A LOT less old), the views look out to other monasteries instead of down on Kalambaka, and I do feel as if there is more open to the public to explore. There was also a very friendly monk that would smile and speak to me in Greek everytime we passed by and eventually asked “Ameria?” to which I said yes and that the monastery was beautiful. All in all so welcoming and friendly!

The main courtyard. The central church we are permitted to visit is the tallest building on my right. 

Ok a little information on the area: It is still a bit of a mystery as to how the Meteora rocks were formed but the most recognized theory is that they were deposited by an ancient river which once the river was gone, erosion did the rest. This is theorized by the make up of the boulders (sedimentary rock) and that they found pebbles that dated back to the same age as the larger boulders. Either way these rocks are unlike anything in the world.

Looking up at Varlaam Monastery from our bus heading back down into Kalambaka. 
We finished up at the monasteries just before noon and headed into Kalambaka for lunch where we had an hour however they dropped us off and recommended the restaurant Meteora restaurant which is family run. You enter into the kitchen where there are 10-15 giants pots containing a variety of meats and sides for you to choose from. There is an adorable grandma who explains which each dish is and will dish what you select up for you. Most plates range from 8-12 euros depending on how much meat you want but for 1 meat dish and 2 sides it was 10 euros. Then at 1 we were back on the bus headed to Athens through very mountainous terrain so I recommend bringing some motion sickness pills. (I was pretty miserably sick for 2 hours until we had our first rest stop) There weren’t any interesting points of interest to stop at however from the bus our guide pointed out the small city of Thebes and the town/lake Marathon which is 26 miles outside of Athens (yes this is where marathon races are derived from). Also as you follow the coastal road down to Athens, there are many islands and one of which was pointed out is where they filmed the movie Mamma Mia. We were dropped off at the main bus stop Syntagma Square around 7:30 and grabbed some dinner with new friends we had made. (Shout out to these wonderful new Friends, Aaron and Dean if they ever read this blog!) I tried a meat and potato tart as well as a kabab pita sandwhich for dinner. Then we took the bus from Syntagma to the airport to catch our midnight flight to Santorini where we had a shuttle waiting to take us to our next hotel. More on that later though. 
Day 3 costs: 
1.5 liter Water bottle from a Kalambaka market: 70 cents 
Breakfast: was actually delicious and included in our hotel stay
Lunch: 10 euros at Meteora Restaurant
Dinner: 8 euros in Syntagma Square
Meteora Monasteries: Admission was included in our tour costs but if you go on your own most monasteries are under 5 euros each
Bus from Syntagma Square to airport: 6 euros
Flight with Ryanair from Athens to Santorini: $40
Transfer from Airport to hotel Villa Manos: 15 euors which we split between 3, making it 5 euros pp
1 night at Villa Manos: around 56 euros. (19 pp)
Total cost for day: 88.70
Now also I’d like to claim that I remembered all of these facts from our tour guide but that would be a lie, so I’d like to cite and thank the below websites for filling me in on the gaps in my memory. Feel free to visit these sites to learn more not just about the 2 I visited but the others in the area.

A tour of mainland Greece- Visiting Delphi

Greece Day 2: For the 2nd and 3rd days of Greece we booked a tour through Astoria Travels/ G.O. Tours. It would take us to Delphi and Meteora with a few stops along the way!

The tour picked us up around 8 AM and we were off with a few rest stops and got to Delphi around 10:30/11.

To the left: The Mountain of the Muses (as seen/ photographer from a moving bus. sorry for the terrible quality)
The bus ride to Delphi took us through so many gorgeous mountain passes! One of the most scenic bus rides you can take.

 To the right: the town Arachova (again as seen from bus) This town is referred to as the Mykonos of Winter as it is a huge skiing town with great night life in the winter. It is also the gateway to Delphi so our bus drove us right down the middle of the VERY narrow town.

The entrance of Delphi or also called “The Sacred Way”: it leads from the Sanctuary of Apollo to the Temple. It was was erected to hold monuments and also little shops that would sell idols. 
The Treasury of Athens (reconstructed) which was built to commemorate their victory in the Battle of Marathon. 
The theater that was built just above the Temple of Apollo where spectators would have a view of the entire Sanctuary of Apollo. 
A view of the Temple of Apollo from the Theater. 

 The Stadium is at the top of all the Delphi ruins and is about at 15 min. (avg) hike up from the theater. It is well worth it as I can’t imagine a stadium as scenic anywhere else! The pines surrounding as well added to the wild ambiance.

 Left: Looking down from the temple onto the Athenian treasury (no roof). Unfortunately it was a super hazy day. Our guide told us the reason for the haze was from a lot of dust and sand blowing up from North Africa.

Brief history of Delphi’s origin: Zeus determined the spot when he sought to find the center of his “Grandmother Earth” (Gaia). He sent two eagles flying from the eastern and western extremities and the path of the eagles crossed over Delphi where the navel of Gaia was found. This is how Delphi came to be known as the center of worship, or even the center of the world.
(There is an actual navel stone at Delphi that is known as the navel of the world)

How the Sanctuary became dedicated to Apollo: Apollo, as an infant of only 4 days old, set off to find a place to call home which in this case he decided would be the location of Delphi. HOWEVER this spot was a sanctuary to Gaia so he shot his first arrow to slay the serpent Python, the son of Gaia, who guarded the spot. This effectively made this Apollo’s sanctuary however to atone the murder of Gaia’s son, Apollo was forced to fly and spend eight years in menial service before he could return forgiven.  
Information about the Oracle: You couldn’t actually see the rooms the Oracle would’ve occupied as they were in the back of the temple below ground. The Oracle had to be older woman of blameless life chosen from among the peasants of the area. Alone in an enclosed inner sanctum she sat on a tripod seat over an opening in the earth (a chasm) where according to legend the body of Python body fell after he was slain and fumes arose from its decomposing body. Intoxicated by the vapors, the oracle would fall into a trance, allowing Apollo to possess her spirit. Priests of the temple would interpret her ravings as she prophesied.

After Delphi we stopped for lunch (at a very expensive restaurant so I only got a coke) and continued on our way toward Kalambaka. We made one more stop in Thermopyles to see the “300” monument erected there.
We got into Kalambaka for the night around 6:30.

Included in our tour price was a triple room at the worst hotel of our trip the Kosta Famissi hotel. The beds were terrible with comforters none of us would even sit on as they just felt so grimy and unwashed and we spent the first 30-40 minutes in the room inspecting every inch of the mattress for bed bugs. None found we inspected the rest of the room where there were used Q-tips from previous occupants on the heater and some hair in the bathroom. Apart from the cleanliness issues and terrible uncomfortable mattresses, it did have a balcony with a pretty spectacular view and AC (which in Europe is always a plus) so considering the 3.5 star review.. you get what you get haha.
Kalambaka I will say is a very charming and affordable town. For dinner we went exploring and ended up at this Nom Nom place with EXCELLENT burgers and even more delicious crepes which was only $5 for both! WIN!

So budget in review:
Breakfast from a bakery in Athens: 3 euros
Lunch: 2 euros for a coke and extending the life of my snacks from home
Dinner: 5 euros
Tour cost pp including all bus transportation, AMAZING guide, entry to Delphi & Meteora, and hotel 125 euros pp
Total cost for day: 135

A walking tour of Ancient Athens

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!) 

The giant Stoa of Attalos 

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.

 2nd level of the Stoa of Attalos looking over at the Temple of Hephaestus. 

 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.

 The view of the Acropolis hill from the North side
 Me standing along the side of the Temple of Hephaestus. 
 Front view of the Temple of Hephaestu. (You can catch a glipse of the inner frieze in this photo) 
 Side view where you can see some of the outer frieze. 

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.

 The Odeon of Herodes Atticus Theater on the south slopes as you climb the Acropolis. 
 View of south Athens (and the sea) as you climb. 

 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.

Looking back at the Parthenon with the Greek flag blowing in the wind. 
 View of the Erechtheion with the porch and Caryatids statues on the side. 
 The Caryatids up close. These statues were easily one of the things I was most excited about seeing in Athens. 

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. 

 The Propylaea/ Monumental Gate or in other words the Entrance to the Acropolis. 
 View North from Acropolis hill of Athens. 
 A cute cat we passed by on our way out. 
We finished around 6:30/ 7 (with plenty of time to spare as most of the ancient sites are open until 7:30 or 8 this time of year) and grabbed some souvenirs from the plaka shops closest to the Acropolis entrance. (I find shopping for birthday/ Christmas to be easier on trips.) So in a mere matter of 5.5-6 hours we saw the  4 main ancient sites and most of central Athens.  The we headed back to the Airbnb. I’d gotten zero sleep on the plane and had actually worked the night before flying out so by 8 Friday I had officially been awake for 48 hours so I pretty much showered and passed out within an hour of being close to a bed. 
Total cost on day 1: $30 ancient site pass that got us in everywhere except the Acropolis museum
$5 entrance fee to the New Acropolis Museum
$3 cheese roll for lunch
$8 Metro pass from airport to city center 
$20 Airbnb cost 
Souvenirs: Let’s not talk about that. haha I also had a water bottle on me that I would fill up/ top off whenever we came across one (museums) so I didn’t have to buy water! I also had brought some snacks with me from home for the plane ride left over that I munched on for a light dinner before passing out. Breakfast was served on the plane. 
Total cost day 1: $66