Category: Travel guides (page 1 of 3)

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.

 

 

A timely Greece travel guide

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Sunday Times Travel Magazine May 2017 cover

Greece gets cover treatment in the May 2017 issue of The Sunday Times Travel Magazine

 

Cover glory:  It may have been an omen, or simply serendipity, but whatever it was certainly happened at a good time.

When I popped into a local newsstand the other day to browse reading material for our upcoming flight to Greece, a photo of a beautiful Greek island beach instantly caught my eye.

At first glance I thought it was a picture of Zakynthos island’s world-famous Navagio beach (also known as Shipwreck Beach) that graces the cover of the May 2017 edition of The Sunday Times Travel Magazine. But after taking a closer look once I got home, I realized it’s a different beach altogether. Surprisingly, the magazine’s editorial page doesn’t identify the location — the photo states only that the image was photographed by Giovanni Simeone of SIME/4 Corners.  But after a few minutes of Google searching, I discovered that the picture captures a small cove a short distance down the coast from Navagio. 

With that little mystery solved, I took a quick peek through the magazine’s cover feature — a 24-page “Total Guide” to Greece. 

 

 

“Whether you’re after a jam-packed family trip, an indulgent break with friends, or a romantic laze on a step-back-in-time island, we’ve got your Greece right here,” the guide’s introduction pledges. And it certainly seems to fulfill its promises. 

Among the guide’s dozens of destination profiles, tips and suggestions are articles describing:

♦  The ideal island-hopping break (to the Argo-Saronic islands)

♦  3 ways to feel remote

♦  The ideal active holiday

♦  5 ways to get off-season summer sun

♦  A girly break on Santorini

♦  The ideal crowd-free Athens break

♦  Our favourite scrummy seaside lunches

♦  The ideal family-friendly resort holiday

♦  Our favourite epic historic sites

♦  Our favourite beaches only the locals know

♦  2 ways to visit a great little city

♦  The ideal timewarp trip (to Kythira), and

♦  Our favourite white sand beaches (Navagio ranks #2 on the list, right after Crete’s Balos beach, which I profiled in two blog posts  last year: Escape to Crete’s exotic Balos beaches and lagoons, and Escape to Balos Part 2).

The guide provides plenty of additional information and helpful advice, and is packed with photos of beautiful and inspiring sights and scenes.  See if you can pick up a copy at your local news outlet. Sorry, but you can’t borrow mine — I’m not letting it  out of my hands!

Greece’s best destinations for budget travellers

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Chora on Astipalia island

A Venetian castle towers above Chora village on Astipalea island. The quiet and unassuming Dodecanese island boasts beautiful scenery, some of which you can see in the video featured in my post Aspects of Astipalea.  

 

Budget friendly: Are you considering a trip to Greece this summer, but wondering where you can go to avoid draining your bank account paying for food and accommodations at expensive destinations like Mykonos and Santorini? Although it’s possible to holiday on a tight budget on both those islands. as well as other high-profile destinations, there are numerous alternatives that offer great Greek holiday experiences at considerably cheaper prices. You’ll find some excellent suggestions in the article Best low budget summer destinations in Greece, published by the informative and insightful travel website  HIP GREECE.

The article lists more than a dozen islands plus one mainland Greece resort area that won’t break the bank, and offers brief descriptions of highlight attractions at each place, with links to additional in-depth articles about some of the destinations.

The spotlighted destinations include:

♦ The Small Cyclades islands of Iraklia, Koufonissia (Pano and Kato Koufonissi), Donousa and Schinoussa

♦ Kythira

♦ Serifos

♦ Tinos

♦ Ios

♦ Ikaria

♦ Astipalea

♦ Lefkada

♦ Skopelos, and

♦ Parga, a picturesque coastal resort area near the town of Preveza in western Greece.

You can read the complete HIP GREECE article by clicking here.

 

 

We’ve been to three of the recommended islands — Astipalea, Ios and Tinos — and have had brief peeks at the Small Cyclades during port stops on a ride from Amorgos to Naxos on the Express Skopelitis ferry. We would agree that all are good choices for travellers visiting Greece on a budget. We haven’t yet been to the other destinations cited by HIP GREECE, but several friends have told us Kythira, Serifos and Ikaria are wallet-friendly, while others have said the same for the Small Cyclades. However, we were surprised that Naxos wasn’t mentioned — we have found it to be the most reasonably priced island of all we have been to so far and it remains one of our favourite places to visit in large part for that reason. (See my article  Our Top 15 reasons to visit Naxos for further information about that wonderful island). 

Keep in mind that the main tourist period in Greece runs from late April until early October, with July and August being peak travel season. July and especially August also happen to be the most expensive months to visit, so if you’re on a limited budget, try to schedule your vacation for April, May, June, late September or early October, when prices tend to be much lower. Hotel rates usually skyrocket for August, and hostel, camping and cheaper basic accommodations typically tend to book up early in the year. If you can only travel during peak season, make arrangements for your accommodations as soon as possible to secure the lowest prices.

Chora village on Ios

Chora village on Ios is chock full of restaurants and bars, while the island is blessed with numerous gorgeous beaches including Mylopotas (which is walking distance from Chora) and Manganari.

 

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