For Alkis and me, summer rhymes with Greece and this is why we've never considered spending a summer holiday in another country. The Greek islands have always been in our top priority list although we've also spent a great holiday inland, such as in Pelion, Alexandroupolis, Serres, Athens, Thessaloniki, Karditsa and Chalkidiki. What I like most about the Greek islands is their unique natural beauty, their glorious sunsets, the endless blue of crystal clear waters, the small tavernas by the sea, the landmarks of Greek culture and civilization and above all the friendliness and hospitality of the people. Here are some of the places Alkis and I have visited in the summer over the last 20 years or so.
Pelion - Summer 1996
Pelion is a mountainous peninsula in the centre of Greece. This is a wonderful place to explore all year round, as it has both summer and winter destinations. Actually it's a large mountain dotted with traditional villages and beautiful beaches.
Pelion - Ayios Georgios Beach
Mykonos - Summer 1999
This is my least favourite Greek island. Its beaches are amongst the worst in Greece - with the exception of Psarou Beach, maybe. But then again, if you like beach parties and clubbing till the early morning hours, this is a hot destination. You will also meet a lot of famous people there. I was much younger when I spent a summer holiday in Mykonos, and yet I hated the night life and the beach parties. Mykonos? Never again!
Syros - Summer 1999
Syros is one of the smallest islands of the Cyclades which merges traditional and modern Greece in a unique way.
Crete - Summer 1998 / 2001 / 2005/ 2012 / April 2014
Crete is by far my most favourite Greek island and I have been there five times so far. Crete is the largest island in Greece and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus and Corsica. Crete has won my heart with its gorgeous beaches - amongst the finest in the world - the remnants of brilliant civilizations such as the Minoan Civilization, its impressive mountainscapes, fertile valleys and steep gorges. Crete is addictive. The more you visit it and the more you want to go back for yet another summer holiday. Crete has seduced me with the ancient ruins of the Minoan palace of Knossos, the Venetian fortresses of Rethymnon, the sounds of the Cretan lyre, the scents of orange blossom and jasmine, the rugged mountains that stretch across much of the island's spine, and the food! If you ever travel to Crete, you must try the Cretan dakos - chopped tomato and xinomizthra (a tangy salted white cheese) sprinkled with oregano, olive oil and sitting atop a delicious Cretan barley rusk. After all, the Cretan diet is known to be one of the healthiest in the world. Hopefully, we'll go back to Crete again as its countless beauties probably take a lifetime to discover.
Elounda - July 2005
Heraklion - August 1998
Zakynthos - Summer 2002
Zakynthos or Zante lies in the eastern part of the Ionian Sea and is endowed with fertile valleys, rugged cliffs, sandy beaches and secluded coves with amazingly blue waters. What impressed me most in Zakynthos is The Navagio (the Shipwreck) named after a shipwreck in the early 80s and the Blue Caves cut into cliffs around cape Skinari and accessible only by small boats.
The Blue Caves in Zakynthos
To Navagio - The Shipwreck
The Blue Caves
Chalkidiki - Summer 2003 / Summer 2013
Both Alkis and I were very disappointed with our first holiday at Chalkidiki. We had booked Aegean Melathron - a 5-star hotel - which was terrible. There were ...pieces of broken glass in my jam at breakfast! When I mentioned that to the waitress, she just did not bother! Even in the village of Kallithea people were hostile, unfriendly and so nasty! The hotel is located at Kallithea (Kassandra) - the first "leg" of the peninsula of Chalkidiki. Also, the beach was terrible!!! I was very relieved when this holiday came to an end and said that I'd never go back to Chalkidiki again! But ... never say never!
Ten years later, we decided to give Chalkidiki a second chance. This time we stayed at Antigoni Beach Hotel- a family-run 4-star hotel located at Sythonia - the second "leg". Lush green forests that reach right down to the beach, golden sunlight reflected in turquoise waters, endless secluded coves, unique architectural sites, great food... all add their own rich touch to the astounding canvas that is Chalkidiki.This was one of the best summer holidays we've ever had!
Skiathos - Summer 2005
Nowadays, Skiathos is a cosmopolitan island, with a bustling nightlife located in the Northern Sporades, east of Pelion peninsula. But when we visited it in 2005, it was a quiet little island which we really fell in love with. Back then, it was, indeed, a hidden gem in the Aegean Sea. Unfortunately, the rapid growth of tourism has spoilt some of its charm.
Rhodes-Symi -Summer 2006
Rhrodes, also known as the island of the knights, is an ideal holiday destination not only for those who seek relaxation, but also for those looking for an action-packed holiday. With the island's special blend of cosmopolitan and traditional features, its lush green valleys, its numerous cultural and archaeological sites in addition to an uninterrupted line of awesome beaches, Rhodes is a truly blessed place located in the eastern Aegean Sea.
Alexandroupolis - Summer 2007 / Summer 2010
From the moment we set foot in Alexandroupolis, we promised each other that we'd go back. Located in Northern Greece, Alexandroupolis is the jewel of Thrace. The Evros Delta is located at about 20 km from Alexandroupolis on the borders to Turkey. The river Evros has shaped an ecosystem of about 200 square km which is of international ornithological importance. In the wetlands of the Delta, 316 types of birds have been recorded including many aquatic and semi-aquatic species - raptors, herons, pelicans and seabirds. Among them, there are are also some very rare species , indeed ! For centuries now the Delta of the Evros River has been a vitally important way station in the migration of aquatic birds from Northern Europe to Africa and back again.
Kefalonia - Summer 2008
Alkis and I had been looking forward to this holiday since Easter 2008, when we actually decided to make a dream come true. Kefalonia located in the Ionian Sea in western Greece, is rated 5th in the world for its awe-inspiring beaches and crystal-clear waters, not to mention the friendly and so very hospitable Cephalonians.
Kos - Summer 2011
The island of Kos - the birthplace of Hippocrates - the father of medicine - is located in the south-eastern Aegean Sea and it's the third largest island of the Dodecanese.
Right now, I am looking forward to my next summer holiday in Greece!