Santorini sights and attractions– just as a tourist sees them

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 Pierre Marteau compiled this overview video of places and attractions he visited during a trip to Santorini in 2017

 

Eye level views:  I discovered a brand-new Santorini travel video on Vimeo today, and wanted to share it immediately so any of my readers planning a first-time visit to the island can see how it really looks in person.

Santorini 2017 is a 9-minute film that Pierre Marteau published on January 14. What I particularly like about the clip is that it wasn’t filmed with a drone, as so many Santorini videos tend to be nowadays. Although drones capture amazing aerial views of the island’s spectacular landscape scenery, no visitor is ever going to see it from the same perspective. On the other hand, Pierre’s eye-level video shows exactly how sights and attractions will appear as you look around while exploring the island.

Places shown in the video include:

♦  Santorini’s main town, Fira

♦  the traditional village of Pyrgos

♦  the black sand beach at Kamari

♦  the romantic and extremely picturesque clifftop village of Oia, which is perhaps the most famous place for sunset viewing in all the Greek islands.

The video also shows what you’ll see riding the cable car to the cruise ship and excursion boat docks in the Old Port below Fira, and while taking one of the popular boat tours to the hot springs and the nearby volcano island of Nea Kameni.  Of course, the video also captures views of some of the beautiful bougainvillea and flowers, colourful houses, iconic blue-domed chapels, and marvellous sunsets that together make Santorini one of the most-photographed places in Greece.

And you’ll see some of the island’s controversial donkeys and mules, which I hope none of my readers will ride while visiting Santorini. If you don’t know why you shouldn’t climb atop any of these animals for a ride up or down the caldera cliff paths, please read my post Don’t ride the donkeys! Why tourists should avoid taking the mule ‘taxis’ on Santorini

Note that Santorini 2017 is a compilation video that Pierre put together from several other clips he shot on Santorini. You can view all of those films — which show other top Santorini attractions, such as Akrotiri and Ancient Thera, on Pierre’s VIMEO page.

 

A bucket list visit to Voidokilia, the extraordinary Ω-shaped beach in the Peloponnese

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Voidokilia beach

I got my first in-person peek at beautiful Voidokilia beach from this breathtaking vantage point in the ruins of the Castle of Navarino …

 

Voidokilia beach

… and shot this picture two hours later while walking along Voidokilia’s amazing arc of soft brown sand 

 

My Omega moment: I’m a big fan of beaches, as you’ve probably gathered from perusing my blog posts. I love looking at them, walking on them, and of course taking photos of them. It doesn’t matter if they consist of soft sand, pebbles or stone; are situated in secluded coves, scenic bays or along lengthy stretches of coastline; or face onto calm water, rolling waves  or rough seas — they all make me happy. I can’t explain exactly why, but there’s something about beaches that makes me feel surprisingly calm yet incredibly invigorated at the same time. (Mountains have the same effect). It’s no wonder I love Greece so much: since the country is blessed with myriad beaches on its islands and mainland coasts, I feel great wherever I go. (Greece has mountains aplenty, too, but I’ll write about those another time.)

Although there are dozens of must-see places on my Greece travel wish list, only 13 are beaches per se (though many of the other spots are located at or near beaches I’d love to visit). All are stunning, some are world-famous, and each has  a unique appeal, distinctive feature or superlative natural beauty I want to witness in person at some point during my lifetime, even if only briefly or from afar.

My beach bucket list (no pun intended)  includes five on Crete — the Balos lagoons, plus Preveli and Vai, Matala, and Stefanou/Seitan Limania;  Navagio (better known as Shipwreck Beach) on Zakynthos; Porto Katsiki on Lefkada; Myrtos on Kefalonia;  Simos on Elafonisos island in the Peloponnese; Manganari on Ios; Papafragas on Milos, and Agios Demetrios on Alonissos. Though not technically a beach, the Giola lagoon on Thassos is right up there, too.

Until last spring, there had been 14 beaches I particularly wanted to see, but last May I finally got to visit the incomparable  Voidokilia in the Messenia region of the Peloponnese. 

 

 

Voidokilia first enthralled me in 2011 when  the Greek National Tourism Organisation published an aerial photo in the Beaches Album on its Visit Greece Flickr page. Voidokilia’s semicircular arc of light brown sand, strikingly similar in shape to the Greek letter Omega Ω, seemed surreal and almost other-worldly.  It looked too perfect to be natural. I instantly wanted to see it, but didn’t foresee having the opportunity anytime soon. We had been hooked on island hopping at the time, and didn’t have a Peloponnese holiday in our near-term plans. But in 2016 we finally made our first foray into that part of Greece, visiting several places in the eastern Peloponnese, and we paid the region a return visit last year to explore some of its southern and western reaches. I was excited when I discovered that Voidokilia was one of the top attractions on our scheduled driving route along the Messenian Gulf coast.

Since Voidokilia was the first bucket list beach I was going to see, I nervously wondered if it would live up to my lofty expectations.  But it  didn’t disappoint. If anything, it made an even better impression than I had imagined. I gasped when I first observed Voidokilia from a lookout point in the Navarino Castle, and when I later walked along its soft brown sand a short time later, and gazed  across the sparkling turquoise bay it encircles,  I felt like I was living a dream. I was utterly gobsmacked, as some Brits might say. I now like to describe the experience as a personal OMG moment — though I pronounce it O-Me-Ga instead of Oh-My-God (pun intended this time).  I savoured every second I was there, and now consider Voidokilia one of my favourite beaches anywhere in the world. I will go back again.

I did take plenty of photos, of course, but I’m not entirely happy with how they turned out — they simply don’t make Voidokilia look as stunning as it actually appears in person.  I suppose I was just too busy enjoying the moment and the captivating scenery around me to pay more attention to what I was doing with my camera. I have posted some of the images on page 2, so you can be the judge. But I really think you should just go and see Voidokilia for yourself. It truly is a marvellous sight.

Below is a video that I believe does do justice to Voidokilia’s striking beauty. Beneath that is a link to page 2, where you can see our photos as well as a few more videos of this fantastic place in the Peloponnese.

 

This 5.5-minute film from Studio Gaël Arnaud features stunning drone views of Voidokilia as well as the hilltop Paleokastro (Castle of Navarino) from which I shot some of my Voidokilia beach photos in May 2017.

 

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Mykonos bar, nightclub & beach club openings in 2018

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 180 Sunset Bar Mykonos

180º Sunset Bar re-opens the doors to its amazing sunset-view cocktail terraces on Sunday April 1

 

Summer kickoff: Winter cabin fever must be setting in — I have begun receiving  inquiries from people wondering when bars and clubs will be opening on Mykonos for the 2018 travel season.

I couldn’t give any precise dates for specific venues until  January 10, when 180º Sunset Bar  announced that it will launch its season on Sunday, April 1. It’s the first Mykonos venue to announce its plans so far, but more of the island’s popular drinking and partying places should be releasing their summer opening dates in the next few weeks. Last year, most venues opened their doors in either late April or early May, and this year shouldn’t be any different, though some spots might open in time to celebrate Greek Easter weekend (April 6 to 9).

Guapaloca Bar and Paradise Beach Resort are also opening in April, which means that partying resumes at Paradise Beach in less than three months.

Guapaloca bar Mykonos

Daily prties resume at world-famous Paradise beach in April when Guapaloca bar starts its season

 

I will update this post with additional information when other bars and clubs announce their official start dates.

People also have been asking if I know of summer job opportunities on Mykonos.

The hugely popular Scorpios club at Paraga beach issued a hiring notice in December (see below), while this week the posh Principote Panormos Mykonos restaurant and bar complex at Panormos beach invited applications for positions there. If you’re interested, Panormos requests you send your photo and resume to: info@principote.com 

DK Oyster restaurant and bar at Platis Gialos also announced on social media that it is now hiring. 

And in February, Kalua bar at Paraga beach will be holding employee recruitment events in Athens and Thessaloniki in February (see below),.

If you’d like to work on Mykonos this year, your best bet is to email any bars and clubs that interest you to ask about job opportunities. Get those emails out ASAP — positions will get filled fast.

 

Scorpios Mykonos

Scorpios posted this hiring announcement on social media at Christmastime

 

 

A visit to Androusa Castle

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Androusa Castle aerial view

Androusa Castle aerial view

Aerial views of the remaining walls of Androusa Castle in Messenia. The images are from an on-site information plaque that describes the features and history of the ancient castle, as well as recent restoration work by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Messenia.

 

First fortress:  On Day 2 of our May 2017 holiday in the Peloponnese, we drove south from Ancient Messini, where we passed vast groves of olive trees and several small settlements before stopping at the village of Androusa to see the first of several castle ruins on our list of attractions to visit.

As I noted in my earlier post Our 4-day road trip in the western Peloponnese, the village is home to Androusa Castle, a fortress built by the Franks in the middle of the 13th Century.  It was a significant military stronghold for the Kalamata region for several hundred years, after which the castle became an important administrative center. But just as the need for a fortification in the area declined, so did maintenance of the castle, which eventually crumbled and lay in a state of neglected ruins from the early 18th Century.

In early 2012, the Ephorate of Antiquities of Messenia launched a €550,000 project to restore parts of the castle’s eastern curtain walls and repair its few standing towers. The work was completed in 2015.

 

 

There isn’t much on the site apart from the rehabilitated wall sections and towers, and a few small stone buildings, so it doesn’t take long to walk around the grounds and see all that’s there — including lovely panoramic views of the lush green landscape that extends to the Messenian Gulf. If you’re travelling in the area and happen to be passing through Androusa or close by, you might find it interesting to stop for a quick look, as we did. But unless you’re a huge fan of castles, I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see it. Within reasonable driving distance you’ll find several immense and largely intact fortresses that are much more worthwhile to visit, including the Neokastro at Pylos and the Methoni castle at Methoni.

On page 2 of this post, you can view our photos of Androusa Castle. If you’d like to see or learn more about the fortress, check out these links:

♦ the Castle of Androusa page on Kastrologos — Castles in Greece;

♦ the Castles page on Picturesque Peloponnese (you’ll have to scroll about two-thirds of the way down the page to view the Androusa section); and

♦ the Androusa page on the Castles of Greece website operated by Andrew Sawyer.

 

Androusa Castle

Part of the restored eastern curtain wall and tower at Androusa Castle, which was built more than 700 years ago

 

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Major music and party events in Greece during summer 2018

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Matala music festival 2018

The Matala Beach Festival has been drawing tens of thousands of music enthusiasts to Crete each summer, and this year’s event takes place June 22 to 24 at Matala — the legendary beach where hippies lived in caves during the 1960s and 70s. Follow the Matala Beach Festival page on Facebook to receive information about this year’s event when details are announced.

 

Parties in paradise: Music lovers looking to combine fun in the sun and sea with live music and DJ events can choose from several high-profile festivals being held at various locations in Greece again this summer.

So far, dates have been announced for four major events that will draw thousands of music fans to some of the most popular islands in Greece this summer — Crete, Ios, Mykonos and Rhodes.

They include the annual Matala Beach Festival on Crete, the Swedish Midsummer Festival on Ios, the Lindos Rock event on Rhodes, and the XLSIOR Festival on Mykonos.

I will update this post when the dates and locations of additional major music and party events are announced.

Check the links provided under each promotional image for further information and updates about those specific events.

 

Lindos Rock music event

The Lindos Rock live music event will be held from June 20 to 30 in Lindos village on Rhodes. Check the Rockers Reunited webpage for further details about participating acts and ticket sales.

 

 

 

 

Swedish Midsummer Festival 2018

One of the most popular party events on Ios island every year is the Swedish Midsummer Festival, which in 2018 will take place on Friday June 22.  Check the Life is a Beach Party website for further details and announcements.

 

XLSIOR Mykonos Festival

Attracting more than 30,000 gay and gay-friendly participants, XLSIOR Festival is the biggest annual party on Mykonos, and will take place from August 22 to 29 in 2018. Exclusive themed DJ events will be held every afternoon and night of the festival at venues in Mykonos Town and at the island’s top party beaches. See the XLSIOR Festival website for information about tickets and events.

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