Peloponnese Road Trip: Ancient Olympia & Vytina

Peloponnese Road Trip: Ancient Olympia & Vytina

Ancient Olympia in Peloponnese has got to be my favorite archaeological site and I’m happy that I’ve included it in the road trip. A modern day village is built in the area, which mainly caters to the visitors of the site. We reached the area late in the afternoon after visiting Koroni and Methoni as I described in my previous blog post. I had booked a room for the night at Arty Grand Hotel in Drouvo village next to Olympia. We had a pleasant stay there and took advantage of the hotel’s pool (and pool café)!

Day 6: Ancient Olympia

Ancient Olympia, Peloponnese, Greece

Ancient Olympia, Peloponnese, Greece

The next morning after breakfast we packed our luggage and headed to Ancient Olympia’s archaeological site. The birthplace of the Olympic Games is actually both a sports and religious complex. The main features are the stadium and training facilities, most prominently the Palestra where I took a ton of photos. The temples of Zeus and Hera played an important role in antiquity. The former one housed a gold and ivory statue of Zeus, which was one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World (and unfortunately no longer in existence).

Ancient Olympia, Peloponnese, Greece Ancient Olympia, Peloponnese, Greece

The site’s location couldn’t be better, as it is built next to the rivers Alfeios and Kladeos, making the area very fertile and full of trees. Spring is probably the best time of the year to visit, as it will be full of blooming trees, but late summer was nice as well. Just make sure to visit early in the morning, as it can get hot. We spent around three hours exploring the ruins and the museum before taking the road back to Athens.

Day 6: Vytina

Lagadia, Peloponnese, Greece

On our way back to Athens we took a scenic route that passes through the mountainous part of Arcadia. This area is popular for fall/winter excursions and I can easily guess why: the scenery is amazing. And it will be even more amazing in the fall (mid to late October). We briefly stopped to take a picture of Lagadia (one of the region’s well known villages) before stopping in Vytina for lunch.

We took our time exploring Vytina’s central square and dined at Klimataria restaurant. The indoor part of the restaurant is very cozy with a touch of folklore! After lunch we stopped at the shops along the main road in order to get mountain tea (a herb that grows in the mountains and aids digestion) and fir honey which is dark colored and richer than the typical thyme honey that is widely available.

White and purple dahlia in Vytina, Peloponnese, Greece Fantasy Sandals

So this sums up our 6-day trip in the Peloponnese which included both relaxation in Elafonisos as well as exploring new places (or revisiting in my case) in Mani and Messini peninsulas!

If you missed them, here is Part I: Elafonisos and Mani and Part II: Kalamata, Koroni and Methoni.

Have you visited Peloponnese? If not, it is an area of Greece that you should add to your list as it’s full of beauty, history and beautiful beaches!




Peloponnese Road Trip: Kalamata, Koroni & Methoni

Peloponnese Rpad Trip: Kalamata, Koroni &Methoni

Continuing on our Peloponnese road trip, we reached Kalamata late in the afternoon. It was cloudy and damp from the rain, so we retreated to our hotel before venturing out for an evening stroll. In hindsight I should have added an extra day  on our trip in order to explore the city more, because we liked it very much!

Day 4&5: Kalamata

Kalamata, a coastal city, is located on the Messinian gulf between the and its history is traced back to the antiquity (was called Farai back then, while Messini was the region’s prominent city). The name of the city is probably familiar to you if you like olives! Kalamata olives, which are twice as large as other varieties, are very famous indeed and have a protected designation of origin in the EU.

Three places to check out in Kalamata are:

  1. The long promenade with hotels, restaurants and cafes which is nice for an afternoon walk. For ice cream/crepes/waffles and the lot I suggest Athanasiou café/bakery.
  2. The Railway Park spanning from the port all the way up to the city’s central square. It used to be Kalamata’s terminal train station, but that line is now defunct and the area is transformed into a park, with old trains on display.
  3. Kalamata’s central square which is huge! We visited on Thursday night and it was full of people who either strolled (as we did) or frequented one of the square’s many cafes.

Kalamata's central square, Greece

The next morning, before departing, we strolled along the promenade once more so as to take pictures of some cool old houses that I’ve spotted the day before!

If you visit Kalamata and you’re looking for a hotel, then I definitely recommend Elektra Hotel and Spa. It is located next to the city’s port (don’t worry it’s quiet) and it’s a 5’ minute walk to the promenade and 10’ walk to the city center. It’s a very neat and clean hotel and the breakfast options were endless.

Day 5: Koroni -Methoni

Koroni, Peloponnese, Greece

Leaving Kalamata  we headed south and visited the coastal villages of Koroni and Methoni which both have Venetian built castles.

Koroni's Castle Peloponnese, Greece

In Koroni, we spent our time exploring the village, which is built on a hillside. We spotted cute houses and lots of flowers but didn’t make it to the castle though.

Methoni Castle. Peloponnese, Greece

Our next stop was Methoni, where our visit was all about exploring the castle, which for me is the most interesting castle in Peloponnese.  I particularly liked the walk towards the small fort that it’s located outside the main castle and you get there via a stone bridge (pictured in the first photo of the post). It’s probably the most picturesque part of the city which is very Instagram and Pinterest worthy!!

Methoni Castle, Peloponnese, Greece

After the exploration, we had lunch at Kastro restaurant just outside Methoni’s castle and then drove north towards Ancient Olympia.

Have you ever visited this area of the Peloponnese?

P.S. Read Part 1 of our road trip where we explored Mani peninsula of Peloponnese.





















Peloponnese Road Trip: Elafonisos & Mani Peninsula

Peloponnese Road Trip: Elafonisos & Mani

I love a good road trip and it’s been a while that I actually took one! During our summer vacations, my husband and I revisited Elafonisos island and road tripped in the Peloponnese. The whole trip lasted 6 days, 3 spent in Elafonisos and the rest 3 covering various places of interest in the Peloponnese. I will split my posts about the trip into 3 parts so I can add as much information and of course photos to each post. So let’s crack on with Part 1.

Days 1-3: Elafonisos

Elafonisos was charming as always with those crystal clear waters and the sandy beaches, which I took advantage of, a lot! I spent hours reading my book under the umbrella, taking dips in the sea and even got some tan! P.S. note how my bikini matches the sea color!!

This year the island was busier, being (still) August and all that, but not asphyxiating. We got to visit some of our favorite restaurants from last year, like Kouzini.  New discoveries were made as well, such add  Aronis fish tavern in the south west part of the village and Thalassa café bar, where we ate a delicious crepe with Nutella and ice cream!

Related: The Essential Guide to Elafonisos

Day 4: Mani Peninsula

After 3 days of relaxation in Elafonisos, we drove to Kalamata passing by (and stopping at) the Mani peninsula. This area of the Peloponnese has a rich history since the Paleolithic era. It was a semi-autonomous region during the Ottoman rule and the Greek Independence War was first declared here in 1821. In late 19th and early 20th century the villages of Mani where almost abandoned as a few roads existed back then and connection with the rest of the Peloponnese was poor.

Nowadays though, the road conditions have very much improved and the villages are inhabited again making Mani a prime travel destination from April to October. Notable places to visit in the peninsula are Gytheio, Areopoli, Diros caves, the abandoned village of Vathia, Gerolimenas, Stoupa and Kardamyli. Of course we didn’t have time to cover all these places, so we only made 3 stops on our way to Kalamata.

Our first stop was Gytheio, a coastal town, where we spent some time on the promenade and around the port. Then we took the road to Areopoli, which admittedly is a gem and it’s probably my favorite stop in this road trip. Areopoli’s old town has pedestrian streets and it’s full of Mani’s characteristic architecture: stone made castle houses. It has picturesque cafes and restaurants and I couldn’t resist snapping off colorful doors because apparently #ihaveathingwithdoors!

Stoupa, Mani, Peloponnese, Greece

On our way to Kalamata, we made a brief stop in Oitilo (which was super quiet as it was 3pm) and one for late lunch in Stoupa. The weather turned cloudy by the time we got there. As you can see in the photo above the cove was very moody, but people  were still swimming and lounging around. Stoupa can be described as a “resort town”, as it has lots of hotels and rooms to let, plus a sandy beach! We wanted to explore Kardamyli too, but it was raining by the time we got there, so we skipped it and drove straight to Kalamata, where we spent the night!

















Summer in Athens

summer in Athens

So, August is here and Athenians are fleeing the city like mice, escaping to the countryside and the islands. I will too, leave in a few days for vacations, as it is getting very hot in here! During June and July I spent almost every weekend by swimming and sun tanning (a bit) in Varkiza beach (one of Athens’ coastal suburbs). It’s the best time of the year to explore what the southern suburbs have to offer (food wise), which actually translates to many visits in Waffle House Vouliagmeni!


Our friends from Crete visited us in early July and it was the a nice opportunity to do a little bit of shopping and sightseeing around Athens’ city center. We visited the Acropolis museum, walked around Plaka and dined at Rock ‘n’ Balls in Agias Eirinis square.

Pasta in Peccati di Gola, Glyfada

I discovered (actually my husband noticed it) a new ice cream parlor (and patisserie) in Athens called Balader. It’s centrally located in Kapnikareas square on Athens most popular shopping street; Ermou. A review post is on the works, so I won’t say more! Those past months, I also revisited some older favorites like Mama Roux in Aiolou street and Peccati di Gola (an Italian restaurant) in Glyfada. Last but not least, I checked out the new National Opera and National Library buildings, which Stavros Niarchos Cultural Foundation build in Palaio Faliro. The buildings are surrounded by a beautiful park full of local flora, which is ideal for walks and picnics.

So enjoy a mish-mash on how I spent my summer in Athens. Now excuse me I have some bags to pack for my out of town vacations!







The Essential Guide to Naxos


I’m continuing my guides to the Cyclades, bringing you tips about things to see and do in Naxos, which is the largest island of the Cyclades archipelago. The island has a lot to offer: beaches, archaeological sites, picturesque villages and of course delicious food! So, here we go!

Beaches in Naxos

Plaka beach, Naxos, Greece

What I loved in Naxos was the long sandy beaches. The water was crystal clear and inviting, albeit cold. In a nutshell the ones I liked the most are the following:

Plaka – long beach with sand dunes, not very crowded

Pyrgaki – this beach is on the South West part of the island, it is long too and it is not crowded at all

Agia Anna + Agios Prokopios – these beaches are side by side. Beautiful water, but they are a bit crowded (Ag. Prokopios is better in my opinion)

All these are located in the west and south west coast of the island. The east coast has smaller, lesser known and more “raw” beaches like Moutsouna.

Sightseeing in Naxos

Portara, Naxos, Cyclades, Greece

Naxos is rich in marble, so from the ancient times, people used it to make temples, statues etc. The first thing you’ll see as the ship approaches Naxos, is a big marble door, which is called  Portara, on the north side of the port. It was the entrance of a temple dedicated to God Apollo.


Apart from the door, there are many archaeological sites throughout the island. You can visit the temple dedicated to Goddess Dimitra (the Goddess of earth) and check out two sites where large scale male statue (called Kouroi) were found. You can see a Kouros near the village Apollon in the Northeastern part of the island and a couple of them in the site of Flerio, which is near the village of Melanes.

Koronos, Naxos, Cyclades, Greece

On the road from Koronos (a very picturesque village) to Moutsouna (one of the beaches I mentioned above) you will come across an abandoned emery mine and the cable cars (more like baskets) that people used to transfer emery from the mine down to Moutsouna port.

Villages to visit in Naxos

Next to the beaches and the archaeological sites, the island has many picturesque villages you can visit in Naxos. First off, there is the main town (and port), also known as Chora. Next up is the fishing village of Apollonas in the north east.

Koronos and Apeiranthos are two mainland villages, which are very beautiful and unique. The latter is my favorite one in the island and the one I’ve photographed the most!

Where to Eat in Naxos

Waffle at Waffle House, Cyclades, Greece

Maro tavern  is located in the town of Naxos and is ideal for meat lovers.

Meze2  or Meze Meze in two locations: Naxos town (Chora) and Plaka beach. This restaurant is ideal for both fish and meat lovers (I tried fish mainly).

Koronos, Naxos, Cyclades, Greece

Platanos tavern is located in the village of Apeiranthos (or Aperathos) and has very tasty food.

Platsa tavern (Matina+Stavros) is located in the village of Koronos. It is a family run tavern, which I totally recommend.

Waffle House, which is my favorite place in the whole wide world! You will find it both in Naxos town and Plaka Beach.

Practical information about Naxos

Apeiranthos, Naxos, Cyclades, Greece

Naxos has a daily flight and ferry connection to Athens (Piraeus). Ferry trip time ranges from 3 to 6 hours depending on the type of ferry you are going to choose. You will find more information about ferry trips in the website Open Seas.

Related: The Essential Info Guide to getting around the Greek Islands

Naxos is ideal for island hopping as well: Amorgos and Paros are nearby as are the Small Cyclades (Schinousa, Donousa, Iraklia, Koufonisia). It has also ferry connections to Mykonos and Santorini.

Accomodation wise, Agia Anna and Agios Prokopios are your best bets. You will find hotels and rooms to let in the beach of Agios Georgios which is next to Naxos town (Chora) and Plaka beach.

Have you visited Naxos? If not, here’s another island for your list!



Babaji, Indian Restaurant, Athens

Kashmir chicken at Babaji Indian restaurant Athens

Indian cuisine lovers, there’s a restaurant in Athens you should visit! I was introduced to Babaji about six months ago on a lunch break with two colleagues. I’d already tried out another Indian restaurant a few blocks down and I was eager to explore this one too. I loved all of the dishes we tried out and especially the Chicken Kashmir (with litchi fruit, pictured above) and the Sweet Pulao (basmati rice with saffron, pictured below left). So I returned once more with my husband to try out more!

Of course we ordered Chicken Kashmir once more as well as Lamb Korma(pictured below). We topped off our order with Paratha bread (delicious) and a Green Salad. Everything was very yummy and I should add that every main dish is accompanied with a rice bowl, so you don’t have to order extra! What I also love in Babaji is that the food isn’t over the top spicy and I enjoy it without the urgent need of water!

DSC02010 salad at Babaji Indian restaurant Athens

Essential Information: Babaji is conveniently located in 11 Nikis street, a block down from Syntagma square, so it’s very central! It’s mostly ideal for lunch breaks during the week, but I like to visit it on weekends as well. The do not take reservations, but do offer delivery service! More information can be found on their website.



Afternoon Walk in Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki seaside promenade and hotel Macedonia

Last week I spent a day in Thessaloniki for work and although I didn’t have time to see much of the city and explore new places (*ahem* food related), I did take a long walk along the seaside promenade that I gushed about on my guide to Thessaloniki. Unlike October when the weather was cold and rainy, the weather was warm and partly sunny which made it ideal for an afternoon/sunset walk.

Andromeda hotel, Thessaloniki

The starting point was City Hotel near Aristotelous square, where my colleagues and I stayed for the night and walked up to Fokas’ garden (which is part of the New seaside promenade redesign), covering almost 6km (return walk included). Being a photography sucker I stopped every now and then to snap pictures of beautiful buildings (the one you see up there is Hotel Andromeda) and of course the promenade and the view towards the port. Of course I could not not snap a photo with the Umbrellas’ sculpture included. This sculpture, created by George Zoggolopoulos, has to be Thessaloniki’s most Instagrammable location, much like the Urban Light sculpture in LACMA, Los Angeles.

The walk ended with dinner in Aristotelous square (nothing to write home about so I’ll spare the details) and cocktails (it’s been a while) in a cafe/bar called Saxofono by the seaside promenade (one of the many along the way). I got a cocktail called Toblerone which was nice but expected more of a chocolate-y taste and my colleague got an Apple Martini.

If you plan on visiting Thessaloniki then I have a very handy guide which covers everything from sightseeing to nearby excursions and of course a separate foodie guide, because the options in this city are endless!

Have you visited Thessaloniki? If not, what are you waiting for?

Thessaloniki Port at dusk cocktails at Saxofono bar, Thessaloniki

Fresh patisserie, Athens

dessert bowl at Fresh pastry store in Athens

Last week on my Saturday in Athens walk I mentioned Fresh pastry stores and particularly their Valaoritou branch and since it’s a pastry store/cafe that should be on your list if you visit Athens I came back with a full post!

Fresh is a well known chain of chic pastry stores in Athens and suburbs. It’s well known for cakes, assorted pastries and dessert bowls. But the dessert options don’t end there! In these pastry stores you’ll also find macarons, cookies, chocolate and gluten free desserts. A few weeks before Christmas, Fresh opened a new branch in Valaoritou street in Kolonaki neighborhood in Athens, pretty close to Syntagma square.

Lemon merFresh pastry store, Valaoritou street, Athens Lemon meringue dessert at Fresh pastry store, Athens

The space is designed Italian architect Paola Navone and features black and white tiles and large chandeliers. There are not many tables inside the store, but outdoor seating is also available, with heaters and blankets provided for the cold months!

Fresh’ location near Attica department store, Voukourestiou street and Kolonaki make it an ideal location for pre- or post-shopping stop. This particular store serves lunch and dinner as well!

So, what are you waiting for?

Essential information: Fresh is located in 7, Valaoritou street. More info (and drooling) over at its website.

The essential guide to Rethymno, Crete

Essential Guide to Rethymno, Crete, Greece

Being married to a Cretan means that I get the chance to visit this beautiful island multiple times per year. I’ve explored a lot of cities, villages and beaches but the fact is that I still have lots to explore! Ugh! Anyways! Today’s post is all about the picturesque city of Rethymno, which lies conveniently between the two large cities of Chania and Heraklion. It has a lot of similarities with the former as the Venetian influence is more prominent than in Heraklion (where they did a pretty good job on not highlighting the dry docks or the fortifications). Its full of picturesque cobblestone streets where you can easily get lost. In a good sense. I’ve visited Rethymno many times during the past few years, so it’s time to compile a guide to the city!

Sightseeing in Rethymno

Rethymno’s Venetian fortress is high on the sightseeing list, as it will provide you with views over the city. The Fortezza, as it is called, is located on Paleokastro hill and it’s a 10-minute walk from the Old Town and the Old Port.

Rethymno old port, Crete, Greece

The best part of the city is (you’ve guessed it) the Old Town. You’ll meet colorful houses, interesting restaurants, blooming bougainvilleas (depending on the season), old mosques and quiet squares. A favorite place of mine in the city is the Rimondi fountain. This fountain was built in the 17th century by the Rethymno’s rector at the time, called Rimondi and it was part of the city’s water system.

Where to eat at Rethymno

Mousaka at Avli Restaurant, Rethymno, Crete, Greece

The city’s waterfront and especially the old port is filled with busy restaurants and cafes but it’s actually not my favorite place to hang out in Rethymno. I prefer the area around the Rimondi fountain, where I’ve discovered a couple of nice restaurants, cafes and ice cream parlors. My favorite restaurant in Rethymno is Avli, which I’d describe as Cretan cuisine with a twist. Their dishes are delicious, the portions reasonable and its courtyard (that’s what Avli means) very picturesque! A recent discovery is Kook, which is an Italian inspired restaurant. Love the interiors and the fried cheese and must go back and try more!!

ice cream at Rethymno

Now on the ice cream front: you should try Meli, which is located next to the fountain and, located nearby! As far as cafes go, I’ve visited two, also on less crowded streets (that’s the perk when you have local friends)! One is called Bistro 22 and is located on Tsouderon street. Apart from coffee, tea and chocolate, they make delicious desserts; just look at the pictured profiterole and cheesecake!! Then there is Kimolia on 25th March square which is very quiet and a nice place to relax and chat with friends.

Beaches to visit in Rethymno

Souda cove, Plakias, Rethymno, Crete, Greece

The beaches I’ve visited and recommend in Rethymno are actually far from the city, but they are worth the trip. First up is Plakias (more specifically Souda cove next to Plakias) which is located in the southern part of Rethymno’s prefecture, and it’s about an hour drive. And if you do go there for I have the perfect tavern for you called Galini! My next beach suggestion is either Panormo or Bali, which are half an hour and 40-minute drive respectively from Rethymno.

When to visit Rethymno and how to get there

Rethymno is a city you can visit year round, but summer is always most popular, since it’s warmer and you can hit the beach as well. Personally I’d avoid the city in July and August as it’s going to be super crowded.

Rethymno doesn’t have an airport and is not connected to Piraeus via ferry, so you’ll either have to fly to Chania or to Heraklion (or take a ferry to get either to these cities) and then rent a car or take a bus to Rethymno. Aegean Airlines connects Athens to both Chania and Heraklion, but bear in mind that Ryanair flies to Chania too from selected European countries.

Packing my Suitcase

A walk in Athens: Saturday in the City

Saturday Walk in Athens

When the weather is nice I’m all about Saturday walks in the city! It’s really pleasant to explore Athens during springtime (or fall) and that’s what I like to do! This past weekend the weather was cloudy, rainy and all over moody, but I do have a nice walk to share with you from the previous month!

But first brunch!

After experiencing the joy having brunch in Montreal and Boston, it was time to check out what Athens has to offer too! New York Sandwiches has been a fixture lately. I love their Eggs Benedict as well as their pancakes, although the latter are too much for my poor stomach! So this time, we skipped the pancakes and decided to get dessert elsewhere , thus made our way to Fresh!

Fresh is a well known pastry shop in Athens, with delicious cakes, tarts, assorted pastries and many more (full post will definitely follow). I opted for that delicious milk chocolate pastry you see above!  Then off course it was time to digest, so we decided to walk around Athens (and take pictures in front of now closed patisseries). I also dragged my husband at made a stop at Zara to stock up on a new pair of grey jeans, a blue shirt (perfect for spring) and a home candle. Funny thing is that I was never into home candles before moving to the US. There I discovered that Bath and Body Works make not only beautiful body lotions but candles as well. So now, I try to find candles that match up their candles and those from Zara do a pretty good job!

Change of the guards

Walking from Zara towards Syntagma square my husband pointed out that it was time for the guards’ change in front of the Parliament, which is an interesting sight to observe, especially if it has been ages since the last time you spotted it! So, we stood there with visitors and locals alike to view the procedure and my husband snapped some photos as well!

Walking down Mitropoleos street

Heading home we walked down Ermou and Mitropoleos streets for some shopping (*cough, cough*) and casual sightseeing. The statue you see pictured above depicts the last reigning Byzantine Emperor: Constantine IX Palaiologos, which has also been a ruler of Mystras, which I visited last year! The statue is tucked away in a corner of the square in front of Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens and noticed it recently as I was relocated to an office building in the southern part of the square. So here’s a little fun fact/sight in Athens that most people bypass!

P.S. If you’re looking for a nice cafe/restaurant in Mitropoleos Square check out The Zillers!

We ended our walk in Monastiraki square before catching the bus home! The view towards the Acropolis was beautiful, so I asked my husband to capture the scene (that’s the first photo of the post), as his camera is far better than mine (and he’s a talented photographer)!

So here you go! That’s how I like to spend my Saturdays in Athens! Now tell me how do you like to spend your weekends in the city!

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