Naxos is one of the biggest and most picturesque islands in the cycladic complex with endless beaches and restaurants offering local organic products. The most recognisible ancient monument is the "Portara" the gate of what used to be the temple of Apollo, situated close to the main port of the island. However Naxos has also many Byzantine churches and above all the famous "Kouros", the two gigantic statues which represent a young man. The first Kouros is located in the northern part of the island, in Apollonas and it is not worth the visit, whereas the second Kouros of Melanes is a fantastic sample of the geometric era (7th and 6th century B.C.) The unfinished Kouros at Melanes (or Flerio) is situated in a lovely garden full of citrus trees. At the end of the path there is a lady selling home made marmelades, a treat you just can't miss.
The annual summer festival of Kalamata offers a great opportunity to explore both the new trends of contemporary dance and the endless beaches of the region. The International Dance Festival runs from the 14th until the 21st of July 2012 at Kalamata Castle Amphitheater and Polycladikon Lyceum Gym. During the festival there are also many workshops and off-program events taking place at various venues. The city of Kalamata itself is a charming place situated in south Peloponnese with many bars, restaurants, byzantine monuments and an impressive castle with a magnificent view. Explore the Benakeion Archaeological Museum and the History and Folklore museum of Kalamata. The trekking lovers will enjoy the paths of the mount Taygetos which is situated east of Kalamata.
This Santorini hotel is amazing. It is only two minutes from the black sand Kamari beach in Santorini and in a very nice flower garden.
Greece offers more challenging walking, but none stranger than between the sandstone needles of the Metéora.
Monasteries perched on the pillars were once accessed by rope ladders, replaced only when they broke. Now there are steps, and larger sites like Megálou Meteórou are busy. The hawks hunting in the thermals below, and the black-frocked priests hugging their knees in the ramshackle cable-car to the staff car-park, make it worth the climb. Walks to Ipapandí or Aghios Triádhos are wilder and more peaceful.
Boufidis' Cave guesthouse/campsite in Kastráki, camping from €10, rooms €40 (www.camping-boufidis-meteora.biz/). Kalambaka station: trains from Athens/Thessaloniki, (c.€25 single); buses from Igoumenitsa, (c.€20).
Pelion is crisscrossed with a network of ancient kalderimi, or stone donkey paths, and monopati, or unpaved footpaths. These link the traditional stone-roofed hill top villages and the picturesque fishing harbours, sandy beaches and secluded coves. Walks take you through plane trees in the valleys and olives and pines on the hills. Round each corner there is something different, small springs that provide cool, pure water, glimpses of the sapphire Aegean, splendid sunsets over the Pagiasitikos Gulf and a tsipouro and a meal of delicious regional cuisine at journeys end.
For how to get there, places to stay, walking routes and opportunities to join walking groups contact The Friends of The Kalderimi of South Pelion on Facebook or pelionwalks.wordpress.com
We've been to half a dozen Michelin starred restaurants but this one has to be one of the best if not the best we've visited.
We went for the tasting menu which effectively amounted to 10 courses (including various amuse bouche) costing €140 in total including two glasses of wine each.
Service was very friendly and very relaxed.
The chef Nikos Karathanos won the Michelin star for the restaurant in 2009 and it from our experience will hold it for many years to come!
Small jewellery store in Plaka area. All items are hand made, made from semi precious stones, coral or silver to name but a few materials.
The prices are extremely reasonable with turquoise or coral bracelets retailing from €7 upwards.
Very friendly service with no hard sell.
Adrianou Str 136, Plaka
+30 210 27 75 005
Interesting bar/cafe in the bohemian Exarchia area of Athens.
The Exarchia area has drawn intellectuals and students into it from the 19th century onwards and the area was headquarters of many left wing organisations.
This establishment on the square looks straight out of 1960s eastern Europe with every piece of furniture actually from the 1960s itself. Relaxed easy going crowd pitch up here.
A cafe for the 'elite' of Athens, it is worth a visit to see that the economic downturn has not affected everyone equally. Quite exclusive shops ring the square.
Τσακάλωφ 1, Athens 10673 Greece
+30 210 3602497
Google map: bit.ly/HDb6Br
This was a real find just around the corner from the James Joyce pub. The small entrance on Agiou Filippou Street leads onto a rooftop terrace with a great view of the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora and the Temple of Hephestus.
Beers available from €2 and also serves food.
We were making our way to the Parthenon and it was quite a surprise to come across this village at the foot of the Acropolis.
This white washed village which was carved out of the rocks is reminiscent of a village in Santorini. It was dug out of the rocks by stonemasons from the island of Anafi (near Santorini) who were working on King Otto's Athens palace in the early 19th century. To remind them of home, they tried to recreate their homes of the islands. Anafiotika unsurprisingly means 'Anafi style'.
Just be aware that these are people's homes though the inhabitants (many descendants of the original stone masons) are used to tourists now.
As a matter of interest, there is a plaque dedicated to Konstantinos Koukidis who fell from the Acropolis wrapped in the Greek flag during the German occupation of Greece. The plaque is by the church of St George of the rock.
North east slope of Acropolis
Easiest way to get to the village is to go up Thespidos from Adrianou, and then turn right onto Stratonos. At the end of that street you will come to the whitewashed church of St George of the rock. This is the base of the village and you can then ascend via the winding paths into the village itself.
Google map: bit.ly/IadzQQ
Decent Irish pub in central Athens. As you'd expect it was not particularly cheap but shows all the UK sporting events and has live music as well.
The other three Irish pubs are all located a wee bit out from the centre.
So, you’ve sampled all that the Alps can offer and you’re looking for new vistas…well, why not head for Parnassos? Just two hours drive from Athens on the E75 route and you will be in Arachova, which is an enticing little village clinging to the southern slopes of Mount Parnassos. Accommodation in this traditional settlement ranges from the delightful and simple Maria Rooms, to the five-star Santa Marina Spa. The ski area will be unfamiliar to many, having only opened in 1976 (with no further development until the early nineties). While you won’t be tormented by too many perilous black runs, part of its charm comes from the close proximity of major sites of antiquity, such as Delphi (12 Kms), and the Corinthian Gulf, a further 15kms.
It's not deserted, but with only 300 inhabitants it is pretty sparsely populated, and after a couple of days you will have seen everyone on the island.
Less than a mile from the coast of Turkey, Kastellorizo (officially named Megisti) is Greece's easternmost island, and nicely off the beaten track. For fresh home-cooked eastern Mediterranean food try the Olive Garden, in the island's tiny harbour.
A number of boats plough back and forth between Kastellorizo and Kaş, one of Turkey's prettiest fishing towns.
Six flights a week from Rhodes. Several ferries from Rhodes, including a weekly catamaran.
One hour boat ride from Kaş in Turkey.
Google map: bit.ly/xxbntP
Delphi. Bold illustration of Classical Greece. Place of the Gods.
Delphic hills covered with barely whispering olive trees and the cemetery with its warmly inviting glowing night lights. Alone with Zeus and eagles you can gently jog the 100 yards in Delphi's ancient stadium. Later have a one/one session with the Oracle - she only tells you things you already know: that Delphi is breathtakingly beautiful and that you will return again and again.
Google map: bit.ly/wsc3l7
Pitsidia, Crete. A village to open you up and re-affirm what you have always believed life should be like. Chancing upon a Cretan means, at the least, a friendly ‘Cala Mera’ and a wave, sometimes an invitation to come in and drink tea. Bars and Cretans really move the welcoming spirit another notch; if the owner is not around then customers are trusted to simply help themselves and pay their bill later that day or even the next. The most seductive Cretan music just helps to confirm what you have always wanted to believe – that life and people are beautiful.
Google map: bit.ly/xP652a
Every New Year I set the same resolutions; eat less bad and more good, exercise more, lose a few pounds. And most years my attempts are feeble. In the first months of 2011 however I committed to taking a swimming holiday in the summer. What a fabulous idea; the carrot was a sunshine holiday, the stick was regular training to improve fitness levels. A week of remote island swimming in clear Greek waters (a long one from island to island in the morning and a shorter coastal one in the afternoon), freshly prepared food, wonderfully long, lazy lunches onboard our sailing boat and the soundest sleep in comfy hotel beds left me healthy, fit, happy and relaxed. Resolution kept.
+44 (0) 1273 739 713
Pitsidia, Crete. Chance upon an isolated home and at the very least that means a friendly 'Cala Mera' and a wave - sometimes an invitation to come inside and drink tea. Climb the hill that overlooks this very unspoilt village and listen to a chorus of sheep bleating, cattle lowing and instantly be transported to a time two thousand years ago. Bars in Pitsidia really reflect a true Christmas spirit: always friendly and if the owner is not there then customers help themselves and are trusted to pay their bill later in the day ... or even the next. Fresh local fish, grilled halloumi, crisp vegetables and the most seductive Cretan music all make a refreshing change from turkey and Christmas carols.
Google map: bit.ly/sZgiJQ
Delphi, Greece. Climb by bus to this seductive place of the Gods. Pass hills packed with olive trees and look out on the gulf of Ithaca panning out below from this sudden and shocking height. Drink from the fountain that spouts out ice cold nectar from the Delphic hills and alone with Zeus, gently jog the 100 yards in Delphi's still almost perfect ancient stadium. Later in the day have a one/one session with the Oracle. She only tells me things I already know - that Delphi is beautiful at Christmas and that there are so few tourists here you can have this place to yourself.
Google map: bit.ly/tVZIwh
I'm loathe to give this secret away, but here it goes: From late January to April skiing in Macedonia, Northern Greece is superb. Family operated ski areas, such as Seli, Pigadia 3-5 and Voras, situated high up across from Mt. Olympus, offer fantastic runs and, if you time your trip correctly, fluffy, knee-deep powder that will bring tears of joy to your eyes. Just over an hour's drive from Thessaloniki airport (which has direct connections to Gatwick and Stanstead), these hidden gems can't be beat. Lift tickets range from just EUR12-17 per day. What's more, I don't think there is a word in Greek for lift-line. I have skied the world over, and dare I say it, nothing beats Greek Macedonia for value-for-money.
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