I just got back from a girl’s trip to Greece :) That’s right, I travelled without the kids and the Husband and it was GREAT! (Haha). Technically, we travelled to North Macedonia and Greece, with stops in Thessaloniki, Athens and Santorini. Today I’m going to go over our Greece vacation itinerary including details on why we went, where we stayed, and what we did!
Before I begin, I think it makes sense to talk about the how/why. A few months ago, I got an invite to a wedding in North Macedonia. My university friend was getting married and even though I had barely heard of that country before, I saw that it was right above Greece, somewhere I had wanted to visit! The whole family was invited, but it was much easier/cheaper for me to go alone – so we turned it into a girl’s trip with my two other university friends :)
For simplicity/costs, I drove from my house to meet my friend Yasmine in Ottawa. I drove halfway and stayed at a Bed and Breakfast, then drove the rest of the way the next morning. Since COVID, the Ottawa airport hasn’t been doing international flights. We drove to Montreal (2 hours from Ottawa) and took our first flight to Frankfurt. From there, we met with my other friend, Kyla, who flew in from Vancouver.
We boarded our next flight to Thessaloniki, Greece. I should mention that we didn’t actually see anything in Thessaloniki. We chose the location since it was the closest to where we were going in North Macedonia. (And it was considerably cheaper than flying into Skopje – Macedonia’s capital city).
However, we since heard from locals that it was THE place for greek food, especially souvlaki! If I return to Greece, I’d definitely want to check out this city more.
Visiting North Macedonia
We took an expensive cab ride from the Thessaloniki airport to Demir Kapija, in North Macedonia. We had to cross a border since North Macedonia is not part of the EU, and entered a mountainous and lush country. It was Friday evening when we had arrived, and we’d been travelling since Thursday our time (me since Wednesday). We also detoured at the wrong hotel for a bit, but luckily found our hotel nearby! There was a restaurant in the hotel, and we headed down for supper.
The owner of the hotel (we think?) said that they were in between their menus and didn’t have the English versions yet. We told him to surprise us with three seafood dishes and it was AMAZING. Not only was the food super cheap (I’m talking less than 35$CAD for three large entrées), but we also tasted the best. potatoes. ever. We talked about those potatoes for the whole rest of the trip – literally, the best of life.
The next day, we enjoyed a free breakfast at the hotel and then headed over to the Popova Kula Winery. That’s where the wedding was and we were able to check in early to get ready. After a gorgeously sunny morning, it started pouring a few minutes before the ceremony! Luckily, they were able to move it inside, and it was beautiful :) Then, the sun came back out – just in time for dancing. This traditional Balkan wedding had lots of group dancing and regional music. Supper was a multitude of food that just. kept. coming. It was a vegan wedding too, but super delicious (and plentiful). Afterwards, there was more traditional wedding music (ie: a band with songs) and we had a lot of fun. I drank way too much of the regional brandy/moonshine and it was a rough night/next morning.
North Macedonia Highlights
- Amazing, cheap food
- Green mountain scenery
- Cost-effective accommodations
- Where we stayed: Hotel Verdisso and Popova Kula Winery
- Skopje and Ohrid as bigger cities to see (we skipped them)
Visiting Athens, Greece
The day after the wedding, we took another cab back to Thessaloniki, Greece. From there, we took a 4-hour train ride to Athens and my friend upgraded us to business class. Yes, we sat in the little cars with the doors that close, ha – I felt like I was in the movies. We checked in to our apartment and then headed out for some souvlaki street food. The next day, we visited so many sights in Athens, thanks to the obligatory hop-on, hop-off bus tour. I love a bus tour :)
We could have probably spent more time in Athens, but we really did see all the big attractions in just a day. The bulk of our trip was going to be in Santorini – one of the Greek islands!
- Ancient history
- Greek food
- European city
- Where we stayed: Arcade Project Hi-End Apartments (then Thresh Apartments on our last night)
Visiting Santorini, Greece
We flew out of Athens to Santorini early Tuesday morning. There are also ferries that go to the islands, but it would have taken a long time. There was plenty of time to check in to our apartment, take a nap and go for brunch. Santorini is one of the farthest islands, famous for its white buildings with blue roofs. The whole island used to be round, but there was a big volcano eruption and now it’s kind of a crescent shape with a centre block.
We stayed in Fira, which is a good central part of the island, and spent our first day exploring the town/shops, then walking down to the old port. It was about 1km of going down a cliff, left-right-left-right, bypassing some donkeys. Luckily, they had a gondola for the way up :) Then, we figured out the island buses and took one over to Parissa, one of the black sand beaches. We relaxed under an umbrella and then took the bus back to Fira for dinner.
On the second day, we all slept in. Up until now, we’d been either jet-lagged or having to set alarms to get up early, so it was a nice change. We had a food tour from 10:30-2:30 and it was great! It was the perfect amount of food and we went back to a couple of the restaurants in the days after. We took another bus to the red/white/black beaches and took a boat to get to each one. The beaches are different colours because of the volcano, and it was really neat to see the changes. For supper, we watched the sunset at one of the cliff patio restaurants in Fira.
By now, it was Thursday and the temperature was cooler. It had been in the high 20s/low 30s for the bulk of our trip (85ish) and really humid, but it was around 70 with strong winds. I was grateful for the cooler temps this day since we decided to do the 10km hike from Fira to Oia (pronounced “eeyah”). The winds were not fun though, some spots were extreme, ha.
Oia is in the north part of Santorini and is probably a more touristy spot. However, it’s also a lot more expensive to stay/eat there. Again, we walked down a small donkey cliff path (much shorter this time) and had a late lunch in Ammoudi Bay. We had a smattering of fresh seafood, and then had to climb back up that cliff, so that wasn’t fun :) I was pretty full and it was the evening by the time we got back, so I treated myself to a fun ice cream cone as my “supper”.
Friday was our last day in Santorini, and we mostly lounged around. We did some last-minute souvenir shopping, packed our stuff, and stopped at all the restaurants we enjoyed. We had a late-night flight and luckily were able to stay in our apartment the whole time. Then it was another quick flight over to Athens, a night in a nearby airport apartment, then back to the airport for our big flights back to Canada. Oh, and I found the CHEAPEST bakery for breakfast, so it was nice to be in a non-touristy spot, ha.
- Unique architecture/terrain
- Volcano history (hot springs that we did not visit)
- Eat & Walk Santorini food tour
- Popular hikes and unique beaches
- Where we stayed: Alexandra’s Home
Going Back Home
Unfortunately, the flight was a little late coming in and the airport was BUSY. We had also somehow missed the HUGE storm that made its way through Ottawa, and it was sunny skies the whole drive back from Montreal. Driving through Ottawa and getting detoured around closed roads and storm damage was really strange. Luckily, my friend’s house was unharmed, and she had power :) I had stayed awake the whole 10-hour flight to try to combat the jetlag on the way back and was so tired by 9:30 pm (which was 4:30 am Greece time).
The next day, I visited my other friend near Ottawa (although she didn’t have power!) and drove back home. My time was off for almost a week, but I tried to force myself to stay awake late to adjust. I’m not sure if my bladder is back though because I still have to pee in the middle of the night (is that TMI ha!?).
I hope you enjoyed reading about our girls’ trip to Greece! There are SO many other things to see in Greece, and literally hundreds of islands to visit. We considered island hopping (other popular ones include Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Crete, etc!) but it was great staying at and exploring Santorini. If/when I go back to Greece, I think I’d visit a few more islands, see Thessaloniki more, and maybe travel more inland?
Of course, I do like travelling to different countries, and it’s always fun to visit a new place :)
Have you been to Greece? Any tips/places to share?! Or, do you have a suggestion for our next vacation destination? (I think I’ll bring the Husband next time, but the jury’s still out on the kids, ha).