While travel was still possible, we’ve booked the tickets to Athens. We just had to use that chance this year to get away as the pandemic was showing signs of second lockdown being likely soon, and because of quarantine rules not applied for Greek/UK travel – Greece was our choice. We guessed right, Athens went into partial lockdown on the last day of our trip and UK was to go into lockdown two days later after we came back.

Greece first impressions

As usually we rented a car and drove a bit further from Athens to our first hotel booked. The weather was 24-25ºC which made the coming November completely pleasant compared to weather in London or nearby European regions. We got to our first Hotel where after one day relaxing next to the sea we’ve started our exploration by car. Having been to Crete and Cyprus, I have personally found Athens region to be somewhat familiar from a similar architecture and views.

During the first days of travel during the times of pandemic we’ve noticed that many places are closed, hotels are almost empty and some of them having really hard times. That has been confirmed by one of the hotel managers when I was checking out. While driving around we noticed many places potentially been very active and crowded during normal times, now just left empty and closed. Abandoned buildings in Greece are probably a common thing even without a pandemic. So these ghost incomplete or abandoned buildings play their own role in the scenery of Greece. If there is some little shop open, it actually surprised us that they would be really clean and nice, despite the abandoned environment which might suggest the different.

The places we visited

One of the most important aspects of this trip for me have been visiting ancient temples and taking beautiful shots of them. For some reason I like this kind of places. The first place of this kind on this trip was a Temple of Poseidon. €10 per person might sound a bit steep for an entrance, but amazing views from the hill and we happened to be there for the golden hour (the perfect photographic timing). Beautiful light, views to the sea and a sunset to the mountains. Pictures will talk for themselves here.

One of the days was heavily rainy, at least on the weather forecast and later we’ve experienced some heavy rain on the way back to the hotel, but we somehow managed to work around the rainy day by going to the mountains and having some little adventures there driving off-road like gravel up to the Dirfi mountain to check out the Katafigio Mihalis Nikolaou. On the map it appeared as a place to visit, so we were curious to see it ourselves as driving on the main road didn’t seem enough of adventure. Some careful driving around rocks trying not to damage the car and we were rewarded with some amazing views, a little rain and a full rainbow. I’ve also found a bath in the middle of the mountain, wondering what would it be there for… meanwhile a herd of sheep came down from the mountain to drink from it. For that day we headed back to our hotel for the last night before moving on to explore Athens.

Corinth Canal is another unique place to visit, especially it was to us, as we’ve never been to any man made canal where ships shorten sailing routes. It is 6.4km length but quite narrow I would say. We happened to see one bigger ship crossing as we were visiting one of the footpath crossings above the canal. There were some old bunkers on the North West entrance of the canal. At some point in history they played the role of guarding the canal entrance.

Then after having a good lunch in Korinth, we headed to Loutraki for good desserts and a sunset. The sunset has lit the layers of the mountains which resulted in few nice panoramic photos. Loutraki also has a very beautiful seaside walk with restaurants and cafes. I believe it would be quite crowded during the season during non pandemic times.

Athens impressions and places to see

My thoughts about Athens are quite mixed. Lots of abandoned buildings, streets marking nearly non existent and traffic is quite chaotic. Speed limits are also widely ignored by the local drivers. What I haven’t experienced before is noticing the presence of mafia in the city. On the other hand the downtown streets are quite beautiful, shops are tidy and Greek tendency for aesthetics cannot slip unnoticed. But not everywhere.

As we were travelling by car it was quite surprising to be able to park in most locations for free, of course a different story in Athens. However if you really wanted, it is possible to find free on-street parking in Athens too. Otherwise if not free then there would be a parking lot with a guard, who collects your keys and manages car parking to organise cars in the most efficient way. The closest parking we’ve found next to Acropolis was €10 for 5 hours stay. Which turned out to be just enough as we walked down to the other side of Acropolis to those cozy tiny touristic streets.

Acropolis is the most iconic and important historic place of Athens and Greek history. It is spectacular structure with multiple temples and buildings seen from most of the parts of Athens. Entrance was €20 per person (free for children from EU). I personally felt a little disappointed, as most of the Acropolis was under construction and renovation works and we had to pass a dust cloud at some point. I do believe in few years time it may be a much more interesting place to visit with more rebuilt Parthenon and surroundings. What you will definitely be able to enjoy is the views of Athens to all of the sides, I’ve made few panoramic photos of it too.

The best spot to look at Athens and Acropolis is Lycabettus Hill viewing area. It is free to get up there and that is exactly where I took photos of Acropolis of Athens from.

All in all we had a walk in the centre of Athens, National Garden, Hellenic Parliament (where I took a photo of the guard) and visited few other places nearby.

Athens also has a beautiful port Flisvos Marina, which is full of different restaurants, cafes and bars. Many expensive yachts from all over the world are parked there, especially beautiful and unique in the dark when the water lighting is turned on.

The Dancing Fountains, Stavros Niarchos Park, National Library and Culture Centre is a modern bits of a city located all in one place, definitely worth a visit, however not much going there on during pandemic times.

Wrap up

The food would probably be worth another chapter, however I won’t expand much on it. If you’re used to buy separate dish for every person in Western Europe, in Greece one dish or salad is usually enough for two or perhaps even more (depends on how to how big portions you’re used to). A healthy fulfilling lunch for a family is in the range of €30-60, depending on how fancy the restaurant and what dishes you choose, it may become a hundred or more Euros if you go to something fancy like a restaurant with a view to Acropolis in Athens. Otherwise in most of the locations even higher grade restaurants will make a family of three full for €50-60.

And for the very end of this post I would like to say that I do believe that during non pandemic times and during high season the experience of Greece could be completely different, perhaps much better with way more things to offer. Athens, of course, would be even more crowded and moving around with a car would be more complicated.

Enjoy the travel photos below and don’t forget to check the map for locations!