Category: Sikinos

20 alluring, authentic and quieter alternatives to the major tourist islands in Greece

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Tourlitis lighthouse ancient Kastro and mansions of Chora on Andros island

Port city of Ermoupoli on Syros island

Views of the Tourlitis lighthouse, the ancient Kastro ruins, and mansions overlooking the seaside at Chora on Andros (top photo); and the stunning port city of Ermoupoli on Syros (bottom). Andros and Syros are among 20 islands Greece Is magazine recommends as alternatives to crowded mainstream places like Mykonos and Santorini.

 

It’s understandable why many people planning a first-time trip to the Greek Islands quickly feel overwhelmed by the task of arranging their itineraries — there are so many isles to choose from, and all of them look and sound amazing based on pictures and descriptions in brochures, magazines and online travel sites.  How can you possibly tell which ones would be the best choices for what you would like to see and do during your vacation?

The dilemma of selecting ideal destinations doesn’t get much easier for repeat island hoppers, either, if they’re hoping to discover someplace new rather than revisit isles they have already experienced.

 

I had expected my bucket list of must-see islands would gradually shrink after each trip to Greece, but it keeps growing longer. Whenever we visit a dream destination, locals and fellow travellers tell us wonderful things about nearby places we haven’t considered before, and those inevitably get added to the list. 

I’m resigned to the reality that I won’t get to see everything I want unless I live well past 100!

But thanks to a helpful article published by the Greece Is magazine and website on January 3,  I will be able to quickly narrow down my options whenever I’m seeking islands that aren’t super-commercial or bursting at the seams with thousands of tourists and cruise ship daytrippers (something we’ve been striving to do on recent holidays!). 

view toward Ano Meria and the Panagia Church on Folegandros island

A view toward the village of Hora and the stunning clifftop Panagia Church on Folegandros, another island recommended as a great alternative to the busiest tourist isles

 

In the feature story 20 Alternative Islands to visit in 2020, writer Paulina Kapsali has profiled “off the tourist-beaten path” islands that will be ideal for avoiding the crushing summer crowds of perenially popular tourist magnets like Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Kos and Corfu.

Each of her selected destinations will offer a quieter, less busy and more authentically Greek island experience than any of the mainstream tourist draws, “whether you’re looking for a typical Cycladic island to enjoy without the hordes of tourists, a historically significant location that none of your cultured coworkers have heard of, or a remote place to spend days on the beach without the pressure of any human interaction” she says. 

 

The 20 islands that Kapsali singles out can be found in five distinct regions of Greece:

♦  the Lasithi area of eastern Crete, and Gavdos island south of Crete;

♦   the Northeastern Aegean islands of Limnos, Psara, Samothraki and Skyros;

♦ the Dodecanese islands Astypalea, Halki, Karpathos, Kastellorizo and Kasos;

♦  Kythira island south of the Peloponnese; and

♦ the Cyclades islands Andros, Folegandros, Kea, Kimolos, Kythnos, Sikinos, Syros and Tinos.

The article includes a photo and brief description of each island, transport options to reach them, and links to any feature stories that Greece Is has published on that particular place. 

We have been to five of the spots Kapsali recommends  — Andros, Astypalea, Folegandros, Syros and Tinos — and I have illustrated this blog post with photos that we took on each of those islands.  Most of the other islands she suggests are already on our list for future travel.

Click here to read the full write-up of what Kapsali calls “20 island destinations you’ll be the first of your friends to visit in 2020.”

And if you haven’t already done so, be sure to bookmark the Greece Is website while you’re reading the article. I find it’s a superb resource for information about travel, culture and gastronomy in Greece, and I check it regularly for ideas, inspiration and advice.

pilgrims crawling uphill to Evangelistria Church on Tinos island

Pilgrims crawl a long uphill road to the Holy Church of Panaga Evaggelistria (visible at the top of the picture) on Tinos island

 

Chora and the castle on Astypalia island

Chora and the imposing castle on Astypalea island 

 

Up-and-coming small wineries to watch and visit in the Cyclades

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Manalis Winery Sikinos

Wines produced by Manalis Winery on Sikinos (pictured below) are displayed on the winery’s open-air restaurant and events terrace, which offers spectacular views of the sea and nearby islands. Both photos are from galleries in the Manalis Winery website.

 

Manalis Winery Sikinos Greece

 

Cycladic vintners: Winery tours and tastings will be on the agenda for thousands of tourists visiting Santorini this year, no doubt because of the island’s worldwide fame for its local Assyrtiko varietal. 

As I reported in a post on January 21 2014,  Wine Enthusiast magazine cited Santorini and two other Aegean islands in its listing of the world’s top 10 wine travel destinations for 2014. Not surprisingly, winery tours have long been ranked among the leading attractions on TripAdvisor’s chart of Things to do in Santorini. In fact, as of May 17, Santo Wines was the #5-rated attraction on the island, while the Venetsanos Winery and the Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum ranked in the top 20 out of almost 300 key attractions on Santorini.

But while the Santorini wineries are attracting the warmest glow of international attention for now, several small wineries on nine other Cyclades islands could be basking in the limelight soon.

Earlier this year, the excellent culture and gastronomy website Greece Is published an informative article entitled 11+1 Unknown, Small Wineries in the Cyclades. Written by Nikoleta Makryonitou, the article notes that the wineries she mentions are among the smallest in the world, so they aren’t top destinations for wine lovers just yet. “Still, there has been a rise in the production of bottled wines and a turn to quality, which are creating high expectations for the near future,” she observes.

 

 

Her article profiles the following wineries, most of which will arrange tours or visits if contacted in advance:

Moraitis Winery on Paros (the only one of the bunch that I have personally visited for wine tastings)

Moraitiko on Paros

Manalis Winery on Sikinos

♦ Korres Family Winery on Naxos

Konstantakis Cave Winery on Milos

Syros Winery on Syros

Mykonos Vioma Organic Farm & Vineyard on Mykonos

♦ Kipos Xydaki on Mykonos

♦ Tinian Vineyards on Tinos

♦ Fonsos Winery on Tinos

♦ Votsari Wines on Sifnos, and

♦  Chrysoloras Vineyards on Serifos

Click here to read Nikoleta’s full article, and be sure to bookmark it for reference should you happen to be island-hopping in the Cyclades this summer. The article provides contact telephone numbers for the various wineries so you can call them directly to inquire about available tours or to arrange visits.

Also take a good look around the Manalis Winery website, where you can view dozens of photos showing the breathtaking, to-die-for views from the winery’s restaurant terrace and special events veranda.  People rave about the amazing views from Santo and other wineries on Santorini, but I think the images show that the views and scenery from Manalis are equally impressive.

Manalis Winery Sikinos

The hillside terrace at Manalis Winery on Sikinos has spectacular views of the Aegean Sea and other islands (Photo from the winery website.) 

Greek islands take spring weather woes in stride

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Stormclouds at Mykonos

Dark stormclouds hover overhead as rain falls on Mykonos and nearby islands. I shot this photo from the swimming pool deck at Hotel Tagoo on the morning of May 18 2012. Many Greek islands and parts of mainland Greece have been experiencing similar stormy weather conditions this week.

 

Be prepared: If you’re planning to travel to Greece in May or early June next year, be sure to pack an umbrella or waterproof windbreaker in your suitcase — there’s a good chance you might need to use them for a day or two.

Occasional bad weather used to be something you could expect to encounter in early spring — especially while travelling during April or the first two weeks of May in the Cyclades, Dodecanese, East Aegean and Sporades island groups. But once the middle of May had passed, rainstorms and completely overcast skies would be rare — visitors typically could expect one day after another of warm, dry and mainly sunny weather until the fall.

Climate patterns seem to have changed in recent years, however, and travellers have been encountering sporadic stormy conditions later in May and into early June too, as bad weather across much of Greece this week has shown.

 We didn’t need rainwear or umbrellas until 2010

On our trips to Athens and various Greek islands between 2004 and 2009, we didn’t encounter any major rainstorms or other inclement weather bad enough to put a damper on a day of sightseeing, hiking or beach activities. We would pack travel umbrellas in our suitcases, but never have to take them out. In fact, we recall only three instances of rain — all in early May 2006, the time of month when unsettled weather still could be expected.

That year, there was some overnight rain on May 11 and 12 while we were visiting Mykonos, but the clouds cleared by the time we got up for breakfast. One week later (on May 18) we were at Maragas beach on Naxos when a late afternoon thunderstorm suddenly blew in from the west. Rain began to sprinkle so we hurried over to the Gorgona Taverna at Agia Anna beach, where we had an early dinner while waiting for the precipitation to stop. Within 90 minutes the sun came back out and gave us a beautiful sunset that evening.

 Stormclouds over Naxos

After the storm: Thunderclouds begin to break up over Paros island  (top) and Naxos following a late afternoon downpour on May 18 2006. We shot this photo from Agia Anna beach on Naxos.

 

Of course, the weather wasn’t perfect the rest of the time during our first five Greek holidays. We did encounter a few days when it was extremely cloudy, like on June 8 2005, when we arrived at Santorini to find the island shrouded in thick, low-hanging clouds that obscured sunset views and lingered into the next morning before dissipating. We also experienced several exceptionally windy days, as well as some very chilly mornings and nights that forced us to wear sweaters and jackets to keep warm. But there wasn’t any horribly bad weather, and the adverse conditions didn’t stop us from fully enjoying the islands.

 Santorini caldera clouds

When we arrived at Santorini on June 8 2005, the island was surrounded by thick clouds that obscured caldera and sunset views that evening. There was no rain, but the clouds hung around until morning. We shot this photo from our terrace at the Phenix Hotel in Imerovigli during a brief break in the clouds.

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Greece holiday pic of the day

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Stormclouds and sunset viewed from Ios

Stormclouds above Ios (foreground) and Sikinos at sunset on May 19 2011