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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

 

Lonely Planet’s April issue looks at ‘legendary’ Crete and 15 other Greek Islands

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Cover of the April 2020 edition of Lonely Planet travel magazine

The cover of Lonely Planet‘s April issue promises to help readers find a perfect Greek Island holiday destination

 

Island profiles: Wondering where to take a holiday in Greece if Covid-19 quarantines and lockdowns get lifted in time to permit a trip sometime during the summer or fall? If you think an island might be the best place to de-stress once the pandemic has passed, Lonely Planet magazine has some excellent suggestions for you to ponder.

The travel publication’s April 2020 edition spotlights a selection of 15 household-name and lesser-known isles in its cover feature, Find your perfect Greek Island: Secret experiences the locals love, from Anafi to Zakynthos

“Here we outline the most original slow-travel experiences across the Aegean and Ionian Seas, from local festivals to hidden beaches — and beyond,” writer Oliver Smith explains in his introduction to the 12-page guide.

The piece profiles Folegandros, Hydra, Symi, Tinos, Chios, Zakynthos, Paros and Antiparos, Sifnos, Milos, Skiathos, Anafi, Ikaria, Kea and Limnos, providing a brief island description, suggesting accommodations to consider, and noting how to reach each island. Beautiful, full-colour photos illustrate an enticing place or sight in each destination.

 

 

The magazine also includes Gods’ Own Country, a 12-page feature story about Greece’s biggest island, Crete. 

“Beyond the harbours and white-sand beaches of Crete lies a land rich in history and myth, home to deities and monsters from the Minotaur to the thunder-god Zeus himself. We embark on a quest to discover this island’s legendary legacy,” Christa Larwood writes in the article introduction.

Both articles are interesting reads, and the stunning photos that accompany them will certainly provide a welcome distraction from the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

If you can’t find the April magazine at a retail outlet or a library, you can order a copy or purchase a digital download for your tablet or smartphone directly from the publisher. 

Screenshot of Greek Island guide in the April 2020 edition of Lonely Planet travel magazine

Illustrated with enticing photography, the magazine’s Treasured Islands feature suggests 15 places to consider for a “slow travel” experience

 

Screenshot of feature article about Crete in the April 2020 edition of Lonely Planet travel magazine

The feature article Gods’ Own Country takes readers on a journey across Crete, from the scenic seaports of Chania and Rethymno to the Samaria Gorge, the Palace of Knossos, and the Lasithi Plateau.

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.

 

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