Ahh, Athens. The cradle of European civilization and the birthplace of democracy. That’s quite a reputation! Athens offers incredible sightseeing opportunities for tourists, thanks to the immense history of the city. But there’s another side to Athens, too. Resident Athenians and visiting night owls have been showcashing the incredible beauty of the city after dark using the hashtag #AthensByNight on Instagram. We searched through thousands of photos and selected ten of our favorites to share.
Athens glows at night. It’s the perfect city to take a few days to explore, before or after your cruise. Azamara Club Cruises has sixteen upcoming voyages that embark or disembark in nearby Piraeus.
The Acropolis is a wondrous place to visit during the day, but it’s even more beautiful when it’s lit up at night. In the evening, find a rooftop bar that faces the historic site and enjoy a glass of Ouzo and your breathtaking surroundings. Though hotel bars aren’t often frequented by locals, “A” for Athens in Monastiraki is an exception. The Terrace Bar at Central Hotel is another favorite. Wherever you go, arrive early to ensure you get a good view.
Culture lovers will enjoy Athens in the summer, when you can easily find outdoor concerts, folk dance and theater performances. The Lykavittós theatre is a magical venue, carved into rock and perched high above the city, close to the summit of Mount Lykavittós.
Athens is a foodie paradise. If you’re eating at a restaurant, check out what locals are ordering and follow suit. But don’t leave Athens without ordering a traditional Greek salad at least once. Horiatiki is a rustic salad made with tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, Kalamata olives and delicious feta cheese. No matter how great a Greek salad you think you’ve had before, it won’t compare to the real thing in Greece.
You also may want to try tyropita (cheese pies), souvlaki (kebabs), tyropita (cheese pies), and a tasty dessert of Greek coffee and baklava. Don’t forget to indulge in some street food! Greece is famous for its gyros. Gyro actually means “turn”, and the sandwich gets its name from the meat roasted on a vertical spit. The pita is filled with meat, onions, tomatos, french fries and tzatziki sauce.
Make your way to the Plaka neighborhood in Athens one evening. Plaka sits beneath the Acropolis, is the oldest section of Athens and is a favorite part of the city for many. You’ll be instantly charmed by the cobblestone streets lined with tavernas, cafes and shops. Sit back, sip on a frappé (a popular iced coffee drink) and enjoy the sounds of nearby street musicians.
While you’re in Plaka, visit Brettos. This old-fashioned distillery dates back to 1909, and draws guests in with its colorful, unique decor. The distillery boasts over 30 flavors of liquors, based on delicious Mediterranean fruits, herbs and spices. You can also sample Greek wines by the glass.
At Syntagma Square, you’ll find the Greek Parliament building. Visit during the day to witness the Changing of the Guards (this occurs every hour), but return at night for another photo opportunity – the illuminated building is beautiful.
World traveler Lee Abbamonte wrote a blog about visiting Athens and said: “…Ask the locals what’s good when you’re there, if you want a little off the beaten path. Athenians love to help tourists and share their city.”
By Bonnie MacLaird, Chief Blogging Officer, Azamara Club Cruises on Thursday, March 05, 2015
I have a favorite book on travel; one of many, but today I’m musing on this wonderful little book. It is The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton, 2002. It’s not an easy book to read, not one that anyone would call a ‘page turner’. I read it in bits and pieces, and I believe this is the author’s intention. While broken down into five sections that flow sequentially, it is actually a series of his unrelated essays on the subject of travel. The five sections of the book are: Departure, Motives, Landscape, Art and Return, each with a couple essays by de Botton.
Think about those five categories. If you were writing a non-fiction book on the subject of travel, is this how you’d break it down? I might have added a section on people, culture or cuisine in between the Landscape and Art sections. Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have thought about including a section on Art, but it’s a brilliant addition and the topic of today’s ramble.
Croatia is a beautiful country, home to many ports we love to call on. But Dubrovnik, with its stunning coastline, sparkling turquoise waters, medieval city walls and red tiled roofs, has a special place in our hearts. These things also make Dubrovnik one of the most photogenic cities in the world, the kind of place you daydream about while sitting at your desk on a dreary Monday.
Dubrovnik’s ancient city walls are the finest in the world, and the main attraction for most visitors. They provide stunning views over Old Town, and the sparkling Adriatic Sea. Take your time as you walk the walls, stopping for breaks and photo opportunities. Don’t forget to bring a couple bottles of complimentary water from your stateroom for your day of exploring! Though as this next photo shows, Dubrovnik is stunning even in stormy weather.
Dubrovnik is just as beautiful – maybe even more so – at night. Try local wines and fresh seafood at restaurants in Old Town, and mingle with friendly locals at quaint pubs. Live music, especially at the jazz-focused Troubador Cafe. Absorbing the nightlife is one of the best ways to really get to know a city, and one of the reasons Azamara ships stay later in port. In fact, we have two upcoming cruises that include overnight stays in Dubrovnik:
In addition to incredible history, cuisine and shopping, Croatia is known for its beautiful beaches. Dubrovnik’s Banje Beach may be pebbly, but is still a favorite spot for swimming, sunbathing and people-watching. This August 2015 cruise includes a stop in Dubrovnik.
One of my favorite things about cruising with Azamara Club Cruises is their AzAmazing Evenings. This was my third cruise with Azamara and of course my third AzAmazing Evening. They are very well thought out and put together nights of cultural entertainment in an important cultural place for the cities they’re held in. For my latest cruise, it was an AzAmazing Evening in Manila, Philippines. It was my favorite one yet!
The Azamara Quest arrived early one morning and I caught an amazing sunrise pulling into port at Manila Bay. It was without a doubt the most spectacular way to arrive in Manila, a city known more for horrible traffic than anything else. But on my day around Manila, I was pleasantly surprised to discover some other interesting places to visit.
My only prior visit to Manila was ten years ago and I wasn’t too impressed. So I sought to change my opinion on the city by taking a city tour of all the important sites around town.
The tour started in Rizal Park, which is a nice reprieve from the traffic and craziness of the streets. We were there over a holiday so there were a lot of people out and about and it made it really fun to be there watching the local kids playing and families having picnics.
Next up was San Agustin Church; which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a nice enough church to visit. It won’t blow your mind or anything but it’s nice to see inside it for the beautiful chapel and interesting museum.
For me, the best part happened outside the church with school kids on a field trip. Filipino kids love selfies. In fact, the Philippines were named the most selfied nation or something like that in a recent article!
The kids were all taking selfies with us so I insisted on taking one with them as well. I think it came out pretty well and they made my afternoon for sure! Their smiles were infectious and their enthusiasm will stick with me!
After a visit to quiet Fort Santiago, where the AzAmazing Evening would be later that night, and Intramuros, we headed out to the American War Cemetery past Millionaires Row and Makati City.
This was my fourth continent visiting a US military cemetery and they are always somber but always fills me with pride. What the US and Allied soldiers did in World War II can never be understated. They truly were the greatest generation and should always be treated with respect.
Then it was time for the AzAmazing Evening at Fort Santiago!
Azamara arranged for Jeepney’s to take some guests over to the celebration although they were much nicer than regular Jeepney’s you’ll see around Manila – trust me on that one!
Once at the AzAmazing Evening, it was party time with some awesome Filipino bands and cultural acts in a really cool setting that looked much different and more festive than it did that afternoon!
Azamara really does an excellent job with these AzAmazing Evening productions and that’s exactly what they are – a production. Guests remember them long after the cruise. I still remember fondly the AzAmazing Evening I did onboard the Azamara Journey in 2013 at the Opera House in Livorno, Italy – it was fantastic and really the only thing from Livorno I do remember!
Aside from some great acts and great food and local drinks, Azamara nailed it with a big fireworks display midway through the AzAmazing Evening. It was pretty perfect.
As time goes by, some of what I saw in Manila may fade from my memory but I will always remember the AzAmazing Evening in Manila. It was fantastic!
A few years ago, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River was named one of the new seven wonders of nature. At the time, it was one of two that I had not been to: the other being Komodo Island. So when the opportunity for this cruise on the Azamara Quest came up and I saw I could visit the last two remaining new seven wonders of nature on the same cruise, I jumped at it. But I must admit, when the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River won that title, I was skeptical. I didn’t really know anything about it and it was never on my radar. Well it certainly is now…it was phenomenal!
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is about a two-hour drive from Puerto Princesa, the main port and airport on the stunning island of Palawan in the Philippines. The drive is windy, crowded and absolutely gorgeous.
When you arrive at Sabang to a wonderful view down the beach toward where Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National park is, you must get on an outrigger boat; which are famous in the Philippines. From the Sabang dock, it’s a 30-minute outrigger boat ride to the entrance of Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. You will get a little wet on this ride if you sit in front as I did, but it’s really hot so whatever!
The beach and surrounding cliffs at the entrance beach is off the charts. It’s the perfect Southeast Asia scene and just what you picture from a picturesque Asian beach. I could have stayed there all day swimming and taking photos.
It’s a five-minute walk to the where you get on a small outrigger canoe to enter the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River cave. This is truly one of the most beautiful entrances and settings I’ve ever seen. The crystal clear greenish water is to die for and you will be mesmerized at its beauty.
There’s a very small area where you hop on the canoes and they stagger the groups so there’s fewer people; which is a good thing. For photos, there’s an awesome tree that lies out over the water that you can climb on to take great shots of the cave or with you in them.
Once in the cave it is really dark. The guide will have a light in the front to highlight some awesome rock formations and of course the bats on the ceiling. There will be a driver who kind of acts like a punter that you’d see in Venice, Italy but instead of singing, he cracks jokes. Our guide and driver were excellent and really funny.
It’s difficult to take good photos in the cave because it is so dark but that makes for a better experience overall because you’re really focusing on what you’re seeing and doing. It’s like another world in the cave and the underground river goes on for over five miles (or eight kilometers).
We were underneath for about 45 minutes in total and I could have stayed there for hours. It really was a fascinating place and so massive that it was mind-blowing. I was truly surprised about how impressive it was. I really didn’t expect much to be honest and that’s my fault because I just didn’t know better. But now I do and I am telling you how good a trip it is and it’s well worth going out of your way to get to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River. It will blow your mind!