Greece, much like the rest of Europe, goes on holiday during the month of August. Hellenic Ministries encourages its staff to follow the rhythms of the country and closes the office doors the last two weeks of August. Organizationally, they encourage all of the staff, both Greek and international workers, to go on vacation during this seasonal break.
For a variety of reasons, we wrestled with whether or not this was a good time for us to take a break.
Initially, we were all in. Based on recommendations, we scoped out the island of Lefkada and began making plans. Then suddenly, Amy got cold feet and called the whole thing off. Lots of changes were on the horizon, this just didn’t seem like the best time to spend money much less to take a break from work.
As August drew near and the temperatures began to soar, everyone started talking about where they were going vacation. When our co-workers and Greek associates heard we were staying home, they boldly encouraged us to reconsider. Several of our missionary friends shared that they did not take a vacation their first year on the field and deeply regretted it. They said:
Go! Do something. Get away. You don’t know you need it, but you do!
Once again, we opened the AirBnB app* and began exploring Lefkada. Unfortunately, everything within reason was booked. We began to wonder if it was too late to make plans. Maybe this just wasn’t the year for us to get away. Certainly, we could endure the heat.
Again, our friends pressed in. This time they added destination recommendations to their pleas. Every single person included the same location as their top choice for our first Greek vacation: Nafplio.
More exhausted than she realized, Amy let John do all the hunting and planning. He found a perfect place to rent 20 minutes from Nafplio. Because the location was remote the cost was low and fit perfectly into our budget. Booking late didn’t hurt either. Prices everywhere were dropping as renters hoped to lure in last minute planners like us.
With only our Foder’s Guide book* in hand and a general idea of what Nafplio had to offer, we packed our bags, loaded our car, and headed to the most wonderful, unplanned vacation ever.
Our fiends were right, neither of us realized how much we needed the break. Both of us are incredibly grateful they insisted we go. We are enormously blessed by our supporters, whose regular giving allows us to save a portion of our income for holidays.
If you ever find yourself in Greece, we recommend you visit Nafplio. It is the place where fortresses and romance meet. It is a a vacation spot where you can explore and do nothing all in the same day. It is Disney, with a day at the spa… only better!
Take a look. See what we mean:
Do Nothing Days & Beach Days
When we arrived at our AirBnB in Xiropigado we were pleasantly surprised at how beautiful it was, inside and out. We were also surprised at the size of Xiropigado.
Xiropigado has two roads and a few “streets” which connect the homes which terrace up the mountain between the Upper Road and the Coastal Road. Xiropigado is remote yet near enough to Nafplio that we were able to stay at a sea-side home with a fenced in backyard covered with real grass where Cobalt could run freely!
While we spent plenty of time exploring Nafplio and the surrounding areas, we also spent plenty of time tucked away in our AirBnB. We worked on a puzzle. We watched movies and read books. We slept in. We cooked, and we caught up with our kids over long uninterrupted phone calls.
On two separate days we didn’t leave the AirBnB at all!
Click the photos to open the gallery for each set of photos. Click the X in the top right corner to exit the gallery.
We spent most our beach time at Karathona Beach, 6 km south of Nafplio. It was a quiet beach with still, shallow water that went for meters and meters. It was a wonderful place to sun in the shade, read, rest, and swim.
We drove a bit further down the road to Tolo one day and checked out Psilli Ammos Beach. It was a much livelier beach due to the resort nature of Tolo. It was nice, but we liked our quiet Karathona Beach better.
August is hot in Greece. We often showed up around 3 in the afternoon and stayed until 6 before heading back to the AirBnB for an evening in Nafplio. Yes, evenings don’t really begin until 8pm.
Nafplio Days | The Castle View
Nafplio is a beautiful town–both old and new. It’s considered by some to the be the most romantic place in Greece. Considering Nafplio is one of the only places we have been outside of Athens and the Prevesa area for Operation Joshua, we will hold off on forming our opinion, but we will say this: Nafplio did not disappoint.
The Fortress/Castle Palamidi sits 216 meters over the city. Built in three years and occupied over time by the Venetians, the Turks and Greeks, it holds an incredible amount of history as well as places to explore.
Although we didn’t take a boat out to it, there are other fortresses which guarded Nafplio, the first capital of Greece, including the Fortress of Bourtzi, which sits humbly and boldly in the harbor. One could explore for days….
Nafplio Days | The Town and Harbor View
Nafplio comes alive around 8pm when the sun is setting. The Old Town shops are filled with interesting finds. The restaurants dish up stunning Greek food, fresh seafood, and even your occasional international delight. We even cheated on our Athen’s gelato favorite, Davinci’s, a time or two. The fig and spicy chocolate gelato as well as the coconut gelato were too good to pass up.
One doesn’t have to spend a dime in Nafplio (although you will want to); you can simply explore. Amy could have taken pictures of doors for days. There was a book fair (all in Greek) and a street art gallery, free to the wanderer. The harbor created its own ambiance with walks and sunbeams that sent us aimlessly walking from one end of the city to the other.
Unexpected Adventure Day | The Ride Home
Greece is a land filled with antiquity. Everywhere you look there is something old. Like, ancient old.
As we drove back and forth to Nafplio, we kept noticing a castle in the sky off to our left, which was oddly due North. John did a little research and discovered there was not only a castle in Argos but also Greek pyramids. We decided to see what we could see on our way home.
Seeing old things in Greece is easy and cheap, but much to our surprise, all of the ancient sites in Argos were free, most of them unmanned by guards and gatekeepers. A sign with rules and a gate someone locked at night were the only barriers. Fortunately, as is true in most of Greece, Cobalt got to join us on our adventure. He became quite the historian!
Along the way, we saw Greek pyramids, an ancient theater and agora, as well as Larissa Castle, a fortress with a history dating all the way back to the Mycenaean era. It was amazing.
Our first vacation in Greece was one for the books. An unplanned adventure we never would have guessed could be so perfect. We know that was a lot of pictures, but hey, now our family gets to see all the things we did…and so did you!
We hope your summer was spent with time exploring, resting, restoring, reflecting and refocusing whether you had a stay-cation, drove two miles from home, or went to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Vacation is great. So is getting back to the normal rhythms of life.
We love you all!
John and Amy Patton
*Where mentioned names have been changed to honor each person’s story. Photos have been blurred intentionally. Photos are the sole property of John and Amy Patton and cannot be saved or used for any purpose without our permission.