Greek islands

Skyros | Pilion | Tinos | Alonnisos | Patmos | Ikaria | Lemnos | Leros | Symi | Karpathos | Chios | Syros | Kalymnos | Naxos | Thasos | Lesbos | Samos | Skopelos | Corfu |

  • Introduction:

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The best time to visit Greece is end April, May or June when the wild flowers are out and the fields are green, and it is not so hot during this period. September and October also have their fans but the days are shorter, the fields yellow, and at some points the first autumn storms arrive. To my opinion, if you want to learn something about the island of your choice you have to stay there at least two or three weeks, that is one week to familiarize and two weeks to enjoy everything in a easy way. After one week the islanders know who you are and you will be more or less part of the Greek community. Island hopping is definitely not my favorite. The best way is to rent a apartment with a little kitchen with a fridge so that you are able to prepare your own breakfast, for lunch and dinner you can better join one of the many taverna's. The Greek cuisine is simple but good, a Greek salad is always part of it, and enjoy the Greek special wine Retsina with it - you have to learn to enjoy the special taste of this wine - for dessert use a cup of Greek coffee with a glass Metaxa. Don't use the seafood, because most of the Dutch and English people are so spoiled with fish that we don't appreciate the poor Greek fishes. Learn a few Greek words to speak, they highly appreciate if you at least try to speak some Greek. For additional information surf to GoGreece

  • Skyros:

Skyros is the largest island of the North Sporades and has an area of 215 square kilometers. Its itinerant population numbers around 5000. Skyros is still unspoiled, has no high buildings mass tourism or overcrowded beaches. The main part of the island is Skyros city build around a high rock with on the top the remains of an old Venetian fortress and a decaying convent (St George the Arab). Skyros city is a compact car-free zone, has a definite Cycladic-style feeling and it is very pleasant to walk around in the narrow streets to climb up to the fortress and the monastery of Aghios Georgios from which you have exciting views over the island. Two friendly little resort villages have been developed in the bay below Skyros town: Magazia and Molos with very good sandy beaches and some tarverna's. There is also a very good "official" nudist beach at Tou Papa to Homa. From Magazia starts a long not to steep stairway up to Skyros town, at the end of the stairway a beautiful archaeological and a folklore museum are located. About 30% of the island (in the North) is covered with forest which consist mostly of pine trees, a very good place to walk around! The southern part of the island is very mountainous and uninhabited, here are living some cattle of the famous Skyrean miniature horses. There is one good road over this area which are ending in the the middle of nowhere. But I recommend to visit it because the landscape is dramatic and the views wonderful. On the west side of the island are five very little villages: Kalamista, Linaria, Aherounes, Pefkos and Atsitsa, all with nice beaches. Linaria is important because it is the port of Skyros. The main occupation of the islanders are: agriculture, breeding goats and sheep, traditional wood carving, fishing and tourism. The climate of Skyros is perfect, cool breezes special on the east side keep the heat down. Due to the poor bus service on the island a scooter for one week is very pretty, but the supply of good scooters for rent is very limited.

  • Pilion:

Pilion or Magnesia home of the Centaurs is a peninsula on the east side of Greece, it is more or less part of the Sporades. It is heavy mountainous and forested with mountains up to 1600 meters which decline steep into the Aegean sea. In wintertime you will find here the ski center of Greece. We stayed in the resort Agio Ioannis on the east side of Pilion with three beautiful beaches, Plaka (the best), Agio Ioannis and Papa Nero. The village Agio Ioannis is uninspiring, there is no post office, bank or hospital so take care that you have enough cash available. The only things of interest are that the way to the Papa Nero beach is going through the river thus every time you use this way its provides a car wash, and a very old little church Agio Ioannis. All tourist affairs will be handled by only one tourist office Les-Hirondelles, a monopoly without competition. Visit this place only very early in the season and not on the Greek holidays because it is overcrowded during these days. Due to the very steep ways are walking possibilities limited and the use of a mopped is tiring and dangerous if you have no experience to drive a mopped in the mountains. One hike is recommended: take the very early bus to Tsagarada ( the village with a 1000 year old plane tree), use your breakfast over here with something from the bakery ( because the taverna's are closed so early) and walking the old rough way via Darmouchari back to Agio Ioannis, a wonderful trip. It is also nice to go by bus to Milies and make a trip with the little very old locomotive (dated 1903) through the mountains. Les-Hirondelles site

  • Tinos:

The spiritual center of modern Greece, mountainous Tinos even outshines Patmos for raw pilgrim-pulling power. Billed as the Lourdes of the Cyclades, Sundays and the Virgin Mary-related festivals on 25th March, and particularly the 15th of August, see the center of Tinos Town jam-packed with faithful. The focus of all this activity is an icon housed in the church Panagia Evangelistra. However, the religious dimension is only one aspect to the spiritual importance of Tinos; for the island is also a focus of Greek nationalism, thanks to its history of being the last of the Greek islands to succumb to Turkish rule in 1715. Tinos has thrived on Greek rather than foreign tourism, and it is only now starting to emerge as a foreign tourist destination. Coated with a sprinkling of small villages and over 1200 picturesque dove cots Tinos is a small (193 square km) very attractive island. However, it remains very much of a "one town" island and is best explored via Agios Fokas (Golden beach) which is also a very good place to stay, close to the busy town, with enough possibilities for walking and swimming. Except surrounding the monasteries there is no forest on the island. Because there always blowing a cool wind, the climate is pretty. Tinos town aside, the island is very quiet. Everywhere on the the island you will see the Mt. Exambourgo with on the upper slopes the remains of the former capital and a monastery. I recommend to rent for 14 days a scooter and explore this beautiful island on a easy way, drive carefully because you never know what will be after the next bend.

  • Alonnisos:

Alonissos is a little (64 square km) island and part of the Sporades. It is a popular destination for daily day-tripper boats from Skiathos and Skopelos thanks to an attractive port lined with low cliffs garnished with pine trees, a pretty hilltop chora and a nearby marine nature reserve which gives home to some rare Monk Seals. The capital Alonissos build on a 210 meter hill, badly damaged by a earthquake in 1965 is now more or less restored by a large number of people wanting holiday homes and artists. The island is also rapidly developing as a rather chic holiday destination in its own right. The fact that it is less touristed than its neighbors makes it appealing to increasing numbers of visitors attracted by the quiet beaches ( which are fortunately not easy accessible) The best place to stay and enjoy the overwhelming cosy ambiance is Patitiri. Ask the local tourist office Ikos Travel for the special walking map which is very helpful to plan your walkings. Alonissos is a eldorado for walkers because you are often walking under the trees. Because of the dirt track roads, a scooter for only a couple of days is more than enough.

  • Patmos:

Volcanic in origin, cosy Patmos is a small (34 square km) and an attractive mix of small hills and beach-lined bays. Patmos is part of the Dodecanese and famous as the island where St. John the Evangelist wrote the Book of Revelation. In spite of being one of the most heavily touristed Greek islands it manages to retain a very relaxed atmosphere, and most who visit place it near the top of their list of better islands. Religious tourism is the mainstay of the local economy. The center of activity is the port of Skala. Now the largest resort village on the island, it is an attractive little place made up of tavernas, Cycladic-style whitewashed houses, and fringed with a marina replete with beach boats. Skala is still a long way from the worst excesses of mass tourism found on other islands. There are no large hotels and Tinos-tacky souvenir shops. The only obvious concession to the numbers visiting is the inordinately large quay build to accommodate the cruise liners whose tear-and bunting departures enliven evening promenades along the waterfront. Most only long enough for passengers to be whisked by bus up to impressive looking Chora for a quickie tour of the monastery. From Skala to the nearby beach is a very long walk so we have chosen to stay in Grikos at 5km from Skala. Grikos is also billed as a resort village but without a supermarket or bakery, though it has fewer hotels than Skala. There is a regular bus service to Chora and Skala. The surroundings are ideal for walkers, small goat paths guide you to many little private beaches with beautiful views. The only shop in Grikos, close to the bus-stop, is a letting-shop for scooters and moppeds, and it is highly recommended to use a scooter to explore the island. The roads are in perfect condition but be carefully to park correct in Skala, the police is very open-handed with tickets.

  • Ikaria:

Ikaria (260 square km) is named after the unfortunate Icarus who fell and drowned in the sea, after the wax holding the feathers to his man-made wings melted on flying to near the sun, wing-shaped Ikaria is a mountainous island with a thin covering of trees standing on the slopes like so many pins in a cushion. From a distance Ikaria don't like hospitable, it is often used as a place of exile, and it seems to lack a coherent sense of identity. With five changes of name in the last two thousand years, a three-month existence as an independent state, and a failed spa resort with thermal springs so radioactive that they had to be closed. But it does leave the island with a decidedly fadeless charm, if you are prepared to grub around, with a bit of effort Ikaria can at least offer an interesting variation. There are two important places: Agio Kyrikos with much tourist accommodation and Evdilos which is the second port. We stayed in Armenistis, a small village in the north of the island, with beautiful sandy beaches and good walking possibilities. Because the dirty track roads we didn't use a scooter and we explored the island by taxi. The quality of the scooters was also very poor. There are many wild goats on the island and you will find regular fences on your way, which are for the goats and not for people. On the menu you will find often goat meat which is a feast banquet over here.

  • Lemnos:

Lemnos (477 square Km) home of Hephaistos, the divine smith, is a fertile, volcanic island opposite the entrance to the Dardanelles - a strategic location that inevitably attracts a strong military presence. An accompanying lack of tourists has ensured a continuation of the traditional island culture, now sadly absent on many other islands. This coupled with good beaches, very friendly islanders and an attractive main port of Myrina, are all the more reason to visit. However with a population of about 17,000 Lemnos can't be classified as a small quiet island. We stayed in apartments Olympia at Plati beach very close to the capital Myrina which has a cosy little harbor. Around Plati are some walking possibilities and a visit to the remains of the Kastro is worthwhile, there are plenty of good beaches, although on the very quiet beach just past Plati a big hotel complex is under construction so the quiet beach at this location will disappear soon. When you have a vehicle available, you can find many more quiet beaches and El travel regular organize tours to the most worthwhile places of the island.

  • Leros:

Leros (53 square Km) is part of the Dodecanese and placed between Kalymnos and Patmos, and despite its bad reputation in the past, it is a very nice and quiet place to stay. There are resting three curse on Leros, First: during WW2 it was a naval-base of Mussolini. Second: During the colonels regime the island was used as a political convict settlement. Third: there is a State Therapeutical Hospital with lunatics and severely mentally handicapped adults. We stayed in Alinda which have beautiful quiet beaches. Because the island is very small and flat walking is easy, the bus service is very poor but the taxis thrive along the walkable 3 km road to the chora at Platanos. The old harbor Agia Marina, not really in Greek style, is a cosy place and a visit to the Kastro is worthwhile. The new harbor Lakki is at the west side of the island.

  • Symi:

A small island half tucked within the folds of the intended Turkish coast, hilly Symi is a popular day-tripper destination from Rhodos. Symi was once one of the most prosperous islands in the Aegean, thanks to the combined industries of shipbuilding and sponge fishing. Their fortunes dramatically wane with the rise of the steamship and the island's isolation from the Anatolian mainland. Having long since cut down its trees (which once covered the island) barren Symi depended on timber from the mainland Turkey to maintain its output of over 500 caiques a year; once it was lost, and sponge fishing declined, the island fell into comparative poverty. Salvation of a sort came with the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, when Symi emerged as a popular day-tripper excursion (in lieu of the Turkish Marmaris, which was necessarily out of bounds). The only large settlement on Symi is the port - chora combination on the north coast. The center of life is the port of Gialos, graced with a waterfront that is pure magic: a lovely mix of pastel painted, red-tiled, neoclassical mansions arranged in serried tiers around an amphitheater bay. The scene is particularly attractive at night when the banks of dull orange lights seem to roll into the sea like the glowing embered lip of lava flow. The waterfront (complete with campanile near the ferry quay) is crowded during the daytime, but quickly reverts to its normal sleepy self once the tour boats have gone; these arrive after midday and depart four hours later, having done their best to enhance Symi's reputation as an expensive island, during this time all prizes lift up 50%. It is pitiful to see all those visitors, some dressed in swimming-trunks only, walking, under the hot sun, up and down the waterfront for four hours. The friendly people of Symi arrange boat-trips to several lovely beaches, sometimes including lunch on the beach or a trip by car to the monastery Panormites and by boat back. Around the Emborio road are some small private pebble beaches and at the beach hamlet Pedi, along the sandy Agios Nikolaos beach you will see most of the tourists.

  • Karpathos:

The island of Karpathos forms a small archipelago midway between Rhodos and eastern Crete. A appealing destination if you are looking for a quiet, relatively unspoilt Greek island. Karpathos enjoys a history of division with the two sides of the island effectively separated by inhospitable terrain, with the result that ferries call at two island ports. Karpathos has high mountains, a nice covering of trees (though this has sadly diminished by recent forest fires), is graced with some excellent beaches and - thanks to the large expatriate community (many now in the US) who send back funds - is now among the most affluent island in the Aegean. In spite of the appearance of regular charter flights, tourism has yet to take off, with the somewhat paradoxically effect of creating a high season surplus of demand for whate limited facilities do exist. The capital, Pigadia (called Karpathos by the locals) lies at the more populous flatter southern end of the island. Its main assets are a picturesque harbor setting, and a 4 km sandy beach that runs north of the town.The main tourist resort lies to the south of the capital at Ammopi where are three sandy bays, backed by a growing taverna village. North of the capital are some nice quiet beaches Ahata, Panagia and Apella beach and in the surrounding hills you can have a very pretty walk. The bus service, except to the Ammopi beach, is very poor and other transport options are pretty dire, the taxis are too expensive, and car or mopped hire is very limited by poor quality of the road network and lack of fuel stops. We tried to go by bus to Lefkas ( a beautiful place) which was quiet an experience. An other option is to inform which caiques are running. Anyhow try to visit the hill village Olympos via Diafani, which is easily the most photogenic village on the island, lofty Olympos - complete with restored windmill galore - straddles a steep ridge, is notable for retaining a traditional village lifestyle ( with women conspicuously decked-out in old dress). Sadly, this is increasingly a show for the tourist benefit.

  • Chios:

Relatively untouristed (thanks to an ugly main port with no good beaches close by) nor offering much in the way of photogenic sightseeing, the large (852 square Km) island of Chios remains quiet with its low-key attractions hidden away. To do the island justice you need to take time to explore away from the capital for Chios has a merited reputation for having some of the most fertile and attractive terrain to be found in the Aegean. Indeed, in many ways the landscape is the best thing about Chios, as well as being the source of its quiet affluence: thanks to the growing of mastica (the sticky stuff used as chewing gum). Most of the island is mountainous, with the mastica bush crop covering much of the south, while the north is forested - though major fires inflicted considerable damage. There are a lot of small villages on the island, Pyrgi is the biggest and prettiest, and is noted for the whitewashed houses that adorn its streets and the main square that is over-painted with a wide variety of geometric blue patterns that extend even top the underside of the balconies. Nearby lies the smallest of the masti-choria; Armolia - a noted pottery production center. Mesta is also worth exploration, for although not as pretty as some, it retains more of its medieval buildings (including the largest church on the island) and with it , its old world atmosphere. Anavatos, high in the mountains is a abandoned 100% medieval village with beautiful views. We stayed just past Vrondatos in Kalamaris, a quiet place with in the neighborhood some private little beaches, and some walking possibilities.

  • Syros:

Imagine a relatively small, arid island with a large mainland-sized town build on the east coast, and you have some idea what Syros is like. Ermoupoli the capital of the island and the Cyclades is an uninspiring big city. The main resort (courtesy of the best island beach) is at Galissas on the west coast. Between maintaining traditional agriculture and catering to the tourists, the patchwork village is a curiosity, with reed-beds and rural farming lying uneasily alongside a decidedly incongruous and little used concrete pitch and putt course, oddly isolated hotels and a couple of camp sites. Weekends find the tree-backed beach packed with islanders, so if you like solitude you will do better going elsewhere. One possible option is to take the track over the southern headland to the island's lovely nudist beach. South of Galisas is a second resort strip running from Finnikas down to Poseidonia. However, the beaches are much more scrubby. The bus service on the island is reasonable and you can visit nearly every village on the island.

  • Kalymnos:

Kalymnos is a medium sized island (111 square Km) north of Kos that hides its attractions behind superficially forbidding mountains and one of the largest and most dour of island towns (population 11,000) in the Aegean. First impressions are, however, misleading, for between the mountains lie dark pockets of verdant vegetation, and there is certainly enough on the island to see if you don't mind poking around in dark holes to find it. In fact, holes are something of the island speciality. Not only are they abundant in the island's sponges, but Kalimnos has three caves visited by irregular excursions, and a whole lot more scattered around the island in which you can risk getting irrecoverable lost. The capital Pothia offers little temptation to linger and most of the tourists rapidly head over the hills to the expanding resort beach strip running along the north-west coast, opposite the island of Telendos. At the center of this strip is the resortified village of Mirities, which has little to offer besides a pretty dire pebble beach and a caique service to Telendos (there are better beaches to the south near Kantouni). From Mirities the hotel strip dribbles along the coast to Masouri. Thereafter the road takes you to the northern finger of Kalimnos which is very quiet, but with a limited bus service. Despite this, it is worth visiting thanks to an interesting cave just outside the village of Skalia and the blissful isolation of the pebble beach village of Emborio. The rest of Kalymnos tends to be little explored. A good and most popular alternative destination is the deep inlet of Vathi on the east coast. Set in a citrus-filled market-garden valley, the harbor of Rena offers some rooms and a notable sea cave (visited by tour boats from Pothia). In the southern part of Kalymnos you will find a beautiful castle Kastro Chrisohera with his own monastery and on the way from Pothia to Panormos you wil find the abandoned Pera Kastro with whitewashed chapels and impressive views.

  • Naxos:

Naxos is the largest island of the Cyclades and can lay claim to being one of the most popular Greek islands. Not only are the numbers visiting higher than for any other island, but the average length of stay is also greater than that for other popular islands.This isn't surprising given that Naxos offers an alluring mix of an attractive port town, a succession of wonderful, easily accessible sand beaches (complete with dunes), an interior landscape of lush valleys and ruin-topped sky-lines. Thanks to a prosperous agricultural base Naxos has long been able to ignore the tourist market, but this is now changing very fast. Fortunately, their impact has been relatively benign, as the tourist strip is confined to Naxox town and its environs. In spite of its attractive main town and beaches, Naxos fame has always rested on its verdant, but hilly hinterland where an attractive rural Greek atmosphere pervades. Farming is still an important feature of the local economy, Sadly, roads have yet to catch up with this trend and are in positively lethal condition in parts ( this is one island where it is better to stick to buses rather than resort to moppeds). Most tourists tend to compromise and see the interior via a daily tour bus that heads along the meandering mountain roads that runs through pretty Kamiaki - the highest village - and Apollon with the giant Kouros. Two settlements en route also attract attention. The first is the attractive hillside village Filoti, which in addition to lying at the centre of the fertile Tragaia Valley and offering a view of an appealing unspoilt Greek community. The second village of note is Apeiranthois. Arguably the most attractive of the island, it has several Venetian towers and streets paved with the island famous marble.

  • Thasos:

A large, beautiful island tucked against the northern Aegean seaboard. Thasos is the most northerly island in Greece. Mountainous and green; with over half of its surface covered with cedar, oak and pine forests ( now crisscrossed with bull-dozed fire gaps to keep any forest fires under control) and fringed with good sandy beaches, the island has emerged as a popular (if somewhat pricey) destination. The main settlement at Limenas lies in a large bay on the northern coast. A pleasant mix of modern town and ancient city ruins, it reflects the island history as a quietly prosperous state during the ancient period (its wealth generated by gold and silver mines and marble quarrying). Movement around Thassos is dominated by the coast road that runs in rough circuit around the island. Most buses travel in an anticlockwise direction to connect with the main port of Skala Prinos perched on an east coast spit. We stayed north of Skala Prinos in Skala Rahoni a fairly quiet beach resort. It is advisable to visit Theologus ( a beautiful whitewashed hill village), Potamia ( a lovely mountain village) and Aliki ( a picture postcard village).

  • Lesbos:

The third largest Greek island (1630 square Km), Lesbos is more popular with locals rather than with foreign holiday-makers. Thanks to good olive oil and ouzo brewing industries, the island is economically self-sufficient, with little need to develop tourism. There is a lot to discover on this island but this is somewhat intimidated anyway by the size of Lesbos and the nature of bus services, which are inconveniently centered on the east coast capital of Mytilini, and infrequent, making movement difficult without your own transport. Given that sights are spread inconveniently around the island and that much of the stark landscape reflect the island volcanic origins, it is perhaps not surprising that most visitors confine themselves to Mytilini and the lovely northern resort town of Molivos. The origin of the definition lesbian is from this island where the poetess Sappho wrote their passionate poets about her sisters. The northern part of the island has been the focus of the tourist industry, thanks to the attractive castle-topped northern coast town of Molivos 63 km from Mytilini. Once Mytilini's great rival for control of the island it has benefited immeasurably from losing out and not ending up the home of innumerable grimy 19 century mansions. Instead, cobbled streets, a pebble beach and photogenic houses are the order of the day. The village of Petra a 5 Km to the south is also emerging as a resort thanks to its better beach. The west side of Lesbos in Skala Eressou has what are claimed to be the remains of Sappho's home and, on of the road to Andissa, the grossly over-rated remains of a petrified forest in the shape of some desultory tree stumps that have been dated as being 20 millions years old. Also on the road from from Andissa to Sigri you will find the Epsilon monastery.

  • Samos:

A large island (472 square Km) just to the north of the Dodecanese, Samos is known for its tree-clad slopes, a scattering of reasonable sand beaches, and is the top end of a lot of visitors. The island was one of the most important in the ancient world and particularly noted as the center of learning. This reputation was derived from her most famous sons, notably Aesop, Pythagoras, Epicurus, Aristarchus who worked out that the earth revolved around the sun and the navigator Kolaios who dared to sail a ship through the Pillars of Hercules in 650 BC. For years ago we stayed in Pythagorio, a surprisingly dreamy village with a tree-lined small harbor and some cosy tavernas. Every morning hundred of cats are waiting in line at the quay for the fisherman, now Pythagorio is overcrowded the nearby beach is gone and the taverna's are expensive. Samos is a beautiful island with a lot of very interesting places but its popularity is getting out of hands, there are to many ugly big hotels and due to heavy workload people is no longer concerned with tourists.

  • Skopelos:

The largest island in the Sporades group (96 square Km), Skopelos has less sparkle than neighboring overcrowded Skiathos. The beaches are not as good (most pebble), there is less sightseeing, and fortunately the main town has far less going on. Even so, it is an attractive island - covered in pine forests and (thanks to flatter terrain) more agriculture as well. Unfortunately, with the easy links to the airport on Skiathos, Skopelos has seen a dramatic rise in tourism. The main settlement is Skopelos Town, tucked beneath a ring of sheltering hills in a deep bay on the northern coast. Skopolos Town has retained much of its whitewashed traditional appearance despite being badly damaged in the 1965 earthquake that put paid to the Chora on neighboring Alonissos. The nearby reasonable beaches are at Stafilos which is accessible by bus. For walking you have to go in the hinterland and most of the small paths leading to monasteries.

  • Corfu:

Kassiopi harbor Korfu (600 square Km) is not the largest but with over then 100.000 inhabitants it is the most important island in the Ionian region.Together with Rhodos and Kreta is it one of the most visited and touristic islands. The rich abundant vegetation and greenery gives it an exotic and attractive beauty. Cultural the island is a mix up of Greek and Italian style. We stayed in Kassiopi in the north of the island, from origin a little fisherman village but now a touristic and in the high season overcrowded center. Nevertheless it's a good place with reasonable beaches in the surroundings and reasonable possibilities to discover the beauty of the island.

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