Very lame, but I've always been kinda afraid of traveling. It's not a fear of flying, but more that I was born in another country and, as such, overseas travel means a dramatic family visit weighed down with stress, guilt, and 20+ hours on a plane to Asia (where even as a 9-year-old, I was already on some shit about compression socks).
All this to say I don't feel anything when people quit their jobs to travel the world, and follow zero travel Instagrammers. I've gone my entire life without ~seeing the world~ (couldn't afford to study abroad so my personality doesn't hinge on four months I spent in Paris, sorry!) and honestly, I would've been fine with that forever.
But when I got an invite to tour Mykonos and Santorini on a hotel-hopping trip with Katikies Resorts and Clubs, even *I* was like, HOLYSHITYES. After all, Santorini has been called the "Instagram Island" and when one of the top ten most Instagrammable hotels in Greece (where even Justin Bieber has stayed) invites you on a dream summer vacay, you don't ask how they got your e-mail—you just GO before they change their minds. Anyways, here are all the fun things that impressed me the most.
First up, don't even think about leaving without the following:
If you're like me two weeks ago and have no idea how to distinguish between different Greek islands, trust when I say you're gonna wanna do Mykonos first and then Santorini. Why? Totally different vibes. Mykonos is club central—the energy there is extremely horny, and you'll want to get hedonistic and loose there first before calming down and sightseeing in Santorini, where everyone is coupled off. Everyone is also super hot (still thinking about you, hot passport control guy, imy), friendly, and funny.
which came first: Instagram or Mykonos?— Dylan Hafer (@thedylanhafer) August 1, 2019
Book Now Katikies Mykonos
In the wedding party of my dreams, we rent a bunch of private villas in Mykonos, go to Elia beach, and lounge around our private pool (IDK what's up with the pool industry in Greece, but it seems like even two-bedroom vacay villas have ones the size of McMansions) before hitting up the two main hot spots: Scorpios and Nammos. If you're a night owl, you will THRIVE in Mykonos: Parties usually don't "start" until 2 a.m., and they easily last until 6. Lindsay Lohan may or may not be there.
The long, winding streets of Mykonos town are filled with little shops and scenic nooks and crannies perfect for 'gramming. Take a day to explore by foot, and add in time for a leisurely lunch and dinner.
During lunch at Kazarma, our waiter mentioned that the historic building used to be owned by Mantos Mavrogenous, a bad bitch who kept a cache of weapons and cash in the building during the Greek War of Independence. Yes, she wound up dying alone, broke from spending all her money on the war effort (for which she was never repaid), and yes, we stan.
The ferry takes around four hours (compared to the one-hour flight) but offers a much more scenic route. They usually stop to pick up passengers in Naxos, Paros, and Ios, and you can go on the deck to scope out the different cities. Didn't have time to see any ruins on your trip? The Portara is easily visible from the ferry deck and dates back to 530 BC.
When it's time to dock in Santorini, you'll go down into the bowels of the ferry to collect your luggage before disembarking. It's very much like you're in Star Wars shipping off in the belly of a giant spacecraft before the gates open and SUN! SANTORINI! JK, you can't see anything yet because you gotta go up the cliff and settle into a hotel for that Insta-famous Santorini view.
Fun fact: All those cave-like homes you see on Insta (hyposkapha if you want to be legit about it) are because the islanders kept getting their shit rocked by pirates in the 16th century. As a result, they had to build upwards on the most precipitous cliffs they could find.
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This is why Santorini looks and feels so different from other warm would-be-beach towns. There's no way of just walking from your hotel to the shore—all the resorts are on top of literal cliffs. I stayed in the Kirini Santorini (Carina at Kirini! LOL invite me back pls) and it was *chefs kiss* in terms of views.
I'm sorry to report that my stupid ass saw a bunch of photos of the ocean in Santorini and was like, "Oh, it's definitely like a beach town." Folks, it ain't!
Few beaches are accessible by foot in Santorini, so the best way to take advantage of that crystal blue Aegean is by boat. We chartered a Riva yacht (v. bougie) to take us around the island and stopped where the water looked the dreamiest to pop in for a swim.
On the boat, Sigalas shared this hot blogger tip for getting the best Insta eye-candy shot: Shoot video on your phone, scroll through the video to find the perfect still, and use a screenshot of THAT to get the perfect photo. Very important: you'll need to go into "Settings —> Camera —>" and adjust "Record Video" to "4K at 60 FPS" for the most high-res stills.
Book Now Caldera Cruise, starting at $1,600/for two passengers
During your caldera cruise you should also ask the captain to make a detour to the hot springs. You'll know you're there because the water goes from deep blue to turquoisey-green with orange sulfur on the rocks of the inlet.
- Do: Bring a pool noodle. Sorry to everyone who got tired swimming into the inlet, but our captain immediately sized up our wine-drunk asses and was like, "You prob want these." And we did!
- Don't: Wear white in the hot springs. The sulfur will fuck this up.
- Don't: Wear any jewelry in the hot springs. Again, sulfur.
A fact I tried very hard to contain during my trip is that I'm the world's pickiest eater. My definition of seafood means fish sticks from those microwave meals with the penguin, and avoiding vegetables is a firm 1/16th of my personality. But Greece, where the produce and fish are so fresh, suddenly made me the biggest tomato stan on earth, and I would step into the ring for second helpings of whatever sea creature is placed in front of me.
It also helps when everything is deliciously cooked. The restaurants are so exclusive that you usually have to be a member of the Katikies Club to dine there—although this year they opened Mikrasia (with locations in Santorini and Mykonos) and DePaul Restaurant to the public. Santorini Mikrasia has only six tables and it's generally recommended you book a spot a few weeks in advance. The Mykonos version has more tables but is also v. fancy — resident chef Angelos Bakopoulos was on Greek Master Chef. Both restos also won the FNL awards in 2018 (the Greek equivalent to the Michelin Guide).
While a lot of Santorini is Greek Orthodox, Fira town (the capital) has a Catholic church and a monastery where the Vatican would store Greek wines to be shipped to the Pope. Recently, the monastery was bought and turned into Katikies Garden. It's the most family-friendly of the Katikies clique because there aren't as many steep stairs. (Seriously! That's why Santorini doesn't have a ton of kids running around! What if they fall!)
While everything else in Santorini feels exactly like you'd picture it from postcards and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (sun-drenched, everything bright white), the streets of Fira have a Venetian feel. Even the building's colors reflect this: There's a lot of beige and pink, as well as rounded archways and courtyards that feel hella Italianate.
It's all very subtle, but the best way I can describe it is like you suddenly look up and gaslight yourself into wondering if you're still in Greece. You are!
I'm a pretty tough spa critic (I like my massages how I like my breakups: rough, hard, and with me begging for five more minutes). Yet no treatment has ever compared to the one I got from Nicole at A.Spa. No joke, I physically felt her clear my sinuses through my back at one point. Magic.
Stop by Venetsanos Winery for a tour of the first industrial winery on Santorini. If you're the opposite of claustrophobic, you can squeeze your bod through one of the old underground wine storage tanks and finish off your day with a breathtaking view of the caldera as you sample a bunch of delicious wines.
Contemplate the meaning of life as you stare off into the Aegean and wonder when your husband will return from Greco-Persian war.
Then, consider taking a second mortgage on the house you do not own in order to stay in Greece forever. Or at least come back next year.
If you can't make it to Greece just yet, here's what to buy instead:
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