Tag: Ikaria (page 1 of 2)

Top Greece travel reads of 2019: Best island-hopping guides, articles and trip reports

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Cover of the May 2019 issue of The Sunday Times Travel Magazine

The May 2019 edition of The Sunday Times Travel Magazine featured a special Greek Islands travel guide, replete with gorgeous photos of dreamy destinations. I tell you more about the guide on page 2 of this post.

 

Athens is amazing, mainland Greece is marvellous, and the Peloponnese peninsula is pretty darned impressive. But for many people, it’s the Greek Islands that typically come to mind when talk turns to the subject of vacations in Greece.  Indeed, if you tell someone that you’re heading to the Hellenic Republic for a holiday, they’ll probably ask which islands you’re planning to visit. 

Since island hopping draws millions of tourists to Greece each year, many of whom are first-time visitors,  there’s tremendous demand for information about where to go, how to move between places, and what to see and do.  Likewise, there is a massive amount of Greece travel material available on newsstands and on the web. A simple Google search will produce links to articles and guides galore; thousands in fact, published by major magazines, newspapers, bloggers and social media influencers. One could easily spend weeks sifting through all the self-described “best” or “ultimate” island hopping guides, along with scores of feature stories trumpeting “hidden gems,”  “undiscovered islands,” or the newest trendy “paradise.”

I read hundreds of them in 2019, but found the vast majority disappointing and a waste of valuable reading time since they lacked originality and didn’t offer much useful  information. Most were simply puff pieces full of flowery descriptions and little else. Many were so similar, I’m sure the content was cribbed from quick online searches, then hastily rewritten and repackaged with stock photography. 

But several magazine and website guides stood out because they contain what I consider to be good, practical advice to help travellers pick the islands best suited to their personal travel preferences and lifestyles, and to plan how to get where they want to go.

Also noteworthy was a small selection of fascinating stories and engaging essays in which travel writers and even some high-profile authors recounted delightful and eye-opening personal experiences while visiting multiple islands.

 

This post spotlights the guides and stories that were my personal favourite reads during 2019. They’re the magazines I keep on my bookshelf, or the blog posts and website articles I have bookmarked on my computer, to keep close at hand for easy future reference. They include:

♦ A superb, detailed guide by The Mediterranean Traveller blog that promises — and delivers — “everything you need to know” about island-hopping;

♦ An excellent 26-page guide by The Sunday Times Travel Magazine

♦ General island profiles and trip suggestions in pieces published by the travel magazines Indagare, Afar and Lonely Planet

♦ An insightful 5-part report by a travel writer for The Guardian on his personal odyssey to explore six out-of-the-way islands;

♦ Reports by writers for the Boston Globe newspaper and Travel + Leisure magazine on trips that combined enormously-popular Santorini with visits to lesser-known and much-less-busy islands in the Cyclades; 

♦ An intriguing essay from Town and Country magazine in which a prominent author reflects on his  holiday travels to Spetses, Paros, Antiparos and Crete;

♦ Two separate stories on travelling by charter yacht or sailboat in the Ionian islands, from The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and World Traveller magazine;

♦ An account of a superyacht island-hopping tour of the Greek Riviera and several islands in the Argo-Saronic Gulf; and

♦ An article profiling small cruise ships with itineraries that include stops at several Greek islands.

Though they were published last year, these reports will still provide an excellent reference resource for travel in 2020 and the next several years. Even if you don’t need them to plan your own vacation, they’re all interesting and  fun reads that will quickly put you in a blissful Greek holiday state of mind.

 

— Best island hopping guide — 

Screenshot of The Mediterranean Traveller guide to Greek island hopping

 

It’s easy to make the decision to spend a vacation on one or more islands in Greece. The hard part is figuring out how to get to and from the island(s) you want to see. Many first-timers think it will be a breeze planning their itineraries, but quickly discover that the Greek Island ferry system isn’t as straightforward as they expected. In fact, it can be a rather daunting task to plan a multi-island holiday, particularly for ferry travel in off-season or low-season periods.

However, help is just a couple of quick clicks away, thanks to a superb guide published by The Mediterranean Traveller blog on February 5, 2019.

Aptly entitled Greek Island Hopping 101 — Everything You Need To Know, it’s the most comprehensive blog post I’ve seen on the subject, packed with tons of helpful tips, advice, information and links, and presented in a format that is super-easy to read and understand.  Topics include things travellers need to consider when initially planning their trip; flights versus ferries; an explanation of how the Greek ferry system works; ferry schedules and pricing; descriptions of the different island chains; deciding where to go and when is  best to visit; organized group tours, and plenty more. 

 

 

Please turn to page 2 to continue reading about the guides and articles that may help you determine which islands to visit, or give you inspiration for future holiday destinations.

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My favourite videos of Greece from 2019

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My Sifnos by Nikos Panou is my favourite video of 2019; it makes me smile and feel good every time I watch it. Panou deftly captures the essence of an amazing Greek holiday experience — the pure joy, wonder and exhilaration of exploring a beautiful destination (in this case, Sifnos island) and discovering the delights of its people, food, culture and atmosphere.

 

You know that December is drawing to a close when you see just about every media outlet — TV and radio shows, newspapers, magazines and websites — presenting lists and rankings of “the best” and the “top moments/ memories/ things/ whatever” of the year.  Seeing “best of 2019” features everywhere I looked inspired me to compile one myself this week while I was organizing the many hundreds of bookmarks I had accumulated on my web browser this year.

Rather than move links for my favourite videos into folders where I probably would forget all about them, I’m posting them here for my readers to enjoy (and to give me an easier way to find them for repeat viewing or future reference).

 

In Greece Story –The Best Places in Greece? Pawel Worsztynowicz captures striking aerial scenes from 28 beautiful places in Greece, including Athens, Sounion, Crete, Corfu, Meteora, Halkidiki, the Peloponnese, Skiathos, Skopelos, Symi, Santorini, Thirasia, Ios, Kos, Eubea, Rhodes and Zakynthos.  (Notes accompanying the video on YouTube provide a chronological list of locations shown.) Pawel compiled the film following nearly a year of travels across Greece, so you can just imagine the stories he can tell about the places he visited.

 

Out of the countless clips I have seen in the past 12 months, I have selected just over two dozen to highlight in this post. I liked these best of all either because they show sights and scenes familiar to me from our own past vacations, or because they depict destinations on my travel bucket list. All were released or published sometime during 2019, and none run longer than 10 minutes.

 

I have organized the clips into alphabetic order starting with the videos of Amorgos island, below, and continuing on page 2. Included are films of: 

♦ Andros

♦ Athens

♦ Corfu

♦ Crete

♦ Donoussa

♦ Hydra

♦ Ikaria

♦ Ios

♦ Karpathos

♦ Kavala

♦ Lesvos

♦ Meteora

♦ Milos

♦ Monemvasia

♦ Mykonos

♦ Patmos

♦ Samos

♦ Santorini

♦ Skopelos

♦ Syros

♦ Vatheia in the Peloponnese

I love The Island‘s dramatic cinematography, which superbly captures the mountain, coast and village scenery on Amorgos. This film by Igor Popović also contains excellent views of the incredible Chozoviotissa Monastery, built against the face of a cliff high above the sea.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed Amazing Amorgos, Greece, a delightful and entertaining aerial film in which Joerg Daiber captures the island’s magnificent sights and scenery using time lapse and tilt shift photography techniques. 

 

This film by I Viaggi Di Michele is narrated in Italian; however, you don’t need to speak or understand the language to enjoy the beautiful Andros scenery. Sights and locations shown in the 11.5-minute video include Chora, the Tis Grias castle, Tis Grias to Pidima and Achla beaches,  the Tourlitis lighthouse, Korthi Bay, Batsi village, the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi and the Panachrantos Monastery, and the Pithara waterfalls. 

 

If there are any videos from 2019 that you enjoyed, but don’t see featured in this post, feel free to post their links in the comments section so other readers and I can check them out.

 

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Lonely Planet profiles NE Aegean plus 4 ‘secret,’ timeless islands

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Lonely Planet magazine

Greece gets front-cover prominence on the cover of the Lonely Planet newsstand issue for May 2018

 

The secret’s out: I had a strong hunch I might find something interesting to read about Greece when I walked into the magazine department at my local bookstore yesterday.  When I turned into the travel section, my premonition instantly proved accurate — standing at eye level on the front shelf was the latest edition of Lonely Planet, its cover graced with a photo of a blue-roofed Greek Orthodox church illustrating its “Secret Greece” feature story. 

In another pleasant delight, I realized I had seen that very same church in person — on Astypalea, during our island hopping holiday in 2009.

Astypalea is one of seven islands featured in Lonely Planet’s May issue and, in another curious coincidence, the article about it recommends staying in the very accommodations where we spent several nights: Fildisi Boutique Hotel

The magazine highlights two other islands we have been to — Hydra and Sifnos — and, in yet another surprising stroke of serendipity, spotlights four more that I had been seriously considering for our upcoming vacation: Lesvos, Chios, Ikaria and Kythera. (We have already made plans to spend our time in and within sight of the Peloponnese, but Lonely Planet suddenly has me wondering if I may have made a mistake.)

 

 

The main focus of the magazine’s Great Escape cover feature is the Northeast Aegean group of Greek islands; specifically, Lesvos, Chios and Ikaria. Stepping ashore on these particular isles “introduces olive farmers and wild honey, hidden villages and untouched beaches, and perhaps the secret to long life,” the feature story introduction says.

Reading the Lesvos profile quickly made me crave Greek cuisine, though I should have expected that given the article’s headline: “Savour the many flavours of Greece on Lesvos, from olive oil to ouzo and orange wine.”

The second feature story invites readers to “discover a centuries-old tradition of mastic cultivation and the fortress-like villages that grew rich from it” in southern Chios.

The third main article introduces Ikaria, one of the world’s unique Blue Zone locations where residents “enjoy longer lives than anyone else in Europe.”

One-page mini profiles for Astypalea, Kythera, Sifnos and Hydra appear in the magazine’s “Secret Greece” feature as examples that, “even in the well-known Greek island groups,” visitors can find “the odd place that’s little changed over the decades.” Each profile includes short thumbnail descriptions for “Why am I going?”, “Where should I stay?”, “What am I eating?”, and “What am I drinking?”

The island articles are all good reads, and just might entice you to consider the Northeast Aegean for a future trip to Greece, especially if you haven’t considered that region of the country before. (They probably will make you feel peckish for Greek food and beverages, too.)

See if you can find a copy of the magazine at your local newsstand before it sells out.

 

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.

 

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