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Trip Report Romantic Greece and Exciting Turkey : 2011 Trip Report

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We returned a few days ago from a 16-day trip of Greece and Turkey. We were accompanied on this tour by another friend couple of ours, so we made a happy foursome. We are a couple from India, in our early 50's, avid travelers who have galavanted across the globe, but never to these countries. During this trip we visited the following places:

Athens - 2 nights
Paros - 3 nights
Santorini - 2 nights
Nafplion - 2 nights
Cappadocia - 3 nights
Istanbul - 4 nights

The trip was preceded with much planning as usual, which I enjoy as much as the travel itself, and DW is more than happy to leave all the preparations to me. We extensively used the Lonely Planet guidebooks of Greece and Turkey, and made full use of this Fodors forum (as always). Numerous questions were posted here, and reading through the threads on this forum, our planning was pretty much immaculate.

All four of us were vegetarians, which did limit our choice of food somewhat in these two countries, but finding delicious vegetarian food was not much of a challenge in either Greece or Turkey. I plan to post an exhaustive trip report in several installments, as much for our own records as for the benefit of readers at this forum. So here goes the first salvo :

Day 1 (Friday, June 24th) : ARRIVAL AT ATHENS :
We had a long day ahead of us, as the flight connections were bad. An early morning Turkish Airline flight at 5:15am out of Mumbai, which pretty much ruined any chance of sleep the preceding night. A boring wait at Mumbai airport from 2 am onwards, where the ladies did catch a few winks of sleep. Fortunately, the flight was mostly empty, and we could each stretch out on 3 seats apiece, and manage some sleep. It was over a 6-hour haul to Istanbul, which we reached at 9:30am local time. We had over 7 hours to kill at Istanbul, as our flight to Athens was only at 5pm in the evening !

We were mentally prepared for this ordeal, and we killed time first sitting at cafes drinking coffee, and using the wi-fi to surf the net on our netbooks. Then located suitable lounges where our credit cards allowed free access (the Zone lounge for me and the HSBC lounge for our friends), where we killed more time relaxing, with free snacks, coffee and wi-fi. At 3pm we undertook a joint inspection of all the airport shops, sniffing at all the perfumes and EDT's available. Finally, the ordeal was over and we boarded the Turkish Airline flight to Athens.

We reached Athens on schedule at 6:30pm, and quickly retrieved our luggage. Stopped at the Amphitrion Holidays counter in the arrival hall, to buy our ferry tickets for Paros and Santorini for later in the week. Good advice from Fodorites, as this was speedily done. Then boarded the metro by 7:30pm to head to downtown Athens.

The metro was crowded at that hour. We had a 40-minute ride to Monastiraki, which was our destination. Had heard a lot about pickpocket gangs that operate on these metros, and despite all the warning and precaution, I almost fell victim to such a gang myself. There was a guy trying to get friendly and helpful, standing next to me. My friend warned me to be careful of him, and I also spotted something suspicious about him. Just when we were to reach Monastiraki, and I lifted my suitcase off from the rack, another stranger tried to be helpful and held the other end of my suitcase (to assist me apparently). However, despite my pleas, he just would not let go of the end of the suitcase that he was holding. I kept telling him that I was fine, and he should put the suitcase on the ground, but he persisted. This was a ploy to distract me, while the earlier suspicious bloke moved in close to me and tried dipping his fingers in my jeans pocket. A shout from me, and they all disappeared, realizing that the game was up. I was a little shaken up, as it was a close shave. Fortunately, I had one hand very close to my wallet at all times, and averted a clever pickpocket attempt.

Anyway, we alighted at Monastiraki safe and sound, and walked the required 5 minutes from the station to reach our Hotel Plaka. It turned out to be a decent hotel, at an excellent location. Rooms were a little small, and the toilets were tiny, but we could live with that. We dumped our luggage in the rooms and left immediately to catch some dinner. It was about 9 pm, and we walked to a nearby square, and sat down at "Platanos" taverna on an outside table. Nearby, some nice music and folk dancing was going on at some cultural center. The ambiance was lovely. We had a nice dinner of Greek salad, pastas, cooked spinach & tomatoes with rice, downed with excellent Mythos beer (very well chilled).

The surroundings of the area were quite lively, and shops were open way past 10pm. Despite our journey fatigue, the ladies enjoyed some window shopping. Finally, we returned to the hotel at 11pm, showered, and crashed out in bed. Athens, we will be ready for you by the morning !

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    Day 2 (Saturday, June 25th): ATHENS
    We got up at 6:30am and got ready. The hotel had a fairly decent breakfast buffet spread, and we were out of the hotel by 8:15am, headed for the Acropolis. Everyone on this forum had advised to get an early start for visiting the Acropolis, as busloads of tourists and the stifling heat can ruin the visit later in the day. Dead accurate.

    Even so early in the morning, it felt a bit hot and humid. The climb was somewhat arduous, but doable, and we reached the entry gates by 9 am. Bought tickets and in we went.

    The Acropolis visit was excellent. The crowds were not heavy at that hour, although the sun was quite strong on the hill. Many areas were undergoing restoration, and were cordoned off. However, we did see the Beule Gate, Propylaia, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Theatre of Dionysos (in ruins), the Parthenon and the Erechtheion. Had to use our imagination to conjure as to what the original structures would have looked like in all their glory. What I can I say about such an important and monumental historical site, about which so much has been written. Suffice to say that it lived up to its expectations, and we were satisfied.

    Around 11 am we started our descent from the hilltop, selecting the route that went through the Anafiotika neighbourhood. A lovely part of town, very quaint and pretty. Stopped at a cute outdoor cafe which had little fans installed everywhere to cool the patrons. We rehydrated ourselves with some cool long drinks, and then walked down further to enter the Plaka area.

    The next 2 hours were spent roaming the narrow lanes of Plaka, with the ladies having a whale of a time going into every footwear and handbag shop. Both of these were in plentiful abundance. Finally entered a painting shop, where an old man was sitting and painting away with his brush. Ended up buying a few miniature pieces to decorate our kitchen. As we passed through Monastiraki Square, we saw numerous streetside fruit vendors, where we picked up excellent cherries, apricots and peaches. Bought some yogurt and cold drinks, and returned to our hotel. We were tired after the Acropolis climb, and lack of sleep, so we feasted in the room with some home-made snacks that we had carried, together with these fruits. Then retired for a much needed siesta for the next two hours.

    We got up before 4 pm, had coffee in the hotel's breakfast room, and ventured out again. Walked on "Arminou" street, which was full of shops. Ladies kept shopping for odds and ends while we headed towards the New Acropolis Museum. Now this museum is a must see in Athens, and it would be a shame if anyone missed it. It is beautifully located, as the actual Acropolis is in full view from its balconies. A short video film inside gives one an excellent history and background of the structures, and one starts appreciating the architectural details. The archeological finds from the excavations are very well displayed in this museum, which is very well laid out. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

    We exited the museum around 6 pm, and retraced our steps to see the Hadrian Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The latter was closed, and we could only click pictures from outside. After some gelato, we embarked on a walk on the pedestrian promenade around the Acropolis, which started from here. We went past the Acropolis Museum, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and the Ancient Agora (which had just closed by then; what a pity). The promenade was lively at all places, and beautifully constructed. We stopped ever so often for rest and to watch the people go by. Nice pavement shops and cafes everywhere.

    Finally, when we had walked till the end of this pedestrial promenade, we reached the westernmost end of Arminou street, where we relaxed at an outdoor cafe with some beer. Tried the local Alfa beer, but discovered that I had liked the Mythos beer more. We continued walking till we reached Monastiraki square. It was 8:30 pm, but the sun had not yet set. Kept walking till we reached Parliament Building.

    I loved the area around the Parliament building. There were hundreds of tents all around the place, each one protesting some cause or the other. Language barriers prevented us from comprehending the cause of dissatisfaction of most. Animated discussions were in progress at many places, between small crowds of people. Some groups were shouting slogans, and we merrily joined in the slogan shouting, without a clue of what was being said ! Atop a long flight of stairs, one old man was standing wearing a hat, with this hands pointing to the sky as though he was holding the heavens from falling down. Tapped him on the shoulder to enquire what he was doing. He indicated that he knew no English, and was unable to explain his gameplan to me.

    We walked all around, soaking up the atmosphere. Peaceful democratic protests. Saw the change of guards at the Parliament building. Little did we realize that these same protests were to turn violent after two days (as we later saw on Television a few days thereafter), with the mobs pelting stones and the riot police bursting teargas shells. Fortunately, all was peaceful the day we were there.

    It was now 9:30 pm, and getting dark. We walked a few blocks to reach "Kydatheon" street, where we knew we would find a large number of street-side restaurants. We loved the place the moment we reached it. Inspected quite a few eateries, and sat down at the busiest one (Vinzantino, or something close to it, was its name).It was very large and very crowded. Waiters have to compete in tough conditions to attract customers to their eatery, and we were offered free wine to be seated here. We got a very good pavement table. The service was excellent, and the food was exquisite. Had a mixed vegetable platter, fried pimientos, eggplant & cheese croquettes, and domus (which was divine). We enjoyed the meal as much as the ambiance.

    We again had to walk on Arminou to return to our hotel. Ladies bought some junk jewellery from a very pretty salesgirl in some shop, and ended up buying footwear at a shop just opposite our Hotel Plaka (strange to see shops open close to midnight !). On reaching our hotel, we settled our bills, as we would be departing early the next morning. Booked a taxi for the morning, and went to the rooftop bar/garden of the hotel. Settled on comfortable sofas, and feasted on superb views of a lit-up Acropolis. Felt like going off to sleep there, as it was so pretty and relaxing.

    Finally returned to our rooms, showered, packed up everything, and retired to bed well past midnight.

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    A very evocative report that captured the lively spirit of Athens in the evening ... keep it up!

    Happy to hear that you foiled a pickpocketing attempt --- but was dismayed to read that you had kept your wallet in your jeans pocket, despite the fact that you use guidebooks and this forum, all of which warn against this. I've read reports that 80% of those pickpocketed on the metro are men ... because despite being warned, they stubbornly continue to keep wallets & passports in pocket of pants OR jacket, many declaring, ME? no! I would always know if someone was trying to get into MY pocket!! Women are more used to wearing their purses (or day-bags) with a crosswise strap, and keeping their hand on the closure. Men, take a lesson. Wallets in pockets on Metro, not manly, just foolish.

    I do admire the patience you seem to display with the shop-o-rama that went on ... many women wish their husbands were as forebearing!

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    Travelerjan and aimeekm, thanks for the appreciation. And a special thanks to you travelerjan, for having answered so many of my questions on this forum, and having helped plan this trip.

    I agree with you, that I was being foolish. I had that same bravado attitude : "pickpocketing can't happen to me ". Now that I have had a close shave, I am duly chastened. I usually use a money belt; that day I was just being lazy, and fortunately did not have to pay a heavy price for it !

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    Day 3 (Sunday, June 26th): PAROS
    We were booked on an early morning ferry to Paros, departing at 7:25 am from Piraeus port. So we were up by 4:45 am, got ready and brought our bags down. Hotel Plaka had been very accommodating about serving an early breakfast to us at 6 am. Our taxi arrived at 6:15 am, and we were off for Piraeus.

    We boarded the Blue Star ferry at about 7 am. On advice from Fodorites, we had purchased business class tickets, which turned out to be excellent advice indeed. They cost only marginally more than the economy seats, and the additional benefits are immense. The business class seating area was most comfortable, with lovely sofas, and very few people. We got a prime window port to ourselves, and spread out comfortably on the sofas, enjoying the excellent views from the windows. A peek into the economy seating area revealed cramped passengers holding on to their chairs, looking mighty uncomfortable and crowded.

    The 4 hour sailing journey was largely peaceful and calm, with some rough seas after 9:30 am. We caught some sleep, made some travel jottings, snacked a bit, and generally relaxed.

    We reached Parikia port at Paros around 11:45 am. It was hardly a 3 minute walk from the port to our Hotel Argonauta. It turned out to be a nice hotel, at an excellent location, with very friendly staff. The place had a homely feel to it. The reception area was large, informal, and lovely; the rooms were simple, clean, with minimalist decor, but painted in very soothing pastel shades. We settled our luggage in our rooms, freshened up, and left by 1 pm. There was a strong wind blowing in the air, but it was comfortable with the afternoon sun.

    We first roamed one of the two market streets of Parikia. The streets were in narrow winding alleys, with stone flooring outlined in white, and every building without fail was painted in white with blue trimmings. Even the simplest of structures looked astonishingly pretty because of the color similarity, and the dense bougainvilleas brought each building to life. We emerged on the waterfront, and shopped around for car rentals for the next 2 days. Finally settled with Sixt, who offered an excellent deal for E 25 per day, plus E 10 per day for full insurance with zero excess.

    We settled down on a Greek Taverna on the waterfront for lunch, where we had a sumptuous meal of Greek salads, pizzas and various other items which I cannot remember. Post lunch, we resumed our stroll of the market streets of Parikia, but noticed that over half the shops had closed down for an afternoon siesta. As we strolled, the two ladies got left behind in some shop, and we two males stumbled upon a group of four lovely Greek ladies, who willingly posed for pictures with us ! We then sat down for coffee at a streetside cafe that was bustling with activity, where our wives caught up with us. Finally, we returned to the hotel at about 4:30 pm and rested for an hour.

    We left the hotel at 6 pm to go to Krios beach. When we reached the waterfront, we discovered that the water taxis had shut down for the day due to the strong winds. So we took a regular taxi and reached Krios beach, requesting the taxi to come back in 90 minutes to pick us back. We rented an umbrella and some deck chairs on the beach, and jumped into the cool clear waters of the Aegean Sea. After a refreshing swim for about an hour, we emerged, did some people watching for a while, and slowly made our way back to the taxi park area, where our taxi was already waiting. Returned to our hotel and dumped our towels and swimming attire.

    We roamed around the Kastro area of Parikia, which was very picturesque and offered lots of photo-ops. It was getting to sunset time, and the soft light made for excellent photography. Then we emerged on to the waterfront, and sat down on the outside porch of the first-floor Evinos Bar. We had a round of cocktails. The atmosphere was great, but the wind was getting stronger by the hour, and howling in our face.

    We retreated and proceeded for dinner at "Happy Green Cows", which was highly recommended by the hotel staff as well as the LP guidebook. The place had kitschy decor, but a very friendly host and chef. We had one of our best meals of the trip here, consisting of Fried Rolls with cheese, Raw Mushrooms, and an excellent Vegetable Platter. The dishes were all delicately flavored and extremely tasty. We loved it.

    It was already 11:30 pm by the time we left the restaurant, and the wind was making the island feel cold. We had been sleep deprived for the last 3 nights, so we decided to call it a day, and crashed out in our beds.

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    Day 4 (Monday, June 27th): PAROS
    Allowed ourselves the luxury of sleeping in late, and getting up without the aid of an alarm clock. Left the hotel leisurely after 9 am, and located a friendly "Friend's cafe" on the waterfront. We had a super breakfast of Stuffed Crepes and coffee. Then we ambled over to Sixt office to pick up our rental car. We had paid up and booked for a tiny car, but we got a much larger Kea Centura for the same price, which made things more comfortable. Excellent deal.

    Drove straight to the Butterfly Valley, where we saw a large number of Tiger Moth shaped butterflies. Nothing terribly exciting about the place; can call it a so-so experience. Then we drove off towards Lefkes Village, located in the center of the island atop a hill. As we entered Lefkes, we veered into the Yria Pottery Studio, and took a look around their premises and pottery process. Interesting collection, but IMO somewhat overpriced.

    Then we reached the heart of Lefkes village, and parked our car, as most places are pedestrian only. It was a lovely little village, atop a hill. Nice alleys everywhere, with pretty houses, all overflowing with bougainvilleas. We had heard about an interesting Byzantine walk from here to Prodomos village, but learned that it was 90 minutes long, and required sturdy walking shoes. We gave it a skip, and just continued to enjoy Lefkes village and its beauty. Sat on the main square of Lefkes (if you can call it that, as it was pretty tiny), and rested our feet with a drink of coffee and a bite of ice-cream. Also shopped a little for cute ceramic items in the small village shops.

    Then slowly walked back to the car park, and drove down to the eastern coast of Paros island, to the resort village of Piso Livadi. Sat down for lunch on a waterfront restaurant called "Halaris". The place was beautiful, with crystal clear waters, and boats anchored on the waterfront. Had a good meal of Tomato Croquettes, Halaris Salad, and Mashed Fava beans with bread. Thereafter, we drove back to Parikia, and rested in our hotel for almost two hours.

    At around 6:30 pm we drove to Kolymvithres Beach on the northern end of Paros, where we had a lovely swim. The water was warmer than the previous day, and there was no wind. The water also seemed clearer, and the sea bed was less rocky. Outside the water, interesting rock formations were visible. A picturesque place for a swim.

    From there, it was a short drive to Naousa village, which was next on our agenda. We parked our car in Naousa around 7:30 pm, and immediately fell in love with the village. Very atmospheric place, with a great waterfront. The hotels and the crowd looked more upscale than Parikia, its market alleys were busier and its marina was gorgeous. We spent over 2 hours roaming the streets of the village, exploring the by-lanes of the narrow alleys. DW bought a nice cotton sweater, and I bought some interesting artifacts to decorate my office. The place was brimming with life and activity.

    We sat down at a nice bar, and took a pavement table. Tried the Greek ouzo, which tasted excellent. Much smoother than whatever I had tasted earlier outside of Greece. Went for dinner to some place called Perimvoleris, nearer the car park area. It looked great from the outside, but it disappointed. Had the Tzitziki dip, Eggplants with peppers (bitter !!) and Tortellinis (very hard !!).

    Despite the disappointing dinner, the after-taste of Naousa was excellent as we drove off, back to Parikia. We debated whether it would have been better to stay at Naousa versus Parikia, but reached no consensus on that debate. By the time we reached our hotel, and our heads touched our pillows, it was almost 1 am.

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    I am so enjoying your wonderful trip report....you always write interesting reports!! We have a similarly planned itinerary, on the Greek portion of your trip, for next summer and I am glad to read about your experiences. Looking forward to more.>:D<

    Just curious, what made you choose to stay in Parikia versus Naousa?

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    Thanks for the compliments JoyC.

    I guess we chose Parikia over Naousa for its better connectivity. Ferries to and from Paros dock at Parikia. Passenger ferries to Antiparos and back also go from Parikia (although we ended up taking our car to Antiparos, so we went from Punta instead of Parikia). With a car, it mattered little if we stayed at Parikia, and frequently visited Naousa, or if we stayed at Naousa nad frequently visited Parikia. We did visit Naousa again, which will come up in the next installment.

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    Came across your trip report, and find it very interesting! I am currently in the planning stages for a visit to Athens, Paros and Santorini. I'm definitely going to reference your report for places to visit and eat. Looking forward to your next entry!

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    Wow. This is a full-blown review! I appreciate you telling all these details of your trip. Yes, Greece is indeed a romantic place. Only a few find that true. I do and you do. It's a lovely place.

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    Thanks cvilletravel for the appreciation. Next entry coming soon.

    jh2011, I guess the most romantic place in Greece is Santorini, details of which will come up shortly in this TR.

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    Day 5 (Tuesday, June 28th): ANTIPAROS :
    We got up late once again, and could leave the hotel only around 9:15 am. Went first to have a peek at the Church with 100 doors, called the "Panagia Ekatondapyliani", which we found very interesting. Did not try to count the 100 doors, but noticed that there were plenty ! Then sat down on a cafe nearby, called Cafe Dispato, where we breakfasted on omelettes and double Greek coffee.

    We had heard that a two-day strike had started in Greece, which was likely to throw the ferry schedules out of gear. As we were booked to go to Santorini the next afternoon, we were worried. We went to the Blue Star Ferries office at Parikia, and our doubts were confirmed : the Blue Star Ferries were not running either that day or the next. However, the Hellenic Flying Cats were continuing to run, and Blue Star was offering to change their ticket to a Hellenic ticket. We got the ferry tickets changed, to depart the next day at 4pm (instead of noon), and reach Santorini at 5:45 pm instead of 3 pm. We had wanted to reach Santorini in a slow ferry, where we could admire the views as we approached, from an open deck. This was not going to happen on the Flying Cat, as it was an enclosed vessel, but at least our holiday plans were more or less intact.

    After this, we went to pick up the car from the parking lot, while the ladies went back to the hotel to pick up our swimming gear. By 11 am we were all off, driving towards Punta port. It was a short ride, and a car ferry was waiting at the port. We drove on to the deck, and went ourselves to the upper deck. It was a short pleasant 5 minute sailing to Antiparos, which looked pristine as we arrived.

    We drove off our car from the ferry, and headed first to Farina beach located at one end, and looked around for a while. Then parked our car near the port, and walked the length of the market street of Antiparos and back. A very quaint little village, not crowded, with a very laid back feel to it.

    We were looking for the "Blue Island Divers" outfit, where we had planned on doing a beginner's scuba diving course during the day. It took a while before we located their Dive Center, at one end of the main street. They told us that scuba-diving was not possible on that day, as they were already overbooked. However, they offered boat rentals for the day, to sail around the island, for only Euro 60 per day (plus fuel). We decided to go for it.

    We went back to the market street of Antiparos, and packed some takeaway food (pizzas, spaghetti, stuffed tomatoes), plus stocked up on water,ice, wine and beer. Returned to the Dive Center where we were given a briefing about the boat's operation and instructions on what to do in case of engine problems. At 1:50 pm, we were aboard the boat, and away !

    This was our first experience at riding a boat solo (without trained help), and it was somewhat intimidating. We had started on the north-eastern end of the Island, and sailed northwards, until we went past the northern tip of the island. There were two small uninhabited islands off the northern tip, and we decided to circle them. As we went further, the sea started to get a bit rough, and the boat rocked ominously. We decided to retrace our path, and returned to the northern tip of the island. Then we circled and went over to the western side of Antiparos. The sea was still rough, and we were all on edge. We went past another couple who had rented a boat from the same outfit, and their engine had stalled in choppy waters. We called up Blue Island Divers, and alerted them of the position of this boat, and they promised to send help ASAP.

    As we sailed south, on the western side of the island, the sea gradually became calmer. The ladies were no longer on tenterhooks, and could enjoy their lunch on board. We went past several beaches where we spotted people bathing, including a nude beach. As we went further south, there was no sign of any habitation, but the lovely vistas opened up. Beautiful cliffs, and exquisite coves everywhere. It was tempting to enter one of the coves and drop anchor, and admire the views for a while. However, at the request of the ladies, who were still not 100% comfortable, we kept moving on. Kept sailing south, and continued to encounter lovely deserted beaches and coves.

    The water was like a sheet of polished glass; could see every square inch of the ocean floor so clearly. I changed into my swimming gear, we shut off the boat's engine, and I dived into the lovely waters. Swam for a while in the turquoise blue waters, where both the water temperature and water clarity were simply divine.

    As we went on, the engine did stall a couple of times. We pumped out air from the fuel lines as instructed, and could manage to get the engine re-started. We had reached the southern tip of Antiparos by around 4 pm, and we were circling it to go over to the eastern side (where the habitation existed, from where you could also see Paros Island). The sea was very very still on this side, and houses gradually became visible.

    As we moved northwards, the engine started giving more problems, and then stopped completely. Telephoned the Blue Island Divers a few times, discovered that we had run out of fuel, were instructed on where to find the spare fuel tank. Then followed a series of operations, to transfer fuel from the spare tank to the main tank, turn various knobs, and after many failed attempts, the engine finally restarted. We were not worried all this while, as we were not far from our destination, habitation was in sight, and we knew that help could reach us at short notice.

    This time the engine did not stall even once, and we slowly headed back to our starting point, reaching there at 6:15 pm. We were just about exhausting our spare fuel also as we reached ! It had been an experience of a lifetime, with lovely views on the western coast of Antiparos, pristine waters, albeit some rough seas initially, and a few anxious moments with the engine. But it is all these which make up a good adventure. We returned the boat, and took the 7:15 pm car ferry back to Paros, and refreshed a bit at our hotel.

    By 8 pm we headed back to Naousa village again, as we had fallen in love with that place the previous day. Reached there just as the sun was setting. Once again, we walked all through the alleys of the village, and finally sat down at "Insomnia" bar on the waterfront. Very pretty hostess (aren't all Greek ladies gorgeous ?). Had a B52 cocktail, which was a deadly combination of Kahlua, Grandmanier and Baileys). Very nice.

    We selected a Greek waterfront restaurant, where we had a nice dinner with very friendly staff. Ordered some mixed vegetables, feta cheese with tomatoes, pizzas etc; at our request, the dishes were prepared spicy and fiery, the way we like them ! The staff insisted that we also have some complimentary desserts and some Raki, which we did.

    At about 11 pm we drove back to Parikia, reached our hotels and retired around midnight.

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    I can only read up to day 5 on the forum is there a reason why i cant read the rest
    very imformative
    I am going to zurich switzerland in sept
    and suggestions where i can go..
    but i also want to read the turkey section of this
    report please inform how i can read it

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    sewanhaka, the only reason why you can read only upto Day 5 is that so far that is the only bit that has been posted. I am uploading the Trip Report bit by bit daily, and it may take 5-6 days for all the days to be uploaded.

    I have also posted a Switzerland trip report 3 years ago on this forum. If you click on my screen-name, and look through all my trip reports, you will find that one (posted in 2008).

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    I too was on Antiparos... in Early June... but not as ambitious as you! Delighted to learn that boats can be rented in that way, for knowledgeable boat-handlers. I instead took the opportunity, after 17 days or so of being responsible for others, of simply doing nothing at all (except strolling & swimming), on an island that is ideal for relaxing.

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    Travelerjan, totally agree that Antiparos is ideal for relaxing and doing nothing. But the boat ride round the island is gorgeous - especially the west coast of Antiparos, as seen from the water is breathtakingly beautiful.

    If we ever go back for a repeat trip, the idea of simply relaxing at Antiparos would sound very tempting indeed !

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    Day 6 (Wednesday, June 29th): ARRIVAL AT SANTORINI :
    We were up by 8 am, and all had tea/coffee in the shared sitout area (which was so pretty and relaxing at Hotel Argonauta). Then slowly got ready and packed up. We had a lot of time today, due to our delayed departure caused by the Greek strike.

    We picked up the car from the carpark and returned it to Sixt office. Then went for a late late breakfast at 10:30 am back to Friend's Cafe on the waterfront. I had omelettes and Greek coffee. We left the ladies to wander around the Parikia shops and do their last minute purchases. I went back to the hotel to check up my mails, establish contact with my office back in India, and got some urgent work done. The ladies arrived, and we cleared our bags from the rooms, leaving them down at the reception.

    Went for a leisurely lunch at "Jacobs" on the waterfront, and sat on their comfy sofas right by the water, under large umbrellas. We had a very friendly waiter, who was tolerant of the fact that we were really not hungry, and were just trying to relax and shoot the breeze. We just ordered some Greek salad and some pasta with olives. After we had finished, we ordered just about every flavor of ice-cream and water-ice that the place had, one by one. We all shared each delicacy as it arrived, and then ordered the next flavor. The view was great, the weather was lovely, and we really had a ball.

    Finally, with much reluctance, we got up at 3 pm, tipped the waiter generously for coping up with our insane ordering, picked up the bags from our hotel, and sauntered to the port. The Flying Cat was a bit late in arriving, docking at Parikia only at 4:15 pm. We climbed aboard and settled for a nap. The boat glided ever so smoothly on the water, and we could barely feel its motion.

    We reached Santorini at about 6 pm. The views of the approaching cliffs were very nice, and if only the Greek strike had not taken place, we would have watched all this from an open deck instead of glass portholes. Still looked very pretty.

    Our hotel had arranged a vehicle pick-up at Athinios port, and we saw the driver with our name standing. He picked up 4 other passengers, and off we went in a mini-van. We drove through Fira, Firestofani, and Imerovigli before we reached Oia. Other passengers alighted enroute, and we were destined for his last stop at Oia. It was a short but steep walk (up and down) with our luggage, before we reached Lotza Restaurant, where our hostess Gill had promised to meet us. She was waiting for us, and she led us down the steps to our rooms at Old Oia Houses.

    As we entered our rooms, the fatigue of hauling our luggage up and down suddenly vanished. The rooms were awesome, with a mini-kitchen, a nice toilet, and each with a huge private balcony looking straight down into the caldera. The views from there were as good as you can possibly get from anywhere in Oia, and full marks to this property for location and views. We made some coffee and relaxed on our balconies on comfy deck chairs.

    At about 8 pm we walked the short distance to the sunset viewing point. The hotel is very close to the prime sunset view point of Oia, where tourists from all over the island congregate, and it was beginning to get quite crowded. The sunset started at 8:30 pm, and was majestic till 50% of its journey. After that, dense clouds obstructed the view, and we could not watch the sun sinking into the sea.

    We then embarked on the "must do" thing at Oia, i.e. to walk from one end of the village to the other along the main pedestrian walkway on the rim. It was late evening, with fading daylight, and the scene was magical and romantic. I have never seen anything so pretty in my life. Houses all lit up, just falling off the cliff into the sea - posh hotels on the cliff, with private swimming pools which seemed to hang in mid air - the lovely caldera, visible at all times - cruise ships anchored in the water with their blinking lights - gorgeously dressed women, jostling on the streets for space - art galleries strewn everywhere on the walkway - and I could just go on. It was too magical a sight to behold, and I had this rush of blood coming to me with every turn of the head.

    I kept clicking my camera. Somewhere on the way, I picked up some wine bottles to consume later at night. We walked as far as the street would go, popping into every art gallery on the way (and there were plenty). On reaching the terminal point, we slowly retraced our steps. Every destination which is very hyped in travelogues, invariably disappoints when you get there, but Santorini exceeded all the hype and expectations that existed in my mind.

    It was past 10 pm, and we decided to dine at "Skala", a nice terrace restaurant. We secured a table near the edge, looking down upon the cliffs and the water. Had a lovely dinner (one of the best in Greece) of Stuffed Mushrooms, Stuffed Vegetables with cracked wheat, and Stuffed Eggplants. The white wine that was served was divine, and we enjoyed the meal completely.

    We returned to our rooms, had a shower, and settled down in the deck chairs on the open sky balcony with a glass of wine. Excellent wine and beautiful stars made for a heady combination. Stayed there for well over an hour, retiring to bed well past midnight. Santorini had surpassed all expectations !

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    Day 7 (Thursday, June 30th): SANTORINI :
    DW and I got up early the next morning, and ventured out at 6:45 am for an early morning stroll down the pedestrian drag of Oia. We wanted to see the place in the morning light also, when it would be quite deserted. And deserted it was at that hour. The previous night, I had asked the waitress at "Skala" as to when the sunrise takes place in Santorini, and she had replied : "Don't ask me difficult questions !"

    We only had street cleaners, stray dogs, some photography enthusiasts and some newly weds in wedding attire for company at that hour, otherwise the streets were all ours. Newly weds were posing for photographs at vantage points, the street dogs were having their own conferences at strategic places, and photo buffs were lugging around their tripods. Some people could be seen walking with a yoga mat in a particular direction. Oia was different and beautiful in the early morning light, but it somehow lacked the romance and magic of the evening.

    We returned to our room by 7:45 am, had our showers and ate breakfast in the room. Then went to meet Gill at Lotza restaurant nearby, and give a bag full of clothes for laundry. Popped into a Photo Gallery very near our hotel, and bought some excellent monochromatic photo prints to adorn my office walls. Then persuaded Gill to arrange a car rental for us, which she did in a jiffy. In no time, the man from Vazeos car rental arrived, and offered us a good deal.

    We went with the Vazeos representative to their office in Oia, did brief paperwork, and drove off in a Nissan Micra. We drove down to Ammoudi harbour and parked the car. The water there was the clearest that I have ever seen, and the views upwards of the cliffs of Oia were very nice. Lots of small boats anchored there, making for a picturesque setting. Some people even swimming there, although there was no beach to speak of. We all sat down at a waterfront tavern and sipped coffee. We had planned on having lunch at Ammoudi, but it was too early for that, so we left.

    We drove straight to Fira, and parked in a public parking lot close to the main Town Square. Walked slowly to "25 Martinou" street, and then turned towards the Town Square. On the way, we shopped for Santorini wines and licquer bottles and of course the local ouzo. Sat for lunch at a casual eatery called "Tabasco" on the Town square. Had an average lunch, which was somewhat of a let-down. The sun was very strong and hot, and not conducive to roaming around. We had a round of gelato, drove back to Oia, and rested in our hotels for a while.

    We re-emerged at 5 pm, and drove back to Fira. I found driving on the narrow winding roads a lot of fun ! This time we found a street parking very near the Main Square. We first ventured on to the "Jeweller's Street" , near to the caldera rim. Walked up and down various streets, doing window shopping, and staring down at the caldera in between. When we were done with the shops, we slowly started walking along the caldera rim towards Firestofani.

    It was just 7 pm, and early for sunset. We sat down at a tavern called "Mama Thira" at Firestofani, located at the caldera rim. We had a round of beer. The place was deserted, and we thought that this may be a nice quiet place to also watch the sunset. But the staff was rude, and behaved roughly with us, in fact very intemperately once they realized that we might not have dinner there. Strange behaviour from a deserted restaurant, and we would not recommend anyone to set foot there. It was a terrible experience, not worth describing. We departed, and went to a nearby cafe a few meters away, which had superb sunset views, very comfortable chairs, and extremely welcoming staff.

    We all had another round of drinks, and sat patiently for sunset. Today, there were no clouds to obstruct the view, and we had a majestic view of the ball of fire as it went down into the water. Very pretty, and I am sure the crowds at Oia must have applauded loudly today.

    We walked back on the pedestrian walkway to Fira, and located the restaurant "Lithos" on the cliffs down below. It was a large, somewhat upscale establishment, with very friendly staff, and killer views. Cannot remember what we had, but we enjoyed the dinner a lot. After dinner we slowly walked back to our parked car, and drove back to Oia. Once again, the midnight wine feast on the balcony under the stars - for the last time. Finished packing, as we had an early morning flight to catch, picked up our laundry from Lotza, settled our hotel bills and retired to bed, way past midnight.

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    Indiancouple, I'm another additional fan to your very enjoyable report.
    There are few on this board who write and articulate their trip reports so well and you are now added to that list. Its so good to see that you are getting so much out of your time in Greece and are enjoying it all, just as we are reading about it.

    Looking forward to more episodes, and your Turkish adventures. I spent 9 days in Istanbul, Izmir/Selchuk/Sirince and Cappadocia and it was one of my best holidays ever. Beautiful country.

    Keep it up !

    M

    PS I remember reading and enjoying your Swiss report as well.

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    I will be relaxing on Antiparos for 2-3 weeks from the end of August. If I can be bothered, I may end the trip with a few days on Naxos or a few days in the Nafplio area. Most of the time, once I set foot on Antiparos I find it hard to leave until it's time to go back to Athens for the flight home. :-)

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    Thanks easytraveler and jamikins for the kudos. Sometimes I wonder if I am putting too much of detail and boring the readers, and if I should abbreviate my notings. Comments from people like you spur me on to write down everything I can remember.

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    Mathieu, I am completely flattered by your comments. Feels specially nice when someone has read one of my past trip reports and remembers it too !

    Heimdall, I recall that when I was planning this trip a few months ago, and was wondering which islands to visit (in particular torn between Naxos and Paros for choice), it was the strong recommendations about Antiparos from you and Travelerjan that veered me towards Paros. I found it very enchanting that an island called Paros should have a neighbouring island called Antiparos !

    In your first trip to Greece, one wants to "see all the sights", which is what we did, and understandably so. If we ever go back, I am sure I would like to spend more lazy time on Antiparos and Naousa, rather than speeding around Paros island.

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    Happytrvlr and progol, my bias for Naousa must have somehow shown in my writing. I did love that village, perhaps more than Parikia, and would probably stay there if I had to do it all again.

    As for description of Oia being poetic and dreamy, well that is exactly how that place is ! People had called Oia as the prettiest village on earth, and now I totally agree. It was definitely one of my high points in this trip.

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    Hi Indiancouple,

    I, too, have been enchanted by the style of writing in your trip reports. :-)

    No accident in the fact that "an island called Paros should have a neighbouring island called Antiparos". I've always been amused by the name myself, as if there were some movement for the overthrow of Paros on the island. :-D In this case the"anti" means opposite, so Antiparos is the little island across the narrow channel opposite Paros. Two islands in the Ionian, Paxos and Antipaxos, are named in the same way. ;-)

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    Heimdall and clausar, thanks for the info about Antipaxos and Antikythira. Looks like this "anti" thing is endemic to Greece. Would have expected it more in Italy, with "antipasta" prominent in their cuisine !

    AnnMarie_C, many many thanks for the appreciation.

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    Day 8 (Friday, July 1st): NAFPLION :
    We had an 8:55 am flight out of Santorini, so we got up at 5:30 am, and had a skimpy breakfast in our room. The hostess Gill had promised a porter to haul our luggage up the steep steps, and he arrived at the appointed hour of 6:45 am. He carried all our luggage up as if they were filled with cotton - so effortlessly ! Part of our understanding with Vazeos Car Rentals was that they would drop us off to the airport at no extra charge. The man from Vazeos was waiting in the carpark with a largish car, into which we loaded our luggage. We followed him in our Nissan Micra till the Vazeos office, where we left the car and transferred to the larger vehicle. We were driven to the airport without any adventure.

    The Olympic flight to Athens was on schedule, but we were running behind in our sleep, due to the early morning arousal. The moment we boarded the aircraft, we all dozed off. Before we realized, we had landed at Athens. Retrieved our luggage, and went to the Budget Car Rentals counter. We had a confirmed booking of a suitable vehicle with Budget, but we wasted time shopping around with the other car rental counters to see if a better deal was forthcoming. Efforts in vain. Finally completed the paperwork with Budget, which took some time. Got our pre-selected car, a Hyundai Matrix Automatic. Took a long time to walk to the parking area, load our luggage, and it was 11:30 am by the time we finally hit the road to Nafplion.

    We had rented a GPS from the car rental agency, and GPS navigations have never let me down in the past. However, after 30 minutes we realized that something was amiss, as the GPS was taking us into Athens city, and into the tiniest of by-lanes and side-streets. After wasting close to an hour, we decided that the GPS was all screwed up, and took roadside directions for getting on to E-94, the main freeway headed to Nafplion. Once on the freeway, the signages were good, and we reached Nafplion by around 2 pm. We had some packed snacks with us, which we consumed enroute in the car, in lieu of lunch.

    As we entered our Hotel Aetoma in Nafplion, it was obvious that this was the best hotel so far on this trip. It was a lovely boutique hotel, with only about 5-6 rooms, and so tastefully decorated. The sweet Greek lady who owned the place and ran it was so full of love and service. She immediately fixed us some tea and coffee, with some snacks to nibble on, none of which was on the call of duty. The place did not feel like a hotel at all, but like a lovely homestay. We decided to rest for a while after the long journey, and left the hotel only at 5 pm.

    We drove first to Palmidi Fortress and went in. Strolled around for an hour. Nice views of Nafplion from up there, and a very intact fortress to view. Climbed up and down various steps leading to several vantage viewing points, then exited and returned to our car.

    We drove down to the waterfront of Nafplion, and parked the car in the large public parking area there. We then embarked on a walking tour of the narrow streets and lanes of Nafplion, which were incredibly beautiful. A picture postcard town, once the capital of Greece. Lush bougainvilleas everywhere, lusher and more flowery than the ones on Paros. The town had a nice central square, like a plaza in a Spanish city. We rested our feet at a cafe on the square, with some cool drinks.

    Walked back to the waterfront, and with some difficulty found a boat willing to go to Bourtzi island. The short ride was very scenic, and the small island was even more scenic. A cute pretty place. As we waited there (we were the only 4 people on the island!), the boat went back and forth carrying more passengers to Bourtzi. We returned back to the Nafplion waterfront, and sat on a lively plaza where kids were skating around everywhere.

    As it became dark, we returned to the main city square for dinner, and took a table at "Noufara", a Greek-Italian restaurant. Had an excellent dinner of Tomato soup, Mushroom Trifolati, Spring Rolls, Cheese Saganaki and pastas. The cooking was divine.

    Returned to the hotel a bit early tonight, and went to bed by 11 pm.

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    Day 9 (Saturday, July 2nd): NAFPLION
    After an early morning wake-up the previous day, we slept till late, and reported for breakfast past 9:30 am. The breakfast spread surprised us completely : home-made Spinach pies, Omelettes, Breads & croissants, selection of cheese, freshly squeezed orange juice, cereals, tea/coffee. Everything cooked in the kitchen of this excellent lady by her own hands. We were stuffed to the neck by the time we were done.

    We decided to give the GPS one more try, as we could not comprehend how much astray it could possibly go in a place like this. Double-checked all the settings of the GPS. Asked it to direct us to Ancient Nemea. However, after about 30 minutes, once again we had to give up. We were being led into the tiniest of farm roads and orchards, even to places where no road really existed. We were well and truly lost. Tried asking several people where Nemea was, but there seemed to be considerable confusion between Nemea and Lemea, the latter being a 3-hour drive away !

    After much driving around the orchards and fruit-trees, we decided to dump our plans of Ancient Nemea, and seek directions to Mycenae instead. The name of Mycenae seemed more familiar to the locals when we enquired, and we were shortly on a broad wide road leading to it.

    On reaching the ruins of Mycenae, we purchased our tickets and went in. Frankly, we found the ruins a bit underwhelming, as very little remained but for the foundations. It was an interesting walk around the place, but not much to see. Maybe the delight of an archeologist, but disappointing for me. The small museum on the site was much more interesting, and it was surprising to see how much stuff had been found intact from the site's excavations. Also peeped into the Treasury of Atreus nearby, which was well preserved and therefore of greater interest.

    We drove back to Nafplion, not giving the GPS any further opportunity, and arrived without any unnecessary diversions. Looked around the main waterfront for a suitable restaurant and sat down at a place called "Elotos" (or something close to that). Had an average lunch, and returned to our hotel for some rest. Ladies went off to town to purchase items made of olive wood, and returned an hour later with their hands full !

    The Hellenic Festival at the Ancient Theater of Epidavrus had started just the previous day, and we had pre-booked our tickets for today over the phone. It was a Greek play, called "Peace" by Aristophanes, featuring a prominent Greek actor. We had downloaded and read the English synopsis of the play, and we all wanted to experience watching a live play at the ancient theater.

    We left Nafplion at about 6 pm, and drove to Epidavrus. Collected our tickets from the Box Office in a jiffy, and were allowed inside at 7:30 pm. We were taken aback to see the huge crowds there, as we had not expected such a gathering. Our tickets were in the Upper Tier, but we got prime seats since we were early. The Theater was beautiful, and the dense trees and the mountains in the background were all so lovely. The setting was very atmospheric, and the feel of the place was electrifying.

    The theater is known for its acoustics, and it was great to watch an open air performance in such a large amphitheater, with no microphones being required ! The place was packed to its capacity of about 17000 people, and everything was so wonderfully audible all the way up. The play started at 9:15 pm, and went on till about 11 pm. Could not understand the dialogues obviously, and it would have been great if we could (as it was a comedy). However, we knew what was going on, from the synopsis, and found the overall dramatic encounter to be fantastic. Great music and choreography, and well enacted. A magical experience not to be missed. People travel far and wide just to visit this theater as a tourist site, and for us to be able to sit inside and watch a play there was an honour.

    We drove back to Nafplion in the night and parked the car near our hotel. Ventured back to the waterfront for dinner. It was a Saturday night, and the place was very different from the previous night. The streets were full of life and crowds at midnight. We dined at "Omorfi Poli" restaurant, where they served exquisitely prepared food. Music was pouring out of every nightclub in the vicinity, and there was a strange buzz about this small town. It was almost 1:30 am by the time we went back to the hotel, streets still not deserted.

    It was our last night in Greece, as we were scheduled to leave for Turkey the next day.

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    My enjoyment increases with every island and town you visit, Indiancouple. You have a very nice writing style, and glad to see that all four of you are real troopers, and make the most of your time, as well as whatever trials you encounter.

    I've just helped an elderly couple in their 80s who are dear friends set up their GPS for a driving trip they were making to the far regions of northern Quebec. Poor them ! they had the same experience as you, with the GPS taking them through all the ins and outs and side streets and backstreets whenever they were passing a town on the highway. However also like you, they were resourceful enough to turn it off and make their own way by asking for help from the locals.

    Really enjoyed Greece; now looking forward to Turkey ! Thank you for sharing.

    M

    PS Any pictures you may like to share ?

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    We stayed at the Hotel Aetoma in early June and had to laugh at your description of their breakfast! We had the room on the third floor which had a terrace where they served our breakfast. Every day we had to ask her to please bring less food....hated to waste.

    We left early one morning to catch a boat to Hydra and Spetses. She delivered a small breakfast and coffee early and packed us a bag of sandwiches for the trip!

    It was a wonderful stay in Nafplion.

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    I've very much enjoyed reading your trip report, because your travels are similar to a trip I'm planning for the end of August - August, Santorini, Paros, Nafplio. Also plan on renting a car, and was considering Budget. Any suggestions for fixing the GPS problem? What did Budget say about it when you returned the car?

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    We have always done better relying on a Good map.... ROAD Magp (brand) available in bookstore right in the airport. GPS only as good as the stupids who program it (and often they send people to drive around and write up the route who are not familiar with the area).

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    Could the GPS have been set for shortest route? We had that one set that way once that took us down one lane roads. We changed the setting to faster time and it took us to highways.

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    Judy, not surprised to hear about your experiences at Aetoma Hotel. We had a similar experience the morning of checking out - we were checking out much before her normal breakfast time, but she insisted on making a full early breakfast for us. Amongst the 4 of us who travelled together, we called her the nicest woman in Greece !

    We did check the settings on the GPS. It had no option for setting either "shortest time" or "shortest distance". We did check that it was not programmed to avoid toll roads or national highways. Still the bizarre route selection. Strange.

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    efobrien, we did lodge a complaint about the GPS to Budget when we returned the car, and asked them to check its programming before they gave it out to another customer. They checked the settings and verified that the settings were correct. Their stupid comment was : "You have to know Greece well to use this GPS " , to which my natural reaction was : "Why would I need a GPS if I knew Greece so well ?".

    Cannot really blame the car rental agency for faulty programming; they all use cheap GPS models, which are sometimes with defective programs. No other problem really with Budget Rentals. Their car was fine, their rates were good, and their advance reservation system worked very well.

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    travelerjan, I wish we had done the same, to buy a good road map at the airport. This was my first experience of being let down by a GPS, so I am sufficiently chastened for the next time.

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    Having recently returned from some Greek islands, and wishing to return soon, I greatly appreciate your report. Your report has whetted my appetite for Antiparos and Nafplion. Thank you.

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    How nice to read your trip report and especially very interesting for me to see my country through the eyes of a non Greek guest.
    This anti word comes straight from ancient Greek and can be found in many words and names, like Antigone( the daughter of Oedipus) , antagonism , antibiotics, antibacterial etc
    It was so exciting for me to read about your experience at the Epidaurus theatre, i have seen there many ancient Greek tragedies and comedies. It is no surprize that the theatre was full, this a major event in Greece's cultural life.
    Due to the history of the theatre only ancient greek plays are allowed to be performed there, and only from major actors.
    it is actually a great honour for a Greek actor to perform in Epidaurus. Recently they allowed also to great actors and musicians from abroad to perform in the theatre...
    If someone happen to be in Argolis at the end of July, there will be a great actor - Kevin Spacey with Bridge Project - (project between The Old Vic (London), BAM (USA) and Neal Street )in Richard III by William Shakespeare .
    Date sare : 29 - 31/7 tickets start from 20 Euro ( for upper tier)
    Had to laugh with the two places that confused the locals and you... Nemea, which is near Nafplio, and Lemea... which doesn't exist... it must have been Lamia, a city in Central Greece 350 km away from Nafplio.....
    Thank you for your wonderful trip report, can't wait to read about Turkey, a country that i deeply love.

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    clausar, it is equally nice to have my trip report read by a Greek native - your comments have a different perspective than that of another tourist.

    Thanks for the info about the Epidaurus Theater; too bad we won't be there to watch Kevin Spacey in action. Would have been great to watch a play in English language there, which we would have understood. Anyway, even without comprehending the lines, the experience was still fantastic.

    Will start posting the Turkey installments later today.

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    Your trip report and description of Antiparos has inspired me to take a closer look at the island. My husband and I are now thinking of spending 5 nights on Antiparos and taking a day trip or two to Paros. Earlier, we were thinking of staying on Paros and taking a day trip to Antiparos. Antiparos seems much more quiet and relaxing with a beautiful beach. Did you think the beaches on Antiparos were prettier than on Paros? Pictures that I've seen online look like they are, even though there aren't as many. We've never been to Greece, but while Paros has more to see and do, we are leaning towards the peacefulness and beauty that Antiparos seems to offer. We'll then make our way to Santorini after Antiparos/Paros.

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    cvilletravel, I do think the beaches of Antiparos are far prettier than those at Paros. At Paros you have the Krios beach, which is a popular spot, but nothing special about it. And you have the Kolymvithres beach, which has pretty rock formations. The beaches that we saw at Antiparos were infinitely prettier and serene. There are many secluded beaches which you can have all to yourself. The water at Antiparos is much much cleaner and pure. There are spots on the western coast of Antiparos which are divine, with coves and bays set in pristine environs.

    If you like quiet and serene settings, Antiparos is the place for you. I am sure it will also be a lot cheaper. And you can rent a car, and bring the car with you whenever you day-trip to Paros (the car ferry runs every 30 minutes, all the way till past midnight). There are other Greece experts on this forum, including people like Heimdall and travelerjan, both of whom have an affinity for Antiparos, and who can feed you much more about that island.

    TDudette, Turkey installment coming very soon.

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    Day 10 (Sunday, July 3rd): ARRIVAL AT CAPPADOCIA :
    We had mentioned to our hostess that we wanted to leave by 8:15 am in the morning. That threw her in a spot of bother, as fresh bread arrived only by 9 am in the morning ! We assured her that we could do with bread which was one day old, or skip bread altogether for breakfast, but she was not satisfied. Finally she said : "Leave it to me, I will ensure you get a good breakfast before you leave". We were worried that she would subject herself to far more bother than what was necessary, but she would hear none of it.

    We got up early, and when we reported for breakfast at 8 am, the full service was ready, fresh from the kitchen. Cheese pies, omelettes, fresh bread, the whole works. We could not possibly eat so much so early in the morning, but looking at the trouble she had gone through, we stuffed ourselves to the brim. Then loaded the luggage in the car, said a painful farewell, and departed. If anyone visits Nafplion, he would be unwise to not stay at this piece of Paradise.

    As we exited the city, we just had to stop at the sign which marks the end of city limits of any town/city in Greece, which was a sign reading "Nafplion" which a red diagonal line running across it. Sort of like "Nafplion cancelled" ! Clicked pictures of that sign. This was something we had never seen anywhere else in the world, and was a cute way of signalling the end of any city limit.

    On the way we made a brief detour to stop at Corinth Canal, to click pictures. Nice photo stop for a few minutes. Pretty sight.

    Continued driving to Athens airport, fortunately without the aid of our GPS. Had some food in the car itself, exhausting our supplies of packed Indian goodies. Reached Athens airport by 11:30 am. Took a while to return the car, while the ladies checked us in at the Aegean Airlines counter. The flight departed at 2 pm, and that was our goodbye to Greece. Reached Istanbul at 3 pm. Had a comfortable flight changeover; just sufficient time to retrieve our luggage, clear Immigration (including getting a visa on arrival, which was efficiently done), and proceed to the domestic terminal to check-in at the Turkish Airline counter for our onward flight to Nevsehir. The flight departed on-time at 5:45 pm, and reached Nevsehir at 7 pm. Turkey, here we come !

    Our hotel at Urgup had arranged a car pick-up for us at Nevsehir, and the driver was waiting with our name sign. By the time we reached our Hotel Esbelli Evi at Urgup, it was almost 8 pm. Almost the entire day had gone in transit, but we had been prepared for this today.

    The bothers of a long journey were forgotten on reaching the hotel. A cave hotel, which had been raved about on every travel site, including this forum. We had gone ahead and splurged a little by booking two suites for ourselves, the Volcano Cave Suite for ourselves, and the Hillside Suite for our friends. The staff at the hotel were simply wonderful, and Sajid took charge of giving us an orientation of the hotel.

    As he showed us around, we ooooh-ed and aaaah-ed at every nook and corner that we saw. It was a classy hotel, built and furnished to perfection. The reception area, sitting area, breakfast area, everything was so well laid out and cozy. And when we were shown inside our Volcano Cave Suite, I was simply blown away. It was too beautiful for words. A lovely large bedroom, adjoining a very comfortable living area (which not only had a big television, but also a large free laptop), a kitchenette cum dining area, and a huge huge toilet, with double showers and a separate ante-room with the WC. And another "secret" door leading to a mysterious passage inside some cave (God knows leading to where, as we never ventured inside). There was a large patio outside with full privacy, to laze about. The suite was extremely romantic, and one wanted to just stay put inside for three whole days !

    Our friends had the Hillside Suite, which was just above ours, and was very differently laid out, and had its own special charm. We felt glad that we had selected this hotel, and happier that we had opted for the suites over the normal rooms.

    There was not much else to do that evening, after a long day of travel. We left at 9:30 pm to grab some dinner. The most well-rated restaurant of Urgup, by the name "Ziggy's" was a short walk away. Very nice place, quite upmarket. Had a fine dinner of Potato Salad, Olives and Feta in Spicy olive oil, and a Mixed Vegetable platter. Had my first taste of Raki. The waiter showed me how to drink it (i.e. how much water and ice to ideally mix), and it went down much smoother than ouzo. Fell in love with Raki instantly.

    Returned to the hotel, watched some TV, explored the net a little, and fell asleep past midnight.

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    Hi cvilletravel,

    I have been going to Antiparos once or twice a year for the last 15 years or so, and finally persuaded travellerjan to visit the island for a few days the first time this year. Prices are about the same as on Paros, with most accommodation consisting of rooms, studios, and apartments. Antiparos gets very busy in August, but the rest of the time is laid back and serene, just as indiancouple describes.

    There are about five beaches within a 10 minute walk from the center of town, mostly sand with a mixture of pebbles. To the south of Antiparos are Soros and Ag. Georgios, a beautiful area with expensive villas and excellent beaches. To me, the best beaches are the little coves which offer good snorkelling. It's possible to find a little cove all to yourself if you are prepared to walk or rent a boat as did indiancouple. You can even wade or swim across to Diplo, an uninhabited island to the north, from the clothing optional Camping Beach. Bring a pair of sandals, and you can walk around on an island with no one else but yourself.

    I do find Antiparos a good base for day trips to Paros. Parikia, the Paros island hub, is only 30 minutes away by bus or excursion boat. From there you can take buses to anywhere on Paros. The best part is coming back to Antiparos in the evening, for a stroll around town and a meal in one of the excellent tavernas. There is a subdued nightlife after midnight around kastro square.

    One website that offers a good (but slightly dated) description of Antiparos and other islands is:
    http://islandstrolling.com/english/index.htm

    Another is:
    http://www.angelfire.com/super2/greece/antiparos.html

    :-)

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    Thank you for your delightful pictures, Indiancouple. Yes, you've done fair justice and more to the places and sights you've described so lyrically in your texts. Thanks to you, I think you've put Nafplion, Paros and Antiparos all on the top of our 'must visit' lists, not to mention the Hotel Aetona and it's very kind, generous and hospitable hostess. I loved the pics of the ancient theatre and play; thats definitely something I'd have been interested to see.

    Nevsehir, Urgup and the Hotel Esbelli are all familiar to me as I visited all and am glad for a revisit through your eyes. Glad that you all were staying at the Esbelli. It is a marvellous hotel. I would have stayed there too but was already booked to stay in Goreme at the Hotel Kelebek in a cave suite overlooking the gorge and sunsets. It was wonderful.
    I can just imagine what you're going to tell us about this wonderful area, and am looking forward to your report. Thanks again for the pictures.

    M

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    Day 11 (Monday, July 4th): CAPPADOCIA :
    Awoke at leisure and reported for breakfast at 9:30 am. Excellent breakfast spread, with lots of fresh fruits, all kinds of breads, cereals, juices, omelets of infinite variety, range of cheese and coffee.

    Requested Sajid to arrange for a car rental, and within minutes the rental man was there, and handed us the car keys. Very cheap and efficient. By 10:30 am we were off, first stop being at a jewellers' shop downtown. Hotel had advised that best exchange rates were to be obtained there, and we converted our Euros into Turkish Lire there.

    Sajid had planned the day for us. He had given us a decent map of the area, with all the recommended stops clearly marked. He had even suggested the sequence in which we should cover the sights, and we found no reason to doubt his knowledge of the area. So we followed his itinerary to the T, and made our first stop very soon at Devrent Valley, where we viewed the fairy chimneys from two separate vantage points. This was our first sighting of the strange rocky landscape of Cappadocia, and it was exciting and impressive.

    Our next stop was at Zelve Valley Open Air Museum, where we bought our tickets and went in for a hike. As recommended, we skipped Valley No. 3, and focussed on Valley Nos 1 and 2. It was a nice walk, going in and out of various tunnels and cave houses, climbing up and down stairs. People had actually lived in the cave houses here at one time, and the structures were very well preserved and interesting. It was an exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable hour's hike.

    When we emerged from Zelve Valley, we sat down at a small shop there for some cool drinks. An old lady was rolling out a thin bread at that shop, which caught the eye of the ladies. They flocked around her to see what she was making. Turned out to be a Turkish dish called "Gozleme", a dish that we were shortly about to fall in love with ! The dough was rolled out into a thin piece, about 18 inches in diameter, and then stuffed with potatoes, spinach etc, folded once over and then dry roasted over an iron griddle. It looked good, and tasted even better. We ordered several more. The ladies each tried their hand at rolling out gozlemes of their own, with considerable success. Delicious stuff.

    Next stop was the Pasabagi Fairy Chimneys, which was easily the best sighting of weird rocks, mostly in the shape of the phallus. Large number of 3-headed phallic rocks, of all sizes and orientations. Walked all around taking pictures. How to describe it - lovely, weird, obscene, dramatic, outer-worldly, or all of the above ? Whatever it was, I am sure there is no place on earth like this, and it was a fascinating sight to behold. Easily the most picturesque spot in Cappadocia.

    From there we headed to Avanos, reaching there by 2 pm. We were looking for Chez Galip's pottery workshop, and everyone in the town knew where it was. Most famous artist of Cappadocia, whose fame spreads far and wide all over Turkey. When we reached there and strolled inside, we were surprised to see the maestro himself seated on a potter's wheel before a small audience, giving a demonstration. Looked a carbon image of Albert Einstein.

    Mr Galip did an encore performance for our benefit, then his assistant took us for a tour of the workshop, culminating in their display room where objects were for sale. Mr Galip reappeared, dropped some vases on the floor from a height to demonstrate how sturdy they were, and presented small pottery pieces to the ladies with his autograph. Also saw some of his famed "Ladies hair collection", for which he exists in the Guiness Book of Records !

    We were all permitted to try our own hand at the potter's wheel, helped by some of Mr Galip's assistants. All in all it was a very enjoyable tour, and a super slick marketing job. We were tempted to buy a few of the pottery on display, but we were grossly late for lunch and very hungry. The collection on display was huge, and would have taken a while to make a selection. So we decided to move for lunch, promising ourselves that we would return later today or tomorrow to make our purchases.

    We headed quickly to Goreme for lunch, and sat down at a cafe highly recommended on this forum, called "Nazar Borek". The food was very good, and offered a wide variety in Turkish cuisine. Had their yogurt drink called Ayram, which was great, and was to become our regular meal accompaniment from then on. Had vegetable kebabs with rice, Boregi (a stuffed pastry), and various mezhes. Very good food. Otherchelebi of this forum (a great Turkish expert and very helpful man) had recommended that we try some vegetarian manti in Cappadocia, and I looked for it wherever we ate. Unfortunately, everywhere that we went, only the meat-filled ones were available. Have to return someday to try manti without meat, as it sounded delicious.

    After lunch, we strolled through Goreme village, going in and out of various shops. We also shopped around for Hot Air Balloon operators. Ended up booking with Sultan Balloons for Euro 95 per person (the hotel had quoted a much higher price for another Balloon company). Telephoned our hotel to cancel the booking that they had made, and bought tickets with Sultan for the next morning. I had read good things on this forum about Sultan Balloons, so I felt safe.

    By now it was 6 pm, and we went to explore the Goreme Open Air Museum. Roamed around for almost an hour. Shape of fairy chimneys was very different here. The place was used as churches and monasteries at one time, and it was remarkably intact. We were less interested in the frescoes, and more in the odd shapes and the landscape beauty, which we enjoyed immensely. Sat down at a cafe near the exit and cooled down with slushes and juices.

    As we left Goreme, we stopped briefly at the edge of Love Valley to take pictures. A sea of phallic-shaped structures ! Then headed off towards Uchisar, stopping on the way at two different panoramic viewpoints recommended by Sajid of our hotel. Both viewing points were excellent, and gave superb aerial views of the Cappadocia region.

    Reached Uchisar Rock Castle by 7:30 pm, and decided to climb all the way to the top. It looked far more difficult than what it was, and we made it to the top in no time. This is allegedly the highest point in Cappadocia, and offered views of the entire region from atop. Excellent sight, and well worth the climb. Do not be daunted by the height as seen from outside - the climb is really not bad at all. The sun was beginning to set as we climbed down, and the scenery was very pretty indeed.

    As we came down, we raced towards Red Valley, to try and reach the sunset viewing point before the sun went down. All along the way, we could see the sun slowly go down into the horizon, so in effect we enjoyed the sunset as we drove. However, by the time we reached the viewing point, the sun had just disappeared into the horizon ! We were late by about 5-6 minutes.

    We were not far from Urgup by now, and we drove back there, going straight to town center for dinner at Somine's restaurant. Had a meal of Mezhes, Turkish Pide, Baked Vegetables, and dessert of Baked Apricots & Walnuts with icecream. Downed with the mandatory Raki.

    For a change, we went to bed early, and fell asleep by 10 pm. It had been a magical day, with perhaps the most exciting sightseeing activity in this whole trip. We had very high expectations from Cappadocia, and it had not let us down. A must-see destination for anyone going to Turkey. There is no place quite like it on Planet Earth.

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    cvilletravel, I am glad for your sake that Heimdall has chipped in above, giving much more details about Antiparos. I was persuaded by Heimdall to choose Paros and Antiparos over Naxos, and now you have an expert's endorsement about Antiparos.

    Mathieu, glad to know you liked the pictures of Greece that I posted on this Trip Report (I mean the link to the pictures).

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    Thank you indiancouple. I have enjoyed your review immensely. I'm especially pleased you enjoyed Greece so much and look forward to reading your continuing adventures in Turkey.

    Also, I am fascinated with your photograph of dinner in Athens. Have you noticed the ghost in the picture, standing just behind the seated lady in red?

    Bill

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    Thanks billbarr, and the "ghost" in the picture is obviously the product of a slow shutter speed, causing a moving person to get superimposed over a still person ! Did not notice any real ghosts on the streets of Athens !

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    Thank you Indiancouple and Heimdall for additional info on Antiparos. My husband is really keen on beaches. He wants to stay at a hotel that is right on the beach, but I cannot find any directly connected. It's good to know that some beaches tend to be 10 minute walks or so from the hotels on Antiparos. That's not very far of a walk at all. I'll be sure to check out the websites that Heimdall recommended.

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    Day 12 (Tuesday, July 5th): CAPPADOCIA :
    We were booked for a Hot Air Balloon trip this morning, which takes place at the crack of dawn. This meant getting up at 3:30 am and getting ready, as the Sultan balloons pick-up vehicle arrived dot at the appointed hour of 4:15 am. The vehicle picked up more people as we went along, and we reached the takeoff point by 5 am.

    The balloons started getting inflated one by one. There were three balloons of Sultan scheduled to fly that day, and we were in the last one. The first two balloons got airborne, and we realized that there were only about 12 of us to go up in the last one, which was nice as it was the least crowded. Struck an acquaintance with the wife of a US Congressman, who was traveling with her grandchildren. The pilot of our balloon was a skilled skydiver, and seemed to be very experienced. Our balloon lifted off at 5:45 am, and very soon the skyline was littered with balloons taking off.

    There must have been atleast 35-40 balloons in the sky that morning. The sight of these balloons was as pretty as what appeared below us. The next 75 minutes were fantastic, in fact, pure ecstasy. It was a great experience to see this unusual landscape from atop. Clicked lots and lots of pictures. Words would not do justice to what we saw, and I will not try to put it in words. You simply have to experience it. We finally came down at 7 pm, received a glass of juice, certificates of having completed a balloon ride, and were dropped back to our hotels.

    Had breakfast upon arrival at Esbelli Evi hotel, and then slept for an hour. The owner of the hotel, Suha, had arrived from out of town, and he met us and greeted us. Seemed a sweet soul. We all left at 10:15 am for Kaymakli underground city. According to our hotel people, it was less crowded and less claustrophobic than the more famous Derinkuyu underground city. As DW can get claustrophobic, I decided to risk entering Kaymakli instead of Derinkuyu. We reached there in about 45 minutes, and went inside. We all enjoyed the experience. There was a Chinese group just ahead of us, with a really good English guide, and we just tagged behind them. Very interesting to see an underground city 4 storeys deep, with kitchens, air shafts, stone doors etc, which would house 3000 people at one time.

    From Kaymakli, we drove to nearby Derinkuyu underground city. Our friends went in, but we opted to stay out. Found a shop where another lady was making gozleme; feasted on them, washed down with cold drinks. Our friends emerged within an hour, and said that they had enjoyed this too, and that it was not at all claustrophobic (perhaps because the crowds were very thin that day).

    It was 12:45 pm, and we started another long drive to reach Ihlara Valley exactly an hour later. Left the car in the car-park, and descended down the stairs to the canyon floor. It was a 4 km level walk to Belisirma village, and we embarked upon it. A lovely walk beside the river at all times. It was cool and pleasant inside the canyon, and turned out to be an easy walk after all.

    Shortly before we reached Belisirma, we stopped at a tea-garden for rest. They had placed tables inside the river, where you could sit and dip your feet in the water. We all had some tea, relaxed, watched the ducks, and then walked the remaining stretch to Belisirma. We had problems finding much vegetarian food there, but we somehow managed to get some vegetarian lunch. Then took a taxi from the village back to the car park.

    We started the return journey at about 4 pm. We had originally planned to go back to the sunset point where we had missed the sunset the previous evening, but everyone voted for going back to the hotel and enjoying our suites for a change. So we drove straight back to Urgup, reaching by 6 pm. Napped for an hour, and then just lazed about in our suite. Had some beer on the patio.

    At about 9 pm we left for Goreme where we planned to have dinner. We chose the Alaturka restaurant, which has good reviews on Lonely Planet. The ambiance was great, the restaurant looked fashionable, but the food did not live up to its setting. We returned to Esbelli Evi, settled our hotel bill (as we were to depart early next morning), and retired to sleep by 11 pm. Cappadocia had been one of the best stopovers in this entire trip, and exceeded our exalted expectations. We felt satiated.

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    Day 13 (Wednesday, July 6th): ISTANBUL :
    Had an early breakfast, said goodbye to Suha and his excellent hotel, and left for Nevsehir airport in a vehicle arranged by the hotel. We had an uneventful Turkish Airline flight, which landed in Istanbul at 11 am. This was the third time we were at Istanbul airport in this trip, and thankfully this time we were staying in the city.

    We had arranged for a car pick-up (complimentary by our hotel), and the representative was waiting with a sign. Made it to our hotel, the Millennium Suites in Sultanahmet, by noon. The manager of the hotel Alper Ozturk was waiting for us. First he gave the bad news, i.e. they had goofed up and overbooked their property, and we would have to spend one night (out of 4 nights) in a hotel across the street. Then the palliative : there would be no charge for this first night, and he was also throwing in a free Bosphorus cruise to make up to us. It was somewhat beyond the call of duty, and appeared to be a genuine mistake, as no hotel would otherwise waive off a night's rent and give a cruise for free deliberately. The hotel across the road looked the best on that street, so we accepted (we were really given no other alternative). We dumped our luggage in our rooms (which were just OK in size and appearance), and went for lunch to a nearby restaurant called "Ocean 7". Our hotel was on Abiyik Caddesi, which is a street lined with hotels and restaurants, and a lively part of Sultanahmet to live in.

    After lunch, we walked first to the Kocuk Aya Sofya Camii (also called the little Aya Sofya), which was a very pretty small mosque. Then walked to the nearby Sokulla Mehmet Pasa Camii, another lovely mosque in the neighborhood designed by Sinan. Also very pretty, and you hardly go out of the way to visit these two little gems.

    Then walked to the Blue Mosque, which was just 5 minutes on foot from our hotel. This was huge, and we spent a good deal of time inside, sitting on the carpet and admiring its grandeur. However, I felt that the Blue Mosque looked more imposing and grand from outside (as opposed to inside), especially when seen from afar, where its proportions and scale came in full view. A lovely monument to photograph, which I did every time I went past this mosque for the next 4 days !

    As we emerged from the Blue Mosque, the impressive structure of the Aya Sofya stared at us in our face. I had planned on leaving the Aya Sofya for another day, but our friends wanted to see it the same day. So in we went. This was a much more spectacular monument, a church converted into a mosque, and well worth exploring. We visited every nook and corner, including the galleries on the top. Lovely frescoes, fairly intact. The painting on the walls and ceilings looked more earthy and antique, and overall I found it to be a much more impressive monument than the Blue Mosque.

    We had covered a lot of monuments for one day, and we sat down at a cafe outside for an hour to rest. Had some good Turkish coffee. Then started walking on the "happening" street of Sultanahmet, namely Divan Yolu. A very very lively street. A short way down, there was a park/plaza on one side, where there was a lot of activity going on. We sat down and had our portraits sketched by a roadside artist. Then walked up and down Divan Yolu, and soaked up the atmosphere of Istanbul's evening.

    We had identified an Indian restaurant on Divan Yolu for the evening, called "Dubb". We had not tasted Indian food for the last 2 weeks, and were craving for it. Had a lovely meal. Requested the Indian chef to make it as spicy as he could, and we gorged till our bellies could take it no more ! Then walked back to our hotel and retired to sleep by 10 pm.

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    Day 14 (Thursday, July 7th): ISTANBUL :
    Woke up late and got ready. Alper at Millennium Suites informed us that our rooms were ready, and we could shift our hotel whenever we wanted. We first went for breakfast at the Millennium restaurant - it was a sumptuous spread. Then our luggage was transferred from the hotel across the street to Millennium Suites. After experiencing one night in the other hotel, we had been expecting more or less similar stuff here, but when we entered our rooms, we were blown away. The rooms were almost twice the size, and very tastefully decorated. The toilet and the toiletries were excellent, as was the upholstery, linen etc. Even fresh flowers in the room. Once in the room, you can be forgiven for thinking that you are in a five-star property. Excellent, and most unexpected.

    Discovered that the Manager, Mr Alper, was also the part-owner, and it was a new hotel just 10 months old. Alper was just 31 years old, and had his heart set in the hospitality industry. He was certainly doing an excellent job; in fact his entire team of people were super, so warm and friendly, and never said no to anything.

    At about 10:30 am we left the hotel, and walked over to the Hippodrome area, clicking pics of the Blue Mosque from outside. Then went to the Basilica Cistern, which was fabulous. Never seen an underground water tank which was so beautiful. Crazy emperor to have invested in those lovely columns all over a water storage tank ! Anyway, it is beautifully maintained, with a few feet of water and lots of fish everywhere, and pleasant walkways with subdued lighting all over. Most unusual sight, and very enjoyable. After roaming around, we rested briefly at the Cistern cafe inside, sipping coffee/O.J.

    We were due to depart on the Bosphorus cruise that afternoon, and we slowly made our way back to the hotel, picking up some fruits on the way for the boat journey. Had some sandwiches packed at our hotel too. The vehicle pick-up for the cruise arrived at 1:40 pm at the hotel, and were at the pier 20 minutes later. It was a decent boat, with about 25 passengers in all, so not at all crowded. It offered a combined cruise of the Golden Horn plus the Bosphorus.

    The cruise started at 2 pm from the Eyup pier. We sailed down the Golden Horn all the way, going under the Galata Bridge, and joined the Bosphorus. Then sailed north on the Bosphorus, sticking closer to the European shore. Saw the lovely Dolmabahce Palace from outside, the exclusive "resort club island" on the way, and various other exotic buildings Continued sailing north until we passed the 2nd bridge over the Bosphorus, where we turned around. It was a lovely cruise, offering wonderful sights, with crisp air and crystal clear waters everywhere.

    After turning around, the boat stayed closer to the Asian shore during the return journey, and it was interesting to contrast the two sides. We docked briefly at Kanlica, which is famed for its thick yogurt. There were shops offering the same at the docks, and we tried some of it, but found nothing so fanciful about it. Then the boat sailed again, and made another stop at Maiden's Tower. We got down, climbed the steps of the Tower, looked around, and climbed back down.

    As the boat neared the end of its journey, slightly after 5 pm, we were informed that we could either go the full length to Eyup (where we had started), or alight at Eminonu.We opted for the latter. It had been an enjoyable cruise, and certainly a must-do in Istanbul. I believe that several varieties of this cruise exist, and one should choose any one which interests them.

    The Spice Bazar was just at the Eminonu pier, and that is where we headed next. We walked the complete length of the L-shaped Spice Bazar, and gave all the shops a look over. We desisted from any shopping today, as we did not want to lug our purchases around the rest of the evening. But we did make a mental note of shops to return to later. Then we sat down at a cafe for almost 90 minutes, slowly having ice-cream and coffee, and watching people go by.

    At about 7:30 pm we started our trek across the Galata Bridge, which divides modern Istanbul and the ancient city. It was a lovely walk, with people fishing on both sides, all along its length. After walking till the halfway point, we descended the stairs, and walked the remainder at the lower level, where all the restaurants were located. Never seen more aggressive salesmen anywhere, as we experienced while crossing those cafes !

    On reaching the other side, we took the old furnicular up the Tunel, to emerge on the famed Istiklal Caddesi. As we started walking on that street, we could feel the electricity in the air. Fabulous place, full of people, even on a Thursday. Touristy no doubt, but you have to come here to see what modern Istanbul is like (perhaps not really representative of "modern" Istanbul, but a far cry from the ancient areas of Sultanahmet). It was hard to walk here without bumping into people all the time. Performing artistes on the street-sides everywhere, and nice shops lining the street. A very enjoyable stroll indeed. After walking the complete length of Istiklal until Taksim Square, we retraced our steps.

    Every travel site had recommended that a visit to Istanbul is complete only if you visit a meyhane one evening (which is a typical Turkish tavern). One area where these meyhanes are concentrated is the Nevizade area just off Istiklal, and that is where we ventured. Sat down at a meyhane called "Cumhurriyet", on a pavement table. The street was quite narrow, and lined with meyhanes, one after another. Packed to 300% of its capacity ! We had two rounds of Raki (this is the real stuff !), with several mezhes (fried potato cheese croquettes, olives and mushrooms, jalapenos, hot red chilly paste etc). The ambiance was lovely, and live music was playing at several meyhanes nearby. Everyone appeared in a party mood, which was very infectious if you sat here.

    Got up after a few drinks, and walked a little further to a vegetarian cafe called "Zencefil". Got excellent food here (zucchini with basil, spaghetti with tomatoes, lentil patties), which we enjoyed. Then took a taxi back to our hotel, reaching there by midnight. It had been an eventful and enjoyable day in Istanbul. More such days were in store for us.

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    Day 15 (Friday, July 8th): ISTANBUL :
    Got up still later today, and reported for breakfast at 10 am. After another satisfying meal, we walked the 5 minutes to Topkapi Palace. We entered at 11 am, armed with an audio guide. We had an excellent tour of the entire complex, lasting about 3 hours. Really enjoyed the harem section, and the Treasury rooms with all the opulent items on display. The audio guide was useful, but even without it, the signages and descriptions posted everywhere were really quite adequate. This is the number one sight at Istanbul, and it did not fail to satiate. Emerged at 2pm, tired but satisfied.

    Near our hotel we had spotted another branch of the Indian restaurant "Dubb", with a slightly different cuisine. Decided to give it a try, and it turned out to be much better that the one on Divan Yolu. Totally stuffed ourselves, till we could barely walk. We took a taxi to the Spice Market, where we shopped for exotic teas, olives, dry fruits etc. The ladies had underestimated the weight of their purchases, and when they were done, the groans emerged about the heavy bags ! So we took another taxi back to the hotel, to dump our purchases in our rooms. Ended up relaxing for about 90 minutes in the hotel, before venturing out again.

    Finally left the hotel at 7:30 pm, taking a taxi yet again, to Eminonu. We got caught in a traffic jam. However, the taxi driver was great, and an expert at weaving his way through the thick jam, and got us there fairly quickly. He was a very talkative guy, who spoke decent English, and we enjoyed conversing with him and picking up tid-bits about Turkish culture. We boarded the 8:30 pm ferry from Eminonu to Kadikoy (on the Asian side), reaching there in about 20 minutes.

    The Asian side surprised us. We had expected dull residential neighborhoods, but the place was just about as lively as the European side. Here the people were mainly locals, as this is not a very touristy part of Istanbul. However, it was full of life and energy. Asked our way to reach Guneslibahce Sokak, which was supposed to be the "action" street of Kadikoy. This place was similar to the Nevizade meyhane area that we had visited the previous day. Lined with sidewalk cafes, and bursting with activity.

    We went to "Ciya Sofrasia", a reputed establishment here, and took a pavement table. Had one of our best meals in Turkey here. There was a self-serve Mezhe bar (like a salad bar), with an infinite variety of delicious mezhes. Take whatever quantity of whichever items you want, and you pay by the total weight of your plate ! At no other place had we encountered such a variety of mezhes, all vegetarian, and all so delicious. They placed a huge sized pita bread on the table, along with an unusual black mulberry soft drink. Eating so much pita bread with a large assortment of mezhes was ample dinner for all of us. Then we had a Turkish dessert called "Kathmer" which was absolutely divine. Never tasted anything like it. Pistachios layered on some dough, cooked, and topped with cream. Sinful to the core, but all great things in life are such ! Best item that we had tasted in Turkey, along with Gozleme.

    It was getting late, and we were kicking ourselves for not having come here a little earlier in the evening. We would have liked to explore the area a little more, and maybe visit a few drinking establishments to check out the atmosphere. While we were eating, we were approached by numerous young boys, asking for a few Lire of money. They appeared joyful and prank-ish, and also wanted us to click their pictures with our camera, sometimes in very naughty poses ! Unfortunately, the last ferry back to the European side was due soon, and we had to grudgingly make our way back to the pier. Took the last 11 pm ferry to Karakoy, on the European side (the ferries to Eminonu had stopped much earlier). From Karakoy, we walked across the Galata Bridge at night, which was very pleasant, and took a taxi from Eminonu back to our hotel. Once again a thoroughly enjoyable day at Istanbul.

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    Indiancouple, this is the first Istanbul trip report I've read where the writer has been been there for 3 days and has not encountered a single pushy carpet seller. Good for you ! I ran into one within an hour of leaving my hotel on Day 1, and was the first of many to come, lol.
    Still enjoying your report, and your food descriptions are mouth watering. Turkish breakfasts are the best ever, especially the dried mulberries and other fruits and vegetables and spreads.

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    Mathieu, we encountered several carpet sellers everyday, but none that were obnoxiously pushy. Of course, many would walk up to us and politely request that we take a look in their carpet store, but would not press the issue any further.

    We found the "salesmen" of restaurants to be far more pushy and aggressive, and relentlessly trying to draw us into their eatery. Specially in the series of cafes under the Galata Bridge. However, we found these "pushy" people to be generally quite humorous and harmless, and we never felt offended or distraught due to their efforts. Guess we are more accustomed to this kind of behaviour in India, where such store aggression is not unheard of.

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    Am loving this report. In Greece and Turkey, we were approached but never accosted by people selling their wares-fur coats, flokati rugs, carpets and gold. We encountered much humor among the vendors.

    Your comment, "The pilot of our balloon was a skilled skydiver, and seemed to be very experienced" gave me a mind pictue of the pilot diving out of the balloon with 12 people on his coat-tails!

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    TDudette, thankfully the pilot stayed put ! He did complain that flying a Hot Air Balloon was boring compared to skydiving; that put us at ease about his abilities.

    As for humor amongst vendors in Istanbul, the best one came from a shop owner in Spice Bazar, who shouted : "We have everything in here except for customers; please come in !".

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    Day 16 (Saturday, July 9th): ISTANBUL :
    Today, after breakfast at the regular hour, we left for the Suleymaniye Camii by taxi. We were approaching the end of our trip, the feet were getting tired, and the taxi fares of 9-10 Turkish Lire between 4 people seemed very light.

    This is one of the prettiest mosques in Istanbul. As we entered, we found the interiors very different and very beautiful. The paintings on the ceilings appeared very fresh, and of very soothing hues. The curved arches with red/white marbles or with brown/white marbles, the stained glass windows, the overall upkeep and maintenance, and the absence of hordes of tourists, all contribute towards making this one of the best sights in Istanbul. Something not to be missed, and probably more worthwhile than the Blue Mosque.

    After emerging from this mosque, we headed straight for the Grand Bazaar, which was a short walk away. This was our penultimate day of the trip, and we had promised the ladies loads of shopping time today. What better place than the Grand Bazaar ? Entered at 11:30 am, and spent a good 4 hours in there. Aside from the shopping, strolling inside was a pleasure, and we were enjoying the sights and the lanes and alleys as much as the purchasing. We bought a nice Turkish kilim (rug), lots of Turkish towels, a hookah, Turkish tea-cups, and various other souvenir items. Sometime in between, we managed to grab lunch at the Ambrosia Cafe inside the Grand Bazaar (next to the famed Fez Cafe), of sandwiches, baklava and Turkish coffee. Finally, after a marathon shopping session, we dragged the ladies out, as the bags were getting too heavy to carry. We boarded a tram for the first time in istanbul, went two stops to Sultanahmet, where we alighted and walked to our hotel. Dumped the shopping, and relaxed for a few hours.

    Left the hotel again after 6 pm, and walked to Divan Yolu. Once again boarded the tram to Sirkeci. A short walk brought us to the Hodjapasha Cultural Center. We had booked tickets for the Whirling Dervishes show later in the evening over telephone, and had to pick up our tickets. We roamed around the streets for some time, just ambling here and there, finally re-entering the Cultural Center before show time. Had free drinks and lokum sweets in the foyer, after which we were ushered inside. The show started at 7:30 pm. It was a small and cute circular auditorium, which the viewers seated all around the periphery. A very interesting performance which lasted an hour. Appeared to be authentic (although we are no experts on such items), very soothing, with religious overtones. I was glad we witnessed it.

    It was our last night of the trip, and we wanted to repeat the meyhane experience off Istiklal Caddesi. So we once again walked across the Galata Bridge, and took the furnicular up the Tunel, to reach Istiklal C. It was 9 pm on a Saturday night, and Istiklal was a riot of people and revelry. Went first to the rooftop bar called 360 degrees. Excellent fashionable place, with killer views. Served super Raki cocktails (I had one with ginger, cucumber and ice which was extremely good). High society crowd of Istanbul in full regalia.

    Walked next to the Nevizade area again, and selected the "Boncuk" meyhane. This was on a yet narrower street than the one we had visited two days ago, and Saturday evening caused the place to be just overflowing in every corner. In fact the place looked crazy - never seen crowds like this anywhere in Turkey ! I don't know how we ever managed to get a pavement table there; just sheer luck and timing. On our adjoining table sat 4 old Turkish men, who were a lot of fun. They kept a running conversation with us throughout, and they were full of life and humor.

    We feasted on mezhes and Raki for one last time. There was gypsy music playing everywhere, including live performers at our meyhane. The old men next to us were swaying and dancing while holding on to their seats, and obviously having a lot of fun. We could see crowds singing aloud from just about every meyhane visible. It was a packed Saturday night crowd, and they were all out for fun.

    We were full after the mezhes. At 11:30 pm we decided to call it a day, and took a taxi back to the hotel. We had almost a full day of activity still remaining, but it was our last night out.

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    Day 17 (Sunday, July 10th): ISTANBUL (last day of trip)
    Another late arousal and breakfast. However, we had to do all our packing, and leave our bags down at the reception. The hotel staff willingly carted them down the steps. We wanted to see the Chora Church, and our friends wanted to do some leftover shopping. So we went different ways today.

    DW and I got into a taxi and drove to Chora Church. It was an interesting old church, and a pretty sight. The reviews that I had read about it were perhaps more hyped than what it appeared to me, but anyway an interesting spot to visit. Had some coffee in their cafe outside after the visit, and found a taxi with some difficulty for our return journey. We alighted at the Cemberlitas Hamam, as we wanted to experience the Turkish hamam on our last day.

    We opted for the full treatment for both of us (with oil massage and everything), costing 99 Turkish Lire each. There were separate sections for men and women. I was shown to a small room, where I could remove my clothes and valuables, lock them in, and emerge with a pestamal around me. Next was ushered into the main Hamam room, where I sat on the marble slab in the center for about 10 minutes, sweating it out due in the heat. The attendant arrived, doused me repeatedly with warm water, and proceeded to scrub my body with a scouring pad. Layers of dirt were exfoliated (never realized I had so much filth on me !), followed by more water dousing, and then a foamy bubble scrub.

    I watched like a bewildered child, and did whatever I was told to do, as I had no idea what to expect next. The attendant instructed me to now have a bath in the shower room, and departed reminding me to give him a tip when I was done (which was irregular, as tips are included in the price paid). I had my shower, and went next into the massage room. There were multiple beds there, and I was massaged alongside an Egyptian dentist, with whom I struck a conversation. The masseur was excellent, and he smoothened out all the kinks in the body caused by the last 17 days of touring.

    Then back to the shower room, and then there was optional time to go and sit in the Hamam again on the marble slab. I did it briefly, but did not feel inclined to repeat the water dousing routine again. So I departed, went back to my locker room, and changed back into my clothes. I was done, and had to wait in the reception area till DW emerged from the ladies section some 30 minutes later. I understand that the Cemberlitas Hamam is quite authentic, and well regarded in Istanbul, and we certainly had a great time.

    We walked back to Divan Yolu park, where we had promised to rendezvous with our friends. They had also experienced the hamam at the same place. We went into a Baklava store and had some baklavas packed to take back to India. They sat in a cafe and had an average lunch, followed by some heavy ice-cream. Wanted to eat Gozleme and Kathmer during the final meal in Istanbul, but could not locate either of those dishes.

    We slowly walked back to our hotel. Alper had called a vehicle to drop us off at the airport around 4 pm. We bid goodbye to Alper and his team, for we were very impressed with the hotel and its service, and departed for Ataturk. The Turkish Airlines were not fussy about the grossly excess weight that our baggages were carrying, and we had an uneventful flight back to Mumbai, reaching at about 5:30 am the next morning, India time.

    This completes my Trip Report about the glorious 17 days that we spent. I would be happy to answer any questions that any reader may have.

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    Wonderful, wonderful report!! I am saving your Greece report in my file for our trip next year and forwarding your Turkey report to my sister for her upcoming trip later this year.

    Thank you for the tip regarding Blue Island Divers....glad to know about the boat rentals. We did this during a trip to the Amalfi Coast and again in Hvar, and I must say those were very memorable travel moments for us!

    Where are you headed next?

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    I really enjoyed your trip report, indiancouple. Thank you! Could you compare and contrast Urgup and Goreme re attractiveness/general vibe/pluses and minuses as a base for the area?

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    Your Turkey pictures are beautiful, Indiancouple. Thank you for sharing them. They truly bring your travelogue to life, and are very representative of the beauty of Istanbul and Cappadocia.
    I'm sorry that your trip report has come to an end for I enjoyed reading it very much, but will look forward to your future reports. Any idea whats next on the list for your travels and when ?
    Thanks again for the report.

    M

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    Excellent report and you are making it tempting for us to return to Turkey (and Greece as a new destination) instead of our original destination plans. We loved Turkey before and now Santorini sounds enchanting. Thanks for posting your lovely photos also. Great writing style!

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    bon_voyage, good question about Urgup vs Goreme. I had asked this same question on the Fodors forum while planning this trip. The link to my query, and the replies that I received, are given below :

    http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/stay-in-urgup-or-goreme-.cfm

    As for my own views on the subject, after having been there, they are as follows. It really will not matter much as to where you stay. The two villages are only about 8 km apart. You will need to rent a car to tour the Cappadocia area, and with a car, the distance between the two is immaterial.

    As a place to live in, I guess they have their minor ups and downs. Goreme appeared to be more touristy, a lot busier, with a larger tourist "market-place" so to speak (lined with tour operators, hot air balloon agents, eateries etc), whereas Urgup appears more sedate and somewhat "upmarket", with far fewer eateries and touristy shops. Both have a large number of great hotels, and sufficient number of places to eat. My advice would be to select whichever hotel catches your fancy (irrespective of Urgup or Goreme), and you will be fine. If you have to choose between the two, decide if you want more touristy activity around your dwelling (Goreme), or more peace and seclusion (Urgup).

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    Yes, but do allow sufficient time in Istanbul. The historical sights are one part of Istanbul; enjoying the nightlife at the meyhanes is quite another - the fun part of Istanbul. It is a city with so many contrasts. Truly one of the great cities of the world.

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    Turkey is a fascinating country. Besides Istanbul and the Cappadocia region, I also flew to Izmir, then rented a car and drove to Ephesus, Selcuk and the beautiful hilltop village of Sirince (vineyards, orchards, olive groves, etc.), while also exploring the surrounding areas (beaches) with the car. It was quite a revelation. Apart from the landscape, the concentration of history (religious and otherwise) and archaeological discoveries and things to see is amazing. The people and food of Turkey are also a big draw. Both wonderful. Next time, I'd love to go to the Sapphire coast as well as towards the the NE part of the country.
    So many places, so little time...

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    Yes we are about to embark on a slightly more adventurous tour of the Aegean Coast (After flying Rome-Rhodes). Plan to pick up a rental car at Marmaris and drive up the Datca Peninsular , ferry ascross to Bodrum and drive all the little coastal roads ,towns and ruin sites as far as we can in 18 days with a side trip to Pamukkale through Selcuk. Really looking forward to it!

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    Indiancouple, thanks so much for a wonderful trip report! I am heading to Istanbul next month and have made many notes, especially appreciate the nightlife recommendatioins as that is the type of stuff my friend and I like to do besides the typcial sightseeing activities. Reading this filled me with so much excitement!!

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    Indiancouple, thanks for a very complete, informative and also personal report. I am sorry that i had no input in your trip but apparently you did not need any.

    Next time you're here, i will try to fill in the gaps.

    One subject regarding Istanbul night life that also pertains to JenV's post above is:

    There are six other areas with varying differences for interesting night life.

    Nisantasi-Tesvikiye-Abdi Ipekci Street: October-end May,
    upscale, yuppies, fashion icons, some media personalities, good for people watching, side walk cafes and restaurants, reasonably good food, bars, good upscale shopping.

    Galata Tower : weekend public concerts, many restaurants including one regional Turkish restaurant Kiva which is fine and not expensive. est jazz club, nardis, nearby, old 19th century neighborhood, some parts still run down, many expats and the best known synagogue.

    Asmalimescit : Where the Nisantasi crowd goes slumming. Expensive but a mix of sub cultures, some good restaurants and meyhanes (better than Nevizade Street), location of good small concert hall, Babylon, in between Pera Palas hotel and Istiklal.

    Ortakoy : South of the square, banyan restaurant-bar, house cafe and Angelique and Istanbul jazz Center, expensive in places and meeting areas.

    Bebek : Always popular upscale area with many cafes, bars, restaurants and one of our favorite hotels, bebek hotel, Luca bar strangely popular with all ages including 20 year olds and old goats, excellent but expensive meyhane-fish restaurants, nice sea side promenade, location of hourly daily motor yacht rentals, close to the Rumeli Fortress, Good park, good breakfast and pastries at Divan Patissery on the sea, the best and atrociously expensive mashed pistacchio and almond sweets at Bebek Badem Ezmesi.

    The Super Supper Clubs : North of Ortakoy, Reina and Sortie, horse's shoe shaped with 6-8 restaurants each and bar in the middle. need reservation for weekends, two seatings at weekends. bar area seating and even stands require bottle purchase. The places to see and to be seen. We had trouble getting our son-in-law's 84 year old grandmother from Detroit to agree to leave at 1AM, she was enjoying herself so much watching the people and the view and listening to the music. The third location is Su Ada, the former Galatasaray island, just off Kurucesme, has shuttle boat every few minutes serving the 3-4 restaurants and bar at night and the swimming pool, cafes and bar in daytime. Good meat restaurant, we have not tried other restaurants. These are open June to October. need to dress up for all three, casual-designer for men, anything that looks scrumptious for the ladies but with the highest heels.

    Just a major note of thanks for writing about Dubb Indian restaurant. The few Indian restaurants we knew about were not good at all so i ended up mixing my own curries from spices i buy from the spice market (8-17 different spices) and making my own with some nan made by my wife and mango and lime pickles brought by friends visiting from abroad, using butter instead of ghee and alternately using yoghurt or coconut milk for cooking. I also make Turkish-Indian fusion recipes of my own creation.

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    Mathieu and Tommmo, I realize that there are so many other beautiful places in Turkey to visit, which we did not cover. I specially regret having missed out on Ephesus, which everyone raves about. But as you rightly said, so much to see and so little time.

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    JenV, all the best for your Istanbul trip. Hope you have a great time. Now that otherchelebi has elaborated on so many other nightlife options (and he is the best Turkey expert on this forum), you can have a greater partying time than us.

    Do post a trip report when you are back.

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    otherchelebi, thanks for the compliments. It means a lot to me, coming from you, as you are perhaps the most knowledgeable poster about Turkey on Fodors that I have come across.

    It is not true that you had no inputs on my trip. You may not recall, but you did respond to several of my queries when I was planning.

    As for Dubb restaurant, the branch which is on a side-street off Abiyik Caddesi is much better than the one near the Sultanahmet tram stop on Divan Yolu. However, the chef (at the better one) told us that he plans to flee back to India soon, so you better rush there before he departs !

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    Otherchelebi thank you so much for the additional information on nightlife. I read all of your Istanbul posts and was planning to put together a post soon to fill in some gaps as you say for my trip. I really appreciate your input and indiancouple for this trip report!

    IC, so far I have yet to post a trip report in 9 years of fodorsmanship and many trips (although I do answer questions where I feel I can be helpful), maybe this will be the year!

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    JenV, if you have been a regular visitor to this forum, and used the inputs from this forum for your trip planning, then it is only proper that you regularly post trip reports and give a lot back to the forum as well. So do make a beginning this time.

    The trip report is as much for your own benefit as for others. It becomes a permanent online record of your trip, which you can go back and read yourself time and again, and re-live those wonderful days.

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