Beautiful beaches. Incredible islands. Fantastic food. And a legendary history that encompasses everything from “the birthplace of democracy” to the gods and goddesses of ancient mythology. When it comes to must-visit destinations, Greece is the place to see.
And one of the best ways to do this—other than on an Azamara cruise, of course!—is to take a virtual journey through the Greek Isles with our very own Heike Berdos, Hotel Director extraordinaire for Azamara Club Cruises®. Born in Bonn, Germany, Heike has called Athens, Greece, home for more than 18 years, so she definitely knows an insider tip or two (or 20!) about all things Grecian.
We recently sat down to get her recommendations on visiting this most fascinating of countries #AzaLocal. Here, Greece according to Heike.
If you had to pick a favorite Grecian city, what would it be?
Well, when you are asking me about my favorite city, my home town is now Athens—and this is by choice! I love the combination of a cosmopolitan city and yet a connection to an isolated island in no time. My home is 15 minutes from the port and some beautiful islands are just an hour away by ferry.
What are the top 3 “non-touristy” must-dos in Athens?
Make sure you visit Mount Lycabettus. It’s higher than the Acropolis and offers an amazing view of the entire city. Another area is Gazi—a very artistic neighborhood with street concerts and lots of people watching. If you are looking for a day trip, don’t miss the Poseidon temple in Sounion, which is the most southern point of Attica. It can be reached in just an hour’s drive from Athens, and the journey there goes along a beautiful coastline.
Which is your favorite Greek island? And what is your favorite thing to do there?
I do love swimming and I enjoy the Greek night life...and Mykonos has both! I also enjoy some less-known islands with less people, such as Patmos, Paros, and Cephalonia. Greece has an unlimited choice of whatever is right for you, whether you’re vacationing with children, friends, couples, or going solo. It also has something to offer for every budget.
Greeks are very serious about food. It seems like families are always in the kitchen cooking. What is your favorite traditional Greek dish?
The night before I leave home and the first evening I return from the ship, I order chicken gyros from my favorite place in my area. There are so many great traditional dishes. What I like most is family-style dining—and it goes on for hours!
Do you like to cook, and if so, what is your favorite meal to cook?
Cooking is not my strength, but what I am really good at are the salads—and Greek salads are simply the best. The taste and quality of Greek vegetables and oils are unique! Plus, I live with a Greek family and their cooking skills are above and beyond. Celebrating Easter in Greece is a feast and something that one needs to experience.
What a question! Both are stellar destinations and a “must see” for everyone who loves traveling. I think it is not fair to ask me to choose, as they are both very different and unique in their own way. Even though, they’re the most touristy and popular islands in Greece, there are many Greeks who come back year after year.
There are certainly many other islands that are wonderful—and each of them is different. My goal is to visit two new islands every year, and I am doing quite well. Apart of the islands, there is the Peleponnese, with their beaches, history, and culinary treats. Azamara goes to several ports in the Peloponnese which I can highly recommend: Nafplio, Katakolon, and others. I also highly recommend a cruise through the Greek Isles. It gives you a taste of the variety this country has to offer and lets you feel some peace that we all need on a holiday!
What is your favorite fine-dining restaurant in Athens?
Spondi has some of the best chefs in Athens, and I can confirm that it has been awesome.
What is your favorite mom/pop restaurant?
I have a couple of favorite restaurants, and they are both in Mikrolimano in Piraeus: Vosporos for those who love meat and Ammos for those who like a little bit of everything.
Best Greek salad?
A tough question when it comes to sweets. There is a chain in Greece that does outstanding sweets—the name is Passarella. They do very good sweets that are fresh!
Even more difficult, as every neighborhood has its favorite souvlaki place. When going to downtown Athens, I vote for Thanasis in Monasteraki.
Where is your favorite place to watch sunsets in Greece?
There are many places to watch the sun set, and Santorini offers one of the best ever! Make sure to visit Sunsets Café, the wine bar in Ola.
Last but not least, anything else you want to share?
Greece has so much to offer. The beauty is also that the season starts in May and ends in October. For those who are not committed to school vacation and want to avoid the crowds and high-season prices, I highly recommend visiting Greece before and after July and August.
Well, talk about perfect timing—you can join Heike on our 2018 LCV Voyage sailing from Greece to Italy. While aboard, you’ll journey to some of Heike’s favorite destinations, as well as a few other hidden gems, and have the chance to truly immerse yourself in the culture, history, and beauty of Greece.
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