You know how once you go on one trip, you realize there are so many other places you want to explore? That was how I felt last spring after visiting a friend who was living abroad in Madrid.
I was speaking to her about how much I wanted to travel but how hard it was to find others who had the time or money to go with. I had also moved to New York in the past year and wanted to take advantage of being closer to Europe than in my home state of Arizona.
She mentioned that she’d been on a great tour through Egypt and Jordan with Intrepid. I started looking at their trips and was drawn to an island hopping tour of Greece. I’d wanted to go there since reading the book Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I was also drawn to the island hopping tour as I wanted to experience multiple islands and, well, because I love the beach. I loved the idea of a small group tour and having a local tour leader.
Eventually I picked the 8-day Athens to Santorini trip for September; here’s why I’m so glad I did:
Most of the international trips I’ve been on I have planned every little detail – and with this trip I wanted to just show up and have all those little details planned. Angela, my tour leader, was so helpful. I did not have to navigate through a new city and at most of our destinations there was a bus waiting for us to get to the hotel.
All the hotels were lovely and most even had a pool. I spent most of my time exploring and only saw the hotel room at night but having a clean and comfortable room to come back to every night helped me enjoy the trip.
The location of the hotels in each destination also made the trip more enjoyable. For example, the hotel in Santorini was walking distance to the black-sand beach, which was amazing. Myself and others in the group went down to the beach and relaxed with drinks, read books and swam.
Additionally, the ferry system in Greece can be difficult to navigate so it was nice to not have to worry about buying tickets or which ferry to board – Angela arranged everything. I enjoyed not having to worry about what time I needed to leave the hotel to make the ferry or arranging transit to the hotels.
Honestly, I was pretty nervous as a solo female traveler going on a group tour. Would the group be full of couples or groups of friends that already knew each other? Those fears were quickly put to ease the first night. My group was a mix of couples, friends and solo travelers ranging from early 20s to 60s. There were actually four solo travelers, spanning every decade from 20s to 50s.
Our group had such a great dynamic – everyone was so friendly and most nights we would end up all going out to dinner together. I felt comfortable having a conversation with anyone on it. Though I definitely could have ventured off on my own to do activities, there were usually a few others who wanted to go to the beach, shop or explore the towns.
One of my favorite parts of the tour was when myself and three others, along with our tour leader Angela, hiked from Santorini to Oia. The views were incredible! I would have not even attempted this hike alone if it weren’t for the encouragement of others in the group.
After the tour I had planned on heading to Athens and found out that two others in my group had similar plans. We ended up meeting up and exploring the city together. The tour started in Athens but didn’t spend a full day there, so I definitely recommend adding a day on in the beginning or end of your tour.
I still keep in touch with a lot of others from the group on Facebook and a few of them even have plans to visit me in New York!
I love trying new food but it’s impossible to order everything on the menu by yourself. For all of my meals I was with at least two other people in my group and, luckily, everyone enjoyed sharing their food.
Bonus: our tour leader had great suggestions about what foods to order. I particularly enjoyed trying moussaka while in Santorini (a delicious lasagna-like dish with eggplant, ground beef and cheese). Another thing I was surprised to learn was that most gyros in Greece were pork-based and not lamb like was I accustomed to back home.
Some of the best spots I have been to when traveling were recommended by friends who had already been to the country. On my island hopping tour, having Angela as our local leader was like having a friend with endless recommendations. Whether it was restaurants, shops or beaches, she always knew where to go.
One of my favorite spots she recommended was a beach in Syros called Galissas. It was easily accessible by a 15-minute taxi from the hotel. There were only a handful of other people around when we got there, the water was so clear and it was so quiet and relaxing.
Overall I would recommend this island hopping tour to any of my friends. I loved the variety of locations visited, making new friends, sharing food and stress-free travel.
Ready to embark on the Greek island hopping adventure of a lifetime? Check out Intrepid’s range of Greece trips.
(Image credits from top to bottom: Intrepid Travel x2, Meg Dolohanty, Intrepid Travel, Meg Dolohanty, Intrepid Travel x2.)