Category: Tourist attractions (page 1 of 9)

Visiting Delos in 2017

This short video includes aerial views of Delos island, film of the excursion boats that ferry visitors between Mykonos and Delos and, at the 1:39 mark of the clip,  a schedule of boat trips and prices for tickets and guided tours in 2017

 

Time changes: If you’re visiting Mykonos this summer and hope to take a daytrip to explore the historic ruins and museum at nearby Delos island, take note there has been a slight change to the time excursion boats will return from Delos in the evening during 2017. The last boat back to Mykonos will now depart Delos at 7:30 p.m., a half hour earlier than last year.  

That’s the only significant change (so far, at least) to the information provided in my Visiting Delos in 2016 blog post. Prices for the boat rides remain at €20 per adult and €10 for children aged 6 to 12. Kids under 6 can still ride for free. 

Guided half-day tours still cost €50 per adult and €25 per child between 6 and 12 years of age. There is no charge for kids under 6 to join the  guided tours, which are available from May 2 until the end of October.

 

 

The ferry ticket and tour prices do not include the government-imposed fee for admission to the Delos archaeological site, which is €12 per person again this year, and which is payable at the entrance gate on the island.

For full details about Delos excursions from Mykonos, consult the website for Delos Tours — the company that operates the boat service between the islands.

For photos and information about what you can see and do on Delos, check out my previous articles about daytrips to the island

In the meantime, take a look below at the three videos I have posted to inform and inspire you prior to your Delos visit.

 

This 2.5-minute clip, flimed by www.sky-net.co.uk, shows drone views of the Delos archaeological site

 

This 6-minute film, by sitesandphotosvideo, offers an overview of some of the most significant sites on Delos

 

Learn more about Delos and its fascinating history in this beautifully-filmed 23-minute video by Andonis Kioukas

Discover more of Greece on my blog’s Facebook page

MyGreeceTravelBlog Facebook page

I regularly share photos & videos, as well as links to Greece travel news and information, on the MyGreeceTravelBlog page on Facebook. You don’t have to be a Facebook member to see what I post there.

 

What’s there: I love blogging about Greece, but since this website is a personal hobby that I work on during my limited spare time  (it’s not a commercial travel site, as some people think), it’s just not possible for me to post new articles every day. But it’s a whole different story with the MyGreeceTravelBlog page on Facebook, where I can easily share news, information, pictures and videos with just a few quick clicks on my mouse or smartphone. And that’s exactly what I do almost every day when I check my Facebook news feed to see what’s happening in Greece.

 

 

You don’t have to be a registered Facebook user to see what I post on my page — although you will encounter one of those annoying popup windows that asks you to either login or sign up for an account to see more of the MyGreeceTravelBlog page. (You don’t have to do that — just click the “Not Now” button and the box will drop to the bottom of the page, letting you scroll through the various items I have posted.)

If you do have a Facebook account, simply “like” or “follow” my blog page (if you haven’t done so already) so you can see my posts in your daily news feed.

Check out my page regularly, and you’ll discover more of Greece to complement the articles I publish here on the blog.

Click on the link below to turn to page 2 where you’ll see examples of the types of posts you’ll find on my Facebook page.

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Temptation island: Why Mykonos is Greece’s hottest holiday destination

A tour of the heavenly island of Mykonos!!

A tour of the heavenly island of Mykonos!! With an exclusive and amazing video that highlights the unparalleled beauty of the island, the journalist and owner of Mykonos Live Tv Peter Nazos invites us to escape to Mykonos! Among the picturesque narrow streets, next to the churches and the monasteries, behind the freshly painted shutters, through the living tradition, the vitality of the night, the rocky hills and the heavenly beaches, the island of the wings can not hide its incomparable charm. Walk in the idyllic cobbled roads, dive into the deep blue and experience the unique atmosphere of the "queen" of the Cyclades. This is Mykonos, a top vacation choice!

Posted by Mykonos LIVE TV. on Wednesday, April 6, 2016

This video by Mykonos LIVE TV shows some of the popular beaches and tourist attractions that draw huge crowds to Mykonos every year

 

Intriguing island: It seems everybody loves Mykonos,  Countless people love its atmospheric beaches, restaurants, shopping, and nightlife, and happily spread the word about how fantastic everything is. And there are likely just as many who love to criticize and complain, warning anyone who will listen not to go to Mykonos because it’s overpriced, overcrowded and overly commercialized. With so much talk, whether by exuberant fans or equally enthusiastic detractors, it’s no wonder Mykonos is the most famous of all the Greek islands. Remember the expression “There is no such thing as bad publicity?” Well, Mykonos gets plenty, yet its popularity continues to soar.  

I think there’s a very simple reason: Mykonos has tremendous visual appeal. Watch the two videos I’ve published in this post, and it’s easy to see why millions of people want to go there. Professional photography helps, no doubt, but similarly enticing images of the island’s breathtaking sights and scenery have appeared for many years in news and social media, travel publications, lifestyle websites, fashion and design magazines, and hit movies all around the world. Heck,  I’ve been to Mykonos more than any other place in Greece, yet these videos make me feel like rushing right back.

The film at the top of this post, produced by Mykonos LIVE TV, does a great job of selling the island’s good looks. It presents fabulous views of the iconic landmarks and attractions that have made Mykonos a household name over the past five decades: beaches, bougainvillea, brilliant white buildings, charming churches and chapels, the Little Venice seafront, the photogenic pelican, the impressive Alefkandra windmills, the incredible blue skies and turquoise seas, the sensational sunsets, and much more.

 

 

However, there is another popular expression that applies to Mykonos: “Beauty is only skin deep.” Although the narrator of the Tripment travel website film, below, makes a point of mentioning the island’s biggest blemishes, warts and flaws, the video views of bustling beaches, streets and bars do a convincing job of selling Mykonos as an incredibly attractive, exciting, and vibrant place to vacation.

Acknowledging that the island can be extremely expensive and overcrowded during peak season (July and August), the narrator describes Mykonos as “the ideal destination to boast one’s wealth and happiness.” Still, there’s that matchless beauty and alluring aura that make people dream of taking a trip to Mykonos..

“The all-white Cycladic architecture, in combination with the blue colour of the sea and sky, creates really beautiful scenery,” the narrator notes, adding that the 25 Mykonos beaches  — “quite a large number” considering the island’s small size — are all “beautiful, with golden sand and crystal-clear blue water.” They might be jam-packed with rental sunbeds and umbrellas, too, but they still look so damned inviting!

 

Despite its drawbacks, Mykonos “definitely offers a unique experience to its visitors,” the narrator says, and “whether you like it or not depends on your personal taste and style.”

Nevertheless, “the fact is that it is the liveliest destination in Greece as people here enjoy themselves 24 hours a day, non-stop.” Mykonos, he concludes, is “a destination that has made Greece famous all over the world.”

And that’s a really good thing, in my humble opinion.

Even if you can get there only briefly, whether on a cruise, a day tour or a short stopover en route to another island, Mykonos is absolutely worth seeing. There’s nowhere else like it, and that’s a good thing, too. 

 

This clip from the Tripment travel blog dates back to 2014, but little has changed in the interim, and the video still offers an excellent overview of what it calls “the most famous and expensive destination in Greece.”

The bewitching but dangerous beauty of Santorini’s Red Beach

Red Beach Santorini

Santorini’s Red Beach is seen in an image from EscapeGreece.com 

 

Rockfall risk: Since Santorini enjoys a worldwide reputation for superlative natural scenery, it’s not surprising that the island’s remarkable Red Beach regularly garners glowing accolades from international travel publications and leading lifestyle websites — along with ample attention on social media, where thousands of people have posted selfies that they shot on and near the colourful coastal attraction.

During my routine online work and research, I frequently find articles in which travel magazines and websites declare Red Beach to be one of the world’s “best,” “most beautiful,” “most unusual” or “most colourful” beaches, and recommend it as a “must-see” for anyone visiting Santorini.  Photos of the distinctive strand, which is also known as Red Sand Beach, appear even more often on websites and social media pages dedicated to travel in Greece, and in particular for hotels and tour companies operating on Santorini.

What the articles, posts and photo captions rarely mention, however, is that Red Beach is a veritably perilous place to sunbathe, swim or stroll. In recent years, there have been several significant rockfalls and landslides from the crimson-coloured bluffs that rise behind the narrow strip of scarlet-tinged pebbles and stones, and geological experts believe it’s possible that more cliff sections could collapse onto the beach at any time. (There are anecdotal claims that two beachgoers were killed by a landslide a few years ago, but I couldn’t find any news reports confirming the fatalities or date of the accident.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Beach Santorini photo by TripAdvisor member Chris B

Red Beach is seen on a sunny April afternoon in a photo by TripAdvisor review contributor Chris B

 

Red Beach Santorini

During peak season in past years, sunbeds have been available for rent, as seen in this photo from the Santorini Hotels Facebook page

 

Red Beach Santorini photo by Cecil Ramirez

In April, Facebook member Cecil Ramirez captured this photo of the imposing red stone cliffs that tower above Red Beach

 

Red Beach Santorini photo by Daena K Nicholas

Major rockfalls have occurred at Red Beach several times in the past decade. Two of the larger landslides are clearly visible in this photo shared on Facebook by Daena K Nicholas

 

Red Beach Santorini photo by Jc Male

Red Beach has been “closed” since August 2013 because of fears more landslides could occur, and since stones and boulders loosen and plunge from the cliffs on occasion. But warning signs like this one, shown in a Facebook photo by Jc Male, have not deterred thousands of people from going to the beach.

 

Red Beach Santorini photo by Daniel Dias da Silva Facebook photo of Red Beach Santorini

Sunbathers sit near the foot of one of the larger landslides, seen in a Facebook photo by Daniel Dias da Silva. Fences were installed to keep people from climbing the cliffs and landslip rubble because that could trigger further collapses of the rock face.

 

Red Beach Santorini photo by Nikky Dudek

The safest way to see Red Beach is from the sea or from a distance on a hilltop vantage point like this one captured in a Facebook photo by Nikky Dudek

 

Please click on the link below to continue reading about Red Beach on page 2 of this post, where you can view videos and dozens more photos of this singular Santorini beach.

 

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Athens nightlife: Where to party with the locals

Millenium GAZI club in Athens

Scenes from Millenium GAZI, one of dozens of clubs, bars, restaurants and cafes within walking distance of the Karameikos metro station in the buzzing Gazi entertainment district of Athens

 

After dark: Wondering where to find a great party scene while you’re visiting Athens? Check out the article Athens nightlife: where do locals go? published recently on the Odiporikon travel tips website.

Written by an Athens-born blogger, the article notes that Athens offers “a very rich variety” of places to enjoy a night on the town. “Avoid the tourist traps and try out places a little further from the usual path,” the article advises.

To that end, it describes the top Athens party districts and how to reach them using the local public transit system and taxis.

Areas listed in the blog post include:

♦ Thissio

♦ Ag. Eirini Square

♦ Kolokotroni Street

♦ Gazi

♦ Psirri

♦ Exarcheia

♦ Chalandri

♦ Glyfada, and

♦ Mikrolimano

Be sure to bookmark the guide to keep on hand for your trip to Athens.

OPUS Inner Pleasure Glyfada

OPUS Inner Pleasure is one of many hot hangouts in the Glyfada coastal suburb of Athens. It’s a restaurant-cafe by day and a party club at night.

 

What’s new on Mykonos for summer 2016

~ updated on Monday September 5 2016 ~

 

Mykonos Town and harbourfront

Overlooking the Mykonos Town harbourfront from one of my favourite vantage points on a hill behind the Remezzo area of town

 

Boom town: Many of the tourists who visited Mykonos last summer must have been wondering why they didn’t see obvious signs of the economic crisis that has ravaged the country for more than five years.  

Seemingly unscathed by the financial problems that have plagued the rest of Greece, Mykonos was absolutely thriving in 2015, with more than 100 new travel-related businesses opening up on the island last summer alone. The unprecedented renovation and building boom saw the arrival of new hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, galleries and personal services, many of which were aimed at the island’s rapidly growing luxury travel market.

 

 

It would be hard to top 2015’s astounding array of brand-new businesses again this year, but recent announcements about more upcoming new openings suggest the resilient Mykonos economy is poised for even further prosperity and growth.

So far there have been announcements on social media to herald the imminent debut of several new restaurants, retail shops, beach clubs, hotels, bars and nightlife venues, while rumours abound that many more are in the works.

Please click on the link below to read about the new businesses that have opened or been announced so far. I will update this post regularly as I receive more information about the newcomers.

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Sky views of Santorini’s sensational cliffside scenery

 

Drone tour: Here’s a video to excite and inspire those of you who will be going to Santorini this summer — or possibly sometime in the future.

Created by NPro+ Aerial Production, the two-and-a-half minute film will take you on an exhilarating aerial tour of the western side of Santorini, renowned for the picturesque villages that cling to the peaks of rugged caldera cliffs towering nearly 1,000 feet (300 meters) above the Aegean Sea.

Although dozens of drone videos of Santorini are available for online viewing, I particularly like NPro+’s Santorini from the Sky because it starts with a superb view of Agios Theodori, the church that has been pictured on countless Santorini postcards, posters and travel guides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instantly recognizable by its shiny blue dome and brilliant white belltower overlooking the volcano island of Nea Kameni, Agios Theodori church was the first fascinating sight we saw moments after arriving at our hotel in Firostefani village on our first visit to Santorini in 2004. The video goes on to show other remarkable scenes that amazed us throughout that holiday, including views of four clifftop villages — Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia — and beautiful Amoudi Bay below Oia. Of course, the film also shows some of the sensational sunsets for which Santorini is famous around the world.

Scenes from some of the shop-lined streets in the heart of Fira, and from a few of its many cliffside cocktail bars and cafes, also made me feel like I was right back on the island experiencing it in person all over again.

The only thing I didn’t like was the brief view of tourists riding donkeys on the path that winds down the cliff from Fira to the cruise ship tender port. Click here to read why you shouldn’t take a donkey ride if you visit Santorini.

Agios Theodori church in Firostefani

Even if you’ve never been to Santorini, you’ve probably seen Agios Theodori church — it has been pictured on scores of postcards, posters and travel guides. Located in Firostefani village, it was the first impressive sight we saw on our first visit to Santorini back in 2004. There’s a great view of the church, and the Nea Kameni volcano island (upper left), at the beginning of the Santorini from the Sky video I posted above.

Thessaloniki: Greece’s historic yet young-at-heart second city

If you haven’t been to Thessaloniki yet, this promotional film will leave you wondering how to include the city on your next trip to Greece

 

Cultural capital: Thessaloniki, the second biggest city in Greece, is already on my list of must-see destinations for future vacations. But an impressive promotional video produced on behalf of the city has left me wishing I could go there ASAP.

Released on March 18 2016, Thessaloniki, the inside track includes enticing aerial and ground-level views of some of the city’s top attractions, including monuments, historic sites, public squares, the beautiful waterfront and other public places.

Notes accompanying the YouTube video say that “Thessaloniki, historically one of Europe’s oldest and most multiethnic cities, widely considered as the cultural capital of Greece, is truly unique in the sense that it intricately marries its thousands-year-old multicultural heritage and the architectural marvels with the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Sephardic Jew history.  With a student-strong population of 150,000, Thessaloniki boasts an under-30s do-it-yourself youth culture-creative movement seen nowhere else in the Southern part of Europe.”

The notes also describe Thessaloniki as “Gastronomic Capital of Greece,” best party city and best mid-sized European city of the future for human capital and lifestyle.

All perfectly good reasons why the city clearly deserves a visit.

Should you need further convincing, just give the 3.5-minute clip a watch. I’m willing to bet it will make you want to see Thessaloniki, too.

 

Booking.com

 

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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Escape to Crete’s exotic Balos beaches and lagoons

Balos Crete photo 01 by Antoine Nikolopoulos

 Balos Crete photo 02 by Antoine Nikolopoulos

Cape Tigani and the Balos beaches and lagoons in northwest Crete are seen from two different perspectives in beautiful photos shot in early October 2015 by Antoine Nikolopoulos of Odyssey Art Photography

 

Longing for lagoons: I’ve had an insatiable craving for Vitamin Sea and sunshine recently … symptoms, no doubt, of a severe case of midwinter blues. Deep-freeze temperatures here in Toronto most of last week, followed by two days of snowfalls this week, have only made my condition worse. So I’ve been looking at photos and videos of Balos, what I consider to be one of the most sensational beaches in Greece, to take my mind off the cold and snow.

It’s a self-prescribed treatment I call the “Balos boost.” Even though I haven’t yet been to what is widely regarded as the most iconic and most photographed beach on Crete, it always lifts my spirits to see images of this exotic-looking seaside area.  

 

Balos Crete photo from Flickr photostream of Caroline Martinez

It’s dreamy scenes like this, photographed by Flickr member Caroline Martinez, that make me yearn for an escape to Balos.

 

Balos Crete photo by Giannis Fountoulakis

Here’s another image that instantly makes me daydream about going to Balos. This scene, photographed by Giannis Fountoulakis, is just one of two dozen impressive images, all captured by Giannis, that appear in a Balos photo gallery on the website for the Elizabeth Estate Agency in Crete.

 

Why Balos?

Because it has everything I imagine in the Fantasy Island beach of my dreams: alluring shallow lagoons shimmering with more than a dozen different hues of tempting turquoise water; curving ribbons of white sand (pinkish from crushed seashells in some places); visually-striking natural landscapes with steep rust-coloured hills and cliffs, and rugged rocky seashores; marvellous scenery in every direction; and mesmerizing sunset views. All in a rather out-of-the-way location that can be an adventure to reach. 

It’s my personal notion of a Greek island paradise, a place that has “special,” “incomparable” and “wow” written all over it. From what I’ve seen and read, that’s the general impression Balos has made on many people who have been there and seen it with their own eyes. In fact, Balos was ranked as the #3 beach in Greece, and the #11 beach in Europe, in the recently-announced TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards for 2016.

 

“A single glance is enough for someone to understand that this is not just a beach but one of nature’s finest masterpieces.” — Elizabeth Estate Agency

 

Balos photo from the Crete island, Greece Facebook page

According to a post about Balos in the Bulgarian-language travel blog My Trips in Pictures, visitors can observe 12 to 17 different shades of turquoise in the Balos lagoons and surrounding sea. A few of the fascinating hues are seen in this photo from the Crete island, Greece Facebook page.

 

Balos photo from Crete island, Greece Facebook page

This photo from the Crete island, Greece Facebook page shows people enjoying the shallow waters of the Balos lagoons with nearby Gramvousa island as an impressive scenic backdrop

 

 

Coming up on the next page, as well as in Part 2 of this post, you’ll see some of my favourite Balos videoclips and photographs — just a sample of the thousands of Balos images that have taken my mind off cold and snow dozens of times so far this winter. I’m sharing them here in case you could use a little Balos boost yourself, wherever you might be.  

I also have gathered links to online travel sites and blog posts that provide even more pictures plus detailed information about the beach, including directions on how to get there, in case you’d like to pay Balos a personal visit this summer or sometime in the future. Consider it a mini guide to Balos, if you will. The only information I don’t include is for hotels, studios or rental villas — you’ll have to research that yourself, but you’ll find links to accommodation resources on most of the websites I mention, as well as in source credits appearing under many of the photographs in my post.

To start off my “escape to Balos” feature, here is a video to help those of you who aren’t already familiar with Balos to get acquainted with its matchless location and sublime setting.

I love watching this film by Žiga Zupančič because it instantly makes me feel like I’m at Balos, basking in the sun, appreciating the grandeur of the landscapes and scenery, and chilling out to the laid-back beach vibe. 

 

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Escape to Balos (Part 2)

Most of this video by Carlos Torres was filmed on the beaches and in the lagoons, so it gives you a very good impression of what it’s like to be at Balos. The video also includes views from the drive on the dirt road, as well as from the footpath to the beach. 

 

More of Balos — in photos

 

Part 1 of my Balos “escape” post provided information on ways to get to the beach, and described what you’ll find there. Here, in Part 2, I share some of my favourite pictures and videos of the beaches, lagoons and surrounding coast. Many are from Crete-based travel websites, while others have appeared in blogs and on social media sites like Facebook. 

I have included credit lines to indicate where I obtained each photo. However, since so many images are shared without proper attribution on social media nowadays, it’s possible that some photos may not be correctly credited to the proper photographer or copyright holder. If one of your images appears here with incorrect attribution, please let me know and I will be happy to either amend the credit line or remove the image from this post at your request.

Balos photo by Kolory Krety

Photo shared on Facebook by Kolory Krety

 

Please click on the link below to view several videos and over three dozen more beautiful Balos photos on page 2 of this post.

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

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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