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A winter daytrip to Paleochora in southwest Crete

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This 9-minute film by  fitness and travel buff William Taudien shows Paleochora, Crete from ground level, in the air, and even under water.

 

Just a few weeks back, I wrote about a new promotional video that tourism authorities on Crete had produced to encourage more travellers to visit the island in winter.

Since then, I’ve been keeping an eye on social media to watch for current photo and video posts, to get a better feel for what the island is like at this time of year. The latest we have ever been to Crete ourselves was in late October and early November 2017, when the tourist season was wrapping up and most hotels and restaurants were either already closed or shutting down. Despite a few days of inclement weather, we had a great time, but we often wondered how visiting in winter would compare. It seems other people are curious, too — in online travel forums, I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of people asking whether winter travel to Crete and other places in Greece would be worthwhile.

This week I got some answers when adventure traveller, fitness buff and vlogger William Taudien published the video I posted above.

 

William has been living near the Crete city of Chania for the past three months. In late December, he took a daytrip to Paleochora, a small town on the island’s southwest coast which happened to be the last stop on our late autumn holiday two years ago.

After a bumpy 90-minute bus ride through gorgeous mountain scenery, William arrived at Paleochora to sunny skies and comfortable temperatures in the low 20s Celsius — weather similar to what we had experienced. Conditions were ideal for William to film ground-level video while wandering the streets, the seafront on the east side of town, and beautiful big Pachia Ammos beach to the west, which he had all to himself. With his drone, he captured amazing aerial views of the colourful town, the beach, and the spectacular mountain and Libyan Sea surroundings. He even shot some underwater scenes while swimming and snorkeling.

Everything looked pretty much as it had when we spent three days in Paleochora, with one major difference — as William explains in the video, restaurant options are extremely limited in winter, especially if you’re looking for somewhere to have lunch.  

Although he had an enjoyable trip to Paleochora on that particular day, William told me in an email that “It seems like the weather is a bit unstable in the winter.” In fact, right after his daytrip, the weather changed rapidly when a massive storm system that meteorologists named Zenobia swept across Greece, lashing the country with gale-force winds, heavy rains, and snowfalls in some regions. Zenobia pounded Greece for the final four days of 2019, and weather conditions remained unsettled into the first week of the new year.

But conditions improved, and sunshine and mild temperatures returned. In his email, William told me he took another daytrip a few days ago, this time to explore the village of Hora Sfakion on Crete’s southern coast. And, once again, he went swimming. “It was really sunny and nice,” he said.

Now, as I look out my window at gloomy grey skies and the temperature below the freezing mark here in Toronto, I keep daydreaming about paying a winter visit to Chania, and taking daytrips to places like Paleochora and Hora Sfakion if the weather is decent. Definitely something to keep in mind for next winter!

Tourism video invites travellers to discover themselves — in the city of Heraklion on Crete

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A new tourism video aims to show travellers that whether they prefer to spend their holidays taking a leisurely look at local history, culture,  food and wine, or keeping a faster pace with outdoor sports activities, beach fun and lively nightlife — or maybe a mix of both — there’s an extensive range of exciting activities and fascinating attractions awaiting them in Heraklion

 

A newly-released tourism video is inviting visitors to “discover the other part of yourself” in Heraklion (often spelled Irakleio), the biggest city on Crete, in 2020.

Notes posted on the video’s YouTube page say the nearly 3-minute-long film “presents a vivid city with unique images in every corner, in every step. With flavors, sounds and aromas you’ll never forget!”

“Stroll around Heraklion, in its market and beaches, visit its archaeological sites, its monuments and its museums. Enjoy the authentic Cretan lifestyle and gastronomy. Feel how living like a true local here in Heraklion, really is! Discover all 5+1 civilizations that make Heraklion truly unique, so full of experiences that you will wholeheartedly enjoy all year round,” say the release notes.

Produced by the Heraklion Municipality Tourism Department, the film was published on January 7.

“We are waiting for you, here in the heart of the most important island in the Mediterranean, ‘where Crete begins’!” the video release notes say, quoting the city’s official tourism slogan.

 

 

Should you be interested in finding yourself in Heraklion this year, I’ve collected website links to a fistful of recent Greek magazines that spotlight things to see and do in Heraklion and its surrounding area. The articles are packed with superb photos and useful information about major monuments and attractions, events, and alluring places to enjoy  either traditional or contemporary Cretan food and drink.

The Greece Is | Crete 2019 special issue includes an insightful article about Knossos Palace (at page 72), a map highlighting top attractions to check out in the region beyond Heraklion city limits (pages 144-5), and recommendations for things to see and do during a 2-day city break in Heraklion (page 146). 

 

Screenshot of an article about Knossos from the 2019 Greece Is special Crete issue

In Knossos Uncovered, writer John Leonard recounts a visit to the Palace of Knossos, which he notes is “Greece’s most popular, best-known archaeological destination after the Athens Acropolis.”

 

Screenshot of a Heraklion feature article in the Greece Is 2019 special issue on Crete

A highlights map indicates “at a glance” places to explore in the municipal region beyond the city of Heraklion/Irakleio

 

Screenshot of an article about Heraklion in the Greece Is 2019 special issue on Crete

Heraklion is an ideal city break destination, and the Greece Is feature 48 hours in Irakleio is an excellent guide to help plan a short visit. 

 

 

♦  The just-published White Issue of Fly, the on-board magazine of Sky Express airline, includes a 7-page spread spotlighting key attractions, events and places near Heraklion, including the Natural History Museum, CretAquarium, Knossos Palace, the Messara Plain and Archanes village. The quick-read article is iIlustrated with beautiful photos by Perikles Merakos.

Screenshot of an article about Heraklion in Sky Express Fly magazine Issue 06

This photo feature from Sky Express airline’s Fly magazine highlights several noteworthy attractions in and near Heraklion

 

Issue 77 of Blue Magazine, the on-board publication of Aegean Airlines, includes a 13-page “guide to the good life in one of Greece’s most vibrant cities.” It spotlights two of Heraklion’s micro-breweries, various coffee shops where visitors can experience traditional Cretan cafe culture, restaurants offering either authentic island food or contemporary “creative” Cretan cuisine, as well as cocktail bars and lounges. The guide also describes the new Heraklion Cultural and Conference Center and an emerging “hot spot” district of the city that’s rapidly gaining popularity for its food and beverage offerings.

 

Screenshot of Aegean Blue Magazine Issue 77 guide to Heraklion Crete

A Blue magazine guide lists places to visit for coffee, cocktails, locally-brewed beer, traditional Cretan food and modern creative cuisine

 

♦ Heraklion gets feature coverage in two articles in the Summer 2019/Spring 2020 issue of Minoan Wave, the on-board magazine for the Minoan Lines ferry company.  In one, writer Olga Charami joins local resident Spiros Staridas, who has published a cultural map of Heraklion, for a fascinating tour of historically significant city sights most visitors would overlook (including segments of ancient city walls preserved inside two fashion clothing shops). The other is a short 3-page piece suggesting specific places visitors should consider dropping by for pastries, coffee, raki or cocktails, and either traditional Cretan cooking or contemporary Mediterranean cuisine.

Screenshot of Heraklion feature article in Minoan Wave magazine Summer 2019 edition

The article Heraklion: Hidden Charm takes readers on “an alternative walk” through the city’s historic center to discover “often-overlooked gems.”

 

Screenshot of a Heraklion dining feature article in Minoan Wave magazine

The short but sweet article Heraklion: Unfailingly Flavorful tells visitors where to taste delicious pastries and desserts; raki, cocktails and other beverages; and their choice of either traditional or modern Cretan cuisine.

 

Moments in Molyvos Part 3: Visiting the 650-year-old Castle of Mithimna

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Molyvos Castle on Lesvos island

The Castle of Molyvos on Lesvos island

Molyvos Castle and houses in the town of Molyvos on Lesvos island

The Castle of Mithimna dominates views of Molyvos town from all directions. 

 

Editor’s Note: This is the third instalment of my Moments in Molyvos series of photo reports from our 8-day visit to Molyvos (also known as Mithimna) in spring 2019. Part 1 featured photos of sights along the main commercial road and harbourside, while Part 2 contained pictures from walks in the town’s traditional market, and on the hillsides below the castle.

 

It’s the biggest, most important and most visible monument in Molyvos, so of course we had to pay a visit to the Castle of Mithimna during our  first-ever Lesvos island holiday in late April 2019.

Nearly 650 years old, the castle occupies a hilltop location that has been historically significant for more than 2,500 years. According to a leaflet published by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Lesvos, an ancient acropolis stood on the site from around the 5th Century B.C. until sometime during the 6th Century A.D., when the Byzantines built a fortification in its place. The Venetians conquered the  fort in 1128, but from 1204 to 1287 it was occupied by Baldwin II of Flandre.  At the end of the 13th Century, the fortress came under Catalan control; however, much of the structure was destroyed when the Genoans seized the stronghold early in the 14th Century.  In 1373, the Genovese Francisco 1 Gateluzo ordered the reconstruction of the castle, and the Genoans controlled it until the Ottomans took occupation of Lesvos in 1462. The Ottomans made repairs and additions to the structure in the 15th and 17th Centuries, but the form of the fortress — an irregular trapezoid shape with 10 towers and two strongholds — has remained essentially the same to this day.

Further historical background information is available on the Molyvos/Mithimna Castle page of Odysseus, the official website of the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sport. The link contains two pages of historical and descriptive information, and while it’s available in Greek only, you can use an online translation program to read it in English or other languages. Additional information, along with maps and a video, on the Castle of Mithimna page of the Kastrologos Castles of Greece website.

 

To reach the castle from the main road in Molyvos, we had the choice of walking or driving to the top of the rocky hill. We preferred to hoof it, which meant huffing and puffing our way up dozens of flights of steps on the steep hillsides below the castle. It sounds like an arduous trek, but it’s actually a great opportunity to explore some of the scenic residential neighbourhoods of Molyvos en route. (You can see what these areas look like in Part 2 of this series). 

Admission to the castle cost only €2 per adult in April 2019.

This video by Yiorgaks takes you on a scenic flight over Molyvos, providing excellent views of the castle and upper town areas of Molyvos, and beyond

 

Please click on the link below to turn to page 2, where I have posted our photos of the castle (inside and out) and its views.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

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Moments in Molyvos Part 2: Exploring the old market and hillsides below the castle

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Houses on the hills below the Castle of Molyvos on Lesvos island

Even though it meant climbing up and down hundreds of stone steps, we couldn’t resist exploring the residential districts that line the steep slopes beneath Molyvos Castle. 

 

My first Moments in Molyvos post included of photos we shot, during our spring 2019 vacation, of sights along on the town’s main road and harbour. 

In this instalment, we venture uphill to explore the residential areas situated on the steep slopes that descend from the hilltop Castle of Molyvos to the main road. Photos in this collection include elegant stone houses, villas and hotels; four of the town’s major churches; shops and restaurants lining the cobblestone lanes of the historic market district; a lovely pine-forested park; the municipal cemetery; and occasional scenic views from the hillsides. We will visit the castle in Part 3.

 

 

buildings cling to the steep hills below the Castle of Molyvos on Lesvos

Tile-roofed stone buildings, many of which are centuries-old, cling to the steep hills below the Castle of Molyvos. In this post, we enter the maze of lanes and steps between the buildings to take a closer look at what’s there.

 

Please click on the link below to continue the photo tour of Molyvos. 

Page 2 contains pictures from our walkabouts in the town’s traditional market and surrounding neighbourhood, while

Page 3 features photos of our walks on the hillsides below Molyvos Castle.

Page 4 has pictures from our walks on the hills northwest of the castle, high above the harbour.

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