Tag: Crete (page 2 of 11)

Escape to Crete’s exotic Balos beaches and lagoons

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Balos Crete photo 01 by Antoine Nikolopoulos

 Balos Crete photo 02 by Antoine Nikolopoulos

Cape Tigani and the Balos beaches and lagoons in northwest Crete are seen from two different perspectives in beautiful photos shot in early October 2015 by Antoine Nikolopoulos of Odyssey Art Photography

 

Longing for lagoons: I’ve had an insatiable craving for Vitamin Sea and sunshine recently … symptoms, no doubt, of a severe case of midwinter blues. Deep-freeze temperatures here in Toronto most of last week, followed by two days of snowfalls this week, have only made my condition worse. So I’ve been looking at photos and videos of Balos, what I consider to be one of the most sensational beaches in Greece, to take my mind off the cold and snow.

It’s a self-prescribed treatment I call the “Balos boost.” Even though I haven’t yet been to what is widely regarded as the most iconic and most photographed beach on Crete, it always lifts my spirits to see images of this exotic-looking seaside area.  

 

Balos Crete photo from Flickr photostream of Caroline Martinez

It’s dreamy scenes like this, photographed by Flickr member Caroline Martinez, that make me yearn for an escape to Balos.

 

Balos Crete photo by Giannis Fountoulakis

Here’s another image that instantly makes me daydream about going to Balos. This scene, photographed by Giannis Fountoulakis, is just one of two dozen impressive images, all captured by Giannis, that appear in a Balos photo gallery on the website for the Elizabeth Estate Agency in Crete.

 

Why Balos?

Because it has everything I imagine in the Fantasy Island beach of my dreams: alluring shallow lagoons shimmering with more than a dozen different hues of tempting turquoise water; curving ribbons of white sand (pinkish from crushed seashells in some places); visually-striking natural landscapes with steep rust-coloured hills and cliffs, and rugged rocky seashores; marvellous scenery in every direction; and mesmerizing sunset views. All in a rather out-of-the-way location that can be an adventure to reach. 

It’s my personal notion of a Greek island paradise, a place that has “special,” “incomparable” and “wow” written all over it. From what I’ve seen and read, that’s the general impression Balos has made on many people who have been there and seen it with their own eyes. In fact, Balos was ranked as the #3 beach in Greece, and the #11 beach in Europe, in the recently-announced TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards for 2016.

 

“A single glance is enough for someone to understand that this is not just a beach but one of nature’s finest masterpieces.” — Elizabeth Estate Agency

 

Balos photo from the Crete island, Greece Facebook page

According to a post about Balos in the Bulgarian-language travel blog My Trips in Pictures, visitors can observe 12 to 17 different shades of turquoise in the Balos lagoons and surrounding sea. A few of the fascinating hues are seen in this photo from the Crete island, Greece Facebook page.

 

Balos photo from Crete island, Greece Facebook page

This photo from the Crete island, Greece Facebook page shows people enjoying the shallow waters of the Balos lagoons with nearby Gramvousa island as an impressive scenic backdrop

 

 

Coming up on the next page, as well as in Part 2 of this post, you’ll see some of my favourite Balos videoclips and photographs — just a sample of the thousands of Balos images that have taken my mind off cold and snow dozens of times so far this winter. I’m sharing them here in case you could use a little Balos boost yourself, wherever you might be.  

I also have gathered links to online travel sites and blog posts that provide even more pictures plus detailed information about the beach, including directions on how to get there, in case you’d like to pay Balos a personal visit this summer or sometime in the future. Consider it a mini guide to Balos, if you will. The only information I don’t include is for hotels, studios or rental villas — you’ll have to research that yourself, but you’ll find links to accommodation resources on most of the websites I mention, as well as in source credits appearing under many of the photographs in my post.

To start off my “escape to Balos” feature, here is a video to help those of you who aren’t already familiar with Balos to get acquainted with its matchless location and sublime setting.

I love watching this film by Žiga Zupančič because it instantly makes me feel like I’m at Balos, basking in the sun, appreciating the grandeur of the landscapes and scenery, and chilling out to the laid-back beach vibe. 

 

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Escape to Balos (Part 2)

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Most of this video by Carlos Torres was filmed on the beaches and in the lagoons, so it gives you a very good impression of what it’s like to be at Balos. The video also includes views from the drive on the dirt road, as well as from the footpath to the beach. 

 

More of Balos — in photos

 

Part 1 of my Balos “escape” post provided information on ways to get to the beach, and described what you’ll find there. Here, in Part 2, I share some of my favourite pictures and videos of the beaches, lagoons and surrounding coast. Many are from Crete-based travel websites, while others have appeared in blogs and on social media sites like Facebook. 

I have included credit lines to indicate where I obtained each photo. However, since so many images are shared without proper attribution on social media nowadays, it’s possible that some photos may not be correctly credited to the proper photographer or copyright holder. If one of your images appears here with incorrect attribution, please let me know and I will be happy to either amend the credit line or remove the image from this post at your request.

Balos photo by Kolory Krety

Photo shared on Facebook by Kolory Krety

 

Please click on the link below to view several videos and over three dozen more beautiful Balos photos on page 2 of this post.

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Experience Greece’s glorious off-season sights & scenery with winter walks and drives

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Greece on foot walking tour photo 01

A light layer of snow on the ground didn’t deter participants in a Greece on Foot walking tour from enjoying the awe-inspiring mountain and valley scenery in the Arcadia region of the Peloponnese on January 24 …

 

Greece on foot walking tour photo 02

… nor did cold temperatures just two days later, when walkers got to trek through vibrant green olive groves like this one under brilliant sunny skies. (Photos provided courtesy of Greece on Foot tours.)

 

Winter wonders: Take a winter vacation in Greece? Sure! Why not?

The seething  crowds of summer tourists have long since disappeared, as have the scorching temperatures and the startling high prices of peak season. There’s no waiting in long queues for seats on buses or in restaurants, and no jostling with mobs of organized excursion groups or gaggles of selfie-snapping sightseers at monuments and museums. Hiking paths are almost deserted, and roads aren’t clogged with tour coaches. The magnificent historic and natural scenery remains glorious despite the drastic change in seasons, the legendary Greek hospitality continues unabated, and the food is superb as always.

Of course, winter is the wrong time to visit if your primary holiday preferences are swimming and water sports, lounging on beaches, or all-night-long dancing and carousing at bars, clubs and beaches on Mykonos, Ios or any of the other legendary Greek “party islands.” 

But you’ll still find dynamic nightlife in Athens and Thessaloniki, cities which abound in world-class dining, shopping, entertainment and cultural activities all year round. And if you’re a winter sports enthusiast, you can challenge your alpine mountaineering or snow kiting skills on Crete, or go snowboarding and downhill skiing at Kalavrita or one of several other major resorts on the Greek mainland.

Mountaineering in Crete

Two alpine mountaineers ascend the steep snow-covered peak of Mt Dikti on Crete, in this image shared on Facebook in late January by Festivalaki: Cretan festival of Arts & Culture. The organization’s Facebook post said mountaineering in Crete offers “a wonderful experience combining alpine terrain with breathless views of both the Libyan & Aegean sea.”

 

Vouliagmeni beach photo by John de Castelberg

A beach near the Vouliagmeni beach suburb of Athens is seen in this December 29 2015 photo by John de Castelberg.  Most tourists might find the sea too chilly for a winter dip, but the scenic beach- and café-lined coast of the Athenian Riviera is pleasant to visit throughout the off season.

 

 

Main tourist season is April to October

For people like me and my partner, who couldn’t bear either the blistering heat and sun or the heaving hordes of tourists in midsummer, winter could well be one of the best times to visit Greece. So why, then, have we travelled there only in spring or fall?

That’s a question we have been pondering a lot lately. We used to believe it was better to travel during the regular tourist season, which generally starts in late April and winds down by the end of October (particularly on the islands). In fact, most of our Greek holidays have been fairly early in the season, typically sometime between mid-May and early June. But we have gone twice in the autumn — we went island hopping in the Cyclades in late September 2007, and we explored Naxos and Athens during the first half of October 2013.

What we like about our spring trips in particular is the palpable local excitement and anticipation for the new travel season and approaching summer period, an atmosphere we find invigorating and refreshing after our long winter hibernation at home in Canada. Also, the weather is usually perfect for some of our favourite holiday activities — hiking and walking, and dining outdoors (especially near the sea). We weren’t keen to visit Greece during the off-season because we were worried we might not enjoy it as much with colder temperatures, inclement weather and few tourists around. 

Samos flamingo photo by Nikolaos Housas

Winter shouldn’t keep us away from Greece — it didn’t stop this pretty pink flamingo and a dozen of its feathered friends from visiting the Alyki wetland reserve on Samos island for several days at the end of January 2016.  Local photographer Nikolaos Housas captured this splendid image on January 27 and shared it on the Samos Island public group page on Facebook. 

 

Social media show the winter appeal of Greece

But recently we’ve really been warming up to the idea of a winter getaway to Greece.  What changed our minds? In two words: social media.

With their photos on Facebook, Flickr and Twitter (some of which I will share with you on page 2 of this post), friends, acquaintances and dozens of people we don’t even know have shown us that Greece can be just as delightful and charming in winter as it is during spring, summer or fall. In fact, they have demonstrated that it’s a terrific time to see the country’s wonderful sights and scenery either on foot or by driving around, and it can often even be comfortable to eat outdoors, or at least sit outside with a coffee to people watch and enjoy the scenery.  What’s more, colourful Carnival celebrations held each February and March in scores of villages and towns provide traditional festive fun and excitement we wouldn’t find in spring.

Haroula taverna at Marpissa on Paros

We thought we would miss eating outdoors if we took an off-season trip to Greece. But occasional mild weather means outdoor dining can be possible even in winter, as this photo posted by the Parosweb Facebook page attests. Taken on January 21 2016, the picture shows a table laden with delectable dishes of home-cooked Greek cuisine in the courtyard at Haroula’s Taverna in Marpissa village on Paros.

 

A place to escape our usual winter blahs

Of course there can be gloomy days with rain, cold temperatures, gale-force winds and even snowstorms, as I have reported in posts on December 31 2015, January 17 2016, and January 23 2016. But we get unpredictable and occasionally severe weather conditions at home, too. Yet we continue to drag ourselves through our  December and January doldrums, and the brutal February blahs, daydreaming about Greece and counting the days until we can go back.  Why not just battle the blahs by getting a winter fix of Greece instead?  With luck we might encounter pleasantly mild weather conditions, as you’ll see in many of the photos below. At worst, it will feel almost like winter back home — but at least we will be passing the time enjoying the off-season beauty in our favourite travel destination. We’re already looking into the possibility of doing exactly that next December or January.

Please click here or on the link below the following picture to turn to page 2 and see some of the photos that have convinced us we’re long overdue for an off-season trip to Greece. Fingers crossed that we’ll be posting our own winter pictures at this time next year. 

Athens winter night view photo by Wendy Gilops

Athens is a bustling year-round travel destination, as evidenced by the throngs of people strolling past historic monuments in the center of Athens, just below the illuminated Acropolis and Parthenon (upper right). Wendy Gilops captured this scene on December 27 2015. 

 

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Snowfalls & cold temps bring Greece’s turbulent 2015 to a wintry close

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Snow on Paros photo shared on Facebook by ΠΑΡΟΣ like

Snow blankets the ground beside a chapel in Lefkes village on Paros following light flurries on December 31 2015. Μαρία Ραγκούση shared this image on the Lefkes Paros public group page on Facebook.

 

Snowflurries in Halki village on Naxos photo shared on Facebook by Petros Anamateros

Petros Anamateros shared on Facebook this image he captured showing New Year’s Eve snowflurries at Halki village on Naxos  

 

From green to white: Every day this month, I’ve been feeling green with envy seeing social media posts showing sunny skies and gorgeous summer-like scenery in Greece.  Only three days ago, in fact, I was jealously admiring beach and seashore photos from the Athens Riviera that a friend had taken during balmy 18 degree Celsius temperatures. 

But when I logged onto my blog’s Facebook newsfeed first thing this morning, I was stunned to see pictures and read reports about light snow falling at various places on the Greek mainland, in Athens, and on such islands as Amorgos, Crete, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Santorini and Skiathos.  

On Rhodes and other islands in the Dodecanese, people had posted comments about chilly temperatures and strong, cold winds. The We Love Rhodes page, for instance, reported that temperatures of only 3 degrees and winds reaching level 5 on the Beaufort scale had brought the “first day of winter for Rhodes at the last day of 2015.”

And in an article entitled White New Year’s Eve in Greece, the news website Protothema described snowfalls in northern and central Greece and Attica, and reported on weather-related disruptions to ferry service to the Saronic Gulf islands and other places. (Click on the article title link to see photos and videos that Protothema included with its story.)

 

 

 

Snow isn’t unusual in Greece

Snowflurries aren’t unheard-of either on the mainland, in Athens, or on many of the Greek islands. Severe winter weather conditions including snow and sleet can and do strike virtually all parts of the country from time to time.  

But it is perhaps fitting that what has been an extremely turbulent year for Greece seems to be ending just the way it began — with dark, brooding stormclouds bringing cold temperatures and light snow to many parts of the nation.

As I reported in my posts Wild winter weather wallops Greece and Snow scenes from the Cyclades, Greece got this year off to a stormy start with severe winter weather that started just before New Year’s Eve 2014 and carried into early January.  There were More weather woes during the second week of February. After that, the country experienced a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, with national elections, financial bailout negotiations, the ongoing refugee/migrant crisis and record tourist visits, to name just a few of the many events that put Greece in the international media spotlight throughout the year.

Now, as 2015 comes to a stormy close, I’m anxious to see if the new year will bring better times. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that 2016 will indeed be a Happy New Year for Greece.

Please click here or on the link at the bottom of this post to see more New Year’s Eve snow scenes from Greece on page 2 of this report.

 

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