Beautiful beaches. Incredible islands. Fantastic food. And a legendary history that encompasses everything from “the birthplace of democracy” to the gods and goddesses of ancient mythology. When it comes to must-visit destinations, Greece is high on the list.
And there’s no better way to get excited for your upcoming cruise to Greece than by taking a virtual journey through the Greek Isles with someone who knows the region like the back of her hand — our very own Heike Berdos! Born in Bonn, Germany, Heike has called Athens, Greece, home for more than 20 years, so she definitely knows an insider tip or two (or 20!) about all things Grecian.
So, without further adieu, this is Greece — according to Heike.
If you had to pick a favorite Grecian city, what would it be?
Well, when you are asking me about my favorite city, my hometown is now Athens — and this is by choice! I love the combination of a cosmopolitan city and yet a connection to an isolated island in no time. My home is 15 minutes from the port, and some beautiful islands are just an hour away by ferry.
What are the top 3 “non-touristy” must-dos in Athens?
Make sure you visit Mount Lycabettus. It’s higher than the Acropolis and offers an amazing view of the entire city. Another area is Gazi — a very artistic neighborhood with street concerts and lots of people watching. If you are looking for a day trip, don’t miss the Poseidon temple in Sounion, which is the most southern point of Attica. It can be reached in just an hour’s drive from Athens, and the journey there goes along a beautiful coastline.
Which is your favorite Greek island? And what is your favorite thing to do there?
Greece has so many beautiful islands, and my favorite thing to do is exploring each of them as they are all different in their own way. Santorini is certainly the one that everyone should have seen at least once. Its beauty is very unique. Another one of my favorite islands is Syros. This was probably triggered by my trip there a couple of years ago. It’s an island with so much to offer. There’s a beautiful — almost cosmopolitan — town, gorgeous beaches all around, and some outstanding restaurants with the old traditional dishes and some with a modern twist. Also, Amorgos and Patmos. Greece has an unlimited choice of whatever is right for you, whether you’re vacationing with children, friends, couples, or going solo. It also has something to offer for every budget.
Greeks are very serious about food. It seems like families are always in the kitchen cooking. What is your favorite traditional Greek dish?
The night before I leave home and the first evening I return from the ship, I order chicken gyros from my favorite place in my area. There are so many great traditional dishes. What I like most is family-style dining — and it goes on for hours!
Do you like to cook, and if so, what is your favorite meal to cook?
Cooking is not my strength, but what I am really good at are the salads — and Greek salads are simply the best. The taste and quality of Greek vegetables and oils are unique! Plus, I live with a Greek family, and their cooking skills are above and beyond. Celebrating Easter in Greece is a feast and something that one needs to experience.
What a question! Both are stellar destinations and a “must see” for everyone who loves traveling. I think it is not fair to ask me to choose, as they are both very different and unique in their own way. Even though they’re the most touristy and popular islands in Greece, many Greeks come back year after year.
There are certainly many other wonderful islands — and each of them is different. My goal is to visit two new islands every year, and I am doing quite well. Apart from the islands, there is the Peleponnese, with their beaches, history, and culinary treats. Azamara goes to several ports in the Peloponnese, which I can highly recommend: Nafplio, Katakolon, and has very recently added one of my personal favorites in the Peloponnese: Monemvasia, such a unique and breathtaking spot where only small ships can go. I also highly recommend a cruise through the Greek Isles. It gives you a taste of the variety this country has to offer and lets you feel some peace that we all need on a holiday!
What is your favorite fine-dining restaurant in Athens?
Spondi and Aleria have some of the best chefs in Athens, and I can confirm that it has been awesome. My favorite restaurant outside Athens is on the Athens Riviera in Vouliagmeni and is called Moorings. Absolutely stunning cuisine, plus the views and ambiance are fantastic.
What is your favorite mom/pop restaurant?
I have a couple of favorite restaurants. They are in Mikrolimano in Piraeus: Vosporos for those who love meat and Ammos for those who like a little bit of everything.
Best Greek salad?
A tough question when it comes to sweets. There is a chain in Greece that makes outstanding sweets — the name is Passarella. They make very good sweets that are fresh!
Even more difficult, as every neighborhood has its favorite souvlaki place. When going to downtown Athens, I vote for Thanasis in Monastiraki.
Where is your favorite place to watch sunsets in Greece?
There are many places to watch the sunset, and Santorini offers one of the best ever! Make sure to visit Sunsets Café, the wine bar in Oia.
Last but not least, anything else you want to share?
Greece has so much to offer. The beauty is also that the season starts in May and ends in October. For those who are not committed to school vacation and want to avoid the crowds and high-season prices, I highly recommend visiting Greece before and after July and August.
Well, talk about perfect timing — we’re returning to Greece this August — and you can join us! While aboard, you’ll enjoy our all-new immersive program — Destination Celebration. This AzAmazing new program will bring the culture and heritage of the destinations we visit onboard for you to experience from the comfort of your boutique hotel at sea.
Start planning your cruise to Greece.
Thanks, as always, to Heike, for chatting with us. You can follow along with her adventures through Greece here. And for more on all things Azamara, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.