Wow. I really have a problem. I am a full-blown travel addict. Acceptance is the first step to recovery, right?
I didn’t think I could top last year’s adventures but my travel addiction took control and I went to far more places than I ever imagined!
In 2016, I visited 14 countries, 11 of them new countries, and 3 continents. The 3 repeat countries? My top 3 favourite countries in the world: Italy, Croatia, and Greece! I’ll never get sick of them.
I ended the year with a bang with an unexpected trip to Australia and New Zealand, my dream trip! I jumped on an error fare from LAX to Auckland, New Zealand for $216 round-trip. That is UNHEARD of. I got lucky on that one and I could not pass it up. I had been saving for this dream trip for awhile so it worked out perfectly!
Anyway, here are my top 13 destinations that really blew me away in 2016. Hopefully I can inspire some travel to these places in 2017!
Top 13 Travel Surprises of 2016:
Sao Miguel, Azores
Thanks to Anthony Bourdain, I was introduced to the Azores a few years ago and have been so intrigued to go ever since. It wasn’t until 2015 that they opened up budget airlines to fly into the islands so it was the perfect time to go.
If you’re looking for a fairly unspoilt, non-touristy, nature-centered place to visit, the Azores are right for you! Sao Miguel is the biggest island in the Azores and it was honestly the most naturally beautiful place I have ever laid eyes on. I cannot recommend this place enough.
Do not miss:
Sete Cidades twin lakes– one blue and one green lake surrounded by spectacular greenery and hikes.
Ponta da Ferraria-a hot pool connected to the ocean.
Lagoa do Fogo-hike down to the bottom if you have time for crystal clear waters.
Caldeira Velha-natural hot springs in the middle of the jungle.
Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeiroes– a free natural park with pretty waterfalls.
Dona Beija Thermal Springs-a series of hot pool jacuzzis in a beautiful and relaxing setting.
Victoria Falls really blew me away. Victoria falls lies between Zambia and Zimbabwe in Africa, and is listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world. Did you know that Victoria Falls is also the biggest waterfall in the world (based on width)? I sure as hell didn’t until I was face to face with this amazing natural wonder.
Also a huge surprise was that Victoria Falls is a mini adventure capital. There were SO many adventure activities on offer, we didn’t have enough time to even scratch the surface. From bungee jumping, to high wire activities, to scenic flights over the falls, the amount of fun you can have in this place is endless.
Do not miss:
Microlight flight over the falls (one of the most incredible activities I have ever done in my life).
Devil’s pool (where you can sit on top of the edge of the waterfall..no joke).
The gorge swing and the flying fox.
*Stay tuned for 2 posts about this destination coming soon!
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town was my favorite city I visited in 2016, hands-down. It literally has everything: awesome hikes, mind-blowing viewpoints, some of the greatest food in the world, nearby wineries, epic road trips, and so much more.
Cape Town is underrated in my opinion and I think you should add it to the top of your 2017 bucket list! It’s INCREDIBLE!
Do not miss:
Haut Bay market-live music, artisan shops, and endless food vendors.
Camp’s Bay-the posh beach area reminded me of Malibu, California
Lion’s Head and Table Mountain.
Bombay Bicycle-order the Choco-Chilli steak. Don’t, ask, just do it.
Stellenbosch-take a day and go wine tasting about 45 minutes outside of Cape Town.
Helicopter tour over Cape Town for the best panoramic views over the city.
Road trip on the Cape Peninsula.
Where to Stay in Cape Town:
Derwent House Boutique Hotel. Simply awesome…and super cozy!
My friend Carey and I spent a week in Zanzibar participating in a volunteer project with the incredible RAKlife.org helping to rebuild some houses for those in need. Not only did we get to help make a difference, but we got to spend time in one of the most beautiful places in the world: ZANZIBAR!
The high/low tides in Paje, Zanzibar were unlike anything I had ever seen. During low tide, you could literally walk a mile out onto the sea bed. Not to mention, the color of the water was unreal. Zanzibar will have some of the prettiest waters you will ever see in this world, and that’s no lie.
Do not miss:
The Rock Restaurant (basically in the middle of the ocean)-You take a boat to get to it and after the low tide, you walk back to shore. One of the coolest things I have ever seen. Oh, and the food was great too!
Swimming with wild dolphins (literally)-a 6am start will surely get your adrenaline pumping as you take a small boat out into the sea to search for dolphins. When your guide finds them, you literally jump into the water and swim with them. I can’t even describe the feeling.
Paje Beach-one of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen. There are also a bunch of chill out cafes near the water with hammocks to enjoy the scenery. It’s a very relaxing place.
I have been to Greece several times as it is one of my favorite countries. But nothing prepared me for what I would see and learn at Meteora. In short, it is a city with monasteries built upon rocky pillars. Meteora translates into “suspended in the sky”…and it definitely lives up to its name. It also became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
The history behind this place is incredible so make sure to take a guided tour to put things into perspective. Another plus is that this region of Greece is pretty cheap so it won’t break the bank.
Do not miss:
Meteora Sunset Tour-to get the best photo spots in Meteora, this was my fav tour!
Meteora Hiking Tour-to see the city from the bottom up, it gives a unique perspective.
Who knew the oldest lake in Europe would be one of my favorite destinations of 2016? It’s not really a place on most people’s radars, and as a result, it’s not overrun by mass tourism. BINGO. That’s probably why I enjoyed it so much. You can reach it easily with a 3-hour bus ride from Skopje.
Go to Lake Ohrid for a more peaceful and relaxing trip with great scenery. Also a plus is how cheap everything is there, especially accommodations. I got an entire apartment to myself on Airbnb for $24/night. Ahhh, I love Eastern Europe.♥
Do not miss:
Saint John at Kaneo-a monastery perched upon the cliff overlooking the lake and picturesque AF.
If you know anything about me, you know my favorite country in the world is Italy. I always say I could spend my whole life discovering all of Italy. And that I plan on doing :). Sardinia did not disappoint and has the most consistently beautiful beaches I have ever seen in my life. Period.
I explored solo for 8 days by car and it was one of my favourite trips of the year. Sardinia is very rugged and naturally beautiful, and not to mention HUGE. In 8 days I was only able to see the Northeast of the Island so I definitely plan on going back to see more.
Do not miss:
Cala Goloritze-hands-down one of the prettiest beaches in the world. So much so that the beach itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It requires a 1.5 hour hike through the woods (each way), but 100% worth it. I had the whole entire beach to myself (although it was a cloudy day, it was still gorgeous).
La Maddalena Peninsula-I took my car on the ferry over to La Maddalena and drove around the small little island. The water there was the prettiest blue/green contrasted waters on the whole island of Sardinia.
Costa Smeralda-very posh and expensive but worth a stop.
Capriccioli Beach-made up of 4 small half-cresent beaches and turquoise waters.
Orosei Coast for the best natural beaches on the island.
Where to Stay in Sardinia:
Ecofriendly Luxury Huts at L’essenza, Sardinia-one of the most unique places I have ever stayed. Who wouldn’t want to stay in a luxury teepee surrounded by cats and greenery?
Su Gologone: the prettiest and most colourful boutique hotel I have ever stayed in. It’s an art lover’s dream and the perfect place for total seclusion from the outside world.
Although I had quite the rocky time in Morocco, I couldn’t leave the amazing “blue city” off this list. I had been teased by unreal Instagram photos of this place for what seemed like forever. I couldn’t take it anymore and just had to see for myself.
Chefchaouen exceeded my expectations. It might just be the most picturesque city I’ve ever been to. The location nudged between the Rif Mountains only adds to it’s secluded beauty. It’s a little out of the way to get to, but it was by far my favorite place in Morocco and if you go to only one city, make it this one!
Go to the Spanish Mosque at sunset for the best views.
Shop and bargain for leather goods and pashmina scarves.
Eat at Molin Arte near waterfalls or Cafe Morisco in the main square.
Safari in Kruger National Park
Going on a safari at Kruger National Park in South Africa was not only one of the top 5 travel moments ever, it was probably one of the top 5 highlights of my life. No joke. There is nothing comparable to the thrill of being in an open vehicle and being encountered by the animals in the wild. I’m not going to lie, at some moments, I was scared AF, but that just added to the thrill!
The bonus…we saw the BIG FIVE twice in 3 days!
If you don’t have a safari on your bucket list, put it up by the top! It’s amazing! And not as expensive as you might think. More on my safari adventure with details coming up soon!
Getting to finally see the Great Barrier Reef up close and swim in it was a complete dream come true. It was at the top of my bucket list and it didn’t disappoint. I must say it was a little scary to swim with all the possible deadly animals in the GBR, namely sharks and stingers. But hey, YOLO!
Do not miss:
Day trip to the Outer Great Barrier Reef + Michaelman’s Cay.
Day trip to Fitzroy island-a relaxing a quiet island with lots of water activities and hikes.
Day trip to Cape Tribulation/Port Douglas-the costal views on the way up are worth it alone.
Whitsundays (Whitehaven Beach)
Whitehaven Beach may just be the prettiest beach in the world. At least it was the prettiest beach I had ever seen! The magnificent swirls of white sand contrasted with the turquoise waters was like nothing I had ever seen. Also interesting is that the pattern of swirls changes every 3-4 hours so you will never take the same picture twice.
Do not miss:
Make sure to take a day tour and see the Hill Inlet. This is not included on every tour so make sure your company goes there! This is where you get to hike up and see that spectacular view mentioned above.
Scenic flight over the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef for a different perspective.
New Zealand (all of it!)
I couldn’t pick just one city in New Zealand because everywhere I went was spectacular. The highlights of my trip were bungee jumping for the first time ever in Queenstown, biking through wine country, and visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set on the north island.
New Zealand is for nature lovers and I cherished my time there. It’s definitely a place I would go back to. And the exchange rate was very good so it was quite affordable.
Do not miss:
Bungee jumping in Queenstown, the home of bungee!
Hobbiton movie set.
Wine tasting on Waiheke island.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.
Waitomo Glow worm caves.
Tip: you can only visit Hobbiton on a tour so make sure to buy tickets in advance as they do sell out!
*Stay tuned for a huge post on my highlights of New Zealand soon. In the meantime, here is my bungee jump video:
Where is Crazy Travelista Going in 2017?
That’s a great question. I don’t even know yet myself. Last year I only completed about 50% of my wish list…yet I added 3 huge trips instead to Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Plans are always changing so it’s hard to say.
As of right now, I only have a trip to Lapland, Finland booked in March. Nothing else is planned yet!
But in case you’re wondering, here is my 2017 wish list:
Iran-the homeland! My dad is from Shiraz, Iran, and it would be a dream for me to finally get to see where he came from and to meet a bunch of family over there. In doing my research, I found out that it’s going to be more complicated for me to go than someone who is an American (ironic, huh?).
The Iranian government sees anyone born to an Iranian father as Iranian, regardless of where the mother is from (my mom is from Austria). So that means I must enter on an Iranian passport. Well, my dad came over almost 40 years ago and lost his passport (as he has never returned). So he must track down his birth certificate in Iran first and then reapply for his passport in the USA before I can even think about applying for mine. It’s going to be a long process, but I am determined to get to Iran in 2017! Stay tuned for updates.
I do know for sure that 2017 WILL be the year I set foot on the continent of South America for the first time. How have I not gone here yet? Plane tickets are pretty cheap from Washington, DC, so now is the time to go. It’s high up on the list and I will definitely be making a trip there some time next year. On my radar: Machu Picchu, Salar de Uyuni (salt flats in Bolivia), Brazil, Patagonia, Colombia, and possibly Galapagos.
Also on my radar for 2017: more of South East Asia (Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore) as well as Japan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and possibly India.
I would like to also visit more of the Middle East including Oman, Dubai, Jordan, etc. And no, it doesn’t scare me. I have Middle Eastern blood after all.
Banff National Park, Canada-since Canada is celebrating their 150th anniversary in 2017, they are offering free entrance to all their national parks. I ordered my pass already online so now I must go in 2017 🙂
And it’s also my goal to visit one random AF country in 2017. Like possibly one of the “stan” countries. Maybe I’ll get to see where Borat is from. Haha 🙂
Will I make it to all these places in 2017? Probably not, but I’m aiming for at least 50% like last year. I know for sure I will not be spending much time in Europe in 2017 (insert sad face), although it’s my favorite continent. I need to break away for a while and see what else the world has to offer. There is still SO much to see! So, that being said, cheers to mothaf**kin’ 2017!
Here is my 2016 Travel Recap Video from YouTube:
What were your 2016 highlights? And where are you headed in 2017? I want to know! 🙂
Skopelos is known as the green island, and as soon as you pull into the port, you can clearly see why. The island is made up of 45% trees and vegetation and provides a gorgeous background to all the spectacular beaches. Although most people may not have ever heard of Skopelos, it made its introduction to the world as the filming site of the infamous Mamma Mia musical starring Meryl Streep.
Where is Skopelos?
Skopelos is the largest of the Sporades archipelago group, located in the Northeast of Greece. Now you know. 🙂
How to get to Skopelos
Skopelos can be reached by ferry from the mainland ports of Volos and Aghios Konstantinos. Another option is to fly into Skiathos, anothernearby island in the Sporades, and take the one hour ferry ride over. I usually book Greek ferries online with Hellenic Seaways.
Spyrou hotel group-a luxury hotel group that has 4 lovely hotels on the island. I stayed in Skopelos Holiday Hotel & Spa and it had a panoramic view over the port of Skopeos and the surrounding mountains. The staff treats you like royalty and are very attentive to your needs. The hotel has a pool, jacuzzi, and spa as well as on-site restaurant and pool bar. The room I was staying in was overlooking the pool with a spectacular view of the town in the backdrop. It’s about a 25 minute walk to town and they can arrange a ferry pick up and drop of at your request.
I was impressed with the service and treatment at this hotel. I felt like a queen during my short stay! I was also there during shoulder season so I basically had the whole hotel to myself. I think I got extra attention for this fact…something I definitely wasn’t complaining about.
Blue Green Bay-I spent quite a lot of time here lounging and enjoying the most beautiful bay known as Panormos (aka Blue Green Bay). The hotel is on Panormos beach with private loungers and beds. It’s very relaxing and tranquil. It has a pool and beach bar both overlooking the beach.
This is the place to stay when you want somewhere a little more luxurious and private. The tiny little village of Panormos has a few restaurants, shops, and tour agencies close by. It’s secluded, yet close to some amenities if you desire. It’s also closer to some of the best beaches on the island, namely Kastrani and Milia.
What to Do in Skopelos
Skopelos Town-Skopelos town is located along the waterside and is a lot less commercialised than most Greek island towns. For that reason, you can really appreciate the traditional housing throughout the maze like town. Skopelos town has many many stairs, so if you don’t mind the walk, take a stroll to the top and admire the views.
There are 3 main churches in the town worth a visit, my favourite being the Church of Panagitsa tou Pyrgou, pictured below. The pure white structure with the turquoise sea in the background is as picturesque as they come.
I had a mini tour arranged by a lady named Daphne and she was wonderful! She has her very own blog about the island called Skopelos News and she also does private tours around the island, so check her out if you’re in town.
She revealed so much of the history of the island and gave me some interesting facts while navigating through the cute little streets. And who doesn’t like a private tour guide, right? :). The most interesting fact I learned about Skopelos? It has 365 churches, one for every day of the year!
Panormos Beach (aka Blue Green Bay)-as you drive to this beach and come around the corner, you get a sneak peak from above and it is absolutely breathtaking. You can really see the changing colours from deep blue, to turquoise, to emerald green closer to the shore. It’s SPECTACULAR. If you only go to one beach on the island, make it this one!
I went back twice because I loved it so much. It’s very peaceful and beautiful. There are a few little restaurants on the beach, as well as sun beds for use.
No edits on this pic, look at the water changing colors..
Kastrani-this is the main beach used in many scenes of the movie Mamma Mia. This might be the most turquoise waters I have ever seen. It looks as if a turquoise colored highlighter had been broken and leaked into the sea. The white stone and towering trees in the backdrop only add to the beauty of this beach. This is the most popular beach on the island, so in summer, expect a crowd. There is a cute restaurant bar on the beach as well.
Is this not paradise? ♥
Milia-this beach is just on the other side of Kastrani and a little more rugged with white sand. This beach may be a little more quiet than Kastrani if you’re looking for a little R&R. There is also a little restaurant near the beach if you get hungry/hangry.
Glossa– a cute little town perched on the top of a hill with amazing views over the sea. It’s a little more traditional than Skopelos town and is another great place to base yourself when visiting the island.
St. John Church (Agios Ioannis)-this church is where the marriage took place in Mamma Mia. It’s located about 100 meters above the sea on a high rock jutting out over the water. Even if you’re not a fan of themovie, you must go up to the top. The panoramic views over the Aegean Sea are freaking awesome! It takes less than 10 minutes to get to the top and is 100% worth it. Do it!
View from the top…
SUP (stand up paddle board)-I decided I wanted my first SUP experience to be in Greece and I am so glad it was! I had an awesome Irish instructor named Shane and he gave me a one hour one-on-one lesson before we embarked on a sunset tour. We started in Elios beach and paddled north along the coast for a good 3 hours, stopping at a private little beach for some fresh melons and a snack.
The best part about my tour was the puppy that followed us along the shoreline the entire time, jumping over rocks and climbing on narrow ledges to keep up with us. On the way back, the little puppy got stuck on a rock and Shane took him onto his paddle board for the last hour to bring him safely back to where we started. My first SUP experience was extremely memorable to say the least and I highly recommend it!
Shane’s company is called Sporades SUP if you’re interested!
Kayaking-I absolutely love kayaking, especially when I’m in a gorgeous place. It’s such a good workout and allows you to see the coast from a different perspective. On our tour, we even saw a rare monk seal taking a nap on the shore. The tour company Kayaking Greece is run by an English husband-wife team and they were awesome and energetic!
The tour started at Elios beach and went south along the coast, all the way down to Kastrani beach. The scenery along the way was gorgeous and I didn’t want it to end. If you go to Skopelos, you MUST try the kayaking!
Skopelos in a nutshell
Skopelos is for nature lovers, it’s more laid back and quiet than most Greek islands, and there are plenty of water activities to choose from. It’s gorgeous, pristine, and shouldn’t be overlooked as it has so much to offer! It’s a wonderful place to get away from it all!
Note: I was a guest of Spyrou Hotels on this press trip. However, my opinions remain my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. I only recommend places I truly enjoy! ♥
Have You Been to Skopelos? What Was Your Favorite Part about the Island? Do Tell!
I recently journeyed over to Skiathos Island in Greece and absolutely loved it! Skiathos is one of the islands that makes up the archipelago of the Sporades, located in the Northeast of Greece. You know, the one’s you rarely hear about. Skiathos is less touristed than other popular Greek islands, probably due to its location far away from the rest. Ding ding ding, that’s what got me over there!
I didn’t do much planning beforehand (shame on me), but it turned out to be fine since I basically had my whole 3 days planned out for me courtesy of my incredible host Ioanna over at at Villa Anna Skiathos. This whole entire itinerary is courtesy of her so I can’t even take credit for it! (a lot more on that later). ♥
What to Do in Skiathos
Koukounaries beach-this is the most popular beach on the island, and for good reason. The vibrant blues are certain to draw your attention. A sandy beach in Greece is also a plus (not something very common, if you know what I mean).There are also a lot of water activities offered at this beach, another plus!
Elia beach-from Koukounaries you can take a nice 40 minute walk to Elia beach. You have to walk through a forest basically to get to it, but its secluded position makes it more alluring. There wasn’t a single soul when I went, which was a treat! Definitely walk to the top of the sandy cliff for a better view over the whole beach. Once up there, you can even walk about 5 minutes to other side of the cliffs for some more great views.
Skiathos Town-this is one of the prettiest Greek island towns you will see. The “chora”is just the perfect size and is lined with pretty little shops and restaurants. Be on the lookout for Rock and Roll Cafe which had the cutest colorful bean bags on the steps. So adorable!
Boat tour–I found a company called Kalypso Matahari, which offers s boat tours from 10-5pm for only €15 (low season) and €20 in the high season. I was really surprised at the low prices for an all day tour. Completely worth it!
Lalaria beach-one of the most beautiful beaches and the postcard picture of Skiathos. This beach can only be reached by boat and is framed by the beautiful limestone cliffs behind and the bleach stones lining the turquoise waters. The pure white create a more bold aqua color to the sea. It’s absolutely breathtaking! (Note: do NOT take any of the pebbles or you will be charged for them at the airport. No joke!)
Kastro-the former capital of Skiathos. You can hike up to the fortress in about 15 minutes to see the remains. Make sure to wear appropriate shoes as there isn’t a smooth path. Ifyou decide not to hike up, there is a relaxing beach bar down by the water. The views from the top are awesome,so try to make it up there! Quit being lazy! 🙂
Katiyorgi-the last stop is a very small fishing village where you eat lunch. The town has 2-3 restaurants and that’s about it. There’s not much to do there but it’s a cute little spot to wind down and have a nice meal after the long day.
Also on offer are many day trips to Mama Mia beach on nearby Skopelos island. I went to Skopelos on my own afterwards and I highly recommend a trip there if time permits! Check out my post on Skopelos if interested!
Where to Eat in Skiathos
Marmita -Not only is this the BEST restaurant in Skiathos, it has a cute and cozy outside courtyard that’s so warm and inviting, you won’t want to leave.
What to try:
Rabbit in red wine and honey sauce. Tender, juicy, and massively flavorful. Oh my gawd.
Beetroot apple salad with goat cheese. Delicious and creamy!
They also made some special dessert with hot coffee poured on top. Yes, hot coffee! I don’t know the name, but ask them for it and I’m sure they will whip it up for you. Holy crap it was good! Coffee lovers prepare for amazingness.
I was in complete heaven. This was one of the top 3 food experiences I’ve ever had. It was that good. A bonus was that they were able to adapt to my dietary (gluten) restrictions easily and with no problems. If you go to one restaurant in Skiathos, make this one it! Marmita is the BOMB! (do people still say this? )
Amfiliki-frequented mostly by the locals, this place is a secret find! With a marvelous view over the water, this is the perfect spot to try authentic Greek dishes. I ended the night here with a complementary dessert and shot of ouza. Opa!
Restaurant 1901-situated in a beautiful and colourful street of Skiathos, slightly tucked away from the noise of the city. I loved the ambiance and was surprised to find out that the food was excellent as well! Beef in tomatoes sauce over potatoes was tender and good. They also give you free dessert of Greek yogurt and berry compote.
Bourtzi cafe-located on the beautiful, yet tiny Bourtzi peninsula near the old port. It has a great view and it is the perfect spot to grab a drink and watch the sunset. They also have sandwiches and light foods but it’s a little pricy. You pay for the view, fair trade.
Where to Stay in Skiathos
♥Villa Anna Skiathos♥
When looking for a place to stay in Skiathos, I was hoping to stay close enough to town, but not smack in the middle of the crazy parties (and let me tell you, Greeks sure can party hard!♥) I came across Villa Anna Skiathos, a small family owned B&B with a spectacular view. #imasuckerforviews
The view captured me, I was sold and I knew I found my spot. I contacted the owner (named Ioanna) and she responded right away with all the info I would need for my journey to the island. She was super sweet and I felt like I was talking to a friend right from the start.
Ioanna lives in Athens, but has been coming to Skiathos for the summers since she was a little girl. She decided to put all her efforts into building her family business and welcome guests from all over the world. I could tell she genuinely enjoys meeting new people and takes pleasure in seeing others have a good time. And that made such a difference during my stay!
What can Villa Anna Skiathos offer you?
→Your Very own Built-in Concierge
Although she doesn’t advertise this, Ioanna was there to help me with ALL my plans around the island, from where to eat, what tours to take, to giving me rates for rental cars if I desired to explore by car. Anything I needed, she was at my disposal with a joyful heart.
When I arrived, she picked me up from the port and gave me a mini tour (the “long way home”) so that I could situate myself on the island and get a feel for my surroundings.
When we arrived, she sat dow with me, pulled out a map, and asked me what kind kind of stuff I would like to do in my 3 days there. She gave me an explanation of all the places and things I could do, and wrote everything me my very own itinerary! This was SO helpful and saved me so much time…time I could be utilizing to explore the beautiful island!
→A Quiet Oasis Away from the Crowds
Villa Anna Skiathos is in an awesome location and the view was spectacular. My room had a spacious balcony to overlook the beautiful Megali Ammos beach. The (gorgeous) walk to town was only 10 minutes. Of course I stopped several times to take photos, so it often took me longer.
The room I stayed in had a mini fridge, private bathroom, flat screen TV, free wifi, AC, stove top, and daily cleaning. The room also had an upstairs for a third person if needed. The kitchen cabinetry was outdated with old wood, but it felt like a summer camp house and I actually didn’t mind it. The amazing view made up for it.
There was a nice patio in the back with a big table for guests to gather around and mingle if they chose to.
The property is surrounded by lush greenery, fruit trees, and vibrant flowers, which is something you usually don’t see if staying right in the center of the city.
The one thing that wasn’t offered was breakfast, although Ioanna assured me that they would be adding breakfast in the near future. It didn’t bother me as I bought some yummy Greek yogurt, honey, and berries and had that for breakfast every morning. That fridge came in handy!
→Mingling of Guests
One thing I really liked is that Ioanna tries to put together a weekly outing with all the guests (totally optional of course, I didn’t feel obligated at all). One night she invited us all out to Marmita, which became one of my favorite restaurants ever, as mentioned above.
It was really nice to meet people from all parts of the world and different walks of life. We had such a great time sipping on wine, trying new foods together, and sharing crazy travel stories. That’s what traveling is all about right? The people.
→Home Away from Home
This is a concept Villa Anna Skiathos truly promotes, and I felt it every second I was there. It wasn’t just a place to sleep, but it was like having a little family there. Although I only stayed 3 days, it was enough to make an impression.
I still keep in touch with Ioanna on Facebook and it’s so great to see her enjoying life over in Greece. If and when I go back to Skiathos, I will 100% stay there again. No question about that.
Iv’e said this before, and it still holds true: the Greek hospitality is the best I’ve ever experienced in all the countries I’ve ever visited! My love for Greece remains deep. ♥♥♥
So How Much does it Cost to stay at Villa Anna Skiathos?
Rates start at €55 in shoulder season for a standard room! Peak season rates start at €80. Not bad at all for Greece!
When to Go to Skiathos
Shoulder season all the way! That is, May, June, and September. I went in May and it was perfect. It was not too crowded that you couldn’t walk, but had just the right amount of people and energy. The tour companies were all starting to run, and the weather was perfect. Prices are also heavily slashed compared to July and August.
How to Get to Skiathos
By ferry from Volos or Agios Konstantinos. I used Hellenic Seaways from Volos and it took about 1.5 hours (by high speed catamaran). A ferry takes about 2.5-3 hours.
By flying into Skiathos National Airport. The flights were pricy when I checked so I opted for the ferry instead.
♥A special thanks to Villa Anna Skiathos (and especially the sweet Ioanna) for hosting me during my stay. All opinions, however, are my own. I don’t bullsh*t and would never recommend somewhere I didn’t truly enjoy!♥
Have You Been to Skiathos? What Were the Highlights? Did I Miss Anything? Do Tell!
I am thoroughly convinced that Metoera is from an entirely different planet. How can it not be? If you have never heard of Meteora, don’t feel bad. You’re probably not the only one. There are so many amazing islands in Greece that a city far from the coast could easily be overlooked.
Metoera is located in the northwest of Greece. It’s not the typical Greek destination that one would think of visiting, but I’m telling you now that you should add Meteora to the top of your travel wish list! 100%.
So why visit Meteora? I’m glad you asked…♥
Meteroa means “suspended in the sky“, and as soon as you arrive by train, your jaw will drop as you quickly understand why.
Is this place even real? Have I landed on Mars? Have I gone back in time? All questions I asked myself. And I’m sure you will too.
Meteora is unreal. How on earth is it possible that so many people have never heard of it? Who knows, but I was one of them until last year. One single picture inspired my urge to visit. That’s all it took. BAM.
Oh, and did I mention that Meteora was featured in Game of Thrones season 2? Meteora served as the backdrop to the sky cell that Tyrion was thrown into when he was held as a prisoner in the Eyrie. Since the area is protected, the cast didn’t actually film there, but a team was sent over to get footage, which they digitally integrated into the episodes. TV magic.
Why Visit Meteora?
The Story of Meteora
Meteora is composed of several monasteries perched upon narrow rock pillars, some hovering 1,800 feet (550 metres) above the ground.
Dating back to the 11th century, the monks built these monasteries on the pillars to ensure total seclusion to the outside world. They required a place where they could concentrate on God and not be tempted my life’s evils. Well, I think they #nailedit.
Astonishingly, there were no staircases until the 1920s so monks could control who goes in and out. The staircases were finally built to ensure the safety of the monks, as many had died climbing back up to the monasteries.
Today, there are only 6 active monasteries, 4 with monks and 2 nunneries, most of which are open to the public.
What to do in Meteora?
Besides pinching yourself several times throughout the day to make sure this place is real life, here’s what I suggest you do in Meteora:
1. Learn the History
You don’t have to be a history buff. Heck, you don’t even need to like history. But I guarantee, the history of Metoera will surely grab your attention and impress you!
Please don’t go to Meteora just to take pictures. While I agree that it is a photographer’s absolute dream, it’s so much more!
Study up on the fascinating history beforehand, or book a tour and let the locals’ passion and pride about their city shine through.
Some interesting tidbits about Meteora history:
Meteora became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 (for art & nature).
Why do the pillars have the shape they do today? Well, since I find it difficult to explain in my own words, here is a great explanation taken from Greeka.com:
“Scientists believe that these pillars were formated about 60 millions years ago, during the Tertiary Period. That time, the area was covered by sea but a series of earth movements caused the seabed to withdraw. The mountains left were continuously hit by strong winds and waves, which, in combination with extreme weather conditions, affected their shape. This is why the pillars are composed of sandstone and conglomerate”. Source: www.greeka.com
Hermit Caves were caves built into the rock where monks were sent for punishment (called “prison of the monks”).
Monks used wooden ladders and pulleys to reach the monasteries.
Monks were pioneers of rock climbing in the 14th century.
For the Varlam Monastery: it took 22 years to bring up all the supplies, and only 20 days to construct it. WOW!
There are not many active monks today, due to mass tourism.
2. Book a Tour
While I would almost always explore a new destination on my own, there is a time and a place for tours. And this is one of those times, trust me.
A tour will put everything into context and learning about it as you’re seeing it with your own 2 eyes is the best way to learn history (at least for me it is!).
Would you rather read about it in a book…or step on the soil where life changing events actually happened? I choose the latter, and I hope you would too!
3. Go Crazy with Pictures/Selfies/Videos.
You won’t see anything else in the world quite like Meteora, trust me. And you Don’t have to feel awkward taking a million selfie…everyone will be doing it too! Make the memories last!
Meteora from the ground up..
I always seem to find the kitties everywhere I go ♥
How incredible is this view? I mean, seriously.
Recommended Tours in Meteora
Meteora Sunset Tour
This was my favorite tour I took in Meteora. I’m a sucker for sunsets, what can I say.
The sunset tour lasted a good 4 hours. They pick you up at your hotel a few hours before sunset and take you to a few great panoramic spots. Also included on this tour is a visit to the beautiful Agios Stefanos Monastery and Byzantine church of Virgin Mary.
For the sunset, your guide will take you to a few nice spots to snap some pics. The final sunset spot is on a humongous bolder with a panoramic view overlooking the area. This is the best view of Metoera and you get to see it as the sun gently kisses the landscape. It’s simply breathtaking. It’s one of those moments you will never forget. Truly incredible!
Meteora Hiking Tour
I would only recommend this tour of you’re in good shape. It’s not extremely difficult, but it’s also not easy. I’m a gym rat and like to stay in shape, even when I’m on the road. But even I was struggling with fatigue by the end.
Seeing Meteora from the bottom up was better than I ever imagined. By bottom up I mean you start from the bottom overwhelmed by the towering pillars above you, and you slowly make your way to the top.
Your guide will take you on secret paths and several different lookout spots, so make sure you pack your camera. You will see so many things on this tour that you couldn’t see anyway else beside by foot, so make sure not to miss it!
Note: there is a lot of descending the mountains, so I don’t recommend this if you have any knee problems of shin splints. Also, if you have hiking shoes, I would definitely bring those over tennis shoes. My tennis shoes didn’t have the best ankle support and I was definitely feeling a little strain towards the end.
Meteora Half Day Tour
This tour is a great introduction to Meteora and it covers so much ground. Besides learning ample history and visiting 3 main monasteries, one of the highlights of this tour is a visit to Theopetra’s Prehistoric Caves. Theopatra’s Cave was excavated only in 1987! The deepest level of the cave shows evidence that humans were present 130,000 years ago. It was fascinating to see the digging sites and learn about the history here. Entrance was an additional 4€ (not included in tour price).
The tours offered by Visit Meteora are run by locals to the area, and 2 of the guides were brothers. They were both awesome and so knowledgeable and passionate about their city! All the guides were super professional, courteous, interactive, and had great energy. You guys rocked! Pun…..intended?
Overall, the tours were awesome and I would recommend each one that I did.
How Long Should I Spend in Meteora?
I originally had plans to take a day trip from Athens and come back the same day and I’m so glad I didn’t. An entire weekend is the perfect amount of time to experience what Metoera really has to offer and I would discourage a quick trip there. You would miss out on so much and there really isn’t enough time to see everything in just one day.
How to Get to Meteora
There is no transport to Meteora actually. But there is transport to the town below called Kalambaka, which is where most tourists stay.
Take a train or bus from either Athens or Thessaloniki. I took the 3-hour train journey from Thessaloniki and it went super smooth.
The train from Athens takes 5 hours. Visit Meteora has a nice timetable organized to help you with your trip. To look up transport and timetables to Meteora, check here.
However, on the way back there was a strike (common in Greece), so I had to catch a bus instead. Annoying, but it all worked out in the end.
Things to Note:
The entrance fee for the monasteries is a few euros so make sure to bring coins with you. They don’t accept credit cards.
Some monasteries are closed on certain days, so be sure to check beforehand.
Meteora is out of this world and it is such a special and different place to visit. It’s one of the most unique destinations you will ever see and I was constantly in disbelief that a place like this could exist. It’s beautiful, it’s touching, it has a fascinating history, and you will come home having some of your best travel photographs ever. I promise you.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Meteora, Greece by Visit Meteora tourism board. My thoughts and opinions, however, remain my own. I don’t bullsh*t and would never recommend a destination or tour I didn’t love!♥
Have I convinced you to visit Metoera yet? Have you already been? What did you think? Do tell!