Travel Diaries: Cruising the Greek Islands

IMG_2378

If you only have a short amount of travel time but want to explore some of the amazing Greek islands, then I highly recommend going on a cruise ship.  Cruising makes it easier to access different islands without the hassle of flying and having to organise multiple connections and transfers.

Along with my partner and family, we went on a seven day voyage with Celestyal Cruises.  We wanted an authentic experience, so we chose Celestyal as it is the only cruise company to be based in Greece.

We cruised on ‘Crystal’, a comparatively small cruise ship holding over 1000 passengers and crew.  There are some gargantuan cruise ships out there (some hold over 3000 people!) so it was great to be on a ship that didn’t feel overrun with people.  Each day we were able to go onto land, so this negated the need to spend lots of time on the ship (although it was handy to pop back in for the buffet lunch!).

Here are the highlights…

Mykynos

  • As one of the more popular islands, Mykonos is cute as a button with lots of white-washed buildings with bright coloured doors.
  • Mykonos is known for its nightlife and support for the LGBT community and this was evident in the number of rainbow flags flying throughout the township.
  • I totally recommend getting lost as you walk through and up the white pathways.  The colour schemes of the buildings are totally Dulux worthy.  At the top you will find a windmill (there are also several at the bottom too). These were built in the 16th century and were used until the early 20th century.
  • Mykonos was probably the best island for taking photos.  There’s just something so special about the colours and the way the light and sun reflects off the buildings and the surrounding water.  We ventured out for sunset and the lighting took on a lovely golden tinge.  Island life has never been so magical.

Mykynos in 5 words…

Sparkling, bold, charming, windy, sassy.

Syros

  • We only came to Syros, as it was too windy to go to the scheduled port of Milos.  This was serendipitous as Syros came as a surprise and I completely loved i!
  • Known as a significant port town, Syros is filled with neo-classical buildings, old mansions, and white houses cascading down to the harbour.
  • The colours of the buildings are unforgettable.  As you look out from the wharf, you see a colour palette of pink, light brown, white and yellow.
  • Make a beeline for the Catholic Cathedral of Saint George at the top of the hill (you can’t miss it).  As you make your way up, there are many opportunities to take photos of the alluring buildings.  Best yet, it feels peaceful and less overrun with tourists.  Whilst it is hot work to walk up the marble stairs, the view that awaits you is breathtaking with various other islands in clear view.  You can also marvel at the ornate church while you are up there too.
  • The township has some gorgeous alleyways, leading to shops and eateries.  We had coffee at a chic, French inspired café (with divine vintage furniture and a colourful chandelier), but I forget its name!

Syros in 5 words…

Relaxed, captivating, peaceful, quiet, sweet.

Santorini

  • Arguably the most recognised of all the Greek Islands, Santorini is dramatic with sharp, steep cliffs with buildings dangling on the top.  It truly is a sight to behold.  It’s so astonishing to think that a vicious volcanic eruption birthed something so beautiful!
  • Do not use a Donkey to get to the top.  The poor animals looked sad and constrained by their environment.  Thankfully Celystyal was quick to dissuade people to go on Donkeys.
  • Walk, explore, walk, explore.  The pathways reveal fantastic views of surrounding islands, but also of the many buildings (including many chic resorts) looking surreal as they cling to the cliff. We saw several couples have their wedding photos taken (apparently you can’t get married in Santorini, but many come here to have their photos).
  • You can tell the rich and famous come to Santorini.  The boutique accommodation and resorts are exquisite with many small pools and spas in view.  I also spotted the outdoor cinema too – on the schedule were ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ and ‘Mamma Mia’.

Santorini in 5 words…

Dramatic, showstopper, exclusive, tall, busy.

Heraklion

  • Heraklion is a port city and the capital of the vibrant island of Crete.
  • It is known for the Palace of Knossos, located outside the city.  The huge archaeological site dates back thousands of years to the Minoan civilisation.  Perfect for ancient history buffs.
  • With a strong Venetian influence (a fortress sits at the front of the harbour) and dotted with pretty little boats, Heraklion feels fresh and welcoming.
  • My sister and I strolled through the harbour and made our way up to the main street of Heraklion.  We were pleasantly surprised by how energising and modern it felt, in amongst some old fountains and buildings too.  ‘Mini Athens’ springs to mind.
  • We had coffee at the very funky Central Park Cafe.  With a lush interior (the bar area is particularly prominent) and plenty of seating, this is the perfect place to people-watch and to check out the well-dressed and the well-groomed.

Heraklion in 5 words…

Buzzing, modern, growing, regenerating, confident.

Kusadasi / Ephesus

  • Our final port stop was at Kusadasi in Turkey.  Much like the Hollywood Hills, a big sign proudly declared KUSADASI, surrounded by line of brightly coloured houses.  Yup, our attention was grabbed!
  • Our guided bus tour took us on a journey to the historic site of Ephesus, an ancient city built in the 10th century BC.  With sprawling hills and trees, you definitely felt like you stepped back into biblical times.
  • Excavations have revealed grand monuments including the Library of Celsus and the Great Theatre.  It is awe-inspiring to walk around these ruins and it made me recall my reaction when I saw ancient sites in Rome.
  • Outside the entrance to Ephesus, I had a freshly squeezed Pomegranate juice.  So sweet, but oh so rich in flavour.
  • On our way back to port, we stopped at a rug factory and were given an introduction to different types and qualities of rugs.  All colours of the rainbow were represented and many of the patterns were intricate.  If only I had a spare thousand dollars to buy even a cheap rug!
  • Kudos to our tour guide, ‘George’ (not his real name, but his stage name!), who charmed all of us with his beguiling Turkish accent, charisma, humour and ability to anticipate our questions.

Kusadasi in 5 words…

Proud, bold, prosperous, historic, sparkly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s