The most famous group of islands in the Aegean Sea, the Cyclades Islands in Greece is the ideal summer destination. The distinctive architecture of the white and blue houses overlooking the crystal blue water is iconic on Instagram and I finally had the opportunity to see it in real life. It definitely lived up to the hype!
Keep reading to see why Greece should be added to your travel bucket list!
Naxos was my husband's favorite island out of our trip. The island is the biggest and the greenest in the Cyclades. It has high mountains, lush green valleys, stunning seascapes, and traditional villages. According to Greek mythology, Dionysus, the god of Wine blessed the island with fertility by filling it with vineyards to produce the finest wines.
Hike up Mt. Zas - the tallest mountain of the Cyclades
Mt. Zas is the tallest mountain in the Cyclades (3290 feet) and is also the place where Zeus was born and raised according to Greek mythology. You can even visit the cave where Zeus spent his childhood.
Tip: There are two ways up the mountain. You can begin at Filoti or Agia Marina. If you want an easier (less steep) way up, the public bus has a stop at Agia Marina, the next stop after the village of Filioti. For a more challenging hike, opt to start at Filoti instead.
We went up the easy way and came back down the steep trail so that we could see the cave and catch the bus at Filoti.
Explore Naxos Town (Chora)
Chora is the main town of Naxos and is the port to where most visitors enter. To the left of the port, a paved road leads to an unfinished Temple of Apollo and the famous emblem of the island, the Portara (meaning Big Door) which is the gate of the temple.
Naxos Town is built with both Venetian and Cycladic elements and even has a Venetian castle sitting at the top of its hill.
Enjoy the Naxos beaches
Our hotel was a short walk to Agios Prokopis Beach, a sandy beach with sunbeds and umbrellas all along its length. There are plenty of beachfront cafes and restaurants to eat at. We had the most amazing gyros at a cafe named Kavourakia, across from the bus stop for the beach.
Santorini is a popular vacation destination and now I know why! The island was created after a volcano erupted during the 17th century B.C. which shaped the unique landscape of the breathtaking caldera. The whitewashed houses and blue domes cling to the cliffside that overlooks the sparkling Aegean Sea.
Walk the 6-mile trail from the town of Fira to Oia
This hike is a great way to explore the towns of Oia and Fira, the capital of Santorini while seeing more spectacular landscapes of the island. The hike is 6 miles (10 km) and takes about 3 hours to do.
Tip: We had our hotel shuttle drop us off in Fira so we could hike the trail back to Oia. You can do the hike in either direction, but if you start at Fira your journey will be mainly downhill (warning: you will still have some hills to climb!) and you will get to see stunning views of Oia ahead. It is also suggested to do the hike early in the morning or later in the day to avoid the harsh sun.
Swim in Ammoudi Bay
Located below the town of Oia, Ammoudi Bay is the spot to go for a seafood dinner next to the water, swimming, and cliff-diving (if you are adventurous enough). I took the plunge into the water which was both refreshing and exhilarating!
The views from the bay are just as spectacular as they are from above, however, be prepared to wind your way down 300 steps or so. On your return, you have the choice to pay for a donkey ride to take you back up!
When you get to the bottom, you will have to walk straight through the Ammoudi Fish Tavern restaurant on the left, which is known for having excellent fresh seafood. Follow the path around the cliff edge to the accessible part of the bay to get into the water.
Tip: Bring comfortable shoes (enclosed, if possible)! You have to climb over rocks and it can be dangerous and extremely uncomfortable for your feet on the jagged lava rocks.
Stay at a resort in Oia and take advantage of the incredible views
We stayed at La Perla Villa & Suites in Oia, Santorini and it was the highlight of our vacation! The property has an infinity pool with sunbeds and looks over the Caldera. Our cave house-style room had our own private jacuzzi and breathtaking view.
In addition to the beautiful property, we were impressed with the service. La Perla's website boasts "top-of-the-notch service" and I would 100% agree! The bellboy carries your luggage up and down the steep steps quickly with ease. The hotel concierge will book any reservations, shuttles, or answer your questions 24/7. A breakfast fit for royalty will be served on your balcony!
All in all, we had the best vacation and Greece will always be one of our favorite destinations. Thanks for reading!