SunRock is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the serenity of Corfu, the gem of the Ionian Islands. It is a family run hostel, but having stayed there I would consider it to be a resort. As a solo traveller, I know hostels can be ideal to meet other travellers, however sometimes hostels appear cliquish. SunRock flourishes with the kindness and acceptance one would expect to receive from a loving family. Indeed, I felt like part of a family when I stayed at SunRock. Everyone that was staying there got to know each other and EVERYONE stayed longer than they expected because no one wanted to leave the peace they had found.
The family that owns the hostel/resort cooks breakfast to order as you wake up in the morning after a long night of talking with friends and watching the moonlight on the Adriatic sea as seen from the beautiful terrace. Most hostels offer a free* breakfast with their stay, but I've stayed at many (+20) hostels and most are just dry toast with butter or jelly and if you're very lucky, you get a 6 ounce cup of juice. SunRock provided me with fresh breakfast of Greek pancakes and French toast while I was there as part of my stay! YES! No extra charge! They also hosted family style feasts for dinner (also at no extra charge) where everyone staying there would sit down together at a long table. No one ever ate alone! The family makes its own feta cheese and homecooks every delicious meal. It was such an incredible experience. It germinated a seed of acceptance deep within my heart.
I heard about SunRock from a fellow Couchsurfer/traveller. It wasn't in my itinerary to visit Corfu, but based on the recommendation I had to go and I'm very glad I did - it was perhaps the best place I stayed in all of Greece!
Sunrock (Vrachos) Resort, Pelekas Beach,Sinarades,49084
SunRock is located on the waterfront of wide, sweeping, sandy, Pelekas Beach of Corfu Island. I took a ferry from Venice, Italy and was picked up at the ferry port by a staff member at SunRock. They are wonderful to provide free transportation to/from the hostel and ferry port or airport! If you give them your ferry booking or flight schedule, they will pick you up!
2661 094637 or 26610 94056 (text) or 6948407545 (phone)
Summit Zero is the perfect hostel to begin your own Mt. Olympus adventure. I arrived via bus in the middle of Litochoro and because I reserved my room at the hostel, Periklis, the hostel owner, was waiting to meet me.
I stayed the night and prepared for my climb up Mt. Olympus the next day. I met many other climbers and was able to receive wonderful advice and tips on trails from both local climbers and travelling climbers.
I was travelling solo, but I met other young adults who joined with me to climb Mt. Olympus.
Summit Zero was the best starting place for my adventure. I was able to leave my bags at the hostel in storage until I returned after my two-day climb. I was able to unwind after the trek by swimming in the Aegean because the beach is just behind the hostel. Summit Zero is the perfect refuge. The is no other place where you can enjoy the setting sun as you float in the waters of the Aegean while admiring the lofty peaks of Mt. Olympus knowing that you had walked the path of the gods.
It is located in Gritsa, port of Litochoro, GR. Litochoro is the small town at the base of Mt. Olympus (easily identified by its red tile roofs). Gritsa is just outside of Litochoro on the coast of the Aegean.
0030- 6972 338348 mob. (Periklis)
0030- 23520 61406 hostel
Gritsa, port of Litochoro, GR.
Spend Sunday mornings in Athens in the slightly seedy area of Plateia Avissynias, as the area comes alive with Athen's notorius Monastiraki Flea Market.
Part treasure-trove, part bizarre bazaar, you'll find trinkets and old junk you never knew you needed, as well as antique shops that are are here all week. Rub shoulders with the locals who get there early to scoop the best buys, and bring your haggling skills.
Cafes and bars bordering the market overspill onto the street at weekends, and add to the festive ambience as you sift through the stalls.
It makes for a colourful, slightly manic morning, and your rummaging may be rewarded with a treasure or two - I came away with some antique pink Turkish bottles, and bags of old ornate jewellery - I managed to resist the ancient gramophone that I was told still works!
Plateia Avissynias & Ermou
These super-stylish self-catering apartments are only five minutes away from the Acropolis, and are spacious enough for families on a budget, groups of friends, or couples who want a bargain alternative to backpacker hostels.
The open-plan studios are styled with funky furniture and modern art on the walls, and fully equipped with a kitchen, free internet, a flatscreen TV, bathrooms, and air conditioning - a welcome respite from the intense summer heat and city smog.
The bedroom and sitting room both have their own balconies, or you can head up to the rooftop bar for a breathtaking view of the Acropolis as the sun sets. The perfect accompaniments are a well-priced cold bottle of beer and Sheesha Pipes in every flavour from Coca-Cola to Vanilla.
There's also a happy hour from 7-8pm every night with half-price cocktails-the Parthenon Passion is a must!
If you want budget accomodation but aren't quite ready to bunk down in a hostel dorm, the Athens Studios allow you to tackle this frenetic city at your own pace.
Avoid the scores of tacky tourist shops that spring up in Plaka during the summer months - your friends and family won't miss the miniature Acropolis keyring or T-Shirts printed with 'It's all Greek to Me' you could have wasted your Euros on.
Instead, there are two brilliant places to pick up local and traditional Greek handicrafts.
Oikotexnia is run by the Institute of Social Protection, so you will be helping to preserve and promote traditional Greek handicrafts as well as scoring some top quality souvenirs. Best buys include knotted carpets, fluffy Flokatis rugs, embroidered cushions and tablecloths.
The Centre of Hellenic Traditions is a haven from Plaka's mass-produced tat and sells Greek art, icons, pottery, wood carvings, embroideries, and prints. Best of all, there's a charming cafe on-site for enjoying a view of the Acropolis
Oikotexnia, Filellinon 14, Plaka
Centre of Hellenic Tradition, Mitropoleos 3 and Pandrossou 36 in the Plaka
An easy stroll up this pine-covered hill offers one of the best views of the Acropolis, and is known as the 'hill of muses' for inspiring poets with its beauty.
A maze of paths winds lazily to the top and is well-shaded - ideal for coping with the blistering August heat. Most people come here for the views of the Acropolis opposite and southern Athens stretching to the sea, but you'll come across many more historic sights on your travels.
Highlights include the cave where Socrates was imprisoned, the Pnyx, a limestone theatre carved into the hillside, and the birthplace of Athenian democracy, and the Neo-Classical Old Observatory.
If you have time, make sure you catch a performance of traditional Greek dance at the Dora Stratou Dance Theatre, and a enjoy a coffee at the Loumbardiaris cafe.
Athen's Central Market is packed full of stalls selling mouthwatering Greek food - cheeses, olives and dried fruit, but it is essentially a meat market.
If you really want to eat like the locals, and fancy some cheap and filling fare away from the overpriced restaurants in Plaka, brave the tavernas in the centre, feeding hungry workers and hung-over clubbers with steaming bowls of 'Patsas', tripe soup.
Epeiros and Papandreou are the most authentic, with stoves simmering over with huge pots of chickpeas and all manner of tripe soups, which the cooks swear are cholesterol-free and have medicinal properties.
The science behind that may be sketchy, but a bowl of the soup blasts hangovers away after one too many glasses of ouzo, and the restaurants are incredibly atmopsheric, with tables crammed with loudmouth market workers day and night. I opted for the Mayeritsa which is a tripe soup made with an egg-lemon sauce, and after a few nervous spoonfuls, found myself licking the bowl clean.
If you can't face the tripe, pick from plates piled high with lamb so tender it falls off the bone, roasted potatoes and bottles of delicious red wine.
Between Sofokleous & Evripidou, Athinas 42
Situated at the mouth of a spectacular gorge and set in a tranquil olive grove. This spotless hostel lends itself to long spring sojourns for the intrepid walker or beach lover alike.
Eight person spacious dorms all with a patio, table and chairs surround a grass covered communal area with ample shade.
The manager is on hand to take care of simple needs like internet access, bottles of local wine and ice cold Mythos beers. Breakfast is a simple and cheap affair but the community spirit is what makes the hostel buzz.
Guests come from all over the world and some stay months or even the whole season to enjoy the local beaches and simple life that Plakias affords.
A world away from the resorts of the north the Plakias youth hostel gives much in return for the thoughtful and social traveller.
Plakias can be reached by bus from most major towns in the north of Crete.
Mirthios 74060, Rethymno, Crete, Greece
Tel. +30 28320 32118
book on reservations.bookhostels.com/psacreative.com/hostel.php?HostelNumber=10176
I refuse to disclose the joys of the Hotel Romvi in Tolon. (Damn.) The fact that it is small, family run and on the beach is something I do not wish to share with worldwide Guardian readers because you'll all be there next year filling the sunbeds two steps from the restaurant which serves great home-cooked food.(Done it again - damn.) I'm booking now before you get there. The fact that the town can be ignored as you sip ouzo with your feet in the sea is an even greater asset.
It's only 30 mins from Epidaurus, Mycenae and twenty by boat from Napflion.
SO DON'T GO!
Try Sunvil Travel
You have travelled 20 km since the last tourist shop. Way above the sea you round the headland and enter an amphitheatre of sculptured mountainsides as the road swoops down to the sea. A broad bay, three tavernas and a bar, beyond some old cottages, rooms to let and a few fishing boats. Inland a small chapel on a hill, small buildings among fields and olive groves. A huge gorge slices through a mountainside. That is all there is.
Before the end of the tarmac road you are already captured. The pace has slowed, time to slip off your shoes and live the moment of arriving at this jewel of retreats. A gentle swim, a quiet lunch under tamerisk trees, a sleep after.
Zakros will imprint your soul; you find your own rhythms and retreats. My favourites are: a small hidden cove with a flat rock surrounded by a gentle turquoise swell; a small shingle beach shared with a kingfisher or two; the hill top chapel reached along a dusty track then ancient stone steps, where you will find a quiet peace in the courtyard or contemplation inside, among the icons, candlewax and rickety chairs; a stroll up the gorge takes you to a shady fig tree where you can rest in solitude and breathe the aromas of hot sun on vegetation, only the scuffle and bleet of goats as background. You might walk along a thyme-scented path leading along the coast to Pelekita's cave – nobody there but you. Here you look down on the bright wind-patterned Libyan sea and out beyond the edge of Europe. Almost 3 millenia ago Minoans settled here, trading across these seas; they left a fine palace to show for it.
As darkness falls and you take your unhurried evening meal, the full moon could rise from the sea, rose turning to silver. No need for tears on leaving since you will, for certain, return.
This is a little beach which can only be reached down a steep, perhaps impossible slope or by boat.
But it is perfect, one little taverna which washes its fresh fish in the sea. A beach with the purest sand and if you are lucky the most beautiful marble pebbles.
So it is for swimming, lazing and off course eating.
Need I say more ...
Take the only island bus, you will know what I mean when you get to Skiathos. Get off at stop 13 and follow the road round the Cape to the furthest point which is about half a kilometre then down the cliff to the beach. Don't worry I have seen the most beautiful legs tricking down in flip flops.
If you try, you can still find the authentic Cyclades on some of the small islands – calm, without mass tourism or too many cars. One such island is Kimolos, in the Western Cyclades.
In the "Horio", the main town of the island, the white-washed walls of the houses form the 16th century Kimolos Castle.
One of these houses has recently been renovated to provide independent self-catering accommodation for up to six people.
You can also include a skippered 51 foot sailing yacht as part of your holiday.
There are literally many magic places in Greece but Kardamili is almost unknown to many people. It is a little pretty village in Mani with loved beaches (to name a few Ritsa, Salio, Limanaki, Kalamitsi, Foneas, Delfinia, Kalogria, Stoupa), amazing cooking (Elies restaurant is literally great) and beautiful friendly people. It is a delightful place to take a break. The stone building architecture, crystalline waters, wild olive groves and distant mountains overlooking the calm sea and sunsets of the Messinian Gulf make the place a treasure that has been rightly kept away from the spotlight.
Kardamili is in the southern Peloponnese. The nearest station is Kalamata. Elies restaurant is located at Ritsa.
Villa Glyfada is just what you want if you pick Paxos as your Greek island destination: a good balance of unspoilt sights and three small port towns with plenty of small restaurants and evening bars.
In the remote olive grove hills, Villa Glyfada is hidden amongst the big old olive trees, some even centuries old.
Having candle lit BBQ dinners on the verandah with a view over the secular olive groves and deep blue sea is unforgettable.
It was difficlut to stop reading on the wooden porch swing and deck chairs to meander down through the trees to the hidden beach.
Nicely furnished and well equiped, this villa has everything you need to feel at home. Even a couple of friendly Greek cats looking for some attention.
Very good value for the price. And while you are there don't forget a day trip to gorgeous Anti Paxos.
100 Euros per night for 2p renting the house,and 130 Euros per night for 4p.
Paxos,Ionian Islands in Greece
Phone: 0030 2662 0 32589 or 0030 697 92 66 706
It is a pretty village in Mani that combines crystalline waters and distant mountains from where you get beautiful sunsets of the Messinian Gulf. Gorgeous beaches (Ritsa, Salio,Limanaki, Kalamitsi, Foneas, Delfinia,Kalogria, Stoupa), amazing food (restaurant Elies is simply great), friendly people and nice bars.
It is in the Southern Peloponnese. Nearest station is Kalamata. The restaurant Elies is at Ritsa.
Literally anywhere on the south west coast of Crete; a mix of bustling little ferry 'ports' (Sfakia, Ag. Roumeli etc.), bijou mini-beach resorts (Loutro), deserted beaches with nearby basic rooms and authentic tavernas (Licos, Phoenix). Just sit back and relax watching the crazy hordes head off to the Samaria Gorge and guessing which ones will be half dead by the other end having never walked to the supermarket let alone tackled a challenging lengthy hike wearing flip flops!
Start off on the harbour side at Chorio Sfakion (Sfakai) but be sure to buy ferry tickets from the office near the bus stop first.
A short ferry ride - or in our case an exhilarating speed boat ride - from the bustling resort of Nidri on Lefkada, lies the tiny island of Meganissi. There are just three villages on Meganissi - Vathi, Spartochori and the capital, Katomeri, all of them small with narrow streets, a handful of places to eat and a couple of mini-markets but mainly untouched by the trappings of mass tourism.
The sheltered bays round the island make it a good place to hire a motor boat for a day or two to explore some of more remote bays, caves or the "tail" of the island. The next best way of exploring is to walk - gravel tracks follow quite a lot the coastline and we took several circular walks, lasting a couple of hours. The scenery was beautiful and constantly changing as we rounded the corner into yet another bay. There are splendid views round the island to the Onassis owned island of Skorpios or over to Lefkas and towards the islands of Ithaca and Kefalonia in the hazy distance.
There are no sandy beaches on the island but some pretty pebble or shingle coves. Our favourite was Fanari Beach, a curving beach of fine shingle with mill pond like still, turquoise water and an idyllic setting. The water was quite cool but crystal clear with lots of little fishes. We also like the beach at Agios Ioannis, a narrow pebble beach, a bit more lumpy on the behind - but another pretty spot backed in places by palm trees.
We travelled there in late September with Ionian Island Holidays. We got a late deal on a lovely three bedroomed villa, set amongst the olive groves on the hillside overlooking the harbour at Vathi. Transfers were by taxi and private boat, making the whole process much easier, quicker and less stressful. Though relatively easy to get to, Meganissi feels like it is a million miles from the bustle of the livelier Greek resorts. It was certainly a peaceful and relaxing place that I would recommend to anyone who likes the quieter side of Greece.
Vassiliki is a quaint fishing village on the southern coast of the Ionian island of Lefkada. Excellent restaurants line the harbour front where diners can enjoy their meals while watching local fisherman tending their boats. There are many small B&Bs or flats to choose from and from which you can explore the surrounding area. It is an easy drive to the island's dramatic west coast beaches or the local winery. There are also several isloated beaches within walking distance from the village. The bay is a popular wind-surfing spot in the summer.
Vassiliki is on the west coast of Greece in the Ionian Sea. It is only 5 1/2 hours from Athens by car, or 45 minutes from the closest airport at Preveza.
The small island of Santorini is stunningly beautiful, with its old world traditional Greek charm and breathtaking views. However, it is one of the most expensive of the Greek islands, so our advice is to stay on the much cheaper east side of the island in a resort such as Kamari or Perissa. In the evening you can take a short bus ride (cheap fares and frequent service) to the more exclusive west side villages of Thira and Oia where you can dine in the cliff top restaurants whilst watching the spectacular sunsets. The other advantage of staying on the lower east side of the island is that this is where the beaches are located. Whatever you might read in the guidebooks, Oia does not have a beach! Many tourists make the trek down the long, steep winding path to the sea, in the sweltering heat, only to find a disappointing pile of rocks and pebbles awaiting them!
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