Tag: beach (page 1 of 35)

A winter daytrip to Paleochora in southwest Crete

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This 9-minute film by  fitness and travel buff William Taudien shows Paleochora, Crete from ground level, in the air, and even under water.

 

Just a few weeks back, I wrote about a new promotional video that tourism authorities on Crete had produced to encourage more travellers to visit the island in winter.

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!

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 Best Travel Tips to Crete page of the Tourist Maker website.  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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A guide to Kini, the laid-back beach village on Syros

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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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Colourful Kini Bay on Syros island

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Evening view of the Kini Bay area, from a hill behind Lotos beach

 

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Houses and holiday accommodations on the hills behind Kini Beach

 

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Fishing boats moored in the small harbour at Kini Bay

 

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Overlooking Kini beach, bay and harbour

 

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A quiet morning at Kini Beach

 

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Waves reflect the golden hues of sunset above Kini Bay 

 

Photo tour: It seems I have stoked some interest in Syros.

After I posted that Travel + Leisure magazine had profiled Syros island in its February 2019 issue, a number of readers have been in touch to say they are now thinking about going there for part of their island hopping holidays this summer.

And since I had mentioned that Syros is one of our favourite islands, some asked if I could recommend a specific beach resort area for them to consider.

So far we have stayed twice at just one beach location — Kini Bay — and loved it, but we have been to a few other beach areas that are popular with tourists, including Galissas, Finikas and Poseidonia. We would probably choose to stay at one of those places on our next trip to Syros, simply for a change of scenery and the chance to to experience a different part of the island.

But I wouldn’t describe Kini or any of the others as “resorts” per se; rather, they are fairly small villages situated on or near sandy beaches and scenic coastlines, each offering a respectable selection of accommodations and restaurants. You won’t find strips of shops or nightclubs at any of these locations, but there are mini markets and grocery stores where visitors staying in studio apartments or villas can purchase food and sundry items they might need.

What we particularly enjoy about Kini Bay is its beautiful setting on a picturesque bay, where holidaymakers can relax on two sandy beaches — Kini and Lotos — or at nearby Delfini, which is reasonable walking distance from the village.  Galissas beach can be reached either by car or on foot (a hiking path that winds up and down hills high above the rugged coast), while boat trips to two isolated beaches north of Kini are offered in season.

I’ll tell you more about the area in a separate post I’m currently working on, but in the meantime I have gathered dozens of our pictures to show you why we have been so keen on Kini.

Please click on the link below to take a photo tour of colourful sights and scenes at Kini Bay.

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