Tag: Syros (page 1 of 2)

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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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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And the sun sets on yet another fabulous Greek holiday

Donny B watching a sunset from Kini Beach on Syros IMG_2249

That’s me watching a brilliant June 4 sunset from Kini beach on Syros. We have returned home from our 12th consecutive trip to Greece, during which we visited Andros for the first time, paid a repeat visit to Syros, and ended our vacation with a brief one-night stay in the Glyfada suburb of Athens. It was one of our best holidays ever (quite possibly even the best), and I’ll be showing and telling you more about it in the weeks to come.

Thanks for more than 3 million views of our Greece photos!

Screenshot of the mygreecetravelblog page on Flickr

This is a screenshot of the MyGreeceTravelBlog photostream on Flickr, which contains more than 23,000 of our photos of Greece

 

Thanks in large measure to readers of this blog, the MyGreeceTravelBlog photo collection on Flickr reached a major milestone this week, surpassing the 3,000,000-view mark.

I have posted 23,000 images on Flickr to date and still have at least 10,000 more pictures from Greece to upload, if I can ever find the time. (I’m certain that number will rise substantially after our next visit to Greece later this spring.)

A few surprises were in store when I checked Flickr’s viewing statistics for the photos this week.

The individual photo with the all-time most views was a picture of Agios Prokopios beach on Naxos. But I doubt it was popular because the beach is so beautiful — I suspect some nudists wading in the water were of more interest than the golden sand and turquoise water! (If you want to view the image and won’t be offended seeing several middle-aged and older tourists displaying some skin, click here.)

 

Syros photos were the most popular

I also was amazed that our set of 18 albums from last year’s trip to Syros was the most popular individual collection on our Flickr page. I had been expecting that our Mykonos collection would be the most viewed, but people seemed to prefer looking at pics of Syros. (You can access the Syros photos by clicking here.) Mykonos did claim the #2 spot, though.

So far, there are album collections for 13 islands — Amorgos, Astipalea, Crete, Folegandros, Ios, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Patmos, Samos, Santorini, and Syros — plus one set with photos of many (but not all) of the hotels we have stayed at during our Greek holidays. More collections, including one for Athens, are in the works.  Click here to access the main Flickr page showing cover pages for all of the album collections.

Thanks very much for viewing the photos, and please feel free to comment on any of them at any time.

 Kini beach on Syros

Our photo sets of Syros had the most views of any collection on our Flickr page. They included shots of Kini (above), our favourite beach resort on Syros.

No sandy beach? No worries at these seaside swimming spots on four Greek Islands!

sunbeds on the coast of Rhodes

Colourful umbrellas and lounge chairs brighten a rocky stretch of coastline near Kallithea Bay on Rhodes

 

Whenever I tell people we’re going to Greece, almost everyone says the same thing: “A beach vacation! Nice!”

Truth be told, we visit Greece for many more things besides sunbathing, swimming and water sports activities. Still, I’m not surprised that so many people associate the country with bountiful, beautiful beaches. With its thousands of islands and its mainland combined, Greece boasts nearly 16,000 kilometers of coastline and many of Europe’s best beaches.

But the Greek seashores aren’t long, continuous strips of stunning sand and pebble strands. While those number in the thousands, much of the country’s seafront is rugged and rocky, with no sandy shores in sight. But that doesn’t stop people from enjoying the seemingly endless waterfronts in Greece. In fact, it’s along craggy coastlines that you tend to find uncrowded swimming locations that are favourites for local residents and for in-the-know tourists, too.

There must be countless seaside swimming “holes” throughout the country, but in this post I will profile four that we have seen during our Greek Island travels over the past 11 years. The photo at top shows one we discovered on Rhodes back in 2004, while the three pictures below showing swimming spots on Naxos, Santorini and Syros, respectively:

 

swimming area below the Temple of Apollo on Naxos

Several stone staircases descend to the water’s edge at a swimming spot below the Temple of Apollo monument (also known as the Portara) near the ferry port and harbour at Naxos Town.

  Photo by Rocio Lluch if the swimming area near Amoudi Bay Santorini

A short walk from Amoudi Bay brings visitors to a narrow channel separating Santorini from little Agios Nikolaos island, seen in this photo by Flickr member Rocio Lluch. Tourists enjoy taking a dip in the channel and swimming to the islet, where they can dive from cliffs into the sea.

  Vaporia swimming spot

This is one of several jetties in the Vaporia district of Ermoupoli, on Syros, where locals and visitors alike can take a quick dip and soak up some sunshine

 

Click on the link below to continue reading and view more photos.

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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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A warm reminder of a spring day on Syros

Kini beach

To distract myself from our January deep freeze in Canada, I’ve been looking through photos of Greek Island beaches, like this one of Kini Bay from our visit to Syros last May. If you’d like to see more photos of this lovely family beach to take your mind off winter weather wherever you might be, click here to access my Kini beach album on Flickr.

 

Syros: Our favourite new island destination

Kini Bay

Harbour view of Kini, a scenic beach resort area on the west coast of Syros

 Ermoupolis Syros

Ermopoulis, the marvellous port city and capital of Syros

 

Hits the spot: Our Greek holiday in May included a long-overdue first-time visit to Syros, an island in the Cyclades that has piqued our curiosity and been on our must-see list for the past 10 years.

We got our first quick peek at Syros back in May 2004 when the highspeed ferry we were riding from Athens to Mykonos stopped briefly at Ermoupolis, the port and capital city of Syros. We managed only brief glimpses of the city’s grand neoclassical mansions and its hundreds of colourful houses seemingly stacked one atop the other on the two steep hills behind the port, but we were intrigued — especially by Ermoupolis’s stark contrast to the brilliant white “sugar cube” architecture we saw everywhere else in the Cyclades.

We have briefly seen Syros during a couple of ferry rides since then, and also got a great bird’s eye view of it during a flight from Athens to Naxos in May. We finally got to set foot on Syros soil on May 24, and almost instantly fell in love with the island.

We spent our first two nights in the enchanting port city, Ermoupolis, followed by four nights at Kini, a village and beach resort on the west coast. We thoroughly enjoyed Ermoupolis, but we particularly loved Kini, and wish we could have spent more time in both places. In fact, we now consider Kini one of our favourite beach destinations in Greece.

I’ll be telling and showing you a lot more about Ermoupolis, Kini and other parts of Syros soon. In the meantime, I have posted a few more photos of Kini Bay below. Click here to see hundreds of additional Kini photos, and click here to see my Flickr albums for Ermoupolis, Ano Syros, Lotos beach, Delfini beach, and other places on Syros.

  Kini Bay

Hillside view of the Kini Bay harbour (top) and beach

 Kini Bay

A view of the garden- and farm-filled valley behind Kini

Kini Bay

A view of Kini Bay from a hillside near the hamlets of Dani and Chrisonisos

 Kini Bay

View from peaceful Lotos beach on the west side of Kini Bay

 Kini Bay

Evening view of Kini village and beach

 Sunset view from Kini Bay

Sunset view from our terrace at Kini Bay Rooms and Apartments on May 27

 

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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Imagine swimming with this view of Syros!

An infinity pool with an amazing view of the Kini Bay region of Syros island

 

I felt a tinge of envy when we saw the infinity swimming pool at this hilltop villa while hiking through the Danakos area of Syros island last week. The pool and adjacent terrace enjoy jaw-dropping views of the scenic Kini Bay region of Syros as well as Giaros island in the distance. The sunset views from the pool must be incredible since they’re spectacular even from sea level in Kini village. Below is a side view of the pool and villa. Click on the photos to see larger-size images.

 

 A villa with an infinity swimming pool on a hilltop in the Danakos area of Syros

 

 

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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