KidTripster Teen: From Athens to the islands, 6 must-dos for families visiting Greece
Since I was young, I always have dreamed of visiting Greece, the Land of the Ancients. This summer, my childhood dream became a reality. My family and I spent two weeks in Greece: one week on an island and one week in Athens. Here are my top 5 highlights (because if I included them all, we’d be here a while!).
1/Walk through history
Hot, dusty, and a strange mix of old and new, Athens is steeped in history. From the battles of the gods to the Revolution of 1821, Athens is like walking through a living museum. If you want respite from the heat, the actual museums are air-conditioned (thank the gods for that!) and hold treasures from the Golden Age. There are statues of gods and heroes, vases depicting everyday scenes, and golden jewelry once worn by beautiful noblewomen. Athens is a great spot to begin your own Greek odyssey.
KidTripster Tip: We spent a week in Athens, which I found to be the perfect length of time. But if you only have a week, spend just a few days and then head to the islands!
KidTripster Tip: It’s worth reading up on a little history and mythology before you go. I started reading the Percy Jackson series in first grade.
2/Take in a World Wonder
One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Parthenon is the most popular tourist attraction in Greece. This majestic building, erected in 447 BC, sits atop the Acropolis, ensuring you an excellent view of the city. The ideal time to visit the Parthenon is at sunset when the crowds of tourists thin. If it’s a clear night, you can see all the way to the sea and the shipping port of Piraeus. The inside of the Parthenon is held up by scaffolding, so it’s not open to the public. We didn’t use a guide (I had been reading about it for so many years that we really didn't need one), but you can hire a local guide right there; audio tours also are available. The Parthenon was one of my favorite parts of the trip, and I highly recommend it.
3/Work for a glorious view
In the old days, Delphi was both a temple to Apollo and the home of the Oracle who foretold the fates of men. Kings and peasants alike would journey here, sometimes traveling for many months. Nowadays, Delphi is about a 2-hour drive from Athens or a 30-minute drive from the Ionian Coast. While there isn’t much shade, the breathtaking view of the valley from the slopes of Mt. Parnassus makes up for any discomfort. As you climb up the stairs, you find yourself looking at temples and treasures from long ago. You can take a tour or simply navigate on your own as we did; handy little plaques explain what things are. You can seek refuge from the sun in museum which is air-conditioned and contains most of the artifacts found at Delphi. The staff is more than happy to answer questions, and there’s even a conveniently placed cafe that serves cold drinks. Score!
4/Seek out lesser-known islands
Greece is famous for its islands… and for good reason. The water is clear, the sunsets are beautiful, and the resorts are plentiful. My family and I chose to stay on Kefalonia, one of the greener islands. Of course, we could’ve chosen a larger one, like Santorini or Mykonos, but my family decided those islands would be too crowded for our liking. We stayed on Kefalonia for the entire time because of the welcoming solitude and quiet, but it’s easy to take a day trip to the nearby island of Ithaca, home of the famous adventurer Odysseus, if you’d like. It’s well worth journeying to an island where you can show up to dinner in your swimsuit and no one bats an eye.
KidTripster Tip: Be careful when driving as the roads are small and dusty, and in Greece, traffic laws are more like guidelines.
Greece has beautiful blue water. It’s ideal for snorkeling or if you’re more adventurous, scuba diving. Greece is a great place for a first-time diver or someone looking to become certified. You may not see brilliant coral reefs or large turtles like in Hawaii, but the water is clear and the fish are plentiful. Half of the fun is breathing through the mask and sounding like Darth Vader!
As a newbie, I was a bit nervous, but the scuba instructors are helpful and talk you through every step. Both my mom and I found it quite easy to catch on. We really enjoyed it, and now I'd like to pursue scuba diving as a hobby!
6/Eat like a Greek
Greek food is delicious. The bread is light and generally fresh-baked; the meat is well-seasoned and often served with fries. Although the Greeks tend to cook their meat longer than Americans, it still tastes good. The seafood in Greece is exceptional and fresh. The food can get a bit repetitive (it’s the same type of food everywhere), but if you head to a smaller town, you can find new dishes like stuffed zucchini soup.
KidTripster Tip: When eating at a restaurant, ask for the check when you’re ready to leave. We learned that Europeans think that it’s rude to bring the check to the table, as it gives the appearance of rushing you.
KidTripster Tip: If you’re bored at a restaurant, you can make a game of naming the stray cats that roam everywhere. Just don’t give them any food; they’ll never leave!
Sarah Zdebski is a middle school student from Portland, Oregon. She travels regularly with her family to places that she reads about in books.