Situated at the north east of the Mediterranean is the glorious Greek archipelago. It is impressively made up over 3000 islands, of which only 140 are inhabited. Each island has its own unique style, charm and history. The stark white cubic architecture of the Cyclades is dramatically different from the Venetian architecture found in the Ionian or the Gothic seen in the Dodecanese.
Should you choose to explore the Greek islands you will have the opportunity to sample a number of different local specialties and wines. There is an island for everyone; whether you are seeking quiet laid back shores or lively beaches and party filled nights. Crystalline waters, steeping cliffs, hidden coves and lush forests are just part of what draws people to the Greek Islands. Come and you will experience a way of life that has endured for centuries.
Since the Age of Pericles the Acropolis has dominated the Athenian skyline, it is an ancient backdrop to this modern, cosmopolitan city. The bustling city of Athens is crammed with shops, lively tavernas, bars, historic landmarks, and cafes, where you can take refuge from the mid-day sun and enjoy a frappe (ice-coffee). The chic district of Kolonaki has dozens of trendy cafes and boutiques. Nestled beneath Lykavitos Hill, it is "the" place in Athens to sip coffee and people-watch.
There are hundreds of inexpensive eateries serving up dishes of hearty Greek cuisine. Often the little holes-in-the-wall with a simple grill and rickety tables are the best, but if you are looking for something more upscale, Athens' has it. Some delicious dishes worth sampling are moussaka (layers of eggplant, minced meat and potatoes topped with cheese sauce and baked), yemista (stuffed tomatoes or peppers), soutzokakia (spicey meatballs in tomato sauce), and melizanes papoutsakia (baked eggplant, stuffed with meat and tomatoes and topped with cheese). You can also pass the evening at an ouzeri in the old Turkish quarter of Plaka, nibbling on small plates of mezedhes (appetizers) and sipping ouzo under the Acropolis.
The nightlife does not end till the break of dawn. There is a multitude of hip seaside clubs. Wandering around the famous flea market of Monastiraki will prove absolutely delightful. The whole area is littered with ancient ruins. There are several good museums in Athens, but the nations finest is the National Archaeological Museum. Opened since 1874, it has the world's greatest collection of Greek antiquities.
A stay in Athens would not be complete without a visit to the Acropolis. Towering over the winding alleyways of Plaka and Monastiraki, it is unsurpassed in grandeur, beauty and historic importance. The Parthenon is a particularly awesome sight in the setting sun and by the light of the full moon. It was the original city and dwellings of the early Kings and their court. Pericles spared no expense, only the best materials, architects, sculptors and artists were good enough for this city dedicated to the goddess Athena. Amongst the four surviving monuments is a museum, which houses a collection of sculptures and reliefs from the site. The Theatre of Herodes Atticus, on the slopes below the Acropolis, host's dance, drama and music performances throughout the summer.
South of Athens is Piraeus, the largest commercial port in Greece with boat connections to all the Greek islands. Continuing along the coast from Piraeus, there are several fine marinas: Marina Zea, charming Micro Limeno with a multitude of outdoor fish tavernas to choose from, Palio Faliro, Kalamki (the largest), Glyfada, and Vouliagmeni, where the rich dock their impressive yachts. In addition there is Lavrion, the newly constructed Olympic Marina, it is a jumping board to the Cyclades. All of these marinas are conveniently located only an hour from Eleftherios Venizelos Airport in Spata.
At the southeastern tip of Attica, 70km from Athens is Cape Sounion. It is here, 65m above the sea, where the Temple of Poseidon is located. Built in 444 BC, during the same time as the Parthenon, the temple is discernible from a great distance. It is a worthwhile excursion; the stretch of coastline from Athens is dotted with lovely beach resorts.
Weather in Greece
Generally between April and November expect sun in Greece. Between June and September expect nothing but sun. In the winter expect a mix.
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Suggested Popular Sailing Destinations
Greece's most renowned group of islands is known as the Cyclades, which acquired their name from the circle they form around the isle of Delos. Combining unique beaches, characteristic landscapes, cultural heritage and numerous options in terms of entertainment, the Cyclades are an ideal destination for unforgettable holidays.
The short distance between them allows visitors ample
time to admire the archaeological sites and monuments, discover the
remote and secluded beaches, and devote time to diving while still
enjoying the lively night life.
Sporades owe their name to the fact that they are sporadically situated
throughout the North Aegean Sea. The setting is one of dense pine
forests, beautiful gardens, clear blue-green waters and a sea bottom
that is truly worth exploring. The four largest islands are also those
that are inhabited; however, a tour that includes the numerous small
islands is always an interesting and revealing
With its traditional Aegean architecture and pine forests, Skiathos is the most cosmopolitan of the Sporades. Famous for its beautiful beaches, vivid night life and wonderful climate (since the "meltemi" or etesian winds which affect the Cyclades are not felt here), it is an ideal setting for unforgettable holidays.
The main town, as well as the villages of Skopelos, have been declared protected residential areas and this has greatly contributed to the preservation of this island's architectural tradition. Abounding in pine trees, olive trees and vineyards, the beauty of this island is rare. There are only a few beaches in the southern part of the island, but they are truly exquisite and not far from the main town.
Here is one of the largest albeit less crowded islands of the Sporades, which is famous for its wonderful sandy beaches and the beauty of its "Chora" or main town. Skyros is really a combination of the Cyclades and the Sporades, since its architecture is reminiscent of the Cyclades, while plant life covers more than half of the island.
beautiful, unspoiled island for a quiet, peaceful holiday. Here lies
the unique Marine Park of Greece. The island is one of the six European
ecological islands that protect the Monahus-Monahus seals, which are an
endangered and protected species.
Famous for its incomparable beaches and trendy night scene, Mykonos is a ‘not to be missed' destination. Its unique landscape includes houses and churches that are in such harmony with the scenery that they appear to have been carved from the rocks of the island itself and beaches with or without entrance fees featuring powdery white sand extending around the island's coastline. Travellers can also opt for the cosmopolitan life and its intensity or choose to relax at a remote and dreamy place, simply enjoying the sun and the sea.
The island of Syros was the largest cultural and commercial centre of the Aegean during the 19th century. The characteristic architecture of the island distinguishes it from other islands, and renders Ermoupolis one of the most interesting cities of the Cyclades.
popular island of Paros is famous for its golden beaches and
traditional architecture, with buildings that are hundreds of years old.
Here, windsurfers will find ideal conditions for unforgettable surfing experiences, while those who opt for relaxation have no further to go than the unique little villages and remote beaches.
The particular natural beauty of Amorgos will disappoint no one. The deep blue waters surrounding the island attract nature lovers, while the unique famous monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa, which appears to be borne of the rock itself, is a famous landmark.
Travellers flock to Ios on account of the amazing sandy beaches and the blue, transparent waters. The numerous country churches and olive groves make the inland very interesting, while the main town of the island is a meeting point for the young crowd in search of real fun.
Here is one of the most famous Cycladic islands, which differs from other islands on account of its geographical morphology. The dormant volcano, the unique view of the Aegean Sea from the main town, the beaches with the dark, thick sand or black pebbles and the white traditional buildings create an effect that is sure to astound even the most demanding visitor.
The island of Aphrodite is particularly interesting thanks to its unique sandy beaches sprinkled with interesting caves, many of which can be visited. Here is an island with strong traditional elements, which is ideal for relaxed holidays. The magnificent little taverns are a tribute to the savoury local cuisine.
Famous for its unique white houses, Sifnos seamlessly blends tradition with the beauty of the natural landscape. This island is remarkably clean, a unique local cuisine and enough wonderful beaches, churches and monasteries to make holidays here a memorable experience.
Rhodos, Karpathos, Kastellorizo, Tilos, Nisyros, Astypalea, Symi, Kos, Leros, Patmos, Lipsi
The remotest of the Greek archipelagos the Dodecanese was only incorporated into modern Greece in 1948, after 500 years of occupation by the Latin Knights of St John, the Ottomans, the Italians, the Germans and the British. Through it all the islanders have retained their Greek cultural identity.
The islands' history has left a legacy of rich and diverse archeological remains. Members of the Dodecanese display a marked schizophrenia. Dry limestone outcrops such as Kalymnos, Symi and Kastellorizo attract those in pursuit of the traditional island life while the sprawling sandy giants of Rhodes and Kos have beaches and bars galore. Nisyros and Tilos are volcanic, while Astypalea and Patmos at the fringes resemble more the Cyclades.
This island group is renowned for its temperate climate and long tourist season.
RHODES - 246 nautical miles from Piraeus
With an east coast of endless sandy beaches and sunshine 300 days a year, Rhodes is the most popular of the Dodecanese. It is also the largest, with a population of over 98,000. The luxuriant interior is beautiful. Tucked into the foothills of its mountains are charming villages. The incredibly well preserved old town of Rhodes is the largest inhabited medieval town in Europe. Behind imposing walls, it is the fortified nucleus of Rhodes City. The tranquil, twisting alleyways in the old town are a web of Byzantine, Turkish and Latin architecture. A fascinating sight to explore is the cobblestoned lanes and Gothic inns of the Knight's Quarter. With its old mosques and Turkish baths, the Hora has more of an Ottoman influence. The new town was once the site of the ancient Hellenistic city of Rhodes, today it is a lively entertainment center with over 600 discos and bars to choose from. The brilliant white houses of Lindos with their pebbled mosaic courtyards date back to the 17th century. It will be a pleasure exploring the maze like alleyways of this beautiful village. The Acropolis of Lindos is the most famous of the Dodecanese's ancient cities. Dating back to 2000 BC, it is a mélange of Byzantine, Frankish and Turkish remains. It is strikingly set atop a rock 116m high.
The butterfly covered gorge of Petaloudes is a must see. You will find the best beaches on the east coast: Faliraki Beach is the island's premier resort; the beach at Kalithea Thermi is the site of an abandoned Italian spa. If you are looking for quiet shores head to Stegna Beach or the sandy cove of Agathi.
KARPATHOS - 242 nautical miles from Piraeus
The unspoilt villages of mountainous Karpathos are rich in tradition, here the inhabitants have retained their local customs and ways. In the village of Olymbos (pop 340) the women dress in colorful, ornamental skirts, vests, headscarves, and goatskin boats. They still bake in outdoor communal ovens and grind corn in windmills. The inhabitants speak in a dialect containing some Doric words.
Clinging to slopes of Mt Kali Limni (1215m), the Dodecanese's second highest peak is the beautiful village of Pyles. With its spiraling steeped streets, pastel houses and citrus groves it is most definitely worth a visit. The loveliest sand beaches are found on the east coast: Ahata, Kyra Panagia and Apella, which is exceptionally gorgeous with crystalline waters.
KASTELLORIZO - 2.5km from the southern tip of Turkey
The tiny, remote island of Kastellorizo has a population of only 200, tourism here is very low key. There are no beaches, instead you will find several rocky inlets, where you can swim and snorkel in the crystalline sea. The only settlement is Kastellorizo Town, imposing three story mansions border the waterfront. With the Knights of St John Castle situated above the quay, it is one of the most picturesque harbors in the Dodecanese. On the southeastern coast of the island is the beautiful blue cave.
TILOS - 220 nautical miles from Piraeus
Isolated Tilos has fine tranquil beaches, vistas of high cliffs, rocky inlets and valleys of almond and walnut trees. For those seeking a relaxing, authentic Greek island feel, Tilos is it. There are only two settlements, the peaceful whitewashed village of Magalo Horio and the waterfront town of Livadia. The uncrowded beaches of Eristos (shaded), Agios Antonis (sandy) and Plaka are a real treat after spending time at some of the popular beach resorts on Rhodes and Kos
Nisyros is one of the most beautiful of all Greek islands, it is a strange combination of luxuriant vegetation and stark moonscapes. A dormant volcano lies at the center of the island. The charming port town of Mandraki is comprised of winding alleys and brightly colored houses. It is situated beneath the cliff top monastery, Moni Panagias Spilianis. Near the port you will find the black stoned beach of Koklaki. Set on the volcano's ridge are the villages of Emboreios and Nikea, both have spectacular views into the caldera. With only 20 inhabitants, the spiraling, steeped streets of Emboreios are eerily empty. On the other hand the picturesque village of Nikea buzzes with life. The islands best beaches are at Pali and Lies.
Astypalea, the most western of the Dodecanese, is more reminiscent of the Cylades. The picturesque hilltop village of Hora is comprised of narrow twisting streets and dazzling white cube houses with brightly colored wooden balconies and doors. Rising above the village is a Venetian fortress and a row of windmills. The tiny resort of Livadia is situated in a fertile valley, its beach is the best on Astypalea. Mesa Vathy and Exo Vathy are two cozy beach hamlets. Across the laid back settlement of Maltezana are a number of uninhabited islets to explore.
SYMI - 10km from the Turkish peninsula of Dorakis
Symi's rugged interior is accented with cypress and pine forests. The small bays and pebbled beaches along the coast are indented with towering cliffs. Because of the mild climate, the season here lasts until late October. Symi Town is a Greek gem. Neoclassical mansions painted in a variety of colors ascend the steep hillside, surrounding the curved harbor.
Symi has a number of wonderful beaches, such as Nanous Beach and Agia Marina, both of which have a taverna, and Symi's only sand beach Agios Nikolaos. The beach at Georgiou Disalona Bay is set against a backdrop of towering cliffs.
The more remote Marathounta and Agios Emilianos beaches are only accessible by boat.
KOS - 200 nautical miles from Piraeus
Situated only 5km off the Turkish peninsula of Bodrum, is Kos, one of the most fertile islands in the Dodecanese. Like Rhodes, it is abundant with ancient remains and beautiful beaches. The landscape of modern Kos Town, the island's capital and main port, is picturesque and luxuries. The Castle of the Knights prevails over the port, while Hellenistic and Roman ruins are littered everywhere. There are numerous archaeological sites to visit here. The Asclepion is Kos' most important ancient site, it is located on a pine covered hill 4km southwest of Kos Town. Until 554 AD people came from far and wide to be treated at its healing center, there was also a school of medicine where the teachings of Hippocrates was followed.
There are several lovely unspoilt villages spread across the northern slopes of the green and forested Dikeos mountain range, such as the pristine hamlets of Agios Georgios and Agios Dimitrios. Amongst the many sandy beaches, Agios Stefanos set next to the ruins of two 5th century basilicas, is a must. At Masthari you can find a number of secluded spots on its sandy shores.
Leros' gentle, slopping countryside is spotted with smallholdings and huge, impressive, almost-landlocked bays, resembling lakes more than open sea. Platanos, the capital of Leros is 3km north of Lakki, the main port. This tiny picturesque village spills down the slender hillside to the port of Agios Marina. On the east side of Platanos, the mountainside dwellings are crowned by a massive castle.
Set on the wide Alinda Bay, are the adjoining resorts of Krithoni and Alinda, which has a lovely, long tree-shaded sand beach.
At Belfoutis Bay you will find a shaded sand and pebble beach and a good taverna. A good spot for snorkeling, Xirokambos Bay is a mellow resort with a sand beach.
For both Orthodox and Western Christians, Patmos has long been a place of pilgrimage, for it was here that St John wrote his divinely inspired revelation, the Apocalypse. Once a favorite destination for the devout, Patmos is now just as popular with sun and sea worshippers. All boats dock at glitzy Skala, which sprawls around a large curving bay. Wrapped around the immense Monastery of St John the Theologian, the beautiful hilltop village, Hora. With its immaculate whitewashed houses and maze like alleys, it is absolutely enchanting. A tour of the monastery and of the cave where John received his divine revelations, the Monastery of the Apocalypse, is a must.
There are a number of sandy tree-shaded beaches around the island. Psili Ammos is the islands best beach, it is only accessible by boat.
Lipsi is a delightful little island with good beaches. The picturesque port town of Lipsi is the only settlement. The countryside is dotted with olive groves and cypresses. Lipsi produces a strong wine known as Lipsi Black. The island's main attraction, are its beaches, such as Platys Gialos a lovely sandy beach with a good taverna and the pebbled beach of Monodendri (nudist), set on a rocky peninsula.
Corfu, C Corfu & Antipaxi, Lefkada, Ithaca, Kefallonia, Zakynthos, Kythira
The Ionian group is situated off the west coast of mainland Greece, but it is more reminiscent of Corfu's neighbor Italy. Because of the high amount of rainfall it receives, the vegetation is lusher than on the other islands. Each of the islands has it's own unique culture and cuisine.
Corfu's close proximity to Italy has played a great role in its development. It is the northern most island in the Ionian group, with a coastline of 217km, and the greenest. With its luxuriant landscape of scented wild flowers and cypress trees, Corfu is thought by many as Greece's most beautiful island. The islands capital, Corfu Town is a mélange of foreign influences. Constructed during the French occupation, the Liston, a string of arcaded buildings was modeled on Paris' Rue de Rivoli. The enchanting old town with its two Venetian Fortresses is more reminiscent of Venice or Naples than Greece. The gardened Spianada boasts Greece's only cricket grounds, a remnant of the British occupation. Moving north from Pyrgi you will encounter some of Corfu's most captivating scenery. Corfu's best beaches are on the west coast, there are several to choose from. Paleokastritsa is the coast's largest resort. Bordered by emerald waters, with sandy and pebbled coves and a green mountain backdrop, Paleokastritsa is beautiful.
The long stretch of inviting sand and dunes between Lake Korission (freshwater) and Issos is one of the least spoilt stretches of Corfu's coast.
PAXI & ANTIPAXI
Paxos, the smallest of the Ionian group, is but 10km in length and 4km wide. It has an enchanting terrain of twisted, ancient olive grooves. People who come are drawn to its quiet shores and cozy harbors. Set on a broad bay is the capital Gaios with its pink, cream and whitewashed red-tiled buildings, it is s lovely sight. At the entrance of the bay lies Moni Panagias Islet, named after its monastery, and almost filling the harbor is Agios Nikolaos Islet, which has a Venetian Castle and a windmill. On the north coast, situated on a deep narrow bay is the pretty harbor of Lakka, it is a popular yachtie destination.
Paxis's tranquil east coast has small pebble beaches, while the west coast has awe-inspiring views of steep cliffs, and marine caves only accessible by boat.
The tiny island paradise of Antipaxi lays 2km south of Paxi, it is only 5sq km. Excellent wine is produced from the grape vines that blanket the island. Voutoumi Beach is very lovely, there is a taverna high on the cliffs above. Sandy Vrika Beach at the northeastern tip also has two tavernas.
The 25m strait separating Lefkada from the mainland is spanned by a causeway. It is a mountainous island of dense forests and olive groves.
Set on a headland of a salt lagoon is the island's capital Lefkada Town, it is mainly a yacht port. Beyond the windmills, west of the lagoon is Agios Ioannis Beach, the sunsets from here are remarkable. With both pebbled and sand beaches, the lovely fishing village of Vasiliki is supposedly the best windsurfing spot in Europe. From here you can sail to the best sand beaches on the west coast, which include Egremini, Kathisma, Porto Katsiki and Agiofylli Beach.
Maganisi and Kalamos are amongst the largest of Lefkada's 10 satellite islets. With its lush landscape and emerald waters, the quiet islet of Meganisi is a popular yachting destination. It has only three settlements: the port of Vathy, Katomeri and the charming capital, Spartohori. The forested, alpine islet of Kalamos is gorgeous. Again a more popular destination with yachters.
Separated from Kefallonia by only 2 to 4km Ithaki is an unspoilt island with green mountains and deep emerald bays. The bold outline of the cliffs is impressive. The coast is indented by numerous small harbors and creeks. Ancient Ithaca has been inhabited since the 3rd century BC, it was the long lost home of the mythical hero Odysseus.
Vathy, the main harbor and capital, is a small town of twisting streets and lovely cafes and tavernas. Descending down the lush mountainside into a charming little harbor is the small fishing village of Kioni. It is a very popular yachting destination.
The best beaches lie on the stretch of coast between Kioni and Frikes.
As you sail towards Kefallonia, the largest of the Ionian Islands, you will see Mt Enos (1520m) towering in the distance. Characteristic features of the beautiful landscape are the noble fir forests; the currant vineyards; the olive groves; and wild flowers from which perfumes are made. The local wines are excellent. The capital of the island is lively Argostoli. Its delightfully situated some way up the gulf of Argostoli in a inlet so shallow that a British built causeway was constructed in 1813, to connect it with the rest of Keffalonia. 2.5km from the island's main port, Sami, is Melisani Cave, a subterranean sea-lake. Drogarati Cave has spectacular stalactites. KTEL organizes tours to both sites.
An exceptional white sandy beach is Myrtos. Nearby you will discover by boat, hidden coves wedged between tall limestone cliffs.
Situated only 21km west of the Peloponnesian coast is Zakynthos with its fine sand beaches, mysterious marine caves, and fragrant wild flowers. In the west of this volcanic island the land is mountainous and the coast rocky. Loggerhead turtles come ashore to lay their eggs on the golden sand beaches of the huge Bay of Laganas. The famous Shipwreck Beach (Navagio) is an exquisite beach of translucent, turquoise water. As you sail to the northernmost tip of the island to Cape Skinari, you will glimpse a number of caves. After your boat passes under three stone arches you will reach the blue cave, where a most breathtaking spectacle awaits you.
KYTHIRA & ANTIKYTHIRA
Located only 10 nautical miles from the Peloponnese, the quiet shores of Kythira, is an ideal destination for those seeking tranquility. It is a romantic place with mist-covered moors, twisting stone walled alleys and hidden valleys. There are more than forty villages spread evenly across the island. The island's pretty capital Hora is situated along a steep cliff, 300m above the picturesque village of Kapsali. Kapsali's restaurant and cafe lined waterfront is set on two sandy bays. Its turquoise waters are enticing, it is a perfect spot to anchor and have a swim. There are several charming and attractive villages to visit, such as the luxuriant, Karavas and lovely Avlemonas, via Paleopoli with its wide pebbled beach. Other good beaches include Kaladi Beach and Fyri Ammmos.
The little island of Antikythira is the most isolated, of the Ionian group, it is located 38km south of Kythira, with a population of 70. It has only one settlement, Potamos, one doctor and one teacher.
The Saronic islands harbour their own secrets and surprises. They are only a few miles from the port of Piraeus and though they are very close to one another, each one has its own unique character. The waters are calm and blue and the plant life differs depending on where you are. Some islands of this complex are characterized by magnificent rocky landscapes, while unique sandy beaches are the hallmarks of others.
The houses in Hydra are built around its beautiful harbour and include 18th and 19th century buildings. There are no cars on the island and donkeys are used for transportation. For the traveller who seeks a dreamlike setting in combination with both peace and fun, the island of Hydra is an ideal destination.
Here is an island with a strong history, centenarian trees and beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters. Spetses can offer visitors non-stop night life, a lively atmosphere and monuments that are proof of the island's role and that of its residents during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. The natural bays of the coastline of Spetses are an open invitation to seekers of new sights.
The traditional houses, narrow streets and blue sea with its quiet coasts are the trademarks of the island of Poros. Here one may enjoy peaceful holidays, wander around the island and admire. The pine trees often grow on cliffs over the coast or even right on the sandy beaches, while the fragrance of the famous lemon tree forest permeates the air.
The numerous seaside villages, the rich and varied landscapes of the island, the archaeological sites and the beauty of the main town are what make Aegina endearing to visitors. It has many sandy beaches with waters that are calm and blue and a night life that will not disappoint. This island that produces the famous Aegina pistachios knows how to take good care of its guests.
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