Tag: Paxos

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.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

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Skiathos, Lefkada & Paxos top Conde Nast list of best Greek islands to visit in 2020

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This photo gallery video profiles Conde Nast Traveller magazine’s 23 choices for best Greek islands to visit in 2020

 

Thinking of taking a holiday on a Greek island in 2020, but aren’t sure where to go? To help you decide, the U.K.’s Conde Nast Traveller magazine has compiled a list of what it believes are the 23 best islands to visit (out of more than 200 possible choices).

Selected by “regular isle-hopper Rachel Howard,” The Best Greek Islands to Visit in 2020 feature article rates Skiathos as #1, Lefkada #2 and Paxos #3.

Skiathos is described as the smallest but most popular of the Sporades islands, and as a favourite with families for its “baby powder-soft sandy beaches and laid-back vibe.” 

“Lefkada’s main town, flattened by an earthquake in the 1950s, won’t take your breath away, but those famous cliff-backed beaches, Egremni and Porto Katsiki, sure will,” the article says of its second-place selection.

Meanwhile, “Paxos packs a big punch … for its electric blue sea and three dinky harbour towns, each one so pretty it’s impossible to pick a favourite,” Howard writes.

Her Top 23 round-up includes a scenic photo from each destination, two or three paragraphs of text describing highlight features and what each island is considered “best” for, and suggested accommodations.

 

Besides Lefkada and Paxos, the ranking includes:

♦ four other major Ionian islands: Kefalonia, Corfu, Ithaca and Zakynthos;

♦ the Cyclades islands of Milos, Serifos, Amorgos, Mykonos, Santorini, Folegandros, Syros, Naxos, Tinos and Sifnos;

♦ the Dodecanese islands of Rhodes, Symi, Astypalia and Patmos;

♦ Hydra;

♦ Chios;

♦ Crete.

The online article concludes with a gallery of 16 photos showing scenes from some of the islands. Curiously, there is a picture from Andros, even though that island didn’t win a spot in the Top 23.

A much bigger blooper is the photo that purports to illustrate top choice Skiathos. The magazine’s photo editors mistakenly chose a picture of Elia beach on Mykonos instead of the Skiathos strand with the same name. Another photo boo-boo is a picture captioned as Petra beach on Patmos; the posted image actually shows Grikos beach.

Below are videos I’ve selected to give some additional photographic insight into the  islands that ranked in Conde Nast’s Top 3:

Meet Skiathos: Something for Everyone is a 6-minute film produced by Ionian & Aegean Island Holidays Ltd., the Greek National Tourism Organisation, and Ellie Patrikios

 

Lefkada island 4K is a 4.5-minute video published by bikisek1979

 

Discover Paxos is a 2-minute clip from Agni Travel

5 Greek Island gems

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Guest post by Katrina Hinrichsen

Depending on how you judge the minimum size of an island, there are between 1,200 to 6,000 individual Greek islands. Together they make up one of the most stunning and popular destinations in the entire world. They are frequented by everyone from casual travellers to celebrities to perhaps, even, the gods as well! With so many islands to choose from, how will you decide which ones are the best to visit?

I have selected a handful of Greek island gems that will promise an amazing and unique range of views and activities for you to  to discover and enjoy.

 

Gaios, Paxos Island

Gaios Town on Paxos island

 Harbour view of Gaios Town on Paxos. This photo, by Bogdan Giuşcă, appears on the Wikipedia entry for the Paxi group of islands in the Ionian Sea

 

If you’re on the hunt for a truly relaxing holiday, Paxos is one of your best bets! The island has a charming collection of small bays, lush green hills and lovely beaches. The star attraction, however may be the port area near the capital town Gaios, as it is one of the best looking settings in the whole of Greece! Why not hire a boat ride and sunbathe on the deck or take in the sights of the handsome town? You could travel from the port to Gaios and visit the Water Planet dive centre, where an experienced instructor will help you learn how to scuba dive and explore some of the island’s underwater caves. The centre has an excellent rating; you can have a look at the positive reviews here.

Paxos is also home to a number of cultural traditions, including its annual summer ‘Water and Oil’ festival which celebrates folk music. In addition to tapping your toes to some music, people attending the festival will also get to enjoy the custom dishes of potatoes, olives, onions, water and wine. If you like the sound of wine, (and who doesn’t!) then we recommend a visit to the island Antipaxos, Paxos’ neighbour. There you will be able to sample some of the best local wine, all in front of beautiful scenery and the glimmering blue sea.

Interesting fact: Paxos Island was said to be a love sanctuary for the god of the Sea, Poseidon, and his lover, Nereid Amphitrite. Sounds like the perfect place to go for a romantic holiday!

 

Chios Island

Pyrgi village on Chios

A street in Pyrgi village on Chios island is captured in this image by Flickr member Pétille. You can view 37 more excellent photos of the island in Pétille’s Île de Chios album on Flickr.

 

The kidney-shaped island of Chios is special because it is the only setting in the whole world where mastic trees grow! The trees are used for their fragrant ivory-coloured resin, which is used as a spice. Pyrgi is the biggest village on the island, and was built way back in the Middle Ages. The architecture in the village is worth noting – the surfaces of the buildings have geometric patterns artistically scratched onto them by plasterers. In Mesta, a village close to Pyrgi, the stone buildings are positioned so near each other that it is challenging to walk around them, and in fact the locals say that the easiest way to travel about is to climb over the roofs!

Chios Island is a fantastic destination for photographers, journalists, or just interested vacationers to discover somewhere unique among the Greek Islands and wider area. Plus, the inhabitants of the island are warm and personable, so if you’re lucky you could be treated to the local wine, created with grapes and distilled figs.

Interesting fact: Although it is now prized for growing mastic, in Antiquity it was known as Ophioussa (‘snake island’) and Pityoussa (‘pine-tree’ island).

 

Faliraki, Rhodes Island

Anthony Quinn Bay

Anthony Quinn Bay near Falraki on Rhodes. This photo, by Karelj, originally appeared in the article 5 places to see before they disappear on the Italian-language travel blog JOHO Journey Horizons

 

Some people may already be familiar with Faliraki, as it can be found on one of the biggest Dodecanese Islands: Rhodes. It is renowned for its long stretch of award-winning sandy beaches. What you may not know, however, is that Faliraki also hosts Europe’s largest water park! This attraction will get the children (and the children at heart) very excited! The fantastic water park has many exhilarating slides and pools for the whole family to enjoy. Can you imagine a lovelier way to cool off from the scorching sun? The tickets cost just over 20 euros for an adult, so your wallet will feel pretty chilled too. If you want to avoid climbing a steep hill to get to the park, I recommend taking a bus or taxi there.

If you are looking for a water activity that is a bit more relaxing, then Anthony Quinn bay in Faliraki is the place for you. It promises exquisite views and beautiful scenery, with pristine waters and charming fish to swim around with. It is a fantastic place to go snorkelling, as the seawater should be warm too.

If you would prefer to stick to dry land from time to time, then Faliraki is also unique among the Greek Islands in what it has to offer. Visitors will be able to appreciate astonishing views of the sparkling seas and stars at its Hipparchos Oservatory and Astronomy Café-bar. This is really one not to miss! Click here to look up where you can stay in the village.

Interesting fact: Anthony Quinn bay was once the backdrop for a number of shots from the movie Guns of Navarone in 1961. Definitely a place that film fans will want to visit!

 

Skiathos Island

Skiathos sunrise

Panoramio member Drosoula P captured this beautiful sunrise from a vantage point at Vasilias beach on Skiathos

 

Skiathos is home to over 60 of the most gorgeous beaches within the Mediterranean, yet it is still not particularly well-known out of the throng of Greek Islands. This just means that you fortunate travellers will be able to enjoy more of Skiathos to yourself! Mandraki Elias beach is a true utopia, cherished dually as one of the most stunning yet serene beaches of the region. If you fancy kicking back with a cocktail or two, you will be happy to hear that this beach has one of the best bars on the island, and is surrounded by magnificent cliffs of orange sandstone. To get there you can also take a wander through the delightful pine woods.

Another superb, though admittedly more crowded beach is Koukonaries. It is very popular with families as it offers an amazing array of water sports activities. Our favourite sailing trips are with the company Sail the Day as they deliver an enchanting experience on the waters, with expert captains that have a good sense of humour! The exotic island also offers horse-riding, parasailing, trekking and mountain-biking for all you adrenalin junkies!

Interesting fact: In winter the population is around 4,000 people, but in the summer it can amount to 70,000!

 

Chora, Patmos Island

Holy Monastery of Saint John a

The imposing Holy Monastery of Saint John the Theologian towers above the mansions of Chora village on Patmos

 

Patmos Island proposes a different experience to the others in Greece as it is much more of a spiritual haven. The Greek Parliament has called it a ‘Holy Island’ as it is said to be where Saint John composed the Book of Revelation. In the capital Chora you can stopover at the historical museums, churches and monastery to learn more.

The sacred village of Chora is a divine setting for happy snapping, as it has maze-like alleys and charismatic whitewash buildings. Plus, because the village sits at the tallest peak of Patmos, you will be able to admire unbelievable views of the surrounds. As the island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it also has a wonderfully tranquil air. Nature fans will appreciate the volcanic soils, clean beaches and sheer cliffs too.

Interesting fact: Patmos Island used to be used by the Romans as a destination of exile because of its steep landscape.

 

Katrina Hinrichsen is passionate about travel and writing about her experiences. In the last two years she has been to at least 12 European countries, and has spent a lot of time in the past in Asia. She has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and contributes to professional and personal blogs on Travel, the Arts, Lifestyle and more.