Tag: beach (page 2 of 35)

Saronic island sojourn: Photos from our holiday week on Poros

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One of our first views of Poros Town, seen during our short ferry ride to Poros island from the town of Galatas on the eastern Peloponnese coast

 

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And here’s how Galatas looked from a vantage point beside the white clock tower shown in the previous photo of Poros Town

 

Postcard pretty:  If we had to pick a theme to describe our 2018 spring holiday in Greece, “something old and something new” would suit perfectly.  The “something old” was a repeat visit to the historic town of Nafplio, one of our most favourite places in Greece, followed one week later by “something new” — our first-ever trip to Poros, one of the Saronic Gulf islands off the coast of the eastern Peloponnese. 

 

Nafplio and Poros proved to be an ideal pairing, not just because we enjoyed both destinations tremendously, but because it was so easy to use local transportation to move from the Peloponnese to the island (as usual, we did not rent a car for our holiday).

 

Greece, Poros, Poros island, Poros Greece, Saronic islands, Peloponnese, Argo-Saronic islands, Greek islands

The red marker pinpoints Poros island’s location in the Saronic Gulf archipelago between Athens and the eastern Peloponnese. We reached Poros by taking a bus from Nafplio (shown at the center-left side of the map) to Galatas, followed by a quick ferry ride from there to the island.

 

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A 250-meter-wide strait separates Galatas, bottom left, from Poros Town and the Sferia peninsula of Poros island. The area at the top of this image is Kalavria, the largest part of the island. Sferia and Kalavria were distinct, individual isles in ancient times, and now are divided by a short, narrow canal.

 

The regional bus system KTEL Argolida operates two daily bus trips  (except Sundays) from Nafplio to Galatas, a coastal town separated from Poros by a narrow strait.  The 5:30 a.m. departure was far too early for our liking, so we bought tickets for the 2:30 p.m. bus instead (at a cost of just €9 per person).

 

The bus left Nafplio on time, stopping en route at the entrance to the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus as well as at several villages before arriving at a crossroads where we transferred onto another bus for the remainder of the drive to Galatas. This part of the route was the most interesting and enjoyable, particularly as the road climbed through mountains and then emerged hundreds of meters above the scenic coast. As the bus descended the hillside highway, our seats on the left side of the vehicle gave us terrific views of the Methana peninsula, the Strait of Poros, and eventually Poros island itself.

 

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One of the coastal views from our bus trip from Nafplio to Galatas.  I shot this photo when our bus was about 10 minutes from Galatas.

 

The bus reached the Galatas harbourfront shortly past 4:30 p.m. , and let us out near the pier from which we could take a ferry to Poros Town, a mere 5-minute or so trip across the narrow Strait of Poros. We had time to purchase our ferry tickets (€1 per person one way), admire the excellent views of Poros Town, plus take a peek at some of the tavernas along the Galatas seafront before catching the next boat. The traditional Greek food being served to customers on the patio at Babis Taverna looked so delicious, we were tempted to stay for an early dinner and catch a later ferry to Poros instead (the boats ran every half hour, and water taxis also were available), but we decided to leave dining in Galatas for another time.

 

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Hotels and restaurant buildings along the waterfront strip at Galatas 

 

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One of the ferries that shuttles vehicles and passengers between Galatas and Poros each half hour throughout the day

 

The ferry crossing was as quick as expected, with superb views of Poros Town and its extensive seaside strip lined with shops, restaurants and hotels. When we disembarked at the Poros Town port,  we instantly spotted our accommodations, Dimitra Hotel, on the hillside overlooking the town’s waterfront street. It was just a short walk away, so within minutes we were settling into our room and checking out the great views. 

From a window and our balcony, we had good views of Poros Town, the edge of the island’s Kalavria region,  and the long string of mountains along the Peloponnese coast at the far end of the bay. The extensive panoramic views from the hotel’s large rooftop terrace two floors above us were even more striking, especially at sunset.  We could have sat and watched the scenery for awhile, but we were eager to get out and about to explore Poros Town. Since we would be staying at the Dimitra for three nights, we would have loads of time to enjoy the views. 

 

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Dimitra Hotel in Poros Town, where we stayed in a sea- and sunset-view room during our first three nights on the island

 

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Evening view of Poros Town from the rooftop terrace at Dimitra Hotel

 

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Sunset view from the terrace at Dimitra Hotel  

 

Please click the link below to continue reading and to see a random selection of photos from our week-long stay on Poros.

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April landslide prompts renewed warning of 5-year-old ban on visits to Santorini’s Red Beach

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Red Beach Santorini

With its breathtaking backdrop of soaring crimson cliffs, many tourists regard Santorini’s Red Beach as one of the top “must-see” attractions on the island. This image appeared on the Travel to Santorini page on Facebook.

 

Red Beach Santorini

Red Beach has officially been closed to the public since 2013 because of rockfall risks, but thousands of tourists ignore warning signs and visit regardless.  This photo, posted to Facebook by Hui Lin, shows a newlywed couple walking in the water at Red Beach on February 25 2018.

 

Red Beach Santorini

 Luckily, no-one was injured when a landslide struck Red Beach on April 13 2018. This photo by Costas Konstantinidis shows the huge pile of sand and rock debris that slid onto the southern end of the beach.  The photo appeared in Greek news stories reporting on the latest rockfall.

 

Beautiful but dangerous:  “Attention! Danger of landslides. No entry.”

That’s the warning on signs posted along the access path to Santorini’s world-famous Red Beach, but each year thousands of tourists have ventured down to the beach regardless, to sunbathe, swim and shoot those all-important “I was here” selfies.

Scores of people will probably visit Red Beach again this year, even though a landslide in mid-April confirmed there’s an ever-present danger that sections of the tall crimson cliffs that tower above the beach could collapse on them at any time.

Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful and unusual beaches in the world, Red Beach resulted from the natural erosion of the cone of a small volcano. Comprised of loose layers of slag (volcanic cinder), the cone’s steep southern slope developed large cracks and fissures during seismic and volcanic activity; eventually, sections of the slope crumbled and slid seaward, creating the dramatic cliffs that rise above the stone and pebble shore today.

The cliffs have been studied extensively by geologists and volcanologists from Greek universities and the Institute for the Study and Monitoring of the Santorini volcano, who concluded that further erosion cannot be stopped or prevented.  Since landslides are unpredictable and instantaneous, they urged island authorities to take steps to keep people from visiting Red Beach and potentially putting themselves in harm’s way.

 

Red Beach Santorini

This aerial image shows how the slopes of a former volcano cone have caved in and crumbled onto Red Beach over time. The photograph has appeared on many social media sites, including the Akrotiri and Knossos community page on Facebook, but I haven’t been able to find the original source to give proper credit for the image.

 

The island municipality did close Red Beach to the public after a major landslide occurred in August of 2013, but most tourists have simply walked past the “no entry” signs that were put up. It’s possible many of the travellers weren’t aware there have in fact been major rockfalls, or perhaps they have thought the risk of one occurring during their visit was so infinitesimal it wasn’t worth worrying about. After all, if it was so dangerous, why would local and national travel and tourism businesses continue to recommend that people go there?

Valid point indeed, since some Santorini tour agencies offer boat trips to the beach, while a variety of island hotels and travel businesses regularly encourage visits to Red Beach in photos and comments posted on their social media accounts. Enterprising local residents also have set up rental lounge chairs and umbrellas on the beach, along with a snack canteen — apparently in blatant violation of local regulations. And Aegean Airlines recently raised some eyebrows when it featured Red Beach on the cover of its in-flight magazine for March & April 2018, and in several photographs accompanying its feature story “The hidden treasures of Santorini” (one of the pics showed a female fashion model posing in front of a debris pile from a small landslide).

 

 

 

Will anything change as a result of the most recent rockfall, which occurred on April 13?

According to reports posted on the Greek news and information websites Atlantea and LIFO,  among others, the latest landslide prompted island authorities to issue a press release reminding people that “access to the Red Beach is forbidden” — as it has been since 2013 — so the beach remains off-limits for sunbathing, swimming, walking and other activities.

“The area has been marked with warning signs, and it is urged by all those involved with tourism to respect these prohibitions in order to avoid accidents,” the municipal press release is quoted as saying.

But since the “no entry” signs have been ignored for several years already, the municipality ultimately may have to consider installing physical barriers to ensure that people keep off the beach. As of this writing (on April 30 2018), tourists were still live-posting photos and reviews of Red Beach on their various social media pages, with some commenting that they noticed the hazard signs but went onto the beach anyway because they saw other people there.

If you’re planning to visit Santorini but don’t wish to risk a visit to Red Beach, you can instead view dozens of photos of it in my May 2016 blog post The bewitching but dangerous beauty of Santorini’s Red Beach.

 

Aegean Airlines Blue Magazine

The cover photo for the March/April 2018 Aegean Airlines in-flight magazine shows a fashion model posing near rocks  at one end of Red Beach.  There are more shots of models on the beach in the magazine’s photo feature on Santorini’s natural “hidden miracles.”

Top beach, golf, diving and other outdoor activity attractions near Marathopoli

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Proti Island

Located just one nautical mile from the town of Marathopoli in southwestern Messenia, Proti Island is a popular day trip destination for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, rock climbing, cliff jumping and trekking. This aerial photo of Proti Island is from the website for the Artina hotels in Marathopoli.

 

Lagouvardos, shown in this aerial video by Giannis Mpantes, is a long golden sand beach less than 3 kilometers from Marathopoli. It’s considered one of the top surfing spots in Greece, and also attracts enthusiasts of windsurfing, SUP, canoeing and other watersports. 

 

Surf’s up!: In a recent post I noted that the quiet, laid-back town of Marathopoli is an ideal base for travellers wishing to explore Methoni, Pylos, Navarino, Voidokilia and other popular places in the Messenian region of the southwestern Peloponnese. 

Even closer to the town are two noteworthy destinations that draw active travellers seeking scenic spots for outdoor sports activities such as swimming, surfing, windsurfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, rock climbing, trekking and fishing.

Uninhabited Proti Island, which dominates sea views from the town, is approximately one nautical mile away and can be accessed in summer on boat trips from Marathopoli harbour.  The tours take passengers to secluded coves, including Grammeno Bay,  and stop at picturesque Vourlia beach for sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling or jumping into the sea from rocks and ledges along the rugged coast. 

 

This aerial video of a boat trip to Vourlia beach on Proti island is from the website for Proti Cruises, which offers a variety of daily “mini cruise” excursions from Marathopoli

 

Proti Island monastery

The Monastery of the Assumption of Gorgopigi is one of the sights that hikers might encounter while walking some of the trails on Proti Island. This photo appears on the websites for Lagouvardos Apartments and other Marathopoli-area businesses.

 

 

Trekkers can explore Proti Island on three designated hiking routes, while rock climbers can test their skills on the challenging cliffs and coastal rock formations. Fishing trips and sunset tours also are available.

For those curious to see what lies beneath the waves, Ionian Dive Center offers scuba diving excursions to such island sites as the Anouar shipwreck in Vourlia Bay, the Tiganakia wall and cavern, the Blue Hole cavern with stalactites, Callens Valley and the  Beacon Cove.

 

This video by Ionian Dive Center will take you to the Blue Hole, one of the sights that scuba divers could explore during excursions to Proti Island

 

Lagouvardas beach

This photo from the official Marathopoli tourism website shows an aerial view of the long strip of golden sand at Lagouvardos beach

 

Lagouvardos Beach is only 3 kilometers from Marathopoli so it can easily be reached by car, bicycle or even walking. The Culture Trip website has included Lagouvardos on its list of The Best Surfing Spots in Greece, while travel publications and online guides regularly recommend the beach for windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), swimming, canoeing and other watersports. Equipment rentals and lessons are available from the Beach Break surf club at Lagouvardos.

For beach lovers and watersports fans who don’t mind driving a little farther afield, some of Messenia’s most beautiful and world-famous beaches — including Vromoneri, Mati, Romanos, Golden Sands Divari, and the incomparable Voidokilia — are situated within a span of just 7 to 15 kilometers. 

 

Vromoneri Beach

Just 7 kilometers from Marathopoli is Vromoneri beach, seen in an image from AllMessenia.com

 

Located about 9 km from Marathopoli is gorgeous Mati beach, seen in this aerial video by KOABeach Pool Bar

 

Additionally, the Marathopoli area is ideal for bicycling and mountain biking, while two globally renowned 18-hole courses at nearby Costa Navarino offer golfers the opportunity to tee off in spectacular settings.

 

Dunes Golf Course at Navarino

Award-winning world-class links await golf enthusiasts at Costa Navarino, just 13 km from Marathopoli. The green pictured above is on The Dunes Course, while the one below is on The Bay Course. Both images are from the Costa Navarino Facebook page.

 

Bay Course golf course at Navarino

More stunning photos and extensive information about the two golf resorts can be found in the golf section of the Costa Navarino website.

A castle- and seaview lunch break at Methoni beach

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Methoni Castle and Methoni beach

Our lunch at Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni was served with three lovely views, including the historic Methoni Castle to our right …

 

Methoni Bay

… Methoni Bay and Sapientza Island directly in front, and …

 

Methoni beach

… the golden sands and turquoise waters at the town beach to our left

 

Seaside dining: It was a huge treat to have lunch in the town of Methoni after visiting the area’s leading historic attraction for a few hours (which I described in my recent post,  A Walkabout in Messenia’s 800-year-old Methoni Castle).

What made our lunch break so special wasn’t just our feast on fabulous Greek fare, but the beautiful views we got to enjoy from our seaside seats at Akrogiali Taverna. From our table a mere meter from the water’s edge, we could gaze at Methoni’s golden sand beach, its picturesque bay and small harbour, and the imposing stone walls of the ancient castle. 

That kind of restaurant location and scenic backdrop is simply impossible to find anywhere back home in Toronto. Even though our city boasts an enviably long waterfront on Lake Ontario and a clutch of small islands with extensive parkland just a short ferry ride from downtown, we can’t dine right beside the water anywhere (not even on the Toronto Islands), and there are no centuries-old historic places along the shoreline. (Toronto is a young city by European standards — it was incorporated only in 1834).

The unique experience of open-air dining at a beach or seaside taverna with a scenic view is one of the main reasons why we love travelling to Greece so much, and our visit to Akrogiali was the first such meal of our 2017 spring holiday.  It really hit the spot given that it had been over 11 months since we had last been to a beach taverna.  

 

Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni

Beach view of the entrance to Akrogiali Taverna

 

After walking around Methoni Castle in the hot sun for more than two hours, and then strolling through part of the town of Methoni, we were looking forward to cooling off in the shade and having a good lunch. We found a couple of options on the Methoni beachfront, but liked the look of Akrogiali the best, so we got a table there.

Our lunch was just as delicious as the scenery: Greek salad, gigantes (giant beans baked in a tomato sauce), kolykythokeftedes (zucchini fritters), piperies me tyri (grilled peppers stuffed with a spicy feta), keftedes (Greek meatballs), a platter of gavros (small grilled fishes) and a big plate of fried potatoes.

With the calming views, light sea breeze and the sound of waves lapping against the sandy beach, it was pure bliss. I would have been happy to spend the rest of the day there, drinking wine and nibbling mezes while watching swimmers and boats in the bay, and looking at the castle.

Below are more photos of our lunchtime view and three of the dishes we enjoyed. If you would like to read what other people have thought of the restaurant, you can find more than 100 reviews under the Akrogiali Taverna listing on TripAdvisor.

 

Akrogiali Taverna

Part of the large open-air dining terrace at Akrogiali

 

Akrogiali Taverna

Tables along the edge of the patio offer unobstructed views of Methoni beach and bay

 

Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni

Side view of part of Akrogiali’s large, shaded patio

 

Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni

The taverna is less than a 5-minute walk from the Methoni Castle entrance

 

Akrogiali Taverna

Toilet humour: a sign on the taverna wall points the way to the restrooms. They were only 30 steps from our table.

 

Akrogiali Taverna's grilled stuffed peppers

The piperies me tyri (grilled peppers stuffed with a spicy feta cheese)

 

Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni

Kolykythokeftedes (zucchini fritters) and gigantes (giant beans)

 

Methoni Bay

Sailboats in Methoni Bay

 

Methoni Bay

View toward the mouth of the bay and Kouloura islet

 

Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni

Customers enjoying the view from Akrogiali’s patio

 

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