Tag: Astipalea (page 1 of 6)

20 alluring, authentic and quieter alternatives to the major tourist islands in Greece

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Tourlitis lighthouse ancient Kastro and mansions of Chora on Andros island

Port city of Ermoupoli on Syros island

Views of the Tourlitis lighthouse, the ancient Kastro ruins, and mansions overlooking the seaside at Chora on Andros (top photo); and the stunning port city of Ermoupoli on Syros (bottom). Andros and Syros are among 20 islands Greece Is magazine recommends as alternatives to crowded mainstream places like Mykonos and Santorini.

 

It’s understandable why many people planning a first-time trip to the Greek Islands quickly feel overwhelmed by the task of arranging their itineraries — there are so many isles to choose from, and all of them look and sound amazing based on pictures and descriptions in brochures, magazines and online travel sites.  How can you possibly tell which ones would be the best choices for what you would like to see and do during your vacation?

The dilemma of selecting ideal destinations doesn’t get much easier for repeat island hoppers, either, if they’re hoping to discover someplace new rather than revisit isles they have already experienced.

 

I had expected my bucket list of must-see islands would gradually shrink after each trip to Greece, but it keeps growing longer. Whenever we visit a dream destination, locals and fellow travellers tell us wonderful things about nearby places we haven’t considered before, and those inevitably get added to the list. 

I’m resigned to the reality that I won’t get to see everything I want unless I live well past 100!

But thanks to a helpful article published by the Greece Is magazine and website on January 3,  I will be able to quickly narrow down my options whenever I’m seeking islands that aren’t super-commercial or bursting at the seams with thousands of tourists and cruise ship daytrippers (something we’ve been striving to do on recent holidays!). 

view toward Ano Meria and the Panagia Church on Folegandros island

A view toward the village of Hora and the stunning clifftop Panagia Church on Folegandros, another island recommended as a great alternative to the busiest tourist isles

 

In the feature story 20 Alternative Islands to visit in 2020, writer Paulina Kapsali has profiled “off the tourist-beaten path” islands that will be ideal for avoiding the crushing summer crowds of perenially popular tourist magnets like Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Kos and Corfu.

Each of her selected destinations will offer a quieter, less busy and more authentically Greek island experience than any of the mainstream tourist draws, “whether you’re looking for a typical Cycladic island to enjoy without the hordes of tourists, a historically significant location that none of your cultured coworkers have heard of, or a remote place to spend days on the beach without the pressure of any human interaction” she says. 

 

The 20 islands that Kapsali singles out can be found in five distinct regions of Greece:

♦  the Lasithi area of eastern Crete, and Gavdos island south of Crete;

♦   the Northeastern Aegean islands of Limnos, Psara, Samothraki and Skyros;

♦ the Dodecanese islands Astypalea, Halki, Karpathos, Kastellorizo and Kasos;

♦  Kythira island south of the Peloponnese; and

♦ the Cyclades islands Andros, Folegandros, Kea, Kimolos, Kythnos, Sikinos, Syros and Tinos.

The article includes a photo and brief description of each island, transport options to reach them, and links to any feature stories that Greece Is has published on that particular place. 

We have been to five of the spots Kapsali recommends  — Andros, Astypalea, Folegandros, Syros and Tinos — and I have illustrated this blog post with photos that we took on each of those islands.  Most of the other islands she suggests are already on our list for future travel.

Click here to read the full write-up of what Kapsali calls “20 island destinations you’ll be the first of your friends to visit in 2020.”

And if you haven’t already done so, be sure to bookmark the Greece Is website while you’re reading the article. I find it’s a superb resource for information about travel, culture and gastronomy in Greece, and I check it regularly for ideas, inspiration and advice.

pilgrims crawling uphill to Evangelistria Church on Tinos island

Pilgrims crawl a long uphill road to the Holy Church of Panaga Evaggelistria (visible at the top of the picture) on Tinos island

 

Chora and the castle on Astypalia island

Chora and the imposing castle on Astypalea island 

 

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.

 

The allure of Astypalea

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Astypalea is an inspiring short film by Eva Rodriguez and Ignasi Llobet 

 

Intriguing imagery: We have been to Astypalea just once, for an introductory 3-day visit back in 2009, but after watching the video posted above, I regret that we didn’t spend more time there.  We missed so many amazing sights!

Astypalea is a short video that was created by Eva Rodriguez and Ignasi Llobet. It’s only two minutes long, yet the film is packed with intriguing images and spectacular scenery from what the two filmmakers rightly describe as “one of the most beautiful and unspoiled Greek islands.”

Filmed by Ignasi with a handheld Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, the video follows Eva as she tours the butterfly-shaped Dodecanese island, pausing to admire and contemplate Astypalea’s striking landscape, beach, coast and village scenery.  I recognized the spellbinding views from some of Eva’s vantage points, but felt a strong tinge of disappointment that I didn’t get to personally see many of the other sights while we were there.  

Happily, Eva and Ignasi have shown me plenty of good reasons to consider a return trip.

 

Filming is a challenge under the intense Greek sun

But it isn’t just their film that has rekindled memories of our own brief visit six years ago. In notes describing their film, Ignasi said “it was practically impossible to see what I was shooting, focusing, exposuring and framing… under the Greek sun it’s impossible to see anything on the screen.”

That is so true.  The sun is always incredibly brilliant in Greece, but in Astypalea I found it exceptionally intense.  Even though I wore sunglasses, I couldn’t stop squinting, and my eyes often watered uncontrollably because of the searing sunshine. Like Ignasi, I couldn’t see anything through my camera viewfinder or LCD screen, either, and most of my photos wound up blurred, overexposed, or poorly framed because I could only point and shoot and hope for the best. (It didn’t help that I was in a jetlag haze much of the time — Astypalea was our first stop on a four-island itinerary that year, and it had taken us well over 24 hours of travel to get there.) You can see the  photos that turned out okay in my Astypalea album on Flickr.

But do watch Eva and Ignasi’s film a few times — I think it’s remarkable for capturing the allure and charm of Astypalea, and making you feel like you’re actually there, experiencing the island yourself. If you can’t get to Astypalea, this film is the next best thing.

Many thanks to Eva for inviting me to publish the film on my blog. This is one of my favourite videos of Greece!

Greek Islands featured on covers of major travel magazines

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GEO magazine June 2014 cover

GEO magazine profiled Greece in its June 2014 issue with a cover photo of Mandrakia village on Milos and an “Escape” feature on the “Secret islands and archipelagos of Greece.” They’re obviously not secret anymore!

 

Summer reads: When I’m not in Greece I enjoy reading about it — in books, magazines, online travel forums and websites. Thanks to feature cover stories about Greece published by three major European travel magazines recently, I’ve got plenty to read while relaxing on my balcony this summer.

Here’s a look at what the three magazine cover stories say about Greece:

  GEO magazine June 2014

I discovered GEO magazine from France purely by chance — I was looking for another magazine at a newsstand when a photo on GEO’s bold green cover caught my eye. It was the picturesque harbour at Mandrakia, a fishing hamlet on Milos, under the headline: “Secret islands and archipelagos of Greece.” I couldn’t resist and bought the magazine after taking only a cursory glance at the contents.

It turns out there are 28 full pages of text and beautiful photos about several Greek islands including Kythera, Kalymnos, Milos, Santorini, Chios, Aegina, Tinos, Skyros, Folegandros and Rhodes. The stories aren’t travel guides — they don’t recommend hotels to stay in, for instance, or suggest the hottest restaurants and coolest beaches to visit. Some of the pieces provide brief descriptions and overviews of the destinations, while others take an insightful look into how the Greek Islands have been affected by the country’s devastating economic crisis. The sale of island real estate to foreign billionaires is considered in part of one report, for example, while another piece profiles people who have started new business ventures selling local agricultural products.

 Island village photo foul-up

 GEO magazine photo of Astipalea

Mon Dieu! GEO magazine mistakenly published this eye-catching photo of Chora village on Astipalea to illustrate a short piece about Chora on Kythera — another island in a completely different area of Greece.

 

One of the GEO feature’s excellent photos — spread across pages 36 and 37  — really piqued my curiosity. It shows a white-domed church rising from the middle of a huge stone castle perched on a hilltop. The slopes below the castle are stacked with white cube houses that descend to a row of derelict windmills. I instantly recognized the location — Chora village on Astipalea, a butterfly-shaped island in the Dodecanese archipelago. I had shot photos from almost the identical vantage point when we visited Astipalea in 2009. However, the picture accompanied an article about Kythera, which is part of the Ionian island group, and the text said the town in the photo is that island’s capital, also called Chora. (Most main towns on Greek islands are called Chora).

I haven’t been to Kythera yet, but I was absolutely certain the photo was from Astipalea. So I poured through my photos to confirm I was right (there’s more than 300 pictures in my Astipalea collection on Flickr). Sure enough, details in my pictures of Astipalea’s Chora matched the same features visible in the GEO image, which was credited to Velissario Voutsas /IML – Hemis.fr, a French photo agency. Obviously someone on the magazine staff had made a big boo-boo by purchasing the wrong stock image to illustrate the article!

(You can learn more about Kythera, and see photos showing what its Chora looks like, on the comprehensive Visit Kythera website.)

Photo flop aside, the GEO stories are compelling reads, and are bound to encourage people in France to consider island hopping in Greece on an upcoming vacation. Moreover, photos and information about Leros, Kalymnos, Chios, Skyros and Tinos will encourage travellers to visit charming islands that often get overlooked because they aren’t instantly-recognizable mainstream tourist destinations like Santorini, Paros, Naxos and Mykonos.

 Please click on the 2 in the link below to continue reading this report.

 CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

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