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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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Promotional videos mark a travel milestone — a full century of organized tourism in Greece

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The English-narrated video Greek Tourism. An eternal journey features stunning views of some of the most beautiful and famous sights and attractions in Greece

 

 

Significant Century:  With its long and storied history, Greece has been associated with tourism for what seems like an eternity. Not surprisingly, tourism is the country’s oldest industry.

“The Greek passion for travelling, for both knowledge and adventure, began long ago with Odysseus, the paradigm of the eternal traveller; with Herodotus, the first tourist and most famous story teller; and with Pausaniuas, who wrote the first travel guide 2,000 years ago,” narrator Donald Morgan Nielson notes in the promotional video Greek Tourism: An eternal journey

The five and a half minute film features utterly splendid video photography of spectacular scenery from the Greek mainland and some of the Greek islands, and is accompanied by soaring, uplifting music by Dimitris Papadimitriou. With a script directed by Andonis Theocharis Kioukas, the video was produced by QKas Productions for the Greece National Tourism Organisation (GNTO), and has been posted on the GNTO’s Visit Greece YouTube page.

 

From 10,000 tourists in 1914 to over 17 million in 2014

The video celebrates the 100th anniversary of officially-organized tourism in Greece. Back in 1914, respected Greek statesman Eleftherios Venizelos founded the first national service to oversee Greek tourism. That same year, 10,000 tourists visited the country, and the numbers just kept on growing from theret. They reached record proportions last year, when more than 17 million people visited the country — an all-time high. And even though it’s still early in 2014 and the main summer tourist season hasn’t even begun, Greece appears on track for another banner year.

There was an 8.4% increases in the number of international arrivals at Greek airports in January, February and March compared to the same quarter last year, while travel officials report that summer bookings from major markets like Germany and the USA have risen substantially. And with more than 150 new airline routes operating to Athens this season, along with numerous new international direct flights to Mykonos, Santorini, Crete and other islands, Greece appears likely to top its target of 18 million visitors by the end of the year.

Frankly, I’m surprised the number of visitors isn’t considerably higher. But once more people get to view Greek Tourism: An eternal journey, I’m sure they’ll consider planning trips to see the amazing sights and attractions for themselves.

Below is a slightly shorter version of the video which will let you enjoy Dimitris Papadimitriou’s inspiring music without the narration. Turn up the volume, sit back, and enjoy the 4-minute journey to “Greece … a small piece of heaven on earth.”

 

 

 

Athens Riviera coves offer secluded spots to swim, sunbathe & savor the Saronic Gulf scenery

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A quiet cove on the Apollo coast of Greece, southeast of Athens

One of many coves along the scenic Apollo coast, southeast of Athens, where locals and visitors can enjoy sun, sea and serenity

 

 

Beach alternatives: You don’t have to travel to an island to enjoy beautiful beaches and coastal swimming spots in Greece — you can find them in spades on the mainland, including the scenic Saronic Gulf coast a short drive from Athens.

Popularly known as the Apollo Coast and the Athens Riviera, the more than 70-kilometer-long stretch of seafront between Piraeus and Cape Sounion boasts scores of beaches and swimming spots, with an extensive variety of public and private beach facilities catering to all tastes, budgets and lifestyles.  Many are easy to reach from Athens either by car, by the city’s tram system, or by public bus.

And for those who prefer to avoid busy organized beaches, there are plenty of secluded coves and inlets offering places to swim or suntan in peace and quiet — or even in nothing at all.

When we visited Athens last year, we noticed that many beach clubs and public strands along the Apollo Coast were packed with people. We could only imagine how crowded they must get during the summer when practically everyone in the city would head to the seaside to beat the heat.

Both in May and again during our return trip to Greece in October, friends who live in Athens took us for drives along the Apollo Coast, stopping to show us some of the popular beach areas including public strands to which admission was free, as well as several private clubs that charge entry fees of around 5 or 7 Euros and up per person.

 

Apollo Coast  of Greece

A peninsula on the Apollo Coast just a short drive south of Vouliagmeni. The rocky shoreline is popular with sunbathers and swimmers — especially nudists — who want to avoid the crowded public and private beaches along the Athens Riviera.

 

 

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50th annual Aegean sailing regatta starts today

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Aegean Sailing Rally poster

The promotional poster for the International Aegean Sailing Rally, an annual competition that takes place from today through July 29.

 

Milestone event: Competitors from around the world will set sail today in the International Aegean Sailing Rally, the most prestigious sailing regatta in Greece.

Organized by the Hellenic Offshore Racing Club, the event was founded in 1964 and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

 

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