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Europe, Greece, Hotel/Accommodation, Travel

Kritikakis Village Hotel Ios, Greece

October 23, 2017

Kritikakis Village HotelWhen deciding where I was going to “live” for a month on the Greek island of Ios, I knew I wanted to be able to cook while I was there. This meant I needed to find a place with a kitchen and I was hoping for a place that had a monthly rate as well. I did lots of research trying to find the right place including Airbnbs and looking at smaller hotels. The Airbnbs were further away from my preferred location and some only had a shared kitchen. Finally, I found the amazing Kritikakis Village Hotel. Not only did each room have a small kitchen, I was able to ask for a monthly rate and they had two pools!

Kritikakis Village Hotel

The Hotel

The hotel is set up like a small Greek Village and has all the lovely characteristics of that including whitewashed walls and blue doors. There are less than 50 rooms and it feels like even less. The reception area is located outside the village right on the road from the port. You can walk from the ferry to Kritikakis Village Hotel.

Kritikakis Village Hotel

The two pools are located on two different levels. One has the pool bar and the other has built-in sunbeds and is smaller. The smaller pool is also more shallow. The pool offers great views of Yialos beach. Breakfast is served a few levels up with a small cold breakfast and offers traditional Greek yogurt and delicious local honey.

Kritikakis Village Hotel

The Rooms

There are many room options to choose from at Kritikakis Village Hotel. You can choose from a studio with many single beds or a double. You can also choose an apartment style room that has a separate living area. The great thing about these rooms is that it allows for groups of friends to split the cost of a room and each have their own bed. The apartments are great for couples or people with small children.

Kritikakis Village Hotel

I chose an apartment since I really didn’t want to look at the kitchen for a month! When I contacted them about a monthly rate, they offered me a double bed apartment at a discounted rate. This was something you definitely had to contact them about and it may not be available during the high season. It was more than I wanted to spend, but I was very happy that I chose to do this instead of the studio.

Kritikakis Village Hotel

The benefits of staying in a hotel for a month was that I had daily maid service if I wanted. This meant no washing sheets and towels or mopping floors, which is definitely a plus while on vacation. It also meant I had help planning things or calling restaurants for reservations.

Kritikakis Village Hotel

Kritikakis Village Hotel

My apartment had a large terrace with a table and chairs and umbrella. Many mornings were spent here having my breakfast. The hotel also faces the west so you can catch a view of the amazing sunset on Ios. You are also close to the port and I could hear the ferries come and go, which I enjoyed. I preferred this location versus the village or the party beach of Myloplotas. I was close to the port, a grocery store, Yialos beach and many great restaurants. The bus stops right outside of reception and it takes you to the village or Mylopotas beach. You can also walk the path to the village if your legs are up for it. The path is also right next to the hotel.

Kritikakis Village Hotel

The Staff

By far the best thing about this hotel was the friendly hotel staff! They made my stay very memorable. Many times I would come back to my room to discover fruit or chocolates. One day I had a knock on the door only to be presented with a plate of fruit and loukoumades, Greek donuts!

Kritikakis Village Hotel

I chatted with the staff almost every day and made good friends with them. One night they even asked me to have dinner with them. It definitely made my time in Ios less lonely and I would have missed out on some great restaurants without their help. When I checked out they gave me a Kritikakis Village Hotel t-shirt! Which I have worn in Portugal a few times.

Kritikakis Village Hotel

So if you are planning a trip to Ios, Greece, I highly recommend staying at the Kritikakis Village Hotel. You will feel at home right away and be close to all that Ios has to offer!

Europe, Greece, Travel

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

October 16, 2017

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

You dream of going to a Greek Island and soaking up the sun while sipping ouzo, but how did you get to those beautiful islands you dream of? Most of the islands are only accessible by ferry, although some of the larger more popular islands have airports. Booking ferry tickets are much easier than it used to be, but a first timer may need some help navigating the ins and outs of taking a Greek ferry.

Flights and the Ferry

My advice is to never ever book your ferry tickets the same day as your flight. This is especially true if you have hotel reservations paid for or work to return to after your vacation. Fly in and stay in Athens for the night or book a hotel near the ferry port. On my last trip, my ferry choices were to leave either at 7 AM or 4:30 PM which meant arriving in Ios after midnight. I opted for 7 AM, so I booked myself a hotel at Piraeus port for the night before. In this case, I could have never made a 7 AM ferry with any flight.

Which Ferry

There are many ferry lines, but not all the ferry lines go to every island. Which means you won’t have a lot of choices on which ferry line you take. You may be able to choose a fast or a slow ferry depending on which island you are going to.

The advantages of taking the fast ferry are less time on the ferry and more time on the Greek Islands. The other advantage is that the fast ferries are usually more modern than the slow ferries.

The disadvantages are if you get sea sick easily, the fast ferry might not be for you. Many of the fast ferries are hydrofoils, which are less stable in the sense that you feel the waves not that they are going to flip over. Another disadvantage is that you are usually not allowed on the deck, especially if the weather is bad. If the weather is really bad, the hydrofoils will be canceled. If you are going to a Greek island in winter, keep this in mind and allow for it in your schedule and bookings.

Which Port

Athens has three ports in which ferries leave from, Piraeus, Lavrio and Rafina. The issue with this is that not all islands are served by each port. For example, to get to Kea, you will have to leave from Lavrio. If you are booking your own ferry tickets, then I recommend using FerryHopper. (This is not an affiliate link.) It is straightforward and will give you indirect routes as well as direct routes.  If you are booking your tickets through an agent, make sure to check which port you are leaving from before you set out for your ferry as they are far apart and you will miss your ferry.

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

Getting On and Off

The first time I took a Greek ferry, it was from Ios to Santorini and back. Ios is small enough, and I had help, so it wasn’t very hard. But in Santorini, I was alone, and there were a lot more people and a lot more ferries. It also seemed a bit disorganized, although in hindsight it wasn’t.

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

If you are on an early morning ferry, go early as you may be able to get on without all the rushing that is associated with getting on later in the day.

At Piraeus there are many gates the ferries leave from and from the beginning to the end is far, so check it and arrive early to find the right gate. On the islands, there may only be one gate or very few. The best way to figure out where your ferry will depart from is the ask the Port police. They are in navy uniforms that look a little military in style. Your ferry ticket should have the name of the ferry on it, and most ferries are clearly marked.

You need to be there early but not more than 30 minutes. Rarely are ferries early in Greece and more often a few minutes or more late. But the disembarkation and embarkation process is fast, and they won’t wait for you.

Once you are on, you should store your larger luggage in the area you are directed to. Unless your bag is light, leave it here. It will be fine. There are too many stairs involved on the ferry, and you won’t want to bring it to your seat.

Proceed up the stairs, and someone will help you find your seat. Last year, I sat where I wanted, well except for business class but this year they really seemed keen on people sitting in their assigned seats.

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

They will announce each port as they get close and everyone will move downstairs to gather their luggage. It will seem chaotic, but don’t stress you will get your luggage and get off the ferry. It is a very efficient system even if it doesn’t look like it.

Do you have any tips for the Greek ferry? Share with us.

Driving, Europe, Montenegro, Travel

Tips for Driving in Montenegro

September 25, 2017

Tips for Driving in Montenegro

Two lane highways and cliffside drives dominated my driving in Montenegro. Knowing me, it was a good thing I didn’t know that the coast of Montenegro was a series of steep rock faces heading into the Adriatic Sea; otherwise, I might not have rented a car. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me as much as it usually does! Here are my tips for driving in Montenegro and not going over the cliffs.

The Roads

Almost every road was a two-lane road. The only place I went in Montenegro that had more than two-lanes was Budva and that was only in the central part of town. Many of these roads were narrow, and you share the roads with tour buses and public buses. These narrow roads started just after Herceg Novi and continued to Bar. Since I stuck to the coast of Montenegro, I am not sure if the roads inland are wider or more than two-lanes. The narrow lanes bothered me more than the cliff driving, probably because I couldn’t see the edge or the water in most cases.

Most of the roads I drove on were in decent shape. This is especially true near the towns. However, some of the bridges seemed like they needed some work. Although, none seemed dangerous. Rural roads are not in as good of shape according to the articles I have read.

Due to the narrow roads and the lack of multiple lanes, traffic can be an issue in the towns. I noticed that traffic was very heavy in Kotor when there was a cruise ship in the bay and even worse if there were two cruise ships or if it was a large ship. Getting into Budva was another place I saw traffic. It wasn’t clear why other than Budva is probably one of the more popular places in Montenegro.

The Rules

As in much of Europe, you drive on the right in Montenegro. According to the rules I have looked up, you should drive with low beams on during the day in Montenegro. I only discovered this after I saw people doing it. Obviously, you will want to drive with your regular lights on during the night. I also turned them on when going through the mountain tunnels.

The speed limit varied a lot on the roads and sometimes went down to 30 Kmh in towns. Pay attention as the signs changed quickly and the fines for speeding more than 10 Kmh are steep and can include jail time. My GPS beeped at me when it knew the speed limit was changing and I was going over it. Seatbelts are required. I did see cops pulling people over, but never saw a radar gun. They may have just been pulling people over to check papers. This never happened to me. They also just wave at you to pull over and were not chasing people down in their cars with a siren or lights.

An international drivers license was not required, but I did rent my car in Croatia. My advice is to have one if you are planning on driving overseas. They do not cost much, and it is better to be safe than sorry!

The legal drinking limit is very low at .03% so my advice would to just not drink and drive there. It isn’t worth going to jail in any country for a drink.

Parking

Parking in Montenegro was a bit haphazard. My Airbnb advertised free parking, but in reality, it was pullover as close to the wall next to the house as close as possible next to the street. Many areas in Montenegro had paid parking areas. At first, I was reluctant to do that, but then I saw how cheap it was and I immediately started parking in the paid spots. I never paid more than €3 for parking. In some towns, there was free parking, but it was usually full. In Herceg Novi, I couldn’t figure out where to pay. I asked an official-looking man in the parking lot and I had to go to the mini market and pay and then put the ticket on my dashboard. Most of the other parking was take a ticket and pay on the way out or pay an attendant.

Overall, driving in Montenegro was pretty easy. Have you driven in Montenegro? What was your experience?

Europe, Montenegro, Museums, Travel

Visiting the Old Towns of Montenegro

September 18, 2017

Old Towns of Montenegro

When most people think of Montenegro, they think of the town of Kotor. However, Kotor is more than the just the town and includes much of the areas surrounding the Bay of Kotor. Montenegro also has so much more to see than just Kotor.

The highlights of Montenegro, for me, are the old towns or stari grads that dot the coastline of Montenegro. Three of these old towns are located on the Bay of Kotor the other two are located further south on the coast heading towards Albania.

Kotor

Kotor is the most well-known town in Montenegro. The region of Kotor itself is a UNESCO world heritage site and includes the old town. The old town dates back to the 13th or 14th century, although much of it was destroyed in the 1667 earthquake. Kotor has been held by many countries and seems to have changed hands back and forth many times even as recently at 1941 when it was part of Italy.

There are several entrances to the old town, and I suggest you explore the town from each one as it gives a different perspective. You can climb up to the walls in some sections as well. If you are ambitious, you can climb to the top of the mountain above to the fortress. If you want an amazing view of the fortress and walls at night, I suggest you eat dinner at the Hotel Hippocampus on their rooftop. It is not very big, so make reservations.

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Herceg Novi

Herceg Novi is the first town on the Bay of Kotor. It was founded in the late 14th century. The old town right on the water and it makes a difficult to reach as the new town has built up around it. You have to park and walk down a hill to the old town and then walk up some stairs into the town. There may be another way in, but I couldn’t find it.

Your goal is to get to the Forte Mare or Sea Fort to see the beautiful views. I definitely see why the people chose this spot. Herceg Novi’s old town isn’t as large as some others, but it has several beautiful churches to see.

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Perast

Perast is also located in the Bay of Kotor. The drive from Kotor to Perast is short. However, Perast is all old town, and you cannot drive into the town. There are parking lots at each end, which you have to pay to park.

However, Perast was my favorite old town in Montenegro. Perast was easily walkable since is flat. There is a small but good museum as well. Also, this is where the famous churches in the bay are located. Our Lady of the Rocks and Saint George Monastery are two island churches in the bay. Unfortunately, due to forest fires, I could never get a clear picture of them from Perast. You can take a boat to Our Lady of the Rocks. Saint George is private. Perast also has the highest bell tower on the Adriatic Coast.

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Budva

Getting out of the Bay of Kotor now we head to Budva. Budva’s old town is walled like Kotor’s. Budva is much older though and dates back to the 5th century. Another stunning location as Budva is right on the Adriatic Sea and has some great beaches even inside the old town and right outside as well. After you explore the old town, visit the Citadela inside the old town to see the old Citadel and have a delicious lunch with a view!

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Stari Bar

Further south, we come to Bar. Stari Bar or Old Bar is not in the new town. It is a short drive up the hill from modern Bar. Stari Bar is not as well preserved as some of the other old towns. However, because of its location, it offers stunning views of Bar, and you can see the Adriatic from Stari Bar. Some buildings have been restored, and you do have to pay a small fee to enter, but it goes to conservation.

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Sveti Stefan

Sveti Stefan make look familiar to you as it is a frequently used photo when people are writing about Montenegro. The secret is that this old town is now a resort and you can only go there if you have reservations to stay or restaurant reservations. Given the cost was over €800 a night, I wasn’t going to be staying there. However, if you are driving, you can stop at the bus stop on the hill above Sveti Stefan and get a great view of the whole island. You can also walk down the hill to the island and gawk at it!

Old Towns of Montenegro

Have you been to Montenegro? What was your favorite part?

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