Solo and Stranded by The Mykonos Winds

The Mykonos Windmills

“Will the Mykonos winds ever die down so I can get off this island?”

That was a direct quote I kept asking myself over and over when I visited Athens and three of the Greek Islands, including Mykonos, in the summer of 2014.

But before I tell you why I was asking myself that, let me back up a bit.

Some Background Information

In early 2014, I got an email from my friend, Amy. She lived in the UK and she and a couple of friends were heading to Greece that July. She asked if I would like to go along. I knew instantly that the opportunity to travel to Greece with friends was too good to pass up. Therefore, it was a no brainer for me. I replied “Of course! I’d love to go.”

After some back and forth, I found out that they were going to fly directly from London to the island of Skiathos. They planned to spend all of their time in Greece on that island. I loved the idea of visiting Skiathos but since the flights from Chicago to Greece are not short or cheap, I wanted to see more than just one island while I was there.

I decided to fly in a couple of days before them and visit Athens and the Parthenon. Then I flew to Skiathos and spent a few days with Amy and her friends. Up next was Mykonos. I planned to end my trip by visiting Santorini and its famous sunsets.

Other than when I was with Amy and her friends, I was solo on this trip.

Traveling Solo in Mykonos

I arrived in Mykonos from Skiathos early in the morning, before the hotel lobby opened for the day. I spent my time waiting for the lobby to open on the front porch, where I enjoyed the sunny, but windy morning.

The Mykonos winds were something that instantly surprised me when I arrived on the island. They were strong. At night when I was in my hotel room, the wind reminded me of winters in the Midwest during a blizzard. I imagined the wind whipping snow around outside my window.

I really liked Mykonos. It was everything that I expected it to be. I spent my days wandering around the island. I loved the narrow pathways with the white houses and bright colored trim. The food was delicious. The ocean views from anywhere on the island couldn’t be beat!

One my favorite sites was the famous windmills, which were built in the 16th century to mill wheat. Their use gradually declined until they ceased production in the middle of the 20th century. There are currently 16 windmills on Mykonos, seven of which are positioned on the landmark hill in Chora.

The Mykonos Windmills

I also loved the Panagia Paraportiani church. Dating back to the 1400s, it faces the sea at the entrance to Chora. It’s considered a great example of Cycladic architecture and is classified as a national monument. What makes it so special though is its exterior. It is actually five tiny churches squeezed together, giving it a very unique shape.

The Mykonos Winds

On my last day in Mykonos, I got up and ate breakfast, checked out of my hotel with my large suitcase (I was not an efficient or logical packer back then) and headed out to do some last minute exploring before catching one of the afternoon ferries to Santorini. I decided to take the ferry instead of fly from Mykonos to Santorini for a different (and cheaper) experience.

I got to the dock and found out the ferry I was booked on was delayed because the Mykonos winds were really strong that day. At that point, I wasn’t concerned. There were several ferries that made the voyage to Santorini each day. I figured I would catch one of them.

Throughout the afternoon, the Mykonos winds caused ferry after ferry to be canceled or delayed. I would go from one dock to another, dragging my big suitcase with me as I went. By the end of the day, I had five or six ferry tickets in my hand but I was still in Mykonos.

The workers at the dock and ticket office assured us that the final ferry of the day would be arriving so I, along with many other passengers, waited for it. I was confident that it would be worth it and that I would make it to Santorini that evening.

The ferry did arrive as expected. Delayed, but it arrived. However, once it docked, we were informed that it was not leaving. There were no more ferries going to Santorini that evening.

I was officially stranded.

Ugh! Passengers all around me were scrambling, trying to decide what to do. Many of them resigned themselves to sleeping outside on the cafe patios around the dock. I was not comfortable with that as a solo female traveler and was convinced there had to be another option.

Hotel rooms were extremely hard to come by that evening since it was busy season and most rooms were booked weeks or months in advance. I stood outside of a restaurant I had eaten at earlier in the day (so I knew their Wifi password) and checked all of my favorite sites until I was finally able to find a room. I checked in, took a quick shower and went to bed. What a relief!

The Next Morning

I overslept. Yep, that is now the next morning started. I overslept and I missed the 5:30 a.m. ferry.

At this point, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. I just wanted to get off the island. Why was it so hard to do that?!

I knew the one thing I had to do was get up and figure out a plan. I decided to head down to the docks to see when the next ferry was set to depart. The Mykonos winds had died down a lot over night so I figured the ferries would be running that morning.

Before leaving the hotel, I made one decision though. I decided that if I wasn’t on a ferry heading to Santorini by noon, I was heading to the airport and booking a flight back to Athens instead. I would spend the rest of my trip in Athens. Since my flight back to Chicago departed from there, I figured it would be the easiest way to make sure I didn’t miss that flight.

Upon arriving at the port where the ferries departed, I found out the next ferry to Santorini departed mid-morning. “Okay, good,” I thought. That will work. It was around 8 a.m. and that wasn’t a bad wait considering all of the waiting I did the day before.

But just my luck, it was sold out. It turns out, there weren’t tickets available on ferries heading to Santorini until that evening. Ugh! At this point, my frustration became palpable.

I passed on buying a ticket because I was not going to wait all day again. I was going to the airport before that happened. Since I didn’t have anywhere to be at that moment, I decided to stick around the area and see if anyone canceled. Maybe they would let me buy a last minute ticket for the mid-morning. ferry if someone did.

The mid-morning ferry arrived on time and as it docked, I realized instantly that the boarding situation was one where you got on the boat and showed your tickets later. It presented an opportunity for me and I took it. I joined the crowd and got on the boat. They wouldn’t throw me into the sea for not having a ticket, right? I found a place to sit, tried to be invisible and started figuring out in my head what I would tell the ticket checkers.

When the ticket checker got to me, he was not pleased that I did not have a ticket for that particular ferry. I started pleading my case, showing him all of the tickets I had from the day before. This was not a case of freeloading. I had bought a ticket – just not for that particular ferry.

Eventually, he relented. He told me to find an empty seat and walked away. Honestly, I think he just wanted me to stop talking. Either way, it worked. I was able to finally relax,enjoy the views and enjoy the ferry ride to Santorini.

My Takeaway

This trip was the first time I had traveled to Europe on my own. The experience of being stranded on Mykonos was a great learning opportunity for me. I was able to think on my feet and come up with a plan quickly. I was flexible and patient. The confidence I gained from this experience gave me the boost I needed to know I can go almost anywhere on my own and have the trip be successful.

It was the start of many fun adventures!

Want to keep reading? Read all about my time exploring in Athens here.

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Traveling Solo in Mykonos

Exploring the Greek Islands

After a couple of great days in Athens, it was time for my next adventure: exploring the Greek Islands.

First up, I stopped by Skiathos to meet Amy and her two friends for a few days. Amy lives in London and is originally from South Africa. I met her in 2011 during my first trip to Europe. We kept in touch and I saw her again when I was in London in 2012. I was excited to meet her in Athens this time.

Skiathos

The hotel we stayed at in Skiathos was just outside of town and had many beautiful flowers, grapevines and olive trees on the property. There was a wonderful college aged girl, Vanessa, working at the hotel. She was on the island for the summer and didn’t know many people. We invited her to go to the beach with us on the first day (she worked late afternoons and evenings) and she became part of our group for the remainder of our time in Skiathos, as shown in the photos below. Meeting new people from different places is my favorite part of traveling.

We spent most of our time in Skiathos at the beach and exploring the town. We also did a boat trip to other islands nearby one day. The highlight of the boat trip was the island where the “Mamma Mia” movie was filmed. We got to stop on the island and visit the church where ultimately, Meryl Streep and Pierce Bronson’s characters were married.

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The view from my hotel room
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Olives!

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Photos from our boat tour of neighboring Islands

Exploring the Greek Islands
Chilling on the rocky beach

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Mykonos

After several days in Skiathos, I ventured on to Mykonos because I seems no trip to exploring the Greek Islands was complete without visiting Mykonos and Santorini.

Mykonos is very beautiful! There was a great photo opp everywhere I looked. It was so great to set out and explore the island with no intended destination.

Exploring the Greek Islands
So many pretty colors everywhere!

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One of the things I was most surprised about in Mykonos was how windy it was. At night in my hotel room, it sounded like a Midwestern blizzard was brewing outside. On my last day in Mykonoes, the wind ended up being a problem because it forced them to keep delaying the ferry I was supposed to take to Santorini. They finally canceled all ferries so I had to scramble around at 11pm to find a last minute hotel room.

Hotel rooms were hard to come by since it was busy season so I considered myself very lucky. I should have held that thought because I overslept the next morning and missed the 5:30am rescheduled ferry. Ugh!

While Mykonos is very beautiful and I was so lucky to be there, I was getting tired of being stuck on the island by that point. Dragging my luggage around while trying to find the ferry docks and a hotel was starting to take its toll on me. I decided at that point that if I wasn’t on a ferry heading to Santorini by noon, I was booking a flight back to Athens. I would spend the rest of my trip there.

Upon arriving at the port where the ferries departed (after oversleeping), I found out the next ferry to Santorini departed at 10:30am. But just my luck, it was fully booked. I decided to stick around the port to see if anyone canceled and realized after the ferry arrived that it was a situation where you got on and showed tickets later. I decided to get on, figuring they wouldn’t toss me into the sea en route.

The risk was worth it. The ticket taker wasn’t too pleased about me not having a ticket for that particular ferry but I talked so much trying to plead my case that I think he just wanted me to go away. He told me to pick any available seat and let me go.

Whew! My time exploring the Greek Islands could continue!

Exploring the Greek Islands
The ferry I took from Mykonos to Santorini

Santorini

The ferry ride to Santorini took several hours. On the ferry, I met a wonderful woman from Ukraine who was also traveling alone. It worked out well because we were able to save each other’s seats and watch each other’s stuff. Getting up to walk around or go to the restroom was so much easier!

Once in Oia, Santorini, we checked into our respective hotels and then met up to explore the island together. It was so nice to have someone to take photos for me (and vice versa). We also had dinner together. Any meal I don’t have to eat alone while traveling alone is a bonus.

One of the main attractions in Oia is the sunset. People arrived in droves on buses from other parts of the island to see it. It was overwhelming for me.

I scoped out my spot to watch the sunset early. As I was backing up to let someone past while waiting, my finger hit a metal piece in the wall behind me. Next thing I know, my finger is bleeding profusely. I borrowed some napkins from a restaurant and was offered tissues and bandages in four different languages from people around me. It restores faith in mankind when people are so concerned and helpful. Of course my mini first aid kit was in my suitcase at the hotel. I managed to get my finger to stop bleeding and bandaged without getting any blood on my white shorts (a miracle!) and enjoyed the sunset.

I spent the next day (my last full day in Greece) exploring more of the island in the morning and then relaxing by the hotel pool to avoid the massive crowds in the afternoon.

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Exploring the Greek Islands
The famous Oia, Santorini sunset. 

Interesting in reading more about my trip to Greece? Read all about my time spent traveling solo in Athens here.

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Traveling Solo in Athens, Greece

Anyone who knows me well knows I am almost always up for a trip and an adventure! Just name the place and I will be there. So what did I do when my good friend, Amy, invited me to join her and a couple of her friends on a trip to Greece? I requested the vacation time and booked pronto, of course! Amy and her friends were going to spend the entire week they were in Greece on the island of Skiathos. Since it is such a long trip to get there, I decided to split my time between Skiathos and other parts of Greece. I spent two days in traveling solo in Athens, met them in Skiathos and then finished the trip with solo visits to Mykonos and Santorini.

Greece is an amazingly beautiful country. The Greeks I encountered were very friendly and the food is delicious. I ate a lot of seafood and Greek salads, which were perfect for me because I don’t like lettuce and Greek salads have no lettuce, just veggies, feta cheese and seasonings. It was the perfect light meal!

Day 1 – Out and About in Athens

I figured since I was flying all the way over to Greece, I should spend a couple of days traveling solo in Athens to explore the city and visit the Parthenon. I toured the city using Rick Steves’ Walking Tour. If you do not know who Rick Steves is, he is the author of European travel guides and also has a TV show on PBS. His books are my go-to when I am booking trips to Europe.

I downloaded the app and then the audio walking tour (both for free!) onto my phone. When I set out on the tour, I used one of my ear buds to listen to him so I could also be aware of my surroundings at all time. It worked out perfectly! The best part of his tour is that I was able to listen and then stop the tour and take photos before continuing on.

My first stop along the walking tour was the Parliament House. This building was once the palace for the first King of Greece after the Ottoman occupation and now seats the members of Parliament.

The gentlemen in red caps are the guards, also known as Evzones. The Evzones is a special unit of the Hellenic Army who guard the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Hellenic Parliament and the Presidential Mansion. Through the historical movement of Greece, the Evzones have become symbols of bravery and courage for the Greek people.

They have a Changing of the Guards ceremony similar to the one in front of Buckingham Palace in London (just on a much smaller scale). I love the uniforms these guards wore, especially their shoes! The pom pom on the end is awesome! According to Rick Steves, it is a huge honor for Greek men to be guards and they take their positions very seriously.

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A guard outside of the Parliament House in Athens, Greece. I love their shoes. 🙂

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Changing of the guard ceremony at the Parliament House in Athens
Traveling Solo in Athens
Parliament House in Athens, Greece

After spending time at the Parliament House, I set off to explore other areas of the city. Athens reminded me a lot of Rome in that there are lots of ancient structures all around.

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Seen along the walking tour of Athens
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I loved all of the colorful buildings and flowers. I couldn’t get enough and have lots of photos of both
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And of course I loved all the blue that I think of when I picture Greece.

At the end of my walking tour was the statue below. This statue saved my sanity the next night after dinner.

I found a neat restaurant to eat at that evening and somehow took a wrong turn on the way back to my hotel. I ended up getting completely disoriented and could not figure out which way my hotel was. There was definitely a moment or two of panic where irrational thoughts set in – “I’m lost and am going to wander around this city forever, never to be found again.” My usual crutch when things like this happen – my phone – was not available which only added to my anxiety.

I pushed the thoughts aside for a bit and decided to keep walking. After a bit, I came to a courtyard area…and saw this statue, which I knew had seen earlier in the day on the walking tour. Once I saw him, I was able to orient myself and realized I was just a couple of blocks from my hotel. Whew! (And let’s face it, I could have stopped at one of the many restaurants around and someone would have helped me find my hotel…so I really didn’t need to worry).

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Day 2 – Acropolis and the Parthenon

My main goal for Day 2 was to visit the Parthenon. The Parthenon is located on a big hill overlooking Athens. I could see it from my hotel. It was a sight to be seen at night because it was all lit up. It is a hike up to the top of the hill so if you go, make sure to wear comfy shoes and bring water.

The Parthenon is the main ancient structure on the Acropolis, the hill pictured below. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the symbol of Athens and the most famous of the surviving structures from the world of ancient Greece. The building was originally built in honor of the goddess Athena, the city’s patron. There was a lot of construction going on while I visited because they are working to restore and preserve the site.

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The Parthenon from my hotel 

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These are 4 of the 6 women -columns of the Erechteion temple, which is located near the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis hill. They are named Caryatids and are copies of the originals (which are at a museum).

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With that, my time traveling solo in Athens came to an end. I know a lot of people skip Athens and head straight to the islands when they visit Greece. I really enjoyed my time in Athens and recommend you spend a day or two there when you head to Greece. It is worth your time.

To read about my time with Amy and her friends on Skiathos and my time on Mykonos and Santorini, including how I got stuck on Mykonos, click here.

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