Tag: Peloponnese

The 10 things we loved most about Nafplio — in photos

Photo montage of Nafplio sights

 

Photo gallery: In my previous post, Falling for Nafplio, I described some of the elements and attractions that make the eastern Peloponnese port town of Nafplio one of our favourite places in all of Greece.

That report was packed with pictures, but since I had dozens more that I wanted to share, I have gathered many of them here to further illustrate why we enjoy Nafplio so much. I have grouped them into the 10 specific sights, features and attractions that we consider our favourites:

♦  the Old Town

♦  the scenery and views

♦  the waterfront

♦  the Arvanitia promenade

♦  the coastal path to Karathona beach

♦  the three castles: Acronauplia, Bourtzi and Palamidi

♦ the beaches and swimming spots

♦  the food and wine

♦  the hotel we stayed at, and

♦  Nafplio’s convenient location for daytrips to other places in the Argolida region of the Peloponnese.

 

 

There are far more than 10 reasons why Nafplio is worth visiting, of course, but I will leave them for you to  discover and experience yourself.  I’m certain there will be plenty of things you will like about Nafplio besides those shown in our pictures.

Photo montage of Nafplio sights

 

Please click on the link below to see the photo sets on page 2.

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Falling for Nafplio

Nafplio Greece

The Old Town of Nafplio rises on the north side of a steep peninsula, directly beneath fortification walls and buildings of Acronauplia — one of three castles situated in the historic town.  Nafplio was the capital of Greece from 1821 until  the country’s Parliament relocated to Athens in 1834. 

 

Fast favourite: It wasn’t love at first sight, but it was pretty darned close.

Within minutes of arriving at Nafplio and walking from the waterfront car park into the historic Old Town area, we couldn’t help but wonder why it had taken us so long to finally visit what is widely considered one of the prettiest and most romantic towns in Greece.  In person, Nafplio looked more beautiful and impressive than it did in the countless pictures and videos we had seen, and the Old Town’s historic ambiance instantly made us feel comfortable and welcome.

As we wound our way down narrow lanes and alleys then up steep stairs to our hotel, we felt eager to drop off our luggage so we could get out and about to explore our scenic surroundings — even though we were sluggish and jet-lagged from our overnight transatlantic flight. Napping would have to wait — we didn’t want to waste any time getting acquainted with Nafplio!

After going for lunch with a friend and wandering around the town, we realized we were falling for Nafplio — in a big way. We had been there only a few hours, and yet Nafplio had quickly charmed its way into our hearts. By dinnertime, we were telling our friend how Nafplio had already become one of our favourite places in Greece. We had suspected that we were really going to like Nafplio — she had long assured us we would — but we’d never expected that we were going to love it so much, or so fast.

 

 

 

That was late May 2016 and, after more than a dozen years of island hopping holidays that usually concluded with time in Athens, we were making our first foray into the Peloponnese. We had scheduled Nafplio for the first full week of our vacation itinerary, but were concerned this might be too long. Would there be enough attractions and activities to keep us interested and occupied for seven days?

Although I had read hundreds of online travel reviews and commentaries describing Nafplio as ideal for a daytrip from Athens, an overnight stay, or a weekend getaway, I couldn’t recall anyone recommending it for a week-long stay. But we didn’t get bored for a minute, and when it came time to depart for our next destination, we realized there were still quite a few sights and attractions we didn’t manage to see.  We even felt a tinge of regret to be leaving with so much left unexplored. For us, one week in Nafplio simply had not been long enough.

Now, nearly a year later, we continue to talk about how much we loved Nafplio, and we often discuss what we would like to see and do whenever we go back.

 

That was late May 2016 and, after more than a dozen years of island hopping holidays that concluded with time in Athens, we were making our first foray into the Peloponnese. We had scheduled Nafplio for the first full week of our vacation itinerary, but were concerned this might be too long. Although I had read hundreds of online travel reviews and commentaries describing Nafplio as ideal for a daytrip from Athens, an overnight stay, or a weekend getaway, I couldn't recall anyone recommending it for a week-long stay. But we didn't get bored for a minute, and when it came time to depart for our next destination, we realized there were still quite a few sights and attractions we didn't manage to see.  We even felt a tinge of regret to be leaving with so much left unexplored. One week in Nafplio simply wasn't enough!

Behind this palm tree at Syndagma Square stands the first Greek Parliament building. Towering above it on the hilltop are the clock tower and a stone fortification wall of the Acronauplia fortress.

 

So what exactly did we like about Nafplio? It would be difficult to name just one or two main reasons, since there were so many appealing characteristics and elements that combined to make Nafplio such a perfect vacation destination for us.  But I can easily describe the Nafplio features that rank among our favourites.

There’s the Old Town, of course, which fascinates with its colourful streets and buildings, attractive parks and squares, historic sites and monuments (including three castles), and an extensive selection of shops, restaurants, bars and hotels. 

We also enjoyed the long waterfront walkways, the scenic coastlines offering plenty of places to swim in the tempting turquoise waters of the Argolic Gulf, and the exhilarating views of hills, mountains, sea and sky.

I describe those features, and others, with a series of photos on page 2 of this post. Click here to see and read more about why we fell for this amazing and enchanting place. 

 

If you haven’t been to Nafplio before, this 10-minute video will show you exactly what you would see if you were to wander the Old Town’s charming streets, lanes and squares. The film was published in February 2017 by YouTube contributor Le Monde en Video

 

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Trifilia’s enticing attractions

This film by Achillefs Jorjini spotlights more than 30 stunning destinations in the western Peloponnese area of Trifilia

 

Treasure trove: Plans for our next Greek holiday are gradually coming together, and a visit to part of the Peloponnese is on the itinerary for the second year in a row.

Last year’s vacation took us through the regions of Laconia and Arcadia in the eastern Peloponnese, where we spent time in Nafplio, Monemvasia, Sparta, and Tolo, and saw numerous other places along the way.

This time, a road trip will take us through Messenia in the western Peloponnese, where we will get to see parts of the municipal region of Trifilia. I am familiar with Messenia, since I know people who live in the area and many others who have travelled there. But I had never heard of Trifiliam by that name at least, until I discovered the video I posted above. And what good timing it was to find the film, since it spotlights a virtual treasure trove of enticing destinations, many of which I knew nothing about. 

Entitled Explore Trifilia 2017, the 10.5-minute video  by Achillefs Jorjini takes you on an alluring aerial tour above nearly three dozen different places in the area, including scenic towns and villages, breathtaking coastlines and beaches, impressive natural scenery and important historic sites and monuments.

 

 

Among the gorgeous beaches and coastal areas shown in the video are:

♦ Voidokilia

♦ Golden Beach Mati

♦ Vromoneri

♦ Barlas

♦ Lagouvardos

♦ Agia Kiriaki

♦ Stomio

♦ Agrilis

♦ Kyparissia

♦ Kalo Nero

♦ Elea, and

♦ the Vourlia peninsula on Proti island 

 

Kalo Nero beach in Messenia

Screen capture of the video’s pass above Kalo Nero beach

 

Villages and towns seen in the film include:

♦ Koroni

♦ Pylos

♦ Kyparissia and the Kyparissia Old Town

♦ Agia Sotira

♦ Tragana

♦ Gargaliani

♦ Marathopoli

♦ Filiatra

♦ Kalo Nero

♦ Kopanaki

♦ Sidirokastro, and

♦ Aetos

 

Marathopoli in Messenia

Screen capture from the video’s view of the coastal village of Marathopoli

 

Views of significant landmarks and attractions include:

♦ Ancient Messene

♦ the monastery on Proti island

♦ the fortress at Methoni

♦ the Neokastro and Palaiokastro fortresses at Pylos

♦ the Palace of Nestor

♦ the waterfalls at Polilimnio and Valtas

♦ Analipsi church at Filiastra

♦ Byzantine monuments at Agia Sotira

♦ the Mycenean tomb at Peristeria

♦ the Temple of Apollo Epicurius, and

♦ the  Neda River

 

the fortress at Methoni

Screen capture of the video’s flight around the Methoni fortress

 

The only drawback to watching the video was that it revealed far more sites and attractions than we will have time to visit, which I found a little disappointing. I wanted to see everything, since it all looked so picturesque and appealing! The upside, of course, is that there will be plenty of places to see on another trip to Messenia. And I have a strong hunch there will indeed be a return visit.

Where we could have cooled off during this week’s heat wave

Tolo beach IMG_3496

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.

 

Hydronetta swimming spot on Hydra

Bathers cool off in the gorgeous turquoise waters at Hydronetta, a popular coastal swimming spot on Hydra island

 

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Photo highlights from our trip to the Peloponnese and Hydra

Monemvasia

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

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

 

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On our way to …. Nafplio!

Nafplio-Greece Timelapse is a 3:45-minute film by Stefanos Kyriazis

 

Next stop Nafplio: It’s holiday time at long last, and my partner and I are now on our way back to Greece to explore part of a region we have never visited before — the eastern Peloponnese. 

Our first destination will be Nafplio, the former capital of Greece, which is often described as one of the most beautiful towns in the entire country.  We have heard so many good things about Nafplio, and the many impressive attractions nearby, that  we figured it was high time we checked it out for ourselves.

I’ll post photos from Nafplio if I’m in a blogging mood while we’re there. In the meantime, I’m sharing this Stefanos Kyriazis timelapse film of Nafplio so readers who aren’t familiar with the town can see what it looks like.

More on Nafplio to follow!

 

An entrancing visit to Arcadia, the mythical land of Pan

The Arcadian is a captivating short film by PanoVerino

 

Domain of Pan: Just two days ago, I published Experience Greece’s glorious off-season sights & scenery with winter walks and drives, a post packed with photos of beautiful winter scenes in Greece. The Arcadia region of the Peloponnese was one of the regions featured prominently in that post.

I just discovered a fascinating short video of Arcadia that filmmaker PanoVerino published the same day on the film and video sharing website Vimeo.com.

Entitled The Arcadian, the 3-minute film shows entrancing ground and aerial winter time views of impressive mountain and valley landscapes, breathtaking hillside villages and the extraordinary Monastery of Prodromos, which was constructed into the side of a sheer cliff face around the year 1167.

In notes on his Vimeo page, PanoVerino explains that “The Arcadian is a person who leads and prefers a simple rural life. According to Greek mythology, Arcadia of Peloponnesus was the domain of Pan, a virgin wilderness home to the god of the forest and his court of dryads, nymphs and other spirits of nature. It was one version of paradise, though only in the sense of being the abode of supernatural entities, not an afterlife for deceased mortals.”

The spellbinding scenery in Pan’s domain is beautifully filmed, and The Arcadian makes me eager to explore this scenic and mythical area of the Peloponnese, hopefully on our upcoming late spring trip to Greece. Give it a watch to see if the video has the same compelling effect on you.

[If the name PanoVerino sounds familiar, you may recall seeing his film Postcard from Mykonos Greece, which I shared in  my July 11 2015 blog post, A breathtaking video postcard from Mykonos. Take a look at the PanoVerino Vimeo page to see more of his marvellous films.]

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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Snow bus offers day trips from Athens to Kalavrita ski center

Kalavrita Ski Center

Skiers, snowboarders and other snow sports enthusiasts can reach Kalavitra Ski Center (seen here in a photo from the resort’s Facebook page) …

 

Amphitrion Holidays snow bus service

… on day trips offered from Athens several times a week on the “Snow Bus,” seen here in a screenshot from the website for the special transport service operated by Amphitrion Holidays.

 

City to mountain service: Want to enjoy some snow sports activities in the great Greek outdoors during your trip to Athens this winter?  Consider spending a day on the slopes at Kalavrita Ski Center, which you can reach four days a week on a dedicated bus that leaves Athens early in the morning and returns to the city after the lifts close.

Operated by Amphitrion Holidays, the Snow Bus provides return service on Mondays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from more than a dozen passenger pick-up points in the northern and southern suburbs of Athens. Departures begin as early as 4:40 a.m., with the bus reaching Kalavrita Ski Center by 8:30 a.m. The Snow Bus leaves the resort around 4:30 in the afternoon (after the ski lifts have closed) to make the return trip to Athens.

Round-trip bus fares from Athens cost only €15.  A loyalty card is available for people planning multiple visits to the resort, and it provides discounts up to 20% on transport, ski lift tickets, equipment rentals and lessons. Special prices for children and groups are available. See the Snow Bus website for full pricing information plus departure times and locations and an online booking form. (Note:  the website’s text content is in Greek, but you can  read it by using Google Translate or other programs.)

Please click here, or on the link below the photo and video that follow, to continue reading and see more pictures of Kalavrita Ski Center on page 2 of this post.

Kalavrita Ski Center

Many people picture golden sand beaches and turquoise seas when they think of Greece, but in winter the country’s snow-capped mountains are equally breathtaking. This image from the Kalavrita Ski Center Facebook page shows some of the beautiful alpine scenery at Mount Helmos. 

 

This video, published just this month by click photography video greece, shows impressive aerial views of the Kalavrita Ski Center

 

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Fly over the Corinth gulf & canal!

A Greek Gulf from Panos Smirniotis on Vimeo.

 

Fun flight: While scanning through tweets by some of the people I follow on Twitter, I discovered a real gem of a film clip today — A Greek Gulf, an amazing aerial video by photographer Panos Smirniotis.

The 6-minute clip, which is posted on Vimeo, shows captivating coastal scenery in areas around the southeastern end of the Gulf of Cornith, including the Heraion Lighthouse, the Sanctuary of Hera, and the Vouliagmeni Lagoon in Perachora; the world-famous Corinth Canal; and the beach and resort at Loutraki.

I have seen the Gulf of Corinth a couple of times, but only from jet airplanes cruising thousands of feet high, so it was impossible to notice the delightful scenery passing beneath us. Although the places shown in A Greek Gulf are seen from the air as well, Panos’s camera skimmed closer to earth, capturing gorgeous high-definition views of the water, beaches and coastal landscapes in the Corinthia area.

The uplifting music that accompanies the video is Piano Dream, by Andreas Agiannitopoulos (aka DJ A).

To view the video, click the white arrow at the bottom left corner of the image at the top of this post.

Below is a Google map of Greece, on which I have circled the approximate area in which the film was shot.

 I suddenly have an urge to go for a swim in the Vouliagmeni lagoon!

 

Google map of Greece

 

 

Escape to Monemvasia

Monemvasia, a medieval village in the southeast Peloponnese, is often called The Gibraltar of Greece

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

 

 

The medieval-era tower town of Monemvasia on the southeastern coast of the Peloponnese

Another view of the fortified town as seen in the Monemvasia Serenity Escape video by Constantinos Tseklenis

 

 

This Google map shows Monemvasia's location in the southeast Peloponnese of the Greece mainland

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!

 

Monemvasia Serenity Escape from Constantinos Tseklenis on Vimeo.