Opa! The Greek word that encompasses any special event or celebration! On a recent trip in late September 2022 to Santorini, Mykonos and Athens, Greece, my husband and I heard the word daily, wafting from seaside restaurants, from beautiful sun-washed white balconies and blue roofs with magnificent views, shouts from local restaurants and taverns from revelers enjoying a well-deserved vacation or celebrating a wedding or other personal event.
It was a sound that lifted our spirits and under our breath each time, we said back “Opa!” much like we use the term “Cheers!” in the United States.
We began our first ever trip to Greece in the beautiful town of Santorini. It was our favorite of the three we visited and just its history alone is amazing.
The island is actually a remnant of a volcanic caldera which is essentially a crater formed after a volcanic eruption. Our hotel, the Volcano View Hotel, was a quaint, beautiful series of rooms seemingly built into the side of a mountain overlooking the Aegean and the center of the caldera.
Nearly all of the buildings along this semicircular coast are painted white, so the views and the sunsets are absolutely stunning to behold. We spent time shopping and dining and visiting several beautiful churches in the main city of Fira. Our favorite restaurant was family-owned for more than 50 years.
The island is easy to get around with local buses, but we walked much of the time. We hiked from Fira to the most picturesque (but VERY busy!) town of Oia, and the views on that seven-mile hike were equally amazing. We had one of the best pizzas at a little local restaurant in Oia (Skiza Pizza) and a very cold beer, which was refreshing after the long hike.
Several small churches along the way allowed us to stop and enjoy the views, as well as grab some shade when needed. There are some famous landmarks worth visiting and several tour companies that provide all-day and half-day tours to make sure you see it all. We were blessed with amazing weather and I highly recommend a visit to the island if you can!
After three full days in Santorini, we traveled by high-speed ferry to Mykonos. The approximately two-hour trip was comfortable. I was a tad disappointed thinking that I would be able to sit outside on an open and sunny deck and enjoy the views of the sea, but when they say high-speed, they mean it and no one is allowed to be on the deck during travel.
We checked into our stunning hotel the Mykonian Kyma hotel. This was the nicest hotel we stayed in with amazing concierge service, the most amazing breakfast buffet each day, a spa and fabulous pool and bar area. It was located about a mile from the capital town and port of Chora.
Mykonos has long been known for its parties, beaches and nightlife. The port city is sometimes called Little Venice as it is similar in the confusing layout of tiny pedestrian-only streets, crowded with high-end boutiques, restaurants, bars, tourist shopping and more. It is easy to get lost and turned around in this area, but it was fun making new discoveries at each turn.
The views along the water were stunning, and we enjoyed a fabulous Italian meal twice at a wonderful little spot called Pasta Fresca Barkia. There is much to see and some fabulous landmarks to take in, such as the Wind Mills and the Church of the Panagia Paraportiani (one of the most photographed churches in Greece and oldest structure on the island). We are told the beaches are stunning, but being from Florida, we wanted to experience other areas, and we made other choices rather than to party on the beach.
We took a half-day tour to the nearby island of Delos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besides the rich history and amazing ruins of architectural brilliance, it is said to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. In the third to fifth centuries B.C., it was a hugely successful and active trade port in the Aegean. Being a bit of an archaeology geek, this was an amazing side trip for me, and my husband enjoyed it as well!
Our last leg of the trip was Athens, the capital of Greece. We traveled by air from Mykonos to Athens. In Athens, we checked into our hotel at the Electra Palace.
Athens is one of the most scenic places in the world — at the center lies the Acropolis, the great ancient city, which in the evening is a beacon lighting up the night for all and just a stunning sight to see. With countless museums, universities, shopping, restaurants, neighborhoods … where old meets new.
We did a half-day tour taking in all of the Acropolis and a visit to the Acropolis museum — a DO NOT MISS item if you ever go. The architecture of the museum is amazing, built over an archaeological site with transparent floors so that you can see the site below!
It was amazing, and the artifacts held there are priceless. We spent much of our time walking the tourist area near our hotel, called Plaka. This area was originally settled by the people who were building the Acropolis and all of its many structures and has a rich history. It is filled with cafes, boutiques, bakeries and shopping.
We loved daily lunches and dinners in this area. We did also visit the Panthenaic Stadium — which opened in 556 B.C. and held the first-ever Olympic games in 1896 — and also climbed Lycabettus Hill, one of the highest spots in the city. A bit of an arduous climb but with an amazing story linked to the goddess Athena, and what made it so special was not the story or the church at the top but the breathtaking panoramic view of the Acropolis and the entire city! Opa!
What can I say about the food in every city we ventured to except “Opa!” and that everything we had was amazing! From the honey-topped Greek yogurt with fruit each morning, the baklava and many pastries to the Moussaka, Gyros, Tirokafteri (which is a feta cheese dip), Greek pizza, falafel — and the list goes on. The food in every place was a highlight, and we literally ate our way through the towns. It’s a good thing we walked a lot!
Perhaps we will return to Greece again one day and visit other islands and areas, but we definitely brought back great memories, a few good shopping finds, some new recipes and our love and appreciation of the adventure of learning about another amazing part of our world.
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