Tag: village (page 1 of 3)

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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Glimpses of Gavrio, and a ferry ride from Andros to Tinos

Gavrio port at Andros

Gavrio harbourfront

The harbourfront at Gavrio, the port village on Andros island

 

Au revoir, Andros: When we arrived at Gavrio port on Andros at the start of our Greek holiday last May, we barely even noticed the village. Already groggy from our transatlantic travel and jet lag, we were struggling to shake off more cobwebs after dozing periodically during the ferry ride from Rafina. 

I saw a few shops and tavernas when we stepped off the ship, and can even remember thinking “there doesn’t seem to be much here” when I took a quick glance around. We didn’t have time for a longer look since we had to focus our attention on a more pressing issue — fitting luggage for four people into the compact car our friends had rented.

Soon we were pulling away from the port and driving up a narrow lane that squeezed tightly between rows of whitewashed houses before widening into the two-lane highway that would lead us to Andros Town. As we rounded a bend on the outskirts of Gavrio, we got our first views of exhilarating Andros scenery — fields, beaches and the wide open sea on our right side, and to our left a long line of mountains extending far into the distance.  It was a beautiful sight for our sore and very tired eyes.

View from highway on outskirts of Gavrio Andros

The mountain and sea view from the outskirts of Gavrio, seen in an image from Google Street View. This is the highway that leads from Gavrio to Batsi and onward to Andros Town.

 

We got a better look at Gavrio when we walked there from Batsi on the final full day of our Andros visit. As we turned onto the waterfront strip, we discovered there was much more to the town than we had seen while disembarking the ferry five days earlier.

On arrival day, we had basically seen just half of Gavrio’s commercial district — the extensive port authority area with its parking lots, loading zones, and of course the quays for ferries and ships, as well as a few of the businesses along the main street nearby.  We had not noticed that the street continued farther past the port, lined on one side with tavernas, shops and ferry ticket agencies, and a flagstone-paved walkway on the sea side. It took longer than we had anticipated to stroll the entire length of the road, and we were surprised by the large selection of restaurants and cafes — we had not been expecting to be so spoiled for choice in finding a place to have lunch. 

 

 

Though not as scenic as some other port towns in the Cyclades, Gavrio isn’t an unattractive place — it just doesn’t have the pretty, polished veneer of upscale boutiques and trendy cafe-bars that draw  the big-spending tourist and cruise ship crowds to places like Mykonos Town. And while Gavrio may be conveniently located for quick easy access to a variety of good beaches (see my post A bevy of beaches & coves on the scenic west coast of Andros), we were happy we had chosen to spend our holiday time at Andros Town and Batsi instead, since we preferred their overall look and feel.

Mind you, we didn’t walk around any of the residential streets on the hills tucked behind the waterfront strip, so we didn’t get to see all of Gavrio. We may have been more impressed had we taken time to explore beyond the port and harbourfront.

Gavrio harbourfront

We didn’t get to explore the residential streets on the hill behind the commercial waterfront strip

 

The next day we got more glimpses of Gavrio during a taxi ride to the port, followed by panoramic sea views of all of Gavrio Bay as we stood on the outdoor decks of the ferry taking us to Tinos. It was a brilliantly sunny morning, and Gavrio looked picturesque as it glistened in the sunshine.  I’m sure we’ll be back sometime for another look around.

Click on the link below to see more photos of Gavrio, as well as pictures of the Andros coast that we passed during our ferry trip to Tinos. There also are photos of the ship that took us there, the Superferry II, as well as the western coast of Tinos.

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Naxos: The quietly traditional heart of the Cyclades

Mike Andrew photo of a lane in Naxos Town

Shops line a narrow lane in the historic Old Market district of Naxos Town. Photo by Mike Andrew.

 

Sitting at the heart of the Aegean, can the unassuming and traditionally minded Naxos hold its own against its cosmopolitan neighbours?

 

Guest post by James Andrew

The shutters bang and clatter against the window. The howling, whistling noises coming from outside are more than a little disconcerting. The meltemi, the strong warming wind that blows constantly through the Aegean at this time of year, is definitely strong today.

Looking out of our villa window at the large, agriculturally rich fields, curious, twisted rock formations and, in the distance, the somewhat foreboding Mount Zas silhouetted against the dusk skyline, this all feels slightly alien. Certainly it’s a world away from the cosmopolitan and touristy island of Santorini from which we caught the ferry earlier in the day. No, this is very different. This is the much less visited and certainly less known island of Naxos.

 

 

Positioned at the heart of the Cycladic (or White) Islands, Naxos sits somewhat oddly next to its much-lauded neighbours Santorini, Mykonos and Paros. Whilst the island has gradually been building a fan base amongst Greece afficionados in the know, it still remains defiantly off the main cruise routes. Its main port in Naxos Town sees the arrival of daily ferries but no towering cruise ship behemoths like the ones that anchor in Santorini’s caldera.

The highest peak in the Cyclades, Mount Zas dominates the island. Breaking from the image of barren, volcanic lunar landscapes one most associates with this area of Greece, Naxos is blessed by nature. Green and verdant throughout, it defies convention. So, how would this island that lacks Santorini’s chic, polished veneer and Mykonos’ cool, hipster vibe reveal itself? Can it compete with its upmarket neighbours? We cracked the rattling shutters open and stepped into the wind to find out.

 

Fish Olive Creations Facebook page photo of Mount Zas on Naxos

A view of Mount Zas, Filoti village and Halki village (bottom). Photo by the Fish & Olive Creations art gallery and shop in Halki.

 

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

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Kokkari’s captivating coastal, beach and village scenery

Kokkari Village 2016 features breathtaking bird’s eye views of the scenic seafronts and harbour at Kokkari village on Samos 

 

Picture-postcard perfect:  We’ve got a lot of happy memories from our trip to Samos six years ago, and some of the best are from our visit to Kokkari one afternoon.

We had rented mountain bikes in Vathy for a day, and cycled to Kokkari to get a first-hand look at the village mainly because an online acquaintance had recommended it as a “must see” spot on the island. She warned me that it’s “super-popular” with tourists, but said we would love it nonetheless because “it’s just so gosh-darned pretty and picturesque — everything looks like a picture on a postcard.”

She wasn’t kidding when she cautioned us about the “touristy” side to Kokkari — we couldn’t believe the astounding number of bar, cafe and taverna signs we saw on the popular dining strip along the village harbour. (Take a quick peek at the photos in my posts Kokkari’s waterfront restaurant row, and What’s cooking in Kokkari? and you’ll see what I mean.) Although the signage suggested there might be cutthroat competition between the village’s dozens of eateries, we found Kokkari had a surprisingly laid-back atmosphere, and we didn’t encounter any of those annoying restaurant touts who try to coax and cajole people into patronizing some establishments on Naxos, Kos and Mykonos.

Gorgeous scenery and photo opps galore

My friend was absolutely right about the village’s picture-postcard appeal, too. There was gorgeous scenery all around, and photo opportunities galore — striking beach and coastal scenery, quaint lanes and alleys, the colourful village harbour, and the impressive backdrop of Mount Karvouris. We’ll certainly pay Kokkari another visit next time we’re on Samos.

The video I posted above, which was produced by the aerial photography firm Reel Drone, shows much of the village and coastal scenery that we found so captivating back in 2010 — even though it is, of course, filmed from a completely different perspective than tourists get to see while strolling around the area.

If you have been to Kokkari before, the video will probably bring back pleasant memories of your own. If you haven’t visited it yet (or haven’t even been to Samos), I’m sure you’ll enjoy the 2-minute aerial tour and find it inspiring for future holiday planning.

Kokkari website links

And just in case you might be thinking about a trip to Samos, the people at Reel Drone have offered the following helpful links to online information about Kokkari:

♦  https://www.facebook.com/Κοκκαρι-Δημοτικη-Κοινοτητα-1411154232520­339/

♦ http://www.kokkari-samos.gr/

http://www.kokkari.gr/

 

Booking.com

Sizing up Stivari

Stivari settlement on Andros

The Stivari settlement overlooks a scenic coast and bay on Andros

 

Stivari settlement on Andros

The road through Stivari is lined on one side with buildings of reasonably-priced rental studios for summer tourists  …

 

sea view from Stivari area of Andros

… while the other side of the road offers wide open views of the sea, sunset, some small nearby islands and the Andros coastline

 

Batsi village on Andros

The beach resort village of Batsi is less than a 10-minute walk away

  

Studio suburb: There’s a lot to like about Andros, as we discovered during our first trip to the island in late May 2015 — and as I have already described in a series of Andros posts I have published in recent months.

Something else we really liked was the Stivari area, which we passed through several times a day while walking between our hotel and the beach resort village of Batsi.

Stivari is a small hillside settlement that’s basically a coastal “suburb” of Batsi, which is a mere 5- to 10-minute walk up the road.  There are more than a dozen different accommodation options right at Stivari or within close walking distance, and most of the rooms have nice garden or sea views from their balconies or terraces. The area has a popular taverna and a small shingle beach (actually just a few steps apart from each other), and is within a scenic 15-minute coastal walk of two better beaches, one of which boasts a superb seaview restaurant.

 

Stivari is a convenient base for Andros vacationers, especially those who don’t want to rely on a rental vehicle to get around  — it’s so close to all the amenities that Batsi village has to offer, yet still just far enough away to offer a little more peace and quiet than you’ll find in and around the village’s popular tourist center and beach.  

What we particularly liked about Stivari is the area’s impressive scenery: the surrounding steep hills are dotted with houses, villas and the accommodation properties; crystal-clear turquoise seawater sparkles beneath the rocky cliffs that line the coast; and there are beautiful island, sea, and sunset views from the hillsides and from the pebbly sand on Stivari beach. Whether we passed by in morning, afternoon or at night, there was always a pleasant and calming atmosphere  — though our favourite time was evening, when Stivari was bathed in the golden glow of the setting sun.

Please click on the link below to continue reading on page 2, where I have posted some of our photos of Stivari, and on page 3, where I have provided a listing of accommodations in the area, complete with photos and hotel contact information.

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Kalymnos rocks!

Marvellous mountain & coastal scenery plays a starring role in Kalymnos, an exhilarating rock climbing video that film maker Kieran Duncan shot on the rugged Dodecanese island last year

 

Sheer excitement: I’ve had Kalymnos on my mind all week after watching a splendid short video that was shot on the island by Kieran Duncan, an adventurous film maker from Scotland.

Duncan’s nearly 4-minute-long film follows four young Scots who visit Kalymnos to test their skills at climbing some of its world-famous mountain cliffs and rock formations. Besides exhilarating and spine-tingling scenes of the lads scaling perilously steep rock walls, the film showcases the island’s marvellous mountain and coastal scenery, and gives viewers an impression of what it’s actually like to drive around the island. It also includes underwater scenes from a scuba diving session, and shows several spectacular sunsets.

 

 

 

I haven’t set foot on Kalymnos yet, but I have seen parts of its coast as well as its main port town, Pothia, during a ferry ride from Kos to Patmos in 2010.  At the time, I knew little about the island, apart from being vaguely aware of its long and storied history of sponge diving. I later learned that Kalymnos is nowadays more noteworthy as a challenging rock climbing destination for adventure sports enthusiasts from around the world.

I haven’t done any rock climbing since I was a kid, and wouldn’t plan a holiday in Greece just to give it another try. But after discovering Duncan’s film earlier this week, I couldn’t get the captivating Kalymnos scenery out of my head. From quick online research, I Iearned that the island offers excellent hiking opportunities in addition to its popular climbing, diving and water sports activities. Since my partner and I are avid Greek island walkers, this information instantly made Kalymnos even more appealing as a destination for us to include on a future island-hopping trip in the Dodecanese.

A village on Kalymnos seen in photo from Discover Greece

This photo, from the Kalymnos page of the Discover Greece website, captures quintessential Greek island scenery — the deep blue sea, a beach, a village, mountains and a blue-domed church

 

But what really “sold” me on Kalymnos were comments Duncan included on the Vimeo page for his film

“4 pale Scots went to Greece in search of some world class rock climbing, but found so much more!” he wrote.  “The island’s incredible presence, locals, food, scenery, and adventurous opportunities make it one of my favourite destinations yet. I hope this film will inspire you to check it out, you won’t regret it!”

Duncan’s film has certainly encouraged me to consider travelling to Kalymnos sometime. If his video has similarly inspired you, here are a few websites to bookmark for future reference and trip planning assistance:

Kalymnos — The real island experience is the official tourist website operated by the Municipality of Kalymnos. It features dozens of photos along with helpful information about the island’s history, arts and culture, traditional products, places to visit, and sports activities. 

Kalymnos Info is a travel guide loaded with details about activities, accommodations, dining, excursions, transportation, and more.

Climb Kalymnos is an excellent online resource and practical guide for rock climbing enthusiasts, with a climbing route database and regular news updates.

Kalymnos Climbing is a commercial site that offers guided rock climbing and climbing courses on Kalymnos. It has a dedicated section describing available hiking and trekking holidays on the island.

♦ The Kalymnos page on the Discover Greece travel portal lists island highlights and must-see attractions, and includes a number of beautiful photos. 

♦  Diving the Skafandro suit, by Sandra Hendrikse and André Merks, is a fascinating article about the rise and decline of the island’s historic sponge fishing business.

 

Pothia the main port of Kalymnos island

A mountain looms large behind Pothia, the main port of Kalymnos island. I snapped this photo during a brief ferry stop in May 2010, when we were travelling from Kos to Patmos.

Impressions of Batsi

Batsi village on Andros

Batsi is a scenic seaside village on the northwest coast of Andros

 

Village views: When I told several regular travellers to Greece that we were planning a trip to Andros, they gave me two conflicting points of view about Batsi, a seaside village and beach resort on the island’s southern coast, about 6 km from Gavrio port.  Half of my acquaintances recommended we stay in Batsi, which they had personally stayed in and enjoyed. The other half warned me to avoid it altogether, and to stay only in or near Chora (Andros Town) instead. “Batsi has no soul,” said one. “It’s just a purpose-built resort with no character. It doesn’t feel very Greek there,” said another.

With my friends’ opinions about Batsi poles apart, I did more research and ultimately concluded that it was in fact where we should stay after spending three nights in Chora. But instead of choosing accommodations in the built-up area of Batsi, I booked us into a hotel at a scenic beach less than a 20-minute walk away. (I will be writing about the Aneroussa Beach Hotel in an upcoming post).

 

Batsi village on Andros

Approaching the harbour and the waterfront commercial strip of Batsi during the walk into town from our hotel

 

I felt apprehensive the first time we walked into Batsi, hoping we wouldn’t be disappointed. Happily, we weren’t — either then or on any of the other two times a day we visited the village. It’s pleasant, it does feel Greek, and it doesn’t have the artificial look and atmosphere of a resort specifically built for tourists (it’s not a place for shopaholics, though — they won’t find streets lined with trendy fashion boutiques or retail stores). We liked it — in all types of weather, no less. There was a mix of conditions during our May 28 – 31 visit — sunshine, clouds, strong winds and even a light rainfall — and we thought Batsi looked nice in all elements.

 

Click on the arrow in the middle of the image to see video views of Batsi from three different places along the bay.  A strong wind was blowing stormclouds over the area when I took the videos, and within a hour there was a short but light shower. Rain or shine, we thought Batsi looked beautiful.

 

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Milos recasts its magical spell

Tsigrado beach Milos

With dozens of unique beaches, like the cliff-enclosed Tsigrado cove 

 

Cape Vani on Milos

  an astounding array of natural scenery and rugged terrain, such as the Mars-like landscape at Cape Vani

 

Mandrakia village on Milos

 picturesque seaside fishing villages, like Mandrakia

 

Kleftiko coast at Milos

… spectacular coastal scenery, like the breathtaking cliffs and offshore rock formations at Kleftiko

 

Ageria mine site on Milos

 colourful mining sites, like the Ageria open pit operation 

 

O Xamos restaurant Milos

and superb Greek cuisine served at restaurants like O Xamos!, it’s easy to understand why travel blogger Dace was drawn to Milos two years in a row. (All of the photos in this post are by Dace and originally appeared on her website, Dace Travels. They are reposted here with her kind permission).

 

Well worth repeating: My regular readers know how much I enjoy Milos — I’ve published numerous posts about the island in the last several years, along with dozens of photographs we shot during two separate visits.  I’m always keen to hear and read what other travellers think of it, in particular to see if they had similarly delightful experiences (the feedback has been overwhelmingly laudatory, I’m happy to report). I also like to hear people’s impressions of places they managed to see in parts of Milos we haven’t yet explored ourselves since it gives us ideas about new places to check out next time we go back.

So when I discovered a Milos trip report link in a post on the TripAdvisor Milos forum, I was excited to read what the writer had to say, and to view her holiday photos. Clicking on the link actually was a double treat because it took me to not one but two separate trip reports for Milos, posted by Latvian writer Dace on her personal blog, Dace Travels.  

 

 

I was very pleased to find that both reports were packed with gorgeous photos and enticing descriptions of numerous Milos destinations that we haven’t yet seen (in large part because we haven’t rented a vehicle on either of our trips to the island, so we’ve been limited to what we could access by bus, taxi or walking, and couldn’t reach many of the remote areas that Dace drove to in her 4×4.)

In her first post, Greece: The beauty of Milos, Dace explains that she chose Milos after reading about it on a “hidden gem” list for Greece. 

“What a great choice it was!,” she wrote. “The island has 70 different beaches, it’s not overcrowded by tourists; the western part is more wild while the eastern part is more developed. We spent 6 days there but it was not enough.”  But in those six days, she saw a variety of places I’ve only read about in online travel guides — Thiafes beach, Tria Pighadia, Kolymbissionas, Amoudaraki and Manddrakia.

 

Spellbinding nature, beaches and good food

In her second report, Greece again. Yes to Milos!, Dace reveals why she returned to Milos for another holiday. “So why Milos again? It really got its spell on us, so much of beautiful nature and beaches and good food :),” she wrote.  (I totally understand; the exact same features drew us back to Milos for our own second visit.)

Once more, Dace posted lots of beautiful photos and descriptions of even more amazing places I haven’t seen, leaving me feeling a strong tinge of envy. Those spots included Cape Vani, Voudia Bay, Pollonia, and a slew of splendid beaches — Angathia, Agios Ioannis, Triades, Firiplaka, Paleochori, Plateina, Agio Kyriaki and Tsigrado. 

Both reports are fascinating and fun to read. Dace has a great sense of humour, so I chuckled at some of her stories (like the “quad people” they encountered at some beaches) and cringed at another (her account of a stomach-churning ferry ride to Milos).  And of course there’s dozens of photos of stunning Milos scenery that are bound to make you dream about going there yourself.

Click here to read Dace’s first report, and then click here to read about her return visit. (The second report includes photos and information about her stay in Athens, too, and elsewhere on her blog you can read about her trip to Santorini.)

A teasing glimpse of Korthi

Ormos Korthious photo from islandandros.com

Korthi Bay and the village of Ormos Korthiou are seen in a photo from the Andros travel and information website Island Andros.

 

Quick peek: Have you ever experienced that nagging feeling, while travelling from one scheduled holiday destination to the next, that you’re missing out on some really worthwhile sights and attractions you simply don’t have time to stop and visit along the way? We certainly did during our trip to Andros last spring.

After spending 3 nights in Andros Town at the beginning of our vacation, it was time to move on. Our friends had to return to Athens, and they agreed to drop us off at our next stop — a hotel near the resort area of Batsi, on the northwest coast of Andros — while they drove to Gavrio port to catch their ferry back to the mainland. 

So that we could all see a little more of Andros during the drive, we avoided the most direct highway route from Andros Town to Batsi and detoured to the south, following a highway that winds through the island’s Korthi region. The plan was to stop at the fishing harbour and seaside village of Ormos Korthiou to have a coffee before resuming the drive to Batsi.

Click here or on the link under the next photo to turn to page 2 of this post, where you can continue reading about Korthi and view more pictures of some of its top  attractions.

Grias Pidima beach Andros

One of the iconic sights we didn’t get to see in Korthi was Tis Grias to Pidima beach (also called Old Lady’s Leap), shown in this photo from airbnb.gr.  Pictures of the sandy beach and its towering stone pillar can be found on scores of postcards, websites and travel publications for Andros.

 

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Strolling around Stenies

Stenies village on Andros

Approaching the Stenies mountainside settlement on Andros island

 

Valley village:  There is much to see in the mountain and valley areas near Andros Town (also called Chora) on Andros Island. In fact, visitors could easily spend several days sightseeing and exploring the surrounding countryside by car or, if they prefer, by foot (the island boasts a network of nearly two dozen sign-posted walking and hiking trails, several of which start in or near Chora).

Unfortunately, we didn’t have that much exploration time at our disposal. During the first two days we stayed at Andros Town in late May, we spent much of our time in and around Chora itself. But on our third (and final) day, we ventured a little further off to do some hillside hiking in Stenies village and vicinity.

 

Stenies village on Andros

At Stenies, visitors can stroll past churches, red-roofed houses and palatial private villas nestled against verdant valley hillsides …

 

Bistis-Mouvelas Tower House on Andros

… and see historic ruins, including the crumbling Bistis-Mouvelas tower house, which dates from the 17th Century

 

Situated less than a 20-minute drive from Andros Town, Stenies is a residential settlement area that stretches across rolling hillsides in a mountain valley verdant with flowers, greenery and towering Cyprus trees. Blue-domed churches and large houses with red tile roofs rise from the leafy slopes,  while several sprawling estates with palatial private villas indicate that Stenies is a popular valley enclave for the affluent. Besides recently-built and still-under-construction stone mansions, the hillsides are home to some crumbling old buildings, including the Bistis-Mouvelas tower house, which was built in the 17th Century.  And on the coast at nearby Gialia Bay are two beaches — the pebbly Empros Gialia, and the sandy Piso Gialia, where travellers can stop for a meal on the seaview terrace at Gialia Restaurant and Snack Bar.

We spent several hours at Stenies, where we wandered along a series of paved paths and dirt trails that meandered up and down hills, past attractive homes, over mountain streams and across grassy fields, eventually making our way to and from the Bistis Tower. After working up hearty appetites hiking in warm temperatures under a mixed sky of sun and clouds, we drove to Drosia restaurant in the village of Menites for a midafternoon lunch break. (Staff at the Andros Town hotel where our travelling companions were staying had highly recommended we drop by Drosia for a meal. We enjoyed it as much as they had promised we would.)

 

Drosia Restaurant at Menites Andros

Part of Drosia restaurant’s very pleasant tree-shaded patio is seen in this photo from the Drosia Facebook page

 

Drosia’s outdoor terrace was as delightful as its delicious food — shaded by soaring trees, the patio is perched on the edge of a ravine through which streams cascade down the steep slopes. As we sat amidst thick vegetation, with the sound of water rushing in the creeks below us, it truly felt like we were in a lush island oasis — something we’ve never experienced on predominantly barren other islands in the Cyclades, like Mykonos, Ios or Santorini. 

It was just a short — but sweet — visit to Stenies and Menites, and we realized we had merely scratched the surface in terms of the multitude of things to see and do in both areas. We hope we get the chance to go back and  see more.

 

I shot this short video from the mountain road that took us to Stenies. It shows views of the mountainside settlement as well as nearby Gialia Bay. Click on the arrow to start the video.

 

Please click on the link below to turn to page 2 of this post, where you can read more about our day and view some of our photos of Stenies and Menites.  You can see full-size versions of the pictures, along with dozens more, in my Stenies and Menites album on Flickr.

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Must-see sights in and around Rethymno on Crete

Guest post by the Cretico blog

Rethymno is the third largest city in Crete and one of the most beautiful in Greece. Byzantine churches and monasteries, renaissance monuments, caves, countless beaches and enchanting villages throughout the province, await the visitor to wander and admire them.

The Old City

Rethymno in Crete

The oriental influence of the Turkish occupation, combined with the Venetian architecture of the Renaissance, compose the beautiful picture of the old town of Rethymno. Taking a walk through the narrow streets of the historic center, you can see many Venetian and Turkish monuments. From the Venetian harbor and the famous lighthouse, you can reach the Venetian Fortezza castle. The arches of the Venetian Loggia will definitely impress you. After a while, you will have the chance to rest and drink fresh water from the Rimondi fountain with three spouts in the shape of a lion, built in 1626 by rector Rimondi.

A stop at the Historical – Folk Museum of Rethymnonn with its historical exhibits, is definitely not a waste of time. Continuing your tour in the old town, you will admire the church of San Francesco, you will pass through the Great Gate and will reach the main square where you will admire the various public buildings. The old city is the living history of Rethymno, it turns you back in time and invites you to visit it.

 

The Fortezza Castle

Fortezza Castle

Undoubtedly, one of the most prominent highlights of Rethymno is the unique Venetian castle Fortezza. This is the Venetian castle that dominates the hill of Paleokastro, in the heart of the city and is famous as the largest Venetian castle ever built.

In the same place, in ancient times, was built the citadel of ancient Rirthymna and the Temple of Artemis, which have not survived. After the city was looted by the Algerian pirate Ouloutz Ali in 1571, was created the need for a good fortification. That’s why in 1573 was built the majestic pentagonal fort, according to all the modern methods of fortification and was designed so that it could shelter the entire population of the city.

Its premises, many of which are preserved in good condition until today, included barracks, a church, hospital, warehouse, the residence of the Directors, the residence of the Rector and a luxurious and stately building in the central square of the fortress. In the fortress of Fortezza takes place, in the summer, the Renaissance Festival of Rethymno, which attracts many visitors to Rethymno.

 

The Archaeological Museum of Rethymno

Archaeological Museum of Rethymno

In front of the main gate of Fortezza is the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno, since 1887. It is housed in a pentagonal Ottoman building that was built for the protection of the entrance of the east gate of Fortezza.

Here are displayed findings of the Early Minoan, Middle Minoan and Late Minoan times, such as various pots, tools, weapons, pottery, jewelry, signets, and clay figurines, such as this of a female figure known as the “goddess with upraised hands”. The visitor can also admire various objects and artwork of the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman period, such as gold jewelry, glass vases and collections of sculptures from various regions.

Among others, the Museum displays an interesting collection of coins from different historical periods of time.

 

The Monastery of Arkadi

Monastery of Arkadi

One of the highlights of Rethymno which deserves a visit is the Monastery of Arkadi, one of the most important monasteries in Crete, situated 23 km from Rethymno, in a strategic location on the northwest side of the mountain Idi.

The name of the monastery comes from the Byzantine Emperor Arcadius and its foundation dates back to the 5th century. The Monastery of Arkadi became known worldwide as it was strongly involved in the liberation struggles against the Turkish conquest. On November 8, 1866, the defenders of Crete who were sheltered in the monastery, blew alive in order not to surrender to the Turks. This event is known in history as the “Holocaust of Arkadi Monastery” and for this reason, this place has been characterized by UNESCO as a European Freedom Monument.

After the destruction, the monastery was completely rebuilt and restored to its original form, although the burned-out temple, and a cannon ball, wedged in a cypress, witness its history. Visitors can admire the two-aisled church in the center of the monastery dedicated to Saint Constantine and the Transfiguration of the Savior, which was built in the 16th century, the chapel of St. Arkadius, the monastery’s museum hosting exhibits dating from its inception and the powder magazine where the tragedy of 1866 took place.

 

The Monastery of Preveli

The-Monastery-of-Preveli

The Monastery of Preveli is located about 40 km south of Rethymno and is one of the most famous and respected monasteries of Crete. We don’t know exactly when it was built, but the evidence shows that the first part of the monastery was built in the late 10th to early 11th century, at a time when there was a great development of monastic life in the southern region of Crete.

It consists of two building complexes, the Monastery of Prodromos, in which you will see paintings of the painter Mercurius, and the Monastery of Theologos. It is worth visiting the museum located inside the monastery, which hosts about 100 pictures of priceless religious and historical value. Important exhibits such as a Gospel of 1807, a gilt chalice of 1847, a collection of embroidered vestments, a collection of various ecclesiastical vessels etc., complete the rich collection of the museum. The library of the monastery contains about a thousand volumes of books and other church documents. The Monastery of Preveli is located in a unique natural environment which is almost tropical.

 

Anogia Village

Anogia-Village Crete

The village of Anogia, in Mylopotamos, is approximately 50 km away from Rethymno at an altitude of nearly 800 m. Built on the slope of the hill Armi, with about 2500 inhabitants, Anogia have achieved a tremendous contribution to the national liberation struggle against the Turkish conquest, particularly in the Battle of Crete.

Anogia is also an epicenter of contemporary Cretan civilization. If you visit Anogia, you will be surprised by the traditional textile industry of the place, the reputed embroidery of the village and the use of the loom, which continues even until today.

The Anogians love their heritage and respect the customs and traditions of the place, keep the traditional clothing and language idioms. What remains intense in memory of every visitor of Anogia is the characteristic hospitality of the locals and the excellent care to foreigners.

 

The Caves of Rethymno

Ideon-Antron-Cave

Another highlight of Rethymno is the 800 caves that exist in the mountains of  the region, which present archaeological and folklore interest. At an altitude of 1538 meters in Nida Plateau in Psiloritis, is the Ideon Andron, a large cave, where, according to Greek mythology, Zeus was raised by Amalthea. Ideon Andron was a cult center during the Minoan years. The excavations have brought to light various findings such as gold jewelry, ceramics and various metal objects.

In the Cave of Melidoni, which was Mercury’s place of worship, the visitors can see the bones of the inhabitants of Melidoni, who died there from suffocation, as they were besieged by the Turks. Also, the cave Sfentoni in Zoniana village, with 14 halls, impresses the visitor with its stalactites and stalagmites. Accessible is also the cave of St. Anthony in Patso, with the beautiful church – dedicated to St. Anthony – located in the cave.

 

The Renaissance Festival of Rethymno

Rethymno Renaissance Festival

Every summer, in Rethymno, is organized the Renaissance Festival, an institution that has been established since 1987, on the occasion of the great development that the city experienced experienced during the Venetian conquest, in arts, literature and architecture.

The aim of the Renaissance Festival is the preservation and dissemination of the cultural heritage of the city, and the promotion of important Venetian monuments, like the old town of Rethymnon and Fortezza. So far, the Renaissance Festival has presented a variety of important plays of Cretan theater, and other important artists of the Renaissance, such as Shakespeare, Goldoni, Moliere, etc.

The music concerts, involving orchestras and musicians from all over Europe, the opening and closing ceremonies with artistic events, and events organized in various places of the city.

 

Beaches in Rethymno

Bali beach Crete

Both in the north coast, and the south, there are many sandy beaches in Rethymno which attract visitors to walk along them, enjoy the sun and swim in the beautiful waters of the Cretan and the Libyan Sea. The beach of Rethymno is a huge, 12 km long sandy beach, which starts from the city of Rethymno and ends in the region of Scarleta.

Near the Monastery of Preveli, there is the homonymous beach, an exotic place with palm trees, crossed by the river Koutalioti and considered by many as the most beautiful beach of Crete. For those who are looking for peace and mental calm, there is the secluded beach of Triopetra in approximately 50 km. south of Rethymno. Within walking distance, you will find the quiet beach of St. Paul, offered for nudism.

Plakias-Beach on Crete

The water sports enthusiasts can visit the beach in the village of Plakias, situated 40 kilometers from Rethymno, and also Bali, on the national road Rethymno – Heraklion, which is very popular. The beach in Platanes village is appropriate for a quick dip, and it is 4 km east of Rethymno. The beach of Panormo village, 16 km away, is very organized and offer many facilities to the tourists.

Of course, these are the main highlights of Rethymno, however, when you visit it, you will realize that this place offers numerable places with such beauty and long history, that will make you love this city forever.

 

This article originally appeared on the Cretico Blog published by the Cretico Crete holiday villa website, and is republished with their kind permission.

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.

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