Category: Travel guides (page 1 of 3)

Our Covid-19 quarantine travel reads: Feature profiles of Athens, Thessaloniki, the Peloponnese & mainland Greece

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Kastoria city and lake photo from Issue 6 of Sky Express airlines Fly magazine

Kokkoras Bridge in Epirus Greece photo from Sky Express airlines Fly magazine Issue 6

These striking photos of the city of Kastoria in northern Greece and the historic Kokkoros Bridge in Epirus are from The White Issue of Fly, the magazine of Sky Express airline. The  picture-packed issue spotlights visit-worthy mainland Greece destinations that aren’t on typical tourist itineraries.

 

Armchair travels: Since we can’t take our scheduled spring trip to Greece because of Covid-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions, we have been travelling there vicariously — by reading magazine and newspaper articles about destinations, hotels, attractions and a wide variety of aspects of Greek life and tourism. Armchair travel lacks the thrill and pleasure of actually going to Greece, of course, but it’s a heck of a lot better than brooding about the cancellation of our 2020 holiday plans while we’re cooped up in home quarantine.

On the positive side, our time catching up on articles published over the past six months has been well spent, introducing us to incredible places in Greece we weren’t too familiar with, and giving us ideas and inspiration for trips we hope to take once the pandemic has passed and Greece re-opens its borders to international visitors.

Since the articles and photo profiles could be interesting and helpful to readers dreaming about their own future trips to Greece, we will be sharing our “quarantine travel reads” in a series of  blog posts, beginning with this one.

Destinations and topics profiled in this instalment include:

♦ Thessaloniki and the Halkidiki peninsula;

♦ Athens

♦ the southern Peloponnese, including Costa Navarino, the Mani and Monemvasia; and

♦ Impressive towns, villages and scenic areas in mainland Greece

 

 

Upcoming blog posts will spotlight:

♦ stylish luxury hotels and hot dining spots in Athens, Crete, Mykonos, Paros, and Santorini;

♦ travel writer accounts of trips to Athens and various Greek Islands, including Evia, Milos, Paros and Symi;

♦ Cretan food and the Mediterranean diet;

♦ mini guides to Greek islands, and more.

 

Athens and the southern Peloponnese

 

Bloomberg News article on Greece travel destinations

Dimitsana, a mountain village in Arcadia, is among the places writer Nikos Chrysoloras recommends visiting in the southern Peloponnese

 

“…there will be so much Greek paradise for you when this viral outbreak is behind us” says Nikos Chrysoloras, whose article The Greece I long to visit isn’t on your average travel brochure was published by Bloomberg News on April 24.

Greece does indeed abound with places people would consider paradise, but Chrysoloras devotes his article to describing a travel itinerary that will let visitors experience the true essence of Greece first in Athens and its surrounding area, and secondly during a scenic road trip through the southern Peloponnese peninsula.

A must-see in the historical center of Athens, he says, is Monastiraki Square, which “epitomizes my country perhaps more than any island or beach.” He recommends two rooftop bars overlooking the square, from which visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the Parthenon and other historic monuments. “It’s the weight of millennia packed in the space of a single block,” Chrysoloras notes. He also recommends a day trip along the Athens Riviera and a visit to the clifftop Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, famous for its sensational sunset view, which he describes as “Greece, Profound.” He also suggests specific places to drink and dine, so visitors planning to spend time in the city would be wise to bookmark the article for easy reference once in Athens.

 

 

For the Peloponnese portion of his suggested roadtrip, Chrysoloras recommends starting off in the area around the Costa Navarino resort and the incredible Voidokilia beach (which I wrote about in my blog post A bucket list visit to Voidokilia), and then exploring the rugged Mani region. “It’s a mountainous terrain with stone-built villages and very narrow roads leading to pebbled beaches. This area is the land of the ancient Spartans, people as defiant as history suggests.” Again, Chrysoloras recommends places to stay, dine, hike, swim and enjoy a drink with a fabulous sunset view.

From Mani, the drive continues to the castle town of Monemvasia, whose “medieval alleys are full of mystery and wonder, like a set that Game of Thrones producers ought to have used.” On the way back to Athens from there, Chrysoloras urges a detour to Dimitsana — his mother’s home town — “one of the most characteristic specimens of the mountainous side of Greece. Surrounded by conifer trees, you can enjoy unspoiled traditional stone architecture and hike in the area’s beautiful forests and nearby villages.” Although worth a look nearby is Panagia, a now-deserted village where Chrysoloras recommends a taverna that serves outstanding traditional dishes. 

 

Please click on the link below to continue reading on page 2, where we discuss excellent magazine articles about Thessaloniki, noteworthy destinations in mainland Greece, and fascinating places to explore in Athens.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

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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 island-hopping guides, articles and trip reports

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Cover of the May 2019 issue of The Sunday Times Travel Magazine

The May 2019 edition of The Sunday Times Travel Magazine featured a special Greek Islands travel guide, replete with gorgeous photos of dreamy destinations. I tell you more about the guide on page 2 of this post.

 

Athens is amazing, mainland Greece is marvellous, and the Peloponnese peninsula is pretty darned impressive. But for many people, it’s the Greek Islands that typically come to mind when talk turns to the subject of vacations in Greece.  Indeed, if you tell someone that you’re heading to the Hellenic Republic for a holiday, they’ll probably ask which islands you’re planning to visit. 

Since island hopping draws millions of tourists to Greece each year, many of whom are first-time visitors,  there’s tremendous demand for information about where to go, how to move between places, and what to see and do.  Likewise, there is a massive amount of Greece travel material available on newsstands and on the web. A simple Google search will produce links to articles and guides galore; thousands in fact, published by major magazines, newspapers, bloggers and social media influencers. One could easily spend weeks sifting through all the self-described “best” or “ultimate” island hopping guides, along with scores of feature stories trumpeting “hidden gems,”  “undiscovered islands,” or the newest trendy “paradise.”

I read hundreds of them in 2019, but found the vast majority disappointing and a waste of valuable reading time since they lacked originality and didn’t offer much useful  information. Most were simply puff pieces full of flowery descriptions and little else. Many were so similar, I’m sure the content was cribbed from quick online searches, then hastily rewritten and repackaged with stock photography. 

But several magazine and website guides stood out because they contain what I consider to be good, practical advice to help travellers pick the islands best suited to their personal travel preferences and lifestyles, and to plan how to get where they want to go.

Also noteworthy was a small selection of fascinating stories and engaging essays in which travel writers and even some high-profile authors recounted delightful and eye-opening personal experiences while visiting multiple islands.

 

This post spotlights the guides and stories that were my personal favourite reads during 2019. They’re the magazines I keep on my bookshelf, or the blog posts and website articles I have bookmarked on my computer, to keep close at hand for easy future reference. They include:

♦ A superb, detailed guide by The Mediterranean Traveller blog that promises — and delivers — “everything you need to know” about island-hopping;

♦ An excellent 26-page guide by The Sunday Times Travel Magazine

♦ General island profiles and trip suggestions in pieces published by the travel magazines Indagare, Afar and Lonely Planet

♦ An insightful 5-part report by a travel writer for The Guardian on his personal odyssey to explore six out-of-the-way islands;

♦ Reports by writers for the Boston Globe newspaper and Travel + Leisure magazine on trips that combined enormously-popular Santorini with visits to lesser-known and much-less-busy islands in the Cyclades; 

♦ An intriguing essay from Town and Country magazine in which a prominent author reflects on his  holiday travels to Spetses, Paros, Antiparos and Crete;

♦ Two separate stories on travelling by charter yacht or sailboat in the Ionian islands, from The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and World Traveller magazine;

♦ An account of a superyacht island-hopping tour of the Greek Riviera and several islands in the Argo-Saronic Gulf; and

♦ An article profiling small cruise ships with itineraries that include stops at several Greek islands.

Though they were published last year, these reports will still provide an excellent reference resource for travel in 2020 and the next several years. Even if you don’t need them to plan your own vacation, they’re all interesting and  fun reads that will quickly put you in a blissful Greek holiday state of mind.

 

— Best island hopping guide — 

Screenshot of The Mediterranean Traveller guide to Greek island hopping

 

It’s easy to make the decision to spend a vacation on one or more islands in Greece. The hard part is figuring out how to get to and from the island(s) you want to see. Many first-timers think it will be a breeze planning their itineraries, but quickly discover that the Greek Island ferry system isn’t as straightforward as they expected. In fact, it can be a rather daunting task to plan a multi-island holiday, particularly for ferry travel in off-season or low-season periods.

However, help is just a couple of quick clicks away, thanks to a superb guide published by The Mediterranean Traveller blog on February 5, 2019.

Aptly entitled Greek Island Hopping 101 — Everything You Need To Know, it’s the most comprehensive blog post I’ve seen on the subject, packed with tons of helpful tips, advice, information and links, and presented in a format that is super-easy to read and understand.  Topics include things travellers need to consider when initially planning their trip; flights versus ferries; an explanation of how the Greek ferry system works; ferry schedules and pricing; descriptions of the different island chains; deciding where to go and when is  best to visit; organized group tours, and plenty more. 

 

 

Please turn to page 2 to continue reading about the guides and articles that may help you determine which islands to visit, or give you inspiration for future holiday destinations.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

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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.

 

 

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