Category: Sports (page 1 of 4)

Kalymnos keeps calling

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Kalymnos summer 2016 (above) and Kalymnos island (below) are short videos that spotlight sights, scenery and summer activities on the Dodecanese island famous for its sponge fishing past and its present popularity as one of the world’s premier rock climbing destinations

 

Extra enticement: There are times I’m convinced that somebody in Greece is secretly monitoring my email and text communications so they can plant my social media pages with photos, news and videos about places mentioned in my conversations. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I have chatted with or messaged people about specific areas in Greece, only to see posts about those destinations suddenly appear on my Facebook page or Twitter feed soon afterward.

It happened again this week after a friend texted to ask if I have been to Kalymnos, which she has been considering for an island hopping holiday in the Dodecanese this year. I haven’t been there yet, but I was able to refer her to Kalymnos rocks!, a post I published last year to showcase a video that four young Scottish rock climbers made when they visited Kalymnos to test their skills on its world-famous cliffs. Exhilarating landscapes and scenery in the 4-minute-long film convinced me that Kalymnos is just the kind of island my partner and I would thoroughly enjoy — so I promptly added it to our travel bucket list.

 

 

Mere days after the text chat with my friend, two more Kalymnos videos curiously appeared in the news feed for the MyGreeceTravelBlog Facebook page, no doubt to tempt and tease me into wanting to visit the island even more. Sponsored by the Kalymnian Union of Attica, both clips were produced late last summer and show even more island sights and scenes than the fun rock-climbing film I previously shared on the blog. Since I have found myself contemplating a future trip to Kalymnos once again, I am sharing the clips here for the benefit of any readers who may be planning to spend some time on the island this summer.

Meanwhile, in text messages a few days ago, my friend and I discussed Kefalonia and Lefkada, as well as some destinations in mainland Greece. Sure enough, my social media feeds quickly filled with images and information about both islands and the other places we had discussed. Spooky? Absolutely! But maybe it’s just a goodhearted online spy who is simply trying to assist with my holiday travel planning. Whether it’s purely coincidental or not, don’t be surprised if I start blogging about how much I would like to see Kefalonia, Lefkada and certain other places this summer!

In the meantime, have a look at Kalymnos to see if it should be on your own Greek holiday bucket list.

 

 

Quietly spectacular Skyros

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Enjoy aerial views of some of the wonderful coastal, mountain, valley and village scenery on Skyros in this 5-minute film by TreeZone

 

Real deal: Want to visit an authentic Greek island that isn’t a mainstream tourist magnet like Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini, or even its nearby neighbour, Skiathos? Then have a look at Skyros, the southernmost and largest island in the Sporades archipelago. Skyros has everything you would want and expect from a great Greek island holiday destination — impressive landscapes and coastal scenery, inviting beaches, picturesque villages, historic sites, good food, and age-old local traditions — without the massive crowds and commerciality of other islands that have become household names around the world.

Though it is becoming increasingly popular with visitors from around the world, and has an international airport that receives direct charter flights from several European cities during July and August, Skyros is a relatively low-profile destination that isn’t even on the radar for most tourists planning vacations in the Greek islands.

In fact, there were only 3 question-and-answer threads posted on TripAdvisor’s Skyros travel forum in all of 2015, and just 10 in total since 2010. The Skiathos forum, by comparison, had  more than 6,100 conversation threads as of mid-May 2016.

 

 

 

With so much going for the island, It’s rather surprising that Skyros doesn’t get more attention from travellers — especially considering that it gets good press whenever it’s mentioned in social and regular media.

For instance, Skyros was cited as the best destination for alternative travel and holistic holidays in The Telegraph’s January 2016 feature The 19 best Greek islands, and was included in a piece the Independent published about Holidays for single travellers. Also in January, The Irish Examiner published A letter from paradise on the Greek island of Skyros, a journalist’s account of her writing holiday. And in 2015, Thomas Cook Airlines named Skyros as best destination for “healthy lifestyle holidays” in its profile of Greece’s top 10 islands.

Perhaps it’s a good thing Skyros hasn’t become hugely popular — that means it will remain a unique and special place to charm and delight those travellers who do venture off the main tourist paths to pay it a visit. (And that’s one of the chief reasons why Skyros is on my bucket list of islands to see.)

Skyros photo from sail-la-vie.com

Built on the steep slopes of a craggy peak topped by a Byzantine fortress and a  monastery, Chora village is a striking sight on Skyros (Photo from the Municipality of Skyros travel guide)

 

Please continue reading on page 2, where you’ll find more pictures and videos along with links to more than a dozen different websites with Skyros travel information and photos.

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A bevy of beaches & coves on the scenic west coast of Andros

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Andros island west coast

 Looking along the west coast of Andros from a vantage point near Liopessi beach outside the town of Gavrio. More than a dozen places to sunbathe, swim and participate in water sports can be found along the 7 km stretch of seafront between Gavrio and Agia Marina.

 

a cove near Kipri beach on Andros

The coastline includes alluring small bays, inlets and quiet coves, like this one with warm golden sands near Kypri ….

 

Agios Petros beach Andros

… as well as several fully organized beaches, like Agios Petros, where sunbeds, bars, tavernas and water sports are available

 

Beach tour: Our final full day on Andros (Saturday May 30) was blessed with a mix of sun and clouds, warm temperatures and a slight breeze — perfect conditions for soaking up some sun and taking a dip at one of the island’s beautiful beaches.

But we were feeling too restless to simply laze away the day on a beach — our Andros visit was coming to an end, and we wanted to see more of the island before moving on to our next destination. So we spent the afternoon walking along the island’s west coast to have a look at all of the beaches situated between our hotel and the port town of Gavrio 7 kilometers to the north.

It took us about 3 hours to trek from Aneroussa Beach Hotel to the Gavrio harbourfront, following the two-lane highway that winds along the coast. It was a good way to enjoy the wonderful weather while seeing 10 main beaches — Agia Marina, Delavoyia, Stivari, Batsi, Kolona, Kyprianos, Kypri, Chrissi Ammos, Agios Petros, and Liopessi — plus the numerous coves and inlets that dot the scenic shoreline. It also gave us a chance to see more of Gavrio, which we had glimpsed only briefly when we arrived at the island five days earlier.

Our original plan was to walk all the way back from Gavrio, too, stopping for a drink at one of the beach bars along the way. But by the time we finished a late lunch in Gavrio, the sky was almost totally clear of clouds and the sun felt considerably hotter than it had during our hike to the port. Rather than risk sunburns, we took a taxi to Batsi, then walked from there to the Aneroussa hotel’s bar on Delavoyia beach, where we rested our tired feet and cooled off with some ice cold beer.

 

 

Though 10 beaches was a lot to visit in one day — far more than we typically see on our Greek island walkabouts — there were many others elsewhere on the island that we didn’t get to check out during our short time on Andros. They included Achla and Vitali, both of which often rank at the top of lists of the island’s “best” beaches, and Tis Grias to Pidima, which is pictured on scores of Andros postcards and travel guides. No worries — we’ll try to see  them on future trips to Andros. 

Please click on the link underneath the next two photos to continue reading  on page 2, where you can see pictures of all the beaches we visited on our coastal walk. I have also included links to websites with Andros beach information for those of you who might be planning to visit the island soon.

 

Liopessi beach on Andros

Besides beaches and coves, there is a lot of interesting scenery to view all along the Andros coast — like this curious rock formation at Liopessi beach …

 

hillside on the Andros coast near Batsi IMG_8416

 … along with steep hills dotted with houses and studio apartment buildings, as well as some impressive villas on sizable mountainside estates. The highway between Batsi and Gavrio also passes several tavernas, where the fragrant aromas of Greek cuisine will tempt your tastebuds as you walk by.

 

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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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Kalymnos rocks!

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Marvellous mountain & coastal scenery plays a starring role in Kalymnos, an exhilarating rock climbing video that film maker Kieran Duncan shot on the rugged Dodecanese island last year

 

Sheer excitement: I’ve had Kalymnos on my mind all week after watching a splendid short video that was shot on the island by Kieran Duncan, an adventurous film maker from Scotland.

Duncan’s nearly 4-minute-long film follows four young Scots who visit Kalymnos to test their skills at climbing some of its world-famous mountain cliffs and rock formations. Besides exhilarating and spine-tingling scenes of the lads scaling perilously steep rock walls, the film showcases the island’s marvellous mountain and coastal scenery, and gives viewers an impression of what it’s actually like to drive around the island. It also includes underwater scenes from a scuba diving session, and shows several spectacular sunsets.

 

 

 

I haven’t set foot on Kalymnos yet, but I have seen parts of its coast as well as its main port town, Pothia, during a ferry ride from Kos to Patmos in 2010.  At the time, I knew little about the island, apart from being vaguely aware of its long and storied history of sponge diving. I later learned that Kalymnos is nowadays more noteworthy as a challenging rock climbing destination for adventure sports enthusiasts from around the world.

I haven’t done any rock climbing since I was a kid, and wouldn’t plan a holiday in Greece just to give it another try. But after discovering Duncan’s film earlier this week, I couldn’t get the captivating Kalymnos scenery out of my head. From quick online research, I Iearned that the island offers excellent hiking opportunities in addition to its popular climbing, diving and water sports activities. Since my partner and I are avid Greek island walkers, this information instantly made Kalymnos even more appealing as a destination for us to include on a future island-hopping trip in the Dodecanese.

A village on Kalymnos seen in photo from Discover Greece

This photo, from the Kalymnos page of the Discover Greece website, captures quintessential Greek island scenery — the deep blue sea, a beach, a village, mountains and a blue-domed church

 

But what really “sold” me on Kalymnos were comments Duncan included on the Vimeo page for his film

“4 pale Scots went to Greece in search of some world class rock climbing, but found so much more!” he wrote.  “The island’s incredible presence, locals, food, scenery, and adventurous opportunities make it one of my favourite destinations yet. I hope this film will inspire you to check it out, you won’t regret it!”

Duncan’s film has certainly encouraged me to consider travelling to Kalymnos sometime. If his video has similarly inspired you, here are a few websites to bookmark for future reference and trip planning assistance:

Kalymnos — The real island experience is the official tourist website operated by the Municipality of Kalymnos. It features dozens of photos along with helpful information about the island’s history, arts and culture, traditional products, places to visit, and sports activities. 

Kalymnos Info is a travel guide loaded with details about activities, accommodations, dining, excursions, transportation, and more.

Climb Kalymnos is an excellent online resource and practical guide for rock climbing enthusiasts, with a climbing route database and regular news updates.

Kalymnos Climbing is a commercial site that offers guided rock climbing and climbing courses on Kalymnos. It has a dedicated section describing available hiking and trekking holidays on the island.

♦ The Kalymnos page on the Discover Greece travel portal lists island highlights and must-see attractions, and includes a number of beautiful photos. 

♦  Diving the Skafandro suit, by Sandra Hendrikse and André Merks, is a fascinating article about the rise and decline of the island’s historic sponge fishing business.

 

Pothia the main port of Kalymnos island

A mountain looms large behind Pothia, the main port of Kalymnos island. I snapped this photo during a brief ferry stop in May 2010, when we were travelling from Kos to Patmos.

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