Category: In the news (page 1 of 17)

Skiathos, Lefkada & Paxos top Conde Nast list of best Greek islands to visit in 2020

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This photo gallery video profiles Conde Nast Traveller magazine’s 23 choices for best Greek islands to visit in 2020

 

Thinking of taking a holiday on a Greek island in 2020, but aren’t sure where to go? To help you decide, the U.K.’s Conde Nast Traveller magazine has compiled a list of what it believes are the 23 best islands to visit (out of more than 200 possible choices).

Selected by “regular isle-hopper Rachel Howard,” The Best Greek Islands to Visit in 2020 feature article rates Skiathos as #1, Lefkada #2 and Paxos #3.

Skiathos is described as the smallest but most popular of the Sporades islands, and as a favourite with families for its “baby powder-soft sandy beaches and laid-back vibe.” 

“Lefkada’s main town, flattened by an earthquake in the 1950s, won’t take your breath away, but those famous cliff-backed beaches, Egremni and Porto Katsiki, sure will,” the article says of its second-place selection.

Meanwhile, “Paxos packs a big punch … for its electric blue sea and three dinky harbour towns, each one so pretty it’s impossible to pick a favourite,” Howard writes.

Her Top 23 round-up includes a scenic photo from each destination, two or three paragraphs of text describing highlight features and what each island is considered “best” for, and suggested accommodations.

 

Besides Lefkada and Paxos, the ranking includes:

♦ four other major Ionian islands: Kefalonia, Corfu, Ithaca and Zakynthos;

♦ the Cyclades islands of Milos, Serifos, Amorgos, Mykonos, Santorini, Folegandros, Syros, Naxos, Tinos and Sifnos;

♦ the Dodecanese islands of Rhodes, Symi, Astypalia and Patmos;

♦ Hydra;

♦ Chios;

♦ Crete.

The online article concludes with a gallery of 16 photos showing scenes from some of the islands. Curiously, there is a picture from Andros, even though that island didn’t win a spot in the Top 23.

A much bigger blooper is the photo that purports to illustrate top choice Skiathos. The magazine’s photo editors mistakenly chose a picture of Elia beach on Mykonos instead of the Skiathos strand with the same name. Another photo boo-boo is a picture captioned as Petra beach on Patmos; the posted image actually shows Grikos beach.

Below are videos I’ve selected to give some additional photographic insight into the  islands that ranked in Conde Nast’s Top 3:

Meet Skiathos: Something for Everyone is a 6-minute film produced by Ionian & Aegean Island Holidays Ltd., the Greek National Tourism Organisation, and Ellie Patrikios

 

Lefkada island 4K is a 4.5-minute video published by bikisek1979

 

Discover Paxos is a 2-minute clip from Agni Travel

All ferries to and from Mykonos now docking at the New Port

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Greece, Greek island, Cyclades, Mikonos, Mykonos, Mykonos Old Port, Mykonos New Port, Mykonos Town port, Tourlos, Tourlos port, ferry travel, ferry port, Mykonos ferry port, yachts, charter yachts, harbour,

This photo from one of our Mykonos holidays shows four charter yachts docked at the island’s Old Port at Mykonos Town (foreground), and a cruise ship berthed at the New Port in Tourlos, nearly 2 kilometers away by road.

 

Ferry straightforward: Where does my ferry arrive at  / depart from on Mykonos?

That question has vexed visitors for years, since the island has two ports — the original one at the Mykonos Town harbour (commonly called the Old Port) and a newer, substantially larger facility in the island’s Tourlos district (regularly referred to as the New Port, of course).

The standard answer used to sound simple enough: ferries that carry passengers and vehicles sail to and from the New Port, while smaller ferries that just carry passengers operate from the Old Port.  But since most travellers didn’t have a clue if the ship they were booked on carried vehicles or not, that advice wasn’t always helpful. Not surprisingly, many people missed their ferries because they arrived at the wrong port and didn’t have enough time to get to the right departure point.

Thankfully, the reign of ferry port confusion could soon be history:  As of Saturday April 6 2019, all ferry traffic to and from the island will use the New Port only.

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Greece, Greek island, Cyclades, Mikonos, Mykonos, Mykonos ports, Mykonos Old Port, Mykonos Town port, ferry port, ferry, SeaJets ferry

Greece, Greek island, Cyclades, Mikonos, Mykonos, Mykonos ports, Mykonos Old Port, Mykonos Town port, ferry port, ferry, tourists, ferry passengers, travellers, people

I shot these photos of travellers queuing to board passenger-only catamaran ferries at the Old Port in Mykonos Town several years ago. As of April 6 2019, the Old Port will no longer handle ferry traffic.

 

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One of my Mykonos holiday photos of the New Port at Tourlos.  All ferry ships will now arrive at and depart from this harbour.

 

I learned about this development from Mykonos news websites, but the reports were all in Greek and Google Translate offered an awkward translation. To make certain I wasn’t misinterpreting what I had read, I contacted the top ferry booking agency on Mykonos, Sea & Sky Travel, to confirm if the news was accurate. 

“Yes, it’s true. All the boats, including the small passengers ones , will be leaving from the new port from now on,” a Sea & Sky representative told me.

 

The news reports said the change was implemented by the Mykonos port authority, upon request by the Greek government ministry responsible for shipping and marine regulation, to eliminate confusion and help prevent passengers from missing their ferries.

It’s a welcome change, but I think some confusion may persist for awhile. For one thing, many repeat visitors have travelled to and from Mykonos on passenger-only catamarans that operated in and out of the Old Port. If they don’t hear the news, their travel plans could get screwed up if they head to the Old Port, out of habit, when leaving the island. For another, many first-time visitors won’t be aware of the change, or may have read outdated posts on the TripAdvisor travel forums, or other online travel sites, that describe the old distinction between the two Mykonos ports. Hopefully word will get out and fewer people will miss ferries this year. 

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This Google image shows the Mykonos New Port (top) and the Old Port at Mykonos Town (bottom), a 2 kilometer walk or drive apart. Also shown are the main pick-up and drop-off points for the Mykonos SeaBus, an inexpensive water taxi service that operates between the two ports.

 

Which leaves the next most popular question about ferry travel to Mykonos: How do I get from the port to my accommodations?

For a list of transport options, please click on the link below to continue reading on page 2 of this post, and to view photos of things visitors will see if they travel along the coastal road between Tourlos and Mykonos Town.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

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Crete clinches 4th place ranking on TripAdvisor list of the world’s top destinations for 2019

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Views of the historic Venetian harbourfront and the iconic lighthouse at Chania, a perenially popular travel destination in northwestern Crete

 

Crete shines: Millions of travellers around the world have spoken, and their positive reviews, ratings and comments have landed Crete island in 4th place on the prestigious TripAdvisor listing of the Top 25 destinations in the world this year.

The 2019 TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice awards were announced this week (on March 26), lauding London as the #1 destination in the world, followed by Paris, Rome, Crete, and Bali in Indonesia. Last year Crete placed fifth, behind Bali. 

TripAdvisor is the globe’s largest travel website, containing listings for more than 156,000 destinations. Each year it presents its Travelers’ Choice awards to top international destinations, honouring the places that are most popular with people who post reviews on the website.

A press release announcing this year’s winners quoted TripAdvisor’s VP of Global Communications, Desiree Fish, as saying: “The Travelers’ Choice awards for Destinations recognize major cities and islands that continue to deliver an outstanding experience and are beloved by our global community of travelers.”

The news release explained that award winners “were determined using an algorithm based on reviews and ratings for hotels, restaurants and experiences in destinations worldwide over a 12-month period. The methodology takes into account quality and volume of reviews to surface destinations that consistently deliver the best overall experience for travelers.”

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Loutro village in southwestern Crete

 

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Looking along the spectacular southwestern coast of Crete from one of the many beaches near the town of Paleochora

 

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A taverna courtyard in the heart of the historic old town area of Chania

 

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Sweet Water Beach in southwestern Crete, between the villages of Chora Sfakion and Loutro

 

Greece, Greek islands, Crete, southwest Crete, Agia Roumeli, village, coast, mountains, Samaria Gorge,

A view of Agia Roumeli village, situated at the foot of the world-famous Samaria Gorge. Extending for 16 kilometers, the gorge is the longest in Europe and is one of Crete’s top tourist attractions.

 

We spent more than two weeks on Crete in late fall of 2017, and could easily see why it has been ranked among the world’s Top 5 travel destinations two years in a row — it truly delivers outstanding travel experiences. Crete has something to suit every traveller’s taste, style and budget: fascinating cities, towns and villages; vibrant resorts; breathtaking landscapes, stunning scenery and gorgeous beaches;  superb food and wine; significant historical sites and attractions; a diverse range of outdoor activities for all ages and lifestyles; myriad hotel and lodging options, and much more. 

Crete also claimed two spots in the list of the world’s Top 25 Beaches: Balos ranked #15, while Elafonissi took 21st place. Though both are situated in western Crete, the region in which we focussed our 2017 holiday travels, we never made it to either beach, so they remain on our bucket list of places to see. The island is blessed with a bounty of beautiful beaches, however, so visitors still have countless strands to choose from if they can’t get to Balos or Elafonissi.  (We saw many impressive beaches along the island’s southwestern coast.)

Greece in general fared well on other top rankings, particularly for hotels, where it won top honours in two categories. It nabbed the number 1 and 2 spots in the Top 25 all-inclusive hotel ranking, and it claimed the number 1 and 3 position on the awards list for the world’s Top 25 Small Hotels. Greece also achieved Top 25 rankings for best hotels, luxury hotels, best service, romantic hotels, family hotels, and bargain hotels.

I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read that Greece received TripAdvisor recognition for the world’s top two all-inclusive hotels because, in TripAdvisor’s own travel forums, regular visitors to Greece routinely advise travellers to avoid all-inclusive properties, urging them to stay at hotel or self-catering accommodations instead. In essence, the forum commentators claim Greece simply doesn’t do all-inclusives very well, and visitors don’t experience Greece if they stay at an AI resort. With this year’s awards, however, it’s quite clear that all-inclusive resort guests disagree! 

Greece, Greek islands, Crete, Crete island, beach, Greek beach, Elafonissi beach Crete, Elafonisi beach Crete,

Famous for its brilliant turquoise waters and pink-hued sand, Elafonissi beach is seen in an image from the Best Travel Tips to Crete page of the Tourist Maker website.  Elafonissi ranked #21 on the TripAdvisor list of the Top 25 beaches in the world.

 

Balos Crete photo 02 by Antoine Nikolopoulos

Lagoons and sandy beach strips at Balos are seen in this photo shot by Antoine Nikolopoulos of Odyssey Art Photography. Balos ranked #15 on this year’s list of the world’s top beaches.

 

Please click on the link below to continue reading on page 2, where I have posted photos and rankings for the Greek hotels that placed in the world’s Top 25.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

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Lonely Planet profiles NE Aegean plus 4 ‘secret,’ timeless islands

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Lonely Planet magazine

Greece gets front-cover prominence on the cover of the Lonely Planet newsstand issue for May 2018

 

The secret’s out: I had a strong hunch I might find something interesting to read about Greece when I walked into the magazine department at my local bookstore yesterday.  When I turned into the travel section, my premonition instantly proved accurate — standing at eye level on the front shelf was the latest edition of Lonely Planet, its cover graced with a photo of a blue-roofed Greek Orthodox church illustrating its “Secret Greece” feature story. 

In another pleasant delight, I realized I had seen that very same church in person — on Astypalea, during our island hopping holiday in 2009.

Astypalea is one of seven islands featured in Lonely Planet’s May issue and, in another curious coincidence, the article about it recommends staying in the very accommodations where we spent several nights: Fildisi Boutique Hotel

The magazine highlights two other islands we have been to — Hydra and Sifnos — and, in yet another surprising stroke of serendipity, spotlights four more that I had been seriously considering for our upcoming vacation: Lesvos, Chios, Ikaria and Kythera. (We have already made plans to spend our time in and within sight of the Peloponnese, but Lonely Planet suddenly has me wondering if I may have made a mistake.)

 

 

The main focus of the magazine’s Great Escape cover feature is the Northeast Aegean group of Greek islands; specifically, Lesvos, Chios and Ikaria. Stepping ashore on these particular isles “introduces olive farmers and wild honey, hidden villages and untouched beaches, and perhaps the secret to long life,” the feature story introduction says.

Reading the Lesvos profile quickly made me crave Greek cuisine, though I should have expected that given the article’s headline: “Savour the many flavours of Greece on Lesvos, from olive oil to ouzo and orange wine.”

The second feature story invites readers to “discover a centuries-old tradition of mastic cultivation and the fortress-like villages that grew rich from it” in southern Chios.

The third main article introduces Ikaria, one of the world’s unique Blue Zone locations where residents “enjoy longer lives than anyone else in Europe.”

One-page mini profiles for Astypalea, Kythera, Sifnos and Hydra appear in the magazine’s “Secret Greece” feature as examples that, “even in the well-known Greek island groups,” visitors can find “the odd place that’s little changed over the decades.” Each profile includes short thumbnail descriptions for “Why am I going?”, “Where should I stay?”, “What am I eating?”, and “What am I drinking?”

The island articles are all good reads, and just might entice you to consider the Northeast Aegean for a future trip to Greece, especially if you haven’t considered that region of the country before. (They probably will make you feel peckish for Greek food and beverages, too.)

See if you can find a copy of the magazine at your local newsstand before it sells out.

 

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