I recently took a little unofficial poll on instagram to see which travel destinations you all were most interested in reading about, and unsurprisingly, Greece was the front runner among 20+ locations. I had also asked if you all prefer travel diaries, or travel guides. I like the idea of providing useful information for planning purposes, but I also know that if you’re not actively planning a trip to wherever I’m writing about, then the travel guide format can be a little dull. So I aim to please, and since all the feedback I received indicated that travel diaries are the preferred format, I’m going to focus on that format, but I’ll also throw in critical travel tips for each destination. So here goes…..:)
Conveniently, my last travel guide was about our time in Athens, which was the first stop on our Greek adventure last summer. Next, we took a very early morning ferry from Athens to beautiful Milos Island, where we spent the next three nights.
If you’ve ever planned an island hopping trip to Greece, you know that choosing where to go is extremely difficult. I mean, there are over a hundred inhabited islands to choose from…overwhelming to say the least, and they all have their own unique charm. There are so many things to factor in, such as whether you’re looking for a less touristy island, or one that’s been more commercialized, like Mikonos or Santorini, which are both popular cruise ship stops (so you have to prepare for the big influx of daytime visitors looking to get the most out of their quick whirlwind visit). But the next biggest factor to consider are transportation options and timetables between each destination. Putting together all of our trips is like piecing together a complex puzzle, but this Greece itinerary really put my planning skills to the test.
I’ve discussed this previously, but as a recap we typically steer clear of airports as much as possible during the middle of our vacations. Airports just kill the holiday vibe in my opinion, and while the travel time is often attractive when comparing flights to train or ferry travel, you have to factor in the time spent getting to and from the airports, which are often outside of the city. And you also have to consider that you’ll need to arrive well in advance of your flight to check in and go through security. It’s one thing to show up at the last minute when you’re familiar with an airport, but that’s not likely to be the case in this sort of travel scenario, and if you miss your flight, you’re probably out of luck getting on another one until the following day. So I always look at a map and generally try to plan our travel in little regional chunks, rather than flying all over the planet trying to check things off the old bucket list. I think this is a great way to visit places that wouldn’t ordinarily be on your radar, which often turn out to be the best surprises:)
So since we knew we wanted to avoid flying from one island to the next (flying limits your options anyway, since fewer islands have airports), I relied on this website to help put an itinerary together, which provides all of the ferry timetables for all the different companies. We ended up booking all of our inter-island travel on Sea Jets, which have reliable fast-ferries, and we didn’t have any issues whatsoever with them during our trip.
We knew we wanted to visit Santorini. After seeing so many other travelers share their breathtakingly gorgeous, quintessential Greek Island photos, we just had to see the island for ourselves. So that also helped us narrow down the remaining islands we would visit, as it made sense to hone in on the Cyclades island cluster. Then we decided to continue further south to Crete to end our holiday, as there was an easy ferry connection there, and a larger airport to catch a flight and begin our journey home. So our final itinerary went: Athens>Milos>Santorini>Naxos>Crete
Enough about planning, let’s get back to our time in Greece…..
Getting From Athens to Milos Island
Our ferry was scheduled to leave the Piraeus port in Athens at 7am, and I have to say that getting to the port from our Airbnb was a very interesting ride. Our cab driver backed into a wall immediately after we got in the cab, but it obviously wasn’t the first time that had happened, as he didn’t bother to get out and assess the damage (even though it sounded terrible). And despite it being around 6am, the seedy parts of Athens were hoppin with all kinds of foot traffic, and the clubs were still bumpin. We definitely saw the part that you probably want to avoid as a tourist. Not because it’s dangerous (I don’t know whether or not it is), but because it just wasn’t very attractive.
Thankfully, all went smoothly with our ferry, which arrived at beautiful Milos Island at 10am (9:55 to be exact;)). The ferry made two or three quick stops at other islands to pick up and drop of passengers, so the journey takes three hours, which I spent sleeping comfortably in my commercial airplane-style seat.
I had a bit of a tough time deciding where to stay in Milos. We knew we wanted to stay in the main port town, Adamas, as a home base since most tours depart from here, and we figured it’d make checking in and out much easier time-wise/and luggage carrying-wise. 😉 The hotel that we really wanted to stay at was booked, so despite mixed reviews, we stayed at The Lagada Beach Hotel.
When looking at a map of all the accommodations in and around Adamas, we quickly learned you really have to pay close attention to the reviews, and specifically the comments on location. We wanted to be within easy walking distance to the port and all of the restaurants, and the proximity to all of this can be a bit deceiving on a map. Especially when considering Milos’s terrain it not flat, so the further away from the port, the more of an uphill climb you’ll have getting to your hotel or apartment rental.
At first glance, our hotel looked amazing as we were walking up to it. It’s right on the beach, and they have a gorgeous pool area overlooking the beach. However, once we got to the check in desk, we realized what the mixed reviews were all about.
I don’t know how to describe the frustration we felt talking and dealing with the young man who handled our check in. I liken it to feeling like we were either stuck in a Seinfeld episode, or on some sort of hidden camera show where we were the butt of a weird joke that would only become humorous after the hidden cameras were pointed out and a celebrity host emerged from a disguised coat closet. Since that never happened, we didn’t find the employee’s methods cute nor entertaining. He struck us as lazy, unprofessional, and basically spoke in riddles. He wasn’t unkind, but he was not exactly helpful and we felt like we were pulling teeth when we spoke with him. We’re pretty low maintenance people too, so I don’t know why this guy made everything so difficult.
We wanted to try to rent a car for that day, and after some awkward back and forth about the best place to get a car (and this was not due to any sort of language barrier…he spoke perfect english), we finally learned they had rental cars available directly through the hotel. Fantastic, we thought. Well, this just added to the pain of dealing with this guy. I won’t go into all the details, but we had told him several times we would be returning the car that same evening, as we had a sailing tour scheduled early the next morning. We were ready to be done with him, but still trying to be pleasant, so I asked a few questions about different points of interest looking for advice on a recommended car tour (often something you’d expect from any hotel or car rental kiosk). Of course, I didn’t receive any type of helpful response, so we just decided to cut our losses and figure things out on our own before our day was completely soured from all the frustration and wasted time.
When we returned with the car that evening, he started bugging us to keep it for the full 24 hours that we had paid for (it seemed as though he didn’t want to deal with getting off his butt to handle the turn-in), and suddenly this employee was full of suggestions about where to go and things we shouldn’t miss (this info would have been much more helpful earlier that day when I’d asked for it). It was uncomfortable, as he was basically grilling us asking what we did all day, and then criticizing our choices. When we reminded him we had a sailing tour scheduled the next morning (with one of the top rated boat tours on TripAdvisor) so we wouldn’t be able to use the car if we kept it, he then asked us who we had booked our sailing tour with. Of course, instead of saying something like “oh that will be fun!” or “Make sure you bring sunscreen,” he instead scoffed about it once he heard the tour company’s name and told us we had made a big mistake and should have consulted with him before we booked it (which had been booked months prior). Again, not helpful at this point in time, nor was it professional by any means. And for what it’s worth, that sailing tour was basically the best day of my life, but I’ll get to that when we discuss day 2;)
Additionally, on the topic of the odd customer service experience we had, when we returned to the hotel that first evening, we thought it’d be nice to grab a drink from the poolside bar and enjoy the sunset. There was an employee sitting behind the bar when we approached and sat down at a couple bar stools probably three or four feet away from the guy. There was really nothing going on around us to distract him, but he didn’t acknowledge us right away. After a couple awkward minutes of us wondering why he avoided looking in our direction, he asked us what we needed (we assumed he meant what we needed to drink), so Michael asked if there was a menu since it wasn’t clear what they offered, which is when he finally told us the bar was closed. Seriously?? Like you couldn’t say “Sorry, this bar is closed” as we were approaching and clearly looking for a beverage? Or better yet…”Sorry, I’m closed for the day, but a great place to get drinks is around the corner at X place.” He was completely unapologetic and just plain rude in his mannerisms. Was it the worst customer service experience ever? Not exactly. But once again, we were sort of made to feel like idiots, and we’re not. Bottom line, there is definitely an issue with the employee culture there that needs to be rectified.
From that point on, we decided we would not be dining there (even though we had paid extra for breakfast each day), and we went out of our way to avoid walking through the reception area when coming and going to avoid any further awkward and frustrating encounters with the staff.
In hindsight, our experience was very similar to what people described in their reviews on booking.com, but it’s hard to really understand what others were warning about until you experience it yourself. Thankfully, this was not at all the norm in Greece.
The room was what we expected. Sort of constructed to resemble a traditional Greek cave home. It would have been perfectly fine for our needs if the bed had not been extremely uncomfortable. It was a very flimsy, cheap mattress. It was hard, and you could essentially feel all the springs in your back. We honestly did not spend much time here at all, other than to sleep, so it would have been great if the bed had at least been comfortable.
This hotel is at a prime location in Adamas, just a short, easy walk from the ferry terminal, and the grounds are absolutely gorgeous, so it’s just so incredibly disappointing that it falls short in the customer service and comfort categories (two of the most important aspects, in my opinion). This place could and should really be something special and dominate the accommodation scene on the island.
With all that being said, however, if everything else in the immediate area is booked, and you measure your expectations, this is not the worst place in the world to stay. Just be prepared for some weird convos, though I’m hopeful this has since been resolved with additional training or employee turnover.
How We Spent Our First Day
So, now I need to back up a bit and tell you all how we spent our first day on Milos once we got in our rental car and headed out to explore.
One of the reasons we chose to visit Milos over other Greek Islands is because the island has incredibly unique, and equally beautiful beaches. Milos’s unusual topography is due to the its mineral rich land, which has been mined as far back as 7000 B.C. Sarakiniko Beach is a great example of one of the island’s more stunning beaches, and this was our first stop.
Since we had left our hotel somewhat hastily as a result of wanting to get the heck away from the irritating employee, we unfortunately were’t quite prepared for a beach outing. We weren’t really planning on swimming, as we had other stops we wanted to make, and figured we’d get plenty of swimming in during our sailing tour the next day, but it still would’ve been nice to have some beach towels and our swimsuits on. Even though we weren’t set up for a day at the beach, this stop was totally worth our time, as it’s unlike any place we’ve ever been. Seeing the clear blue water against the stark white stone coastline was certainly a sight to behold. This is a very popular beach, so there were tons of families and couples swimming, cliff jumping, and sun bathing. We didn’t hike down to see them, but there are tunnels carved out in the stone from the areas mining days, which look pretty neat in pics. It’s also worth noting that the bus makes pit stops here, and since it’s so popular, there’s usually a food truck present, which is helpful, as there is absolutely nothing around this area. WE probably spent about an hour here just snapping pics, and taking in the scenery. It was probably only a 20 minute drive from Adamas. Maybe even less, but I’m not certain as we made a pit stop for fuel on the way and got a bit turned around when initially leaving the port area (the GPS only helps so much when driving the tiny streets of these old towns). So definitely an easy little detour from Adamas.
There are relatively short guided tours offered at the catacombs every 30 minutes for just 4 euro per person (note: they’re closed on Mondays). There’s no other way to see the catacombs without doing the tour, and we thought it was pretty neat! Of course, after visiting so many of the world’s top historical landmarks over the years, we measure our expectations and understand that these smaller sights don’t have the popularity to justify funding for more bells and whistles. But the history of the sight itself is extremely significant. We got to know two other couples while waiting for our tour of the catacombs to begin, which, in my opinion, is one of the best parts of traveling. It was just the six of us during our tour, which was great since it’s somewhat cramped down in the catacombs and our guide was pretty quiet. I imagine most of the tours are very small groups since Milos isn’t exactly a high traffic island.
The Ancient Roman Theatre Ruins were just a short little hike from the Catacombs, and you can make a pit stop at the Venus de Milo discovery sight on the way. Since we’ve seen the Venus de Milo several times in the Louvre, it was pretty cool seeing where she was found…kind of made the whole experience come full circle.
When we approached the ruins of the Roman Theatre, we discovered that you can actually access the ruins and test the acoustics out, but unfortunately I had to pee extremely badly by the time we reached the site. I’m not above peeing in the bushes if necessary, but there really isn’t much vegetation to speak of in these parts. Not to mention I had an irrational fear of being bit by a Milos Viper during our whole visit, so there was no way in hell I was about to squat my hiney anywhere. Yada yada yada, we came, we saw, and then I bee-lined it back to the parking lot and peed inside a sweltering hot, and super stinky port-o-john. In hindsight, I probably would’ve been better off peeing behind a rock and getting bit by a viper.
If we’d been more prepared for it, and if I didn’t have to pee so badly, we probably would’ve made the hike down to the coast to the picturesque fishing village in Klima, but we figured we’d see it during our boat tour the following day.
We got back on the road and then headed east to Pollonia, which is another popular area to stay on Milos. It looks far on a map, but it’s only about a 20 minute drive from Trypiti. By now, it was probably around 3-4pm, so we were both ready for “first dinner.” We did a quick search for food recs on TripAdvisor while walking from the car along the beach toward all the restaurants in this quaint little beach town, and landed at Enalion. This is a family run restaurant (which goes for almost all restaurants in Greece from what I gathered;)), and it’s ranked fourth on the island on TripAdvisor, though I’m not sure how much weight reviews really carry in this part of the world. Regardless, we were very satisfied with our meal, the beautiful setting right on the beach, and we enjoyed the company of an adorable kitty who sat sleeping on the wall next to us.
The most entertaining part of our meal, outside of general people watching on the beach, was when a boat cruised up and beached itself on shore in front of all the restaurants, and out came a wetsuit clad spear fisherman with a couple huge sacks of fish. Which he then walked from restaurant to restaurant….in his wetsuit….delivering his catch of the day. I mean, talk about some fresh fish!
If we didn’t have to drive back so soon, we would have loved to check out the Kostantakis Cave Winery. Guess we’ll just have to plan on returning to Milos in the future;)
Back to Adamas
We walked on the beach a bit more after our meal at Enalion, and then headed back to Adamas to start exploring a little there, and then get cleaned up for second dinner;) Of course, when we got back we had the annoyance of dealing with the guy at reception when we returned the rental car, which I discussed earlier. Followed by the odd encounter with the guy behind the bar at the pool. After this, we decided to hang at Lagada Beach and watch the sunset, which would have been even more relaxing with an adult beverage in hand, but that’s neither here nor there.
After getting cleaned up for the evening, we set out on foot to grab a bite to eat along the harbor. I ended up skipping ‘second dinner’ and instead opted for the most amazing dessert of my life at Milors Cafe, which serves some seriously delectible waffle desserts. My order was pretty obnoxious, but I devoured every single bite. I also enjoyed, probably a bit too much, delightful greek wine.
Milos definitely has a season, and as we were there for the tail end of it in August, it wasn’t overly bustling and really quite pleasant. We appreciated this aspect even more after we left Milos and arrived in Santorini, but I’ll get to that in a future diary on that topic.
Relaxing along the promenade sipping wine was the perfect ending to a full day. It was crazy to think that our day had started in Athens waking up to an early morning alarm. It already felt like it had been forever since we were in Athens. Funny how that happens when traveling.
Please let me know how you all like this format, and stay tuned for my next post covering our second (and best) day in Milos. And don’t worry, it won’t be as long winded as this post;)