Millions of tourists visit Greece yearly looking for clear blue water, dreamy sandy beaches, impressive historical sites, gastronomical feasts, and the warmth of the local hospitality. Blessed with the most beautiful coastline in Europe, Greece is the Mediterranean destination on every traveler’s wish list.
Greece was also my choice for our 20th wedding anniversary celebration. Dennis and I wanted to revisit the country where our youngest Athena was conceived a decade ago. We were excited to rediscover the beautiful Greek islands and savor the delicious cuisine as well.
For hassle-free traveling, we got one of the signature destination packages of Insight Vacations so we could enjoy luxury touring with all the fine details taken care of. Insight’s “Athens, Mykonos and Santorini Gold Luxury Tour” covers three destinations in a 10-day package complete with luxury coach rides, speedy ferryboats and short plane trips.
Our family immensely enjoyed the tour. The pace was comfortable throughout, starting from the capital, Athens, and onwards to two of the most romantic islands on our planet, where beach-lazing and café-loitering seem to be the order of the day.
Our personal tour director, Peter Daskalakis, met us at the airport and brought us to the Grande Bretagne Hotel, a five-star Luxury Collection property with breathtaking views of the city’s eternal monuments. During the day, we visited the National Museum and the University, the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch, together with an expert local guide aside from our tour director.
Ascending the “Sacred Rock,” the Acropolis, was one of the highlights of our visit to Athens. We marveled at the Parthenon, built in 5th-century BC, as well as the smaller Temple of Athena Nike and the beauteous Caryatid columns.
Shopping in Athens is a favorite pastime for tourists and Athenians. Monastiraki Square is one of the best places to buy just about anything. This central flea market is more like the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul though not as large. There are cool cafés, a parade of shops, street musicians and bargains. I spent the most time here helping to improve the Greek economy!
An early departure to the Port of Pireaus was set on the third day to take the group on a high-speed, express ferry to the Island of Mykonos, playground of the rich and famous. We had two glorious days at leisure discovering the island’s offerings. We explored the town with its winding maze of walkways, whitewashed houses and magnificent windmills. Our older kids checked out the uninhibited nightlife and the late-night club scene.
Mykonos is the meeting place for more than one million tourists a year. For the hip gay community, this island is the place to be seen during the sizzling hot summer months. It has a reputation as one of the best gay capitals of the Mediterranean with nice (read: nude) beaches, active nightlife, fantastic landscapes and picturesque, white-painted villages.
Our day tour to Delos Island was quite interesting, although our youngest Athena got a bit tired in the heat so the next day, we just checked out the different beaches and watched the sunset at Shirley Valentine beach.
Speaking of sunsets, the sunsets of Santorini are truly God’s gift to the world. In fact, thousands wait by Oia, the town on the island’s western tip, to experience the picture-perfect view. Be sure to have a table at one of the cliff-top restaurants while the sun is setting.
Island activities include walking along the dust road to reach the small beach with the cliffs, diving into the deep waters and swimming below the caldera, above the sea-bottom chaos. More adventurous visitors could do a donkey ride along the steep narrow roads by the cliff.
Of the three places, Santorini is my favorite with its most romantic scenery. A perfect mixture of land and sea makes Santorini a truly spectacular destination.
Insight Vacations (www.insightvacations.com) is the leader in premium and luxury escorted holidays, with signature packages to numerous sites all over the world. With travelers getting the very best itineraries to the country of their choice, the hardest part is choosing which country to visit!
Insight has an incredible range of Signature Experiences, where guests explore history’s greatest civilizations, savor authentic cuisines, and enjoy the pleasures of traveling by both land and sea. The travel company is the expert on Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, but it also offers the same legendary high standards and carefully curated itineraries in North America, India, Bhutan, Nepal and Morocco.
Insight guests enjoy more intimate groups limited to just 40 passengers, the services of an experienced tour director who acts as “traveling concierge,” and expertly planned itineraries offering a range of Signature Experiences. These programs provide a unique and revealing look into the history and culture of each destination with special perks like express passes and privileged visits. Arrangements are preset so there are access to special tours not open to the public, and no waiting in long lines.
Guests also enjoy Signature Dining and Dine-Around Evenings, and stay in select hotels, castles and palaces that are centrally or scenically located. For more than 35 years, Insight has designed its escorted journeys with care and an unwavering commitment to exceeding its guests’ expectations.
Rajah Travel Corporation (www.rajahtravel.com) has been the Philippines’ General Sales Agent for Insight Vacations since 1982 and Contiki Tours International since 1997, two of the largest motor-coach operators in Europe. It is also the Preferred Sales Agent for Norwegian Cruise Lines, Star Cruises and Silversea Cruise Lines. It is also a consortium member of various airline programs.
With people dedicated to service excellence, work ethic, and focused in providing stewardship, Rajah goes the extra mile to arrange traveling with no hassles.
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