We had heard and read that Athens isn't worth spending much time in. We didn't see a whole much beyond the regular sites and the bus and metro lines don't play well together, but I actually liked the place. It's a comfortable downtown area to walk around in, with history at every turn.
Meteora is an area in central Greece with several monasteries perched high atop rocky spires. The setting is beautiful and the monasteries truly incredible.
On our way from Meteora to the Peloponese, we stopped by the ancient oracle at Delphi for advice. Actually, this is where we first heard that the islands where safe to visit. Ther ruins are much like elsewhere, but there is a well preserved stadium and the mountain setting is great.
There's no way we could pass up a visit to the home of the ancient Olympics. The ruins of Olympia take a bit of imagination, but this is where it all started.
Our final homage to history was a trip to the relatively modern (1200AD) yet ruined city of Mystra high in the hills overlooking the Spartan plains. There's not much left of ancient Sparta itself, but the agricultural valley it called home is beautiful. Much of the walled hilltown of Mystra remains. There's even an active convent amongst the other chapels. But much more is in complete ruin.
We made the decision to skip more ruins and head to Paros in the center of the Cyclades archipelago. Paros is great. It has a little bit of everything to do and doesn't have hyper-inflated costs due to over-tourism like Mykonos. We enjoyed a couple beach days and scootering around the island to see the windmills, whitewashed towns and party beaches.
I was hesitant to go to Santorini because it is so hyped up. Well, there's a reason all the cruise ships go. It's incredible. The towns clinging to the inside of the caldera defy sanity. We also enjoyed the other side of the island which tapers off through endless terraced vineyards to red, white and black volcanic beaches. If you get one island to spend a few days on, make it Santorini.
After Paros and Thira, Mykonos held no fascination for us. Coming in on the ferry, it looked much like Paros. At the dock, we experienced what the height of 'the season' means when faced with room rates three times higher than we'd seen even on Santorini. I'm sure Mykonos is a nice place, but after spending a day on the beach and in Mykonos town, we decided that it defines over-hyped Greek island and we caught the next ferry out to the Dodecanese island of Samos. The next ferry at 4:20am...
Samos is almost swimming distance from Turkey and nothing like the Cycladic islands we had just left. Samos is lush and covered in pine trees. The mountains and valleys look like they could have stepped out of the Sierras. There are no whitewashed towns that we found. The Byzantine churches are surrounded by red tile roof Mediterranean houses. People here are friendlier than we've experienced in Greece, but also take things more seriously. The scooter shop actually wanted to see my motorcycle license.