The beautiful golden sand seafront at Tolo stretches for approximately one kilometer from Psili Ammos beach (seen here) to a harbour barely visible in the center-top area of this photo
Extreme temps: We’re never happy after we return home from one of our Greek holidays, as we did three days ago — we always wish we were still in Greece. But this time we’re actually a bit relieved that we’re not there — we simply could not have handled the heat wave currently sweeping across the country.
Sunshine and temperatures hitting the low 30s (Celsius) hindered some of our walking and sightseeing in Nafplio, Monemvasia, Tolo and Hydra on several days of our vacation from May 30 to June 16, but since we left Greece on Thursday temperatures have soared even higher, approaching and even exceeding an absolutely sweltering 40 degrees in many places, particularly on the mainland.
On Saturday, for instance, the temperature reached 43.4 at Sparta, which we had found hot when it was in the low 30s during the day we spent there. As I write this post today, it’s 37 in Nafplio, where a few 30-degree days forced us to limit our activities during the first week of June. And temperatures are forecast to remain scorching hot for several more days. If we were still in Greece, we would either be hiding inside our air-conditioned hotel rooms, or swimming as much as possible.
Fortunately there were plenty of excellent places to take a dip in the sea at most of the destinations we visited. Click on the link below to turn to page 2 and see photos of the great swimming spots we discovered near Epidaurus, Hydra, Monemvasia, Nafplio and Tolo.
Bathers cool off in the gorgeous turquoise waters at Hydronetta, a popular coastal swimming spot on Hydra island
The fascinating fortress town of Monemvasia, where we spent three days and nights in early June
Amazing experience: I only need one word to describe our first-ever visit to Greece’s Peloponnese region and Hydra island this month: Wow!
We weren’t even halfway through our holiday when we noted that the trip was shaping up as one of our best vacation experiences ever in Greece. Now that we’re back home, recalling all the places and sights we encountered and sorting through our photos, we’ve agreed that it was our favourite trip of all.
The Argolida and Laconia districts of the Peloponnese far exceeded our high expectations, while a spur-of-the-moment trip to Hydra impressed us immensely as well. The sights and scenery everywhere we went were simply amazing.
We enjoyed exhilarating views of sparkling turquoise seas and mountains extending as far as the eye could see. We roamed around charming villages and towns, visited historic archaeological sites, and walked dozens of kilometers along scenic coastal paths. We saw vast groves of olive trees, thousands of citrus trees laden with fruit, and dozens of picturesque churches, chapels and monasteries. We explored ancient castles, even spending three nights in a fortress town and swimming in the sea below its formidable stone walls. And we drank good wine and dined on delicious traditional and contemporary Greek cuisine.
I will tell you more about our trip in detailed posts to come, but will launch my 2016 trip report with a series of photos showing some highlight sights and scenes from our travels.
Please click on the link below to view the pictures on page 2.
The Monastery of Elona, which clings to the face of a cliff on Mount Parnon, was a breathtaking sight during our drive from Nafplio to Monemvasia
Holiday getaway: A friend who lives in the U.K. was just asking if I could suggest someplace in Greece, within a reasonable driving distance of Athens, for him to visit on a last-minute Christmas getaway. Ideally, it would be a charming seaside village or town with cobblestone streets, attractive old buildings, good places to eat, and historic sites nearby.
By coincidence, I had been reading about Christmas festivities in Nafplio and Monemvasia, two historic and scenic towns in the Peloponnese, only a couple of hours earlier. So I suggested both, sending my friend links to websites providing holiday event schedules and general travel information, as well as directions on how to get to each town from Athens. I’m sharing that information here in case any of my readers might be seeking ideas for their own spur of the moment Christmas trips to Greece, too.
Often called one of the most beautiful towns in Greece, Nafplio was the country’s capital city from 1829 until 1834, when the national parliament was established in Athens. Located approximately 150 km from Athens, Nafplio is just a 2-hour drive from there by car, and a 2-hour and 20-minute trip by bus. There are about a dozen buses to Nafplio each day, departing hourly on the half hour from the Kifissos terminal. Detailed travel directions can be found on Visit Nafplio, a non-commercial website packed with helpful information for visitors.
Interestingly, Nafplio is where the Christmas fir tree was introduced to Greece for the first time– by Bavarian King Otto, in 1833.
A few of the many important historic attractions in the vicinity include the amphitheater at Epidavros and the archaeological sites at Mycenae and Tiryns, all of which are included on the UN’s World Heritage List.
Screenshot of a “Magic Christmas in Nafplio” press release I received from the Discover Nafplio information website, advising of special Christmas and New Year’s events taking place in the former capital city of Greece
The Discover Nafplio travel and information website has a Christmas in Nafplio page that offers suggestions for accommodations, dining, drinking and gift shopping, and includes a link to an extensive list of special Christmas events taking place from mid-December until January 6. There’s even a separate restaurant page that displays menus for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve dinners at two popular Nafplio restaurants — 3Sixty Cafe & Wine Bar on Papanikolaou Street, and Propolis restaurant at Staikopoulou Square, both in the Old Town.
Given its position on a massive rock island, it’s easy to see why Monemvasia is often called “the Gibraltar of Greece.” (Media image provided courtesy of the Municipality of Monemvasia.)
Located in the Laconia region of the Peloponnese, Monemvasia comprises an Old Town — a medieval fortress built on the side of a giant rock island connected to the mainland by a short causeway — and a New Town (Gefyra) just across the channel. The Old Town is a warren of narrow cobblestone lanes and vaulted passageways that lead visitors past churches, mansions, castles, and Byzantine icons. Monemvasia is approximately 335 km from Athens International Airport, and the drive by car can take from 3.5 to 4.5 hours. The Laconia branch of the KTEL transportation company provides daily bus service between Athens and Monemvasia several times per day.
An article on the Municipality of Monemvasia website briefly describes volunteer efforts that have been undertaken “to bring life to the magic of Christmas” in special Christmas villages set up for children and the young at heart in the Old Town and in several other areas. It also provides a schedule of music, entertainment and cultural events being presented until December 31. Unfortunately, the calendar of events is in Greek only, but you can use Google Translate or other programs to read the descriptions.
Enter Greece is a fabulous 11-minute Aegean Airlines-produced film that will give you “a taste of the most magical places in Greece!”
Sensational scenery: If Greece isn’t already on your “bucket list” of places to visit, the Enter Greece video from the Aegean Airlines YouTube channel might well convince you to include it among your top “must see” destinations.
Even if you have been to Greece before, whether as a one-time or repeat visitor, you’ll still enjoy watching sensational cinematography of what the airline calls some of “the most magical places in Greece.”
The 11-minute film clip includes amazing views of the Athens Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum, Cape Sounion, Spetses, Santorini, Mykonos, Delos, Milos, Crete, Zakynthos, Lefkada, Meteora, Monemvasia, the Corinth Canal and many more outstanding island and mainland Greece destinations.
“Travel through the blue sky and sea, the taste and history, unique landscapes, art and tradition of Greece,” the video summary states.
It delivers as promised — I developed an immense craving for Greek food and wanted to book a flight to Athens immediately after watching the video!
The English-narrated video Greek Tourism. An eternal journey features stunning views of some of the most beautiful and famous sights and attractions in Greece
Significant Century: With its long and storied history, Greece has been associated with tourism for what seems like an eternity. Not surprisingly, tourism is the country’s oldest industry.
“The Greek passion for travelling, for both knowledge and adventure, began long ago with Odysseus, the paradigm of the eternal traveller; with Herodotus, the first tourist and most famous story teller; and with Pausaniuas, who wrote the first travel guide 2,000 years ago,” narrator Donald Morgan Nielson notes in the promotional video Greek Tourism: An eternal journey.
The five and a half minute film features utterly splendid video photography of spectacular scenery from the Greek mainland and some of the Greek islands, and is accompanied by soaring, uplifting music by Dimitris Papadimitriou. With a script directed by Andonis Theocharis Kioukas, the video was produced by QKas Productions for the Greece National Tourism Organisation (GNTO), and has been posted on the GNTO’s Visit Greece YouTube page.
From 10,000 tourists in 1914 to over 17 million in 2014
The video celebrates the 100th anniversary of officially-organized tourism in Greece. Back in 1914, respected Greek statesman Eleftherios Venizelos founded the first national service to oversee Greek tourism. That same year, 10,000 tourists visited the country, and the numbers just kept on growing from theret. They reached record proportions last year, when more than 17 million people visited the country — an all-time high. And even though it’s still early in 2014 and the main summer tourist season hasn’t even begun, Greece appears on track for another banner year.
There was an 8.4% increases in the number of international arrivals at Greek airports in January, February and March compared to the same quarter last year, while travel officials report that summer bookings from major markets like Germany and the USA have risen substantially. And with more than 150 new airline routes operating to Athens this season, along with numerous new international direct flights to Mykonos, Santorini, Crete and other islands, Greece appears likely to top its target of 18 million visitors by the end of the year.
Frankly, I’m surprised the number of visitors isn’t considerably higher. But once more people get to view Greek Tourism: An eternal journey, I’m sure they’ll consider planning trips to see the amazing sights and attractions for themselves.
Below is a slightly shorter version of the video which will let you enjoy Dimitris Papadimitriou’s inspiring music without the narration. Turn up the volume, sit back, and enjoy the 4-minute journey to “Greece … a small piece of heaven on earth.”
This view of Monemvasia — a scenic Byzantine-era village on a Peloponnese coastal location often described as “the Gibraltar of Greece” — is one of many stunning sights that appears in a spectacular video by Constantinos Tseklenis
Another view of the fortified town as seen in the Monemvasia Serenity Escape video by Constantinos Tseklenis
This Google map shows the location of Monemvasia (bottom centre, marked with an A) in relation to the Cyclades group of islands (right) and the City of Athens
Another “must-see”: It keeps getting more and more difficult for us to decide where to go during our next trip to Greece in May. Almost every day, my online research turns up a YouTube video or website for an inspiring Greek Island or mainland destination we’ve never been to before. And, of course, our instant reaction is: “We should go there!” Then a couple of days later a friend will bring yet another amazing place to our attention or suggest remarkable locations they have personally enjoyed.
We’re spoiled for good choices, which is a great position to be in. But at the same time, our shortlist of possibilities for May isn’t getting any shorter … and our “must-see” list for future holidays keeps getting longer.
Below is a video that has us considering Monemvasia, a fortified medieval-era town in the southeast Peloponnese that has often been described as “the Gibraltar of Greece.” There is about a full minute of stunning cinematography in the clip, which Constantinos Tseklenis created for the National Greece Tourism Organisation‘s 2013 VisitGreece promotional campaign.
Give it a look … and enjoy your moment on Monemvasia!