I’m not sure who thought up this whole honeymoon concept (I’m too lazy to Google it) but dayum- I’m glad they did.
I don’t care if you’re debating on a honeymoon destination or just you’re next trip- please listen to me when I tell you to go to Greece.
WARNING: This blog contains details- you may get bored reading them and I really don’t care. (RIP JOAN RIVERS!!) This is for people who need tips/advice/or just have wanderlust.
Choosing a spot to moon your honey is tough and we chose Santorini and Crete because it felt like the ideal mix of culture and beach.
To get to Santorini from Chicago we flew thru London Heathrow- great shopping- INSANE policy on liquids. If you don’t pack your one little ziplock and have it out- you will suffer. (Trust me…you’d rather spend time in Harrod’s and Boots than with a Mr. Bean wannabe taking an hour dissecting the contents of your carry-on)
After a 3 hour and change connection to Santorini we finally arrived at the Katkieis Hotel. I probably looked at photos of this destination 100 times, but the moment I saw it in person, I swear I began to plot my new career as a yoga instructor or goat cheese farmer in this magical place.
We are soooo happy to be here! And a little jet-lagged and delirious.
The Katkies was a dream for many reasons including; their placement on the main “drag”, their simple but spacious rooms, the daily breakfast (free!) on your private terrace, the staff who is at your 24 hour disposal, and the infinity pool that overlooks the view.
the view from our terrace was terrible, right?? *and every day was this clear and stunning*
Example: if you order a bottle of wine by the pool and don’t finish it, they will keep it on ice for you until you want to drink the rest.
Where to Eat:
Taverna Katina. Down in Ammoundi Bay there are a few fishing taverns where the fish is so fresh that the server asks you to follow them into the kitchen and point to the fish on ice and choose the catch you want to eat. This was one of our favorite meals of the trip…we recommend the; fish of the day, grilled octopus, greek salad, and I’m really not sure what else we ordered…but it was all killer.
Tip: wear sneakers if you walk there, you have to either walk down a ton of steps or take a donkey to get to this spot. ( I think you can also opt for a cab, but really – who does that- live a little)
Sunset Restaurant. Also in Ammoundi Bay, same scene…but the food wasn’t AS good. Maybe it was an off night- and let me please tell you that our meal was still amazing…but the octopus wasn’t as tender and the grilled lobster didn’t blow our minds. Still pretty unreal setting and food.
Roka. Multiple members of our hotel staff recommended this local place to us, but I was a stubborn donkey and wanted to take in as much of the view as possible and didn’t listen at first cause this place is tougher to find and doesn’t overlook the “sunset view”. Well guess what- we finally got sick of the tourist jungle and took their advice- and thankfully I’m good at admitting when I’m wrong. ALWAYS TRUST THE LOCALS. This lunch was incredible. Order: the fava, eggplant in a jar, greek salad, bread, baked feta with honey, and chicken risotto. This place is kinda hard to find, but ask the people where you’re staying or any shop owner and they will guide you.
Random Gyro stop by the bus station. I’m not sure what blog I read, but someone mentioned a spot near the bus station and this HAS to be it. They make their gyros with FRENCH FRIES in them. I don’t eat meat and I was still in love.
Tip: Trip Advisor rates this gelato place called Lolita’s #1 place to eat in Santorini. Well, it happened to also be close to the bus station so we tried it and in my opinion someone is stacking the on line deck- aka- writing fake reviews. Either that or fat Americanos think gelato is a food group.
We took the hotel’s advice and rented a small power boat for an afternoon and let the Captain and his first mate show us the places you can’t see easily by land. We saw; the stunning red sand beach, the hot springs, a bay with ship wrecks, and a little spot with a cliff jump. Our Captain Mikas was super cool and cooked us one of the most incredible meals we’ve ever had in that little kitchen. On board they had; rafts, snorkeling gear, wine/beer/ozo, towels, a jack for music via your i phone and infinite knowledge of the sea and surrounding area. I would gladly eat Ramen for a year in order to save up for this experience.
Saiiiiling (on a motor boat)
The red sand beach via our boat
Al rented a little convertible one day so we could go see the Black Sand Beach. The roads were pretty simple to navigate and driving around was a cool little trip on it’s own. The hotel and “Beach Clubs” are all partnered so ours set us up with one of the local places where we could rent chairs and grab lunch. The black sand is something else, let me tell you…and the swimming off the beach was clear and warm.
the sand is HOT
I may or may not have had some vino on the boat. Al may or may not take that hat no matter where he goes
On the way back we stopped to shop in Fira- which is the more touristy area, filled with shops and cafes. It’s worth stopping if you’re not staying in that area just to walk around and play tourist.
We stayed in Oia, and every day we looked at a set of stairs even more daunting then the ones to Ammoundi Bay that ended with a few docks and the most aqua water you’ve ever seen. We were advised that the trip was; steep, hot and hard- but of course we wanted to try it and I’m glad we did.
down isn’t any easier
we swam off the dock before the climb back up
Fitness freaks- no need to worry about working out while in Santorini, there are so many chances to climb stairs and streets that you’ll get a major burn sesh without trying.
WHAT TO PACK:
Casual, casual and casual. My friends who’d been there told me to leave my heels at home and pack comfortable sandals and sneakers and they were spot on. Sundresses, shorts and tunics are all you’ll need because even the “fancy” places aren’t dressy and I felt totally normal rocking sneaks with my dresses at night.
Sneakers are cool
They have little shops that sell everything you’ll need and may not want to travel with, stuff like: sunscreen, beach bags, floppy hats, and even fake Ray Bans for around $10 a pair. Leave your stuff at home and use a carry-on- it’s so much easier.
OTHER RANDOM ADVICE:
Coffee shops don’t open until around 9am, yeah…we didn’t get it either. Plan for that if you’re an early riser, but on the flip side- the local bakeries make the most delicious pastries and things you just must try.
The sunset’s are famous here- and everyone gathers by a church for the view, but there are better spots to watch from that are less crowded along the way.
Stay in Oia, or split time between there and Fira so you can see both sides of the island.
Alpha Beer is delicious.
We literally didn’t want to leave Santorini, and attempted to extend our stay at the hotel but it was booked. I’m convinced things just work out like they’re supposed to and they did because Crete is the bomb diggity.
To get there we took a huge ferry which nearly lead to divorce. Why?
A. I get seasick at times and the two hour ride can be bumpy- I was dreading it.
B. There are around a thousand plus people that rush on this via huge ramp and if you’re claustrophobic (like me)- it is terrifying.
Once we were on though, it was pretty easy. We were sat facing an incredible young Russian couple who was their with their family for a wedding and the conversation and wine they treated us to (because I may have been crying during boarding and acting like an American psycho) really distracted me and the ride flew by without issue.
We checked out several hotels in the Elounda and Agios Nikolaos area of Crete (it’s a HUGE island- we opted for one of the popular beach ends) and split time between the St. Nicolas Bay Resort and Elounda Beach Hotel.
Both were great for different reasons:
St. Nicolas Bay had a more traditional feel, and with it’s blue and white umbrellas and chairs that sat on rocks overlooking the sea- were right out of a film. The breakfast (included in hotel) was a massive buffet of delicious Greek and American choices. They have several restaurants to choose from, they show films outside along the sea, the town is walkable (and full of places to eat and shop) and Nicos- who is the manager will take care of you 24-7.
you are not dreaming, this is the view from your chair
Elounda Beach Hotel sits on a property with it’s sister resort- the Elounda Bay Palace. Between these two resorts there are around; 16 restaurants, shops, tennis courts, a spa, several pools, an amphitheater, 2 bays with water sports (wake boarding, SUP, water skiing, kayaks, paddle boats, speed boats), and 23 different kinds of room choices. 23 CHOICES- out of around 400 total rooms. This place is massive- but it doesn’t feel like it. Al and I both are very into the small hotel feel, and somehow this had that- but with a more modern feel.
Our room allowed us to jump right out and swim in the sea, and was literally the most amazing room either of us had ever stayed in (I’m not saying what kind we chose because that’s gauche- but if you are having trouble deciding- message me in the comments and I’ll be more specific).
the ladder back up and view from our room
We took full advantage of the water sports, which were run by a group of guys around our age and a few who were even younger at heart.
Al wake boarding like a champ in front of our resort
There is a tiny market right off property that has everything you’ll need (rafts, goggles, snorkels) for way less and the owner has an adorable French Bulldog named Gonzo.
not only can you buy the raft on the cheap, he will use his electric pump to inflate it for you as well.
*breakfast was also included and was a massive spread of every dish you could imagine, including champagne.
Honorable mention goes to: Blue Palace Resort , which we also checked out in person. It’s a massive resort that feels massive and has pretty much everything you’d need in a resort – including private pools with most of the rooms.
WHERE TO EAT:
Normally we never stay on property while on vacation, we like to get out and explore- BUT the Greek restaurant Kafenion was so unreal that we ate there twice. *order the farmer’s salad, octopus, souvlaki, and dish of the day*
One of the bros from the water sports crew recommended a spot across the water called Kantouni and we took a small boat to get there. The salt baked sea bass was so amazing that I joined Trip Advisor just to leave a review. It’s outside and has twinkling lights and is equal parts romantic and relish.
Trip Advisor’s #1 was a local place on the water in Elounda called Lotus Eaters and it was very good too, part of that was because of the friendly owner who also waited on the tables.
WHAT TO DO:
Swim in the sea. The water is crystal clear and the perfect temp, plus there are no sharks or scary things which I clearly appreciated.
Take a boat to Spinalonga Island– which used to be a leper quarantine until 1957. There is a book called “The Island” about the area and Island that you should read before going- it really adds to the history and appreciation. *there are a few books by the same name…so please click on my link if you’re unsure which to read* The trip was a quick ride for us on glassy water and we spent around 30 mins on the island- wear sneakers, go early, bring water.
On The Island post exploration
Walk around Elounda, Plaka and Agios Nikolaos and eat at the local fishing tavernas…we had plans to eat in Plaka but were bummed not to make it there.
Visit an Olive Oil farm or museum- we didn’t have the time but it was on our list. And speaking of that- CONSUME AS MUCH OLIVE OIL AS POSSIBLE.
You think you’ve had olive oil? Just wait- this Creatian stuff is referred to as “liquid gold” for a reason.
OTHER RANDOM TIPS:
Packing is the same as Santorini, but men should pack a pair of pants or two just in case shorts aren’t allowed in the restaurant.
Print your boarding pass before getting to the small airport- you will bypass hours of lines and frustrations.
Swimming was my fitness in place of steep Santorini- we spent most of our time in the sea.
We flew home on Aegean Air and connected in Berlin then flew Air Berlin home. Customs was a breeze compared to Heathrow and even though we had under an hour connection- we made it with time to buy a pretzel. *business class on Air Berlin is like a 5 star hotel, and if I could travel like this all the time- distance would be no big deal. The service, food and comfort made me sad to get off the 8+ hour flight.*
The only reason we were looking forward to coming home was to see our little pigs. Greece- you are the honey to our moon.