Category: Greek ferry travel (page 1 of 2)

First-time island hopping in the Cyclades: How to do it, and what you’ll see when you get there

Cyclades hopping, an animated video published by g travel, shows how to arrange a simple island hopping holiday in the north and central Cyclades

 

Island itineraries: If you haven’t been to Greece before but dream about taking an island hopping holiday there, you’re probably wondering where to go, and how to get from one island to the next. With dozens of destination options in six distinct island chains, plus an array of ferry schedules to sift through, it can seem intimidating to set up a vacation. That’s one of the main reasons why many travellers take a Greek Isles cruise or a package tour, or ask a travel agent to arrange everything for them. There’s nothing wrong with any of those approaches if you’re more comfortable with them or you simply don’t have the time to do your own planning. But it’s not that daunting and difficult to do it yourself.

The video at the top of this post, Cyclades hopping, shows how to arrange a simple do-it-yourself trip to one of the most popular island chains in Greece.

The animated film focusses on a few of the Cyclades, the islands instantly recognizable for their “sugar cube” white houses and blue-domed chapels perched on rocky slopes high above gorgeous golden sand beaches and the stunning turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea.

Home to Mykonos and Santorini, two of the most world-famous and popular places in Greece, the Cyclades is where the majority of first-timers get introduced to the island hopping experience. Many get hooked and keep going back, or instead venture off to hop around the other island chains — the Sporades, Saronic, Dodecanese, Northeastern Aegean, and Ionian.

Crete, the biggest island in Greece, isn’t part of a distinct island chain, and is so vast that visitors are typically advised to devote a full two- or-three week holiday there to explore its incredibly wide variety of beaches, historic sites and attractions.  

 

When you watch Cyclades hopping, you’ll gain insights into travelling to Andros, Mykonos, Paros, Antiparos, Naxos, Ios and Santorini. I have posted several videos that highlight travel to those particular destinations on page 2 of this article, so you can see what each of those islands looks like, and get an overview of some of the top attractions and activities they offer. Additional videos offer peeks at other Cycladic island gems, including Sifnos, Folegandros, Syros, Amorgos, Tinos, Milos, Serifos and Kea.

 

Express Skopelitis ferry passenger

A passenger enjoys early morning views from the upper deck of the Express Skopelitis ferry as it departs Egali port on Amorgos en route to Naxos

 

Please turn to page 2 to continue reading and to view videos of islands in the Cyclades chain.

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Daytripping from Mykonos to Tinos

You can enjoy whirlwind visits to Mykonos and Tinos in this fun hyperlapse video by Alex Baker Photography

 

Easy excursion: People planning trips to Mykonos frequently ask me if it’s possible to visit other islands for either all or part of a day. It certainly is!

Each year, in fact, tens of thousands of people make the short half-day trip from Mykonos to Delos, an uninhabited isle which is one of the most significant historic and archaeological sites in all of Greece. (See my recent post Visiting Delos in 2016 for information about the many different ways to get there.)

The next easiest getaway for a day is to Tinos, which can be reached either by regular ferry service from Mykonos, or on tours organized by excursion companies. Unlike hip Mykonos, which is one of the most contemporary and “touristy” destinations in Greece, Tinos offers a more authentic Greek island atmosphere and visitor experience.

Tom DeBelfore photo of Tripotamos village on Tinos island

Tripotamos, one of 40 traditional villages on Tinos, is seen in a Tom DeBelfore photo from the Tinos, Kykladen/ Τήνος, Κυκλάδες page on Facebook. There’s nothing even remotely comparable to these villages on Mykonos.

 

Mykonos is popular primarily for its beaches, its sophisticated hotels, bars, restaurants and nightlife, its picturesque Mykonos Town commercial center, and its legendary status as one of the leading holiday and party destinations for the international “jet set” since the 1960s.

Tinos has excellent beaches, bars and restaurants, too, but it also boasts sights and features you won’t find anywhere on Mykonos, including fabulous mountain scenery, dozens of traditional villages and settlements, thousands of dovecotes, and the Church of Panagia Evaggelistria, the country’s most-visited Greek Orthodox pilgrimage shrine.  An important center for religion with a long history of marble carving and stone artwork, Tinos gives visitors the opportunity to see a traditional side of Greece that’s almost impossible to find amidst the glitz and glamour of the designer boutiques, trendy nightclubs and posh resorts that abound on Mykonos.

Our Lady of Tinos church

The Church of Panagia Evaggelistria (Our Lady of Tinos) is visited each year by thousands of tourists and Greek Orthodox pilgrims. This photo of the church appeared on the Facebook page for the local TINOS About magazine.

 

Because of their sharply contrasting attributes and attractions, the two islands might seem worlds apart. But since they’re separated by just a short ferry ride across a narrow channel, a daytrip to Tinos would nicely complement a longer stay on Mykonos (or vice versa).

So how can you get to Tinos? If you’re not comfortable arranging your own itinerary, drop into travel agencies or ferry ticket offices in Mykonos Town to inquire about times and prices for guided tours that might be available during your holiday. When you purchase tickets, make certain to ask where you catch your ferry — Mykonos has two ports! (The Old Port is right at Mykonos Town, while the New Port is located over 2 kilometers from town at Tourlos.)

If you would prefer to see Tinos independently, check with the Mykonos ferry ticket agencies for boat schedules on the particular day you’d like to do your daytrip. For years, the Theologos P car and passenger ferry has offered the most reliable and convenient round-trip ferry service between the two islands, with breakfast-time departures and mid-evening returns. Theologos P typically departs the Mykonos New Port around 7:35 a.m., arriving at Tinos Town 30 minutes later. You’ll be able to enjoy a full day of sightseeing and even dinner at a local taverna before sailing back to Mykonos on Theologos P’s 9:35 p.m. return voyage to Mykonos (it reaches the Mykonos New Port shortly past 10 p.m.).

 

 

Several other ferries operate between Mykonos and Tinos, but their later departures and earlier returns allow only a few hours on Tinos.  That’s still enough time to take a walk around Tinos Town and visit the island’s world-famous Our Lady of Tinos Church. But after getting to see Tinos for just three hours on our last vacation (see my previous post Our brief intro to Tinos for photos), we strongly recommend arranging as much time on the island as possible.

Friends who have done numerous daytrips say that by catching the Theologos P in the morning, they can take a taxi or bus to one of the mountain villages above Tinos Town, hike back down and spend a few hours sightseeing and having dinner in town. The return trip of Theologos P gets them back to Mykonos while the night is still young. Another possibility, they say, is to rent a car at Tinos Town and spend the day driving around to see some of the 40 villages, thousands of dovecotes and hundreds of chapels scattered across the island’s hills and mountainsides.

Dovecote on Tinos island

Thousands of impressive dovecotes can be spotted all over Tinos. This particular dovecote was renovated and converted into a private residence. (Photo from the tinos-tinos.com travel information website.)

 

If you want to get an idea of what Tinos is like (and also Mykonos, if you haven’t been there yet, either), watch the Hyperlapsing Tinos and Mykonos video that I posted at the top of this article. The 6.5-minute film will give you a speedy tour through the lanes and alleys of Tinos Town and Mykonos Town, and will take you to other parts of each island as well. It even shows some of the coastal scenery you’ll see on both islands during the ferry ride.

You can see more of Tinos in the video Tinos Greece 2015, below. It’s actually a slideshow presentation of photographs that YouTube contributor Lusko18 shot at numerous different locations on the island last year. 

 

This is a 5-minute slideshow of photographs shot by Lusko18 during a trip to Tinos in 2015

Glimpses of Gavrio, and a ferry ride from Andros to Tinos

Gavrio port at Andros

Gavrio harbourfront

The harbourfront at Gavrio, the port village on Andros island

 

Au revoir, Andros: When we arrived at Gavrio port on Andros at the start of our Greek holiday last May, we barely even noticed the village. Already groggy from our transatlantic travel and jet lag, we were struggling to shake off more cobwebs after dozing periodically during the ferry ride from Rafina. 

I saw a few shops and tavernas when we stepped off the ship, and can even remember thinking “there doesn’t seem to be much here” when I took a quick glance around. We didn’t have time for a longer look since we had to focus our attention on a more pressing issue — fitting luggage for four people into the compact car our friends had rented.

Soon we were pulling away from the port and driving up a narrow lane that squeezed tightly between rows of whitewashed houses before widening into the two-lane highway that would lead us to Andros Town. As we rounded a bend on the outskirts of Gavrio, we got our first views of exhilarating Andros scenery — fields, beaches and the wide open sea on our right side, and to our left a long line of mountains extending far into the distance.  It was a beautiful sight for our sore and very tired eyes.

View from highway on outskirts of Gavrio Andros

The mountain and sea view from the outskirts of Gavrio, seen in an image from Google Street View. This is the highway that leads from Gavrio to Batsi and onward to Andros Town.

 

We got a better look at Gavrio when we walked there from Batsi on the final full day of our Andros visit. As we turned onto the waterfront strip, we discovered there was much more to the town than we had seen while disembarking the ferry five days earlier.

On arrival day, we had basically seen just half of Gavrio’s commercial district — the extensive port authority area with its parking lots, loading zones, and of course the quays for ferries and ships, as well as a few of the businesses along the main street nearby.  We had not noticed that the street continued farther past the port, lined on one side with tavernas, shops and ferry ticket agencies, and a flagstone-paved walkway on the sea side. It took longer than we had anticipated to stroll the entire length of the road, and we were surprised by the large selection of restaurants and cafes — we had not been expecting to be so spoiled for choice in finding a place to have lunch. 

 

 

Though not as scenic as some other port towns in the Cyclades, Gavrio isn’t an unattractive place — it just doesn’t have the pretty, polished veneer of upscale boutiques and trendy cafe-bars that draw  the big-spending tourist and cruise ship crowds to places like Mykonos Town. And while Gavrio may be conveniently located for quick easy access to a variety of good beaches (see my post A bevy of beaches & coves on the scenic west coast of Andros), we were happy we had chosen to spend our holiday time at Andros Town and Batsi instead, since we preferred their overall look and feel.

Mind you, we didn’t walk around any of the residential streets on the hills tucked behind the waterfront strip, so we didn’t get to see all of Gavrio. We may have been more impressed had we taken time to explore beyond the port and harbourfront.

Gavrio harbourfront

We didn’t get to explore the residential streets on the hill behind the commercial waterfront strip

 

The next day we got more glimpses of Gavrio during a taxi ride to the port, followed by panoramic sea views of all of Gavrio Bay as we stood on the outdoor decks of the ferry taking us to Tinos. It was a brilliantly sunny morning, and Gavrio looked picturesque as it glistened in the sunshine.  I’m sure we’ll be back sometime for another look around.

Click on the link below to see more photos of Gavrio, as well as pictures of the Andros coast that we passed during our ferry trip to Tinos. There also are photos of the ship that took us there, the Superferry II, as well as the western coast of Tinos.

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Visiting Delos in 2016

 Delos island photo by Delos Tours

The “sacred island” of Delos is seen in a photo from the Google+ page for Delos Tours, the firm that runs ferries between Mykonos and Delos. 

 

Delos daytripping: It has been nearly two years since I last wrote about Delos island, and because there have been some noteworthy price changes for 2016, I’ve written this general information article to update my series of Top Delos Posts published from 2012 to 2014. (Apart from ferry schedules and the new prices for ferry tickets and admission to the Delos archaeological site, the information in my previous posts remains current.)

 

 What is Delos?

Here’s a brief background for readers who might not be familiar with Delos. The island, situated just over 2 km west of Mykonos, is one of the most important historic and archaeological sites in Greece. It’s often called “the sacred island” and “the island of light” because, in Greek mythology, it was the birthplace of Apollo, the god of light, and Artemis, the goddess of night light.

During its glory days between 166 BC and 69 BC, Delos was a wealthy shipping hub and one of the world’s leading centers of commerce. Home to more than 30,000 people, the city went into decline after it was looted and razed in two separate attacks; residents gradually left the island, and eventually Delos was abandoned completely and almost forgotten.

 

Delos island

The ruins of the Quarter of the Theater and the island’s once-great commercial port sprawl across the lower slopes of Mt Kynthos on Delos

 

Delos regained international attention when archaeologists began excavating its ruins in 1872. Small numbers of travellers, mainly from Europe, started visiting the island to view the fascinating historic sites that were gradually being unearthed. Over the decades, the trickle of tourists turned into a steady stream of sightseers from around the world, and today Delos is a top tourist attraction drawing more than 100,000 visitors each year. Delos is widely considered a “must see” attraction for people visiting Mykonos, and I personally recommend that visitors schedule a half-day trip to Delos during their Mykonos holidays, especially if it’s their first visit to Greece.

In 1990, Delos was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. A description for UNESCO’s Delos listing says “The archaeological site is exceptionally extensive and rich and conveys the image of a great cosmopolitan Mediterranean port.”

And according to the Delos page on Visit Greece, the official tourism website for Greece, “nowhere else in the Globe is there a natural insular archaeological site of this size and importance. No other island on Earth hosts so many monumental antiquities from the Archaic, the Classical, and the Hellenistic periods, i.e. the centuries of the great Greek art, on a territory used exclusively as an archaeological site.”

 

What’s on Delos?

Delos Terrace of the Lions photo by Bernard Gagnon

The Terrace of the Lions is one of the most popular attractions on Delos island (Photo by Wikimedia contributor Bernard Gagnon)

 

All of Delos is a protected archaeological site, and visitors are not permitted to stay on the island overnight; hence, there are no accommodations (the nearest available lodging is on Mykonos). Besides the extensive ruins, which extend across most of the island, there is a museum that houses sculptures, wall paintings, pottery and thousands of small artefacts discovered during the excavations. A cafe in a separate building sells beverages and light snacks.

Some of the antiquities and sights most popular with tourists include: spectacular floor mosaics in the House of Dionysos, the House of the Dolphins, the House of the Mask, and the House of the Tritons; a marble amphitheater; several different agoras, sanctuaries and temples; the Sacred Lake and the Terrace of the Lions.

 

Delos Tours photo of mosaic in the House of the Dolphins on Delos

A detail of one of the colourful mosaics in the House of the Dolphins (Photo from the Delos Tours website.)

 

Bernard Gagnon Wikimedia Commons photo of Delos theater

The marble theater, seen in another image by Wikimedia contributor Bernard Gagnon, could seat up to 5,500 spectators

 

You’ll see many of the island’s top sights while a narrator describes the history of Delos in this informative 9.5-minute film by Expoza Travel.

 

Please click on the link below to continue reading on page 2, where you’ll find information about Delos ferry ticket and site admission prices, ferry schedules, guided tours, private charters to Delos, and more.

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Steaming to Syros at sunset

Aqua Spirit ferry

The NEL Lines Aqua Spirit ferry departs Andros en route to Tinos and Syros on the evening of May 29 2015.

 

That’s the Spirit: While we were watching a beautiful sunset from our terrace at the Aneroussa Beach Hotel on Andros on May 29, a passing ferry caught my attention. It was the Aqua Spirit, one of several ships operated by NEL Lines, and I was surprised to see it in service. During the past year, many if not most of its scheduled sailings have been either disrupted or cancelled entirely because of mechanical problems as well as labour disputes by 500 seamen who claimed they had not been paid wages for months. In fact, just before we travelled to Greece in late May, online travel forums were peppered with posts by frustrated holidaymakers who wondered if they could rely on NEL Lines service for their summer island hopping itineraries.

NEL Lines has a 43-year history of shipping in Greece, but has experienced financial difficulties in recent years, reportedly teetering on the verge of bankruptcy at least once. Its frequent service disruptions have caused headaches for Greek citizens and tourists  seeking to travel between islands in the Cyclades. (The Aqua Spirit and its sister ship, the Aqua Jewel, operate on routes connecting nearly two dozen different isles in the Cyclades.)

 

New investors now running NEL Lines

Because of the continuing problems with NEL, Greece’s Coastal Transportation Council (SAS) met last Thursday (June 18) to determine if it would declare NEL in forfeit of its privilege to operate, and to decide if it would bar the company from running ferries in the Cyclades. As the Greek Travel Pages reported that same day, the Council did vote in favour of declaring NEL Lines in forfeit. However, it postponed its decision about banning the company from continuing to operate in the Cyclades after being advised that a new group of investors had taken over NEL and hoped to relaunch the firm once it had settled outstanding obligations to employees and government agencies.

The matter will ultimately be decided by Greece’s Alternate Shipping Minister, Theodoros Dritsas.

Greek Travel Pages said Hellenic Seaways has expressed interest in operating to the Cyclades from the Lavrio port in Attica in the event NEL is barred from providing the service.

Fingers crossed that the issue is resolved quickly …we have relied on NEL Lines for some of our Cyclades island hopping, and would have used them on our recent holiday had we been able to count on the Aqua Spirit sailing as scheduled.

 [Editor’s Update June 24 2015: Greek media have today reported that the Alternate Shipping Minister declared NEL Lines forfeit, thereby barring the company from operating ferries in the Cyclades.  Next step is for the Greek Shipowners Association for Passenger Ships (SEEN) to hold a process in which qualifying shipping companies can bid to win a 3-month operating permit for service to the Cyclades. For its part, NEL will be seeking new business opportunities to replace the lost ferry contract. Greek Travel Pages reported that NEL issued a statement saying: “The company is exploring ways to replace these revenues by leasing its ships for charter travel in Greece, or preferably abroad, granted that it has been proven that coastal shipping in this continuing and intensifying financial crisis is no longer a profitable business.”

[Update June 26 2015:  Greek Travel Pages has reported: “For the next three months the Greek coastal ferry operator Hellenic Seaways will run the route connecting the Western Cyclades with Syros and other islands of the Cyclades complex, according to a decision by the Greek Shipping Ministry.” In three months’ time, the government will open tenders for continuing service on the routes.]

 

Aqua Spirit ferry

The Aqua Spirit departs Andros on its way to Tinos and Syros

 

Aqua Spirit ferry sailing past Andros

Aqua Spirit steams across the horizon while we watch the sunset from our hotel near Batsi on Andros

A roller coaster ferry ride across rough seas in the Cyclades

 The Blue Star Paros ferry rocks and rolls in rough seas as it crosses the strait between Tinos and Mykonos around noon on April 9 2015

 

Greek Easter celebrations got off to a chilly, windy and soggy start yesterday for thousands of Greeks and tourists hoping to spend the holiday weekend with family and friends on islands in the Aegean.

A powerful storm system swept across the Cyclades and other archipelagos, thrashing islands with cooler than seasonal temperatures, heavy rains, and wind gusting to force 8 and 9 on the Beaufort scale. Photos and videos shared on social media showed flooded beach areas on Naxos and Paros, as well as large waves crashing ashore at Amorgos, Mykonos, Syros and Samos.

Rough seas forced the cancellation of numerous ferries scheduled to depart Piraeus port at Athens, and there were reports that some Olympic Air flights to several islands, including Naxos, were cancelled as well. The port authority of Heraklion, on Crete, also ordered the suspension of ferry service from that island.

 

Bigger ferries tried to battle the seas

Many people whose ferries weren’t cancelled probably wished they had been — including, I’m sure, many of the passengers who travelled on the Blue Star Paros from Mykonos to Tinos yesterday. The video that I posted above shows the ship battling its way through enormous waves in the straight between the two islands. The film, which was shot by someone on Tinos, shows the ferry almost disappearing from view as it crashes through swells several storeys tall. I couldn’t imagine what it was like being a passenger as the ship rocked, rolled and swayed in such tempestuous seas.

The Nissos Mykonos ferry yesterday managed to sail only partway through its route from Pireaus to Syros, Mykonos, Ikaria, and Samos. It made it as far as Mykonos when adverse weather conditions prevented it from continuing the journey to Ikaria. The ship instead returned to Syros for safe anchorage, but because of brutal wind and waves there, it took over an hour for the crew to dock the vessel. The ferry was carrying 430 passengers who had to spend the night in Syros and hope the ship could resume its voyage today.

Meanwhile, light snow and hail fell on parts of mainland Greece and mountainous areas of some islands.

The unusually severe Holy Week weather follows on the heels of what many Greeks say was the coldest and snowiest winter in memory, during which at least three separate storm systems battered the islands and mainland. You can view photos and videos of the winter storms in my posts on January 2, January 17, and February 14.

Wind, rain and cloud is expected to continue today but the forecast shows gradually improving conditions, with sunshine, for Easter weekend. Ferry service from Piraeus and Heraklion could resume later this afternoon (Friday April 10) if the weather improves.

 

This video shows the Nissos Mykonos ferry attempting to dock at Syros after it had to cut short its scheduled voyage to Samos because of the weather.

 

Marathi: a get-away-from-it-all Greek Island

Marathi island

This was my first view — from a ferry — of the serene bay on Marathi where the tiny island’s restaurants and rental rooms are located

 

Stavragos Taverna Marathi

while this is a view of the bay from the taverna terrace at Stavragos, one of only three places where people can eat and  stay while visiting Marathi (photo from a  Stavragos group page on Facebook).

 

Island escape: Sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed by city life — the crowded streets and sidewalks, incessant urban noise, construction all around and illuminated advertising signs everywhere I look — I daydream about getting away from it all on a remote Greek island few people know about. Somewhere like Marathi.

A tiny isle situated about 12 nautical miles east of Patmos in the Dodecanese island group, Marathi is off the beaten tourist path and free from crowds, traffic, noise and light pollution. According to Kalispera Greece, the English-language version of a Swedish website about Greece, it’s an ideal spot for someone seeking a Robinson Crusoe-style escape from the demands of contemporary urban life.

That’s because there simply isn’t much there —  just “three tavernas, three pensions, two jetties, one cemetery, one tiny church, a few goats and a pretty nice sandy beach. There are no shops, no cars, no scooters, no villages and no roads,” Kalispera Greece says.

There aren’t many people, either. A recently-published travel article on the website for the UK newspaper The Telegraph called Marathi one of Greece’s 11 least populated islands, with only 12 residents in summertime and just 3 during the winter.

No crowds? No traffic? No bright digital ads? No noise besides birdsong, crowing roosters and jingling goat bells? It sounds idyllic to me, and in online holiday reviews many Marathi visitors have used the word “paradise” to describe the island.

 

Marathi island

A hilltop view of the Marathi bay and nearby Arki island. (Image from the website for The Pirate Rooms and Taverna on Marathi.)

 

Marathi bay

Side view of the Marathi bay in another photo from the public Facebook group page for Stavragos Taverna and Rooms

 

I haven’t stayed on Marathi yet, but I have been enthralled by the dream of enjoying some quality rest and relaxation there after getting a brief glimpse of the isle nearly five years ago.

We were riding the Nissos Kalymnos ferry from Patmos to Samos at the time. The ship had just stopped at the island of Arki, and I was on the open deck enjoying the scenery as we headed to the next port of call, Agathonisi.  As we passed a crescent-shaped bay with a sandy beach on Marathi, I spotted several people watching us from a vine-sheltered terrace at what I assumed was either a private vacation home or a holiday rental villa. I felt a tinge of envy, imagining how restful it must have been for those people if a ferry sailing past once a day was one of the few interruptions to the island’s prevailing peace and tranquillity.

Several weeks later, when I was organizing photos I had shot during the ferry ride, I couldn’t stop looking at my pictures of the Marathi beach and bay. I wanted to learn more about the island and, a few Google searches later, discovered that I had photographed Stavragos, one of only three properties on Marathi with a taverna and rooms for rent.

Click on the link below to view additional photos and read more about Marathi on page 2 of this post.

 Stavragos Taverna

When I saw this building from the ferry, I thought it was a private vacation home. It’s actually rental accommodations and an excellent restaurant — Stavragos Taverna and Rooms.  It has four rooms for rent, and serves seafood and home-cooked Greek cuisine at its seaview garden terrace.

 

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2014 Greek holiday report Part 6: Off to Syros

Naxos Town

This was one of our final views of Naxos Town on May 24 2014, as we departed Naxos on the Aqua Jewel ferry

Ermoupoli Syros

bound for Ermoupoli, the port and capital city of Syros island

 Parikia town on Paros

with a brief stop en route at Parikia. the main port and town on Paros

 

[Editor’s note: This is the sixth instalment in an ongoing series of photo reports about our 2014 spring vacation in the Cyclades and Athens. The previous posts reviewed our 5 days on Naxos. To see any or all of the earlier reports, click on the following underlined links:  Part 1 ; Part 2 ; Part 3 ; Part 4 and Part 5 .]

 

Saturday May 24

Moving on: It was another sunny morning, but we wouldn’t get to enjoy the beautiful weather. After breakfast, we had to pack, take a taxi to the port, and ride a ferry to Syros for the next leg of our 2014 Greek holiday.

We didn’t want to leave Naxos. After three consecutive visits here in the past 12 months (and three others in previous years), it almost feels like a second home, and the island has become our favourite holiday destination. And why wouldn’t it be? Naxos has everything we want for a vacation — Wonderful scenery, unpretentious attitude and laid-back ambience, friendly and hospitable local residents, delicious food, reasonable prices, and plenty of things to see and do. 

But it was time to move on and, much as we love Naxos, we were equally eager to visit Syros. We have heard countless good things about it during the past 10 years — including lavish praise from people who live on Naxos, as well as from other regular Naxos visitors. In fact, I can’t recall ever hearing anything bad about Syros. By all accounts, Syros could well be another island we would fall in love with and want to revisit again and again. And if, for some reason, Syros didn’t strike our fancy, Naxos would still be there for us.

Please click on the link below to continue reading the report on our journey from Naxos to Syros.

 

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Visiting Delos will be easier this summer with Sunday openings, longer hours & extra ferries

Tourists explore some of the historic ruins on Delos island near Mykonos

This summer’s extended hours and Monday openings mean tourists will enjoy the best opportunity ever to visit the historic ruins on Delos island near Mykonos

 

 [Editor’s Note: See my Visiting Delos in 2016 post for current information about ferry ticket prices and entrance fees for the Delos archaeological site.]

 

Delos every day: Tourists travelling to Mykonos this summer are in for a big treat — they’ll be able to visit the ancient city and archaeological museum on nearby Delos island seven days a week, and even during the early evening for a change.

Delos is one of the most important archaeological locations in all of Greece, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s easily reached on a short ferry ride from Mykonos, but restrictive opening hours have long made it difficult for many people to see Delos — especially thousands of cruise ship passengers who visit Mykonos for only part of a day during a short call into port. Indeed, the island is totally off-limits to the public at night, and for years has also been completely closed to tourists on Mondays (as has been the case with most museums and archaeological sites elsewhere in Greece).

But “never on Monday” isn’t the case for Delos this summer, thanks to operating hour changes that the Greek government announced several weeks ago for the 2014 tourist season.

As I reported in my March 4 post, Delos is one of 33 major Greek museum and archaeological sites that will be open 12 hours a day, seven days a week, from April 1 until the end of October.

For years, the Delos ferries have departed Mykonos Town at 9, 10 and 11 a.m., making return trips at 12:15, 1.30 and 3 p.m. (In low season and winter, when there is substantially less demand, there is only one return ferry on Fridays and Sundays). When I learned that the government would be extending the visiting hours for Delos, and opening it to the public on Mondays, I contacted Delos Tours to find out what, if any, schedule changes might be forthcoming for excursions to the historic island. (Delos Tours is the joint venture company that operates the boats which are used to ferry passengers from the Mykonos Town harbour to Delos and back.)

 

 

New return trip in late afternoon/early evening 

Delos Tours owner Maria Chatziioannou told me that plans were in the works to add an extra afternoon ferry departure; however, she was still waiting for the Greek shipping ministry to officially approve additional ferry trips and couldn’t confirm any schedule details for me at that time.

Just this afternoon, however, Maria was able to send me Delos Tours’ new summer ferry schedule.

From Tuesday through Sunday, ferries will depart Mykonos as usual at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. and return as usual at 12:15, 1:30, and 3 p.m. The big change is that a late afternoon/early evening return trip has been added to the roster — a ferry will depart Mykonos at 5 p.m. and return from Delos at 8 p.m. That’s excellent news for people whose cruise ships or ferries don’t arrive at Mykonos in time for them to catch the morning departures (and good news, as well, for anyone already on Mykonos who might happen to sleep in after a late night enjoying the island’s infamous restaurant, nightclub and party scene).

However, on Mondays there will be only two ferry trips, with boats departing from Mykonos Town at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., and returning from Delos at 1.30 and 8 p.m.

 

Booking.com

Small increase in ferry ticket prices on May 1

As of May 1, prices for return ferry tickets will increase slightly from the current fares, which have not changed in several years.  An adult ticket will cost €18 (up from €17), while the price for children aged 6 to 12 will be €9 (a nominal increase from €8.50 at present). Kids under 6 can travel for free.

Guided tours also are available at a cost of €40 for adults and €20 for kids aged 6 to 12 (no charge for younger children). Guided tours are offered every day, but only on the 10 a.m. ferry departure. Full pricing and schedule information — as well as online advance ticket booking — is available on the Delos Tours website: www.delostours.gr.

For more information about Delos, click on the links below to see some of my previous posts:

♦ Visiting Delos, the sacred cradle of the gods

♦ Visiting Delos: So much to see, indoors & out

♦ Visiting Delos: How to get there

 

The Orca Delos ferry

A view of the Orca, one of the Delos ferry boats, as it departs the Old Port at Mykonos Town en route to Delos island

 

Arriving at Parikia port on Paros

The Seajets SuperJet ferry approaches port at the town of Parikia on Paros

The Seajets passenger ferry Superjet enters Parikia Bay as it heads to port at Paros island on October 13 2013

 

 

The Seajets SuperJet ferry approached the port at Parikia on Paros

The town of Parikia looms larger as Superjet approaches the ferry quay. I shot the photos above, as well as two of the videos below, from the Blue Star Ferries ship Paros as it departed Parikia en route to Athens.

 

 

 This is a short clip of Superjet that I shot from the Blue Star Paros.

 

 

 This video (Part 1 of 2) shows views of Parikia and some of its waterfront on the south side of the port. I shot this clip from a deck of the Blue Star Paros as it approached and prepared to dock at Parikia en route from Naxos to Piraeus.

 

 

 

This is the second clip I shot from the Blue Star ferry. It shows parts of Parikia and the bay on the north side of the port.

 

 

For a completely different perspective, here’s a video shot from land, showing the Paros docking at Parikia. It was filmed by YouTube member Steffen Mork.

 

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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2012 Greek holiday: Mykonos visit winds down

Mykonos Town panoramic view

The view from the hill: A panoramic view of Mykonos Town and its harbourfront and Old Port areas on May 21 2012. Click on the photo to view the image in a larger format.

 

 

Monday May 21 2012

 

Familiar patterns: Things weren’t looking very promising for my final full day on Mykonos. The weird up-and-down weather hit another “down” cycle, bringing overcast skies in the wake of a gorgeous sunny Sunday. Good thing I had not been planning another beach day, because I would have felt pretty bummed out by all the clouds and the threat of light rain. But I didn’t need more beach time and was content just to start walking and see where I would wind up.

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