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This image by Flickr member chen Mizrach shows the swimming area at Agios Nikolaos island near Amoudi Bay on Santorini
Agios Nikolaos islet below Oia, Santorini
Santorini is legendary for its heart-stopping caldera scenery, and its distinctive red and black volcanic sand beaches have frequently been included on lists of the world’s most unique and beautiful strands. But what many people consider the best place to swim on Santorini isn’t a beach — it’s the sea surrounding a rocky islet barely more than a stone’s throw from the northwest tip of the island. To get there, visitors must either walk hundreds of steps down the caldera cliff from Oia village to Amoudi Bay, or drive to the taverna-lined fishing harbour. From Amoudi, a dirt path winds along the coast and ends at a narrow channel that separates Santorini from a little island called Agios Nikolaos. Adventure seekers carefully clamber down boulders and rocks to enter the water, then swim to the south side of Ag. Nikolaos where they can rest near a small white chapel before jumping back into the sea from a number of low cliffs and ledges. A bonus treat for swimmers is the sensational sea-level view of Oia high atop the soaring caldera cliffs.
Most Santorini visitors spend time exploring the charming cliffside lanes in Oia village (top), but tourists seeking a unique swimming experience should make their way down to picturesque Amoudi harbour (bottom)
From Amoudi bay, a trail leads to a narrow channel between Santorini and a small island called Agios Nikoloas (it’s the dark triangle-shaped lump of black and grey rock near the left side of the photo). The channel and the sea around Agios Nikolaos are scenic places to swim.
Here’s a view of Agios Nikoloas island from a vantage point in Oia
Another view of the Agios Nikolaos islet below Oia
The south side of the islet has a landing jetty for boats. The steps lead to the island’s namesake chapel, Agios Nikolaos.
The swimming area is accessed from Amoudi harbour (above), which is more than 230 steps below Oia village. Instead of walking down, you could drive or take a taxi to Amoudi (you’ll find a parking lot within a short walking distance of the waterfront strip of fish tavernas).
From Amoudi, follow the trail that clings to the coast at the bottom of the colourful volcanic cliffs
The trail begins just a few steps past the Sunset Taverna
That’s me walking the coastal trail in 2005. It takes only a few minutes to walk from the tavernas to the swimming area.
Another view of the trail, this time looking back toward Amoudi Bay
Approaching Agios Nikolaos island near the end of the footpath
This image, from the blog God Save the Scene, shows the small chapel on Agios Nikolaos island (left) and Oia village high atop the caldera cliffs. The photo is from the blog’s October 2013 post I’m on a boat.
Asteria beach on Syros
For the first two days of our visit to Syros last year, we stayed in studio accommodations in the Vaporia neighbourhood of Ermoupolis. We knew when booking that our digs would have a brilliant view of neoclassical mansions surrounding the bay, but what we didn’t realize was that the seaside directly below our apartment was a popular urban “beach.” Called Asteria Beach by many (probably because of a busy waterside bar with that name), the waterfront has a small strip of pebble and stone shoreline at one end, and several wide concrete jetties extending to the Asteria Beach Bar at the other. It was late afternoon on a Saturday when we arrived at our studio, and several dozen people were enjoying the “beach” — swimming, sunbathing on the slips, and chatting over drinks at the bar. Syros has a number of beautiful sandy beaches scattered around the island, but if you’re staying in Ermoupolis and want to get some sun by the seaside without leaving the city, Asteria beach is conveniently within walking distance.
When we arrived at Syros by ferry in May 2014, we got this view of the Vaporia district of Ermoupolis, where our studio accommodations were located. There’s no beach in sight, but the Vaporia seafront is nevertheless a great spot to swim and sunbathe.
Take a closer look, and you will see a series of concrete jetties that are in essence urban “beaches” where locals and tourists can catch some sun or go for a swim
The north end of the bay is home to the Asteria Beach Bar
Telephoto view of the Asteria Beach Bar
The small rocky seashore at the right-hand side of Asteria beach is accessed by a long set of stairs that start near the Sta Vaporia Cafe-Bar
I shot this photo from a lookout point beside the Sta Vaporia Cafe-Bar. You can see several people swimming in the bay near one of the piers.
Another view of the bay from the top of the stairs leading to the seashore
People relaxing on a wharf below our studio apartment
This is the view looking straight down from a terrace at the Sea Colours Rooms & Apartments in Vaporia, where we stayed for two nights. The water in the bay is crystal clear.
A man swims in the bay a few meters from the jetties
Sunbathers on one of the piers on the Vaporia seaside
Hillside view of the Asteria Beach Bar
Early evening view from the seashore near the Asteria Beach Bar
This photo, from the Asteria Beach Bar website, shows the wonderful view from the bar’s swimming pier. St Nicholas Church dominates the Ermoupolis skyline with its big blue dome and twin belltowers.
An early morning view, from our terrace, of one of the piers at Asteria beach
The Kallithea coast on Rhodes
On our first trip to Greece in 2004, we visited Rhodes as part of an island-hopping package tour. We stayed at the Rodos Palladium hotel in Kallithea, a seaside hotel district situated between the busy Faliraki resort area to the southwest, and historic Rodos Town to the northeast. Rodos Palladium guests could step from the hotel grounds directly onto Kallithea beach, a long wide strand with a mixed surface of sand, pebbles and stones. One afternoon we strolled a few hundred meters to the northeast end of the beach, where we hiked up a short hill and continued walking along dirt roads and paths that zig-zagged above the coast. I was initially taken aback when I saw that the rocky seashore below us was dotted with colourful lounge chairs and umbrellas. I wondered why anyone would want to sunbathe on solid rock when there are so many sandy beaches all around Rhodes. Then it hit me — these out-of-the-way spots were more peaceful, and would never get crowded. I suddenly realized I would probably prefer the rocky waterfront to the busy sand beaches, too.
This Google map image shows the Kallithea coastline on Rhodes. Our hotel, the Rodos Palladium, was situated next to Kallithea beach (bottom left), but the rocky seashore just past it (center right) was popular with people seeking a quieter place to sunbathe and relax.
Sunbeds and umbrellas in a shallow cove
This is about as “crowded” as the rocky coast gets!
Another advantage to sunbathing here: you won’t get sand in your swimsuit!
At sunbeds like these, you could cool your heels in the water while soaking up the sunshine
At some places, sunseekers can park only steps from their sunbeds
The Palatia peninsula at Naxos Town
Naxos is blessed with a wealth of beautiful beaches, some of which extend several kilometers down the island’s long west coast. You can actually spend hours walking from one gorgeous beach to another — starting at the north with Agios Prokopios, followed by Agia Anna, Maragas, Plaka, Orkos, Mikri Vigla, and more. If you’re staying in Naxos Town and don’t feel like travelling to the western beaches, you can simply stroll over to Agios Georgios beach at the southern edge of town. But some island residents prefer swimming in the sheltered bay on the port side of Naxos Town instead. Located, figuratively speaking, in the shadow of the Temple of Apollo monument, this swimming area is sheltered by a breakwater and the large ferry port quay. It is accessed from the causeway that links Naxos Town to the Palatia peninsula; several sets of stairs descend to a narrow ledge from which people can step into the water. (Since it’s protected from the strong north winds, the ledge is a popular sunbathing spot, too.) Naxos visitors sometimes swim here as well — we saw someone we know from Ios taking a dip here while he and a group of friends killed time waiting for their ferry to arrive.
Although there is a tiny sand “beach” near the entrance to the Naxos ferry port quay, people prefer to swim a few dozen meters to the north in the bay below the Temple of Apollo monument
To reach the swimming area, just follow the cobblestone-paved causeway that links Naxos Town to the Palatia peninsula and Temple of Apollo
View toward Naxos Town from the Palatia peninsula. There is a pebbly sand beach along Grotta Bay (left), but it’s not suitable for swimming because of the strong winds, powerful waves, and rocky seafloor. However, the bay on the sheltered port side of the causeway (right) usually has calm waters and is good for swimming. People waiting for ferries sometimes take a quick dip here.
Lines of buoys mark swimming lanes in the bay beside the causeway
Three swimmers chat while treading water in the bay
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