Koufonissi is a really small island south of Naxos. I went island hopping in 2003 and the island which I remember most favourably is this little gem.
Because of its small size it gave us a feeling to be in a different world. If you are looking for quietness and recreation then this is the place to go. The beaches on Koufonissi are tidy and nice. On the east coast you will also find small bays which really give the illusion of being alone on the island.
We stayed in a small studio close to Finikas beach which was perfect for the small budget we had then. If I ever return - and I hope that will happen one day - I would, however, try to get a place in the Windmill Villa, a refurbished windmill close to the sea.
Halki is a small island five miles west of Rhodes but very far away from the hectic tourist activities of the larger island. There really is nothing to do there which makes it perfect for a relaxing holiday. Until recently there were no cars at all on the island and even now there are very few and the lack of traffic is wonderful. The island is very dry and water has to be imported from Rhodes which helps to explain the lack of major developments. There is one pretty harbour town and two small beaches which are served by traditional tavernas. Once you have walked to the beach of your choice the water comes in many shades of blue and green and is crystal clear. The beaches are never overcrowded as the island cannot accommodate many tourists, Most visitors stay in small apartments or villas in the town or in the new Hiona Art hotel.
In the village of Milopotamos, head to the main square and ask where the path to the waterfalls is. From there, it is a 15 minutes walk down to the waterfalls! The scenery is great and the feeling when arriving at the falls lovely.
Milopotamos Main Square, Kithira
Google map: bit.ly/jZNDQW
If you're heading to Laganas (which you should only do if you're young and want to party), then THIS is the place to stay. A few minutes from the main drag, but completely peaceful. No blaring music at the pool, simple but spacious rooms, fantastic bathrooms. The place is family run - they make you feel incredibly welcome (as long as you treat the hotel and the staff well). The food in the hotel was also great - almost didn't need to eat out at all! Highly recommended; a piece of paradise in a typical party destination.
Laganas Zakynthos PC: 29100, Greece
(+30) 26950 52419
Paxos is tiny but perfectly formed, and is less than an hour from Corfu by hydrofoil. The main town of Gaios is where you will find all the swanky yachts, but inland you will find a quiet island covered with olive groves, donkey tracks, and beautiful flowers. Life here is lived at a slow pace, and there is a true sense of community and of things as they used to be. The tiny village of Magazia has a wonderful traditional taverna serving hearty Greek food. Not far from Magazia, in Castanida, is the Sunset Taverna, which does what it says on the tin. There is a shady garden restaurant, or you can climb up onto the slightly precarious plywood roof terrace for an unrivalled view of the sunset.
Google map: bit.ly/lmlWCd
Naxos is a glorious antidote to the Greek beach experience. The largest and most agricultural of the Cyclades, it has an active present and a crowded history, that intertwine offering myriad pleasures. The ferry from Pireaus or other islands stops at the capital, Hora, a bustling port. High above the port is the ancient Venetian citadel of Kastro that has just been restored alluringly with millions of Euros. The central Tragaea plateau is the treat. Here a milder climate and friendly villagers welcome walkers. Aged olive and fig trees shade byzantine churches linked by ancient paths and tracks joining the villages. Halki keeps alive the unique citron distilling; Filoti spreads in the lee of Mt Zeus, the highest mountain in the Cyclades and excellent walking; Apiranthos exhibits the local marble in steep stairs and paving while offering wildflower walks and giddy sea views to the East. The plateau has scattered fortified towers and two of the island’s three 7th century BC, rejected male statues or Kouros, that lie on the hills where they were carved. Forget the moped and hire-car. Travel by local bus to see more and enjoy a warmer welcome.
Google map: bit.ly/j7mJMo
It is a restaurant serving lovely Greek dishes and all the Greek fishermen eat and drink there so that is always a good sign. I recommend it due to its position right by the quay and also the lovely food.
You cant miss it, it is opposite to where the boats come in and it actually has Octopus hanging in the tree outside.
Say hello to Liz and Apostole who own it and are very nice people!
Even in August you will have plenty of space on the beach at Spilla. Georges Taverna is at the end of the bay. If you come by boat on one of the sailing holidays you can use their lazy lines for simple mooring and George will help.
Free showers and washing machine. Super taverna - fresh bread from the village can be ordered or if you fancy a cool early morning walk visit the village yourself. Fantastic views from the top over to Lefcada. On the beach there are small pebbles and sand gently shelving into a crystal clear bay - lots of fish to spot if you fancy snorkelling. Swim out to the quay for a bit of exercise or just float about in the sunshine.
Google map: bit.ly/maFSx1
It is a psaro (fish) taverna on a small beach tucked away in Agni Bay on Corfu. They serve the most delicious food, particularly seafood, with views over the water to the Albanian mainland - at night the moon rises over the bay.
A peninsula linked to the mainland by a causeway, with a lovely taverna, a sunken city, a byzantine mosaic, and lovely small beaches to enjoy.
Take the sharp turning to the east when driving to Elouda, drive along the causeway by the venitian salt flats, over the hump backed bridge, and enjoy.
Google map: bit.ly/kUoBVM
I first visited Kythira in 1976 when my purse did not stretch to the ferry fare to Crete. I was not disappointed. The rugged hilly landscape, archeological sites and sense of isolation was something to embrace. Last year I returned to find that tourism has started to make its mark but unlike other Ionian Islands it remains in parts untouched. As it was a strategic naval base it has created a mix of cultures Greek, British and Ventian all vying for supremacy. A significant site is the Castle of Milopotamos. There are also splendid beaches at Kapsali, Agia Pelagia and Platio Amos.The many beautiful villages display a most charming traditional life and the population (only 3000) are keen to share their love for the island. I chose to get here by boat from Gytheion as I wished to revisit the route I made in the 70's but I understand that planes from Athens now leave twice a day.
Google map: bit.ly/lpcYDJ
Without exception the best holiday I had was my time in Atsitsa on the island of Skyros. I had no expectations but even if I had had, they would have been exceeded. It was a life-changing experience on many levels but above all it was pure unadulterated fun! Sun, sea, new experiences, fabulous food and amazing people though if you want to have time alone that's OK too. For me it was a 15 out of 10.
Naxos has everything. A headland marked by a temple ruin greets you as your ferry arrives.(There is also a small airport.) The harbour lies directly below the Old Town (Kastro), a maze of narrow alleyways on a steep hill and, at its foot, the new town (Chora) with plenty of shops and tavernas and a lovely sandy beach just beyond.
No need to hire a car; the island can be explored by bus and on foot to reach various small archaeological sites. For a whole island of antiquity take the day trip to Delos (with Mykonos thrown in).
The able-bodied should stay in one of the small hotels such as Anixis in the picturesque Old Town: plenty of steps but no traffic, not even bicycles!
It took us three days to travel to Hydra from Glasgow by train through London, France and Italy, then on to Greece by ferry and finally the hydrofoil from Piraeus to Hydra. Arriving in the silent dark, Hyrda was like a glittering gift. No cars, narrow and steep steps leading high into the island, donkeys, delicious feta saganaki and gyros everyday, peaceful, blue swimming spots, freshly caught squid and our gorgeously charming Kiaffa Cottage where Tracy Emin had stayed before us! Leonard Cohen wrote Bird on the Wire here in the 60's too. A gem of a place, thanks to the old guy in a pub who told us we had to go there above any other place in the world!
Kiaffa Cottage - where we stayed - www.showeb.net/hydra
+61 (0)44 958 3486
The beautiful and peaceful Island of Ithaca can be reached via Kefalonia for a day trip but better to spend a night or two (or longer). Travel up into the cool of the mountains and view the capital Vathi and it's horse-shoe shaped harbour from way up above. Then cool off on one of the island's quiet pebble beaches - the crystal clear waters make up for the lack of sand. Maybe head to the pretty village of Frikes which is about as touristy as it gets on Ithaca- then back to Vathi for dinner at one of the many tavernas on the harbour front where you can indulge in a spot of yacht envy. If travelling back via Kefalonia get the late evening ferry and watch the sun set over the Kefalonian mountains which is just breathtaking.
Heaven is the small island of anti Paxos - it has nothing against its bigger sister- three kilometres south of Gaios, the capital of Paxos, and reached by a sea taxi. It is full of olive groves; Vrika, a sandy beach; a taverna that overlooks the clear Ionian sea, an old lighthouse you can walk to, and a tranquility and peace you only find in the land of the gods.
Google map: bit.ly/g6hi9Y
Vouniotis Pension is a charming family run hotel located in Mykonos town located close to the area little Venice.
The moment you enter this covered market, you step backwards in time. This is no longer a busy European city of the 21st century. Rather you find yourself in a Balkan ambience of the Ottoman Empire in the mid 19th century, full of smells and languages and music.
You can find there the finest fish, meats and vegetables, alongside with local specialities.
A few good taverns offer amazing mezedes, and are famous among the city's good eaters. "Myrovolos Smyrni" is one of them.
The most interesting thing happens there on the 24th and 31st of December around noon. People celebrate the forthcomming holiday with a rather special way. After finishing work they go to Modiano for a quick tasty bit with their friends and co-workers. The atmosphere there is magical. Gypsies with loud Clarinettes and drums pass by to sing, Brass bands are around to play traditional music, people dance and are cheerful in a Market packed with people.
This is the place to see strangers join hands and dance together, hug and kiss and wish each other well and offer wine. A true anthropological experience for outsiders, and a human moment for the insiders.
Ermou str. Salonika
About an hour's drive south of the busy urban centre of Athens lies Voulgiameni, a wealthy coastal suburb and beach resort. Nestled in among its fabulously clean beaches, spectacular houses, restaurants, clubs and resort hotels (all reasons to go there in themselves) you'll find Voulgiameni Lake (sunken lake in English), a mineral/thermal lake (constant temperature of around the mid 20c) with therapeutic properties open all year, the likes of which you are unlikely to have experienced before. Story has it that millions of years ago it was a cave. But its roof collapsed due to the heat and moisture generated by the hot springs feeding the lake within it, possibly aided by an earthquake. So now its an open crater in which you can swim/bathe, exercise (assisted by the various aides within it) and lounge around for a relaxing/healing day out. In addition to the usual change/shower facilities you'd expect to find, there's a cafe/restaurant on site to complete the experience. And if you get bored at any stage, there's always the beach opposite or the trendy suburb of Glyfada not far away for a spot of shopping...
Poseidonos Avenue, Voulgiameni.
Beach A bus stop.
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