We ask people who have either moved or travelled to certain areas in Greece to provide us with relevant information to help those travelling to these destinations! We provide the traveller with the headings and the rest is written by them based on their own personal experiences! Happy reading and happy travelling!
Athens is the heartbeat of Greece. It’s always buzzing with energy and with people from all over the world. The beauty of Athens is that within easy reach of magnificent archaeological sites are breath-taking beaches and relaxed Greek tavernas serving everything from Greek beer, ouzo to grilled octopus. Not to mention that the nightlife and the vibe is on a level of its own. It truly is a city that never sleeps!
List and describe your top two ‘must see’s’ of the city. These can be tourist attractions, squares, galleries or whatever.
It’s almost impossible to have a “top two” when discussing a city such as Athens. So instead, I’ll suggest the top sights. For more information, click on the label and you will be linked to a different site for information.
- The Acropolis
- The Acropolis Museum
- Theatre of Dionysus
- Ancient Athenian Agora
- Roman Agora
- Panathenaic Stadium
- Parliament & the Changing of the Guard
- National/Presidential Gardens
- Lycabettus Hill
- Benaki Museum
List and describe the food and restaurants available as well as provide your favourite.
Well this one is easy. Greek food is all over, gyros pita, souvlakia, Greek-style fries, fresh sea food, crepes, pancakes and loukoumades are all over. In Monastiraki, Syntagma, Glyfada and Kolonaki you should be able to find these stores easily. For those looking for something classier, once again, in these areas you will find a wide range of classy restaurants to cater for your specific taste.
List and describe the bar/club life and where you would recommend going.
There is definitely something for everyone in Athens when it comes to nightlife. From clubs and bars playing Greek commercial music, hip hop, commercial English music to, of course, bouzoukia or live performances by your favourite Greek singers. Athens is somewhat different to other places in terms of nightlife – expect people to only show up after midnight (sometimes later) if you want a vibe and be prepared for clubs / bars that don’t close before 10am the following morning.
Head to Gazi (get off at Keiramikos subway station) where you will find a mix of bars and clubs which cater both to students and young adults. It’s a square surrounded by many clubs, bars and restaurants which makes for a very convenient night out. Many well-known clubs are in this area as well as music halls where you can find your favourite Greek artists singing live if you’re lucky. You will find similar types of clubs, bars and restaurants in Monastiraki, Psirri and Thissio areas, the good news is that you’re spoilt for choice, the bad news is that you’re spoilt for choice.
In areas like Glyfada and Kolonaki you will find a similar mix of clubs, bars and restaurants but generally these cater to young adults and an older crowd.
In addition, in areas such as Glyfada and Palaio Faliro you can also find a wide variety of sea-side bars and clubs as well as bouzoukia and live artists. Make sure to google where and when your Greek favourite artists are performing so that you don’t miss out!
List and describe the transport available/is it necessary/do you walk/is there a bus/taxi/uber/train/underground?
I walk and mainly make use of public transport. Public transport in Athens is generally very easy to use and highly accessible no matter where you find yourself. There are 4 different modes of public transport in Athens – the Tram, Trolley, Buses and Underground. Apart from the Google Maps app there’s also another useful app called “Moovit” which I highly recommend if you never want to miss a stop and/or want the quickest route. Although generally safe, watch for pickpockets on the metro and at the markets. With regard to taxis, there’s an app called “Taxibeat” which works practically the same way as Uber and is just as easy to use – definitely give it a try for those long distance / late night trips. If taking taxis without the use of an app (which I wouldn’t recommend if you can’t speak Greek), ask the driver to use the meter or negotiate the price in advance to avoid any unexpected surprises.
Your recommended amount of days to stay in Athens?
Forever! But in all seriousness, it’s impossible to take in all the beauty of Athens in a single trip. I’ve been here almost a year and still discover new spots or “hidden gems” practically every day. If I had to recommend an amount of days to stay I’d say nothing less than two weeks. If you’re looking for a holiday, I would recommend that you break the stay in Athens after a few days with a visit to the islands as things are very quick-paced in Athens.
Recommended area to stay in?
This one is very budget specific. The top areas I’d recommend for beach-lovers are Glyfada, Vouliagmeni, Varkiza – however these areas can be pricey and are far from the center. The best areas to stay within the city centre are Syntagma, Monastiraki and Kolonaki. Student travellers tend to opt for accommodation within the Monastiraki area.
Any beautiful churches you have been to and suggest visiting?
All over the city! In and around Monastiraki one can find a variety of churches (both new and ancient). The well-known Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens (which is regularly shown on ERT) is a 5-minute walk from either the Monastiraki or Syntagma metro stations. Monastiraki is a flea market neighbourhood where one will be able to buy anything and everything Greek (which includes komboskina, church icons and other Greek Orthodox products). The area is named after Monastiraki Square, which in turn derives its name from Church of Pantanassa located within the square.
Any close day trips that you recommend making time for whilst staying there?
As regards islands, Aegina, Hydra, Poros seems to be a favourite day trip where one can get on a “hop on hop off” ferry. Another favourite amongst locals is to make a day trip to Nafplio (and the surrounding areas for beaching and food) Mycenae and Ancient Olympia. You may want to consider booking accommodation for a night and returning the following day as these places have a lot to offer. Otherwise a day trip to the beaches which are more outside Athens (Varkiza and further) is also a big must!
Any extra information you feel would be relevant to someone wanting to travel to Athens?
Crime has risen in Athens with the onset of the financial crisis. Though violent street crime is very rare, travellers should still be aware of visiting certain areas, especially late at night. Streets surrounding an area called Omonia have become markedly unsafe, there has been an increase of junkies and dodgy individuals in the area, avoid the area especially at night. In South African terms, the area is similar to Braamfontein / Hillbrow although still worth a visit during the day and only in selected areas within Omonia. It’s sad because Omonia was once one of the most beautiful and wealthy areas of Athens.
If you can, provide a suggested 3 full day itinerary:
Day 1 – Visit Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum (this usually takes a full half day), Lunch at Monastiraki Square @ Savvas Kabab (souvlakia) or surrounding Greek taverns, Shop at the flea market and Ermou in Syntagma and see all the various artefacts, history and churches, late afternoon sundowners @ 360 / A for Athens / Couleur Locale or a variety of other rooftop bars in the area.
Day 2 – Beach day: Take a taxi to Varkiza beach (or surrounding beaches) and rent a spot on the beach, sip on cocktails and enjoy traditional Greek souvlakia and a gyro pita on the beach, visit Galaxy Bar (Hilton, Athens) for sundowners or cocktails with a view of Athens at night.
Day 3 – Visit the Benaki museum (Kolonaki) for your mix of culture, grab a bite of Greek food in Kolonaki, hike or take the teleferic up Mount Lycabettus and grab sundowners with a view of Athens, the Acropolis and the sea. My advice would be to hike up to see the beauty of Athens from all angles as you hike up and to only use the teleferic on your way down.
Interview questions answered by George Patrinos. Currently living in Athens. Some images belong to him and others are from Google images.
Article written and compiled by Eugenia Papathanassiu. All images have been sourced from a variety of websites.
Around 98% of Greece follows the religion of Greek Orthodoxy (shocking, right!?) which means that Greece and its churches are like that chocolate doughnut covered in Byzantine, Cycladic, Venetian and medieval multicoloured sprinkles. Maybe you believe in Orthodoxy, maybe you believe in some other higher power or maybe you don’t believe at all – this plays no role. Greece’s ecclesiastical architecture and natural beauty is sure to excite travelers from far and wide.
The Seven Martyrs, SIFNOS
Picture a rock that is emerging into the Aegean and upon it sits an isolated chapel adorned in traditional Cycladic architecture – this is the uncharted Church of the Seven Martyrs. It is situated in Kastro Village in Sifnos and is accessible by a lengthy stone-clad pathway or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could even swim there from the opposite side. This succinctly represents the style of Greece and how most of the time, only very minimalistic structures are required to compliment the fatherland’s natural splendour.
Agia Fotini Mantineias, TRIPOLI
One initially thinks that this ‘’temple-like’’ church is centuries old however its construction actually took place in the 1970s, assimilating design elements from Orthodoxy, Ancient Greece and the era of Byzantium. Actual pieces of ancient remains nearby were used as building material for this monument. Exploration takes place on pebble-mosaicked floors portraying religious, folklore and mythological stories. The slightly misplaced portraiture of figures such as Ariadne, Theseus and Medusa make Agia Fotini particularly unique as the church’s architectural paradox has ignited extensive controversy. Despite this, Agia Fotini shows clearly the beauty of whimsy and diversity.
Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, PATRA
Also known as the titan of Greek Orthodox churches being the largest in Greece and the third largest Byzantine-style church of the Balkans, Saint Andrew’s is certainly a significant destination for christians or ecclesiastical-enthusiasts worldwide. This dazzling basilica is home to a shrine of relics of the apostle Saint Andrew himself, namely his small finger, a portion of the top of the apostle’s cranium as well as pieces of the cross upon which his martyr took place. This is a must-see for spiritually-inclined historians.
Agia Sofia, KYTHIRA
Kythira’s Agia Sofia differs slightly from the other churches on this list in the sense that it offers a wide variety of stalagmites and stalactites in addition to the occasional religious worship here and there. Yes, Agia Sofia is situated inside a cave and was allegedly named either after the fact that the body of the saint was found there or possibly after the church’s dedication to the ‘’wisdom of God’’. The sometimes-spooky cave overlooks wild landscapes and the Aegean and is decorated with fresco icons from the 13th century.
Agios Ioannis Kastri, SKOPELOS
Fans of ABBA, Meryl Streep or musical theatre in general may recognize this idyllic white-washed chapel edged on a cliff over the ‘’ατελείωτο μπλε’’ i.e. the endless blue. This chapel is indeed the very one pictured in the wedding scene of Mamma Mia! and has gained immense popularity since the film’s release in 2008. Reaching the chapel, however, is no easy feat due to the 110 rocky steps in the way but the athletic exertion from a round trip can be adequately eased with a refreshing trip to the small beach that has formed beneath the rock.
Our Lady of Tinos (Panagia Evangelistria), TINOS
Our Lady of Tinos is a shrine to the Virgin Mary and was established around the discovery of a miraculous icon of her which was found due to a vision experienced by the nun Pelagia. In this vision, the Virgin appeared, revealing this icon’s location. Many pilgrims travel from the port all the way up to the monastery complex on their hands and knees – there is even a red carpet covering this distance to prevent injury. The icon is almost entirely covered in jewelry and other offerings representing prayers from various pilgrims. The periods of the discovery of the icon and the political establishment of modern Greece coincided, thereby advocating Our Lady of Tinos as the patron saint of Hellenes and the state of Greece.
Panagia Makrini, SAMOS
Yet another cave-encased church makes this list. It is believed that Panagia Makrini was built during the 10th century as part of a larger monastery and bones from previous ascetic monks were also found here. Visiting this incandescent site involves an easy hike through a lush forest and cool caves surrounded by turquoise in typical grecian fashion because, after all, life is more about the journey than the destination.
Hozoviotissa Monastery (Panagia Hozoviotissa), AMORGOS
This monastery is nestled in a rock 300 meters above sea-level on the charming island of Amorgos with roughly 300 steps to cover en route. The monks that live there offer fresh water, raki, loukoumia and friendly conversation to visitors upon their arrival. There are also many welcoming cats that keep the visitors company as they enjoy breathtaking views and gentle winds. Appropriate attire is required, so if you plan to visit the monks of Hozoviotissa during the summer months, be sure to cover up. Men are required to wear trousers and women must wear skirts.
Panagia Kapnikarea, ATHENS
If you’ve been shopping on Ermou or exploring the old Plaka district, it is very likely that you have bumped into one of the oldest churches in Athens. The external elegance of this small piece of Byzantine architecture contrasts the informal hustle bustle that surrounds it. Panagia Kapnikarea differs vastly to most of the churches on this list as it is not in some remote location enveloped in Mediterranean aqua. It is very easy to access, yet it still maintains the same kind of mystery, if not more, than the grand monasteries we have been discussing on this ecclesiastical journey through Greece.
Panagia tou Bourgou, RHODES
The terms ‘’gothic architecture’’ and ‘’Greece’’ rarely coalesce, but when they do they fuel a talking point – especially in the Dodecanesian island of Rhodes where styles of Italy, medieval Europe as well as traditional and Hellenistic Greece have mingled. The island on which Panagia tou Bourgou sits is already so culturally rich, but the dramatic impression made by this church simply introduces its observers to the alluring architectural legacy of the island. Although the church does not operate, there are many cultural events that take place there.
Agios Spyridonas, SANTORINI
How many times have you marveled at that classic image of the epitome of Cycladic architecture? You know, the one offering panoramic views of Santorini’s caldera and scatterings of white-washed villages on the hills? Yes, that famous blue dome that you often see on post cards belongs to the church of Agios Spyridonas and just behind it is another blue domed church, Anastaseos (Resurrection). Just imagine making a pitstop at this sanctuary as the sun drowns itself, dramatically in the blue horizon. It would be a very utopian moment.
Mount Athos, KOLPOS AGIOU OROUS
Mount Athos is a remote peninsula up in Northern Greece, housing around 2000 monks and 20 Eastern Orthodox Monasteries. One can see bearded monks and priests performing daily activities along bright hued streets. Entering this monastic state is rather difficult, however, and not because there are hundreds of steps in the way. All visitors are to submit a copy of their passports to the Pilgrims’ Bureau of Mount Athos and must wait to be admitted. Women and children are also not permitted – even female animals haven’t cracked the nod. That’s right… Mount Athos does not have cows or chickens.
One reason for this is that it was believed that the Virgin Mary converted the region’s inhabitants after having been wafted toward them on a ship during a storm. Over centuries, the monks have dedicated the land and their lives solely to her. Another reason for no women is simply to make the celibate lifestyle of the monks a little easier.
There was time in the 1821 revolution against the Turks, however, when women and children were taken care of by the monks in the Holy Mountain as this area was protected due to an agreement between the monks and the Turkish authorities. The women and children were then transferred to the Aegean islands during a period of safety. Thank goodness for photography though!
Agia Sofia, MONEMVASIA
Wars and ages have periled this ‘’living museum of Byzantine, Ottoman and Venetian history’’ situated at the highest point of Monemvasia (a tiny island connected to the Peloponnese via causeway) which overlooks the Aegean and the village below. One can notice multiple architectural amendments due to the turbulent past that surrounded this significant church. It was once a Catholic Convent during Venetian times, and was reverted after the Greek War of Independence by being dedicated to ‘’the Wisdom of God’’ i.e. Agia Sofia. Don’t forget to take some sunscreen and water on your way up!
Agia Paraportiani, MYKONOS
An all white Byzantine church on a Cycladic island begs many questions: Why is it so simple yet so fascinating? Why does it look like a stack of illuminated marshmallows that have melted on a blue tablecloth? Do people come here to repent for their sins after a night at Tropicana? Not all of these questions can be answered, but the allure of Paraportiani lies behind the moment in which you randomly bump into it on your way back from Little Venice or the famous windmills. You are taken by surprise and you feel intrigued by the pink bougainvillea, the frosty finish of the walls and the rippling water. Excellent Instagram material, if you ask me.
Last, but certainly not least with its gargantuan appeal, is the Meteora and its six monasteries constructed upon composite pillars formed naturally by the surrounding rock. Monks and nuns would climb up to various caves on ropes and they would become hermits and pray. Every few days, they would lower the rope to collect food from their monasteries. The hermits would eventually die very young in their pursuit of sainthood due to hunger and exposure to the elements.
Visit the Meteora if you enjoy hiking to the less accessible monasteries (the easiest one to access is the nunnery, Roussanou), if you are seeking peace and mysticism or if you feel like walking through something out of Game of Thrones. The cliffs of the Meteora – reaching heights of up to 400 meters – are the perfect place to seek isolation and spiritual elevation. Upon entry of the monastery, proper attire is necessary but visitors who are not dressed accordingly will not be rejected as skirts and shawls (for the women) and long pants (for the men) can be loaned.
We interviewed our ex NAHYSOSA President, Andrea Spyron (2015 & 2016) to find out more about her exciting adventure and what she has been up to since handing over to current President, Andreas Coulbanis.
1. It has been approximately 5 months since you did the official handover. How did you feel in that moment and how do you feel now?
Wow! It was a bit hectic then I won’t lie to you. I was a bit worried I would have left something out or that there would be a misalignment of perceptions. It’s quite tricky to talk through everything you know and what you may think the other person may know. It was also crazy trying to pull all the admin after Congress in time. So it was a bit stressful, and I was sad to be saying goodbye to about 6 years of my life, but once I handed over I was quite relieved – just emotional haha.
2. Since handing over, you have probably had a lot more free time on your hands, what have you done with this free time?
Well I didn’t leave much time to waft to be honest. December/January was a very busy “holiday” or “life catch-up” period for me. We also tried to do the handover when both of us had time. I was also busy making plans for the year which actually saw me jump onto an airplane at the end of February for a few months with no definite direction. However, I am a bit of a control freak, so I did need to know that I’d be adding value during this time in some way. I previously came across information about Greek language courses through the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and I like the idea of having a “routine” but being able to use Thessaloniki as a base should I want to venture into Europe. It also worked out nicely because I have family here.
3. What made you decide to leave South Africa and travel?
I’m not going to lie to you there were quite a few factors. But I can tell you that I wasn’t too fulfilled or challenged in my job (which I wasn’t sure about in general) for a while. I then also realised I’m not paying anything off or attached to anyone, I’m free from committee responsibilities and obligations, and I generally enjoy travelling. So if there was ever a time to “take a gap year” – it would be now.
4. What made you choose the Greek course?
As I mentioned above I couldn’t deal with not knowing a basic plan. I guess now is also a good time to mention that my Greek isn’t very good, at all, which is a regret of mine. So sticking with the NAHYSOSA ethos of UNITY, KNOWLEDGE, CULTURE I decided to continue the experience in my own way and improve on something so valuable to being a Hellene…while I try find myself haha!
5. What made you choose Thessaloniki?
A bit of what I mentioned before but I have also never been to Greece. I suppose I could have gone to Cyprus or tried to do something online, but this travel thing was also about getting out of my comfort zone, learning about myself and how I manage when experiencing new things. And Greece is beautiful so why not 🙂
6. Have you stayed in Thessaloniki the whole time or have you travelled? If so, where and what was your experience of these places and travelling?
I have been a bit restless. Before I came to Thessaloniki I stopped off in Cyprus for a brief family visit. After two months here I managed to go to London because I absolutely love the city and I have family and friends there. It’s such a great city! Easy to get around, and so interesting. I don’t think you could ever get bored there. Every time I go back I have such a blast. I also manged to briefly visit Zurich. I’ve always wanted to travel to Switzerland. And so before it got too expensive over the summer I thought it would be a good time to get my first taste of it. I can save you all a lot of money and tell you that Lindt is indeed the best chocolate to come out of Switzerland. Sorry to break it to you…
7. What has your experience of being away from home and family and friends been like?
Since Congress 2014 I have been using the phrase: “It’s not where you go. It’s who you’re with!” and this cannot be more present in my life right now. I am grateful to have taken this opportunity and I’m not ready to come back home juuuuussssttt yet. I also did want a bit of alone time to pull myself towards myself (also a trademark of mine). But there have been many times when I’ve been through something or seen something or tasted something or whatever it may have been that made me think of someone back home. Or how I had a good time experiencing something and would have loved to have shared it with those close to me. This isn’t my first time away from home home (yes x2) but it is my first time out of South Africa for so long, away from everyone I know for so long. And it’s truly made me appreciate what I am blessed with each and every day as well as what we have in South Africa. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken about our “Rainbow Nation” more than I have since I left and I’m so proud to be able to show anyone and everyone who will listen what we as South African Hellenes are up to. And let me tell you, it blows their minds.
8. Where do you see yourself after this experience?
Even me I’d like to know! No but I guess just more settled in life. Hopefully more mature to make the most of what I have in front of me and to stop wishing about the future and staring so long at it that I do not live in the present…I’m sure this answer will change as each week passes though.
9. Do you miss being involved in NAHYSOSA and do you see yourself being involved again? If so, in what way?
I do miss NAHYSOSA. I am fortunate enough to have mostly had a good experience. It gave me so much I cannot even begin to explain. But I guess if it wasn’t worth it, we wouldn’t work as hard as we do for it. However after six years you get a bit tired. In your thinking and your effort. I also feel NAHYSOSA cannot grow if the new, fresh and bright ideas and limited due to “traditional” thinking (I’m also a control freak rememeber 😉 ). So I don’t think I will get involved again. I will however always be there to support NAHYSOSA and the affiliates as best I can. But I’ve also learnt to never say never…so you never know 🙂
10. Any advice for someone deciding to leave South Africa and travel abroad for a long period of time?
It depends on why you’re going to be honest. If it’s just because you want to party my advice will be a little different to if it’s for career or personal purposes for example. But I guess the general is as follows: 1) Budget. Budget for the known and for the unknown. This will also determine your path, whether you’re free-wheeling or have a plan. You’ll know how hard you need to work before or if you’ll also need to work while you’re abroad… or how soon you need to start working after you’re arrival 2) Packing isn’t easy. Especially if you’re crossing seasons. A lot of winter jackets are becoming warmer and lighter. So invest in the right gear. But also understand you can’t take everything with you. So prepeare to mix and match and wear things again. Also consider that you can buy things as you go if you really need. Toiletries are also an issue. They take up a lot of room and weight. So consider taking what you need for maybe the first month and then be prepared to buy as you go (see … budgeting!) 3) It takes quite long to get ready for a trip! Don’t think you can pack on Monday if you’re leaving on Friday for five months abroad. If you need Visa’s and documents make sure you start well in advance trying to acquire them because, let’s be honest, admin very rarely runs smoothly. 4) Embrace it! Whatever you go through – make the most of it! Live for then. Don’t think you can come back later to enjoy a place. Enjoy it now because you are there NOW. 5) If you’re going alone – a great and cheap way to meet people is through pub-crawls. They’re usually there for the same reasons so it’s a good start if you’ll be spending some time in a city you’re not too familiar with.
Interview conducted by Angeliki Vayanos.
A proud day for the organisation and all our affiliates 💙
Many people don’t always understand why we devote so much time to an organisation voluntarily but when we are able to support those in our Hellenic family using the funds we raise, it truly is a blessing and provides purpose and motivation to keep growing, pushing and raising more funds for such an incredible cause 💙
We would like to thank each and every single person that made this possible and helped contribute to the NAHYSOSA Bursary Fund and helped the students who received the funds in 2016. It is thanks to everyone who supports us in many different ways that this is possible.
We are so thankful and so proud today 💙
Unity • Knowledge • Culture •
Three times a year, NAHYSOSA releases a ‘brief’ that serves as what you might call a newsletter. Informing you of what us and our affiliates have been up to and includes articles, pictures and other news. THIS year we decided to change the briefs up a little bit and theme them.
So, the FIRST BRIEF OF THE YEAR HAS BEEN RELEASED and is called the ‘Easter Brief’. Showing you how NAHYSOSA and the affiliates around South Africa, celebrated Easter as well as pictures of the Epitaphio’s and other beautiful Easter ‘things’.
Click on the following link to view and download the PDF: Easter Brief
Never forget another Name Day! Introducing our first editorial piece that will be published monthly – our Name Day Calendar.
How often do you find out it is your own name day because your ‘yia yia’ from a village in Cyprus calls you to wish you? This no longer needs to be the case as we promise to update you monthly on the name day celebrations for the month so you can wish your family members and friends!
Happy name day to all those celebrating in May!
Infographic and information designed and compiled by Eugenia Papathanassiu
A new month, a NEW LOOK for our website and a LOT going on around South Africa. With exams slowly approaching – we suggest you all get involved in these events before we stuck behind our desks and staring at our books!
The following events are happening this month in the various cities:
1 May: UJHA Shoe For You, Shoe Collection Drive (Collection ends 1 July)
6 May: SHA Beer Pong Tournament
13 May: CYA Mother’s Day Specials with Tastebuds Cook Club
19 May: PHYC Kiddies Sports Day, Community Event
12 May: HSA Annual Slug Bus
20 May: HSA Welcome Church Service
13 May: BHYA Come Wine With Me
Please follow all our affiliate pages in order to get more information, details and updates about all of the above events!
What an exciting month – see you at all of the events!
BECOME A MEMBER
NAHYSOSA FRESCO RADIO SHOW
TUNE IN NOW