Tag: Ios (page 1 of 4)

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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Greece’s best destinations for budget travellers

Chora on Astipalia island

A Venetian castle towers above Chora village on Astipalea island. The quiet and unassuming Dodecanese island boasts beautiful scenery, some of which you can see in the video featured in my post Aspects of Astipalea.  

 

Budget friendly: Are you considering a trip to Greece this summer, but wondering where you can go to avoid draining your bank account paying for food and accommodations at expensive destinations like Mykonos and Santorini? Although it’s possible to holiday on a tight budget on both those islands. as well as other high-profile destinations, there are numerous alternatives that offer great Greek holiday experiences at considerably cheaper prices. You’ll find some excellent suggestions in the article Best low budget summer destinations in Greece, published by the informative and insightful travel website  HIP GREECE.

The article lists more than a dozen islands plus one mainland Greece resort area that won’t break the bank, and offers brief descriptions of highlight attractions at each place, with links to additional in-depth articles about some of the destinations.

The spotlighted destinations include:

♦ The Small Cyclades islands of Iraklia, Koufonissia (Pano and Kato Koufonissi), Donousa and Schinoussa

♦ Kythira

♦ Serifos

♦ Tinos

♦ Ios

♦ Ikaria

♦ Astipalea

♦ Lefkada

♦ Skopelos, and

♦ Parga, a picturesque coastal resort area near the town of Preveza in western Greece.

You can read the complete HIP GREECE article by clicking here.

 

 

We’ve been to three of the recommended islands — Astipalea, Ios and Tinos — and have had brief peeks at the Small Cyclades during port stops on a ride from Amorgos to Naxos on the Express Skopelitis ferry. We would agree that all are good choices for travellers visiting Greece on a budget. We haven’t yet been to the other destinations cited by HIP GREECE, but several friends have told us Kythira, Serifos and Ikaria are wallet-friendly, while others have said the same for the Small Cyclades. However, we were surprised that Naxos wasn’t mentioned — we have found it to be the most reasonably priced island of all we have been to so far and it remains one of our favourite places to visit in large part for that reason. (See my article  Our Top 15 reasons to visit Naxos for further information about that wonderful island). 

Keep in mind that the main tourist period in Greece runs from late April until early October, with July and August being peak travel season. July and especially August also happen to be the most expensive months to visit, so if you’re on a limited budget, try to schedule your vacation for April, May, June, late September or early October, when prices tend to be much lower. Hotel rates usually skyrocket for August, and hostel, camping and cheaper basic accommodations typically tend to book up early in the year. If you can only travel during peak season, make arrangements for your accommodations as soon as possible to secure the lowest prices.

Chora village on Ios

Chora village on Ios is chock full of restaurants and bars, while the island is blessed with numerous gorgeous beaches including Mylopotas (which is walking distance from Chora) and Manganari.

 

Christmas greetings with a special touch of Greece

Hellenic Seaways Christmas greeting 2015

The Hellenic Seaways ferry company extended holiday greetings on social media with this shiny red Christmas tree ornament decorated with a golden satellite view-image of Greece

 

Scenes of the season: My social media news feeds have been filled with hundreds of holiday greetings this week, but the ones that inspire me the most are Christmas wishes that include a photo or image of a place in Greece that I’ve either been to or hope to see someday. 

Just for fun, I have collected some of my favourites to share here on the blog.

Please click on the link below to turn to page 2 and see some of the Christmas greetings that have been spreading joy to me and many other Greece fans this festive season.

 

 

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Beguiling beaches on Ios

Visit inviting beaches on Ios in this 3.5-minute clip from luxurios.com

 

The first time I watched Ios Beaches, I instantly wanted to hop on a plane to Greece and catch the next available ferry to Ios. The second time I watched the video, I wanted to go to Ios even more. The urge to hit the beach on Ios felt even stronger after my third viewing.

I love Ios — I have been there twice, and absolutely will return  — yet this video made me feel a slight tinge of regret that I won’t be visiting the island on my upcoming trip to Greece.

The film shows several of the Ios beaches that I have seen in person, plus others that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit. The superb video photography of the island’s outstanding beach and coastal scenery has convinced me that I simply must get back to Ios to see all of the amazing places I missed.

(Ios has more than three dozen wonderful beaches, only some of which can be reached by local bus service or excursion boats. Both of my trips to Ios were in mid-May, before summer bus service and tour boat service to the island’s top beaches had begun, and since I didn’t have a rental vehicle at my disposal, I was limited to seeing beaches within walking distance of the ferry port and Chora, the main town).

Let me know if watching the video makes you want to book a trip to Ios, too (I’m pretty sure it will).

The film was produced by LuxurIOS Island Experience, a Greek-owned travel company that promotes responsible and environmentally sustainable tourism on Ios.

To see more of images from beautiful Ios, check out my Ios photo collection on Flickr.

Greek islands take spring weather woes in stride

Stormclouds at Mykonos

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

 

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

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

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

 We didn’t need rainwear or umbrellas until 2010

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

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

 Stormclouds over Naxos

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

 

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

 Santorini caldera clouds

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

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Our best food & drink experiences of 2013

 Greek salad and Mythos beer

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Best beach taverna

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

 

Paradiso Taverna Naxos

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

 

 

Nikolas Taverna Mykonos

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

 

 

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

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

 

Superb food and good service

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

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

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

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

 

 

Two new beach tavernas we discovered

 

Mikri Vigla Taverna

 Mikri Vigla Taverna at Parthenos beach on Naxos

 

 

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

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

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

 

Aperanto Galazio taverna Varkiza

Aperanto Galazio restaurant at Varkiza beach on the Athens Riviera

 

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

 

 

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Picture yourself … warming up at a beach on Ios

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

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

 

 

Gialos beach on Ios island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our best hotel experiences of 2013

Grotta area of Naxos Town on Naxos

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 Katerina Hotel on Ios

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

 

 

 

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Warming up with a walk along Mylopotas beach

The golden sands of Mylopotas beach on Ios

An early evening view of Mylopotas beach on Ios

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Pic of the day: A white cat on blue steps

a cat on Ios island

A cat on Ios watches passersby from a staircase painted in the bold white and blue colours of the Greek flag

 

Mild to wild watersports in the Cyclades

tubing at Mylopotas beach

Thrillseekers take a wild tube ride at Mylopotas beach on Ios

 

 

Take the tube: Going for a swim in the sea is the time-honoured traditional way to cool off and seek some relief from the searing summer sun in Greece. Activities on the water can help beat the heat, too, with tube rides and sports like kitesurfing and wakeboarding offering a wet ‘n’ wild workout for people seeking a much more active and exciting adventure.

But if you’re too timid to skim across the sea under sail or motor power, you can still have a blast watching a novice try one of the sports for the first time, observing experienced participants honing their skills, or seeing a professional make even the most difficult maneuvers look almost effortless.

Windsurfing, canoeing, sea kayaking, sailing, and stand up paddle boarding (SUP) are among the mainstream watersports offered at beaches on some of the islands in the Cyclades (as well as in other island groups and many places along the coast of the Greek mainland).

For people seeking more speed and excitement, alternative activities include jet skiing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, water tubing and banana boat rides. In some locations, kite surfing is available for enthusiasts eager to experience the thrills and adrenalin rush of an extreme water sport.

 

A kitesurfer skims across the choppy sea off Agios Prokopios beach at Naxos on May 23 2013

Mountains on nearby Paros island provide a backdrop to this kitesurfer skimming the choppy surf off Agios Prokopios beach on Naxos

 

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3 fun ways to cool off at a beach in Greece

It takes skill and strength, but kitesurfing lets you zip across the water and even catch some quality air time, as these enthusiasts demonstrate in a video I shot at Agios Prokopios beach on Naxos on May 23.

 

 

Tube rides offer speed and splash and the risk of an unexpected dip in the sea, as these riders discovered at Mylopotas beach on Ios. I shot this clip on May 21.

 

 

For people who prefer to stay close to shore and keep their feet on the ground, jumping and wading in big waves — like these at Agios Prokopios beach in Naxos this past May — can be just as fun and exciting. I shot this clip on May 23.

 

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