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Applying for A Greek National Visa

September 9, 2021
Applying a Greek National Visa

Since my first trip to Greece, I dreamed of moving there. But like in many European countries, it is hard for a person from the United States to move to Greece. At the time, I was still working in Qatar and had no idea how I could move to Greece without a job or speaking Greek. I started to do research and realized that Greece has a National Visa. This is informally known as a long-stay visa in Greece and many other European countries.

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Each country has rules about issuing a long-stay or national visa. It was unclear on the Greece website what the requirements were, and I couldn’t find any articles about it. The rules changed even after I inquired the first time, so I hope this article will help someone else with the Greece National Visa process. Please keep in mind that I am from the US, and the rules might be different in another country.

The Process

For the Greece National Visa, you must apply in your home country before you enter Greece. You must apply for the visa in the United States at your designated consulate or embassy location; click here for the list. Once you find your consulate, call them to ask what the required documents are. The list on the website is not current at the time of writing this post. Next, begin to gather all the documents you need. Only once you are confident you have all the documents you need, call back to the consulate to make the appointment.

Keep in mind that many of the consulates are small, and the visa department may only be one person, as is the case in the Houston consulate. When I called at the end of May, I could only get an appointment at the end of July! During this call, I was told I needed one more document.

You will present all your documents at the appointment and will most likely have a short interview. At the Houston consulate, I was emailed when my visa was approved. If you live close by, you may be able to pick up your passport from the consulate with the visa. Otherwise, you will need to provide a pre-paid envelope to the consulate. I recommend getting one with insurance in case your passport is lost, and you will need to replace it. It will also provide tracking.

The Documents

This is the list of documents I was told I needed. Keep in mind that this list can change and may differ for each consulate.

  • Passport with at least six months of validity past the end date of your visa
  • Birth certificate – official copy from the past six months
  • Apostille of the birth certificate – this needs to be done in the state the birth certificate was issued
  • Proof of income of at least €2000 a month or equivalent in your currency
  • Health insurance valid in Greece
  • FBI Background check or your country’s equivalent
  • Health certificate from your doctor – have it printed on letterhead if they don’t have a stamp
  • Visa Application with a passport photo
  • Visa fee, which was about $200

Other Things to Know

Please note that this is not necessarily a valid option for digital nomads or people looking for a job in Greece. I applied as a financially independent person as you cannot be working in Greece. I have plenty of savings to cover the required income for the visa.

Once you are in Greece, you must apply for a residence permit with its own requirements. Please read my whole blog post on the Greece Resident Permit application process.

Please let me know what questions you have about applying for a Greece National Visa, and I will try to help.

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Apply for a Greek National Visa - photo of Santorini

Greece, Travel

Pyrgos, Santorini – A Santorini Secret

August 16, 2021
Church in Pyrgos Santorini

The former capital of Santorini is Pyrgos. Pyros, Santorini is a stunning Greek village located in the middle of Santorini. The village is home to the best-preserved medieval settlement on the island. Pyrgos offers panoramic views as it is the highest village on the island, and on clear days, you can see all the way to Crete.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

The village of Pyrgos is just as beautiful as the village of Oia, but the best part is that locals still live here. Pyrgos also boasts some amazing restaurants, and many of them offer an amazing view of Santorini. Best of all, it is a Santorini secret as you won’t find many tourists staying here.

Why should you visit Pyrgos, Santorini? Pyrgos gives you a sense of what a traditional Greek village is. People say hello to you, the church bells ring, you see families chatting to each other and see them all go about their daily lives. Santorini doesn’t have too many of these traditional villages left, so this is one of the best opportunities to do so while on Santorini. This is great if you will not be visiting another island while in Greece.

Things to Do in Pyrgos

Pyrgos village is not large, but there are still a few things to do, and it is a great place to visit a more traditional Greek village. It is the perfect way to spend an afternoon on Santorini island.

Climb to the top of Pyrgos Kasteli

Sitting on the top of the hill in Pyrgos is a castle known as Pyrgos Kasteli. The Kasteli is a ruin, so you cannot go inside, but it is worth going to the top. At the top, you can get panoramic views of all of Santorini. It is also interesting to see that the castle was made of black volcanic rocks.

The top of the Kastel is a great place to watch the famous Santorini sunset. You can either watch from the top of the castle or visit one of the many restaurants that are located there. Two favorites for this are Rosemary and Franco’s Cafe.

Pyrgos Main Square

Like most villages in Greece, the main square in Pyrgos is a hive of activity. There are several restaurants to see in to watch the town activity. This is also where the public bus picks you up to take you to Thira. The supermarket is located here as well. If people-watching is a favorite activity of yours, this is the place to sit. Try it at different times of the day to see what differences you might see.

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Santo Wines

Santorini is known for its wine production, and one of the biggest wineries is located right on the outskirts of Pyrgos, Santo Wines. You can take a tour and have a wine tasting at Santo Wines. One of the most popular Santorini wines is the Assyrtiko. Santo has several wines made with the Assyrtiko grape and a few other options, including red wine. If you don’t have time for a tour, you can stop in their gift shop to purchase the wine and other products.

Pyrgos Restaurants

One of the best things you can do in Pyrgos is to eat out. For such a small village, it has an abundance of excellent restaurants. If you are spending a few days in Santorini, I recommended eating in Pyrgos more than once.

Brusco

Brusco is right in the main square of Pyrgos and offers a great spot for people-watching. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The lunch and dinner are a mix of mezedes, which are like tapas, and sandwiches. Don’t worry, the portions are big. It is also a great stop for a drink either before or after dinner. They offer a good selection of Santorini wines. My recommendations to eat are the vegan beetroot salad (I like it better than the regular one) and the talagani cheese with fig jam.

Rosemary

Rosemary is located at the top of the Pyrgos castle. The view from the restaurant is stunning. Not only can you see the whole island, but it is also a great place to watch the sunset. The menu features gourmet Greek food. Make sure to make a reservation to secure a view while eating!

Penelope’s

Penelope’s is another mezedes place but offers stunning views of Pyrgos and the surrounding area. It is also a top spot to watch the sunset while having dinner in Santorini. The location is not just great for the famous Santorini sunset view, but it is below the large church in Pyrgos, and some of the seats are under the bell tower. My recommendations to eat there are the spetsofai and the fava. Penelope’s also offers breakfast.

Cava Alta

Cava Alta also offers amazing views from their roof deck dining area as well as inside seating. Unlike many of the restaurants mentioned here, this restaurant serves Mediterranean food with a hit of Santorini taste. Of course, they offer amazing wines to complement their food.

Kantouni

Kantouni offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner! They offer huge omelets for breakfast and healthy salads for lunch. Dinner brings classic Greek dishes. The location is right next to Brusco and is a great place to people watch as well.

Where to Stay in Pyrgos

Demeter Cave House

Are you coming to Santorini on a romantic vacation? Demeter Cave House is just the place for you! This classic Santorini cave house has been fully restored. It is an adult-only villa with a private hot tub. There is also a roof deck that offers a wonderful view of the sunset. If you are lucky, you can see Crete on a clear day.

The bed in Demeter Cave House glows and is extremely comfortable. The cave house features a small kitchenette and a wonderful lounge area. While it is not a hotel, it is full service, and the owners are always available for anything you might need.

Use code agirlandherpassport to get a special treat when you check in at Demeter Cave House.

White Orchid Cave House

If you are coming with kids or some friends, there are few other cave house options. The first is White Orchid Cave House. It features two rooms. One is a self-contained studio that can fit two people. The other is a cave room downstairs that can sleep four people and has a kitchenette. These two rooms can be booked together if you are a large group as well. White Orchid Cave House is cute and clean.

If Santorini is on your list of places to go, I highly recommend visiting Pyrgos, even if it is just for a few hours. However, to get a real feel for village life in Santorini, consider making it your base while in Santorini. You won’t regret it!

Greece, Travel

Demeter Cave House in Pyrgos, Santorini

June 4, 2021
Demeter Cave House

Recently, I was invited by Demeter Cave House to experience staying in their stunning cave house on Santorini. I can honestly say that if you are looking for luxury in a traditional Greek village in Santorini, this is the place to stay. While I was a guest of the cave house, all views are my own.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Santorini cave houses or yposkafa are common in the villages, and they are built into the sides of the hills. The cave houses are built to keep the heat out in the summer and the heat in winter. They are then whitewashed yearly to help them maintain the white exterior and sun-reflecting properties. The cave houses are simply built and usually have built-in furniture. Many Santorini residents still live in these, and many have been turned into vacation rentals.

Demeter Cave House

Demeter Cave House is a luxury cave house but still maintains its simple charms. Demeter is an adults-only making the perfect place to come on a romantic holiday or honeymoon trip. The cave house has been built with couples in mind as well, with two of most things being present. It is located in the picturesque village of Pyrgos.

Entering the cave house, your own private jacuzzi greets you. While you don’t have a caldera view like you might in Oia, you have absolute privacy, which is not guaranteed in Oia. You and your loved one can share a glass of wine in the heated jacuzzi and relax after a day of exploring Santorini.

If you want to cook on your holiday, there is a kitchenette with all the amenities to cook a simple meal. A bottle of Santorini wine is chilling for you in the refrigerator on arrival, as well as bottled water. Demeter Cave House will ask you if you drink coffee or tea before your arrival, so your preferences are ready to make on arrival. Unlike many hotels, Demeter will even provide milk for your coffee or tea! I think this has something to do with the half British ownership and knowing the importance of milk in tea for the Brits!

Demeter Cave House offers breakfast as an option to order after you make your reservation. They offer Greek scrambled eggs or strapatsada, which is my favorite breakfast in Greece. Strapatsada is eggs, feta, tomatoes and oregano. The breakfast also comes with yogurt, fruit, bread, orange juice and coffee. You can take your meals in the private area next to the jacuzzi, inside or on the roof deck.

Book direct with Demeter Cave House and get a surprise gift when entering code agirlandherpassport.

The television is a smart tv, allowing you to watch Netflix if you feel like a movie night in. Or if you feel like having a dance, there is a wonderful speaker that you can play your own music on. The sound quality was so good; I will probably end up buying my own!

Ready for an amazing sleep? The bed in Demeter Cave House is simply amazing! Not only is the mattress extremely comfortable and covered in pillows for all your sleeping needs, but it also glows. There are soft lights under the bed that you can control for a warm ambient experience. In classic Greek fashion, all the light switches for the room are located next to the bed, so you don’t have to get up after you have laid down to sleep.

Demeter Cave House Bed

I have saved the best for last, and that is the bathroom. The bathroom features double sinks and double shower heads! Convenience and comfort are top priorities in the bathroom of Demeter Cave House. Not only can you shower together, but you can also relax on the bench in the shower area.

Demeter Dave House bathroom

Santorini Sunset at Demeter Cave House

Trust me when I say you don’t need to be on the Santorini caldera or Oia to view the famous Santorini sunset. You can watch the stunning Santorini sunset from the beautiful roof deck of Demeter Cave House. Pyrgos village is the highest village on Santorini, giving it the best view of the sunset on the whole island. Also, you will avoid the crowds watching the sunset in Oia.

Sunset from Demeter Cave House roof deck
Sunset in Pyrgos Santorini

When you go up to the roof terrace, sit on the deck chairs that face the church, Agios Demetrios. The Santorini sunset will happen right over the roof depending on what time of year you are there, but this is a good spot for the summer. Enjoy it with some Greek mezes and wine for the ultimate Santorini sunset experience over Pyrgos village.

My biggest tip for watching the sunset in Greece and not just for the Santorini sunset is to wait for at least 20 minutes after the sunset dips below the horizon. The colors get better and better as the sun goes further past the horizon.

After the sunset, lay down on the soft cushy lounge chairs to watch the stars. These soft loungers are amazing to lay on. You might even fall asleep!

Services at Demeter Cave House

Demeter Cave House offers a wide variety of services that you might only expect to find at a larger hotel property. You can book things such as a couples massage, a sunset sail, or a honeymoon welcome package. Private pickups from the airport or the port can be arranged as well. Demeter is well connected to the local companies and can help you make reservations and suggestions on where to eat.

Greek mezes and wine on the roof deck of Demeter Cave House

If you need a car rental, which I recommend for Santorini, Demeter Cave House uses Pyrgos Rent a Car. I used them while I was there, and they were great! Renting the car was very easy, and when I returned it, they took me to the airport. They can arrange to pick you up as well. It is an additional fee, but no more than a taxi to the airport would cost. You need an international driver’s license to rent a car in Greece, so make sure to get one before leaving home!

What I loved the most was that after a day of exploring Santorini, I could come back to the quiet village of Pyrgos and Demeter Cave House and completely relax. Everything was quiet, and I didn’t have to worry about where to eat or where to watch the sunset. It was all on my doorstep!

Check Demeter Cave House’s availability directly on their website. Get a surprise gift when you use code agirlandherpassport.

Demeter Cave House Pin
Greece, Travel

Island Hopping in Greece

May 14, 2021
Ferry arriving in Ios, Greece

When people think of Greece, they think of the beautiful blue and white buildings that dot the landscapes of a Greek island. Many people want to visit as many of those islands on their Greek holiday but they may be daunted by the task of figuring which islands to visit and how to go island hopping in Greece.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

This guide will not only tell you what to do on these amazing Greek islands but how to get to there. The main way of Greek island hopping is to pick a set of islands and take the ferry from each one. Don’t worry; taking the Greek ferry is easy and a fun way to get to all the Greek islands you desire.

You will want to find islands that are interconnected by ferry. Many islands are close to each other but the ferries may not go to the island you want even if it seems logical that it would.

Keep in mind this is just a small sampling of itineraries you can create for yourself. There are about 200 inhabited Greek islands to explore and a few island chains I don’t cover here. To see where the ferries go, check out Ferry Hopper’s planner.

Cyclades Island Hopping

The Cyclades Island chain is probably the most popular of all the Greek islands. This is the set of islands that include Mykonos and Santorini, but there are 39 islands. 24 of those islands are inhabited so there are tons of different islands to explore. You can’t hit them all in one trip but you can hit anywhere from 3 to 7 islands depending on how long your trip is.

Santorini – Naxos – Mykonos

If this is your first visit to Greece, you most likely want to visit Santorini for its beautiful caldera views. To start this island-hopping adventure, I would recommend flying to Santorini to use your time efficiently. Some must-see things to do in Santorini are the hike from Thira to Oia along the caldera, visiting the ancient destroyed town of Akrotiri, and visiting a Greek winery. After spending a few days, you can then take the ferry to the largest Cycladic island of Naxos.

For great hotel with a caldera view, book a room at Strogili in Oia.

Naxos sits between Santorini and Mykonos, making it a great stop and a less touristy island than the other two. This island features some of the best beaches in Greece, and because of its size, it has large agricultural activity. Naxos has tons of great restaurants as a result with wonderful local ingredients. Spend a few days relaxing here before heading to Mykonos.

While Mykonos is well known, it is still worth a visit for its great nightlife. Dance the Greek summer night away at one of its many beach bars. During the day, you can explore the island. Make sure to check out the Mykonos windmills for an iconic photo of your trip to Greece. Finally, you can catch the ferry back to Athens directly from Mykonos, making it a great island to end your Greek holiday on.

Book you ferry tickets on Ferry Hopper.

Naxos – Paros – Milos

As mentioned before, Naxos is an amazing island to visit and especially a favorite among families. To get to Naxos from Athens, you will want to catch the ferry at Piraeus. The ferries to Naxos usually leave early in the morning, so I recommend sleeping in Piraeus the night before to save time. If you really want to be closed, I recommend the Triton Hotel as it is one of the few hotels that serves breakfast early enough to eat before you catch the ferry. The hotel is no-frills but not a problem for one night.

Book a room at the Triton Hotel.

The ferry ride to Naxos takes about 4 and a half hours but is totally worth it. Watch the blue Aegean sea go past on the deck, and you will be starting your holiday right. After spending a few days exploring Naxos, head to Paros. The ferry to Paros might be the same one you came on to! It is a short hop to the Paros port. In Paros, explore the Church of 100 Doors and the fishing village of Naousa.

Stay in Naousa at the centrally located, Liparando Hotel.

After spending a night or two in Paros, take one of the fast ferries to one of the further Cycladic islands of Milos. Milos has some other worldly-looking beaches due to its volcanic past. The beach that best represents this is Sarakinikio beach, made up of white smooth rocks. Sailing to some of the more remote beaches is one of the most popular things to do in Milos because you can’t reach them by car. Milos is a smaller island, so you may only need a couple of days here before catching the ferry back to Athens.

Tinos – Ios – Folegandros – Santorini

If you have a bit more time for your Greek holiday, consider hitting some out of the way and smaller islands. Again you will catch the ferry from Piraeus to Tinos. Tinos is a stunning island known for its artists and dovecotes. There are so many villages to explore on Tinos; you will want several days to explore this natural beauty.

Book you ferry tickets on Ferry Hopper.

After you explore, Tinos catch the ferry to Ios. Ios has something for everyone, from vibrant nightlife to stunning beaches and some amazing history. The island small, so take this opportunity to relax on the beach and eat some of the amazing local cuisine before going to Folegandros.

Book your room at my personal favorite of Kritikakis Village Hotel.

There are so many islands in the Cyclades that I cannot list all possible routes but you can see here how easy it is to island hop in the Cycladic islands.

Saronic Island Hopping

The Saronic islands are the closest islands to Athens. These make a great option if you don’t have a long time to spend in Greece. Many of these are also great options for a day trip to an island from Athens.

Aegina – Agistri

Getting to Aegina is one of the fastest ferry trips to an island, with the fast ferry only taking about 40 minutes from Piraeus port. You can also take a slower ferry that takes about an hour from Piraeus. Aegina is a beautiful island with plenty of things to do. If hitting the beach is your top priority, then head to Agia Marina on the island’s east side. A few of the ferries go direct to Agia Marina in the high season. While on that side of Aegina, make sure to stop at the Temple of Aphaia. The Temple of Aphaia dates to around 500 B.C. and is a great spot for views of the island and surrounding sea.

Book a room at the Aphrodite Art Hotel in Aegina.

After spending a night or two on Aegina, take the short ferry ride to Agistri. Agistri is mostly covered in forests but offers some amazing beaches. This island is not very touristy and gives you an idea of what life is like on a smaller Greek island. This island is perfect for relaxing. You can see I did just that in the video below.

Book a room at Hotel Alexandra that is featured in the video above.

Poros – Hydra – Spetses

Hitting Poros is a great option if you have a car as it is one island you can reach by car. However, you can still go by ferry, and it is faster than driving. Poros is a great place to practice the Greek art of people watching and boat watching. Because of its harbor layout, you can sit in almost any cafe and watch boats docking. If you want to get a higher view, walk through the town to the clock tower for a great sunset view.

Book your ferry tickets to Poros here.

After spending a day in Poros, head to the island with no cars! Hydra does not allow cars on the island. However, if maritime history sparks your interests, Hydra boasts a small but wonderful museum located in the port. It is called the Historical Archive-Museum of Hydra. While the name doesn’t sound nautical, there is plenty of nautical history there.

Book your stay at the Orloff Boutique Hotel Hydra.

Spend a few days in Hydra and then catch the ferry to Spetses. This island is also home to two great museums that happened to be inside historic homes. Museums on Greek islands are great places to escape the heat after hitting the beach. Spetses also has some stunning beaches to go for a swim at and relax.

Dodecanese Islands

The Dodecanese Islands are far away from Athens but are close to Turkey. The largest island is Rhodes. While you can take the ferry from Athens, it will be a long ferry, so I recommend flying to one island to start and then start your Dodecanese island hopping experience. Visiting the Dodecanese may require a longer trip due to their location and where you fly into Greece.

Leros – Patmos – Kalymnos

Leros is a great place to start in the Dodecanese Islands as there is an airport and the flight is only an hour-long! While Leros is not a large Greek island, there are tons to see. It is an island of great architecture with interesting buildings, churches, and castles to visit. Once you have explored all the buildings, head over to one of the many beautiful beaches for a nice swim. There are tons of Leros beaches to choose from.

Once you spend three or four days on Leros, catch the ferry to the island of Patmos. Patmos is known for its religious history as it is supposedly the place where John wrote the book of Revelation. You can even see the cave where John wrote the book. However, you don’t have to be religious to enjoy this lovely island. Patmos has some amazing beaches and is a great spot to scuba dive.

Book your ferry ticket to Kalymnos here.

Kalymnos is known for its rock climbing activities, and there are tons of options. But, even if you aren’t into rock climbing, there is still plenty of things to do on Kalymnos. There is an archaeological museum housed inside an old mansion that is definitely worth exploring. And it wouldn’t be a Greek island without some great beaches to visit.

Astypalaia – Tilos – Kos

Astypalaia is a stunning island with a castle at the top. It is a great island to start with as it has an airport. The Venetian castle is the highlight of this Greek island. But there are other things to see such as the beaches and the Drakos Cave. Not only is it a cool natural attraction, but it is also rumored to be where pirates stored their treasure!

Book a room at the Kallichoron Art Boutique Hotel.

Tilos is the island for relaxing! The island is known for being one of the greenest places in Greece. However, there isn’t much to do but enjoy nature. Hiking is a popular activity on Tilos, and there are tons of old pathways.

Once you have relaxed enough, take the ferry to Kos.

Kos is one of the most popular islands to visit in the Dodecanese island chain. There is so much to do in Kos; you could spend at least a week exploring. If ancient sites are your thing, make sure to visit Asklepieion. Asklepieion is a temple built to honor the god of health, Asklepios. It was built after the death of Hippocrates. Another great ancient site on Kos is their Ancient Agora. Much like the Agora in Athens, it has ruins of temples and baths. Spend at least a few days on Kos so you can see it all.

Sporades Islands

The Sporades Islands have been famous by Mamma Mia. Much of the first film was filmed on the island of Skopelos, well, at least the outdoor scenes. While you can easily ferry hop between these four islands, you can’t do it from Athens. You will either need to fly to one to begin or drive to Volos or Agios Constantinos on the mainland to catch the ferry. You can only island-hop from three of the four Sporades as ferries to Skyros only leave from Kymi on the island of Evia, so I will give you things to do on each island, and you can decide the order!

Skopelos

Most people will want to hunt for film locations of Mamma Mia on Skopelos, including the church. The church is called Agios Ioannis Kastri and is located on the eastern side of the island towards the north. Once you hike to the top, head to a beach to relax. If you need more to explore, check some of the many monasteries on the island.

Book your hotel room at Aeolos Hotel in Skopelos.

Skiathos

Skiathos has something for everyone. The island boasts beautiful beaches, diving spots, party spots, castles, and churches. Not to mention all the wonderful Greek tavernas to visit. If you want to island-hop in a more traditional way, Skiathos offers many options for days sails that take you to Skopelos and Alonissos!

Alonissos

Said to be the most beautiful island of the Sporades, Alonissos is for the nature lover. There is a marine park to explore, plenty of hikes, and a cave to explore. Around Alonissos are several small islets that have churches on them and there are boats that will take you to them to explore.

Ionian and Northern Aegean Islands

The Ionian and Northern Aegean Islands are harder to island-hop on a ferry. Many places only go to one island from the mainland on these islands. For example, you can catch the ferry to Lemnos but not to another island from Lemnos. For islands like Corfu, you can catch more local ferry lines to one or two islands, but most of them are far from each other. Technically the Northern Aegean islands aren’t an island chain at all but get grouped together.

Let me know if you have done any island hopping in Greece and what your favorites were!