Guest Post by Cal Bailey of Mountain Leon
Greece is arguably one of Europe’s most beautiful countries. Dotted around the Aegean and Ionian seas surrounding the mainland are thousands of islands, many of which are popular holiday destinations. The golden sandy shores are picture perfect and the tranquility of the Greek lifestyle is exceptionally appealing. Greece has something different to offer every kind of visitor, from the architectural wonders of capital city Athens, to watersports in the crystalline ocean and world-class cuisine. Whatever kind of holiday you’re seeking, Greece can cater for you.
Here are our recommended destinations for your trip to Greece this summer:
One look at a photo of Crete and its allure needs no explanation. This island has it call: culture, golden sunshine and a wealth of activities. Crete is the largest of the Greek islands; it even has more than one city. Our favourite is the second biggest, Chania, with its 14th-century Venetian harbor, narrow streets and pretty waterfront restaurants.
You can fly into Chania, hire a vehicle and take a drive up to the White Mountains for an exhilarating experience on arrival. There are many walking routes in this area if you want to feel the breeze on your skin while you take in the scenic perfection. You might find the Archeological Museum interesting, as it contains many Minoan artifacts; there is also a one-time mosque converted to an art gallery.
While in Crete, Heraklion is another area worth visiting – here you can visit the Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Centre. Don’t miss Elafonisi beach on the West side of the island; its white sands and shallow, lagoon-like turquoise waters make an enticing sunbathing spot.
Santorini is really something else. The word has almost become synonymous with ‘glam’, partly due to the sophisticated party scene on this island. Santorini promises something a little different to most of the other islands, including black volcanic beaches at Perissa and Kamari. If novelty beach experiences and/or archeology appeal to you, you should also head for the famous Red Beach near Akrotiri.
The island curves its way around a huge, stunning lagoon and if you get high enough up in the little towns, you’ll be privy to some unforgettable views of it. Hiking opportunities are great here; try out the Fira to Oia trail for size, and in down time you might want to browse some of the gorgeous art galleries. In terms of cuisine, expect all manner of local and international delights and some of the finest wines in the region.
The Ionian island of Corfu is another incredibly beautiful island, with its abundance of quaint, whitewashed houses. The architecture alone is enough reason to visit, as the island is home to lovely temples, Byzantine churches, and you can also visit the remains of Venetian fortresses. Immerse yourself in local history with a stroll through the ancient streets of Kassiopi, a pretty Roman village.
Another location apt to satiate the soul is the central Esplanade of Corfu Town, the large green area between the old fortress and the town. Beach-wise, you’ll enjoy some deep relaxation on Paleokastritsa beach, and if you fancy some serious indulgence, submerge yourself in the mineral mud on the Canal D’Amour shores (an award winning beach in Sidari) or the cascading waterfalls of Nymphes.
One of the most popular of the Greek islands is Skiathos. It won’t take long to figure out why; serene vibes, sublime scenery and a heady cosmopolitan atmosphere are among the most alluring aspects. Sleepy as this island may seem at first glance, it has a rich nightlife, with lively bars serving quality cocktails and glowing tavernas dishing up the finest local seafood. Relaxing in the temperate evening air of a Skiathos restaurant courtyard is highly recommended.
Wherever you are on the island, your views will consist of lush greenery and postcard-perfect architecture, some of which has neoclassical elements. The island is dotted with pretty, organized beaches and those on the southern side of the island won’t ever disappoint. The popular bay of Koukounaries is one such beach, and you can jump on a boat trip to another exotic beach named Lalaria; this beach has a Medieval Castle to explore too.
West of the Greek mainland sits yet another stunning island, Kefalonia. This island is renowned for its gorgeous sandy coves, rugged landscapes, limestone cliffs… and of course glittering white sands and sapphire-blue waters. Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands and is rich in geographical beauty, thanks to its towering mountains and fertile plains.
The capital of Argostoli is built on a hillside that overlooks the pretty little harbour below. Here you can also find the Archaeological Museum, which houses some intriguing ancient artifacts. Other memorable activities on Kefalonia might include a trip to pretty Northern beach Myrtos, exploring the caverns of the Drogarati caves, or boarding a glass-bottomed sailboat to Ithaca. Note that most Kefalonian beaches can only be accessed on foot, or by winding narrow roads. If you like seclusion and tranquility, this is the island for you; there are countless private beach coves you can set up in for the day.
Athens is no longer known as the smoggy, congested capital of Greece, thanks to the introduction of the Summer Olympics back in 2004. The city benefited greatly from the money the Olympics brought in, so now you’ll find pristine streets and pretty parks, a modern metro system and new road networks. It’s much easier to navigate thanks to signage being in English these days, and the city has plenty of attractions that make a visit well worthwhile.
One such must-see site is the famous Acropolis, the ancient citadel located on a rocky outcrop above the city. There is also the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and you can take day trips to the Temple of Poseidon and Delphi. In the National Archaeological Museum you’ll find a whole host of artifacts from a variety of archaeological locations across Greece, dating from prehistory to late antiquity. The city has an interesting harbour full of stunning mega-yachts, and plenty of cool bars and restaurants for those who want to have a bit of evening fun.
If you have the time during your Greece trip, it is worthwhile exploring Athens before heading over to one or two of the islands for a holiday you’ll remember for years to come.
About The Author: Cal Bailey runs Mountain Leon – a travel blog he started after two years on backpacking around the world. If you want to learn more about life on the road or his blogging, you must read his latest post on choosing a sleeping bag.