I always wanted to take a cruise. The sense of traveling from one port to another without having to pack and unpack suitcases was very tempting. Since I hadn't travelled much in the Aegean islands, in September 2012 I decided to buy my ticket and take my first cruise to get to know the Aegean Sea better. I was a bit worried that a cruise might be boring, so much time spent on board, but thankfully the ship sailed mostly during the night and every morning we were at a new island, - or two in the same day. I really enjoyed it and for anyone who wants to see as much as possible of the Aegean islands in 5 days without having to move from hotel to hotel, this cruise is ideal.
We sailed from Piraeus port in Athens on Monday morning at 11.Four hours later we arrived in Mykonos. In September the island wasn't that crowded but the weather was still like summer; in Greece hot weather begins in May and lasts until late October. Mykonos has been a popular tourist destination worldwide since the 50's. Chora, a very common name for most of the capitals of the Aegean islands, has kept the Cycladic architectural order,- white cubic shaped houses on one or more levels, narrow stone paved streets, and countless small white churches with blue domes.
Wherever you look, everything seems familiar. Postcards have done a great job: ''Little Venice '' with the balconies of the beautiful old houses hanging over the sea and the wind mills on the top of the hill, still standing after many centuries. If you are interested in shopping, the Matogiania area is the place to go with all the famous boutiques and art galleries. Shops with souvenirs, cafes and restaurants are everywhere.
Tuesday morning we arrived in Kusadası a resort town on Turkey's Aegean coast. From the port tourist buses took the passengers to visit the archaeological site of Ephesus (Greek: Ἔφεσος; Turkish: Efes) an ancient Greek city (and later a major Roman one) on the coast of Ionia. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era. The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Those who didn't take the Ephesus tour could spend their time at the famous flea market of the town.
On the afternoon of the same day we arrived in Patmos. The island was inscribed in the World Heritage list by UNESCO on 1999. This small island in Dodecanese chain is reputed to be where St John the Theologian wrote both his Gospel and Revelations. As UNESCO describes: the Monastery of Agios Ioannis Theologos (Saint John the Theologian) and the Cave of the Apocalypse on the island of Pátmos, together with the associated medieval settlement of Chora, constitute an exceptional example of a traditional Greek Orthodox pilgrimage centre of outstanding architectural interest. The town of Chora is one of the few settlements in Greece which have evolved uninterruptedly since the 12th century. From the port buses or taxes take the tourists to the monastery and the capital, Chora. The monastery is built like a medieval castle and is really beautiful. The town of Chora is so well preserved; the architecture is amazing.
On Tuesday morning we arrived at Rhodes where we spent the whole day. Rhodes is the fourth biggest island in Greece. The port is just next to the old town of Rhodes. Surrounded by high medieval walls, the old town is the biggest medieval town in Europe that is still populated. It has 2500 residents. Beautiful castles, houses, narrow paved streets, Byzantine churches, Ottoman minarets, fountains, all together. The old town has also been inscribed in the World Heritage list by UNESCO in 1988.
On Wednesday morning when we woke up we were already at the port of Heraklion in Crete. Heraklion is the biggest city in Crete; it isn't exactly what you might have in mind when you think about Cretan architecture, but it’s an urban city with one of the busiest airports in Greece. The Knossós archaeological site with the Minoan palace is the most attractive touristic site in Crete, and it's just outside of Heraklion. This palace is connected with some of the most fascinating stories of Greek mythology: the Minotaur, Daedalus, and Icarus. The city has some very interesting museums and many cultural events take place there every summer.
On Wednesday afternoon we arrived to the most fascinating island of this cruise, Santorini!!! As we were approaching the island the view was already breathtaking: the small white houses of Fyra the capital of the island, built on top of the huge, steep volcanic cliff give a ''snow covered mountain'' effect to the island.
From the old port, we took the cable car up to the center of Fyra; only pictures can describe this place. Everything is built to the classic Cyclades's architectural order but it all looks even more beautiful with this scenery. And then the sunset: I couldn't understand why people came from all over the world for this sunset, until I saw it with my own eyes....
Santorini, apart from being one of the most beautiful islands, is the place of origin of some of the best quality agricultural products in our country. The volcanic soil and the unique dry climate give an exquisite taste to local heirloom tomatoes, yellow split peas cultivated here for thousands of years and wine from local varieties of grapes grown in the volcanic soil of the island without ever being watered. The plants absorb water from the night breeze which brings moisture from the sea. Their taste is unique but the limited production makes it difficult to find them outside of the island. Don't miss the chance to buy local products from small deli shops in Fyra.
We returned to Piraeus port in Athens early on Friday morning.
I really enjoyed this cruise and would definitely try it again.