Happy Thursday Hidden Gem Travel community! Here in the northeast, October is a beautiful month with cooling temperatures and colorful foliage. Do you love the fall season? While I love being home in October, it’s also a fantastic month for travel as it’s shoulder season in many desirable destinations. Greece is one of those destinations – fewer crowds and not as hot as it is in the peak summer season.
After reading last week’s newsletter, you probably realized that it takes more than one trip to the Greek Islands and Greece to experience all the country has to offer. As I often say to clients, you don’t have to check every box on your first trip. A crammed one-week itinerary can turn into a stressful experience where you return home needing a week of R&R.
To help you hone in on what’s most interesting to you and your family/travel companions, this newsletter highlights some considerations and interesting information about the Greek Islands. I will build your itinerary around your top priorities and make your experience seamless and stress-free.
If you’d like to receive a destination guide and/or sample first-time visitor itinerary, click here: www.hiddengemtravelconsulting.com/contact
If the Greek Islands are on your travel bucket list, read on for some of the many considerations and the scoop. Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea as there’s lots to dig into here…
Six Island Groups Plus Crete
For background, there are six main Greek Island groups plus Crete, the largest island in Greece. As you can see, there are so many choices!
The island groups are listed below:
- Cyclades (ex. Santorini)
- Saronic Gulf Islands (ex. Hydra)
- Ionian Islands (ex. Corfu)
- Sporades Islands (ex. Skiathos)
- Northeast Aegean Islands (ex. Ikaria)
- Dodecanese Islands (ex. Rhodes)
With so many island choices, an important consideration is whether to visit by cruise or your own curated itinerary. Either option will result in an amazing vacation when the best options for you are identified.
💎 Hidden Gem Tip: If you’re hoping to visit the Greek Islands in the peak summer months, the sooner you plan and book, the better the availability and choices.
Greece Islands for Everyone – Families & Couples
Are you planning your next family destination? Greece is safe and welcoming. It has lovely seaside resorts, villas, and hotels that make great family-friendly holiday destinations. If you’re looking for fun, family-friendly facilities, you’ll find playgrounds, kiddie pools, child entertainment programs, and sports all exist at the hotels next to the beach.
Crete is ultimately the number one recommendation for families and also consider Tinos, Naxos, Paros, Syros, Sifnos, the Sporades, Mytilini, Crete, Lefkada, Kefalonia, Corfu, Aegina, Evia, and Thasos. Are your kids interested in visiting a real-life castle? Then Rhodes should be on your list.
More fun things to do with the kiddos are:
- Percy Jackson Tour at the Acropolis Museum (Athens)
- Sailing adventure at Milos Island
- River Trekking in Crete
- Mountain Biking around Lassithi Plateau
- Taste and learn about traditional Cretan cheese
- Stargazing at Cape Sounion
OR are you looking for a romantic getaway? Without a doubt, the Greek islands are one of the most romantic places on Earth. The pristine beaches, aquamarine water, rich history and culture, and vibrant sunsets make it the perfect tourist destination for couples to connect (or reconnect) and create lifelong memories together.
Wondering about the top honeymoon or anniversary destination spot? Santorini is at the top of many ‘most romantic destination’ lists. This breathtakingly beautiful volcanic island is made up of tall cliffs and whitewashed houses overlooking a deep blue Aegean Sea. It is undoubtedly one of the best Greek islands for couples and honeymooners. You may also want to consider Corfu, Rhodes, and Mykonos.
Beach Lover’s Nirvana
According to Greece’s Tourism Board, the Greek Archipelago takes up 7,500 km of the country’s total 16,000 km coastline, offering a highly diversified landscape: beaches stretching over many kilometers, sheltered bays and coves, sandy beaches with dunes, pebble beaches, coastal caves with steep rocks, and black sand typical of volcanic soil.
The Greeks Islands are a beach-lovers nirvana, and there are different types of beaches for every beach enthusiast. A few examples are listed below:
Zakynthos is an island in the Ionian Sea. On Zakynthos, you’ll find rocky coves, and in one of these hidden areas is Navagio Beach, a sandy little strip that is unforgettable. Famous as “Shipwreck Beach” and “Smuggler’s Cove,” this beach became a small ship graveyard in 1983 after the smuggler’s ship Panagiotis plowed into the shore.
Another beach not to miss is the captivating Elafonissi Beach in Crete, known for its unique pink sand created by finely ground seashells. Its shallow water allows the beach to shimmer when the sun is shining.
The biggest Cyclades Island, Naxos, has some of the most beautiful white sandy beaches in Greece. Visitors enjoy a chilled vibe and many options for planting their umbrellas. While there, be sure to check out the Portara, or Great Door, especially at sunset.55
Last week, I mentioned Milos which offers 80 mini-beaches, although some may be only accessible by boat; T+L World’s Best Awards just ranked Milos as the #1 world’s best island!
Eat & Drink to Your Heart’s Content
Fabulous Greek cuisine can be found all over the islands and country. There are some amazing tours available for travelers who would like to experience the culinary scene. I’ll help you find the best tours for you!
As mentioned last week, Ikaria is a Blue Zone area that champions the Greek diet and island way of life. The Greek diet includes the twelve central “Pillar Foods,” olive oil, yogurt, vegetables, beans, seafood, whole grains, wine, fruit, herbs and spices, coffee and tea, nuts, and seeds and chicken and eggs. This way of eating has been commended for its positive effects on your heart and overall health. Research has shown that the advantages of reducing diabetes and improving cognitive function (due to foods rich in Omega-3s).
It’s no secret that the best olives in the world are produced in Greece. Greek olives are essential in Greek cuisine and culture. They aren’t just in Greek salads but many authentic dishes. The Greek town of Kalamata is known for the most famous olive in the world.
Who doesn’t love Feta? A cheese that’s produced in Greece, “Feta” is a legal designation, like Champagne or Roquefort. The term feta is coined from an ancient Greek word meaning “slice.” Feta cheese can be formed from either goat’s or sheep’s milk, but most cheese lovers will say it is best made with sheep’s milk. Feta is cured at least three months in brine, according to Greek law.
If you are a photographer or just love to take pics with your smartphone, then Greece is your paradise! There is an abundance of photo opportunities with beautiful landscapes, gorgeous natural lighting, and friendly locals to pose as your impromptu models. A simple stroll around town will inspire your camera lens with the quaint shops, white sugar houses, pretty gardens, and charming chapels. This is why Greece has become so popular with amateur and professional photographers.
Photo hot spots include:
- Stavrota mountain in Lefkada
- Windmills in Mykonos
- Meteora (Mainland Greece)
- Melissani Cave, Kefalonia
- Quaint island of Symi
- Portara, the Great Door on Naxos
- Crete – Balos lagoon & Samaria Gorge
- Santorini – everywhere, anytime
- Corfu’s La Grotta beach in Paleokastritsa
Many people believe the blue-and-white buildings are representative of Greek architecture, but this trend is much more common in the Cycladic Islands than anywhere else. Some believe it pertains to the superstition that blue wards off evil.
Another possibility is that it came through orders from Ioannis Metaxas, former military general, and dictator. In the 1930s, Metaxas forced the use of lime, a local product with anti-bacterial properties, to whitewash the buildings in the hopes of fighting the epidemics that were rampant in the islands. The use of lime also provided insulation from the sun which prevented the houses from getting too warm.
Greece’s beautiful architecture is showcased in its churches. Orthodox churches are known for their distinct dome-shaped architecture and the well-decorated interiors with spectacular frescoes and holy icons. Each one will lure you with its charm and character. Church style and design depend on the time of construction and the region of Greece. For example, the churches found in the Cyclades Islands are whitewashed with blue painted domes, in contrast to churches in other areas that are decorated with earthy hues. The Venetian and Renaissance periods heavily influence the churches located in the Ionian Islands while the mainland churches date back to Byzantine times.
Greek Mythology & Ancient History
Over the centuries, the Greek islands have been steppingstones between North Africa, Asia Minor, and Europe, across which warriors, tradesmen, conquerors, and even civilizations have hopped. Since ancient times, the islands have been fought over and claimed as prizes by successive invaders. Their strategic location, in a seafaring world, made many islands prosperous and autonomous trading centers. Some were run by foreign masters, as evidenced by the Venetian ports, Roman aqueducts, and Frankish castles found on the islands today.
Greece is famous for mythology and the Greek gods and goddesses which strongly influenced their culture and history in ancient times. Mythology fun fact: According to local myth, the god of sky and thunder, Zeus grew up in a cave on the island of Naxos. Coincidentally, Naxos is also said to be where Theseus abandoned Princess Ariadne of Crete after their successful attempt to kill the Minotaur.
That was a long one! If you’d like to receive a destination guide and/or sample first-time visitor itinerary, simply respond to this email, and I’ll send one to you!
Inspired? If the Greeks Islands are on your travel bucket list, here’s the link to schedule a chat with me www.hiddengemtravelconsulting.com/contact
Wishing you and your family continued good health,