Escape to the Greek Islands

 

Whether it’s dining on Moussaka and Greek salad at a waterfront taverna, cruising the Aegean Sea, or getting delightfully lost amongst the twisting blue and white alleyways…an escape to the Greek Islands up there on most people’s to-do list.

With over 140 idyllic islands it is difficult to know where to start. So if you don’t know your Cyclades from your Ionian, these are some of my favourite Greek Islands to get you started when planning your next European holiday destination.

 

Kefalonia – Ionian Islands

In his book, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres talks about the amazing quality of light on Kefalonia, an island made famous by the less impressive movie of the same name. If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I would have said he was exaggerating.  One the most memorable places that I visited on Kefalonia was Myrtos Beach, where the perfect crescent-shaped beach and the colour of the water seems almost surreal.

 

“The first thing that struck me was the painful clarity of the light.
I suppose that it would be ridiculous to maintain that the air in Kefalonia has no density, but the light is so pellucid, so pure, that one is temporarily blinded and overwhelmed…I found that in Kefalonia the night falls without the intervention of twilight, and that before it rains the light is like mother-of-pearl. After it rains, the island smells of pines, warm earth, and the dark sea.”
Louis de Bernieres

 

 

Myrtos Beach, Kefalonia. Greece

Myrtos Beach, Kefalonia. Greece

 

 

Poros, Saronic Gulf Islands

Only a one hour Flying Dolphin boat ride from the port of Piraeus in Athens, means you could easily add on a side trip to this charming little island to your time in Athens. And I think it is worth the journey to Poros Island if only to sample the food.

Greek cuisine often consists of hearty, home style type cooking. It seems the more traditional the taverna, the more hearty and home style the dishes. I prefer traditional when it comes to Greek food and on Poros the restaurants certainly know how to deliver

Venture away from the port and explore further into the back streets of Poros to discover authentic restaurants tucked away in back alleys beyond all the noise and haste of the port.

 

 

Lamb Kleftiko

Lamb Kleftiko. Poros Island.

 

 

Santorini, Cyclades Islands

Santorini is a visual treat. It rises out of the water like something straight out of Homer’s Odyssey and the views from the top of the ‘crater’ island are unforgettable. And we all familiar with the famous Santorini sunsets.

All that considered, I have not had any desire to return to Santorini because my strongest memory is of the literal hordes of people. For me it took some of the magic out of it. If you can get past that though,  you will love Santorini.

Despite the crowds, if you are going to the Greek Islands I think everyone should visit Santorini at least once – those views are truly remarkable.

 

 

Santorini, Greek Islands

Santorini, Greek Islands.

 

Kythira, Ionian Islands

In Greek mythology Kythira is believed to be the island of Aphrodite: born from the sea to one of the many beaches on the island. And while these beaches are among the most beautiful in Greece, it is a tiny tropical oasis in the eastern part of the island that really caused me fall in love with Kythira.

From the pretty village of Mylopotamos you can reach the the Neraida (Nymph) Waterfalls – a lush, green forest trail with bridges, butterflies and of course….an idyllic waterfall spilling into a deep-green pond. If you have the fortitude you can take a dip in the pristine waters but even in summer it is absolutely freezing.

With a journey that would make Odysseus proud, it is a long 8 hours by slow ferry from Piraeus to Kythira. A quicker alternative, but possibly equally as stomach churning, is to take a 45 minute flight from Athens Airport.

 

Paros, Cyclades Islands

Paros Island is off the cruise ship path, and so it doesn’t get the same sort of crowds as somewhere like Santorini. It has retained its traditional appeal and it is incredibly chilled out, particularly in the villages outside the port town of Parikia.

Head into the tiny hill towns or the pretty villages on the coast and you will start to feel like you are really in Greece.

You still have the whitewashed buildings, the beaches, the mesmerising colors of the Aegean, the very ‘Greek island’ atmosphere…..it’s just all a bit more real; more authentic. There is not the glitz or glamour of some of the other Cyclades islands but to me this works in its favour.

 

Piso Livadi, Paros

 

 

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