7 days Crete & 2 days Athens Itinerary

Hi All, 

It took us ages to decide where to go for this holiday. We needed somewhere cheap but still had enough things for us to do...we stumbled upon Crete and Athens on the map and just went for it!

We wanted to relax so we started in Crete, more precisely Malia. It hasn't got the best reputation I know but Barrie and I had such a great time in Magaluf we thought we'd give it a go. Malia is not the same as Magaluf but I'll get to this. To cover the cultural hit we like to get on holiday we decided to finish in Athens to soak up some history. 

We've been doing all these little city breaks to try and get any hard to do places out of the way before we think about having a family. Athens wasn't originally high on my to do list but it worked out nicely with Crete. However, Athens is definitely one of my favourite places so far. It's such a lovely place for a romantic getaway I highly recommend it!

On that note I'll start from the beginning with Crete. 

We flew from Gatwick to Heraklion from only £80.10 pp (we needed this holiday to be cheap!). Barrie arranged us some airport transfers using the standard shuttle coach system you get in most of Greece. For only £10.91 pp return it was fantastic value and when we arrived because no one else was going our way for a while they put us straight into a taxi, score!

We had booked Silver sun studio apartment at £135 pp for 7 nights which was a complete bargain. We were a bit worried because they didn't have any reviews since  2016 but the reviews they had were glowing. They are situated about a 20 minute walk from the main Malia strip. The brilliant thing about these apartments was their sun lounger area that literally leads onto the beach! Unlike the Malia beach that was littered with sun loungers everywhere and no sand, because this was 20 mins away from the crowds their little beach was quiet, beautiful and had no sun loungers, and that was a relief!

 We wanted to relax at the start of our holiday so spent the first 2 days just enjoying the sun and local restaurants. After this we desperately tried 2 times to book ourselves onto a tour to do the Samaria gorge. However, we didn't have any luck. The first day we tried to book for it, it was sold out. The second day we booked the tour but it was cancelled as when we arrived in Greece they were having a heat wave and people were fainting during the hike, so it probably wouldn't have been the most enjoyable. Ultimately, we had to miss out on this 11 mile hike. Part of me is really gutted as I would have loved to do it but another part of me was relieved as it would have been really tough in such weather. 

Disappointed we couldn't do the hike we decided to have some adventures on the Malia strip. This had a very different vibe to somewhere like Magaluf. The general age range there was much younger, the average was 18 years but there was a lot of people there who looked really young (first drinks kinda young) so this made it less appealing than Magaluf that had an older age range due to the stag and hen party's. 

If I'm honest, I didn't enjoy Malia as much as Magaluf. Maybe this was because Barrie and I had such a great time in Magaluf it was hard to beat it. There are all the pubs and clubs you need in the strip and your typical drink offers. They had some lovely bars with swinging chairs that are nice to relax in but for me the clubs were just a bit tacky compared to Magaluf. 

Never the less, we had some lovely meals in Malia. One of Barrie's favourite restaurants was called The Red Lion which was a great restaurant with excellent variety and massive portions! We also went to a very traditional Greek restaurant called Taverna Eva. This was just down the road from Silver Sun apartments, it's cuisine was beautiful and you could see it being cooked by the Cretan family. However, there was only one main waiter which meant the delays in the restaurant were long. So don't go here if you're after a quick meal but do go here to relax and drink in between courses. 

My favourite restaurant suffered from a similar problem, there wasn't enough staff on so the waiting time was long but maybe this is just the norm in Greece - no one's in a hurry! However, for me this meal was fabulous and the Baklava the best I've ever had. The restaurant Thalassa sits on the Malia beach front and offers you beautiful views of the cost line. There was actually one night where Barrie and I got to watch the Moon disappear behind the mountain as we drank cocktails - lush!

We felt really guilty for having such a chilled holiday that we decided to try Parasailing as an adrenaline boost. I've never done anything like it before and I'm not the best with heights so I was a little nervous. We booked it with Dolphin Watersports on the front of Malia beach. It was a good price for the 2 of us but I hesitate to quote it as I have a feeling this changes with each day and popularity.  Both Barrie and I loved the experience and it was amazing soaring above Malia taking in the beautiful scenery. 

To add onto our adventure day, off the coast of Malia is a little church you can always see lit up at night. I'm an average swimmer I would say and I felt I could easily swim out to the church. We had a little look around this tiny church and had a snorkel around the rocks near it. 

It doesn't sound like much but the week soon past with all this eating and relaxing so before we knew it it was time to head for Athens. 

 We took a flight from Heraklion to Athens costing around £44pp. We had found an apartment called Ermou City View for 2 nights for £44pp. I won't go into the details but don't book with this hotel! Lets just say when we finally arrived the apartment was lovely but the hassle and stress it took us to confirm the booking made it a place I'd never stay again. None the less, in the end the apartment did work out. It was in a fantastic location with all the major Athens sights within easy walking distance. It also happened to be right near Syntagma Square where the changing of the guard takes place. If you do happen to be near there around 11am it is quite fun to watch. It's steeped in tradition so I'll tread carefully but it does look a little funny. 

After this our first stop in Athens was to buy a special combo ticket for The Acropolis. This is because the queue's for The Acropolis are crazy busy and you can only buy them in person! If you do it this way you can easily expect a 2 hour wait. However, Athens does this special combo ticket which for 30E instead of 20E (just for The Acropolis) you get entry into 8 historical sights around Athens. I have listed them below. So if you go to one of these less popular sites first you can buy a special combo ticket there without having to queue and skip the line when you do go the The Acropolis. Once you buy this combo ticket it's valid for 5 days.

Special Combo 30E ticket includes:

The Acropolis 20E *

Ancient Agora 8E *

Hadrians Linrary 4E*

Roman Agora 8E*

Kerameikos 8E*

*Individual price. 

So we picked the sight that was nearest to our hotel to go buy the Special Combo ticket. This happened to be the Roman Agora, this was nice to look about but nothing breathtaking so if you don't have much time you can skip this and Hadrian's Library. Luckily Barrie and I had enough time so we decided to have a walk around both these sights as it was included in the price and when in Rome...why not!

After this we went to The Ancient Agora. This was one of the sights I definitely wanted to visit whilst in Athens. You can spend around 1 hour there and it's a lovely historical sight because unlike a lot of the other Athens sights the Agora is more complete. 

We were a bit tired from all our travels so we headed for a refresh back at our apartment before setting out on the walk up Mount Lycabettus for sunset. Now, I am really surprised because a lot of travel blogs I had read before my visit said this was an optional extra. For me Mount Lycabettus is a must do! The views of Athens was spectacular and it was easy to get to. I actually convinced Barrie to take the cable car with me but if we were to visit again we wouldn't have bothered as it's not that far of a walk. The views were incredible and we stayed throughout sunset to get both day and night views. This was easy to do as there is a little (very windy) bar on the Mount where you can have drinks and food if you'd like (we opted for just drinks). After taking about a billion pictures we headed back down to explore the Plaka area and have a rooftop dinner there. Barrie found Elaia Restaurant which had a lovely rooftop restaurant area and a view of the Acropolis. The food was traditional Greek and homemade- lovely. 

The next day we had a lot of cover but we managed to do this leisurely (we even had a nap before heading out for dinner). We had to start the day by getting up early and scaling the Acropolis to visit the magnificent Parthenon. The combo ticket meant we skipped the 2 hour long queue that had already formed. A ticket to The Acropolis includes Entry to the Citadel (where you can see the Parthenon and the Erechtheion) but also the North and South slopes, where you will find the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysus – amongst other features. You can easily spend 2 hours looking around all these sights. These are all a must do!

After these sights we walked down the south slop and exited out this way to lead us right into the Acropolis Museum. This was only 5E entry fee but with no way of buying tickets in advance we had to wait around 20 minutes queuing which wasn't too bad. Once inside the Museum the guide map gives you a good route to follow and we spent around 1 hour again in here. There is a particularly helpful film that shows in the media area. Do watch this as it'll fill in all the gaps you missed from the Acropolis and help the Museum exhibitions make more sense.

We then tried to refuel but all the tourist restaurants that lined the streets near The Acropolis were terrible with pictures of the food etc. We actually took a risk and ordered at one of these awful restaurants but the food looked so bad when it arrived we sent in back and left! So we opted for ice cream instead and vowed if we saw a decent place we'd stop for lunch. On our way again we walked through The Arc of Hadrian to visit the Temple of Zeus (Olympieon). Our combo ticket included entry so why not! You can see the Temple of Zeus from outside the gated entry if you don't want to go in but I would recommend you honestly take that 15 minutes to go in and appreciate the magnitude of the temple from close up. 

Past the Temple of Zeus (Olympieon) if you follow the path you will come to the Panathenaic stadium which hosted the first ever Olympic Games. It's very impressive and if you love sports you can pay to go in. We were happy just appreciating the stadium and walked on once we snapped a few memories. 

If you keep walking (it's almost like you're doing a big circle) you come to the edge of the National Gardens. They are free and we wondered around here to see the birds, turtle pond and mini zoo they had and get out of the city for a 30 minute tranquil stroll. 

After this we had done so much we'd forgot about lunch and headed back to our apartment to refresh (nap) before going out on a bar crawl of Athens and some yummy food. We started with a fantastic cocktail bar Barrie had found on Tripadviser called Clumsies. This was brilliant, the cocktails were delicious and the bar had a great atmosphere.

We then stopped for dinner at a fabulous restaurant called Lithos. Go here! It was so tasty and the service was fantastic. If you've only got time for one restaurant in Athens do this one. After this, I had no idea where the room in our belly's came from but we kept on with our bar crawl. Just down the road from Lithos Tavern is a pub called Beer Time. Barrie is a massive craft beer fan so we had to stop here and if you're the same you'll love it too. 

Along our travels of Athens we met a lovely couple who recommended these two rooftop bars to us so we vowed to visit them on our trip. First, we went to A for Athens hotel and up to it's rooftop bar. If you want a table outside do expect to wait (which we did for about 20 mins) but you can get a table inside with amazing views for little or no wait at all. However, my favourite bar was the one we finished on, the 360 cocktail bar. We didn't have to wait for a table, the view was amazing and you're surrounded by the beautiful bright pink Greek flowers...also the cocktails were lovely. This was the best bar to finish the night in.

Bar crawl:

'Clumsies'

Beer Time

A for Athens

360 cokctail bar

To conclude, Athens is a bit under the radar, but it's fantastic for a couple of days and has cracking night life! Monastiraki Square is the place to be and just hang out in the evenings. I highly recommend Athens and would certainly go again. 

I hope you've found this helpful.

Enjoy you're travels!