There are thousands of islands surrounding the Greek mainland. I only had time to visit three: Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete.
Before arriving, I knew two things about Mykonos–great architecture, and great partying. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it offers so much more…great beaches, gorgeous sunsets, and enchanting winding streets. The best way to see the island is to rent a four-wheeler, which almost everyone does. Champagne flows like water. It is also a celebrity hangout, full of hilarious cliches. Lindsay Lohan sightings, Dolce and Gabanna docking their boat, and the piece de resistance…running into Valentino at a lounge. Mykonos surpassed my expectations. Come for the nightlife, and stay for the steamy days…if you’re able to wake up before sunset.
Santorini is marketed as one of the most romantic places on the planet. This might be true, but the throngs of summer tourists are a huge detractor. The best way to get away from the most touristy areas is to do a boat trip, which goes to several beaches accessible only by boat. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the food. One highlight was Ambrosia, located in Oia. The ambiance was great, with stellar views. The wine was excellent. The standout was a salmon tartare with avocado appetizer. It was expertly prepared, with just the right amount of citrus and seasoning. It was perfection. I literally could not stop eating it. I’ve been craving salmon tartare since, and I haven’t had anything stateside that comes close. The shrimp and local fish of the day were both fresh and delicious. The meal was capped by a to die for panna cotta. Santorini was not my favorite island, but I would go back in a heartbeat for a dinner at Ambrosia.
Crete is a unique island. It’s difficult not to fall in love as soon as you land. The Greek people are known for their warmth and friendliness, but the Cretans take it to another level. Everyone warned me that three days there wouldn’t be enough…now, I understand why. The food and wine in Crete is superb. My favorite meal was at Erganos, an unassuming family-owned restaurant. The lamb was outstanding. It was at Erganos that I was introduced to Raki, the extremely strong official spirit of Crete. It’s common to have a complimentary bottle brought to the table after a meal in Crete. I couldn’t handle more than one shot at a time. I fared much better with the wine. While it can be hit or miss in the rest of Greece (the whites tend to be better, in my experience), Crete’s climate produces excellent wines. I enjoyed the wineries so much that I forgot to note my favorites, but trust me…in Crete, it’s hard to go wrong.