Real Honeymoon: Greece

This week’s post comes from Jaclyn and Chris who recently traveled to Greece for their honeymoon. Despite the country’s major financial crisis, tourists have been reporting that their travels have not been majorly affected in a negative way. (Blogger Adventurous Kate wrote a great post about this a few weeks ago, and I highly recommend checking it out if you plan on visiting Greece soon.)

Unless you’re really into historical sightseeing, most tourists prefer to spend the majority of their time in Greece on the islands rather on the mainland. In fact, you can pack in a lot of the major Athens sites in just one day. Read all about Jaclyn and Chris’ Greek island hopping honeymoon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

June 25th, 2015 – July 6th, 2015 in Greece (specifically, Athens, Mykonos & Santorini).

greek honeymoon

How long was your trip?

11 days/10 nights – we stayed in Athens for one night on each end and the two island for 4 nights each.

greece honeymoon

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

I love to relax by the pool/beach and my husband can’t sit still. We were looking for a place where we would have ample relaxation time but would have the latitude to be active when we wanted.

Additionally, we did not want to feel trapped at our hotel with nothing to do. Greece appeared to fit the bill as it has it all: pools, beaches, activities and nightlife.

greece honeymoon

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Kayaking in Mykonos. We found a family-owned business called “Mykonos Kayak Tours & Trails.” They took us into the Aegean on two person kayaks in a group of about 16. They were so knowledgeable and helpful and we got a great workout while having fun. Also, at the end of the trip, they provided a lunch which was made of all locally sourced products: bread from a local bakery, feta from a local cheese shop, produce grown on the island and olive oil from Greece. It made for a simple sandwich, but my husband and I both called it the “best sandwich we’ve ever had.” Continue reading

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Real Honeymoon: Greece & Turkey

This week’s real honeymooners are my college friend Mike and his wife Jennifer. I backpacked around Europe with Mike* and a couple of other friends eight years ago, and I think it’s safe to say that this trip was much, much nicer. Read all about their amazing honeymoon in Greece and Turkey below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We started off with Greece – first in Santorini, then Crete, and Athens.  We ended the trip in Istanbul, Turkey.**  We began our trip two days after our wedding, in late May [2014].

Santorini Honeymoon

How long was your trip?

Our trip was two weeks long.

greece honeymoon

How did you decide on your honeymoon destinations?

We had heard that Santorini really had the honeymoon thing down pat so we were very excited about that – we were focused on starting the trip with some rest and relaxation.  But we also wanted to mix in some adventure and culture, which is where Athens and Istanbul came in.  Crete provided us with another island experience and we chose it over Mykonos because we heard that Mykonos was very similar to Santorini except had more of a party vibe – which we were not looking for on our honeymoon.

Santorini honeymoon

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Exploring Santorini on foot and the walking tours of Istanbul.

Santorini honeymoon

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

We splurged for a private pool in Crete however the weather was too cold in early June for us to use it.  The pool water in Santorini and Crete were both too cold to swim in, if unheated, so I would consider that when booking.  In hindsight, I should have booked a room with a private jacuzzi instead of pool.

santorini honeymoon

How much planning did you do in advance?

Very little.  We honed in on the locations that we thought we wanted to hit, and then consulted with and used a travel agent.

Santorini honeymoon

What was your biggest honeymoon splurge?

The room with its own private pool.

santorini sunset

Where do you want to go on your next big trip?

Groom (Ireland); Bride (Thailand). So, Thailand it is.***

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* Funny story from Mike’s and my 2006 Eurotrip: Our other friends had just left us to go back home, and Mike and I were alone on a train in the south of France headed to Spain. We were tired, dressed like typical backpackers, and were holding our noses because someone in our train car was eating the stinkiest cheese known to man. Another traveler smiled at us and asked in French if we were “on the vacation after the wedding.” I looked and Mike and shouted “NON!” I’m so relieved that both of our honeymoons turned out much better than that.

** Below are some extra recommendations from Mike:

  • I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVED our hotel, Astra Suites in Santorini. It was in a perfect middle location and the service was the best I have ever received anywhere in the world. There are only 24 rooms so it is quaint and every employee knows who you are; it makes you feel special. If you are on your honeymoon they give you a free, private tour in their spa, so you and your spouse can use the steam room, jacuzzi, etc.
  • In Crete we stayed at Blue Palace which is a Starwood resort. It was very nice; however, it’s a big resort nevertheless so you never really felt too special.
  • Athens we stayed at Electra Palace. It was in a perfect location near the Acropolis and Plaka (the neighborhood for good shopping). Great guest experience and location – I would recommend it.
  • In Istanbul we stayed at the Marti Istanbul Hotel. Excellent hotel and amenities. Very close to Taksim Square which was nice. There are multiple other points in town to stay at and visit which required us to take cabs, but I would stay here again.
  • In Istanbul we had a wonderful dinner at the Turkish restaurant within Reina which is a multi-restaurant/club on the Bosphorus. Great for people-watching but very, very expensive. It’s fun to get dolled up and get “Euro” at least once, and I’m glad we did it at this place.

*** Smart move, Mike!

Real Honeymoon: Greece & Italy

In search of gorgeous scenery and delicious food, Sarah and Charlie honeymooned in two of the most popular European destinations: Santorini and the Amalfi Coast. Read all about their amazing honeymoon in Greece and Italy below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

For our honeymoon, we went to Santorini, Greece and the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

SantoriniHotel

How long was your trip?

We were gone for 12 days. We arrived in Santorini in the morning, stayed there for 5 nights, and then we flew directly into Naples and split our time in Italy: 3 nights in Ravello, 3 nights in Positano and 1 night in Naples (we had a super early flight).

Ravello Honeymoon

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

We had a hard time picking our honeymoon. It was between Greece/Italy or Africa. I know- huge difference. We decided on Italy/Greece because we really wanted to use the time to relax, go to the beach, and eat good food. We had both been to Italy but not the coast, and neither of us had been to Greece so we were excited to visit these places for the first time together. We both love to cook and learn about food, so we felt like this was perfect for our hobby. We decided we would save Africa for some time down the road when we’re not coming off the heels of a whirlwind wedding weekend!

Santorini honeymoon

The best part about our honeymoon was…

This is hard since we went to two different places!

– The best part of our honeymoon in Greece was a day on a catamaran sailing around the island. We used Santorini Sailing to set up our trip. We were on a catamaran with a few other couples and one couple with their college-aged son. Not only was it a beautiful day at sea, but it was so fun to meet people from different countries. Everyone on the boat came from somewhere different: Canada, New York, England, and France. On the boat they grilled up some fresh calamari, served some amazing fresh salads, pastas, and meat dishes- all authentic greek food.

Santorini Honeymoon

– Our favorite part of our Italy portion was our cooking class. We went to Mamma Agata’s Cooking School, definitely a highlight of our trip!! We spent the day learning to cook the best eggplant parmesan I’d ever had, lemon cake, pastas, and other dishes that were so delicious. In between breaks, we were able to take our wine and walk around their gardens where they grew all their fresh vegetables. It didn’t hurt that they view looked over the Amalfi Coast. The class was full of other honeymooners which made it really fun. Afterwards, we went as a group to visit the Terrace of Infinity — the view was astounding.

Ravello honeymoon

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

We spent our last night in Naples because we flew out of Naples, connected in Rome. We had a car pick us up at our Positano hotel at 5:30pm to bring us to Naples because we didn’t want to leave! Our driver told us he often brings people from Positano directly to Rome. We realized that we could have had one more night in Positano, and left really early to make the same flight. I wish we could have had the extra night there because I got sick on that portion of the trip, so we missed out on a couple restaurants I was looking forward to trying.

Positano Honeymoon

How much planning did you do in advance?

We did a good amount of planning in advance. I knew a few people who had done Amalfi or Santorini for their honeymoons or vacations, so my first step was to reach out to people I knew. I always like getting an opinion from someone I know/trust rather than hitting trip advisor. I also looked at Travel and Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, etc. for suggestions. We did find out about the cooking class through trip advisor- the reviews were insane, it was a no brainer. We found out about the sailing trip through a girl from college. I saw her honeymoon pics on Facebook and immediately emailed her for all Santorini suggestions, same with my boss who had just visited that previous summer. Word of mouth was really important to me because I know how I trust. (I wish I had this website to turn to–I love hearing about people’s trips!)

Santorini Windmills

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Real Honeymoon: Italy & Greece (Part 2)

Yesterday’s blog post was the first half of Jenny and Tyler’s amazing honeymoon in Italy and Greece, and when we left off Jenny was talking about three of her favorite parts of the trip.  Number three is below:

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#3 Staying at Ikies and watching the sunset

We arrived in Santorini in the late afternoon and took a 20 minute shuttle to our hotel in Oia, which is where the amazing sunset takes place. We thought it would be fun to explore Oia for 3 nights and then head down to Kumari Beach for the remaining 3 nights before flying to Athens. Our hotel, Ikies, is nothing short of spectacular and couldn’t imagine a more breathtaking view and private terrace. This room and view has been our inspiration to get us through work and school!

santorini sunset 1

Another gorgeous Santorini sunset

santorini couple

santorini breakfast

That Greek breakfast looks delicious!

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

We probably didn’t need to stay as long in Santorini and could have gotten away with either an extra day or two in Rome or Athens. We absolutely loved the week there; however, by the end of the week, we had really seen everything there was to see on the island.

basilica

The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City

acropolis

Tyler posing on the way up to the Acropolis in Athens

How much planning did you do in advance?

We booked all of our flights and hotels prior and had done a decent amount of research on all of the activities there were in each city. We did book the cooking school months before as it’s extremely popular and we wanted to make sure we got a spot.

Beautiful Positano

Beautiful Positano

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Real Honeymoon: Italy & Greece (Part 1)

Jenny and Tyler’s Mediterranean honeymoon was so great that I didn’t want to confine their stories and photos to one blog post.  Read the first part about their honeymoon in Italy and Greece today, and then make sure to check back to the blog tomorrow to read Part 2!  Oh, and prepare to drool over their Italian cooking class photos ; )

When and where did you honeymoon?

We went to Positano and Rome in Italy, and then Santorini (Oia and Kamari Beach) and Athens in Greece.

Positano honeymoon

How long was your trip?

We opted for an extended honeymoon of 2.5 weeks, which was the perfect amount as we were able to truly unplug, relax, and not feel like we needed to rush around.

Amalfi Coast

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

We didn’t go on our honeymoon until our one year anniversary as my husband started business school at Columbia the week after we got married. We moved to NYC three days after we got married, which was quite the whirlwind. We were initially going to take our honeymoon to Thailand in January during his Christmas break; however, he found out that first year students complete their recruiting during the break :( So, we were back to the drawing board and decided to take two weeks in August just before school started up. We both had wanted to go to Italy and Greece and thought it would be perfect timing, which it was!

The best part about our honeymoon was…

#1 Mamma Agata Cooking School

There was so much anticipation with this day as we had booked this activity in January! We got the recommendation to try this cooking school from my good friend’s older sister who had attended a cooking class with her husband. The reviews on Trip Advisor were nothing short of amazing and we were really excited to go.

mamma

Tyler and Jenny with Mamma Agata

Upon arriving, her daughter Chiara greeted us with a huge hug and welcomed us into her family’s home. We took 10 steps down to the terrace and were overwhelmed by the most beautiful views of the Amalfi Coast. We were introduced to the other guests participating in the cooking class and enjoyed a cup of coffee and Mamma Agata’s famous lemon cake. It was the perfect way to kick off a cooking class….by eating!

lemon cake

The infamous lemon cake

Promptly at 11am, we were guided into the kitchen by Chiara where we met Mamma Agata and began the cooking class. We learned so many tips and tricks and got to sample everything! It isn’t your typical hands-on class, but rather is all about understanding the techniques and art of selecting the right food and preparing it perfectly. We cooked until about 1:30pm (and took several wine and food breaks in between) before taking a longer break to explore the family’s garden. The coolest part of the cooking school is that Mamma Agata and her family grow all their own vegetables and raise their own animals on the hillside. The garden was so impressive and really made us want to garden one day! After our break, Chiara, her husband Gennaro, and their son Mario (11 years old and precious), served us the lunch we had cooked: the most amazing Eggplant Parmigiana, Sausage and Red Pepper Pasta, Farmer’s Spaghetti, Lemon Chicken, and Coccolis (fritters). It was seriously the best Italian meal we have ever had!!!!

pasta spaghetti eggplant

After a long meal, we ended the day with one last slice of lemon cake, said our goodbyes, and walked down the 1,000 feet (stairs) to Amalfi. We walked around Amalfi for about one hour before taking the ferry (8 Euro per person each way) back to Positano. It was the perfect way to end the most AMAZING day.

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Real Honeymoon: Greece & France

I haven’t met my sister’s friends Erin and Austin before, but after reading about their honeymoon in Greece and Paris, I feel like we have a lot in common.  Prioritizing their honeymoon around beaches and good food?  It’s like we have ESP or something.  Check out their amazing honeymoon in the Greek Isles and Paris below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

Santorini, Mykonos, and Paris [June 2013].

Santorini honeymoon

How long was your trip?

Santorini for 3 nights, Mykonos for 3 nights, and Paris for 7 nights.

Santorini honeymoon

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

One of Austin’s best friends was getting married in Mykonos, so we planned our wedding dates to coordinate. We also really wanted to go to France because going to fabulous restaurants is one of our favorite things to do!

Mykonos honeymoon

The best part about our honeymoon was…

I don’t think I can narrow down one best part because there were so many awesome things we did. Food was definitely one of the highlights. We heavily researched our restaurant selection for Paris and it really paid off; we had unforgettable food and dining experiences. We also had a great time celebrating Austin’s friend’s wedding, it was a beautiful setting at the lovely Mykonos Grand Hotel. Another highlight was the boat ride we took in Santorini. Only one other couple was on the boat, and they were also on their honeymoon! It was beautiful, the crew cooked us an amazing lunch, and our boat even got a visit from a playful dolphin! In Paris we also did a lot of walking through neighborhoods and sitting on park benches – it was fabulous.

Paris honeymoon

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

I would have packed warmer clothes and closed toed shoes for Paris! We were there the second week in June, but it was fairly chilly and it even rained for one whole day.

Paris honeymoon

How much planning did you do in advance?

I planned a lot in advance, but most of the planning was food related. I made dinner reservations for most nights of the trip about a month ahead of time. One of our friend’s travels the world just to eat delicious food, so we had awesome restaurant suggestions to work with. I also looked at all the menus and read tons of Yelp reviews. We were only disappointed with one restaurant (L’Atelier de Joel Robouchon) mostly due to their terrible and overpriced wine suggestion. I also booked the catamaran trip ahead of time in Santorini.

Paris cheese shop

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Real Honeymoon: Greece & Turkey

Last week I published Jennie and Chris’ Napa mini-moon post, and this week we have all of the details on their longer European honeymoon in Greece and Turkey!

When and where did you honeymoon?

Greece and Turkey in May/June 2012. We went to Athens, Santorini, Ephesus, and Istanbul.

Turkey & Greece

How long was your trip?

2 weeks.

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

We’d heard great things about Greece and Turkey, and we wanted to take advantage of living a bit closer to Europe (we were living in DC at the time but live in California now).

Greece

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Spending a lot of time reading and laying in the sun in Santorini. We stayed at a great little hotel overlooking the caldera, and it had nice beach chairs right outside our room, on a balcony with a gorgeous view.

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

I’d spend maybe one less day in Istanbul. It is a really cool city, but six days was one day too many. We just got tired of sightseeing and walking around a city.

Turkey & Greece

How much planning did you do in advance?

We booked hotels, flights, and ferries in advance. We also booked a nice dinner in Istanbul for our first wedding anniversary. Otherwise, we planned everything else once we arrived.

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Honeymoon Destination Recommendations For… Serious Beach Bums

You know how the surfers in the Endless Summer movies spent their days searching for the perfect wave?  Well, I wish I had more time to travel the globe in search of the perfect beach.

Fortunately, I’ve already visited some pretty spectacular beaches over the past 28 years, so I am going to share with you a list of some of my favorites*.  Hopefully the list will help the beach bums out there decide where to go on your honeymoon:

1) Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach via Damien Dempsey

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Whitehaven Beach.  Located in the Whitsunday Islands (which is FULL of incredible beaches), Whitehaven is quite aptly named because it has the softest, whitest sand that I’ve ever seen in the world.  My friends and I were told that brushing our teeth with the sand acts as a whitener, but in retrospect that probably wasn’t the best idea for us to do.  That aside, it is the most spectacular beach I’ve ever seen.

2) Cap Juluca, Anguilla

Cap Juluca

Cap Juluca via Tiarescott

Popular with celebrities like Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston, the pristine beach at the Cap Juluca resort makes it a quintessential honeymoon destination.  It’s also just a short boat ride away from nearby St. Maarten, so you can just check it out for a day if you don’t want to stay at the resort.  Okay, okay, I know we all WANT to stay there, but it’s just really expensive, that’s all.

3) Playa Cristal, Colombia

I was blown away by Playa Cristal because of the clearness of the water and the beautiful backdrop of the lush jungle.  You can hire a boat in Taganga to take you to the beach.  Unfortunately I couldn’t bring a camera with me to the beach because our next stop was Playa Brava where we actually swam to shore, slept on the beach overnight, then hiked out of Parque Tayrona the next day and hitched a ride back to Santa Marta, so bringing electronics along was a no-no.  You’ll just have to trust me that the beach was so wonderful that it made my list of top 3 beaches in the world.

4) Playa Blanca, Colombia

Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca, land of magical beagle puppies

Yes, yes, another Colombian beach.  I don’t know if I’ve expressed how much my husband and I love Colombia yet on the blog, but we highly recommend going there if you love beaches, friendly people, and good food.  You can reach Playa Blanca from Cartagena in one of two ways: hire a private boat down by the fish market (just hold your nose while you’re there – it really stinks), or sign up for an “organized” day tour.  It seems like the organized day tour is less than ideal though because it only brings you to the crowded part of the beach, so go with the private boat for a more relaxing experience.

For honeymooners who want to rough it, you can spend the night in hammocks at Hugo’s.  My husband and I thought it was the greatest place ever because 1) it was BEAUTIFUL, 2) it was the first time we slept in hammocks during that trip so the novelty made it fun and not back-breaking yet, and 3) we woke up in the morning to a litter of beagle puppies that were born overnight.  Beagle.  Puppies.  In.  Paradise.  Probably one of the best days of my life.

5) Lake Mckenzie, Fraser Island, Australia

Lake Mckenzie Beach via Sensenmann

The colors of Lake Mckenzie look totally fake, but I assure you, this is really, really what the lake looks like.

6) Lanikai, Oahu, Hawaii

Lanikai

Lanikai Beach via Cristo Vlahos

A friend of mine who was living in Honolulu at the time took my husband and me to Lanikai, a beautiful beach that isn’t terribly overcrowded with tourists.  Do yourself a favor and pick up some Leonard’s malasadas to eat when you get to the beach.  A perfect combination.

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Honeymoon Destination Recommendations For… Party Animals!

Not everyone has the same thoughts in mind when they think about a “perfect honeymoon.”  For some couples, the ideal honeymoon means relaxing on a beach with cocktails in hand.  Other couples prefer to go somewhere with plenty of sightseeing options.  And some couples, you’ll know who you are, just want to party their pants off.  In this installment of my “Where To Go” series of posts, I’ll share my top 3 honeymoon destinations for party animals.

1) Ibiza, Spain

Ibiza

Ibiza, Spain

Ibiza may be naturally gorgeous, but I think the Spanish island is most famous for its unparalleled club scene.  I haven’t been there myself, but friends of mine who have gone there recently raved about the fresh seafood, indulgent spas, and breathtaking hotels on the island.  But of course, the real draw is the nightlife.  Ibiza Spotlight has a great informational page for Ibiza Virgins that is helpful for navigating the club scene and buying advance tickets.

Ibiza is just a 50 minute flight from Barcelona, and I definitely recommend spending a few days there either on your way to or from the island.  Barcelona also has a surprisingly good man-made beach that was created for the 1992 Olympics, so you can split your days between sightseeing and sunbathing.

2) Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand

Full Moon Party drink buckets via A.Haldun ONUK

Full Moon Party drink buckets via A.Haldun ONUK

You’ve probably heard about Full Moon Parties before, but did you know that they originated on the small island of Koh Pha Ngan in Thailand?  There are plenty of imitation parties now throughout Southeast Asia (and “Half Moon Parties” too), but nothing compares to the original.

These parties occur once a month (duh), so either make hotel reservations in advance or plan on arriving to the island a few days before the party in order to arrange your lodging.  Some people even take the ferry over from one of the neighboring islands like Koh Samui or Koh Tao just for the night of the party, but believe me, you won’t feel like getting on a ferry too soon afterward.

Full Moon Party dos and don’ts:

Do: use common sense, buy yourself a drink bucket or two, and check out the ladyboys.  (Yes, those hot Thai ladies are probably not women after all.)

Don’t: accept food or drinks from strangers, bring too much cash or any valuables with you, or wear nice clothing.  Someone is bound to spill drinks or rub body paint on you at some point during the night.

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Delaying Your Honeymoon? Travel in January!

A lot of people choose not to go on their honeymoons directly after their weddings for a variety of reasons. As I wrote in a previous blog post about timing your honeymoon, I think it’s really important for a couple to consider where they want to go, what their work/school situation is like, how they want others to treat their honeymoon, and their finances.

Ko Olina, Oahu

Sunset at Ko Olina, Oahu

So if you do want to delay your honeymoon, when is the best month to travel?  That, of course, depends on where you’d like to go.  There are certain places that have great weather all year (e.g. Hawaii), but obviously the major European destinations like Italy and Greece are going to be quite cold.  Beach Tomato’s “Follow The Sun” map is an awesome tool for finding sunny destinations all year round.

Financially speaking though, January is a great month for traveling.  Prices are usually at all-time highs around the December holidays, but they drop dramatically after January 1st once kids go back to school.  And for spontaneous couples that don’t need a lot of time to plan ahead, you can get really great travel deals if you actually book your January trip at the last minute.

What are my favorite January destinations?  If you’re looking for warm weather, it’s a great month to visit the Southern Hemisphere, and I especially recommend going to Australia, New Zealand, or Argentina.  I’d also looove to visit South Africa in January one day, too.

But if getting a tan isn’t high on your honeymoon priority list, January is also the perfect time to visit world-class ski resorts throughout the U.S., Canada, and Switzerland.