It’s drawing near… the sun is getting warmer; the skies are bright blue and the air is crisp. Summer is just around the bend. Islands are preparing for the season after a long, harsh lonely winter. The fresh influx of tourists; will bring work and inevitably their income with them. A whole country relies on the summer season to sustain it since tourism is Greece’s biggest ally.
There are plenty of blog posts about summer in Greece. Too many to count, but the side that we locals get to see, the secret side is what keeps us coming back for those precious moments with friends near the sea.
Summer in Greece is not only concentrated on the islands of course; which is sometimes the only thing most visitors either get to or care to see. Athens is not a place to be avoided at all costs. The open air concerts, the festivals, the art, the bars, and the hustle and bustle of the beautiful magical Athenian summer night, can’t be described in words; it must be lived!
Here is my list of 10 things that make a Greek summer complete.
- Go to the beach early, and stay after sun down — always. (on those rare occasions that you sleep at a beach… wake up at dawn and take refreshing morning swim)
- Go with friends, leave with more friends.
- Eat at a small tavern, preferably overlooking the sea. Pick the small unassuming places not the ones featured in Conde Nast Traveler (sorry but it’s true).
- The secret beaches are usually the best ones.
- The secret beaches are the hardest to get to — for that exact same reason.
- Leave your fucking mobile phone off and enjoy the sea, dive in, stay in and live in the moment.
- Athens by night- The capital at summer time is the most beautiful sight to see especially from above… (I’ve featured a picture of this before but I’m going to do it again since I love this shot taken by a dear friend last summer. 7.b See some art, go to galleries, walk around the city and see some up and coming street artists. Go visit some of the theaters in Athens, and see some wonderful dance and theater at the Athens Festival , or go to a play in the ancient Greek theater of Epidaurous .
- Leave your ideas of what you think Greece is at home, and come with an open mind, an open heart and a lot of extra free time, cause we do things slow and at our pace here; so don’t rush us. And above all make sure you see it with the guidance and the eyes of a local. You will miss a lot of you come and leave as a tourist.
- Learn to listen… and use all your senses. The deafening sound of cicadas, on a hot summer day, the sound of the breeze at the top of a mountain overlooking the sea, the sound of coerce sand underneath your feet as you walk on the sea shore, the sound of seagulls flying along with you on a sailboat, the crackling of freshly caught fish on a grill, the taste of real sea salt over a sweet ripe tomato.
- Last but not least. As much as it pains me to say this, and fight me on this particular part. Mykonos (even though I have a home there) especially between the months of July and August, is not Greece. As much as I love that place, summer transforms it into a virtually unrecognizable version of itself. It becomes what tourists want in order for the locals to make as much money off it as possible. Way too much of its market, is targeted towards rich tourists with absolutely no love or understanding for the island itself. Mykonos and Santorini are not the only islands of the Aegean. We have over 2600 of them, of which roughly 200 are inhabited! (dare to take a road less traveled). Explore smaller islands, with less amenities or five star hotels, or all in one spa treatments or expensive sailing boat trips or overpriced gourmet meals. Dare to go to places that are quiet, serene and not about how much money you spent on the same hotel that the Kardashians stayed in. Go on a sailboat and find out about the wonder of the Aegean sea through its secret alcoves and abandoned villages. Eat locally, buy from local shopkeepers and find ways to support the local economy.
Greece despite what the tourist, travel and lifestyle magazines tell you, has a lot more to offer than a western experience with a different language. It is a country with rich traditions and hidden treasures. Island hoping as glamorous as it sounds doesn’t benefit most local economies, and leaves the hotel owners richer and the locals much poorer. So if you want to really explore Greece this summer; visit it as a traveler not as a tourist, and you will experience a much richer country than you might think.