Greece and Turkey Travel Guide: 10 Days in Athens, Santorini, Milos, Cappadocia, & Pamukkale
Greece, an ancient land of Gods and Men with a rich history that dates back millennia. Oh, and they have nice beaches too. For the amateur historian and religious scholar like myself, Greece, and in particular Athens, holds so many important landmarks and stories regarding the foundations of the Christian faith, as well as the mythology of the Greek gods on Mount Olympus.
Of course, Lynn was not as amused as I and we spent most of the trip island hopping like the fabled Odysseus, seeking out our own adventure. Spring is a great time to visit both Greece and Turkey like we did on this trip, the weather is decent, but you get half the crowds! With that, let’s jump in to our 10 day itinerary of Greece/Turkey!
Days 1-2: Things to Do in Santorini, Greece
The key to traveling in the off-season in Greece is being flexible. We had booked a ferry to bring us between islands, but two days before we flew to Greece the ferry was cancelled! We had a bit of a panic, rearranging things last minute and ended up with two hotels booked for the first night. We decided to spend the first night in Oia, a small village on the northern part of the island, famous for its blue domes and crystal waters.
Oia is essentially one very long street with branches peeling off every few hundred meters. We stayed at the far end of the road and over the course of one afternoon/evening and one early morning, we saw it all! The highlights are obviously the Three Blue Domes and the Byzantine Castle Ruins, but these popular spots are swamped with Instagram photographers. Your best chance at getting the best view of the domes and the city are at sunrise!
After our time in Oia we trekked down to the central city of the island. We took a fairly relaxed pace to the rest of the island, as it is not very large, and spent the first half of the day exploring the famous black and red beaches and climbing the lighthouse on the southern tip of the island. Just past midday, we were picked up for a sunset cruise that traversed the whole island. We stopped in a volcanic hotspot and swam in the warm, sulfuric waters, traveled along the red and black beaches, fed some fishes, and had a wonderful dinner before watching the sunset on the horizon. Not a bad way to start the trip!
Days 3-4: Things to Do in Milos, Greece
After an early morning 5 hour ferry ride, we arrived in Milos, a much smaller and much quieter island off the coast of Athens. Not a lot was open this time of year, but the best parts of the island are always open! Our first night there, we hiked up to Agia Paraskevi Church to watch the sunset. This church is a bit of a hike to get to, but the view is so worth it.
If you are looking forward to something more adventurous, you can follow in our footsteps and book a sea kayaking trip through the island caves of Milos. Our trip was a long one, 18 km (or about 11 miles), but because it was just us an our guide, we took it slow and had a wonderful time exploring the hollowed out caves and arches of the island. Our route took us on the south shore, past the sulfur mines and through the tunnels formed by eroded volcanic ash.
Days 5-7: Things to Do in Cappadocia, Turkey
The town of Göreme in Turkey is years ahead of its neighbors in terms of facilities and accommodations. As the hotspot of the world for hot air balloons, the whole town seems to be built to support the industry. Newly remodeled hotels with 24 hour staff help you book all manner of adventures. From Jeep safaris to ATV tours, hot air balloon rides to camel rides, there are a plethora of activities to choose from. We waited two days to see the balloons but unfortunately, the weather was too rough for the balloons to fly. Instead, we spent our time shopping the local stores for authentic rugs and chasing the perfect cup of Turkish coffee.
Day 8: Things to Do in Pamukkale, Turkey
For maximum efficiency we took the 10 hour overnight bus from Göreme to Pamukkale. It's not the most comfortable way to spend the night, but it is fairly cheap and you save money on the hotel room so it’s a win-win! Since we missed out on the hot air balloon, we decided last minute to go paragliding and don't regret it for a second - we highly recommend it for thrill seekers and more traditional vacationers alike!
But of course the real reason that people go to Pamukkale is to visit the Pamukkale Travertines, a beautiful natural rock and hot spring area of exposed white calcium rock. You cannot wear shoes when you climb this natural formation, but you won’t want to anyways. Warm pools of spring water run down pure white stone and make for not just incredible photos, but a calm and relaxing place to enjoy an afternoon.
Days 9-10: Things to Do in Athens, Greece
At the tail end of our trip, we traveled back to Athens, the capital of Greece. This was the part of the trip I was looking to the most. The history and architecture in the city is just absolutely fascinating to me. These ruins are the lines that connect mythology and folklore to history and modern day Athens.
On a different note, Athens had some of the best food on our entire trip! We must have had traditional greek donuts, Lukumades, every single day (or maybe sometimes even twice a day).
That’s it for this trip. Have any recommendations for Greece or Turkey that we didn’t see? Sound off in the comments in below!