Greece is home to thousands of islands that are just begging to be explored. Between the well-known destinations of Santorini, Mykonos, and Crete, it’s hard to decide upon where you’ll want to spend your time. That’s where Greek Aegean cruises comes in handy. Set sail on a journey through the Mediterranean and enjoy a sample platter of islands.
We recommend choosing your cruise based on which islands you want to visit. Most ships embark from the port of Piraeus, Greece, a part of Athens, and offer anywhere from two to 10 stops. Each island is accented with its own flair, and after touring the region ourselves in the fall of 2014, we wanted to breakdown highlights from a few of our favorite destinations.
We arrived to the island of Mykonos just as the sun was setting, but that didn’t stop us from soaking up as much of the island as possible. While Mykonos’ most popular sites are its iconic windmills and the famous white church of Panagia Paraportiani, we decided to explore via our taste buds.
In the heart of the island’s Little Venice district lies Katerina’s Bar & Restaurant. If there’s only one thing you eat while on the island, make sure it’s the grilled feta at this local haunt. The cheese is grilled beautifully, then mixed into a bowl of deliciously flavored tomato sauce. It took all of our self control not to lick our plates clean. Instead, we settled on just ordering another serving. There’s no such thing as guilt on vacation. Rven if there was, this dish would be well worth it.
The Library of Celsus, in Ephesus
We left the remainder of our meal up to our gracious server. For me, she brought a fresh vegetable pasta that tasted unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. For Chris, she brought calamari, which he loved. Unlike the fried rings we’re used to, his dish came as a calamari steak that was seasoned and cooked brilliantly.
Our dinner concluded with the restaurant’s deconstructed baklava. This was heaven on a fork. The crunch of the nuts paired well with the delicate outer layers of pastry dough. If we were to eat any more we probably would have sunken our ship upon re-boarding.
Another bonus of dining at Katerina’s is that during daylight hours, the restaurant’s balcony has breathtaking views overlooking the Aegean sea and the famed windmills. That, my friends, is dining with a view.
The morning after Mykonos, we awoke to find ourselves docked in a completely different country: Turkey. At a spot named Kusadasi. No, technically speaking, this is not a Greek island, but Kusadasi a popular stop on most Greek cruises nevertheless. While we’re highly in favor of walking around and exploring a port on your own (Turkish coffee, Turkish rugs, and Turkish delight await!), this is one stop where we’d recommend booking a tour of rich city of Ephesus.
Built in the 10th Century, Ephesus was one of the biggest Roman cities of its time. It’s currently home to one of the world’s most well-preserved ruins. Specifically, the city is home to the Temple of Artemis, considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The city also boasts the Library of Celsus, which is a beautifully intact work of art.
Another hotspot near Ephesus is the House of Virgin Mary. This ancient Roman architecture dwelling is believed to have been where the Virgin Mary spent her last days. It is visited by thousands throughout the year.
Desginated as “Holy Island” by the Greek Parliament in 1981, Patmos also is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This sacred island is known for harboring the cave in which Saint John received and wrote the Book of Revelation, the Holy Cave of the Apocalypse. Visitors can even put their hands in the same holds that John used to raise himself from the ground.
Viewfinder Tip: The forty steps leading to The Holy Cave of the Apocalypse are steep. We wouldn’t recommend a visit for those who are claustrophobic.
Known as the Island of the Knights, Rhodes was one of my favorite stops on our Greek island cruise. The Medieval city is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cobblestone Street of the Knights leads to numerous sites such as the Church of Our Lady of the Castle and the Hospital of the Knights. The winding streets of Polidorou and Sokratous are alive with welcoming cafes, restaurants, and shops. Be on the lookout for the city’s numerous kitty (and parrot) inhabitants. This is definitely a port that is easy to do on one’s own.
Our best advice for Rhodes is to grab a map of the city and head wherever your heart desires. We only had enough time to explore inside the walls of the city, but are itching to go back to see what lies outside.
This gem of the Aegean is home to the iconic blue roofed churches gracing many of Greece’s postcards. Oia, the oldest settlement on the island, is the place you’ll want to be as the sun begins to set. Our trip was one of the last of the season and we raced from port to Oia just in time to capture the magnificent view. Mamma Mia, it was worth it!
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