Robin Fleishner & Ted Metzger:
Thanks for helping us plan an unforgettable Greek vacation. Our trip to Crete, Santorini, and Athens was magical! Both the Blue Palace and Altana were exceptional accommodations and experiences. Here is brief summary of our trip, which I hope will help you plan trips to Greece for others.
The Blue Palace was luxurious and gorgeous, with magical vistas of the sea from our rooms and the common areas. Built into a cliff overlooking the Aegean, every level offered magnificent views. Our room rate included breakfast, which was a delicious, encyclopedic buffet with hot and cold local dishes, fresh fruits and vegetables. The beach was large, with plenty of seating, and the pools on two different levels were great. We did not spring for a room with a private pool and felt that we did not need it, with the inviting public pools and beach. We were so glad we took your advise and stayed 5 nights and rented a car. The hotel has a Hertz office so it is easy to rent a car right there.
Although you could be in heaven just hanging out at the gorgeous Blue Palace facilities and dining in local restaurants, we were thrilled that you set up the three side trips. Our private guide was for a tour of Knossos, the major Minoan archaeological site about an hour away, and nearby Heraklion, the major city in Crete. We really enjoyed it. Kritsas, a quaint fishing village with beautiful artisanal shops was about 20 minutes away and we spent a couple of hours there. It was the best place to buy gifts on our trip. One day we drove to some sandy beaches about 20 minutes away (the beach at the hotel is rocky, with excellent boardwalks and easy access to the sea) and had lunch at a local fish restaurant.
Dining at local restaurants throughout Greece was wonderful. The food is local fresh fish, seafood, salads, breads, dips and lamb. Both lunch and dinner last 2½ hours. On Crete, each meal ends with a free gift of fresh watermelon for dessert when you ask for the bill. Restaurant owners were friendly, helpful, and inviting. The fishing village of Plaka is a 5 minute walk from the hotel and we highly recommend Giorgio’s Giovanni, overlooking the sea. Other restaurants we enjoyed were the charming Kalani and The Ferryman in Elounda.
Altana in Santorini was a fantastic pick in the picturesque town of Imerovigli on top of the spectacular caldera, a 5 minute drive or 30 minute walk from Fira, the crowded main town that we avoided. Here, too, the views were spectacular. The only caveat we have about Altana is that it is for those who are fit enough to walk up and down steep stairs easily as the hotel is one of those beautiful white structures built into the side of a cliff which epitomize the Greek islands.
Altana is owned by charming, helpful identical twin brothers, Mario and Christos, who are in their 30’s. Former Athens residents, they are foodies who sit down with you at arrival and spend an hour planning your itinerary and dining with a map of Santorini to help you get away to more untouched spots. Their recommendations were all excellent. They helped us rent a small car, which you need in order to travel around the island. After travelling around during the day, we would return to the refreshing pool at the hotel, with spectacular views of the sea far below. After showering and changing for dinner, we would stand on our balcony photographing the breathtaking sunset over the caldera.
Mario’s and Christos’s restaurant picks were great. Our favorites for dinner were Mezzo, a 3 minute walk from the hotel with unique, sophisticated twists on the local cuisine, and Krinaki, a 15 minute drive away in Flnikia, which specialized in grilled meat. An excellent lunch spot was Psaraki Fish Tavern near the black sand beach, Vlyhada Beach. Breakfasts were included with our lodging, and were simple local fare, coffee, yogurt, bread, pastries, fruit.
The King George is a pretty, newly renovated hotel in an excellent location. We love walking and were able to walk everywhere from the hotel without the need for taxis. The rooms were lovely.
Our guide for a private tour of the Acropolis was excellent. We wisely began the tour at 8:00 a.m. and were able to avoid the heaviest crowds and heat. Interestingly, our guide took us to the Acropolis via metro, which helped us arrive early and was fascinating as the metro is actually a museum, full of excavations uncovered during its construction. After touring the Acropolis, our guide took us to the fascinating and beautiful new Acropolis Museum to finish the tour. We highly recommend the museum. It is also a great spot for lunch.
Our favorite restaurant in Athens was Kuzimi. It was the most sophisticated restaurant in which we ate in Greece. With a reservation, we were able to secure a rooftop table overlooking the Temple of Zeus and with a lovely view to the Acropolis above. It is located in a lively part of town with a nearby flea market and lots of restaurants.
Our transfers were flawless. It was great to have van drivers meet us at each landing. We flew Delta to Athens and connected easily to an Aegean Air flight to Crete. The high speed ferry you arranged from Crete to Santorini was great, only a couple of hours, and we were glad we had VIP seats. The Santorini airport is a mob scene and we were glad we left extra time to check our bags.
Thanks for all your help,
Robin, Ted, Ken, and Miriam
Robin Fleishner & Ted Metzger - Miriam & Ken Pogash, Millington , NJ