Category: Greek Island hiking (page 1 of 4)

Top Greece travel reads of 2019: Best articles, stories & profiles of Greek islands

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Tinos island as seen from a departing ferry

Chania harbourfront at sunset

Arkoi island ferry port

cliffs below Chora village on Folegandros island

Sarakiniko beach on Milos island

the western coast of Andros island IMG_1111

From the top: Tinos seen from a departing ferry; the Chania harbourfront at sunset; the small port pier at Arkoi; soaring cliffs beneath the whitewashed buildings of Chora village on Folegandros; rock formations at Sarakiniko beach on Milos; a mountain and beaches on the west coast of Andros. These are some of the places profiled in my favourite articles about Greek islands in 2019.

 

Magazine articles and newspaper stories about Greek Islands are the focus of this post, the latest instalment in my series of “best travel reads of 2019.”

The reports I have included in this list are the ones I liked the most last year because they me made wish I could rush right away to the island being discussed; taught me about interesting places, attractions and activities I wasn’t aware of previously; or provided thoughtful insights by exploring destinations from a unique and captivating perspective. Some are educational; some are inspirational; others are simply fascinating or fun to read.

 

Though they were published during 2019, all of the reports and profiles are worthwhile reads for anyone planning or thinking about a trip to one or more of the islands either this year or sometime in the near future.  They provide helpful practical information about intriguing things to see and do,  suggest areas to stay in or specific accommodations to consider, and offer ideas for discovering and experiencing the unique local character, history and features of each island. I have included links to the online source of the articles so readers can bookmark the ones that interest them for further reference.

The islands featured in my best articles round-up are:

♦ Amorgos, Andros,Folegandros, Ios, Kea, Milos, Paros, Santorini, Serifos, Syros and Tinos in the Cyclades;

♦ Ikaria in the eastern Aegean;

♦ Arki in the Dodecanese; and

♦ Crete

I’ve listed the articles in alphabetical order by island name so readers can easily scroll to a specific destination that interests them.

— Amorgos —

Screenshot of National Geographic article about Sister Irini on Amorgos

Screenshot of National Geographic article about Sister Irini on Amorgos

 

A highlight of our trip to Amorgos back in 2009 was a visit to the island’s best-known monument, the Chozoviotissa Monastery. Founded in the 11th Century, the whitewashed, fortress-like edifice clings to the face of a rugged cliff hundreds of meters above the sea. It is such an incredible sight, my first glimpse of the brilliant white building literally took my breath away.  I’m still so fascinated by Chozoviotissa that I get excited whenever I see photos of it on my Instagram feed, or find video views of it on YouTube.

While I’m certain we will pay it another visit next time we return to Amorgos, there’s a much newer monastery I’m equally keen to see. It didn’t exist when we travelled to the island, and I didn’t learn about it until I read Meet the tourist who became the only nun on Amorgos, a National Geographic piece published on January 17 2019. 

 

 

Written by Terri Steel, the article is an engaging story of transformation — a profile of a woman who decides to turn her life in a totally new direction while restoring a derelict church property into a lush garden “paradise” now known as Agios Georgios Valsamitis Monastery.

“She first came to the island as a young mother and wife 35 years ago; after her husband passed, she chose a new path. Her name is Sister Irini, now, and she remains Amorgos’s only nun,” Steel writes, noting that Sister Irini took her vows as a Greek Orthodox nun in 2011. 

“Seven years ago, Sister Irini began transforming a long-abandoned monastery into an oasis. Visitors come throughout the year to walk her bountiful garden lined with Byzantine frescoes, to hear her story, and to purchase her magnificent paintings of religious icons.”

Steel relates part of the sister’s story, outlines how the nun spends her days and speculates on how the “heavenly landscape” of Amorgos may have encouraged Sister Irini to pursue a simple, holy life there.

The article is illustrated with images of beautiful Amorgos sights and scenes captured by photographer Chiara Goia.

 

— Andros —

Screenshot of Conde Nast Traveller September 2019 article about Andros island

 

In 2019, prolific travel writer Rachel Howard penned two feature articles about Andros — one for Conde Nast Traveller magazine (top), the other for The Sunday Times newspaper (below).

 

Screenshot of Rachel Howard Sunday Times article about hiking on Andros island

 

Andros is a big island, and we knew we would barely scratch the surface when we spent six days there in late May of 2015, even though we split our stay between towns on opposite sides of the island. Last year, when I read two revelatory articles about Andros, it really hit home just how much we didn’t get to see or experience. I felt hugely disappointed when I realized we had missed some of the island’s best features.

Both stories were written by Rachel Howard, for different publications.

The first, Andros: Greece’s hidden hiking hotspot, was published January 27 2019 in The Sunday Times.   

Noting that Andros is a lush, mountainous isle, Howard observes that the “forested peaks are ribboned with streams and ravines careen down to wetlands teeming with wildlife. One third of it is a nature reserve, there are dozens of stone villages camouflaged in the hills and it has about 70 beaches, many of the best accessible only by boat or on foot. So it’s hardly surprising that Andros is carving out a niche as a year-round hiking destination.”

Hiking is what drew Howard to the island — she spent several days walking segments of the island’s 200-mile network of footpaths, many of which have been cleared and waymarked by the Andros Routes volunteer organization.

She describes trekking a circular route in Livadia, “a valley dotted with magnificent manor houses, where some of Greece’s most illustrious shipping families hole up for the summer,” gentler walks from the Ktima Lemonies guesthouse estate to the villages of Lamyra and Menites and to the island capital, Chora, and a 6-mile trail from the mountain village of Vourkoti to remote Achla beach. 

“Venture towards the highlands and you’ll stumble upon abandoned watermills, medieval watchtowers and cascading waterfalls. It’s easy to imagine Pan charging through the woods, but you’re more likely to meet a farmer threshing with an ox or frying sausages and potatoes in pork fat in an outdoor wood-fired oven,” Howard says.

 

Although we did some scenic walks during our own Andros visit, we didn’t get to explore any of the specific paths Howard talked about, or any of the trails marked and maintained by Andros Routes.  I’d love to get back to Andros to check some of them out, and perhaps attend one of the programs at Melisses guesthouse, located above Paleopolis Bay on the west coast of Andros.  Howard says bloggers and authors visit Melisses “to present cooking workshops and creative retreats such as illustration and travel photography, hosted by Allegra Pomilio, a glamorous Italian food stylist and a wonderful cook.” An Andros holiday with plenty of scenic walks and the opportunity to attend a creative retreat would be right up my alley.

Howard’s second article, Is this Greece’s undiscovered island? appeared in the September 2019 edition of Conde Nast Traveller magazine. Unlike the previous story, which focussed on island walks, this report is a more general overview of the island’s recent history as well as its top sights and leading attractions.

Howard notes that three Greek shipping dynasties — the Embiricos, Goulandris and Polemis families — put Andros on the map in the early 20th Century.  These wealthy families shared some of their largesse locally: They “paved the streets in marble, built imposing mansions and museums filled with billion-dollar art,” constructed the island’s first high school and hospital, and built a beautiful retirement home.

“Because the island’s shipping families used patronage as a show of power, Chora has an embarrassment of cultural riches. There’s an archaeological museum, a maritime museum, the Kaireios library with archives stretching back to the 16th century, and an open-air theatre where Pandelis Voulgaris, one of Greece’s most accomplished directors, stages the Andros International Festival, a summer-long celebration of the arts,” Howard notes.

Since  shipping was the island’s primary source of employment and income for so long, Andros didn’t have to begin  developing a local tourism industry until just a few decades ago. Tourist traffic is now picking up as more people learn of the island’s scenic hiking opportunities, and visit to see its lush natural greenery and “densely wooded hills and ravines” — features they won’t find on other islands in the Cyclades.

“Divided by four towering mountain ranges, the landscape is surprisingly varied and the weather can change around each bend. One moment it looks and feels like Tuscany, the next the Scottish Highlands. Watermills, dovecotes and watchtowers materialise in misty valleys,” Howard says. “Andros has plentiful springs and streams, waterfalls and wetlands. Every village has a communal marble washbasin fed by ice-cold mountain water. Venturing deeper into the mountains, carved fountains in village squares give way to waterfalls cascading through forests of chestnut, white poplar, oak and maple,” she adds.

If you have been to the Cyclades before but haven’t yet seen Andros, try adding it to your next island-hopping itinerary; you’ll find it’s a striking contrast from the arid brown landscapes dotted with whitewashed villages that are so characteristic of its neighbouring isles.

Please click on the link below to continue reading island profiles on page 2 of this post.

 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

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Quietly spectacular Skyros

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Enjoy aerial views of the island’s wonderful coastal, mountain, valley and village scenery in the film Skyros 2018 by Skylens (above),  in Skyros – Cinematic Travel Video in 4K by Andre Eckhardt Films (center), and in Skyros – Greece by TreeZone (below) 

 

 

 

~ Editor’s note: This article was updated on September 27 2018 with the addition of the Skyros 2018 video, and on October 2 2019 with the addition of the Skyros Cinematic Travel Video posted above ~

 

Real deal: Want to visit an authentic Greek island that isn’t a mainstream tourist magnet like Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini, or even its nearby neighbour, Skiathos? Then have a look at Skyros, the southernmost and largest island in the Sporades archipelago. Skyros has everything you would want and expect from a great Greek island holiday destination — impressive landscapes and coastal scenery, inviting beaches, picturesque villages, historic sites, good food, and age-old local traditions — without the massive crowds and commerciality of other islands that have become household names around the world.

Though it is becoming increasingly popular with visitors from around the world, and has an international airport that receives direct charter flights from several European cities during July and August, Skyros is a relatively low-profile destination that isn’t even on the radar for most tourists planning vacations in the Greek islands.

In fact, there were only 3 question-and-answer threads posted on TripAdvisor’s Skyros travel forum in all of 2015, and just 10 in total since 2010. The Skiathos forum, by comparison, had  more than 6,100 conversation threads as of mid-May 2016.

 

 

 

With so much going for the island, It’s rather surprising that Skyros doesn’t get more attention from travellers — especially considering that it gets good press whenever it’s mentioned in social and regular media.

For instance, Skyros was cited as the best destination for alternative travel and holistic holidays in The Telegraph’s January 2016 feature The 19 best Greek islands, and was included in a piece the Independent published about Holidays for single travellers. Also in January, The Irish Examiner published A letter from paradise on the Greek island of Skyros, a journalist’s account of her writing holiday. And in 2015, Thomas Cook Airlines named Skyros as best destination for “healthy lifestyle holidays” in its profile of Greece’s top 10 islands.

Perhaps it’s a good thing Skyros hasn’t become hugely popular — that means it will remain a unique and special place to charm and delight those travellers who do venture off the main tourist paths to pay it a visit. (And that’s one of the chief reasons why Skyros is on my bucket list of islands to see.)

Skyros photo from sail-la-vie.com

Built on the steep slopes of a craggy peak topped by a Byzantine fortress and a  monastery, Chora village is a striking sight on Skyros (Photo from the Municipality of Skyros travel guide)

 

Please continue reading on page 2, where you’ll find more pictures and videos along with links to more than a dozen different websites with Skyros travel information and photos.

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In the works: ‘Street views’ of Crete’s trekking trails

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This 16-minute videoclip shows several popular hiking routes on Crete being photographed for Google Trekker — a version of the popular Street View feature on Google Maps

 

Crete on foot: Hiking enthusiasts may soon see what Crete’s trekking paths look like without having to take a single step on any of the trails.

The Region of Crete and Google are participating in a project to photograph some of Crete’s major hiking routes for Google Trekker, a version of the company’s popular Street View app that lets people take virtual tours of places from their computers and mobile devices. The Trekker program has an ambitious goal of mapping the world — including out-of-the-way and hard-to-reach places where camera-equipped vehicles can’t travel. Footpaths are filmed by hikers who walk the routes wearing a backpack equipped with Google Trekker photography equipment.

The video above was published on the Region of Crete YouTube page in January, and shows a hiker mapping trails in several areas across the island, including Agia Roumeli, Psiloritis, the Asterousia Mountains, the Lassithi Plateau, and Agios Nikolaos.

 

There were no notes accompanying the video to indicate when the various trails will be available for viewing on Google Maps, but the 16-minute film will be interesting to hikers planning trips to Crete since it shows what the terrain and scenery are like on some of the routes, and gives a good impression of the degree of difficulty on the different trails.

Sifnos, another Greek island that’s popular for trekkers and walkers, already has four of its scenic hiking routes available for viewing on Google Maps, as I reported in my recent post Sifnos: A Walker’s Paradise.

If you’d like to take a virtual trek along some of the Sifnos paths to see what the experience is like, and get an idea of what the Crete Trekker views will be like when they’re available,  click here. 

Considering Corfu?

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Take a 3-minute aerial cruise above Corfu in this newly-released video, produced on behalf of the island’s port authority

 

Video vacation: I feel like I have just taken an extensive and exhausting (but in a good way) sightseeing trip to Corfu — even though I haven’t been there yet. And courtesy of several online videos I’ve been watching the past couple of days, it’s entirely possible that I may have just seen more of the island from here at home than I might have been able to see had I actually been on Corfu for the same period of time.

On March 14, a link to Corfu, the Garden of Gods (above) popped up in my social media news feeds, and I watched the film a few times.  The three-minute aerial video was shared by Vangelis Koulouris,  who said the short clip “was created for the Port Authority of Corfu with a view to highlight the unique environment and the multicultural history of Corfu island.”

The film features soaring views of Corfu’s lush landscapes, its picturesque coastlines and beaches, the island’s beautiful capital (also called Corfu), and cruise ships calling at its port. Corfu is, of course, one of the top Greek island destinations for cruise ships, so a video by its port authority just wouldn’t seem complete without at least a few passenger liners appearing in the picture.

 

 

As tends to happen whenever I find something interesting on social media, one thing led to another — and before long I had compiled a playlist of several more Corfu videos to view.  But except for Garden of the Gods, and another 3-minute clip, the other films weren’t as short and sweet — with run times ranging from 10 and 24 minutes to nearly two hours, they were the equivalent of watching a few evenings of TV programs. But I considered it “time well wasted,” as the saying goes.

It’s time some of you might wish to spend, too, should you be considering Corfu for an upcoming or future vacation — or should you simply want to see what the island is all about. To that end, I have posted some of the videos below. Four of the six films (including the one above) were  published just within the last several weeks, while two were released last year. What I appreciated most about the videos is that they either show or tell you the names of places you’re looking at — something all too many travel videos fail to do. 

If you manage to make it through all the clips, you’ll probably feel like you’ve just gone to the island, too — or attended a Corfu film festival!

 

My Corfu in 3 minutes is a quick-view highlight version of the considerably longer My Corfu, which is posted directly below.  Produced by Petros Kapsokavadis and the Oasis Hotel in Perama, it’s intended for viewers who don’t have enough time to watch the full-length clip.

 

This is the full 24-minute My Corfu video by Petros Kapsokavadis and the Oasis hotel. Most of the clip is aerial videography of places all around the island, but there is a segment showing part of the Corfu Mountain Trail footpath from Perama to Gastouri. 

 

Corfu — the island of eternal returns is a 10-minute film released just this month by the Mouzenidis Group of companies. A guide takes viewers on a tour of many of Corfu’s marvellous attractions, sights and scenery while describing highlights of the island’s history.

 

Corfu Coast Line is an aerial tour around the Corfu coast. The 48-minute film is a project of Corfu Benitses, the Association for Culture and Redevelopment of Benitses, a fishing village 12 km from Corfu city. 

 

The Corfu Vacation Travel Video Guide title says it all! Nearly 58 minutes long, the informative narrated film is a production of Exposa Travel.

 

My Movie Corfu Trail clocks in at 1 hour and 50 minutes but it is, after all, a video diary of a 10-day, 150-mile trek around the island that Tim Beal and a friend took last September.  “It is a fantastic walk and should be a tonic for all who like fine views, fine food and great people. Take two weeks out and walk Corfu… you will love it!” Tim says. If you don’t have the energy to attempt the walk yourself, simply sit back and watch Tim and his friend do it instead!

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