Greek Islands with Topdeck
Spending 8 days on a boat around Greece's Cyclade islands felt like paradise. And not just because the islands themselves are paradise, but because I was doing a tour and not worrying about organising myself. No buses, no planes, no hostels, no carrying my ever-increasingly-heavy backpack, no worrying about where to eat for most meals or being late for anything. Thanks to Flight Centre New Zealand and Topdeck Travel for this awesome trip, they made those 8 days fantastic! You can book the same trip I did, the Aegan Sunseeker, or one equally as awesome with Flight Centre. Check out some of their Topdeck trips here.
I did a Topdeck trip a few years ago, it was an 11-day journey around some of the highlights of Europe by bus, staying in hostels. There were definitely a lot of differences between that trip and my Greek Islands one, but some things that were very familiar. The demographics of the trip were almost identical; there was a large female skew in both and most people were around my age and keen to party, but not to the point where they weren't able to function the next day because we were all interested in seeing what the islands had to offer. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I wasn’t the only female single traveller, but one of many, and all the people I met on the trip made it a great time. I even managed to hang out with a few after the trip, but sadly our paths diverged not long after. I think Topdeck trips offer a good balance of sightseeing, socialising and free time, which is perfect for me.
Our trip took us to six of the Greek Islands; starting in Mykonos then we headed to Paros, Naxos, Ano Koufosini, Ios and then Santorini for our final destination. We typically would start the day with a swim stop somewhere nearby, then head to the next destination and do a short walking tour on arrival. Our guide, Thimos, was a lovely Greek man who was so passionate about his country and gave us some really fascinating insights, weaving myths and legends into the history of the places we visited. He even threw in some of his own insights as a local, because there are some things you can’t learn from a text book or see in a museum. After that would be lunch on board and then free time to explore the island, do some shopping, or just sunbathe, until we headed out to dinner at a local restaurant and from there some nights we would head out to a bar or a club. It was handy on Mykonos because we were anchored right on Paradise Beach so it was a minute's walk from all the beach clubs.
The Greek Islands are a fantastic holiday destination and I was so happy to be on a trip that visited a few, as each have their own character and different things to offer and on my last trip I only saw Santorini. Mykonos is one of the most expensive but has a beautiful town with many iconic spots and plenty of shops and beach clubs. Paros was like a mini Mykonos with a fraction of the tourists and a beautiful church called the Church of 100 Gates which was filled with gold. Its twin island, Naxos, was beautiful too with an old castle and monument to the Greek god Apollo. Ano Koufonisi was Thimos’ favourite and it was easy to see why. It was very quiet with mostly just locals, but he took us on a walk to the Eye of the Devil which was a neat swimming hole along a unique coastline with lots of little coves and cliffs (perfect for capturing with the drone). We sadly didn’t get to see much of Ios but it had great nightlife, which is what most people visit it for anyway. The final island, Santorini, is fantastic if you can handle the crowds. It's super romantic with the stunning white buildings and churches with blue rooftops on the caldera side and a perfect sunset almost every night.
We had two meals a day provided and both of these were served on the boat. The breakfast was good with tea and coffee, eggs, bacon, fruit and veges, cereal and bread. Lunch changed everyday and each one was fantastic. We had a range of dishes, including Greek ones like souvlaki and moussaka, and there was always a mix of sides and options for the vegetarians. Plus, there was plenty of tzaziki and feta! At nearly all of our destinations we ate together at a restaurant selected by Thimos, who always knew the best spots to eat that were affordable and great quality. We also had two themed nights, which is a bit of a Topdeck thing. The first was a Mexican night where we went to a tequila bar and had shots provided by Thimos, and the second was a Shisha night where again Thimos provided us with some complimentary shisha. I think some shots appeared at one point too! These nights were always really fun because we would all be together and move around as a group, but on other nights some people would chose to take it easy, or others might stay out until the early hours of the morning.
The boat itself was stunning and comfortably slept over 30 of us, including the crew. It had all the cabins below deck, dining room and kitchen on the first deck, seating up on the second where the control room was and then a small, third deck on the top provided great views. The whole decor of the boat was lovely and the rooms each had their own bathrooms, cupboards, power points and towels provided. Sadly there was an issue with the air con which made the rooms a bit stuffy and not the best smelling, so a few of us took advantage of the sun loungers on the top deck and would sometimes sleep under the stars.
Even after my first Topdeck I’ve been recommending them to people, as I believe they’re a great way to travel, particularly when you’re solo, and even more so if you’re female. They’re a really safe option and if you haven’t done a lot of travel then it’s a great way to ease into it, or get an idea of what you enjoy about travelling and would want to do more of. On the flip side, it was an excellent break for a weary traveller like myself and it was such a treat to have my Flight Centre travel expert book it all for me. Then, once I was on the trip it was all organised and the hardest decision I had to make was whether to swim or sunbathe - living the dream!