Photograph Courtesy Justin Williams
Greece, fittingly, is a siren song for newlyweds. Even in the midst of a well-publicized economic meltdown, the historical influence, picturesque Mediterranean landscapes, and endless blocks of crumbly feta cheese are too persuasive when it comes to the honeymoon aspirations of young doe-eyed couples—my wife and I included.
Ultimately, the hand wringing over empty ATMs and shuttered businesses proved to have no noticeable impact, at least as far as our trip was concerned. Still, unless the purpose of your voyage is a deep-dive into the origins of Greek society, a couple nights in the capital city of Athens is plenty of time to experience the cradle of Western civilization. The posh Electra Palace Hotel is within walking distance of the Acropolis and offers gorgeous, sweeping views of the Parthenon from its in-house pool and restaurant. An afternoon spent exploring the Acropolis and adjacent museum is worth even the recently increased 20-euro price of admission, too, as long as you prepare yourself for the deluge of selfie sticks awaiting you in the house that Pericles built.
If you’re honeymooning, the beauty of the Cyclades islands are where you should invest your time, and Santorini is the crown jewel. The ubiquitous photos of the island’s signature whitewash houses and blue-domed roofs don’t do justice to how uniquely stunning the destination is in person. With its rocky landscape formed by a 16th-century volcanic eruption, the primary towns of Fira and Oia are seemingly built into the side of the Cyclades’ southernmost isle, hovering above the caldera of the Aegean Sea. The cramped, undulating cobblestone streets and geometric architecture are catalysts for escapism, and the sunsets alone are worth the transatlantic odyssey. The Theoxenia Boutique Hotel in Fira is just across the street from the island’s west-facing coastline, offering breathtaking, unobstructed views of the caldera from its terraces and select rooms, and at a cheaper rate than most of the lodging directly along the coast or in the pricier Oia. (Plus, because its prime setting prevents transportation from dropping you right in front, the quick uphill trek—luggage and all—only enhances the island’s welcome far-flung vibes.) The accommodations are comfortable while admittedly modest, but the location, friendly and attentive staff, and oversized breakfast tray delivered to your room each morning more than compensate for any lack of opulence.
Santorini is unquestionably and unashamedly touristy—packed with stores hawking gaudy jewelry and knick-knacks sandwiched between overpriced restaurants—but your personal experience doesn’t have to be. The hotel staff is generally more than happy to suggest off-the-beaten-path destinations and affordable grub, as well as the places worth dropping a little extra coin on. And don’t hesitate to explore the island on your own. The cheap and reliable bus system makes traveling from Fira to Oia (and anywhere else on the island) a breeze, and if you have a question, the locals are friendly and eager to help. You’re bound to stumble upon a handful of jaw-dropping views purely by accident. One tourist attraction worth shelling out for is the Sunset Oia sailing cruise, an all-day boat trip around the island. Swim in the hot springs, hike a volcano, visit various beaches, and get a quick history lesson, all while lounging in the sun, noshing on authentic Greek cuisine, and sipping ouzo. The excursion ends with a front-row view of the famed Oia sunset, the sky melting from bright blue to soft oranges and pinks as the boat drifts just beyond the town’s harbor.
In spite of the economic turbulence, journeying to Greece is an impulse worth indulging. Though when it comes to the feta, pace yourself.
Theoxenia Boutique Hotel: Humble digs, but in a prime Fira location with perfect sunset views and a first-rate staff. theoxenia.net
Sunset Oia Sailing Cruise: See the island of Santorini by boat while relishing the clear waters of the Aegean Sea and gorging on tasty Greek cuisine. sailing-santorini.com