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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

 

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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! 

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Famous for its brilliant turquoise waters and pink-hued sand, Elafonissi beach is seen in an image from the Elafonissi page on the Cretico Blog.  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.

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Make haste to Hydra!

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With help from a mini drone, filmmaker PanoVerino guides you on a quick tour of Hydra island

 

Quick introduction: If you haven’t been to Hydra yet, a recently-released video by PanoVerino will quickly bring you up to speed on the scenic highlights and attractions of the popular Saronic island.

The clip by the Athens-based filmmaker clocks in at just under two minutes, but covers a lot of ground — and air — with its exciting whirlwind pace, showing exactly what you can expect to see in and around Hydra Town, the island’s port and main settlement.

We spent a brief but very pleasurable 24 hours on Hydra during our 2016 Greek holiday, and recognized many of the sights and scenes the video spotlights. In fact, it made us instantly remember walking many of the same cobblestone paths, climbing the same flights of stairs, and seeing the same boats, buildings, donkeys, cafes, harbourside, hillsides and coastal scenery.  I find the film enjoyable not just for its exhilarating views and perspectives, but also for its briskness and brevity —  it doesn’t dwell on certain scenes for prolonged, drawn-out periods that will make you feel like you have to fast-forward before you fall asleep, as I find happens frequently when I watch drone videos. 

If you have been to Hydra yourself, the film will probably take you on a similar trip down memory lane. For those of you who haven’t yet been there, this quick look-around with PanoVerino may encourage you to consider Hydra for a future island-hopping holiday.

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Want to see more of Hydra? Have a look through the albums in our Hydra photo collection on Flickr.

 

Mykonos springs to life as more bars & restaurants open, first cruise ship of 2019 visits

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The beachfront of Tasos Taverna is seen in a photo posted on Facebook to announce its March 23 season opening.  Located on Paraga beach, Tasos has been serving customers since 1962.

 

Season starts: Spring has only just sprung, but the tourism season on Mykonos has kicked off with a spate of bar and restaurant openings, plus the arrival of the first cruise ship of 2019.

During the period of March 15 to 25, at least 10 establishments were set to officially open their doors, including two beach restaurants and, in Mykonos Town, several popular eateries and a bar.  March 15 also marked the start of cruise ship port calls into Mykonos, with a visit by the Celestyal Cruises ship, Olympia.

On most Greek islands, the annual tourist season is fairly short, and typically runs from the beginning of May until the end of September. With more than 10 places opening up during the third week of March, it might sound like Mykonos is getting things off to an unusually early start. But during the last four years, there has been a similar number of food and drink venues launching their seasons at this time, so I haven’t been surprised to hear of this month’s openings.

 

The cruise ship visits, on the other hand, have indeed commenced sooner than in previous years.  A March 18 news report by Greek Travel Pages notes that Celestyal launched its 3- and 4-night Aegean cruises two weeks earlier this year compared to last. It also is extending its season by two weeks in the fall, in response to what  Celestyal says is a rising demand for travel before and after the summer season.

I, too, have noticed a greater interest in off- or early-season travel to Greece this year, both in messages and inquiries sent to my blog, and from requests for advice posted on the TripAdvisor Greece travel forums.  This year I have fielded more questions than ever before from people who booked trips to Mykonos for dates in February, March and April. Many of those who wrote to me, or posted questions in online forums, were worried they wouldn’t have anywhere to eat or drink on Mykonos because they heard rumours that the island’s businesses are shut tight as a drum until May. That’s simply not true, since there are restaurants and bars that stay open all winter to serve the local population. The good news for people travelling to Mykonos between mid-March and May is that they will now have a much wider selection of places to enjoy a drink or meal, with more businesses opening each week until summer.

 

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Apaggio, located on the seaside at Ornos, is open every day of the year. In fact, it hasn’t closed since it opened in 2013. Apaggio specializes in fresh fish and seafood, but guests also can choose from salads, warm and cold appetizers, meat and pasta dishes, Greek dishes and more.  It has an extensive wine list, and a vast selection of ouzo and tsipouro.  During winter, Apaggio is open from 12 noon until 11 p.m. The restaurant has an indoor dining room as well as a large seaside patio, seen in the photo above from the Apaggio website.

 

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Raya, an all-day restaurant and bar positioned on the harbourside promenade in Mykonos Town, is one of the island businesses that doesn’t close up shop when the tourist season ends — it stays open all year. And it’s not just popular for food and drinks: Raya is known for its special Sunday parties, with music by DJs from Mykonos and Athens. This photo is from the Raya page on Facebook.

 

Please click on the link below to turn to page 2, where you can see which bars and restaurants have opened on Mykonos this month, along with places that opened even earlier, or have been open throughout the winter.

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A guide to Kini, the laid-back beach village on Syros

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Greece,Greek island, Siros, Syros, Syros Greece, Kini, Kini Bay, Kini Bay Syros,

Greece, Greek Islands, Cyclades, Siros, Syros, Kini Bay, Kini beach, Kini village, landscape, coast, seaside,

Greece, Greek Islands, Cyclades, Siros, Syros, Kini Bay, Kini beach, Kini village, landscape, coast, seaside, village

Greece, Greek Islands, Cyclades, Siros, Syros, Kini Bay, Kini beach, Kini village, landscape, coast, seaside, village, mountains

Above: Views of the Kini area from five different vantage points

 

What’s there:  My earlier post, Colourful Kini Bay on Syros island, was essentially a photo tour of the beautiful beach village area where we have stayed during two holidays on Syros. In this companion piece, I have compiled a mini-guide to Kini, highlighting accommodation and dining options as well as attractions and things to see and do in the immediate vicinity, based primarily upon personal experience.

I actually started preparing this article several years ago, following our second trip to Syros, but I never managed to finish the project. It languished in a folder of draft articles until this winter, when a Travel + Leisure magazine profile of Syros caught my attention and reminded me of the post I had never completed. Comments and inquiries about Syros from readers  of my blog gave me further impetus to have another go at writing the guide. Besides, it presented an opportunity to see what, if anything, may have changed and keep us up to date on what’s happening in Kini, since we do plan to go back.

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Kini is best known for beaches, food and  scenery, but it’s also home to two attractions that tourists can visit: the Agia Varvara Monastery (above) and a small aquarium and boat museum

 

While checking to see if familiar tavernas and accommodations were still around, I was pleased to discover that two new restaurants and a hotel have opened during the past couple of years — Aphrodite Boutique Hotel, Thalassa Beach Bar, and Aeriko Mezedopoleio.  Aphrodite and Thalassa have opened in centrally-located buildings that had been vacant and somewhat shabby-looking during both of our Kini holidays, so their reincarnations have spruced up the area and greatly improved the look of the village landscape. Aeriko opened two years ago in the premises previously occupied by Ammos Beach and Kitchen Bar.  (There’s more information on all three new places later in this post.)

I also noticed several hotels and studio rental properties have undertaken significant upgrades in the past two years, while others have been renovating this winter in preparation for the 2019 season.  The good news for travellers is more (and improved) choices for lodging, along with additional places to drink and dine. Happily, the changes have been for the better, and haven’t had a negative impact on Kini’s comfortable atmosphere and charm.  

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We have seen many remarkable sunsets from Kini (this one was from our holiday in 2015), with vivid sky colours that were more stunning than any we’ve seen on Santorini, the island that’s famous for sunset views.

 

The low-key, laid-back ambiance is what we personally enjoy about Kini, along with its scenic location, marvellous sunset views, sandy beaches, interesting walks and excellent restaurants. (Its close proximity to the island’s vibrant capital, Ermoupoli, is another appealing feature.) On both of our visits, Kini won our hearts as one of the most chill and relaxing places we’ve stayed anywhere in Greece.  In fact, we often muse about going there for an extended period — a couple of months in spring or fall, for instance — since we find it particularly inspiring for our creative pursuits of writing, painting and photography.

I know others share our appreciation for Kini just as strongly; online, I have chatted with a number of people who have made repeat visits and are planning to return this year because they love Kini for the same reasons. And when we have spoken to other tourists while we have been in Kini, everyone has commented about how much they were enjoying the place. We never heard anything negative.

Kini might not be your cup of tea if your ideal island getaway is a crowded and glitzy tourist magnet, like Mykonos, where you can spend all your time and money shopping in designer boutiques, dining at gourmet international restaurants, and partying at exclusive nightclubs and trendy beach clubs.  But if your goal is to rest and recharge in a peaceful, picturesque village with good Greek restaurants and nice sandy beaches, Kini could well be paradise. It’s my hope that the photographs, descriptions and personal anecdotes in this guide will give you a solid sense of what Kini has to offer, and will inspire you to consider including Kini in your future holiday plans if it does look like a place you would enjoy.

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Kini is situated on the west coast of Syros, approximately 9 km from the island’s port town and capital, Ermoupoli

 

 

Please click on the links below below to continue reading and see dozens of Kini photos.

Page 2 highlights Kini sights, attractions and things to do, with descriptions of local beaches, boat trips to remote beach areas, and scenic walks.

Page 3 spotlights places to eat and drink in the village.

Page 4 profiles hotels and many of the room and studio accommodations available at Kini.  

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