Category: Samos (page 1 of 7)

Kokkari’s captivating coastal, beach and village scenery

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Kokkari Village 2016 features breathtaking bird’s eye views of the scenic seafronts and harbour at Kokkari village on Samos 

 

Picture-postcard perfect:  We’ve got a lot of happy memories from our trip to Samos six years ago, and some of the best are from our visit to Kokkari one afternoon.

We had rented mountain bikes in Vathy for a day, and cycled to Kokkari to get a first-hand look at the village mainly because an online acquaintance had recommended it as a “must see” spot on the island. She warned me that it’s “super-popular” with tourists, but said we would love it nonetheless because “it’s just so gosh-darned pretty and picturesque — everything looks like a picture on a postcard.”

She wasn’t kidding when she cautioned us about the “touristy” side to Kokkari — we couldn’t believe the astounding number of bar, cafe and taverna signs we saw on the popular dining strip along the village harbour. (Take a quick peek at the photos in my posts Kokkari’s waterfront restaurant row, and What’s cooking in Kokkari? and you’ll see what I mean.) Although the signage suggested there might be cutthroat competition between the village’s dozens of eateries, we found Kokkari had a surprisingly laid-back atmosphere, and we didn’t encounter any of those annoying restaurant touts who try to coax and cajole people into patronizing some establishments on Naxos, Kos and Mykonos.

Gorgeous scenery and photo opps galore

My friend was absolutely right about the village’s picture-postcard appeal, too. There was gorgeous scenery all around, and photo opportunities galore — striking beach and coastal scenery, quaint lanes and alleys, the colourful village harbour, and the impressive backdrop of Mount Karvouris. We’ll certainly pay Kokkari another visit next time we’re on Samos.

The video I posted above, which was produced by the aerial photography firm Reel Drone, shows much of the village and coastal scenery that we found so captivating back in 2010 — even though it is, of course, filmed from a completely different perspective than tourists get to see while strolling around the area.

If you have been to Kokkari before, the video will probably bring back pleasant memories of your own. If you haven’t visited it yet (or haven’t even been to Samos), I’m sure you’ll enjoy the 2-minute aerial tour and find it inspiring for future holiday planning.

Kokkari website links

And just in case you might be thinking about a trip to Samos, the people at Reel Drone have offered the following helpful links to online information about Kokkari:

♦  https://www.facebook.com/Κοκκαρι-Δημοτικη-Κοινοτητα-1411154232520­339/

♦ http://www.kokkari-samos.gr/

http://www.kokkari.gr/

 

 

Experience Greece’s glorious off-season sights & scenery with winter walks and drives

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Greece on foot walking tour photo 01

A light layer of snow on the ground didn’t deter participants in a Greece on Foot walking tour from enjoying the awe-inspiring mountain and valley scenery in the Arcadia region of the Peloponnese on January 24 …

 

Greece on foot walking tour photo 02

… nor did cold temperatures just two days later, when walkers got to trek through vibrant green olive groves like this one under brilliant sunny skies. (Photos provided courtesy of Greece on Foot tours.)

 

Winter wonders: Take a winter vacation in Greece? Sure! Why not?

The seething  crowds of summer tourists have long since disappeared, as have the scorching temperatures and the startling high prices of peak season. There’s no waiting in long queues for seats on buses or in restaurants, and no jostling with mobs of organized excursion groups or gaggles of selfie-snapping sightseers at monuments and museums. Hiking paths are almost deserted, and roads aren’t clogged with tour coaches. The magnificent historic and natural scenery remains glorious despite the drastic change in seasons, the legendary Greek hospitality continues unabated, and the food is superb as always.

Of course, winter is the wrong time to visit if your primary holiday preferences are swimming and water sports, lounging on beaches, or all-night-long dancing and carousing at bars, clubs and beaches on Mykonos, Ios or any of the other legendary Greek “party islands.” 

But you’ll still find dynamic nightlife in Athens and Thessaloniki, cities which abound in world-class dining, shopping, entertainment and cultural activities all year round. And if you’re a winter sports enthusiast, you can challenge your alpine mountaineering or snow kiting skills on Crete, or go snowboarding and downhill skiing at Kalavrita or one of several other major resorts on the Greek mainland.

Mountaineering in Crete

Two alpine mountaineers ascend the steep snow-covered peak of Mt Dikti on Crete, in this image shared on Facebook in late January by Festivalaki: Cretan festival of Arts & Culture. The organization’s Facebook post said mountaineering in Crete offers “a wonderful experience combining alpine terrain with breathless views of both the Libyan & Aegean sea.”

 

Vouliagmeni beach photo by John de Castelberg

A beach near the Vouliagmeni beach suburb of Athens is seen in this December 29 2015 photo by John de Castelberg.  Most tourists might find the sea too chilly for a winter dip, but the scenic beach- and café-lined coast of the Athenian Riviera is pleasant to visit throughout the off season.

 

 

Main tourist season is April to October

For people like me and my partner, who couldn’t bear either the blistering heat and sun or the heaving hordes of tourists in midsummer, winter could well be one of the best times to visit Greece. So why, then, have we travelled there only in spring or fall?

That’s a question we have been pondering a lot lately. We used to believe it was better to travel during the regular tourist season, which generally starts in late April and winds down by the end of October (particularly on the islands). In fact, most of our Greek holidays have been fairly early in the season, typically sometime between mid-May and early June. But we have gone twice in the autumn — we went island hopping in the Cyclades in late September 2007, and we explored Naxos and Athens during the first half of October 2013.

What we like about our spring trips in particular is the palpable local excitement and anticipation for the new travel season and approaching summer period, an atmosphere we find invigorating and refreshing after our long winter hibernation at home in Canada. Also, the weather is usually perfect for some of our favourite holiday activities — hiking and walking, and dining outdoors (especially near the sea). We weren’t keen to visit Greece during the off-season because we were worried we might not enjoy it as much with colder temperatures, inclement weather and few tourists around. 

Samos flamingo photo by Nikolaos Housas

Winter shouldn’t keep us away from Greece — it didn’t stop this pretty pink flamingo and a dozen of its feathered friends from visiting the Alyki wetland reserve on Samos island for several days at the end of January 2016.  Local photographer Nikolaos Housas captured this splendid image on January 27 and shared it on the Samos Island public group page on Facebook. 

 

Social media show the winter appeal of Greece

But recently we’ve really been warming up to the idea of a winter getaway to Greece.  What changed our minds? In two words: social media.

With their photos on Facebook, Flickr and Twitter (some of which I will share with you on page 2 of this post), friends, acquaintances and dozens of people we don’t even know have shown us that Greece can be just as delightful and charming in winter as it is during spring, summer or fall. In fact, they have demonstrated that it’s a terrific time to see the country’s wonderful sights and scenery either on foot or by driving around, and it can often even be comfortable to eat outdoors, or at least sit outside with a coffee to people watch and enjoy the scenery.  What’s more, colourful Carnival celebrations held each February and March in scores of villages and towns provide traditional festive fun and excitement we wouldn’t find in spring.

Haroula taverna at Marpissa on Paros

We thought we would miss eating outdoors if we took an off-season trip to Greece. But occasional mild weather means outdoor dining can be possible even in winter, as this photo posted by the Parosweb Facebook page attests. Taken on January 21 2016, the picture shows a table laden with delectable dishes of home-cooked Greek cuisine in the courtyard at Haroula’s Taverna in Marpissa village on Paros.

 

A place to escape our usual winter blahs

Of course there can be gloomy days with rain, cold temperatures, gale-force winds and even snowstorms, as I have reported in posts on December 31 2015, January 17 2016, and January 23 2016. But we get unpredictable and occasionally severe weather conditions at home, too. Yet we continue to drag ourselves through our  December and January doldrums, and the brutal February blahs, daydreaming about Greece and counting the days until we can go back.  Why not just battle the blahs by getting a winter fix of Greece instead?  With luck we might encounter pleasantly mild weather conditions, as you’ll see in many of the photos below. At worst, it will feel almost like winter back home — but at least we will be passing the time enjoying the off-season beauty in our favourite travel destination. We’re already looking into the possibility of doing exactly that next December or January.

Please click here or on the link below the following picture to turn to page 2 and see some of the photos that have convinced us we’re long overdue for an off-season trip to Greece. Fingers crossed that we’ll be posting our own winter pictures at this time next year. 

Athens winter night view photo by Wendy Gilops

Athens is a bustling year-round travel destination, as evidenced by the throngs of people strolling past historic monuments in the center of Athens, just below the illuminated Acropolis and Parthenon (upper right). Wendy Gilops captured this scene on December 27 2015. 

 

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Wind and waves lash Mykonos, Samos & Dodecanese islands

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Pthagoras sculpture on Samos photographed by Manolis Marg

Samos island resident Manolis Marg captured this striking image of surf spraying the Pythagoras sculpture on the seafront at Pythagorion

 

Winter wallop: Just before this weekend, I was jealously viewing photos of sunny Greek island beach and village scenes that local residents and business operators had been sharing on social media. Weather reports showing temperatures in the mid to high teens (Celsius) made me even more envious. Until today. When I logged into my blog’s Facebook page this afternoon, the photos and posts in my news feed were telling a completely different story — severe winds and heavy rain were lashing many of the Aegean islands as a ferocious winter storm surged across Greece.

Despite the gale-force winds, some hardy residents of Agathonisi, Samos and Rhodes ventured outdoors to capture dramatic photos of waves and stormy skies at their respective islands.

 

Waves damaged the seafront at Ornos beach on Mykonos

On Mykonos, a local restaurant owner stayed inside his vehicle to shoot photos of flooded roads, wave debris on the Ornos bay seafront, and boats that had been ripped from their moorings and tossed ashore. 

The winds were so strong– exceeding force 8 and 9 on the Beaufort scale — that they prevented flights by Aegean Airlines and Ryanair from landing on Rhodes, the Greek news website The Rodiaki reported. Rough seas forced the cancellation of shipping and ferry services to many islands as well.

And this was just the beginning of even worse weather expected nationwide for the next several days.  In a separate report, The Rodiaki said many parts of Greece can expect cold to freezing temperatures by Monday, along with continuing strong winds, while some regions of the mainland can expect snowfalls. 

 

Winter storms struck Greece same time last year

Coincidentally, it’s almost exactly one year ago that brutal winter weather struck Greece, dumping snow on some of the Cyclades islands (see my Snow scenes from the Cyclades post for winter storm photos from islands including Andros, Tinos, Naxos, Milos and Paros).

But, as always, the islanders aren’t letting bad weather get them down.  On its Facebook page, Super Paradise beach observed: “No winter lasts forever. Mykonos awaits.” And the Mykonos Palace Hotel posted this quote from W.R. Alger: “After every ‪‎storm the sun‬ will smile; for every problem there is a solution, and the soul’s indefeasible duty is to be of good cheer.” Good points indeed — there’s only 154 more days until summer!

Please click here or on the link beneath the next picture to turn to page 2 of this post, where you can view storm photos from Samos, Mykonos, Agathonisi and Rhodes.

 

Flooded road at Ornos Mykonos

A flooded road in the Ornos beach area of Mykonos is seen in this photograph shot by Sikiniotis Lefteris, who owns the Apaggio restaurant at Ornos. Several more of his photos, showing wave damage on the Ornos bay seashore, can be seen on page 2 of this post. 

 

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The postcard conundrum

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postcard racks on Santorini

Browsing postcard racks at a souvenir shop in Oia village on Santorini

 

Travel tradition: Call me old-fashioned, but I still send postcards to family and friends when we’re vacationing in Greece. I’m talking paper postcards with handwritten messages, stamped and posted at letter collection boxes in Athens or villages on whatever island we happen to visit.  The real deal that recipients can actually hold in their hands, not a fleeting e-card or email greeting that will momentarily flash on their smartphones or computer screens!

For me, sending postcards is a fun part of our Greece travel experience — especially since I write the messages and address the cards while enjoying a glass of wine on our hotel room balcony or at a taverna with a wonderful view.

postcards pay here sign But picking the right card for each particular person on my list can be a bit daunting since the array of postcard choices is so extensive. At some souvenir stands in Athens and on a few of the islands we have visited, the selection has been simply staggering — rack after rack after rack, all packed with dozens if not even hundreds of appealing postcards.

What to choose? Scenes of beaches, mountains, landscapes, churches or villages? Images of monuments, ruins, antiquities or museum artefacts? Photos of cute cats, dogs or donkeys? Pictures of old folks in traditional garb or physically well-endowed young adults clad in skimpy bikinis or Speedos … or wearing nothing at all? (There’s usually even a few “naughty” cards with pictures of ancient pottery bearing images of two or more adults engaged in explicit sex acts.) I usually wind up purchasing more cards than I need, and bring the leftovers home as personal souvenirs.

Santorini postcardsWhat I particularly like about postcard shopping in Greece is the careful way most of the souvenir shop staff handle the cards I’ve decided to buy. They always insert the cards (and any stamps I purchase) inside either a small paper bag or a clear plastic sleeve, so the cards won’t get scuffed or bent before I have a chance to write and post them. It’s touching how some of the shopkeepers appear so grateful and proud that a visitor will be sending postcard pictures of Greece to people around the world.

The only downside to picking postcards is that I inevitably find pictures of spectacular places that I didn’t know about, or didn’t have time to see. But that just means there will always be new sites and attractions to explore on a return visit.

Kokkari postcard shop

This postcard shop in Kokkari village on Samos had the best selection I’ve seen anywhere. Besides the cards displayed outside, the shop had hundreds more to choose from inside!

 

Kokkari postcard shop

Some of the cards displayed outside the Kokkari souvenir shop.

 

Archetype souvenir shop Mykonos

A cat snoozes beneath a postcard display at the Archetype souvenir shop near the Paraportiani church in Mykonos Town

 Archetype Souvenir Shop

Night view of the Archetype souvenir shop in Mykonos Town

 

postcard racks in Mykonos Town

Postcard racks in a narrow lane in Mykonos Town

  Naxos postcards

Postcard display outside a shop on the Naxos Town waterfront

 

postcards in Oia

Postcard racks outside a souvenir shop in Oia village on Santorini

 

Mykonos postcards

Postcards on display in Mykonos Town

 

Mykonos postcards

Postcards at a Mykonos souvenir stand

 

Naxos postcards

A postcard and bookmark display at a shop in Naxos Town

Recognize these places?

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Ikaria beach scene

Rugged cliffs and dramatic rock formations rise beside a beach on Ikaria, one of Greece’s East Aegean islands

 

It’s all in Greece!: From time to time one of my blog’s Facebook friends or contacts shares a link to a fun Where is this place? photo “quiz” that a Greek-language news and information website, e-fungus.gr, first published in November 2013.

Someone posted the link on Faceback again today and I thought I’d pass it along since the photos in it are so impressive and inspiring.

Entitled “Where is this place? Gia sou Hellas!”, the article shows a series of spectacular Greek destinations that people could easily confuse for places elsewhere in the world, like Hawaii, the Caribbean, Tibet, the Ukraine, the Alps, Jordan, and Bora Bora.

There are nearly 50 images of exceptional sights and remarkable scenery, including islands, mountains, beaches, castles, churches, fields, forests, coastlines and rock formations. I like viewing the photos every now and then to get ideas for places to visit on future holidays — though to date I have managed to see just 10 of the places on this particular list. Obviously, I need to get to Greece more often!

Click here to view the article and see how many places you’ve been to yourself, or that you might recognize as destinations in Greece. As the article introduction observes, “Heaven on Earth truly exists, and it is in Hellas, which is the correct name of Greece.”

I can’t wait to get back to heaven in May!

 Metereo Greece

A Greek Orthodox monastery crowns a tall crag of sandstone in the Meteora region of central Greece , near the town of Kalambaka

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