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Our quarantine reads Part 2: Greek hotels and restaurants on travel hot lists for 2020

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Rendering of the main swimming pool at Royal Senses resort on Crete

A rendering of the main swimming pool at The Royal Senses Resort & Spa, scheduled to open in late June on Crete.  The Royal Senses was included on The Telegraph‘s list of 10 amazing new Greek island hotels to book in 2020.

 

Four Seasons Astir Palace Athens website hotel photo

The Four Seasons Astir Palace Athens, a legendary hotel on the Athens Riviera that re-opened last year following extensive renovations. The hotel was profiled this spring by World Traveller magazine.

 

A short social media promotional clip for Kaliya, a much-anticipated new restaurant opening this summer in Fira, the capital of Santorini. Kaliya is among several sumptuous Santorini dining spots cited by World Travel magazine.

 

Where to stay, dine and drink: Each winter and spring, major newspapers and travel magazines publish articles describing new and noteworthy places to stay and visit in Greece, and this year they’ve done it again, even though the Covid-19 pandemic turned international travel planning upside down and left everyone wondering if there would even be a tourist season in 2020.  Would any of the hotels, resorts, restaurants and bars described in the travel media be able to open this year?

It looks like there might be part of a summer travel season after all, now that the Greek government has announced (on April 28) its plans for lifting lockdowns, gradually restarting the country’s economy, and possibly re-opening its tourism infrastructure and facilities as early as July. Although details about when — and which — foreign visitors will be allowed to enter Greece are still up in the air, it appears summer holiday travel to Greece will be a possibility for some people.

Given that hopeful prospect, we have compiled this post to highlight travel articles we have read over the past month during our own coronavirus home quarantine.   It’s a round-up of recommendations and travel reports for hotels, resorts, villas and restaurants in Greece that captured the attention of international travel media experts.

If you’re among the fortunate people who get to visit Greece this summer and experience any of the properties and establishments described in these publications, do drop us a line once you’re back home, to let us know how you enjoyed them.

 

 

The Times article about 30 best places to go in Greece

 

If you’re having trouble choosing where to go once Greece re-opens its borders to international tourists, The Times article 30 best places to stay might help you narrow your options. Then again, it could confuse you even more, since it describes so many outstanding accommodations to consider.

Whether it’s adults-only on Santorini, kid-friendly on Rhodes, eco-conscious on Crete, a rustic mountain retreat or a luxury hilltop villa, the newspaper’s top picks cover most travel lifestyles, though the list does lean mainly towards higher-end and design-forward hotels. 

Hotel, resort and villa recommendations on the newspaper’s list include the following Greek island regions:

♦ Crete

♦ Antiparos, Folegandros, Mykonos, Santorini, Serifos and Syros in the Cyclades island chain

♦ Corfu, Ithaca, Kefalonia, Kythira, and Lefkada in the Ionian group of islands 

♦ Hydra and Spetses in the Saronic Gulf

♦ Skiathos and Skopelos in the Sporadic isles, and

♦ Kos and Rhodes in the Dodecanese archipelago

For mainland Greece and the Peloponnese, the article suggests stylish accommodations for:

♦ The Athens Riviera

♦ Halkidiki

♦ Monemvasia, Nafplio and The Mani in the Peloponnese;

♦ Parga, Perdika, Sivota and the Zagorochoria areas of northwestern Greece.

 

Santorini hotels, restaurants and wineries

World Travel Magazine February-March 2020 cover

Canaves Oia Epitome luxury hotel was the shooting location for the cover photo for World Travel Magazine’s February/March 2020 issue

 

When Nasos Kouzelis wrote What’s New Santorini?,  tourism-related businesses on the island were excitedly preparing for the launch of the 2020 travel season. “In just a few days’ time,” he said, restaurants would be setting their tables and wineries would be polishing their glasses to welcome their first guests of the year. His article was originally published in the February/March 2020 edition of World Travel magazine, so Kouzelis would have submitted it to the editors weeks before Greece went into lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Those opening plans have since been put on ice, of course, and at this time no-one knows exactly when Santorini’s tourist season for international travellers will finally start.

But by the time that happens, there will be even more built-up anticipation for the opening of some eagerly-awaited new restaurants and hotels that Kouzelis describes, along with the return of some much-talked-about accommodations and dining spots that made their debuts in 2019.

Among the hot spots Kouzelis mentions:

♦ in Oia village: the Canaves Oia Epitome and its Elements restaurant, and the Andronis Arcadia Hotel and its Opson restaurant;

♦ in Imerovigli village: Cavo Tagoo Santorini hotel and its restaurant, OVAC, plus OMMA Santorini hotel and restaurant;

♦ in Fira, the island capital: Katikies Garden hotel, Panigiri Restaurant, and the brand-new Kaliya restaurant;

♦ at Monolithos beach: the Nikki Beach Santorini Resort & Spa;

♦ at Baxedes beach near Oia: the all-day lounge restaurant Laze;

Avantis Cellar Door winery and restaurant in Kontochori near Fira, and Mikra Thira winery on nearby Thirasia island.

The article is illustrated with beautiful pictures by Christos Drazos, one of the most sought-after professional hotel and restaurant photographers in Greece.

 

Please click on the link below to read about more travel publication profiles of hotels and restaurants on Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, Crete, Corfu, Rhodes, Ios and the Athens Riviera.

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Enticing video urges travellers to keep dreaming about going to Greece after the Covid-19 crisis

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Until the time is right, dream away! features 2 minutes of alluring natural scenery, monuments, and top tourist destinations in Greece

 

Dream on: Greece tourism officials have produced an inspiring video of sights, scenery and outdoor activities to encourage travellers to keep dreaming about taking a trip to Greece once the Covid-19 pandemic is over.

The 2-minute film,  Until the time is right, dream away!,  includes stunning aerial, ground-level and even underwater views of some of the country’s outstanding scenery, including mountains, rivers, valleys, beaches, coastlines, vineyards, monuments, historic sites, villages, cities and islands.

We recognized nearly two dozen places shown in the video — Chania, Loutro and Preveli on Crete, Corfu, Zakynthos, Mykonos, Paros, Santorini, Delos, Milos, Thassos, Skyros, Sounion, Athens and Thessaloniki — but couldn’t put place names to many more scenes that looked familiar.

The film may make you feel wistful, especially if the pandemic forced you to cancel plans to visit Greece this spring, as was the case with us. At the same time, however, it’s an inspiring reminder of all the amazing sights and places that will still be there, waiting to enthrall, excite and entertain us, once we can again travel to Greece.

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Related posts:

Greek tourism businesses urge travellers to ‘stay safe’ now, make plans to visit Greece later;

Beautiful places to see in Greece after the Covid-19 lockdowns and travel bans are lifted;

How to visit Greece during your Covid-10 quarantine;

Video spotlights spectacular Greece sights and scenery to send inspiring message

 

Our Covid-19 quarantine travel reads: Feature profiles of Athens, Thessaloniki, the Peloponnese & mainland Greece

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Kastoria city and lake photo from Issue 6 of Sky Express airlines Fly magazine

Kokkoras Bridge in Epirus Greece photo from Sky Express airlines Fly magazine Issue 6

These striking photos of the city of Kastoria in northern Greece and the historic Kokkoros Bridge in Epirus are from The White Issue of Fly, the magazine of Sky Express airline. The  picture-packed issue spotlights visit-worthy mainland Greece destinations that aren’t on typical tourist itineraries.

 

Armchair travels: Since we can’t take our scheduled spring trip to Greece because of Covid-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions, we have been travelling there vicariously — by reading magazine and newspaper articles about destinations, hotels, attractions and a wide variety of aspects of Greek life and tourism. Armchair travel lacks the thrill and pleasure of actually going to Greece, of course, but it’s a heck of a lot better than brooding about the cancellation of our 2020 holiday plans while we’re cooped up in home quarantine.

On the positive side, our time catching up on articles published over the past six months has been well spent, introducing us to incredible places in Greece we weren’t too familiar with, and giving us ideas and inspiration for trips we hope to take once the pandemic has passed and Greece re-opens its borders to international visitors.

Since the articles and photo profiles could be interesting and helpful to readers dreaming about their own future trips to Greece, we will be sharing our “quarantine travel reads” in a series of  blog posts, beginning with this one.

Destinations and topics profiled in this instalment include:

♦ Thessaloniki and the Halkidiki peninsula;

♦ Athens

♦ the southern Peloponnese, including Costa Navarino, the Mani and Monemvasia; and

♦ Impressive towns, villages and scenic areas in mainland Greece

 

Upcoming blog posts will spotlight:

♦ stylish luxury hotels and hot dining spots in Athens, Crete, Mykonos, Paros, and Santorini;

♦ travel writer accounts of trips to Athens and various Greek Islands, including Evia, Milos, Paros and Symi;

♦ Cretan food and the Mediterranean diet;

♦ mini guides to Greek islands, and more.

 

Athens and the southern Peloponnese

 

Bloomberg News article on Greece travel destinations

Dimitsana, a mountain village in Arcadia, is among the places writer Nikos Chrysoloras recommends visiting in the southern Peloponnese

 

“…there will be so much Greek paradise for you when this viral outbreak is behind us” says Nikos Chrysoloras, whose article The Greece I long to visit isn’t on your average travel brochure was published by Bloomberg News on April 24.

Greece does indeed abound with places people would consider paradise, but Chrysoloras devotes his article to describing a travel itinerary that will let visitors experience the true essence of Greece first in Athens and its surrounding area, and secondly during a scenic road trip through the southern Peloponnese peninsula.

A must-see in the historical center of Athens, he says, is Monastiraki Square, which “epitomizes my country perhaps more than any island or beach.” He recommends two rooftop bars overlooking the square, from which visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the Parthenon and other historic monuments. “It’s the weight of millennia packed in the space of a single block,” Chrysoloras notes. He also recommends a day trip along the Athens Riviera and a visit to the clifftop Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, famous for its sensational sunset view, which he describes as “Greece, Profound.” He also suggests specific places to drink and dine, so visitors planning to spend time in the city would be wise to bookmark the article for easy reference once in Athens.

For the Peloponnese portion of his suggested roadtrip, Chrysoloras recommends starting off in the area around the Costa Navarino resort and the incredible Voidokilia beach (which I wrote about in my blog post A bucket list visit to Voidokilia), and then exploring the rugged Mani region. “It’s a mountainous terrain with stone-built villages and very narrow roads leading to pebbled beaches. This area is the land of the ancient Spartans, people as defiant as history suggests.” Again, Chrysoloras recommends places to stay, dine, hike, swim and enjoy a drink with a fabulous sunset view.

From Mani, the drive continues to the castle town of Monemvasia, whose “medieval alleys are full of mystery and wonder, like a set that Game of Thrones producers ought to have used.” On the way back to Athens from there, Chrysoloras urges a detour to Dimitsana — his mother’s home town — “one of the most characteristic specimens of the mountainous side of Greece. Surrounded by conifer trees, you can enjoy unspoiled traditional stone architecture and hike in the area’s beautiful forests and nearby villages.” Although worth a look nearby is Panagia, a now-deserted village where Chrysoloras recommends a taverna that serves outstanding traditional dishes. 

 

Please click on the link below to continue reading on page 2, where we discuss excellent magazine articles about Thessaloniki, noteworthy destinations in mainland Greece, and fascinating places to explore in Athens.

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Beautiful places to see in Greece after the Covid-19 lockdowns and travel bans are lifted

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Filmmaker Anthony Venitis compiled drone footage from 30 places in Greece to create his “Proud to be Greek” salute to his country’s vast beauty

 

If you have had to postpone a trip to Greece because of the Covid-19 pandemic, filmmaker Anthony Venitis has a message — and a special 2-minute video — to share with you.

“Greece, as most countries, is under #lockdown but the time will soon come when our country will come back stronger and more colorful. The time will soon come when we will get to enjoy her beauties once more, together and united,” Venitis says in descriptive notes for an aerial video he has posted to his YouTube channel.

His film features drone video of 30 breathtaking Greek “beauties,” including historic monuments, mountains, beaches, harbours, tavernas, villages, olive groves, coastlines, lighthouses, sunrises and more.

The attractions and destinations with starring roles in the film include: the Acropolis of Athens and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion; lighthouses at Gytheio, Andros, Mykonos and Kea; a shipwreck at Gytheio; scenes from the islands of Santorini, Milos, Lefkada, Andros, Kefalonia, Mykonos, Kalymnos, Aegina and Hydra; scenes from the Pelion and Peloponnese regions; plus Kalavryta, Sparta and Monemvasia. The video concludes with images of a Greek flag on a hilltop at Sparta. (A list of the places shown, along with the exact times they appear in the video, can be found in the descriptive notes on the YouTube page.) 

Are you planning to see any of these beauties for yourself when you can eventually take your trip to Greece?

Experience Greece’s glorious off-season sights & scenery with winter walks and drives

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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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Heed the siren’s call for standout seafood & Greek food at Rafina

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Seirines restaurant at Rafina

Street view of Seirines (Sirens) restaurant on the harbourfront strip near the port of Rafina. (This photo, from the Seirines Facebook page, was originally posted on TripAdvisor with a 5-star rating by reviewer erythnul.)

 

Tempting tastes: If you find yourself feeling hungry while waiting for a ferry at Rafina port, or after arriving there on one, I recommend making your way directly to Seirines restaurant for a meal. You won’t be disappointed, especially if you enjoy fresh seafood.

Friends took us there for lunch last May when we had several hours to pass before catching a late afternoon ferry to Andros. They had assured us that Seirines would be a great spot to enjoy the first meal of our holiday after arriving in Greece on a long overnight flight from Canada, and they were absolutely right — it was perfect. With a harbour-view table on the taverna’s open-air terrace, and a nice variety of delicious seafood and Greek dishes, we could not have asked for a better “welcome back” to Greece.

The tremendously satisfying lunch and waterfront setting got our vacation off to a great start, and in retrospect may have been an omen of good food to follow  — over the next 16 days, we enjoyed the best dining of all our trips to Greece since 2004.

Our selection of dishes included feta, white fish roe dip (a richer and much less salty version of the pinkish-coloured taramasalata typically found on taverna menus), calamari, toasted bread, grilled calamari, grilled sardines, vegetable croquettes, and ouzo (for those of you who love ouzo or tsipouro, take note that Seirines is an ouzotsipouradiko, offering an extensive selection of the two spirits).

The dishes provided more than enough food for the four of us, and we barely managed to clear all the plates. Everything was good, but for me the fish roe dip and sardines were exceptional.  Although our friends picked up the tab and wouldn’t let me see the bill, they said the price for our lunch had been very reasonable. We will definitely go back to Seirines if any of our future travels take us through Rafina.

Seirines restaurant rAFINA

Seirines photo of platters with a selection of seafood and Greek food delights

 

But you don’t have to take only my word that Seirines is an ideal choice for dining near the port.  Check out the rave review that the New York City-based food blog Fritos and Foie Gras gave the restaurant in its photo-illustrated post, The Fish Lunch of My Dreams at Seirines, Rafina. (With its comments like “it’s impossible not to love this restaurant,” and “I would come back here in a heartbeat if I could,” you’ll see I have good company in highly recommending the restaurant. Be sure to click on the photos in the review to get a better look at the scrumptious dishes the writer enjoyed, including tzatziki, a country salad, a smoked and cured fish plate, and souvlaki-style shrimp.)

If you need more convincing, read the Seirines review in the article CB on the road: Eating in Rafina, which the international city dining blog Culinary Backstreets published less than two weeks before we discovered the restaurant.

You can read additional reviews on TripAdvisor, where Seirines is ranked as the #1 restaurant in Rafina.

Google Street View image of Seirines restaurant at Rafina Greece

This Google Street View image shows the close proximity of Seirines (left) to the Rafina ferry docks

The enchanting beauty of Athens

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Athens is a gorgeous 5-minute promotional video produced by Visit Greece, the website of the Greek National Tourism Organisation. With its fabulous high-definition and time-lapse photography showcasing top attractions and historic monuments in Greece’s capital city and points beyond, such as spectacular Cape Sounion and beautiful beaches on the Athens Riviera, it’s one of the best Athens videos I’ve ever seen.  Click the arrow on the image above to start the film and take “an enchanting trip around the beauties of Athens.” 

 

 

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

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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.

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