Scattered like the petals of a flower in the wind, the Greek islands are like a refreshing dive under the bright sun. Each and every one has its own character, but with one thing in common: they are all ready to welcome visitors from across the globe to share their history, tastes, warmth, feelings and experiences. Here is your guide to the must-live Greek island-hopping for Summer 2019.
Go beyond the sunset in Santorini
There’s no other island in the world where nature’s wrath resulted in such beauty, beauty celebrated in myriads of postcards and magazine covers, in photo collections and viral social media posts. The unique volcanic caldera of Santorini, frosted with sugar-cubed houses and imposing mansions perched high above the Aegean Sea, the views to the volcanoes just a stone’s throw away, and volcanic treasures that balance out the destruction make falling in love with Santorini inevitable.
This island has something for everyone: History buffs rush to discover the Prehistoric city of Akrotiri unearthed under tons of lava and the ancient ruins of Thera. Hiking aficionados set on the path leading from Fira to Ia for a breath-taking stroll through the geological beauty of Santorini. Aspiring and experienced sailors embark on a yacht or catamaran cruise to admire the beauty that promises to leave them speechless. Gourmands seek local wineries for wine tastings combined with local treats and vineyards tours that complete their experience. The volcanic soil attributes unique characteristics to Santorini’s products; as a result, the wines of Santorini are all one of a kind. Tradition chasers wander in the Kasteli of Emporio or at Pyrgos, whereas in Megalochori you will find out the true meaning of utter tranquillity. As for the sunset, – the famous ‘best sunset in the world’ – the best spots to view it is in Ia, Fira, Imerovigli, at the Lighthouse of Akrotiri for more intimacy and the Monastery of Prophet Elias for breath-taking panoramic views.
Do not miss the brand-new Lost Atlantis Experience featuring a fascinating adventure to the devastating volcanic eruption that created Santorini through holograms, interactive representations and a 9D cinema.
Tip: Accommodation standards are high, and regardless of whether you book a caldera view room or a villa in a traditional settlement, you are bound to be satisfied!
Mykonos can keep you on your feet for days; if you are up to the challenge, this island will never stop daring you with more, more and yet some more. Hedonistic shopping sprees, a restless party scene that admits to no boundaries and avant-garde gastronomy that sets the pace for the entire Mediterranean. This island never ceases to reinvent itself; year after year, season after season, Mykonos – almost instinctively – finds a way to upgrade its summer life and redefine the standards of a great time!
It’s as if everything conspired to make Mykonos the epicentre of fun; a balanced amalgamation of all that embodies the magic of authentic island living. The sun always shines (God Apollo was born on the neighbouring islet of Delos), the beaches are golden, sandy and enchanting, the sugar-cubed cluster of Chora is the archetype of Cycladic architectural beauty. Crazy days on the beach are followed by exhilarant nights of bar-hopping. Here, you won’t care if you get lost; indeed, try to get lost and leave your next step to utter chance, and Mykonos promises you won’t regret it!
Look for the beaches, try to visit them all; keep on the lookout for the parties of Psarou, Elia, Super Paradise and Kalo Livadi. Explore traditional gems in Ano Mera and look twice for the hidden corners of authentic island living. Don’t hesitate to try a Greek coffee in a kafenio or innovative Greek cuisine in the islands or to follow a crowd of windsurfers looking for the perfect waves of Ftelia Beach. Whichever way you go, Mykonos has you covered!
The eternally beloved Rhodes
Blessed by God Sun, Rhodes the enchantress Rhodes will grasp your heart and never let it go! It may not happen in an instant, but it will undoubtedly happen, as you enter through a gate of the medieval town, as you take your first dive in the crystalline waters of Antony Quinn Bay and the rocky coves of Kallithea, as you wander in the alleys of picturesque Lindos or as you stumble upon the alluring Butterfly Valley.
In Rhodes, history and beauty go hand in hand; every corner has a story to tell, every rock you turn has an old secret hidden beneath it, every foe that left this island left something behind. Here, time loses its seams, and you find yourself bouncing back and forth from one intriguing era to another, from the ancient Acropolis to the Medieval Town and to priceless remnants of many pasts, never losing your balance and always falling more and more in love with Rhodes.
There are so many reasons why Rhodes is continuously at the top of the world’s touristic destinations, from its fantastic beaches to its plethora of historical attractions, and from its abundance of inviting activities to the vividly cosmopolitan nightlife. This multifaceted island has so much to offer, so attractions to keep you busy and intrigued for days on end. Take your time to explore them all, and find more reasons to fall in love with Rhodes. It’s easier than you’d think!
Island Hopping Extra: the boats from Mandraki harbour will take you to Symi, an out-of-a-fairytale island in less than an hour!
Follow the path of tradition in Amorgos
If Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes have made concessions to accommodate the needs of travellers best, Amorgos insists on standing true to its authentic character. Visitors find in Amorgos a welcoming insular summer paradise where locals will greet them with a warm and honest smile and instantly make them feel at home, an island that seems to defy reality and the boundaries of time and strives to maintain as much of its original simplicity and beauty as possible.
The entire world got to witness the beauty of Amorgos in Luc Besson’s film Le Grand Blue, and what a fitting word grand is; each and every one of its beaches is to fall in love with, but the beach of Aghia Anna, where the movie was filmed, is the most famous one of all! Start your sightseeing tours with the landmark of the island, the Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa as your first stop, and from there, an abundance of inviting activities awaits, all in harmony with the island’s laid back and authentic energy and all enveloped in the grand, ethereal blue of Amorgos. No planning is required, just follow your needs: when you need to refresh take a dive in the sea, when you are hungry just enter a local taverna; Amorgos wants nothing more from you than to enjoy happy days under the sun, to enjoy its treasures to the max and to leave all else behind.
Tip: Ask the locals if there’s a traditional feast (a panigiri) and don’t miss this unique experience of wholesome Greek entertainment, combined with great food, drinking and dancing, and traditional treats such as burnt raki or rakomelo.
Summer brings you to Ios Island
Ios is probably the most “honest” island when it comes to balancing between partying and lounging. Over the last two years, it has witnessed the opening of elegant venues that add to the established party life of the island, yet without compromising its original casual character of a small Greek isle. So, Ios may be small, but it has a big summery heart with generous offerings for all. Hiking, cruising, diving and endless leisure at the beach of Mylopotas; Aghia Theodoti and Koubara Beach are your seaside destinations for private moments of utter serenity. As for culture, the recently renovated Lighthouse, the church of Panagia Gremiotissa (at the top of Chora), the Museum of Modern Art and the open-air theatre host intriguing collections and themed cultural nights you shouldn’t miss if you happen upon.
As you enter the port of the island of Ios and you start taking photos of the Aghia Irini church, make sure that you abandon all plans for your visit here. Ios is best enjoyed without an itinerary, just set off to the unknown and let the island take you wherever it pleases. Try local products – especially the cheeses xinotyri and skotiri, highly sought-after delicacies in every part of Greece; swim in every beach you come across and visit every building, village or sight that catches your eye; nothing can ever disappoint you in Ios! A day in Ios is never wasted, and the nights that follow are vivid and rewarding, the true embodiment of a perfect summer day in the Greek islands is a day – or more – spent in Ios!
Island Affair(s): Naxos & Koufonissia
Naxos is the largest island of the Cyclades and the most fertile. Unlike its sister islands of the Cyclades, Naxos has a multifaceted feel, a distinct character that makes it a world of its own. As you enter the port of Chora, the iconic landmark of Portara (part of an ancient temple) welcomes you to Naxos and to an experience meant to tantalize all your senses. Start with a long stroll in the medieval town of Naxos, then explore all its facets through time and history. Ancient marble statues and enchanting sanctuaries immersed in verdant valleys, traditional villages such as Apiranthos that maintain their medieval allure and rural purity, exquisite, rich cheeses, potatoes and Citron liqueur that please the palate and capture your heart. Naxos loves good living, and it shows in the simple and heartfelt welcome each visitor feels instantly as they first reach the island; you are bound to love good living too after your stay here.
When you feel that you have genuinely discovered Naxos, then set off to Koufonissia – the most exotic destinations of the Aegean Sea. Two islands, Ano and Kato, comprise the Koufonissia island complex and what makes this little slice of heaven genuinely remarkable is the unbeatable casualness of life together with the breath-taking natural beauty. Amazing, out-of-this-world beaches, fantastic sea colours and the oh-so laid-back life welcome you to a singular experience of repose and calmness beyond all your dreams and expectations. Unspoilt and unyielding to modern life, Koufonissia is where you will feel the pure essence of freedom! ◼
© This article was first published in June-July 2019 edition of World Travel Magazine.