Tag: Paros (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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Islands suffer flood damage after heavy rain soaks the Cyclades

Stormwater flooding on Naxos

Stormwaters surged across fields, farmlands and roads on Naxos after heavy rain lashed the island on Tuesday. This picture of an overflowing stream appeared in a January 23 2017 photo report published by Naxos Times.

 

Muddy Naoussa waterfront street

After the Tuesday rains, this waterfront strip in Naoussa village on Paros was left a complete muddy mess. This was one of several photos that Kay Will shared on Facebook to show the aftermath of the storm.

 

Devastating downpours: Winter weather has been packing a powerful punch in Greece this month.

First it was unusually cold temperatures and snowfalls that struck much of the country during the first week of January (see the stunning pictures and videos in my recent posts Amazing winter wonderland scenes from Greece and Greece in white winter glory).

The mercury has since climbed and the snow in many places has melted, but Mother Nature wasn’t finished — she decided to pound some of the Cyclades islands with heavy downpours that lasted throughout the day on Tuesday January 24.

 

 

The rain, occasionally accompanied by hail, pelted Paros, Naxos, Tinos, Mykonos, Sifnos, Andros and other islands for more than 24 hours.

Paros was particularly hard hit by the storm and seems to have suffered the most water damage. There was extensive soil erosion as well as some landslides, and flooding caused widespread damage to farm fields, shops, homes, churches, vehicles, and roadways.  

According to a January 25 report on the local news website ParosIn, damage to some areas was so severe, the island’s mayor has written to regional authorities requesting they declare a state of emergency so that resources can be deployed to assist with the massive cleanup and repair work that must now be undertaken.

The news story noted that the mayor’s letter described severe damage in the municipal areas of Naoussa, Kostos, Lefkon, Archilocus, and Marpissa, as well as places in and around Parikia.

According to the Naxos Times, the deluge doused Naxos with so much rain that streams turned into “rushing rivers” that “drowned” farms and fields, and flooded some roads.  Near Koronida village, where wildfires had burned several weeks before, the water washing down the streams was black from all the soot being carried away, the January 24 Naxos Times report stated.

 

This short videoclip, shared by the Maistros Panormos Tinos page on Facebook, shows some of the rainwater damage at Rochari beach on Tinos

 

Click on the link below to continue reading and see more storm photos and video 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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Snowfalls & cold temps bring Greece’s turbulent 2015 to a wintry close

Snow on Paros photo shared on Facebook by ΠΑΡΟΣ like

Snow blankets the ground beside a chapel in Lefkes village on Paros following light flurries on December 31 2015. Μαρία Ραγκούση shared this image on the Lefkes Paros public group page on Facebook.

 

Snowflurries in Halki village on Naxos photo shared on Facebook by Petros Anamateros

Petros Anamateros shared on Facebook this image he captured showing New Year’s Eve snowflurries at Halki village on Naxos  

 

From green to white: Every day this month, I’ve been feeling green with envy seeing social media posts showing sunny skies and gorgeous summer-like scenery in Greece.  Only three days ago, in fact, I was jealously admiring beach and seashore photos from the Athens Riviera that a friend had taken during balmy 18 degree Celsius temperatures. 

But when I logged onto my blog’s Facebook newsfeed first thing this morning, I was stunned to see pictures and read reports about light snow falling at various places on the Greek mainland, in Athens, and on such islands as Amorgos, Crete, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Santorini and Skiathos.  

On Rhodes and other islands in the Dodecanese, people had posted comments about chilly temperatures and strong, cold winds. The We Love Rhodes page, for instance, reported that temperatures of only 3 degrees and winds reaching level 5 on the Beaufort scale had brought the “first day of winter for Rhodes at the last day of 2015.”

And in an article entitled White New Year’s Eve in Greece, the news website Protothema described snowfalls in northern and central Greece and Attica, and reported on weather-related disruptions to ferry service to the Saronic Gulf islands and other places. (Click on the article title link to see photos and videos that Protothema included with its story.)

 

 

 

Snow isn’t unusual in Greece

Snowflurries aren’t unheard-of either on the mainland, in Athens, or on many of the Greek islands. Severe winter weather conditions including snow and sleet can and do strike virtually all parts of the country from time to time.  

But it is perhaps fitting that what has been an extremely turbulent year for Greece seems to be ending just the way it began — with dark, brooding stormclouds bringing cold temperatures and light snow to many parts of the nation.

As I reported in my posts Wild winter weather wallops Greece and Snow scenes from the Cyclades, Greece got this year off to a stormy start with severe winter weather that started just before New Year’s Eve 2014 and carried into early January.  There were More weather woes during the second week of February. After that, the country experienced a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, with national elections, financial bailout negotiations, the ongoing refugee/migrant crisis and record tourist visits, to name just a few of the many events that put Greece in the international media spotlight throughout the year.

Now, as 2015 comes to a stormy close, I’m anxious to see if the new year will bring better times. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that 2016 will indeed be a Happy New Year for Greece.

Please click here or on the link at the bottom of this post to see more New Year’s Eve snow scenes from Greece on page 2 of this report.

 

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Why you should visit Paros

BEST OF PAROS from Art in Design-Alternative on Vimeo.

 

PAROS from Dimitris Christopoulos on Vimeo.

 

I never need an excuse to visit Greece, but in online travel forums I often see people asking whether they should go to certain places, or wondering why specific Greek destinations are popular.  They think they want to visit them, but they really don’t have a clue what they will get to see and do once they get there.

Paros is one of those places. Since it’s a stop on the busy ferry route between Mykonos and Santorini, the two most popular Cyclades islands, many travellers realize it would conveniently fit into an island-hopping itinerary. But is it the right island for them to visit? Does it have enough attractions to make it a worthwhile stopover for a few days?

I think these two films, which I found on Vimeo today, will help visitors determine if Paros is their kind of place. (I think the answer will most likely be “yes.”) I’ve already been to Paros (twice), but both videos made me want to go back again.

In case you need more convincing, click here to view my Paros Greece 2012 collection on Flickr, which features hundreds of photos from the picturesque harbour village of Naoussa, and several beaches in its surrounding area. Some photos of the main port town of Parikia, as well as the Yria Hotel and the scenic coastline near Parasporos beach, can be viewed in my Paros collection.

Captivating colours on the coast of Paros

Paros coast

A rugged section of coastline near Parasporos beach on Paros

 

True colours: One of the things we most remember from our first trip to Paros 10 years ago was an afternoon walk along the island’s rocky coast just west of Parasporos beach. We were mesmerized by the constantly-changing sea colours, which ranged from a deep cobalt blue to a vivid emerald green, with an astonishing array of turquoise shades in between. It was fascinating to observe the colours shift as we moved from one cove to the next. Below are some of the photos we shot during our hike. You can view those and more images in larger format in the Coastal Colours on Paros album on the MyGreeceTravelBlog Flickr page.

 

Paros coast

 

Paros coast

 

Paros coast

 

Paros coast

 

Paros coast

 

Paros coast

 

Paros coast

 

 Paros coast

 

Paros coast

 

Paros coast

 

Paros coast

 

Paros island coast

 

Paros coast

 

Snow scenes from the Cyclades

Achim Eckhardt photo of snow on Tinos, as seen from nearby Mykonos island

This might look like Alaska or the Arctic, but it’s actually Tinos in the Cyclades islands of Greece. Achim Eckhardt shot this amazing photo from a vantage point on nearby Mykonos island after a severe winter storm passed over the Cyclades last week. Click on the picture to enlarge the image.

 

snow on Tinos

The storm dumped a thick blanket of snow up to 2 meters deep on some mountain areas of Tinos. This image of snowdrifts towering above a 4WD vehicle is a screen capture from a video posted on Facebook by Emmanuel Delasoudas from Tinos.

 

 

Snow wonder: Mention the words “Greek Islands” to people around the world, and many instantly think of the Cyclades, recalling iconic postcard images of rustic villages with white “sugar cube” houses clinging to steep slopes high above the sparkling Aegean Sea.

Last week those scenic towns and buildings looked breathtakingly whiter and brighter after a ferocious storm system swept rain, sleet, snow and below-freezing temperatures across the Cyclades on January 6, quickly transforming the region into a winter wonderland.

While some isles got dusted with a light blanket of snow that soon melted away, the storm thumped mountain areas of Andros, Tinos and Naxos with heavy snowfalls, leaving parts of those islands looking more like the Alps than Aegean islands.

 

Islanders shared dramatic storm images on social media

Residents quickly took to social media to post dramatic photos and videos of snow scenes that resembled winter images depicted on Christmas cards people exchanged during the holiday season. Though both shocking and delightful to many viewers who have only seen the islands in warm seasons, Cyclades residents pointed out that snowfalls, while rare, do occur about once or twice a decade — most recently in 2008.

But while the snow-laden islands look pretty in pictures, the storm had calamitous consequences for Andros and Tinos, which bore the brunt of the brutal weather conditions and received the heaviest snowfalls as the unexpectedly strong storm cut a wide swath across the Aegean. 

Authorities declared a state of emergency after an electrical grid failure left many residents on both islands without power and running water for up to four days, and snowplows had to be shipped from the mainland to clear roads to remote villages rendered inaccessible by the snow that measured two and a half meters deep in spots. Schools, shops and businesses were forced to close, while emergency personnel had to rescue senior citizens and ill residents who were snowbound in mountain hamlets. On Tinos, farmers suffered extensive snow damage to fruit and olive trees and greenhouses, while livestock breeders lost sheep and other livestock that perished in the cold.

What follows is a selection of photos and videos I have collected from social media, showing scenes from several Cyclades islands in the aftermath of the storm. I have endeavoured to credit the original sources for all images and videos; however, some photos were widely shared without naming the source. Please let me know of any inaccurate credits so I can make immediate corrections.

You can view additional photos of winter scenes in my January 2 2015 post Wild winter weather wallops Greece, and in my December 15 2013 post Greece gets winter, too!

 

  Andros

 

Leonidas Triantafyllakis posted this video of Apikia on January 6

 

 

Scenes from Apikia in a January 8 clip by Leonidas Triantafyllakis

 

 

Mixalis Karelis posted this on January 7. It shows views from a terrace in the midst of a heavy snowfall, but the location on Andros is not mentioned.

 

 Click on the 2 in the link below to open page 2 of this post. It contains dozens of startling snow photos and videos from Tinos, Mykonos, Milos, Santorini, Paros, Syros, Naxos and Sifnos.

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2014 Greek holiday report Part 6: Off to Syros

Naxos Town

This was one of our final views of Naxos Town on May 24 2014, as we departed Naxos on the Aqua Jewel ferry

Ermoupoli Syros

bound for Ermoupoli, the port and capital city of Syros island

 Parikia town on Paros

with a brief stop en route at Parikia. the main port and town on Paros

 

[Editor’s note: This is the sixth instalment in an ongoing series of photo reports about our 2014 spring vacation in the Cyclades and Athens. The previous posts reviewed our 5 days on Naxos. To see any or all of the earlier reports, click on the following underlined links:  Part 1 ; Part 2 ; Part 3 ; Part 4 and Part 5 .]

 

Saturday May 24

Moving on: It was another sunny morning, but we wouldn’t get to enjoy the beautiful weather. After breakfast, we had to pack, take a taxi to the port, and ride a ferry to Syros for the next leg of our 2014 Greek holiday.

We didn’t want to leave Naxos. After three consecutive visits here in the past 12 months (and three others in previous years), it almost feels like a second home, and the island has become our favourite holiday destination. And why wouldn’t it be? Naxos has everything we want for a vacation — Wonderful scenery, unpretentious attitude and laid-back ambience, friendly and hospitable local residents, delicious food, reasonable prices, and plenty of things to see and do. 

But it was time to move on and, much as we love Naxos, we were equally eager to visit Syros. We have heard countless good things about it during the past 10 years — including lavish praise from people who live on Naxos, as well as from other regular Naxos visitors. In fact, I can’t recall ever hearing anything bad about Syros. By all accounts, Syros could well be another island we would fall in love with and want to revisit again and again. And if, for some reason, Syros didn’t strike our fancy, Naxos would still be there for us.

Please click on the link below to continue reading the report on our journey from Naxos to Syros.

 

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Summer hotel prices skyrocket on Mykonos as rates rise less sharply or drop on other islands

Little Venice

The Little Venice seafront at Mykonos Town is a must-see attraction for hundreds of thousands of people who visit the island each year

 

Rising rates: Survey data from Trivago, the international hotel comparison website, has confirmed something I have been noticing for months — accommodation prices on Mykonos have risen sharply since last year.

In fact, the average nightly price for a Mykonos hotel room this month has climbed to a stunning €322 compared to €200 per night in July 2013 — a whopping 61% increase, Trivago’s research data indicates.

This news comes on the heels of a separate Trivago survey result released several days ago that ranked Mykonos as the 7th most expensive destination in the world in terms of hotel prices.

Many Mykonos hotels had frozen or even reduced their rates during the economic crisis that has devastated Greece for more than five years, with some properties losing money or barely breaking even each year as owners waited for the economy to improve. With Greek tourist traffic soaring to record levels this summer, it appears that hotels may be taking advantage of the increased demand for accommodation to try to recoup some of the losses they sustained.

 Parikia on Paros

Parikia is the biggest town and port on Paros.  Average hotel prices for Parikia have increased 10% this month from the same time last year.

 

Hotel prices rise at 16 other destinations

But Mykonos isn’t the only popular destination in Greece where hotel prices have increased since last year.

The Trivago survey shows that rates have climbed anywhere from 3% to 38% in 16 other island and mainland locations.

Places posting single-digit price increases include Corfu (+3%), Agios Nikolaos, Andros and Hydra (each +5%), plus Iraklio, Naxos and Rethymnon (up 8% each).

Locations with double-digit increases include Parikia (+10%), Rhodes (+15%), Chania (+16%), Hersonissos and Kos (each up 17%), Elounda (+18%), Ios (+19%), Zakynthos (+21%) and Lefkada (+38%).

 

Rates dropped on 11 islands

 Ermoupoli Syros

Trivago says room rates have dropped 13% at Ermoupoli on Syros

 Higher prices are not a trend throughout Greece, however, since nightly room rates actually have dropped significantly on some islands or, in the case of Rhodes, at one of its most popular tourist destinations (Lindos), Trivago data indicates.

On Folegandros, for example, the average price for a hotel room this month is €97, down a startling 27% from the €133 average rate in July 2013. Sharp price cuts also occurred at Koukounaries on Skiathos (-24%), Spetses (-23%), Argostoli (-15%), Astipalea (-14%), Ermoupoli on Syros (-13%), Lindos on Rhodes (-10%). Lower reductions were noted on Koufonissi and Tinos (both -4%)  and at Molyvos and Apollonia (both -3%).

Curiously, the Trivago survey didn’t mention prices on Santorini which, like Mykonos, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece.

 Folegandros chora

Chora village on Folegandros. Average hotel room rates on this charming island dropped by 27% this month compared to July 2013, Trivago says.

 

Mykonos among Top 10 most expensive global destinations

Mykonos achieved notoriety for pricey hotel rooms on another Trivago report that made the news a few days ago. In a survey of summer 2014 trends for travellers from the United Kingdom, Trivago examined searches conducted between January 1 and June 15 for travel to take place during this month and August. (Trivago’s system compares rates from more than 700,000 hotels on more than 150 different booking sites around the world.)

The data showed that the average online price for a hotel in Mykonos Town was €244 Euros. This gave Mykonos the #7 spot on Trivago’s list of the Top 10 Most Expensive Global Destinations, behind #1 Velden, Austria; #2 Belek, Turkey, #3 Ascona, Switzerland, #4 Porto Vecchio, Corsica, #5 Montreux, Switzerland, and #6, Boston, USA.  Rounding out the top 10 behind Mykonos were #8 New York, USA, #9 Locarno, Switzerland, and #10 Lugano, Switzerland.

The results of the two Trivago surveys will cement Mykonos’s reputation as one of the most expensive places to visit in Greece — something that shouldn’t really come as a surprise, considering that the island was put on the map by the jet set in the first place, and remains a popular getaway destination for the world’s rich and famous.

Still, a 61% increase in prices is startling, even for a place frequented by affluent travellers.

 Mykonos Town

Rooftops on buildings in Mykonos Town. Hotel rates on the island are practically going through the roof this year, rising 61% over prices for July 2013.

 

Complaints raised in emails seeking hotel advice

I noticed that Mykonos hotel prices were on the rise early this year when I was checking hotel rates to answer accommodation questions posted in the Mykonos travel forum on TripAdvisor.com. Prices seemed marginally higher than I remembered them being in 2013. As winter moved into spring, I received numerous private messages on TripAdvisor, and emails to my blog, from people seeking suggestions for cheaper accommodation because they were finding summer prices too high.

Many of the people complaining about high hotel rates were travellers from the United Kingdom who wanted to stay on Mykonos only one night. They were flying to Mykonos on EasyJet or British Airways direct flights, but immediately transferring to another island — usually Naxos, Paros or somewhere in the Small Cyclades. Because of awkward ferry schedules, many of these travellers would have to spend a night on Mykonos in order to catch their return flights home. Many were astounded not only by the high room rates on Mykonos, but also by the fact many hotels impose a minimum stay requirement of 3 nights or longer during peak travel season, which limited their accommodation options even further.

My advice for travellers seeking summer bargains is to shop around on Trivago and other online sites, and to compare prices found there to rates listed on hotel websites. Booking directly with a hotel can sometimes achieve either significant price savings or extras like complimentary shuttle service to and from the Mykonos ferry ports or airports.

If you still find Mykonos hotels too expensive for your budget, consider visiting nearby islands like Naxos or Syros instead, or one of the places where the Trivago survey showed that prices have dropped this year. There are many other islands where budget-minded tourists will get more bang for their buck. But if you’re looking for glitz, glamour and glitter, there’s only one Mykonos — and going there this summer could put a bigger dent in your wallet than you’re anticipating.

 Kos Town harbour

Tour boats in the harbour at Kos Town. Trivago found that average hotel rates for Kos have gone up 17% for this month compared to the same time last year.

 

Cyclades islands celebrate summer with festivals for food & wine, arts & literature, culture & sports

International Festival of the Aegean

A promotional poster for the 10th Annual International Festival of the Aegean taking place July 6 to 19 in Ermoupoli on Syros island.

 

Food & culture fests: I love travelling to Greek islands during low season, particularly in the spring, but that means I always miss out on major cultural and gastronomical celebrations that are held only during the summer.

Just in the Cyclades group of islands this month alone, a wide variety of food & wine festivals, painting & photography shows, arts & literature events and fun sport competitions will be taking place on Antiparos, Naxos, Paros, Santorini, Schinoussa, Serifos and Syros.

(Cultural events abound in other island groups, too, and of course there are scores of religious festivals throughout the country, many of which take place during the summer. But those are topics I’ll cover in future posts.)

Below is an outline of just a few of the festivities you can check out if you happen to be island hopping in the Cyclades between this weekend and the end of September. You’re in for a big surprise if you thought the Greek islands were only about picturesque villages, beautiful sandy beaches and gorgeous scenery!

 Click on the 2 in the link below to continue reading about activities on Antiparos, Santorini, Naxos, Paros, Schinoussa, Syros, Serifos and Mykonos.

 

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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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Spring colours at Epi Studios on Paros

Epi Studios Matsas Windmill Paros

A bougainvillea-covered trellis shades a window at the Epi Studios Matsas Windmill hotel in Naoussa village on Paros

 

 

Colourful corner: It finally feels like spring in Toronto today, but we’ve got still got a few weeks to go before spring flowers begin to bloom. Gardens, yards and parks are foul-smelling, muddy swaths of brown and grey as remaining patches of dirt-covered snow and ice gradually melt away.

To get a glimpse of greenery and spring flowers in the meantime, I’ve been looking through photos from my May 2012 visit to Paros, where vibrant gardens and landscaping around whitewashed houses provided picture-postcard scenes throughout Naoussa village.

One corner in Naoussa was particularly colourful thanks to the bougainvillea,  flowers, bushes and trees growing on the grounds of Epi Studios Matsas Windmill, a hotel complex of 18 kitchen-equipped studios a short walk from Ag Anargyroi beach.

 

Not much information available online

Out of curiosity, I searched online for information about the hotel, to see what the rooms look like and find out what it costs to stay there.

Surprisingly, I couldn’t find a website for the property — only dozens of listings for it on booking sites like Expedia, otel.com, dhr and others. Although the listings include some photos showing the traditionally-decorated rooms, I couldn’t find prices — all the dates I entered into the various different search fields showed no availability. And there aren’t many online reviews providing descriptions of what it’s like to stay there. For instance, the Epi Studios listing on TripAdvisor.com only has four reviews, the most recent of which was posted in 2010.

Nonetheless, Epi Studios is still a picturesque place to see if you happen to stay elsewhere in Naoussa and take a walk around the town, as the photos below indicate.

 

Street view of the Matsas Windmill and adjacent hotel buildings at Epi Studios

Street view of Epi Studios Matsas Windmill

 

 

Street view of the Epi Studios building and Matsas Windmill

Another street view of the Epi Studios and Matsas Windmill

 

 

Epi Studios Matsas Windmill

Bougainvillea clings to the wall beside the Epi Studios sign

 

 

Epi Studios Matsas Windmill

Flowering shrubs add more bursts of colour in the gardens at Epi Studios

 

 

Epi Studios Matsas Windmill

A view of the Matsas Windmill, which stands proudly near the corner of an intersection in Naoussa village

 

 

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