Recent Travels Greece

On my recent journey back to Greece, despite having been many times, I found that it still manages to stoke my wanderlust.
June 2024

It’s hard to believe that a decade ago, Greece was suffering through one of the harshest economic recessions in history. Today, the Mediterranean stunner is one of Europe’s fastest growing economies, and savvy tourists are returning, keen to take part in the country’s renaissance.

On my recent journey back to Greece, despite having been many times, I found that it still manages to stoke my wanderlust. In Athens, I’m still amazed when I climb up to the highest hill and look out over 3,000 years of history. In Crete, I’ve discovered that four-wheel driving in the centre of the island delivers a whole new take on paradise. While in Santorini, the volcanic wine industry continues to make strides, one drop at a time.

Athens is Europe’s oldest city, a rollcall of ancient marvels. You’ve heard of the Acropolis, the Temple of Zeus, and the Parthenon, but beyond Athens’s undeniable historical value, visitors will find a youthful energy has begun to dot the city. Hip cafes and bespoke shops vie with broken pavements and abandoned buildings, and some say Athens is set to become the new Berlin.

New Berlin or not, most of Athens still reflects the complexity of its past. But its everchanging contrasts are everywhere. Beautiful and broken, urban and ancient, dynamic and decayed. Even the Acropolis changes with the light, its white marble gleaming in the midday sun, honeyed and pink at sunset, and fiercely illuminated above the city at night.

For me, when it comes to Athens it is more about the historic whole, rather than the parts. Head to Lycabettus Hill at sunset and you might see what I mean. From here, you can look out over the whole city all the way to the Aegean. I could bask in this view for hours, marvelling at human history, time, and the birth of western civilisation.

I stayed at the 150-year-old Hotel Grande Bretagne, a much-loved historical Athenian landmark. With an ambiance of old-world elegance and luxury, mixed with dazzling haute aesthetics, this hotel is truly iconic. The views from the Rooftop Terrace were spectacular. I could see the entire city and the Acropolis as I savoured saganaki and grilled octopus from the rooftop Garden Restaurant.

Santorini has always been the jewel in Greece’s crown. A volcanic eruption over 3,000 years ago left a caldera sunk in the ocean, changing a round island into a half-moon cluster of sheer cliffs. Limewashed edifices, blue domes and candy-coloured homes cling to the cliffs creating jaw-dropping visuals, straight out of a postcard.

I cruised into Santorini’s volcanic caldera and dropped my bags at the gorgeous Mystique Hotel, perched on the cliffs of Oia. Its Cycladic cave rooms, were a wondrous exploration of driftwood, spontaneity and untamed material that harnessed the spirit of simplicity. Mine came with its own private pool and stunning views across the Aegean and out towards the volcano.

There’s more to Santorini than its undeniable beauty. This trip, I wanted to delve deeper into Santorini’s volcanic wine industry. I set out to explore under the guidance of an expert, private sommelier. We visited three family-run estates, had multiple tastings paired with cheese and treats, and I discovered how volcanic earth creates unique, minerally wines which have been traded for centuries.

Then it was time to experience life on the water. We cruised around the crescent island on a private catamaran, gliding past the famous red beach and into the crater, with its sulphuric waters and hot springs. That evening, I dined by candlelight inside the 400-year-old winery cave at Alati Restaurant in the Vedema Resort. The sea lobster with tomato, fresh herbs and pine nuts was exquisite.

The largest of the Greek islands, Crete is an underrated gem, a diverse island that enchants all who visit. Its size means it’s frequently uncrowded, with a huge variety of landscapes and experiences: you’ll find ancient ruins, hikes and canyons, quaint ports, secluded beaches, and thousands of years of unique Cretan culture and cuisine.

Having stayed in Crete a number of times, this trip I was looking for something really special. The search took me to an impossibly beautiful private beach called Vathi on the north-eastern corner of the island. Owned by the Daios Cave Resort, with its private crescent of sand and crystal-clear water, I could have whiled away the days here forever. But there were adventures to be had.

I’m a nature lover, so when my guide suggested a 4WD into the wild interior, I was chuffed. We weaved around dirt tracks, crossed low gushing rivers, traversed emerald forests and hills, and finished with a hike to Kritsa Gorge. Following the riverbed, we clamoured through the canyon until we reached the plateau to impressive views of the island.

But my absolute highlight was my inspiring tour of Crete’s deserted island, Spinalonga — once home to Europe’s last leper colony. Gliding into its eerie port through bright sapphire waters as the Venetian fortress came into view, was magnificent. My guide took me wandering around the crumbling ruins, some with grapevines still flourishing, and the abandoned village, as she told moving stories about the remarkable people who lived there.

There are so many ways to explore this extraordinary country. A&K can show you the eternal highlights, while also taking you off the well-worn path to discover sides of Greece that are just as marvellous.

Contact one of our expert Journey Designers or talk to your travel advisor to learn more and start planning.

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