Category: Greece holiday May 2013 (page 1 of 2)

Thanks for more than 3 million views of our Greece photos!

Screenshot of the mygreecetravelblog page on Flickr

This is a screenshot of the MyGreeceTravelBlog photostream on Flickr, which contains more than 23,000 of our photos of Greece

 

Thanks in large measure to readers of this blog, the MyGreeceTravelBlog photo collection on Flickr reached a major milestone this week, surpassing the 3,000,000-view mark.

I have posted 23,000 images on Flickr to date and still have at least 10,000 more pictures from Greece to upload, if I can ever find the time. (I’m certain that number will rise substantially after our next visit to Greece later this spring.)

A few surprises were in store when I checked Flickr’s viewing statistics for the photos this week.

The individual photo with the all-time most views was a picture of Agios Prokopios beach on Naxos. But I doubt it was popular because the beach is so beautiful — I suspect some nudists wading in the water were of more interest than the golden sand and turquoise water! (If you want to view the image and won’t be offended seeing several middle-aged and older tourists displaying some skin, click here.)

 

Syros photos were the most popular

I also was amazed that our set of 18 albums from last year’s trip to Syros was the most popular individual collection on our Flickr page. I had been expecting that our Mykonos collection would be the most viewed, but people seemed to prefer looking at pics of Syros. (You can access the Syros photos by clicking here.) Mykonos did claim the #2 spot, though.

So far, there are album collections for 13 islands — Amorgos, Astipalea, Crete, Folegandros, Ios, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Patmos, Samos, Santorini, and Syros — plus one set with photos of many (but not all) of the hotels we have stayed at during our Greek holidays. More collections, including one for Athens, are in the works.  Click here to access the main Flickr page showing cover pages for all of the album collections.

Thanks very much for viewing the photos, and please feel free to comment on any of them at any time.

 Kini beach on Syros

Our photo sets of Syros had the most views of any collection on our Flickr page. They included shots of Kini (above), our favourite beach resort on Syros.

Greek islands take spring weather woes in stride

Stormclouds at Mykonos

Dark stormclouds hover overhead as rain falls on Mykonos and nearby islands. I shot this photo from the swimming pool deck at Hotel Tagoo on the morning of May 18 2012. Many Greek islands and parts of mainland Greece have been experiencing similar stormy weather conditions this week.

 

Be prepared: If you’re planning to travel to Greece in May or early June next year, be sure to pack an umbrella or waterproof windbreaker in your suitcase — there’s a good chance you might need to use them for a day or two.

Occasional bad weather used to be something you could expect to encounter in early spring — especially while travelling during April or the first two weeks of May in the Cyclades, Dodecanese, East Aegean and Sporades island groups. But once the middle of May had passed, rainstorms and completely overcast skies would be rare — visitors typically could expect one day after another of warm, dry and mainly sunny weather until the fall.

Climate patterns seem to have changed in recent years, however, and travellers have been encountering sporadic stormy conditions later in May and into early June too, as bad weather across much of Greece this week has shown.

 We didn’t need rainwear or umbrellas until 2010

On our trips to Athens and various Greek islands between 2004 and 2009, we didn’t encounter any major rainstorms or other inclement weather bad enough to put a damper on a day of sightseeing, hiking or beach activities. We would pack travel umbrellas in our suitcases, but never have to take them out. In fact, we recall only three instances of rain — all in early May 2006, the time of month when unsettled weather still could be expected.

That year, there was some overnight rain on May 11 and 12 while we were visiting Mykonos, but the clouds cleared by the time we got up for breakfast. One week later (on May 18) we were at Maragas beach on Naxos when a late afternoon thunderstorm suddenly blew in from the west. Rain began to sprinkle so we hurried over to the Gorgona Taverna at Agia Anna beach, where we had an early dinner while waiting for the precipitation to stop. Within 90 minutes the sun came back out and gave us a beautiful sunset that evening.

 Stormclouds over Naxos

After the storm: Thunderclouds begin to break up over Paros island  (top) and Naxos following a late afternoon downpour on May 18 2006. We shot this photo from Agia Anna beach on Naxos.

 

Of course, the weather wasn’t perfect the rest of the time during our first five Greek holidays. We did encounter a few days when it was extremely cloudy, like on June 8 2005, when we arrived at Santorini to find the island shrouded in thick, low-hanging clouds that obscured sunset views and lingered into the next morning before dissipating. We also experienced several exceptionally windy days, as well as some very chilly mornings and nights that forced us to wear sweaters and jackets to keep warm. But there wasn’t any horribly bad weather, and the adverse conditions didn’t stop us from fully enjoying the islands.

 Santorini caldera clouds

When we arrived at Santorini on June 8 2005, the island was surrounded by thick clouds that obscured caldera and sunset views that evening. There was no rain, but the clouds hung around until morning. We shot this photo from our terrace at the Phenix Hotel in Imerovigli during a brief break in the clouds.

  Please click the number 2 in the link below to continue reading this report.

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Our best food & drink experiences of 2013

 Greek salad and Mythos beer

A Mythos beer and Greek salad … part of our afternoon “snack” at Paradiso Taverna during one of our Naxos beach walks in October 2013

 

 

Good eats: In my recent post Our best hotel experiences of 2013, I described the various places we stayed at in Mykonos, Ios, Naxos and Glyfada during our two trips to Greece last year. Today it’s time to talk about the food we ate while we were there.

We love to eat, and one of the reasons we keep going back to Greece is that we immensely enjoy the food there, whether it’s traditional Greek cooking, salads or vegetarian fare, grilled meats or fish, seafood or international cuisine.

We eat well on our holidays, and we always come home wishing we could recreate some of the most memorable meals in our own kitchen. We try, but the recipes either never turn out right or we simply can’t replicate the wonderful tastes and flavours we enjoyed so much in Greece. And, of course, that’s largely because we can’t possibly reproduce the unique charm and character or the extraordinary locations of the places where we had dinners or drinks — or even just a cup of coffee.

Last year, we had remarkable meals or drinks at dozens of different restaurants, bars and cafés. Individual dishes at certain places were outstanding, while in other instances it was the physical premises or scenic location of a particular restaurant that gave us a dining experience we won’t soon forget.

Below are descriptions of the restaurants, bars meals and drinks that impressed us the most — our best food and drink experiences of 2013.

 

 

Best beach taverna

Nikolas Taverna on Mykonos and Paradiso Taverna on Naxos (Tie)

 

Paradiso Taverna Naxos

Paradiso Taverna has over a dozen tables grouped around a tree on Maragas beach on Naxos. This is one of the most-photographed sights on the island, and this scene has even been featured on Naxos postcards.

 

 

Nikolas Taverna Mykonos

Nikolas Taverna also has tables on the sand, in this case at little Agia Anna beach between Platis Gialos and Paraga on Mykonos. The trees shade the tables part of the day, but there are more seats on the sheltered outdoor terrace (left) for people who don’t want to sit in the sun.

 

 

One of the things we like most about Greece, and especially its islands, is the opportunity to have a “Shirley Valentine” moment — that is, enjoy a drink or meal right next to the sea, at a table either on a sandy beach or on a terrace mere inches from the water. It’s something we can never do at home, where strict government liquor laws and rigid municipal licensing regulations require restaurants serving alcohol to keep their dining areas enclosed by fences or waist-high barriers — and well away from the water’s edge.

So we’re thrilled when we find tavernas that have open seating close to the water — especially if those tables offer views of marvellous scenery or striking sunsets. And if the restaurant kitchens happen to serve delicious food, too, we will feel like we’re in paradise.

 

Superb food and good service

Two remarkable places that we have particularly enjoyed on past vacations are Nikolas Taverna at Agia Anna/Paraga on Mykonos, and Paradiso Taverna at Maragas beach on Naxos. Both have provided consistently good service and superb food, as well as exquisite settings, and both lived up to our high expectations for more of the same when we paid them repeat visits during our holidays in 2013.

The family-run Nikolas Taverna is situated on a small, quiet strand between Platis Gialos and Paraga, two of the most popular beaches on Mykonos. Our favourite place to sit is at one of the tables on the sand, under the row of trees in front of the restaurant. There are nice views toward Platis Gialos, and the setting is profoundly serene and relaxed … it’s a pleasant spot to mellow out while enjoying the fabulous home-cooked Greek cuisine or fresh seafood.

Paradiso Taverna is situated at Maragas, in between two of the most popular beaches on Naxos — Plaka and Agia Anna. Paradiso has a large, tree-sheltered dining terrace in front of the restaurant building, and more tables directly across the road, under a distinctive, eye-catching tree right on the beach. Both spots offer excellent views of the beach, sea and nearby Paros island, and both are good places to watch a sunset, too. The food is as delicious as the scenery.

If you get the chance to visit either Nikolas or Paradiso for a meal, don’t just order off the printed menu — take a few minutes to go inside the kitchen to see the various vegetable, meat and seafood dishes that have been specially prepared for that day. Everything will look appealing, so don’t be surprised if you have trouble deciding what to order!

 

 

Two new beach tavernas we discovered

 

Mikri Vigla Taverna

 Mikri Vigla Taverna at Parthenos beach on Naxos

 

 

Honourable mention goes to two beach tavernas we discovered for the first time in 2013 and hope to revisit in the near future.

We stopped into Mikri Vigla Taverna just for a cold drink and a snack while mountain biking down the southwest coast of Naxos on October 6. We ordered only a Greek salad since we weren’t very hungry, but when we saw the food in the kitchen — as well as what people at the tables next to ours were being served — we regretted that we didn’t have bigger appetites. Everything looked tasty, portions appeared to be quite generous, and all the customers kept commenting on how good their meals were. It was the last day the taverna was open for the season, and the staff kept apologizing for having only a “small” selection of items to choose from. However, we were impressed with the large number of dishes that actually were available — we would have been spoiled for choice had we wanted a more substantial meal.

On October 14, we went to Aperanto Galazio with two friends from the Athens area. The restaurant is located on the beach at Varkiza, a town on the Athens Riviera. We sat on the shaded outdoor dining terrace just steps from the sand, enjoying the beach and sea views while we dined on eight delicious items, including taramosalata (a fish roe dip), Greek salad, stuffed tomatoes, zucchini fritters, calamari, fried potatoes and red and white wine. The food was excellent, the service was great, and the total price was a very pleasant surprise: just €35. We had been expecting the lunch to cost considerably more given the substantial amount of food we had ordered.

 

Aperanto Galazio taverna Varkiza

Aperanto Galazio restaurant at Varkiza beach on the Athens Riviera

 

Please click on the link below to see dozens more photos and restaurant reviews on page 2 of this post.

 

 

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Picture yourself … warming up at a beach on Ios

Looking across the golden sand beach at Gialos, the port village on Ios island

Another polar vortex has brought biting cold weather to the northeastern USA and Canada this week, so I’ve been trying to distract myself from the chill by looking at photos and videos of beaches. Like these of the long, gently curving golden sand beach at Gialos, the port village area of Ios. It was sunny and a toasty 28 degrees Celsius (84 F) when I shot these pics — nearly 40 degrees warmer than it is outside my window at the moment. If only I could be enjoying that sun, heat and sand right now! Click on the photo to view a full-size image.

 

 

Gialos beach on Ios island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our best hotel experiences of 2013

Grotta area of Naxos Town on Naxos

Looking toward the Grotta district of Naxos Town from the Palatia peninsula at Naxos island. Naxos was our favourite Greek holiday destination in 2013.

 

 

Eclectic list: You could consider this a different sort of trip report. Rather than write a routine, day-by-day account of our two holidays in Greece in 2013, I have decided to mix things up and have a bit of fun compiling an eclectic “best of 2013” list instead.

In May, we island-hopped to Mykonos, Ios and Naxos before moving to the mainland for a weekend meet-up with friends in the Glyfada suburb of Athens. During a second holiday in October we spent two weeks on Naxos, then visited friends in Glyfada and Athens for two days. We had a great time at each place we visited during the two trips, but since Naxos was our overwhelming favourite, we named it our 2013 Destination of the Year, as regular readers will have noticed in my December 31 2013 post.

But there were special things we particularly enjoyed at each destination. Some, like features of the various hotels where we stayed and the restaurants where we dined, or attractions that we visited, were significant elements of our holidays. Others were interesting or quirky things we observed or encountered — minor aspects of our vacations, but still part of what made the two trips so much fun.

I thought that information about those various good things might provide useful insight into our destinations for people who haven’t been to them before, and perhaps even for people who have. So I have compiled the highlights into this “Best of 2013” holiday round-up. I have organized the “bests” into three categories: Hotels; Food & Drink; and Activities & Attractions. Today’s post profiles the best elements of our hotel accommodations, while separate posts about our best Food & Drink experiences, as well as our favourite Activities & Attractions, will follow soon.

 

 Katerina Hotel on Ios

Mylopotas beach, as seen from Katerina Hotel on Ios. This was just part of the marvellous view we enjoyed from the hotel during our May holiday. Turn to page 2 of this post to continue reading and see more photos of all the hotels we stayed at during our two trips to Greece in 2013.

 

 

 

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Athens Riviera coves offer secluded spots to swim, sunbathe & savor the Saronic Gulf scenery

A quiet cove on the Apollo coast of Greece, southeast of Athens

One of many coves along the scenic Apollo coast, southeast of Athens, where locals and visitors can enjoy sun, sea and serenity

 

 

Beach alternatives: You don’t have to travel to an island to enjoy beautiful beaches and coastal swimming spots in Greece — you can find them in spades on the mainland, including the scenic Saronic Gulf coast a short drive from Athens.

Popularly known as the Apollo Coast and the Athens Riviera, the more than 70-kilometer-long stretch of seafront between Piraeus and Cape Sounion boasts scores of beaches and swimming spots, with an extensive variety of public and private beach facilities catering to all tastes, budgets and lifestyles.  Many are easy to reach from Athens either by car, by the city’s tram system, or by public bus.

And for those who prefer to avoid busy organized beaches, there are plenty of secluded coves and inlets offering places to swim or suntan in peace and quiet — or even in nothing at all.

When we visited Athens last year, we noticed that many beach clubs and public strands along the Apollo Coast were packed with people. We could only imagine how crowded they must get during the summer when practically everyone in the city would head to the seaside to beat the heat.

Both in May and again during our return trip to Greece in October, friends who live in Athens took us for drives along the Apollo Coast, stopping to show us some of the popular beach areas including public strands to which admission was free, as well as several private clubs that charge entry fees of around 5 or 7 Euros and up per person.

 

Apollo Coast  of Greece

A peninsula on the Apollo Coast just a short drive south of Vouliagmeni. The rocky shoreline is popular with sunbathers and swimmers — especially nudists — who want to avoid the crowded public and private beaches along the Athens Riviera.

 

 

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Our Top 15 reasons to visit Naxos

The centuries-old Portara monument greets visitors arriving at Naxos by sea

The enormous marble entrance for the never-completed Temple of Apollo greets visitors arriving by sea at Naxos island in the Cyclades.  Also known as the Portara, the monument is an internationally-recognized symbol of Naxos island.

 

Something for everyone: If you’re trying to find a Greek holiday destination that ticks practically every box on even the pickiest traveller’s checklist of “must have’s” and “must see’s,” take a closer look at Naxos.

The largest island in the Cyclades, Naxos is equally big on the number of activities and attractions it offers visitors of all ages and lifestyles. From beautiful beaches to mountain villages; a vibrant port town with an historic castle and Old Market district; monuments, ruins and museums; excellent dining and nightlife; accommodations to suit any budget; walking trails, water sports and mountain biking; stunning scenery and sunsets; plus sightseeing excursions and tours both on and off the island, Naxos has it all.

Whether you’re planning to visit for three days or three weeks, you’ll never run out of things to do — if anything, you’ll probably wind up wishing you had more time to spend on the island.

 

What’s more, Naxos is surprisingly easy on the pocketbook, with reasonable prices for food, accommodations and entertainment.

All those are precisely the reasons why we named Naxos as our Greek Holiday Destination of the Year for 2013 (see our December 31 2013 post for more about that).

Click on the link to page 2 of this post (under the photo below) to continue reading and to see dozens of photos illustrating our Top 15 reasons to visit Naxos. (Note: The reasons are listed randomly; there is no special significance to the numerical order in which each item is presented.)

 

Naxos beach towel

A souvenir beach towel featuring a map of Naxos hangs outside a minimarket in the island’s popular Agios Prokopios resort area

 

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Naxos: Our Destination of the Year for 2013

A view of St George's Bay and Naxos Town in the distance

This vantage point on Stelida mountain offers a breathtaking view toward Naxos Town and the rugged mountains rising behind it on the northeast side of St George’s Bay. Click on the photo to view a larger image.

 

 

Favourite destination: As 2013 draws to a close and the winter days and nights keep getting colder, we’re already thinking ahead to spring and trying to decide which places we might visit in Greece on our next vacation. We’re also thinking about the two holidays we took this past year. In fact, we’re still sorting out the thousands of photos and dozens of videos we shot on the trips. It might take me all winter to upload the pictures to the MyGreeceTravelBlog Flickr page!

Our 2-week May vacation took us to three islands —  Mykonos, Ios, and Naxos — as well as to Glyfada and the Apollo coast southeast of Athens on the Greek mainland. For our return holiday in October, we expected to visit two islands, but wound up spending 12 days on Naxos alone, followed by two days in Glyfada and Athens.

We had a terrific time everywhere we went, but we just can’t stop talking about how much we loved Naxos. We had enjoyed the island during holidays in 2005, 2006 and 2009, but this year were pleasantly surprised by the great extent to which Naxos won our hearts and admiration.

Family, friends and acquaintances have always asked which place in Greece we like the most, and until now we had to say that several islands shared that honour, since we didn’t have a hands-down favourite. But that has changed. After two fabulous trips to Naxos in 2013, we’ll be telling people it’s our #1 place to visit in Greece.

So why do we like Naxos so much, and why have we picked it as Destination of the Year for 2013?

 

So much to see and do

The main reason is that Naxos offers visitors an extensive variety of activities and attractions. Even though we have now been there five separate times, we feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface, leaving plenty more new things to see and do on future visits.

Naxos is one of those rare places that has wide appeal for virtually every kind of traveller — singles, couples or families, the young and old alike, food lovers, history and nature buffs, and outdoor sports enthusiasts.

The island is easy to reach on direct Olympic Air flights from Athens, and is connected to the city and to other islands in the Cyclades by regular car and passenger ferry service. Once you’re there, an array of accommodations await, from camping and basic rooms to self-catering studios, luxury villas, hotels and resorts. There’s an equally diverse selection of cafés, restaurants and shopping, plus bars, clubs and concert performances for visitors seeking nightlife and cultural entertainment. 

For those fascinated by history and archaeology, the island boasts numerous museums and scores of monuments and ruins. Sightseers can easily spend days exploring vibrant and historic Naxos Town, visiting the island’s many charming mountain villages and settlements, or photographing the stunning Naxian scenery and sunsets.

Active travellers can hike dozens of footpaths and trails or go mountain biking (either on their own, or on organized group excursions), while water sports enthusiasts can swim, snorkel, windsurf, kitesurf, sail or dive to their hearts’ content at the island’s many outstanding beaches.

And for tourists who want to see how other Greek islands compare, daytrips are available to Delos, Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, Amorgos, Koufonissi and Iraklia, while private boat tours, sunset cruises and fishing expeditions can be arranged as well.

In the weeks to come, I’ll be telling you a lot more about Naxos, and will be posting hundreds of photos of this beautiful and amazing island. Keep checking back to see why MyGreeceTravelBlog.com has selected Naxos as Destination of the Year for 2013!

 

The medieval kastro (castle) dominates the skyline of Naxos Town

The medieval-era kastro (castle) dominates the skyline of Naxos Town, seen here from a wide sandy beach on the south side of Agios Georgios Bay

  

Warming up with a walk along Mylopotas beach

The golden sands of Mylopotas beach on Ios

An early evening view of Mylopotas beach on Ios

 

 

Warmer times: It’s bitterly cold outside right now and I’m huddling indoors, fighting a stubborn head cold and trying to keep myself warm.

But instead of wrapping myself in a thick woolly blanket, I’m making myself feel warmer by looking through photos and videos from our Greek Island holidays in May and October of this year.

And some images that really gave me a boost today were from Mylopotas beach on Ios back on May 19.

It had been a sunny and hot day, and we had already done a lot of walking around the island. But in early evening we were doing even more, taking a stroll on the golden sands of gorgeous Mylopotas beach, which was almost empty of people at the time. The sound of waves washing against the shore was incredibly soothing and relaxing.

Below is a brief videoclip I shot while I walked on the sand around 7 p.m. Remembering how warm it was at the time helped me forget about my cold for awhile. I hope it helps you warm up a bit if you’re in a cold part of the world right now, too.

 

 

 

Pic of the day: Chimneys on a Mykonos villa

Traditionally designed chimneys rise from the roof of a private villa on Mykonos

Three traditional Mykonian kapassi (chimneys) rise above a private villa on a hillside high above the Tourlos new port on Mykonos island

 

 

Mykonos food and drink 2013: Where we ate

L'Ile Bistrot Cafe in Mykonos

New this year, L’île Bistrot-Café at 3 Kampani Street quickly became our favourite hangout in Mykonos Town for a coffee, drink or light meal. This photo is from the L’île Bistrot-Café Facebook page.

 

 

Repeat and first-time visits: A short holiday on Mykonos this past spring gave us an opportunity to dine at eight different restaurants, including a brand-new café in Mykonos Town, four other spots we had never been to before, our favourite beach taverna, plus two places to which I was eager to pay repeat visits after being highly impressed with them last year.

If you have been a regular reader of the blog, you might recall my restaurant report for 2012, in which I recounted my good experiences at more than a dozen different places. I specifically noted that I didn’t have a single disappointing meal during that holiday, and found restaurant service, overall, to be quite good.

I was anxious to see how Mykonos restaurants would compare this year — and hopeful, of course, that we would enjoy every restaurant and meal. 

Unfortunately, that didn’t quite happen.

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Pics of the day: Hilltop views of Mykonos Town

A view of Mykonos Town and the Mykonos Old Port area

Above and below are two views of Mykonos Town and the Mykonos Old Port area, as seen from a hilltop vantage point to the northeast of the island’s Tagoo district. Click on each image to view full-size photos.

 

A view of Mykonos Town, the Mykonos Old Port area, and the island's Tagoo district

 

 

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