25 Jun 2014 - 15 Jul 2014
Travelling to Europe for the first time ever, and travelling solo for the first time ever I felt this was a wonderful way to kick start my adventure! Our tour guide was named Meggy and she was absolutely awesome! I hadn't done a contiki before or any other tour but I felt totally blessed to have such an amazing guide for the first time.
Day 1 - We stayed at The Regent Hotel in Rome. To be completely honest with you none of the hotels in Italy were very nice although they claimed to be 3-4 stars. It is not a big deal though because basically all you do there is sleep because you are too busy to spend time there!
Meggy held a meeting with our group in a restaurant close to the hotel and explained in great detail every optional, every included meal & backstage pass, and every day where to find the info sheet outlining our itinerary for the days ahead.
We had an in included dinner and a walking tour of Rome. The walking tour went for about 1-2 hours and was worth it. Out tour guide Meggy took us through Rome city centre and showed us the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Piazza Venezia, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, plus all the shopping streets in Rome, where to find a pharmacy, supermarket basically everything we could have asked for.
Day 2 - We actually visited and had a guided tour of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. This was an optional and definitely has to be done if you haven't before! You simply cannot go to Rome and not visit the Colosseum. It is definitely a must see!
This night there was an optional dinner which was an Italian cooking class which I did not do. The reason I did not do it is because I come from an Italian family where we make our own tomato sauce and pasta so I could not justify paying 48.00 euro to see this done. (I do appreciate that it would be different in Rome but I had to budget to have enough to backpack around after this trip) Every person I spoke to that did this optional said it was awesome but. You learn to make 3 different kinds of pasta then the chef cooks it for you and you eat it! I heard very good things about this dinner.
Day 3 - We had an included guided tour of St. Peter's basilica, the Sistine chapel and the Vatican state. This was one of the standout moments of my entire trip. The whole Vatican state is absolutely amazing and definitely a must see. Your tour guide will remind you but inside any of the churches you must have shoulders and knees covered so remember to bring a cardigan, wear a t-shirt, long skirt or pants.
After this we had free time so I ventured off on my own to visit the Castle of Saint Angels. This was probably my favourite thing to see in Rome, it was breathtakingly beautiful. (A quick tip also if you haven't already I highly recommend you watch the movie Angels & Demons which is the sequel to The Da Vinci Code before visiting Rome, it was amazing to see so many of the statues and monuments that I remembered seeing in the movie in real life).
Day 3 - We took the coach from Rome to our next destination Sorrento via Pompeii. On the coach we got to see glimpses of Mt. Vesuvius which was pretty cool! We stopped in Pompeii which is the home of an endless supply of lemon and orange trees, so there is plenty of fresh lemon juice, fresh orange juice, lemon sorbet basically anything you can think of in those flavours. Oh and of course limoncello which you must try!!
There was an optional guided tour of the ruins Pompeii which I highly recommend, everyone on the tour loved this. It is a massive city of ruins, I think I took over 100 photos just there alone.
After this we continued on the coach to Sorrento with view of the Mediterranean Sea. As we were driving in the coach we had spectacular views of the sea and our driver was nice enough to stop off at the top of a cliff/lookout for photos.
This evening there was an optional dinner which I didn't participate in. Everyone I spoke to about this dinner said it was an amazing view on top of the cliff overlooking the bay but the food wasn't very good and thought it was overrate and overpriced for what they got.
Our hotel in Sorrento named Cavaro Hotel was the worst one we stayed in - everyone agreed. It was in a good location very easy to walk into town, had a swimming pool (not that we really had much of a chance to swim as we were always off doing things) but the rooms and bathrooms were small, run down and a bit dirty.
Day 4 - We had a day trip to the Island of Capri. This island is stunning, but very very expensive (it is where all the rich and famous go). I did the optional cruise around the island and got to see all the grottos. We didn't get to swim in them but was still amazing to see. Our boat driver did stop off somewhere off the island and we all got to jump off the boat and swim in the Mediterranean Sea. Just a heads up 3 people on the boat got seasick. I personally did not find the ride to be rough or anything but if you do suffer best to take some motion sickness tablets just to be safe!
On our Capri excursion myself and 2 other girls chose to walk up the island (you can walk which takes about 20 mins) or catch the cable car which I think is about 5 euro and takes a few minutes. It was a steep walk, it was about 34degrees so drink plenty of water and try to stick to the shade if you can. When we got to the top we had lunch in a beautiful restaurant overlooking the entire island. We walked back down again but you also have the option to take the cable car.
This night we had an included dinner which was a pizza buffet, and the pizzas were very very nice! They have all different types and literally want to keep feeding you (typical Italians) After this our entire group went to a karaoke bar which we pretty much turned into a night club. It was so much fun until all the Italian 17 year old guys came in trying to dance with everyone!!
Day 5 - We got on the coach to Bari, then a 9 hour ferry ride to Igoumenitsa (Greece). While it's true 9 hours on a ferry is a long time and we only had aeroplane type seats to sleep/sit in, a group of us went up to the deck of the ship with a pack of cards and entertained ourselves for majority of it playing drinking games and getting drunk! We spent the night in a hotel by the port in Igoumenitsa.
Day 6 - We got a 1.5 hour ferry to Corfu, one of the Greek Islands. Our accommodation was called Corfu Village, which is a contiki only village. At first sight the village looks amazing, there's an awesome pool and each room had a balcony overlooking the beach. The only negative I have on this was that our bathroom was not clean when we got there and wasn't cleaned once during our stay.
The optional on this day was the Captain's cruise of Corfu aka George's boat. Everyone on the tour agreed this was the best optional/best day we had all tour. George is a 63 year old man who is a little inappropriate at times, but very entertaining and very hilarious! We all had lots of drinks and laughs on this day. George provides a lovely fresh lunch on board too. Drinks and souvenirs are not included but I definitely recommend buying a shirt - you buy a keyring and get a shirt for 10 euro.
Day 7 - This was the first free day we had where we weren't rushing around to be somewhere or setting alarms to wake up early. Most of us slept in ad missed breakfast but we weren't too concerned! I caught the bus from across the village into town and went shopping. The shopping was pretty good and fairly cheap in town.
This evening we had a toga party with another contiki group that were also staying in the village which was awesome and so much fun!
Day 8 - We travelled nearly 9 hours on the coach to get to Athens. We stopped at a service stop and got to see The Corinth Canal - which is a man made canal. If you are massively afraid of heights like I am I would recommend not getting too close!
We arrived in Athens and had an included dinner in town which was about 20 mins away from our hotel.
The accommodation was called The Arion Hotel and the first place we had good wifi AND wifi in our rooms!
Day 9 - We had an included guided tour of The Acropolis which was pretty cool. Just a heads up but it was hot - very hot so take a little daypack with water, sun cream, hat and wear good shoes!! It is also very slippery inside there so be careful where you walk - we saw a few people slip over. Later this day we drove to the first modern Olympic stadium, then Parliament where we could either choose to stay on the bus back to the hotel or get off to go explore town and make our way back on our own. I got off the bus as witnessed the changing of the guards outside Parliament, then went wandering through the markets and shops to get back to the hotel.
This night there was an optional dinner that I did not participate in but I wish I did! It was a typical Greek dinner with Greek dancing, games, fire and ouzo! Everyone said it was very cool so if you have the option to do it then do it!
Day 10 - I was unaware when I booked this tour but this day was the day our group got split up. Some people were going home, most were doing a 3 day Greek Island cruise and 9 of them including myself were off to do an 11 day Greek Island hopping tour with a new tour group. Myself and another girl used out free morning and caught the train to Lykovatiss Hill, which we were told by our guide was a hill overlooking the entire city of Athens. When we got off the train it was about a 20 minute walk up hill then to a cable car which costs 7.50 euro return. It was well worth it but the view was spectacular.
We got back to the hotel and met our new tour guide Paola who took us on a bus to the new hotel with our new group. This day is the reason I rated this tour 4 out of 5 stars and not 5 out of 5. The 9 of us who joined this new tour were unaware but the new group had an optional dinner this night, which was the exact same optional dinner we had done be nigh before therefore we were advised not to do it again. To be perfectly honest I would have preferred to be told in the first place that the 2 dinners were the same and done the one with the new group. All of us who came to the tour technically came 2 days late and felt like we had missed out on a lot of the bonding with the new group.
Day 11 - We got aboard a ferry to Mykonos which took about 5 hours. This ferry ride was sooooooo rough. The swell must have been at least 5-6 meters and even for a big ferry boat it was rocking back and forth. If you were inside you felt seasick and if you were outside you would be sprayed with water so it was a no win situation! We arrived safely though and I was surprised to discover Mykonos to be soooo windy! And I mean extremely windy! We checked into our hotel Mykonos beach resort which was about a 20 minute drive out of town, were told that if we were to try to walk from town to the resort it would take about 3 hours, and there are a total of 32 taxis on the entire island. The resort was beautiful the only downside to it being so far from town was that the only restaurant close by was a taverna right next to the resort which was ridiculously expensive. A main meal and a pint of beer was about 40 euro. We were told Mykonos was the most expensive of all the Islands but we were not told that if we walked about 5 mins away from the resort there was a small mini mart selling snacks and other stuff. This would have been handy to know before spending so much money on food!
This night I did the hidden treasures of Mykonos tour which was literally a walking tour of the town with an included dinner followed by a bar crawl. I originally didn't put this down and my tour guide talked me into it saying it was really good. Honestly, it wasn't. The walking tour was okay but we could have done it on our own, the dinner was very nice and the bar crawl was interesting. The first bar we went to was tiny but a lot of fun, the next bar was so packed you literally could not move. Myself being only 5'2 I purposely avoid mosh pits and overly crowded areas especially when there is alcohol involved because I cop elbows to the head. I walked out of this bar and stood out the front wanting to leave and go back to the hotel but we were warned many many times in Mykonos that girls should not go anywhere alone as it is not safe! Luckily my friend wandered out and there ended up being about 7 of us that waited for a taxi together...2.5hours later we finally got one but I guess that's what happens when there are 32 taxis for a whole island!
Day 12 - Paradise day beach party - the best kind of fun! This was an awesome awesome day! Try the devils tongue cocktail which is only 11 euro and has about 10 shoes in it! The day starts off tame enough everyone is sitting down at tables and before you know it everyone is dancing on the bar and on tables. Definitely do this optional it is absolutely worth it!
Day 13 - This was a free day so we were able to swim at the beach, do water sports or head into town to explore!
Day 14 - We left Mykonos for Santorini. Santorini was my absolute favourite place of anywhere I went and unfortunately no photos will ever do it justice. It is not a party island but a bit quieter and more relaxing. The shopping in Santorini is absolutely amazing too - clothes, shoes, bags, souvenirs you name it whatever you want they have it. We had an included dinner this night in a restaurant atop a cliff overlooking the amazing sunset. Although almost any restaurant you visit in Santorini is stop the cliff so you can literally go anywhere and are satisfied!
Day 15 - We had a free morning this morning so my friend and I did the Volcano trek & swim which although is listed as an optional on contiki was not organised through contiki. The volcano was a ferry ride then about a 20 minute hike to the top - word of advice wear good shoes! The actual volcano itself was not that spectacular to be honest I would not do it again. After this we took the ferry to another island about 15 mins away where we had the option to jump off the boat and swim to the hot springs. The hot springs were pretty cool it was a strange feeling swimming through sea water to water that eventually got warmer and warmer.
This night we had a walking tour and dinner in the town of Oia. This is the part of Santorini you see on the postcards where the buildings wth the blue domes are. After this we walked to a restaurant on the very top of the cliff and watched the sunset over the sea which was beautiful!
Day 16 - We had a tour where we visited the guides home village, the highest point of Santorini where you over look the whole island, and the red and black sand beaches and Santo Wines Winery. Unfortunately I was extremely hungover this day so didn't enjoy it as much as I should have but still had fun!
Day 17 - We got the ferry to Ios aka the party island. We had a free day this day followed by an included dinner in town. Every night in Ios we had a bar/pub crawl after dinner. There are a total of 5 taxis on the entire island but our accommodation - Far out village & spa - was a 15 minute walk from the main part of town.
Day 18 - We had an optional sailing excursion 'Sailing
spectacular Ios.' We got aboard a pirate ship and sailed to a secluded beach where we swam and had lunch for the day. The boat ride over was extremely extremely rocky, at least half the boat felt sick and I'm pretty sure at least 5 people were throwing up! It was a fun day though I don't know if I'd recommend it for 40 euro, but I guess for a boat trip and lunch that seems pretty standard. This night we had another bar crawl out of 68 people only about 30 came out and by 4am there were about 12 of us left!
Day 19 - We had a free day today so most of the girls made the most of it by booking massages/pedicures at the hotel spa! This was our last day/night altogether so after dinner we went into town again and most of them watched the FIFA soccer final then went dancing until the wee hours!
Day 20 - I actually ended up departing this tour a day early and decided to stay in Ios to meet a girlfriend who was coming over the following day so I didn't get the ferry back to Athens with everyone, nor did I participate in the Farrell dinner with everyone!
Overall I think next time I would stick to a tour of more sightseeing than partying. Although this tour had both and I don't regret it I did not enjoy the Islands as much as I enjoyed the Mediterranean trail. I think the Islands don't need to be done on a contiki you can easily do then on your own. The Islands were pretty much just partying (except for Santorini) so prepare your liver and wallet. Courtney and Paola were fantastic guides though - I enjoyed how it felt like they were everyone's friend as opposed to our tour manager.
Also forgot to mention - every city we went in we were given maps of the city and told where things were, how to get there, what to avoid etc. It was all very organised and a great way to meet people, I feel like a lot of the people I met I have known for years and years.
Review written Jul 2014event 0.3