I (Divyasree) am an Entrepreneur and Interior Designer by profession. Born and brought up in Coimbatore and now settled Bangalore, I have had my share of time in Chennai, Pune, Goa, Mumbai and New Delhi for studies and work. Having stayed in various cities in India, I was always thrilled about holidaying abroad. Ours being a love + arranged marriage with a shortest dating span, we as a couple preferred a long honeymoon.
Our honeymoon was to Greece and Spain with 4 day stopover in Dubai from September 12th, 2014 up until October 10th, 2014. In Greece we visited Santorini and in Spain we visited Madrid, Seville, Valencia, Ibiza and Barcelona.
Santorini and Barcelona in specific had always been in our bucket list as individuals and my husband (Harsha Vardhan) decided to surprise me by picking up the right ones as our honeymoon destination. He planned the entire trip all by himself, thanks to travel websites. When he started to plan the trip, he had approached couple of trip advisors/ travel agencies which worked out far more than 50% of what we actually spent on the entire trip.
A small analysis for future travelers. In general the agencies/ agents suggest 3,4 or 5 star hotels for stay along with complimentary breakfasts as a very convincing bargain but honestly you are not travelling to spend so much time to use their pools, gyms, spa, and buffets which does not serve you the authenticity of a destination. Yes indeed, it is very safe, easy and comfortable, may be for people over 50 years or people who are travelling outside their city for the first time but as young couples it would be more fun to explore and experiment with the place, the culture, their food, music and much more all by yourselves. Signing for a package based trip for honeymoon is a strict NO, since we all have our preferences of where we would like to spend more time like in a beach or in a museum, taking a bus ride or hiring a scooter, relaxing in spa or in a vineyard. These are also few things which newly wedded should find out about each other in the process.
Since we had booked everything by ourselves we had the liberty to plan our day in every place. We stayed only in service apartments which were all centrally located and quite affordable. The look and feel of our stay would have costed a bomb if it was in any hotels. The rooms were furnished with WiFi, TV, Refrigerator, AC, King Size beds, Sofas, Washing machine, and fully equipped Kitchen with stove, microwave, dishwasher and all possible utensils.
Long trips? You will by default miss our cuisine and that's when service apartments become home away from home. Harsha (my husband) loves to cook and I had the best breakfasts which no buffet can ever provide. Besides this is what honeymoon is all about, knowing your husbands cooking skills lol! Since we both are nocturnal our days started late and nights went on forever so we made our choice of visiting places accordingly. Of course after a crazy hectic 6 day wedding you definitely wouldn't want to be woken up early for site seeing in a bus full of strangers. That's a nightmare!
We started our honeymoon with Santorini, Greece. A must go place for everyone who is in love irrespective of the age. A place where people are extremely courteous and English is all you need to know to buy or bargain. Should I say more girls? The best destination we have visited so far in our entire lives, where even a broken boat put in their architecture sings a poem. Everything you see will be perfectly in place.
Some attributes that crosses our minds even now when we think of Santorini Fresh, Serene, Lively, Art, Love and Young. These are the exact terms you will experience there. With cliffs looking like a giant block of layered cake topped with white buildings that looks like snow alongside the Aegean Sea, Santorini will conquer your imagination even before you set to explore the stone etched narrow streets. And at nights, this island is a cascade of lights with much more life in it.
We stayed at a boutique serviced apartment overlooking the Caldera in Fira. Fira is a vibrant place filled with artsy restaurants, bars, infinity pools and shops. Keep the shopping for the last day as you will find everything, everywhere. It is quite hot and humid most of the time so plan your fashion accordingly as honeymoon pictures on Facebook is the most essential. Also Ladies! say a big NO to heels and say hello to your sneakers.
Must Do Activities - Watch the Sunset from Oia, Take a yacht ride into the Aegean Sea preferably during the sunset, hire a scooter and ride through the vineyards for a wine tasting session, take a dip in the sulphur filled hot springs, swim to the red sand beach and visit the Ancient Akrotiri to know more about the fascinating history of this island.
Note for Santorini: In general, food in Santorini is very flavorsome made of simple and healthy ingredients. Do not miss their fresh Greek salads with Feta Cheese, Gyro and some red wine. There is no language barrier if you know to read and speak English.
Spain: Madrid Seville Valencia Ibiza Barcelona
From Santorini we landed in Madrid. A sudden transition I must say as Spain is a place where not knowing their language will be an issue. Spain was not economically strong at that time so we could see poverty all through. Having said that, it is also a place of architecture and modernism. We stayed at Cortes in Central Madrid.
The stay made us to utilize the time to visit all the important sites like Plaza Mayor, Cathedral De La Almudena, Puerta Del Sol and Palacio Real De Madrid since it was centrally located. There are quite a few magnificent palaces and monuments which are a must see.
Must Do Activities - Take long walks through elegant boulevards and beautifully maintained parks, do Pub-hoping, and watch theatre performances.
From Madrid we drove down to Seville (thanks to Harsha's international license) and it was a breathtaking drive as we also witnessed summer rains. Seville is a place which will instigate the artist in everyone with its mesmerizing renaissance style and details in architecture. Some places to sink in their heritage are The Plaza de Espana, the serene Archivo General de Indias , The Royal Tobacco Factory, the massive Alcazar of Seville facing the world's largest Gothic Cathedral, The Giralda, the mind blowing architecture of Metropol Parasol, locally also known as Las Setas (World's largest wooden structure).
Must Do Activities - There are a lot of places to visit so plan your activity on a daily basis with the help of a map since most of it are close by. Take a chariot ride around all the monuments and feel like a royal. Do not miss the flamenco dance, road shows and road side music troops as they make the walk livelier. PS: Stay away from local ladies with prayer leaves in their hands around the cathedral premises as they are con artists.
From Seville we took a bus to Valencia and it was an overnight journey. Valencia being the third largest city in Spain has a lot of convention centres and it is known for trade events. It also has the biggest port of Mediterranean Western Coast.
Must Do Activities - Similar to Madrid, Valencia also has a happening night life and beautiful parks. One day at Valencia is good enough to have an insight of the city.
From Valencia we took a bus to Denia Port. A port where you can view a beautiful sunset with some good food. We had only few hours in this city as we had to board a ship to Ibiza and it was a 5 hour journey through the rough sea at that time.
Ibiza, the city were electronic music was originated. PS: It is nothing like Goa, if anyone tries to fool you that way. Ibiza's legendary night life and summer clubs are beyond comparison. Summer is the best time to visit Ibiza as many renowned DJ's and music producers from worldwide come to Ibiza to present their music within House, Trans and Techno genres. The parties are between June to October and we were lucky to witness one of the craziest closing party of the season at a well-known night club called Space.
We had also visited a Flea market and we happened to witness a heavy hailstorm. Must say we thought that was the end of our trip as the down pour was quite heavy. Some say it is not a great honeymoon destination but if you are a couple looking from some great fun and adventure with random crowd then Ibiza it is!
Must Do Activities - Sleep until noon and start with a sun downer and call it a day by 6:00 AM the next morning with a beautiful Sun rise. Hire a scooter and ride along the road. People and tourists are quite helpful especially when you are asking to guide you to a great party. Do not miss the Flea markets as you can find some great art pieces for good bargain.
After two days of all the partying, we sailed to Barcelona. A place of my dreams for a very very long time and it was definitely worth it.
Barcelona, the second largest and second most populated city in Spain, is also well known for its Art Nouveau architecture. The city is filled with lot of World Heritage Sites and try to visit every place as it transforms you. The works by an architect, Antoni Gaudi will be witnessed throughout the city including the most popular site in Barcelona, Sagrada Familia. The history of every heritage site in Barcelona is quite fascinating like the Church of Sagrada Familia which is splendid but still under construction since 1882 and is estimated to be completed by 2026. Another must see masterpiece of Gaudi is The Paula Gulle. Barcelona also has a great number of museums, parks and beaches. We had stayed in a serviced apartment next to the Sagrada Familia and it was just perfect as we could view the church from our balcony.
Must Do Activities - Visit as many parks, beaches and Gaudi built monuments as possible during your stay. Since Barcelona is one of the world's leading tourist and cultural centres, it is very well connected with public transport. Forget scooters or cars as the traffic is hectic and the signs are difficult to understand. There are special tourist buses with open tops and aided with audio guide for every place with the shortest waiting time. You can use the tourist bus pass for one full day and hop-in and hop-out where ever you want. This way you can choose where you would like to spend more time and prioritize your visits. If you are a Football Fan, dare not miss the Camp Nou, the largest stadium in Europe and the home of FC Barcelona.
Note for Spain: In general, the food in all of Spain is very colourful and delicious. Do try Paella and Tapas. Taking basic Spanish language lessons prior to your trip will enhance your Spain experience as knowing only English might not be of a great help in Spain except Barcelona. Shopping was good but expensive in all of Spain due to its economy in 2014.
That was the end of our Spain and from Barcelona we headed back to India with a four day stopover in Dubai. By the time we landed in Dubai we were quite tired and home sick as the temperature was beyond bearable. Whatsoever, we still had to do the needful and visited the famous Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab. We also did not miss the sand dune driving, camel ride, belly dance and some good sheesha.
Dubai requires more time and energy as it is another world of shopping experience. It would have been more fun if we had our stop over before starting to Greece and Spain than after all the serenity.
Transportation Flight: India - Athens, Athens - Santorini, Santorini - Madrid, Barcelona Dubai, Dubai - India Ship:Denia - Ibiza, Ibiza - Barcelona Car:Madrid Seville Bus:Seville, Valencia, Valencia, Denia
Stay We opted only for service apartments everywhere except Ibiza due to safety reasons.
Travel in Local Scooters, Cars and Buses.
Food We do not have any hotel or brand in particular but which ever menu seemed pleasing at that moment worked out for us. Since we love to try new food we never looked for Indian restaurants. In case of Indian food craving and not finding one, you will find Doner Kebab everywhere is Spain and that's quite tasty. We had some expense towards grocery as we were cooking once in a while. Do not miss to try and cook food with their ingredients as it quite an experience to get the taste right. Do try Maggie noodles in Spain.
Fashion It was end of summer in Greece and Spain so it was pleasant hot. For a trip during September/October, do carry light clothes.
Shopping If you are traveling between multiple cities, it would be best to shop for smaller goods or souvenirs only as carrying it around becomes not only a hassle but also a safety issue.
For a 29 day trip around Greece and the whole of Spain and a bit of Dubai worked out to approximately INR 7,00,000/- only (inclusive of travel, food, stay and shopping).
Hope our experience in Greece and Spain will guide you for your future trips. Thank you Shopzters for taking Harsha and me back to all those beautiful memories of our honeymoon. Penning it down was definitely full filling and feels more complete.