By John Guarente
[In early June, four Americans set out on their first-ever journey to Greece. Gabe Guarente and his girlfriend, Bonnie Barcellos, along with Gabe’s brother, John, and John’s wife, Neha. It was a long-overdue homecoming for the Guarente brothers, both in their thirties, who descend from the island of Nisyros on their mother’s side.
In chronological order, they visited three Dodecanese islands – Rhodes, Nisyros, and Kos – and then spent a few days in Athens before flying back home.
Asked to rank all four places, beginning with their favorite, and then proceeding in descending order, all four travelers were in sync: 1) Nisyros 2) Rhodes 3) Athens 4) Kos.
Gabe explained that there was a clear gap: Nisyros/Rhodes, then a significant drop, and then Athens/Kos. John elaborates further – his full review follows.]
- Nisyros: I was very much expecting to be bored on Nisyros for the five days we had to spend there. It turns out that there is plenty to see and do on this tiny, volcanic island and more beauty than I could have imagined. Each of the four villages has its own little corners and secrets. Nikia and Emborio feel like lost cities in the sky with breathtaking views of the surrounding islands. The crater of the island’s volcano is just a few miles drive from each village. Here you can climb down to the surface and feel the heat of the millennia under your feet. Mandraki and Pali are the two port villages on the island. Pali boasts gorgeous, uncrowded beaches and some of the best dining on Nisyros. Mandraki is where you will find all of the shops, hotels, and bars where one can enjoy the night life during the summer.
- Rhodes: Rhodes is probably the most well-rounded place we went in terms of things that tourists desire on their vacations. On the northern tip of the island where we stayed, there are beautiful rocky beaches and many restaurants and bars with congenial owners who will welcome you with a handshake and sit down with you to tell stories while you eat your dessert. Just a short walk away is the “Old Town,” replete with countless blocks of stone buildings and fortresses that have stood for centuries. Here you will also find some of the best souvenir shopping on the island. Just a bus ride away is the magnificent Acropolis of Rhodes, where you can ride a donkey up to the top or just hoof it to see the ruins and take in the amazing views.
- Athens: I had heard that Athens was nothing to write home about, and given the current political climate in Greece, we were unsure what to expect in the capital city. We wound up having a wonderful time for our two days in Athens. The Parthenon and the Archeological Museum are, of course, must-see attractions. Every restaurant we ate at in Athens was excellent, albeit somewhat more expensive than the dining on the islands. The subway system is easy to navigate, and there is a thriving nightlife with great live music and swank bars in numerous districts. The rooftop bars in Monastiraki are top-notch.
- Kos: Kos Town seems to be Greece’s version of the Jersey Shore. The beach is lined with bar/grills that are eager to take your money in exchange for a beach chair and umbrella. The Asklepeion is the one major archeological attraction in the vicinity, just a short bus ride away. Apart from this, there are plenty of places to shop and eat nearby, and a two-block area known as “Bar Street” or “Beer Street” depending on who you talk to. This has a very Mardi Gras/Nolo feel to it, with young men and women cajoling you off the street to do shots and play beer pong. I don’t recommend Kos Town for a family getaway.