Category: Tourist attractions (page 1 of 29)

Greece guides featured in June travel mags from UK & USA

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Sunday Times Travel magazine

A scenic view from Santorini appears on the cover of the June Sunday Times Travel Magazine, which includes a 24-page “Total Guide” to Greece

 

Travel tips: Spring is the time when international lifestyle magazines and travel publications typically turn their attention to Greece, and that has been the case again this year. 

When I browsed newsstands while we were in Greece from late May until mid-June, and here at home after returning from our holidays, I noticed numerous magazines that featured cover stories or major articles focussed on travel to Greece.

The two periodicals that appeared the most interesting and informative were the June edition of The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, which I purchased at Athens International Airport prior to our return flight, and the June/July issue of National Geographic Traveler, which I bought at my favourite local bookstore a few days ago.

A photo from Santorini island appears on the eye-catching turquoise and white cover of the Sunday Times magazine, where the main cover line proclaims: “We’ve found the tiny, timeless idylls you’re dreaming of” — all revealed in a 24-page Total Guide inside.

The guide includes:

♦ tips on island hopping by ferry in the Cyclades, Dodecanese and Argo-Saronic archipelagos;

♦ short profiles of “heavenly” 5-star hotels on Naxos, Crete, Santorini, Sifnos, and Mykonos islands, as well as in Halikidi, the Peloponnese and the Athens Riviera;

♦ an article about the Arcadia region of the eastern Peloponnese;

 ♦ highlights of three places, away from the “holiday hotspots,” where visitors can “find solitude in a Greece untouched by time: lost in nature, rich in ancient, spiritual sites”;

 ♦ advice for low-cost weekend getaways to Athens, Thessaloniki and Kefalonia; and

♦  recommendations for exclusive rental villas and luxurious all-inclusive resorts.

 

 

National Geographic Traveler Magazine

In the feature article “New Greek Odyssey,” Christopher Vourlias relates what he learned about “home, heroes and Hellenic heritage” during a trip to his father’s ancestral village in Central Greece.

 

The theme of the National Geographic Traveler issue is “Trips to Change Your Life,” and includes two features on Greece:

♦ the intriguing article “New Greek Odyssey,” in which writer Christopher Vourlias describes the personally insightful trip he took with his father to the latter’s home village in Agrafa, a mountain region of Central Greece; and

 ♦ An “insider’s guide to the best of Greece” — short profiles of specific recommended places to visit for food & drink, history & artifacts, islands & beaches, and culture &  people.

And as you would expect, the articles in both magazines are illustrated with tantalizing photos of Greek destinations,  monuments,  and scenery that will make you feel wistful for a trip to Greece — even if, as was the case with me, you may have just had a holiday there.

 

 

April landslide prompts renewed warning of 5-year-old ban on visits to Santorini’s Red Beach

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Red Beach Santorini

With its breathtaking backdrop of soaring crimson cliffs, many tourists regard Santorini’s Red Beach as one of the top “must-see” attractions on the island. This image appeared on the Travel to Santorini page on Facebook.

 

Red Beach Santorini

Red Beach has officially been closed to the public since 2013 because of rockfall risks, but thousands of tourists ignore warning signs and visit regardless.  This photo, posted to Facebook by Hui Lin, shows a newlywed couple walking in the water at Red Beach on February 25 2018.

 

Red Beach Santorini

 Luckily, no-one was injured when a landslide struck Red Beach on April 13 2018. This photo by Costas Konstantinidis shows the huge pile of sand and rock debris that slid onto the southern end of the beach.  The photo appeared in Greek news stories reporting on the latest rockfall.

 

Beautiful but dangerous:  “Attention! Danger of landslides. No entry.”

That’s the warning on signs posted along the access path to Santorini’s world-famous Red Beach, but each year thousands of tourists have ventured down to the beach regardless, to sunbathe, swim and shoot those all-important “I was here” selfies.

Scores of people will probably visit Red Beach again this year, even though a landslide in mid-April confirmed there’s an ever-present danger that sections of the tall crimson cliffs that tower above the beach could collapse on them at any time.

Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful and unusual beaches in the world, Red Beach resulted from the natural erosion of the cone of a small volcano. Comprised of loose layers of slag (volcanic cinder), the cone’s steep southern slope developed large cracks and fissures during seismic and volcanic activity; eventually, sections of the slope crumbled and slid seaward, creating the dramatic cliffs that rise above the stone and pebble shore today.

The cliffs have been studied extensively by geologists and volcanologists from Greek universities and the Institute for the Study and Monitoring of the Santorini volcano, who concluded that further erosion cannot be stopped or prevented.  Since landslides are unpredictable and instantaneous, they urged island authorities to take steps to keep people from visiting Red Beach and potentially putting themselves in harm’s way.

 

Red Beach Santorini

This aerial image shows how the slopes of a former volcano cone have caved in and crumbled onto Red Beach over time. The photograph has appeared on many social media sites, including the Akrotiri and Knossos community page on Facebook, but I haven’t been able to find the original source to give proper credit for the image.

 

The island municipality did close Red Beach to the public after a major landslide occurred in August of 2013, but most tourists have simply walked past the “no entry” signs that were put up. It’s possible many of the travellers weren’t aware there have in fact been major rockfalls, or perhaps they have thought the risk of one occurring during their visit was so infinitesimal it wasn’t worth worrying about. After all, if it was so dangerous, why would local and national travel and tourism businesses continue to recommend that people go there?

Valid point indeed, since some Santorini tour agencies offer boat trips to the beach, while a variety of island hotels and travel businesses regularly encourage visits to Red Beach in photos and comments posted on their social media accounts. Enterprising local residents also have set up rental lounge chairs and umbrellas on the beach, along with a snack canteen — apparently in blatant violation of local regulations. And Aegean Airlines recently raised some eyebrows when it featured Red Beach on the cover of its in-flight magazine for March & April 2018, and in several photographs accompanying its feature story “The hidden treasures of Santorini” (one of the pics showed a female fashion model posing in front of a debris pile from a small landslide).

 

 

 

Will anything change as a result of the most recent rockfall, which occurred on April 13?

According to reports posted on the Greek news and information websites Atlantea and LIFO,  among others, the latest landslide prompted island authorities to issue a press release reminding people that “access to the Red Beach is forbidden” — as it has been since 2013 — so the beach remains off-limits for sunbathing, swimming, walking and other activities.

“The area has been marked with warning signs, and it is urged by all those involved with tourism to respect these prohibitions in order to avoid accidents,” the municipal press release is quoted as saying.

But since the “no entry” signs have been ignored for several years already, the municipality ultimately may have to consider installing physical barriers to ensure that people keep off the beach. As of this writing (on April 30 2018), tourists were still live-posting photos and reviews of Red Beach on their various social media pages, with some commenting that they noticed the hazard signs but went onto the beach anyway because they saw other people there.

If you’re planning to visit Santorini but don’t wish to risk a visit to Red Beach, you can instead view dozens of photos of it in my May 2016 blog post The bewitching but dangerous beauty of Santorini’s Red Beach.

 

Aegean Airlines Blue Magazine

The cover photo for the March/April 2018 Aegean Airlines in-flight magazine shows a fashion model posing near rocks  at one end of Red Beach.  There are more shots of models on the beach in the magazine’s photo feature on Santorini’s natural “hidden miracles.”

Greek Island icons & landmarks: The blue-domed church high above the sea on Santorini

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Agios Theodori Church

Photos of Agios Theodori Church have inspired countless people to visit Santorini and other places in Greece — or to dream of going there

   

Greek Islands Icons & Landmarks is a series of occasional posts about curious, unusual and extraordinary sights and places we have seen on our travels in the Greek Islands

 

Celebrity dome: It’s a quintessential image of Greece:  a cute white chapel with a shiny blue dome, accompanied by a white belfry with three bells, sitting high above the sea on Santorini.   

It’s called Agios Theodori, but like thousands of other churches in Greece, few people outside the country know its name. Nevertheless, it’s a familiar sight to millions around the world, since photos of the church have appeared for decades on travel posters, tour materials and in guidebooks, newspapers and magazines. Along with the Acropolis in Athens, that little whitewashed, blue-domed church is one of the main images people associate with Greece.

I recall seeing pictures of Agios Theodori in the early 1980s, first at restaurants in Windsor, Ontario and Detroit’s Greektown, and then at travel agencies and restaurants along Danforth Avenue in Toronto’s Greektown, which was just a few blocks from where I was living at the time. That was long before I ever considered going to Greece, but the pictures of that blue-domed church stuck in my mind.

 

Agios Theodori church

 

Agios Theodori church

 

 Over 20 years later we finally made it to Greece,  and Santorini was the last stop on our island-hopping holiday. Although I hoped we would see the famous blue-domed church, I didn’t know where to look for it. I figured that if we came across it while exploring the island, that would be great, but if we didn’t get to see it on this trip, perhaps we would some other time. 

Imagine my surprise and delight when, only minutes after checking in to the Santorini Palace Hotel in Firostefani, we walked to the tip of the caldera cliff nearby to check out the views — and saw Agios Theodori church just a few meters directly below us. I was slightly stunned at first; it felt like the familiar image I had seen in print so many times had suddenly come to life before my eyes. 

So was it as breathtaking and impressive as I had anticipated, after seeing it in photos all those years? You bet! There was absolutely no disappointment here —  the live view was spectacular. And to think the church was only a few dozen meters from the front door of our hotel! Now what were the odds of that happening? 

 

Agios Theodori Church

 

Agios Theodori church

 

Agios Theodori Church

 

We saw Agios Theodori church again, on each of our subsequent visits to Santorini, and it was still impressive to see. If we ever go back to the island I’m sure we’ll pass through Firostefani so we can take another look.

 

 

Below are several photos I found online, showing the church from perspectives we didn’t manage to photograph ourselves. There’s also a map indicating where Agios Theodori is located, should you want to see it in person yourself.

 

Agios Theodori church

The Agios Theodori belfry is seen in an image from the Petr Svarc Images page on Facebook

 

Agios Theodori Church Firostefani

The front of Agios Theodori church as seen from “street” level — actually, from the footpath that winds along the top of the caldera between Firostefani and Fira. Ting Lin shared this photo on Google Images.

 

Agios Theodori Church

 Also from Google Images is this photo by Charles Cheng, capturing Agios Theodori at sunset

 

Agios Theodori church location

Agios Theodori church is marked as “Three Bells of Fira” on Google maps, but it isn’t in the town of Fira — it’s a 10- to 15-minute walk away if you follow the clifftop footpath from the cable car station and walk north toward Firostefani (keeping the sea on your left side).  To see it from the “travel poster and guidebook perspective,” make your way to the Santorini Palace Hotel. From the hotel entrance, walk up the short slope toward the sea, and head for the low wall at  the edge of the parking area. Look down to your left, and enjoy the view!

 

A Paris icon in the Peloponnese

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Eiffel Tower in Filiatra

The 26-meter Eiffel Tower replica at Filiatra  was a surprising sight we encountered during our road trip in the Peloponnese

 

Oh Mon Dieu!:The most memorable “Stop the Car!” moment of our road trip through Messenia happened while we were driving through the small town of Filiatra, en route from Marathopoli to Kyparissia.

As the car moved along the clean, tidy streets, passing attractive stone houses and some cute small homes, we were chatting about where we might want to stay if we ever had an opportunity to spend all or part of a year in Greece. I remember commenting that Filiatra looked like a nice, comfortable and quiet place that might be suitable — based on what we were seeing through the car windows, at least.

Then we turned a corner and saw an Eiffel Tower looming up ahead.

 “What the … Is that what I think it is?” I blurted. “Pull over! We’ve got to check this out!”

 

Eiffel Tower in Filiatra

This Google Streetview image shows the Eiffel Tower replica in a wedge-shaped parkette at the northern entrance to Filiatra.

 

Whenever we’re on the road in Greece, we see a lot of surprising, interesting and exciting sights. However, most of the time it’s jaw-dropping scenery that suddenly pops into view, a picturesque church in the middle of nowhere, a crumbling castle or a beautiful old building, or a herd of sheep or goats gathered on the highway. We’ve seen plenty of unusual sights, too, but never anything like an Eiffel Tower — and we certainly weren’t expecting to see one on this particular morning. (It had not been mentioned in any of the travel materials I had read before our holiday.)

But there it was, rising from a landscaped parkette near the northern entrance to Filiatra on Highway 9.

We parked the car and got out for a few minutes to take photos, but it wasn’t until we were back home that I was able to do some online searching to find out why the town has a replica of the iconic Eiffel Tower.

Information was rather sparse or roughly translated in the sources I discovered, but most said the replica was the creation of Harry Fournier, (originally named Haris Fournarakis), who had grown up in the area but later moved to the USA to practise medicine as a surgeon. After a successful career in the States, Fournier returned to Filiatra and put his artistic talents to work, sculpting his mini Eiffel Tower in the 1960s. (He also built a fairytale castle in the nearby village of Agrili.)

Fournier’s creation isn’t a true replica, however, since its design differs in a few major details. As an article on the Wonders of the World points out, Fournier used light grey metal to construct the tower, which he shaped “a little too long.” Fournier also placed the second floor of his tower too low, compared to the original, and changed the shape of the third floor. But to a tourist driving by, Fournier’s version looks like a convincing, shorter copy of the real thing (his stands 26 meters, while the Paris landmark soars over 300 meters high).

 Here are some of the photos we took of the Filiatra Eiffel Tower:

 

Eiffel Tower replica in Filiatra

 

Eiffel Tower replica in Filiatra

 

Eiffel Tower replica in Filiatra

 

Eiffel Tower replica in Filiatra

 

Filiatra Greece

The small town of Filiatra is located roughly midway between Marathopoli (middle left) and Kyparissia (top left). If you’re driving through the area and want to take a look at the Eiffel Tower replica, you’ll find it at the northwest edge of the town along Highway 9.  You can’t miss it if you’re driving toward Filiatra from Kyparissia — the tower is visible from a distance outside the town.

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