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Top places to visit for a winter holiday in Greece

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Arachova Greece

The alpine town of Arachova in Central Greece, seen during our visit in June 2017. The website Greece Is has ranked Arachova one of the country’s Top 10 places to visit in wintertime 

 

Off season delights: Are you trying to pick a place to visit for a unique winter getaway? Have you considered going to Greece?

If you’re like many of the people reading this post, you probably picture Greece only as a summer destination, primarily because of the immense popularity of its world-famous beach-blessed islands.

However, Greece is more than just islands and beaches — it’s a year-round travel destination with activities and attractions that appeal to everyone, from outdoor sports enthusiasts, to foodies, to history buffs, nature lovers and more.

As for what makes Greece special during the off-season winter months, here’s a nicely succinct description by one of my favourite food, culture and travel publications,  Greece Is:

“Winter is the time to swap the sandals for hiking boots, and the cold beachside beer for a brandy or warm rakomelo by the fireplace. Hearty, slow-cooked stews replace light summertime salads, and a whole host of different seasonal products begin to appear: wild mushrooms, juicy oranges, fat chestnuts. This is a time to experience a different sort of Greece – one of rivers, mountains and glorious natural landscapes as yet undiscovered by mass tourism. One that is emptier, wilder but also comforting in its own way, insulated from the rush and chaos of the modern world.” 

Although there are scores of places in Greece that would be wonderful to visit in the off-season, Greece Is compiled this list of The Top 10 places to visit in Greece in winter:

♦ Zagori

♦  Arachova

♦  Kalavryta

♦  Meteora

♦  Tzoumerka

♦  Metsovo

♦  Loutraki – Pella

♦  the mountains of Corinth

♦  Pilio (also known as Pelion), and

♦  the mountains of Arcadia

What I particularly like about the Greece Is Top 10 list is that it includes descriptions of each destination or area, and outlines the winter activities that are most appealing at each place. The listing also includes links to additional insightful articles and practical information about each location, as well as photo galleries. I found it a great starting-point for researching a trip to Greece not only in winter (though that’s the focus of the ranking), but really for any time of year — all the destinations would be marvellous to visit in spring, summer or fall, as well.

To get some Greece travel inspiration for yourself, click here to read the full article.

 

 

Kalymnos keeps calling

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Kalymnos summer 2016 (above) and Kalymnos island (below) are short videos that spotlight sights, scenery and summer activities on the Dodecanese island famous for its sponge fishing past and its present popularity as one of the world’s premier rock climbing destinations

 

Extra enticement: There are times I’m convinced that somebody in Greece is secretly monitoring my email and text communications so they can plant my social media pages with photos, news and videos about places mentioned in my conversations. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I have chatted with or messaged people about specific areas in Greece, only to see posts about those destinations suddenly appear on my Facebook page or Twitter feed soon afterward.

It happened again this week after a friend texted to ask if I have been to Kalymnos, which she has been considering for an island hopping holiday in the Dodecanese this year. I haven’t been there yet, but I was able to refer her to Kalymnos rocks!, a post I published last year to showcase a video that four young Scottish rock climbers made when they visited Kalymnos to test their skills on its world-famous cliffs. Exhilarating landscapes and scenery in the 4-minute-long film convinced me that Kalymnos is just the kind of island my partner and I would thoroughly enjoy — so I promptly added it to our travel bucket list.

 

 

Mere days after the text chat with my friend, two more Kalymnos videos curiously appeared in the news feed for the MyGreeceTravelBlog Facebook page, no doubt to tempt and tease me into wanting to visit the island even more. Sponsored by the Kalymnian Union of Attica, both clips were produced late last summer and show even more island sights and scenes than the fun rock-climbing film I previously shared on the blog. Since I have found myself contemplating a future trip to Kalymnos once again, I am sharing the clips here for the benefit of any readers who may be planning to spend some time on the island this summer.

Meanwhile, in text messages a few days ago, my friend and I discussed Kefalonia and Lefkada, as well as some destinations in mainland Greece. Sure enough, my social media feeds quickly filled with images and information about both islands and the other places we had discussed. Spooky? Absolutely! But maybe it’s just a goodhearted online spy who is simply trying to assist with my holiday travel planning. Whether it’s purely coincidental or not, don’t be surprised if I start blogging about how much I would like to see Kefalonia, Lefkada and certain other places this summer!

In the meantime, have a look at Kalymnos to see if it should be on your own Greek holiday bucket list.

 

 

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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A bevy of beaches & coves on the scenic west coast of Andros

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Andros island west coast

 Looking along the west coast of Andros from a vantage point near Liopessi beach outside the town of Gavrio. More than a dozen places to sunbathe, swim and participate in water sports can be found along the 7 km stretch of seafront between Gavrio and Agia Marina.

 

a cove near Kipri beach on Andros

The coastline includes alluring small bays, inlets and quiet coves, like this one with warm golden sands near Kypri ….

 

Agios Petros beach Andros

… as well as several fully organized beaches, like Agios Petros, where sunbeds, bars, tavernas and water sports are available

 

Beach tour: Our final full day on Andros (Saturday May 30) was blessed with a mix of sun and clouds, warm temperatures and a slight breeze — perfect conditions for soaking up some sun and taking a dip at one of the island’s beautiful beaches.

But we were feeling too restless to simply laze away the day on a beach — our Andros visit was coming to an end, and we wanted to see more of the island before moving on to our next destination. So we spent the afternoon walking along the island’s west coast to have a look at all of the beaches situated between our hotel and the port town of Gavrio 7 kilometers to the north.

It took us about 3 hours to trek from Aneroussa Beach Hotel to the Gavrio harbourfront, following the two-lane highway that winds along the coast. It was a good way to enjoy the wonderful weather while seeing 10 main beaches — Agia Marina, Delavoyia, Stivari, Batsi, Kolona, Kyprianos, Kypri, Chrissi Ammos, Agios Petros, and Liopessi — plus the numerous coves and inlets that dot the scenic shoreline. It also gave us a chance to see more of Gavrio, which we had glimpsed only briefly when we arrived at the island five days earlier.

Our original plan was to walk all the way back from Gavrio, too, stopping for a drink at one of the beach bars along the way. But by the time we finished a late lunch in Gavrio, the sky was almost totally clear of clouds and the sun felt considerably hotter than it had during our hike to the port. Rather than risk sunburns, we took a taxi to Batsi, then walked from there to the Aneroussa hotel’s bar on Delavoyia beach, where we rested our tired feet and cooled off with some ice cold beer.

 

 

Though 10 beaches was a lot to visit in one day — far more than we typically see on our Greek island walkabouts — there were many others elsewhere on the island that we didn’t get to check out during our short time on Andros. They included Achla and Vitali, both of which often rank at the top of lists of the island’s “best” beaches, and Tis Grias to Pidima, which is pictured on scores of Andros postcards and travel guides. No worries — we’ll try to see  them on future trips to Andros. 

Please click on the link underneath the next two photos to continue reading  on page 2, where you can see pictures of all the beaches we visited on our coastal walk. I have also included links to websites with Andros beach information for those of you who might be planning to visit the island soon.

 

Liopessi beach on Andros

Besides beaches and coves, there is a lot of interesting scenery to view all along the Andros coast — like this curious rock formation at Liopessi beach …

 

hillside on the Andros coast near Batsi IMG_8416

 … along with steep hills dotted with houses and studio apartment buildings, as well as some impressive villas on sizable mountainside estates. The highway between Batsi and Gavrio also passes several tavernas, where the fragrant aromas of Greek cuisine will tempt your tastebuds as you walk by.

 

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