Tag: Santorini (page 1 of 22)

Crete clinches 4th place ranking on TripAdvisor list of the world’s top destinations for 2019

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Greece, Greek islands, Crete,Crete island, Crete Greece, Chania, Chania Crete, harbour, port, lighthouse, Chania lighthouse,

Views of the historic Venetian harbourfront and the iconic lighthouse at Chania, a perenially popular travel destination in northwestern Crete

 

Crete shines: Millions of travellers around the world have spoken, and their positive reviews, ratings and comments have landed Crete island in 4th place on the prestigious TripAdvisor listing of the Top 25 destinations in the world this year.

The 2019 TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice awards were announced this week (on March 26), lauding London as the #1 destination in the world, followed by Paris, Rome, Crete, and Bali in Indonesia. Last year Crete placed fifth, behind Bali. 

TripAdvisor is the globe’s largest travel website, containing listings for more than 156,000 destinations. Each year it presents its Travelers’ Choice awards to top international destinations, honouring the places that are most popular with people who post reviews on the website.

A press release announcing this year’s winners quoted TripAdvisor’s VP of Global Communications, Desiree Fish, as saying: “The Travelers’ Choice awards for Destinations recognize major cities and islands that continue to deliver an outstanding experience and are beloved by our global community of travelers.”

The news release explained that award winners “were determined using an algorithm based on reviews and ratings for hotels, restaurants and experiences in destinations worldwide over a 12-month period. The methodology takes into account quality and volume of reviews to surface destinations that consistently deliver the best overall experience for travelers.”

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Loutro village in southwestern Crete

 

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Looking along the spectacular southwestern coast of Crete from one of the many beaches near the town of Paleochora

 

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A taverna courtyard in the heart of the historic old town area of Chania

 

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Sweet Water Beach in southwestern Crete, between the villages of Chora Sfakion and Loutro

 

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A view of Agia Roumeli village, situated at the foot of the world-famous Samaria Gorge. Extending for 16 kilometers, the gorge is the longest in Europe and is one of Crete’s top tourist attractions.

 

We spent more than two weeks on Crete in late fall of 2017, and could easily see why it has been ranked among the world’s Top 5 travel destinations two years in a row — it truly delivers outstanding travel experiences. Crete has something to suit every traveller’s taste, style and budget: fascinating cities, towns and villages; vibrant resorts; breathtaking landscapes, stunning scenery and gorgeous beaches;  superb food and wine; significant historical sites and attractions; a diverse range of outdoor activities for all ages and lifestyles; myriad hotel and lodging options, and much more. 

Crete also claimed two spots in the list of the world’s Top 25 Beaches: Balos ranked #15, while Elafonissi took 21st place. Though both are situated in western Crete, the region in which we focussed our 2017 holiday travels, we never made it to either beach, so they remain on our bucket list of places to see. The island is blessed with a bounty of beautiful beaches, however, so visitors still have countless strands to choose from if they can’t get to Balos or Elafonissi.  (We saw many impressive beaches along the island’s southwestern coast.)

Greece in general fared well on other top rankings, particularly for hotels, where it won top honours in two categories. It nabbed the number 1 and 2 spots in the Top 25 all-inclusive hotel ranking, and it claimed the number 1 and 3 position on the awards list for the world’s Top 25 Small Hotels. Greece also achieved Top 25 rankings for best hotels, luxury hotels, best service, romantic hotels, family hotels, and bargain hotels.

I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read that Greece received TripAdvisor recognition for the world’s top two all-inclusive hotels because, in TripAdvisor’s own travel forums, regular visitors to Greece routinely advise travellers to avoid all-inclusive properties, urging them to stay at hotel or self-catering accommodations instead. In essence, the forum commentators claim Greece simply doesn’t do all-inclusives very well, and visitors don’t experience Greece if they stay at an AI resort. With this year’s awards, however, it’s quite clear that all-inclusive resort guests disagree! 

Greece, Greek islands, Crete, Crete island, beach, Greek beach, Elafonissi beach Crete, Elafonisi beach Crete,

Famous for its brilliant turquoise waters and pink-hued sand, Elafonissi beach is seen in an image from the Elafonissi page on the Cretico Blog.  Elafonissi ranked #21 on the TripAdvisor list of the Top 25 beaches in the world.

 

Balos Crete photo 02 by Antoine Nikolopoulos

Lagoons and sandy beach strips at Balos are seen in this photo shot by Antoine Nikolopoulos of Odyssey Art Photography. Balos ranked #15 on this year’s list of the world’s top beaches.

 

Please click on the link below to continue reading on page 2, where I have posted photos and rankings for the Greek hotels that placed in the world’s Top 25.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

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Savoring the Cycladic scenery: enticing views of Santorini, Mykonos, Milos, Sifnos & Folegandros

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Filmmaker/photographer Raphael Pöham created this captivating short video of enchanting scenery on five islands in the Cyclades 

 

Mesmerizing moments: Filmmaker Raphael Pöham took a trip to Greece last year, and produced this stunning video souvenir of scenic holiday highlights from the five Cyclades islands he visited — Santorini, Mykonos, Milos, Sifnos and Folegandros.

The film’s views of beautiful beach, landscape and sunset scenery brilliantly illustrate why the Cyclades island chain is so immensely alluring to travellers from around the world.

The film runs for three minutes, and I enjoyed it so much I wish it had been longer — I really wanted to see more! It also made me feel eager to plan a return trip to the Cyclades.  We have already been to each of the islands that Raphael spotlighted, and recognized most of the scenes in his film, but the video makes me yearn to visit those places again.

Give Raphael’s video a look and see if it puts you in a similarly dreamy Cyclades state of mind, too!

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.”

Greek Island icons & landmarks: The blue-domed church high above the sea on Santorini

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Agios Theodori Church

Photos of Agios Theodori Church have inspired countless people to visit Santorini and other places in Greece — or to dream of going there

   

Greek Islands Icons & Landmarks is a series of occasional posts about curious, unusual and extraordinary sights and places we have seen on our travels in the Greek Islands

 

Celebrity dome: It’s a quintessential image of Greece:  a cute white chapel with a shiny blue dome, accompanied by a white belfry with three bells, sitting high above the sea on Santorini.   

It’s called Agios Theodori, but like thousands of other churches in Greece, few people outside the country know its name. Nevertheless, it’s a familiar sight to millions around the world, since photos of the church have appeared for decades on travel posters, tour materials and in guidebooks, newspapers and magazines. Along with the Acropolis in Athens, that little whitewashed, blue-domed church is one of the main images people associate with Greece.

I recall seeing pictures of Agios Theodori in the early 1980s, first at restaurants in Windsor, Ontario and Detroit’s Greektown, and then at travel agencies and restaurants along Danforth Avenue in Toronto’s Greektown, which was just a few blocks from where I was living at the time. That was long before I ever considered going to Greece, but the pictures of that blue-domed church stuck in my mind.

 

Agios Theodori church

 

Agios Theodori church

 

 Over 20 years later we finally made it to Greece,  and Santorini was the last stop on our island-hopping holiday. Although I hoped we would see the famous blue-domed church, I didn’t know where to look for it. I figured that if we came across it while exploring the island, that would be great, but if we didn’t get to see it on this trip, perhaps we would some other time. 

Imagine my surprise and delight when, only minutes after checking in to the Santorini Palace Hotel in Firostefani, we walked to the tip of the caldera cliff nearby to check out the views — and saw Agios Theodori church just a few meters directly below us. I was slightly stunned at first; it felt like the familiar image I had seen in print so many times had suddenly come to life before my eyes. 

So was it as breathtaking and impressive as I had anticipated, after seeing it in photos all those years? You bet! There was absolutely no disappointment here —  the live view was spectacular. And to think the church was only a few dozen meters from the front door of our hotel! Now what were the odds of that happening? 

 

Agios Theodori Church

 

Agios Theodori church

 

Agios Theodori Church

 

We saw Agios Theodori church again, on each of our subsequent visits to Santorini, and it was still impressive to see. If we ever go back to the island I’m sure we’ll pass through Firostefani so we can take another look.

 

 

Below are several photos I found online, showing the church from perspectives we didn’t manage to photograph ourselves. There’s also a map indicating where Agios Theodori is located, should you want to see it in person yourself.

 

Agios Theodori church

The Agios Theodori belfry is seen in an image from the Petr Svarc Images page on Facebook

 

Agios Theodori Church Firostefani

The front of Agios Theodori church as seen from “street” level — actually, from the footpath that winds along the top of the caldera between Firostefani and Fira. Ting Lin shared this photo on Google Images.

 

Agios Theodori Church

 Also from Google Images is this photo by Charles Cheng, capturing Agios Theodori at sunset

 

Agios Theodori church location

Agios Theodori church is marked as “Three Bells of Fira” on Google maps, but it isn’t in the town of Fira — it’s a 10- to 15-minute walk away if you follow the clifftop footpath from the cable car station and walk north toward Firostefani (keeping the sea on your left side).  To see it from the “travel poster and guidebook perspective,” make your way to the Santorini Palace Hotel. From the hotel entrance, walk up the short slope toward the sea, and head for the low wall at  the edge of the parking area. Look down to your left, and enjoy the view!

 

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