Looking toward nearby Paros island (upper left) from Mikri Vigla beach on Naxos. Click the photo to view a full-size image.
The Seajets passenger ferry Superjet enters Parikia Bay as it heads to port at Paros island on October 13 2013
The town of Parikia looms larger as Superjet approaches the ferry quay. I shot the photos above, as well as two of the videos below, from the Blue Star Ferries ship Paros as it departed Parikia en route to Athens.
This is a short clip of Superjet that I shot from the Blue Star Paros.
This video (Part 1 of 2) shows views of Parikia and some of its waterfront on the south side of the port. I shot this clip from a deck of the Blue Star Paros as it approached and prepared to dock at Parikia en route from Naxos to Piraeus.
This is the second clip I shot from the Blue Star ferry. It shows parts of Parikia and the bay on the north side of the port.
For a completely different perspective, here’s a video shot from land, showing the Paros docking at Parikia. It was filmed by YouTube member Steffen Mork.
A Mythos beer and Greek salad … part of our afternoon “snack” at Paradiso Taverna during one of our Naxos beach walks in October 2013
Good eats: In my recent post Our best hotel experiences of 2013, I described the various places we stayed at in Mykonos, Ios, Naxos and Glyfada during our two trips to Greece last year. Today it’s time to talk about the food we ate while we were there.
We love to eat, and one of the reasons we keep going back to Greece is that we immensely enjoy the food there, whether it’s traditional Greek cooking, salads or vegetarian fare, grilled meats or fish, seafood or international cuisine.
We eat well on our holidays, and we always come home wishing we could recreate some of the most memorable meals in our own kitchen. We try, but the recipes either never turn out right or we simply can’t replicate the wonderful tastes and flavours we enjoyed so much in Greece. And, of course, that’s largely because we can’t possibly reproduce the unique charm and character or the extraordinary locations of the places where we had dinners or drinks — or even just a cup of coffee.
Last year, we had remarkable meals or drinks at dozens of different restaurants, bars and cafés. Individual dishes at certain places were outstanding, while in other instances it was the physical premises or scenic location of a particular restaurant that gave us a dining experience we won’t soon forget.
Below are descriptions of the restaurants, bars meals and drinks that impressed us the most — our best food and drink experiences of 2013.
Best beach taverna
Nikolas Taverna on Mykonos and Paradiso Taverna on Naxos (Tie)
Paradiso Taverna has over a dozen tables grouped around a tree on Maragas beach on Naxos. This is one of the most-photographed sights on the island, and this scene has even been featured on Naxos postcards.
Nikolas Taverna also has tables on the sand, in this case at little Agia Anna beach between Platis Gialos and Paraga on Mykonos. The trees shade the tables part of the day, but there are more seats on the sheltered outdoor terrace (left) for people who don’t want to sit in the sun.
One of the things we like most about Greece, and especially its islands, is the opportunity to have a “Shirley Valentine” moment — that is, enjoy a drink or meal right next to the sea, at a table either on a sandy beach or on a terrace mere inches from the water. It’s something we can never do at home, where strict government liquor laws and rigid municipal licensing regulations require restaurants serving alcohol to keep their dining areas enclosed by fences or waist-high barriers — and well away from the water’s edge.
So we’re thrilled when we find tavernas that have open seating close to the water — especially if those tables offer views of marvellous scenery or striking sunsets. And if the restaurant kitchens happen to serve delicious food, too, we will feel like we’re in paradise.
Superb food and good service
Two remarkable places that we have particularly enjoyed on past vacations are Nikolas Taverna at Agia Anna/Paraga on Mykonos, and Paradiso Taverna at Maragas beach on Naxos. Both have provided consistently good service and superb food, as well as exquisite settings, and both lived up to our high expectations for more of the same when we paid them repeat visits during our holidays in 2013.
The family-run Nikolas Taverna is situated on a small, quiet strand between Platis Gialos and Paraga, two of the most popular beaches on Mykonos. Our favourite place to sit is at one of the tables on the sand, under the row of trees in front of the restaurant. There are nice views toward Platis Gialos, and the setting is profoundly serene and relaxed … it’s a pleasant spot to mellow out while enjoying the fabulous home-cooked Greek cuisine or fresh seafood.
Paradiso Taverna is situated at Maragas, in between two of the most popular beaches on Naxos — Plaka and Agia Anna. Paradiso has a large, tree-sheltered dining terrace in front of the restaurant building, and more tables directly across the road, under a distinctive, eye-catching tree right on the beach. Both spots offer excellent views of the beach, sea and nearby Paros island, and both are good places to watch a sunset, too. The food is as delicious as the scenery.
If you get the chance to visit either Nikolas or Paradiso for a meal, don’t just order off the printed menu — take a few minutes to go inside the kitchen to see the various vegetable, meat and seafood dishes that have been specially prepared for that day. Everything will look appealing, so don’t be surprised if you have trouble deciding what to order!
Two new beach tavernas we discovered
Mikri Vigla Taverna at Parthenos beach on Naxos
Honourable mention goes to two beach tavernas we discovered for the first time in 2013 and hope to revisit in the near future.
We stopped into Mikri Vigla Taverna just for a cold drink and a snack while mountain biking down the southwest coast of Naxos on October 6. We ordered only a Greek salad since we weren’t very hungry, but when we saw the food in the kitchen — as well as what people at the tables next to ours were being served — we regretted that we didn’t have bigger appetites. Everything looked tasty, portions appeared to be quite generous, and all the customers kept commenting on how good their meals were. It was the last day the taverna was open for the season, and the staff kept apologizing for having only a “small” selection of items to choose from. However, we were impressed with the large number of dishes that actually were available — we would have been spoiled for choice had we wanted a more substantial meal.
On October 14, we went to Aperanto Galazio with two friends from the Athens area. The restaurant is located on the beach at Varkiza, a town on the Athens Riviera. We sat on the shaded outdoor dining terrace just steps from the sand, enjoying the beach and sea views while we dined on eight delicious items, including taramosalata (a fish roe dip), Greek salad, stuffed tomatoes, zucchini fritters, calamari, fried potatoes and red and white wine. The food was excellent, the service was great, and the total price was a very pleasant surprise: just €35. We had been expecting the lunch to cost considerably more given the substantial amount of food we had ordered.
Aperanto Galazio restaurant at Varkiza beach on the Athens Riviera
Please click on the link below to see dozens more photos and restaurant reviews on page 2 of this post.
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Looking toward the Grotta district of Naxos Town from the Palatia peninsula at Naxos island. Naxos was our favourite Greek holiday destination in 2013.
Eclectic list: You could consider this a different sort of trip report. Rather than write a routine, day-by-day account of our two holidays in Greece in 2013, I have decided to mix things up and have a bit of fun compiling an eclectic “best of 2013” list instead.
In May, we island-hopped to Mykonos, Ios and Naxos before moving to the mainland for a weekend meet-up with friends in the Glyfada suburb of Athens. During a second holiday in October we spent two weeks on Naxos, then visited friends in Glyfada and Athens for two days. We had a great time at each place we visited during the two trips, but since Naxos was our overwhelming favourite, we named it our 2013 Destination of the Year, as regular readers will have noticed in my December 31 2013 post.
But there were special things we particularly enjoyed at each destination. Some, like features of the various hotels where we stayed and the restaurants where we dined, or attractions that we visited, were significant elements of our holidays. Others were interesting or quirky things we observed or encountered — minor aspects of our vacations, but still part of what made the two trips so much fun.
I thought that information about those various good things might provide useful insight into our destinations for people who haven’t been to them before, and perhaps even for people who have. So I have compiled the highlights into this “Best of 2013” holiday round-up. I have organized the “bests” into three categories: Hotels; Food & Drink; and Activities & Attractions. Today’s post profiles the best elements of our hotel accommodations, while separate posts about our best Food & Drink experiences, as well as our favourite Activities & Attractions, will follow soon.
Mylopotas beach, as seen from Katerina Hotel on Ios. This was just part of the marvellous view we enjoyed from the hotel during our May holiday. Turn to page 2 of this post to continue reading and see more photos of all the hotels we stayed at during our two trips to Greece in 2013.
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One of many coves along the scenic Apollo coast, southeast of Athens, where locals and visitors can enjoy sun, sea and serenity
Beach alternatives: You don’t have to travel to an island to enjoy beautiful beaches and coastal swimming spots in Greece — you can find them in spades on the mainland, including the scenic Saronic Gulf coast a short drive from Athens.
Popularly known as the Apollo Coast and the Athens Riviera, the more than 70-kilometer-long stretch of seafront between Piraeus and Cape Sounion boasts scores of beaches and swimming spots, with an extensive variety of public and private beach facilities catering to all tastes, budgets and lifestyles. Many are easy to reach from Athens either by car, by the city’s tram system, or by public bus.
And for those who prefer to avoid busy organized beaches, there are plenty of secluded coves and inlets offering places to swim or suntan in peace and quiet — or even in nothing at all.
When we visited Athens last year, we noticed that many beach clubs and public strands along the Apollo Coast were packed with people. We could only imagine how crowded they must get during the summer when practically everyone in the city would head to the seaside to beat the heat.
Both in May and again during our return trip to Greece in October, friends who live in Athens took us for drives along the Apollo Coast, stopping to show us some of the popular beach areas including public strands to which admission was free, as well as several private clubs that charge entry fees of around 5 or 7 Euros and up per person.
A peninsula on the Apollo Coast just a short drive south of Vouliagmeni. The rocky shoreline is popular with sunbathers and swimmers — especially nudists — who want to avoid the crowded public and private beaches along the Athens Riviera.
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The enormous marble entrance for the never-completed Temple of Apollo greets visitors arriving by sea at Naxos island in the Cyclades. Also known as the Portara, the monument is an internationally-recognized symbol of Naxos island.
Something for everyone: If you’re trying to find a Greek holiday destination that ticks practically every box on even the pickiest traveller’s checklist of “must have’s” and “must see’s,” take a closer look at Naxos.
The largest island in the Cyclades, Naxos is equally big on the number of activities and attractions it offers visitors of all ages and lifestyles. From beautiful beaches to mountain villages; a vibrant port town with an historic castle and Old Market district; monuments, ruins and museums; excellent dining and nightlife; accommodations to suit any budget; walking trails, water sports and mountain biking; stunning scenery and sunsets; plus sightseeing excursions and tours both on and off the island, Naxos has it all.
Whether you’re planning to visit for three days or three weeks, you’ll never run out of things to do — if anything, you’ll probably wind up wishing you had more time to spend on the island.
What’s more, Naxos is surprisingly easy on the pocketbook, with reasonable prices for food, accommodations and entertainment.
All those are precisely the reasons why we named Naxos as our Greek Holiday Destination of the Year for 2013 (see our December 31 2013 post for more about that).
Click on the link below to continue reading and to see dozens of photos that illustrate our Top 15 reasons to visit Naxos, including:
♦ Ease of getting to the island;
♦ Wide range of accommodation options;
♦ Suitability for travellers of all ages and holiday lifestyles;
♦ Its fascinating main town, built below a medieval castle;
♦ Dozens of beautiful mountain villages and seaside settlements;
♦ Historic archaeological sites, monuments and museums;
♦ An extensive array of places to eat delicious local specialties and Greek cuisine;
♦ Hiking, adventure sports and recreation opportunities galore;
♦ Spectacular scenery and sunsets;
♦ Cultural events, entertainment and nightlife;
♦ Fantastic beaches;
♦ Shopping and local products;
♦ Good local transportation services;
♦ Friendly residents
♦ Tours and boat excursions to other nearby islands
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This vantage point on Stelida mountain offers a breathtaking view toward Naxos Town and the rugged mountains rising behind it on the northeast side of St George’s Bay. Click on the photo to view a larger image.
Favourite destination: As 2013 draws to a close and the winter days and nights keep getting colder, we’re already thinking ahead to spring and trying to decide which places we might visit in Greece on our next vacation. We’re also thinking about the two holidays we took this past year. In fact, we’re still sorting out the thousands of photos and dozens of videos we shot on the trips. It might take me all winter to upload the pictures to the MyGreeceTravelBlog Flickr page!
Our 2-week May vacation took us to three islands — Mykonos, Ios, and Naxos — as well as to Glyfada and the Apollo coast southeast of Athens on the Greek mainland. For our return holiday in October, we expected to visit two islands, but wound up spending 12 days on Naxos alone, followed by two days in Glyfada and Athens.
We had a terrific time everywhere we went, but we just can’t stop talking about how much we loved Naxos. We had enjoyed the island during holidays in 2005, 2006 and 2009, but this year were pleasantly surprised by the great extent to which Naxos won our hearts and admiration.
Family, friends and acquaintances have always asked which place in Greece we like the most, and until now we had to say that several islands shared that honour, since we didn’t have a hands-down favourite. But that has changed. After two fabulous trips to Naxos in 2013, we’ll be telling people it’s our #1 place to visit in Greece.
So why do we like Naxos so much, and why have we picked it as Destination of the Year for 2013?
So much to see and do
The main reason is that Naxos offers visitors an extensive variety of activities and attractions. Even though we have now been there five separate times, we feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface, leaving plenty more new things to see and do on future visits.
Naxos is one of those rare places that has wide appeal for virtually every kind of traveller — singles, couples or families, the young and old alike, food lovers, history and nature buffs, and outdoor sports enthusiasts.
The island is easy to reach on direct Olympic Air flights from Athens, and is connected to the city and to other islands in the Cyclades by regular car and passenger ferry service. Once you’re there, an array of accommodations await, from camping and basic rooms to self-catering studios, luxury villas, hotels and resorts. There’s an equally diverse selection of cafés, restaurants and shopping, plus bars, clubs and concert performances for visitors seeking nightlife and cultural entertainment.
For those fascinated by history and archaeology, the island boasts numerous museums and scores of monuments and ruins. Sightseers can easily spend days exploring vibrant and historic Naxos Town, visiting the island’s many charming mountain villages and settlements, or photographing the stunning Naxian scenery and sunsets.
Active travellers can hike dozens of footpaths and trails or go mountain biking (either on their own, or on organized group excursions), while water sports enthusiasts can swim, snorkel, windsurf, kitesurf, sail or dive to their hearts’ content at the island’s many outstanding beaches.
And for tourists who want to see how other Greek islands compare, daytrips are available to Delos, Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, Amorgos, Koufonissi and Iraklia, while private boat tours, sunset cruises and fishing expeditions can be arranged as well.
In the weeks to come, I’ll be telling you a lot more about Naxos, and will be posting hundreds of photos of this beautiful and amazing island. Keep checking back to see why MyGreeceTravelBlog.com has selected Naxos as Destination of the Year for 2013!
The medieval-era kastro (castle) dominates the skyline of Naxos Town, seen here from a wide sandy beach on the south side of Agios Georgios Bay
We just got home from a 2-week visit to Naxos a few days ago. We’re suffering tremendous jet lag, and really miss being in gorgeous Greece, but at least we have thousands of photos we can view to take our mind off the miserable fall weather at home. I’ll be sharing many of those pictures with you in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, I can summarize Naxos in just one word: Amazing!