Naxos is the largest and most fertile island in Greeces Cyclades, and it’s home to dozens of traditional villages. Many of these villages are known for something unique, like olive oil from the surrounding groves, or architecture left over from the Byzantine era.
Partway through our week-long stay on Naxos, we rented an ATV to zoom up into the mountains and visit some of the villages. You could easily spend more time in one or several of the villages; all of the ones we visited would have been charming and relaxing places to stay a few days. Because our time on Naxos was beach-focused (since it came at the end of a month of constantly moving around Iceland, Scotland, Kos, Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini), a day trip worked best for us. If you also have limited time, one day is perfect to get a glimpse of village life. If you don’t want to rent a car/ATV, you can choose one village and take the bus (more rides during high season, grab a copy of the schedule in Naxos Chora).
While we’re on the topic of social distancing… let’s talk about how to stay out of the crowds in Oia, Santorini, one of the most crowded places I’ve ever been to! With all the day trippers coming in from Fira (on the other side of the island) and off cruise ships to check an Oia sunset off their bucket lists, staying on this end of Santorini can feel a little intense. Oia is small, which means that the narrow pedestrian streets fill up quickly. Step out to grab a bite in the middle of the day, or – you brave soul – around sunset time, and you’ll be jostled along in a steady stream of tourists. When you do venture out to watch the sunset, you’ll be competing for space with thousands of other photo-hungry visitors who also want to enjoy the view without a stranger’s head in their romantic pictures.
If you’re daydreaming about a trip and have some flexibility in when you can take a vacation, I would imagine that shoulder season would be the ideal time to go. If, like me, you have to travel during high season, you can absolutely have a good experience!
We managed to stay in Oia in August AND love our time on Santorini. I did find the crowds stressful, but we found ways to either avoid or embrace them. Here are some suggestions for staying out of the stampede in Oia:
Bougie, budget, or both? Mykonos has a reputation for being expensive. Not $$ expensive… more like $$$$$ expensive! I’m here to report that it’s… mostly true 😦 Mykonos CAN be very expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are lavish ways to experience it, but there are more frugal ways too! Read on for bougie vs. budget Mykonos: beaches, food and drink, accommodation, gay bars, and getting around!
If you’re going to Mykonos, there’s no doubt you’ll want to hit up some of the beaches! On our two-night stay, we had time for one beach day, and chose to go to Super Paradise because it’s right next to Jackie O’s (gay) Beach Club.
Bougie: Rent a set of beach chairs, order a pitcher of sangria and a plate of food, live the life of luxury! According to the internet, prices can vary wildly for beach chairs, depending on when and where you go. I’ll admit I was super naive: after our time on Kos, I knew Mykonos would be a bit more expensive, but foolishly hoped that we wouldn’t have to pay more than 10€. Bahahah! Our first quote was 55€ for two “front row” chairs, 50€ for the next two rows, or 40€ for the rest! Yikes. We settled on a pair at the other end of the beach (by Jackie O’s) for 35€ – a bargain if you ask me! For this price, you get a guaranteed patch of shade on a golden Medditerranean beach, and comfy chairs to lounge/dry off on for the day. A pitcher of sangria will set you back 35€, a burger 20€, a plate of calamari 17€. Phew – these prices stressed me out!
Budget: Find yourself a patch of sand, set up your towel, BYO shade if you can. BYO beer and snacks! This option works if you’re not planning to be there for long, don’t mind moving around a bit, or if you have a good way to stay shady. You could also try going early morning and snagging a chair before the crowds arrive and you get kicked off.
In between: Get a chair and BYO everything else. We tried this but felt kind of awkward with people aggressively providing service… so we ordered Sangria and then refilled our glasses “subtly” with our backpack beer.
The Acropolis (the hill)/Parthenon (the main structure) is an obvious must-see on most folks’ trips to Athens, but what’s not immediately obvious is how to experience it. Sure, you could hop off your city tour bus, give it a walk-through, and move on to the next site on your list. If that brings you travel joy, go for it! We loved getting a sense of Athens and the Parthenon from a few different vantage points, so I present to you: Athens’ Acropolis, 4-ways! Zany, up-close, romantic, and historical!
On our journey from Edinburgh to Athens, we found ourselves with the relatively cheaper option of flying through Kos, a Greek Island in the Dodecanese group. Skyscanner was giving us flights arriving into Kos late at night and leaving for Athens early in the morning, but after finding multiple flights per day from Kos to Athens, we decided to buy two separate flights and spend our first day in Greece on an island!
Since we were arriving late, we opted to stay at an Airbnb by the airport in Antimachia, a literal 4 minute drive away (our host picked us up). If you’re staying in Kos town, buses travel from the airport during the day, but after 7 or 8:30 pm you’ll have to take a taxi.
We had a 5:30 pm flight the next day so we had almost an entire day to spend at the beach! You have your choice of sandy beaches on Kos, but it was an easy decision for us: lovely and popular Kardemena beach was very close to where we were staying. Our host very nicely dropped us off at the KTEL bus stop at the airport, and €2 and 10 minutes later, we were at beautiful Kardemena!
It rained almost the entire week I was in Edinburgh in July. Most days, it poured! A little rain didn’t put a damper on things though. Would it have been better in the sun? I drought it! (Ok… it obviously would have been a little better not having to peel off sopping wet pants every time I got back to the AirBnb, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the city!)
Heads up: this isn’t a list of indoor activities. I’m assuming that if you’ve found your way to Edinburgh, you want to see more than the inside of buildings. These are ideas for places to duck into when it’s really pouring, and things to enjoy no matter the weather, so dress appropriately!
Here we go! 13 ways to enjoy Edinburgh in the rain:
Kyla and I love each other, but we also love our freedom when we travel! We were both pretty independent travellers when we met, and we try to work in solo travel time, even when we travel together. Depending on where we are, that might mean a few hours to a couple of days.
In Scotland, it worked nicely into our plans for her to rent a car and take a dream road trip up to Skye, while I got a much-needed dose of city exploration time in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I only had a few hours in Glasgow, but I was so impressed with the city! Some quick Googling showed me that there was an epic mural trail there, so that’s how I spent my afternoon. It was a great way to see different parts of the city, and I stumbled on TWO festivals along the way (involving drinking and live music, carnival rides, and a family ceilidh)!
The only issue I had was accessing the map without data on my phone. I couldn’t find a good app to download when I had access to wi-fi, so I just decided ahead of time on a general idea of what I wanted to see most, since I didn’t have time to do the whole thing while still giving myself the flexibility to wander down random streets and into markets and cafes and ceilidhs! I mapped it out on Google Maps beforehand, so that I could cross-reference it with the mural map (#nerdy), but I still had to find wi-fi a couple times. Usually, this was my own fault for reading the map wrong or just not looking UP at the right wall! But if you’re flexible and happy to get a little lost, you’ll have no problem! If you’d prefer to know exactly where you are to make sure you don’t miss any murals, I’d recommend downloading an offline map app, like Maps.me.
Staying in Edinburgh? No doubt Glasgow deserves more time, but if you have limited days, it’s an easy day or half day trip. It’s an hourish-long train ride from Edinburgh, or about an hour and a half by bus, with multiple trips on each per hour.
Happy (mural) trails! Have you been? Let me know your favourite piece of art!
One of the main things we wanted to do in Iceland was see puffins, and we managed to find them two nights in a row! They are the cutest bird I’ve ever seen! I freaked out when I spotted them flying around awkwardly, but the look on Kyla’s face when she first saw them made my trip: PURE JOY!
Here are some tips for seeing puffins in South Iceland, so that you can feel pure joy too! The two locations I talk about are near the small town of Vik (about 2.5 hours from Reykjavik).
When? In general, May to late August is when puffins arrive back on land from their ocean adventures. Dyrhólaey is CLOSED during nesting season, which includes parts of May and June (I imagine that this sensitive time isn’t the best to seek them out elsewhere, either, but you can probably still see them on cliffs near Reynisfjara). July or early August would be the best time to spot them, and they can most reliably be seen between 7-10 a.m. and 6-10 p.m. If it’s rainy, you’re in luck: there’s a possibility of seeing them during the day! We saw lots on rainy evenings! If it’s sunny, they may not be back until after 9 p.m. Here’s some info from a Vík tourist map:
Where? Reynisfjara: You should visit this beach whether or not you’re looking for puffins! It has black sand, lava stack formations, and mystical basalt columns. Right as you pass the first set of basalt columns (from the parking lot), face the cliffs, and you should see puffins! From a distance, my first clue was a flying football-shaped thing!
Where? Dyrholaey: This promontory offers great views of Reynisfjara and Vík to the east, and black sand beach for days to the west. We drove all the way up to the top. It says 4 wheel drive only; it was fine for our little rental, but it’s quite a steep gravel road. You can also park below and walk up. Up top, there’s a lighthouse, and the cliffs nearby were where we spotted the puffins! If you look down (again, look for the awkward flying footballs and head towards them), you should see some, not too far from the path!
How? Don’t forget your binoculars and camera with zoom! Be respectful of the birds’ habitats and be safe: don’t go beyond any ropes or signage. Happy birdwatching!
Is there a perfect amount of time to spend in Iceland? I doubt it! If you’re taking a trip just to Iceland, you’ll probably want to spend over a week driving around the whole Ring Road, or plan for a few days of hiking in Landmannalaugar. If you just want a tiny taste of the country on your way to or from Europe, a couple of days should suffice. In the winter, the limited hours of daylight may dictate how much time you need.
Five days in Iceland was perfect for us – it was a stop on the way to some other destinations, but also a dream trip on it’s own. It’s just enough time to leave you wanting more! I’ve made up a 5 day itinerary, including information about popular sites, getting around, food, and – most importantly – how and where to spot PUFFINS!*
Keep an eye out for a separate post with a packing list and detailed cost breakdown. Check out our 5 day itinerary below: