Videographer Nikos Outdoor travelled to the Eastern Aegean island of Ikaria at the beginning of the summer — before Greece had ended its Covid-19 lockdown and reopened its borders to international tourism — and enjoyed what he described as “probably the most unique trip ever!”
“We had the whole island literally for our own as the the usually crowded places were missing! We took advantage of the closed borders and shot some magnificent scenery that even during winter it is difficult to catch them so pure!” he says in notes accompanying his drone video, which was published on YouTube July 10.
The 5-minute film features amazing aerial views of the island’s inimitable scenery, including interior and coastal landscapes, beaches, villages and sunsets.
If you ever get the chance to visit Samos, here’s a few sage words of advice: Stay for at least a week, and rent a car for either all or part of your holiday. You’ll need that time, and access to a vehicle, to see even just a few of the fabulous sites and scenic locations spotlighted in the video This is my island, This is Samos by Michali’s Films.
We spent 4.5 days on Samos during an island-hopping holiday through the Dodecanese and East Aegean regions of Greece exactly 10 years ago this month. (How time flies — we can’t believe a full decade has passed since that vacation).
We knew when we arrived that we would only be scraping the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, by basing ourselves in and near the island’s capital city, Vathy, and not having a car at our disposal. Samos is a big island, as evidenced by the fact it boasts three ferry ports and an airport; spellbinding mountain, valley and coastal landscapes; dozens of beautiful beaches; charming villages, churches and monasteries; noteworthy historic places and monuments (including UNESCO World Heritage Sites); vineyards that produce the island’s world-famous muscat wine; scores of tavernas serving delicious local and traditional Greek cuisine; and much much more.
We weren’t stuck in Vathy the whole time, though, since we did rent mountain bikes for a day. That gave us the opportunity to take a fun ride to and from the picturesque seaside village of Kokkari, and to explore the countryside north of the city.
Still, we missed out on seeing so much, as This is my island, This is Samos made clear.
The 4-minute film shows dozens of remarkable places all over the island, and captures impressive aerial views of:
♦ the villages of Platanos, Kokkari, Pyrgos, Miloi, Irion, Pythagorion (and its striking Blue Street), Mesokampos, Posidonio, Mitilinii and Ormos Marathokampou;
♦ the beaches Klima, Potami, Mourtia, Mykali, Proteas, Psili Ammos, Megalo Seitani, Klima, Glikoriza, Tarsanas, Remataki, Livadaki, Limnionas, and Balos;
♦ the Temple of Hera, Ancient Walls of Samos, an ancient observatory, and other historic sites;
♦ the 2,500-year-old olive tree “Eva” at Miloi village;
♦ numerous churches and holy sites including the Church of Profitis Ilias, Agias Triada Monastery, Agios Nikolaos Church at Pandroso village, Panagia Church at Mitilinii village, the Church of Panagia Eleousa, the Church of Profitis Ilias near Spatharaioi village, the Church of Agiris Chrysostomos of Smyrna at Mykali, the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi, Agios Nikolaos Church at Posidonio, the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani at Pythagoreion, and Agios Nikolaos Church at Potami;
♦ a flamboyance of flamingos at Alikes Mykali;
♦ the islands of Samiopoula, Karavopetra, Agios Nikolaos, Diaporti and Vareloudi;
♦ Mount Kerkis and the Profitis Ilias mountain region;
♦ the statue of Pythagoras at Pythagoreion village;
♦ tour boats, and more.
If you’d like to see more of the island after taking this aerial tour, you’ll find nearly 20 other Samos videos to watch on the Michali’s Films channel on YouTube.
The Aegean Sea, Lindos village and the Acropolis of Lindos, on Rhodes, are depicted in a fabulous face painting by makeup artist Natalia J of Rhodes. This image is one of several she shared on her Facebook page; Natalia also posted a photo of the painting on her Instagram. Her facial artwork was inspired by the Till Then, Stay Safe campaign for Greek tourism.
Dream now, travel later: The Covid-19 pandemic has completely upended travel plans for millions of people (including us) who were supposed to holiday in Greece this spring and summer. Lockdowns, quarantines and international travel restrictions have put Greece off-limits to visitors since March, and as of mid-April it’s still far too early to tell if or when Greece will be able to welcome tourists back.
At this point, no-one knows if travel can resume sometime this summer or fall, or if there will even be a 2020 travel season at all.
Although their own livelihoods and personal well-being are in peril during the pandemic, Greeks who work in the tourism industry fully understand the frustration travellers are feeling because their Greek holiday plans have either been cancelled already, or remain in limbo. Feeling hopeful and positive despite the tremendous international upheaval caused by Covid-19, Greeks have been encouraging anxious travellers to stay optimistic, too, and to keep dreaming about going to Greece as soon as it’s safe to travel. To that end, the operators of hotels, resorts, tavernas, tour operators, promotional agencies, Greek destination websites, and many more, have been filling their social media pages with inspiring, positive posts and alluring images of beautiful sights and scenes in Greece.
They’re participating in an innovative initiative launched in mid-March by Marketing Greece, a private sector company established by the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) and the Hotel Chamber of Greece (XEE) to promotes travel and tourism to Greece.
One of several dozen images that Marketing Greece has made available to tourism businesses as part of its “Till Then, Stay Safe” campaign. This photo of a whitewashed chapel on Serifos island was shot by travel photographer Stefanos Addimando, better known to Instagrammers as @stef_greece.
“Nowadays, humanity is called upon to respond to a shocking challenge, with the messages of hope and optimism being more necessary than ever. Greek tourism, perfectly identified with the feelings of freedom, immediacy and escape from everyday life, sends its own message of anticipation for the next day,” Marketing Greece noted in a press release. Seizing upon that, the company kicked off a campaign called Till Then, #stay safe, and created promotional content for Greek tourism businesses to share with the international travelling public, urging them to remain safe while waiting for the better days that undoubtedly will come.
“Utilizing photographic material and accompanied by the copy ‘When the time is right, we’ll be there for you. Till then #staysafe,’ Marketing Greece emphasizes the hopeful Greek light, the refreshing blue of our country, our relaxing nature and invites travelers to continue dreaming the next time that carefree people can enjoy the uniqueness of Greece,” the press release explained.
Greeks joined in the campaign instantly and enthusiastically, and have since shared thousands of messages on social media pages and websites, using either the “Till Then, Stay Safe” catchphrase and hashtag, or substituting similarly-themed messages like “stay home,” “don’t cancel — reschedule,” “dream now,” and “till we meet again.”
The “I wanna go to Mykonos” photo at left — a knock-off of a popular Instagram post by @dudewithsign — went viral on social media in late March and early April. The image was frequently reposted with the word “Greece” or the names of other islands or Greek destinations Photoshopped in place of “Mykonos.”
This is Athens shared this image on Twitter to remind travellers that the Acropolis and Parthenon have endured tumultous events for centuries, and will still be around to visit after the Covid-19 pandemic is over.
The tourism center for the city of Volos and the region of Pelion shared this enticing short video to remind viewers of the immense natural beauty of Greece they will be able to enjoy once travel resumes.
We have collected dozens of Till Then, Stay Safe images that evoke happy memories from our own past vacations in Greece and make us eagerly anticipate our next trip, whenever that can happen. We have compiled them on page 2 of this post, where you can see popular places, attractions and holiday activities in Greece that will be waiting to welcome you once the pandemic-related travel restrictions are lifted. If you haven’t yet decided where you would like to holiday once it is possible to arrange a trip to Greece, the pictures should give you plenty of ideas for amazing places to consider.
Since then, I’ve been keeping an eye on social media to watch for current photo and video posts, to get a better feel for what the island is like at this time of year. The latest we have ever been to Crete ourselves was in late October and early November 2017, when the tourist season was wrapping up and most hotels and restaurants were either already closed or shutting down. Despite a few days of inclement weather, we had a great time, but we often wondered how visiting in winter would compare. It seems other people are curious, too — in online travel forums, I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of people asking whether winter travel to Crete and other places in Greece would be worthwhile.
This week I got some answers when adventure traveller, fitness buff and vlogger William Taudien published the video I posted above.
William has been living near the Crete city of Chania for the past three months. In late December, he took a daytrip to Paleochora, a small town on the island’s southwest coast which happened to be the last stop on our late autumn holiday two years ago.
After a bumpy 90-minute bus ride through gorgeous mountain scenery, William arrived at Paleochora to sunny skies and comfortable temperatures in the low 20s Celsius — weather similar to what we had experienced. Conditions were ideal for William to film ground-level video while wandering the streets, the seafront on the east side of town, and beautiful big Pachia Ammos beach to the west, which he had all to himself. With his drone, he captured amazing aerial views of the colourful town, the beach, and the spectacular mountain and Libyan Sea surroundings. He even shot some underwater scenes while swimming and snorkeling.
Everything looked pretty much as it had when we spent three days in Paleochora, with one major difference — as William explains in the video, restaurant options are extremely limited in winter, especially if you’re looking for somewhere to have lunch.
Although he had an enjoyable trip to Paleochora on that particular day, William told me in an email that “It seems like the weather is a bit unstable in the winter.” In fact, right after his daytrip, the weather changed rapidly when a massive storm system that meteorologists named Zenobia swept across Greece, lashing the country with gale-force winds, heavy rains, and snowfalls in some regions. Zenobia pounded Greece for the final four days of 2019, and weather conditions remained unsettled into the first week of the new year.
But conditions improved, and sunshine and mild temperatures returned. In his email, William told me he took another daytrip a few days ago, this time to explore the village of Hora Sfakion on Crete’s southern coast. And, once again, he went swimming. “It was really sunny and nice,” he said.
Now, as I look out my window at gloomy grey skies and the temperature below the freezing mark here in Toronto, I keep daydreaming about paying a winter visit to Chania, and taking daytrips to places like Paleochora and Hora Sfakion if the weather is decent. Definitely something to keep in mind for next winter!