Heading on a girls trip to the Greek Islands for the first time? Not sure which islands to choose?
My advice for first timers is the Cyclades. White-washed villages, sugar-cube houses, and blue domed churches, recognisable through countless posters, films and postcards. Not only are they the classic Greek islands, they are super easy to get to one another by ferry making them perfect for first timers.
I travelled to the Islands with four girlfriends and we had 10 days, so logistics was important. Mykonos and Santorini are the King and Queen of these islands so they were automatically on our list. Ios, renowned for it’s partying, was appealing to us 21 year old girls, so that too went on our list. And then we chose Paros. Predominantly because it conveniently sits between Ios and Mykonos, so logistically it made sense. However, we were pleasantly surprised by Paros’ charm with its traditional villages, and lack of tourist crowds.
Which ever island you choose, each one provides it’s own unique flavour of adventure, and it’s own story to share.
This is my story.
After 24hrs in Athens (which involved a speed tour around the Acropolis and the Monastiraki Flea Market, where we all purchased a pair of the famous Greek leather sandals), we boarded a midnight ferry to Santorini. This is great option as the ferry takes about 8-12 hours, so instead of wasting an entire day on the ferry, you can get a full night’s sleep as the seats are more like couches offering the ability to be completely horizontal. If you choose this option, be mindful they blast the air conditioning, so bring socks and jumpers! We all looked like we were camping in the snow as we covered every inch of our body!
My first experience of Santorini was sweet relief after disembarking the freezing ferry at Thira Port. I welcomed being blinded by the sun and hit by the heat. Treeless and barren cliffs were my first sight of the Greek Islands. I imagined the appearance of the Middle East to resemble something similar.
We planned 2 nights in Santorini, staying at Perissa Beach. On our first night, we caught a bus up to Oia to watch the sunset, with all the other tourists in Santorini (beware, it is crowded so get there early to receive a good spot). I had a bottle of wine rolling around in my backpack that I had bought in Tuscany. It was a heavy nuisance to lug around, so I was waiting for the opportune moment to open it. Watching a Grecian sunset whilst sipping on Tuscan wine seemed appropriate, so the bottle accompanied us. It was absolutely spectacular; a magical hue of pinks, purples and orange covered the cliff face as the sun went to sleep and as the wine disappeared.
After the beautiful sunset, we caught the bus back to Perissa beach, treated ourselves to some Greek Island Ice Teas followed by dancing at Beach Bar.
I fell in love with the thatched umbrellas that lined the black sandy beach of Perissa, the dirt roads, the emerald green water, the gyros for lunch, the tunes at Beach bar and the Bahamas feel of Yaas Bar where the chocolate coconut shake filled me with satisfaction, yet guilt.
My advice is that 2 nights is not enough. I would be happy with another 1 or 2 nights here as part of a Greek Island expedition
When I think back to my first reaction to Ios, it was shock. When we arrived at Far Out Camping, to my left were dog kennels where we were expected to sleep for the next four nights. To my right, was a massive mosh pit of crazy intoxicated people surrounding a swimming pool. The scene resembled a music festival with everyone jumping to it’s pumping beat. The sight of this all left our jaws drop to the ground.
I hated my first night in Ios. We attempted to go out but didn’t really get into the vibe. It didn’t get better when we got locked out of our dog kennel due to a blast of wind. I was harassed by the security guards when I requested the spare key. I returned what seemed like hours later, only to be welcomed by people throwing up around me, followed by the worst sleep with no pillow on a dirt thin mattress and horrible unhygienic bathrooms.
The shock continued the next morning when our first sight was a group of Australian guys downing jager bombs at 9:30am. We approached the pool bar for our first cocktails early afternoon. After a Pina Colada, we dared to try the Strong Island Ice Tea. I watched Ben, the bar tender free pour tequila, vodka, rum, triple sec, and gin, followed by only a small splash of cola and discovered free pouring was the norm. He then introduced us to ‘Pyramid shots’ where he poured six shot glasses and assembled them into a pyramid which we were expected to drink the entire construction.
We joined the mosh pit and danced around at Far Out Camping past midnight. Buses then took us into town were the night life continues to take off from 2am. We danced until sunrise, laughing all the way home.
My friend tells me that Ios takes all that is good in this world and destroys it, regurgitating it back at us in foulest manner possible. I still fell in love with the place. I fell in love with the free pouring, dancing hours on end, watching the sunrise every morning, the incapacity to do anything but laugh in sun during the day and feasting at Harmony Bar with the best view over Ios. I even grew to love the campsite.
Ios is debaucherous, sinister, seductive, incredulous and yet irresistible. I will never return. It is a place for the young and naive, those who have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Four nights was more than enough. And I am so glad I have those memories in my bank.
Paros was a sweet relief after the intensity of Ios. We caught up on our beauty sleep and recovered in clean accommodation. When I think of Paros, I think of liberation as we scootered the island, the wind blowing in our hair, cleansing the remnants of Ios. I think of the stress when our friends, Bel and Tim, had a motorbike accident and were rushed to hospital. I think of the cute jewellery shops that lined the narrow, cobbled street lanes. I think of fine dining and cafe crawling. Paros is an island in the popular Cyclades that has retained it’s character. It’s perfect for exploring great sandy beaches, cute stores and cafes but if you’re after nightlife, stay in Ios.
Personally, Mykonos didn’t live up to my expectations. As it is the King of the Islands, it is still worth venturing to in order to gain your own experience.
We stayed in an amazing location, right next to the famous three windmills and ‘Little Venice’. Mykonos did boast the cutest town with the maze of windy streets and cute stores, however I found the town to be spoiled by the pretentiousness and price. It was so expensive, I couldn’t afford anything on my backpacker budget.
The best beach to explore is Psarou. With it’s clear, emerald water, thatched umbrellas and chocolate milkshakes it was a good day trip by bus from in town where we stayed.
Partying at Paradise Beach is also a must while in Mykonos. But be aware, there are many tanned men wearing nothing but speedos, scarves and Carrera sunglasses that you need to fend off if their attention is unwanted.