Posts for Tag: Greek islands

Thursday 25th June 2015 - A Nice Lazy Day on Agios Anna Beach - Well it is a Holiday!

It was 9.30am before we awoke and we were feeling quite exhausted.  We decide to have a lazy day on the beach to finally lay all of the stresses of the previous days travel to rest.

We had picked up the bus timetable the previous evening and it shows that there is a very good service on the island.

The buses run every 30 minutes from the port around to Plaka but today we decide to take the bus to the nearer beach of Agios Prokopios.

We got off as soon as we saw the sign for Prokopios but this was one stop too early.  No problems - it gave us the opportunity to look at some of the hotels in the area.  My sister was planning to come to Naxos so I was on the look out for something a bit upmarket for her.  It's a short walk from the bus stop to the beach.  I can feel the stress and tiredness peel away from me by the second!

Getting carried away with our exploring we find ourselves walking a bit further around the bay in Agios Anna and decide to settle on a nice quiet part of the beach by cafe bar By Ammo.  The sunloungers are free to customers too.  They sell some amazing loukoumades - it would be so rude not to! I did feel a bit sick afterwards but it was worth it.

This small stretch of beach is very attractive with powder white sand, shallow waters and areas where you can find a bit of seclusion.  It has a great selection of bars on offer mostly all with wifi.

Later in the afternoon we walk along the bay towards Agios Anna church
Watch out for the great white .............

Agios Anna Church
A nice beach side shack for my sister?  Maybe not!
This has been a nice start to the holiday.  Back to the hotel to shower and change.

First a wander around the Kastro area

My sister had mentioned an interest in Hotel Glaros in Agios Giorgios close to Naxos town so we decide to head out there to take a look.  There are some fabulous sunset views along the way.

Hotel Glaros is very nice though booking is through their website only.
After the loukamades earlier I'm not hungry so we walk to the portara in the hope that I'll build up an appetite.

Keen to explore the island further during our stay we book a bus tour for Saturday.

We buy giros and eat back on the balcony washed down with some retsina.

Wednesday 24th June 2015 - Arrival on Santorini and a Mad Dash to Naxos

We are so lucky to have 18 days for this trip.  Last year we had 16 days for our trip to Kea, Kythnos, Serifos and Sifnos and those extra couple of days really made all the difference to a regular two week holiday.  I had taken so long deliberating over which islands to visit this time but eventually decided to focus on the Little Cyclades.  After spreading out a large wall map on the carpet and my laptop with Greek Travel Pages open close by, I had worked out that it would be more efficient to fly to Santorini rather than Athens.  Not a choice I made lightly as I do love a few days in Athens at the end of an island hopping trip and I'm not a massive fan of Santorini.  Now let me clarify that last statement - it's not that I don't like Santorini - it's the fact that millions of other people love Santorini and it's way too busy for me!  

Naxos is the best island as a starting point for the Little Cyclades and it has been over 20 years since I had been there so I am really looking forward to visiting again.  The plan is from Naxos to visit Iraklia, Schinoussa and Koufonissi and if we are able to - a few days on one of my other favourite islands Amorgos!

There is an Easyjet flight from Manchester that is scheduled to arrive on Santorini at 13.50 and the last ferry of the day to Naxos leaves at 15.30.  If the flight is on time we should be able to make this easily.  Just to prevent a little bit of the faff, we pre booked and pre paid 40 euros for a taxi to pick us up and take us straight to the port.  I phoned their office to stress the importance of the taxi being on time as we had a ferry to catch at 15.30.  No problem!  Haha!

Thankfully the flight was on time and gave me a bit of confidence that we would easily catch the ferry.  As we start heading over the coast of mainland Greece I began to get my bearings and recognise that we are flying just west of Halkidiki - I can see the three fingers very clearly and the peak of Mount Athos jutting out in the distance.  Not a very clear photo however.

Does anyone else play Spot the Island from their window seat?  I'm such an anorak!


Paros with Antiparos in the foreground


As we came into land on Santorini, my window seat offered spectacular views over the caldera and volcano!

Passport control was a breeze.  All we have to do is get into the waiting taxi and head off to the port, buy our ferry tickets and Bob's your uncle!

As we exited the airport we were pleased to see a taxi driver holding up a card  with our name.  He told us to wait whilst he tracked down another couple but so far it's looking promising.  The other couple arrived and the taxi driver (who had had his phone glued to his ear since we saw him) was frantically making call after call - I'm assuming to find out where the other taxi was.  After 15 minutes of this, us and the other couple were getting a bit irritated - the only words we could get out of the taxi driver was "wait".  

After another 5 minutes of this he told us to wait and another taxi would be arrive shortly to take us to the port.  The other couple were  staying on Santorini - but we had a ferry to catch but in his wisdom he decides to take them as a priority - not very happy! 

After another 20 minutes we realise that the taxi isn't going to arrive so we had to make a judgement call and decided to take one of the taxi's from the stand.  We were now under great time pressure to get to the port.   The taxi driver understands our plight and takes those bad boy bends down to the port like he's on a life saving mission!

As we get out of the taxi the Blue Star Delos was already arriving into port.  The queue for the ticket office was really long with least another 20 people queuing to purchase tickets.  The temperature is quite high at this point - and so are my stress levels!

After 25 minutes in the queue Peter comes back with the tickets and we make our way towards the "cattle shed"  to join the queue - I say queue - it's more of a disorganised crowd moving vaguely in the same direction.  Getting off the ferry are hoards of people - thank God we're going in the opposite direction!

The sheer relief when I eventually make it under the shade of the cattle shed!  Back out into the searing heat again as we head towards the BS Delos but before long we are dumping our luggage on the car deck and making our way up to the top deck.  Now I can relax!

With a cup of tea in hand I can now admire the amazing views of Santorini from a distance - just how I like it!

I enjoyed the 2 hour journey but can't wait to unpack and get that first glass of wine in my hand.

We had booked 4 nights at Panorama in the town just below the Kastro.  I'd booked directly with them saving a few euros off the price.  A couple of friendly email exchanges with Irene confirmed that Marcos would be waiting for us at the port when we arrived.

As we arrived at Naxos port we could see Panorama from the deck.

Down to the car deck we head - this is one of the most exciting parts of ferry travel - the anticipation of what this island and this trip has to bring.   We disembark and look around for a sign saying Panorama. We couldn't see Marcos so after a while we decided to head straight up to Panorma - we kind of know roughly where it is but there is a chance we will get lost in the winding streets.

And we do!  We keep trying to reposition ourselves so that we are heading towards the Kastro.  It's hot, it's all up hill and my suitcase weighs a ton!  After a few wrong turns we eventually find ourselves at the steps of Panorama.  Coming up another set of steps is an out of breath Marcos who had been searching the whole of the port area  for us!

After a nice welcome drink we are shown our room.  Marcos is very informative and helpful.  There is a little shared balcony outside our room and a huge roof terrace with amazing views over the port. 

Irene had promised me a room with a good view and look what we got!  Amazing!

We're shower and change and now it's time to relax.  We head up to the roof terrace to watch the sun set.  We can see groups of people already gathering by the portara but we get a much better view here!

On our way out to eat we see Marcos who passes on regards from Irene who wishes us an enjoyable stay.  He also tells us about the cultural shows that take place in the Kastro.  If we want to go to any of them he can get discounted tickets for us - brilliant!

Starvation has now hit us to we have a quick wander around streets below the Kastro before deciding to eat at Metaxi Mas, a little taverna sitting on one of the pretty little streets.

We have olive tapanade, Greek salad and garlic sauce with some nice crusty bread to start.  I have Greek sauasage and Peter has sardines.  I don't know whether it's exhaustion, elation at finally being here or starvation but we actually don't take photographs of this meal - we just relish it - our first Greek meal of the holiday.  Oh it's so good to be back!

Friday 16th May 2014 - Farewell Athens

The room here at the Arion is quite nice - modern and clean.  We are up on the roof level - or as I like to call it the Penthouse!

I can imagine in full season it is quite noisy when guests are out on the roof terrace in the evening.  Great views though!

We catch the metro from Monistiraki to the airport - a really pleasant journey.  

This has been an amazing trip. The sea has been freezing and the wind a bit of a nightmare but that is a very small price to pay for the amazing display of spring flowers which have absolutely blown me away.

Until next year...............................

Wednesday 14th May 2014 - Last Day on Sifnos

Today is our last full day on Sifnos.  There is still so much more to see but decide to catch the bus to Apollonia - all destinations depart from Apollonia. We plan to take the bus onwards to Hironissos - just a round trip as the bus only runs twice a day.  The same group is at the bus stop again where us, the Dutch, the Americans and the Greeks discuss which islands we have been to and where our onward trip is headed to.  The elderly Greek man with much gesticulation asks us which is best Milos or Sifnos.  We had visited Milos the previous and although a lovely island, I felt that Sifnos has more character.  The Americans agreed with us emphatically.  He looked a bit disappointed and then I wish I'd bitten my tongue thinking that this may be his home island.

All photographs of the bus trip to Hironissos is taken from the moving a moving vehicle.  The landscape is spectacular - green, unspoilt, deserted - words don't do it justice - not mine anyway!

We get off the bus at Artemonos where we are early enough to still want breakfast.  We have tea and toast in the pretty square with the fabulous bakery.

We take a slow walk back to Apollonia via Pano Petali where we stop to take more photographs along the way.

When we arrive at Apollonia we head to the jewellery shops just off the main square.  I see some silver charms that I like and buy a couple for my bracelet.  The young lady attaches the charms to my bracelet for me and whilst we're waiting we chat to her and her brother.  We tell them about Peter's experience with the snake at the Kastro.  She tells us that he was very lucky because the snakes are very dangerous and only two days earlier a tourist had been bitten and had be taken to hospital in Athens by helicopter.  She also tells us that their father had been bitten by a snake a few years ago and he was very ill in hospital for nearly two weeks.  The brother tells us that when he was a baby, one day his mum came into their house to find a scorpion on him.  I'm a bit creeped out by this now and Peter despite his encounter appears blase and says that this is very common in Egypt too. Peter tells them about the snake stones they use in his fathers village for snake and scorpion bites.  I am told that the stones are from a snakes head but internet research provides several other alternative theories.  I have made clear to Peter that if I ever get bitten by a snake or scorpion in Egypt not to go running off in search for the old snake stones - just get me a helicopter to the nearest hospital!

We find a little cafe where we stop for tea whilst we wait for the bus.

When the bus does arrive we see it is the school bus - we are the only tourists on the bus.  The children are boisterous and a man who appears to be some kind of caretaker keeps them all in check and ticks them off the list when they get off the bus.

We walk to the beach at Kamares.  The wind has picked up again.  Free micro-dermabrasion anyone?

Back at Pension Morfeus we go to see Maria and Kostas and to pay for our stay.  This is truly one of the loveliest places I've stayed at in the islands and Maria and Kosta have been absolutely amazing hosts!

We tell them about the snake - I'm not going to let this one drop am I!  Maria tells us that there are 4 types of snake on the island and the grey one is very dangerous - the yellow one less so.  She tells Peter he is very lucky to not get bitten!

Tonight we are having our final meal on the island at Absinthe in Kamares.  It has excellent reviews and is well located overlooking the bay.  We are the first customers of the evening so get a window seat however, where the restaurant would usually be open to the skies, the plastic sheets are down to prevent the wind from pelting sand into the restaurant.  The wind is even stronger now.

The menu is very extensive and "inspired from the famed Greek Smyrneian cuisine of Asia Minor with a dash of Central Asian spice and texture."

To start we have Lahmatzun which we are told has Lebanese origins.  It is spicy minced meat topped with warm yogurt on pitta.  I then have clay baked lamb with apples and mixed white and wild rice with raisins and Peter has the shark.  The meal is finished with ice cream with confiture and complimentary spoon fruit.

We watch the Adamantios Korais come into port.  The sea is choppy and looks like it will be the same when we depart tomorrow.  I suffer from sea sickness but I do freak out when I am near others that do!

Another full moon falls on our last night on Sifnos island.  Another one that has made it into my top 5 Greek islands!

Tuesday 13th May 2014 - Visit to the Kastro

We head out for the 10.00am bus to Apollonia again.  For the last couple of days there has been the same crowd of people waiting at the stop - two Dutch couples who are on a walking holiday, a middle aged American couple who tell us the snow is still thick on the ground back home and an elderly Greek couple who don't speak English but always greet everyone when they arrive at the stop.

My first mission is to find a shop in Apollonia that can save the photographs on my memory card to a CD as I've already used 8gb's of memory on my SLR.  Maria from Morfeus tell us that we are more likely to find somewhere in Apollonia than Kamares.  Kostas tells us that there is a shop near to the second petrol station - not the first petrol station but the second one!

Using our powers of deduction we work out which is the second petrol station and we come across a photography studio which seems to have a machine where you can download and print your photos.  Unfortunately it doesn't take flash cards.  The lady tells us in broken English to wait whilst she phones her son who is at home. Within 5 minutes her son arrive on a moped.  His English is good and he tells us that he will take it home and download it for us and it will only cost 4 euros.  It cost us 8 euros in Athens last year and I'm sure his petrol would cost that too.  Whilst we wait we go to the bakery next door for breakfast.  This is a busy old bakery and clearly popular with the locals.

I have my memory card and cd of photographs back in 20 minutes which is excellent! (I will buy more memory cards for our next trip!)

We have a little while before the bus to Kastro arrives so we take the opportunity to walk around Apollonia again and in particular some of the churches that we didn't have time to explore previously.

There are lots of trendy cafe bars and little boutiques amongst the more traditional buildings.  

We catch the bus which drops us at the entrance to the Kastro which sits up on top of the cliff overlooking the famous Seven Martyrs church.  

We enter the Kastro by climbing whitewashed steps.  We pass Cafe bars that can only be described as 'boutique'.

The view from the Kastro inland is as stunning as the views out to the sea

We walk around the Kastro perimeter until we reach the coastal side.  Peter walks down to the Seven Martyrs Church whilst I stay at the top to take photographs.

Peter seemed to take ages coming back up to the Kastro.  When he did come back he looked a bit flustered and then proceeded to tell me about his encounter with a snake.  When he was walking back up the path to the Kastro, he must have disturbed a snake who didn't take too kindly to it's sunbathing being disrupted.  It reacted by striking a threatening pose and rasping it's forked tongue at him.  Peter says his only reaction was to throw himself backwards out of its way but he wanted to make sure that it had moved away before continuing up the stone steps. 

I am now being extra EXTRA vigilent about wherever I walk!  

We have about 2 hours to wait before the next bus arrives to take us back to Apollonia so we walk around the pretty streets of the Kastro.

Cafe Konaki had caught our eye when we first arrived and not only does it have spectacular views over the landscape is has a good vantage point to see approaching buses.  We have tea and ice cream and then more tea. We are the only customers apart from one other couple during the hour or so we were there.
Back in Apollonia we walk to the village of Exambela.  It is late afternoon and light on the whitewashed buildings is perfect.

We walk back to the centre of Apollonia and think it would be nice to eat in a restaurant there.  We find  a restaurant with a lovely (and deserted) courtyard where we are able to watch the sunset on the mountains whilst we eat under a vine covered pergola.  Their garlic sauce is fantastic - one of my favourites.  Peter has the pork and I have lamb washed down with some lovely red wine.

We catch a taxi back to Kamares where we catch the tail end of the sunset.  The moon is full and lights up the town below.

Monday 12th May 2014 - Trip to Panagia Chrisopigi and Platis Gialos

We catch the 10.00am bus to Artemonas via Apollonia where the main bus station is located.  When I say bus station I mean a car park where the buses seem to depart from.  From here we will catch a bus to Panagia Chrisopigi but first we go to the bakery at Artemonis for breakfast.  Pastries and a cup of tea.  Whilst waiting for the bus I go to look at the church Agios Constantinos which was built in the 18th century.  It's architecture is simple but I'm fascinate by the way the small features cast shadows on the stark white exterior walls.

 The bus arrives to take us to Panagia Chrisopigi.  The bus driver gives us the nod when we arrive.  The place is deserted and we are the only people that leave the bus.  At first it is unclear where we go but we remember reading that we need to take a path that starts at the main road.  Before we begin our descent, we pop our heads into the small church by the bus stop.

We find the path and begin the walk down to the church.  I'm already thinking about the climb back up in the midday heat!

"The celebrated monastery of the island patron saint "Panagia Hrissopigi" (Our Lady of the Golden Spring) stands at the south-eastern end of the island in the Faros area. It was built in 1650 in a lovely area on the site of an older church. The icon of Zoodohos Pigi is mentioned in a great many legends which allege that it came from the sea.  According to an inscription, the great Greek poet Aristomenis Provelegios stayed in one of them."

The baptism font sits on the edge of the islet - I can only image what it is like to be here for religious ceremonies and festivals especially the Ascension of Christ where visitors arrive at the church in hundreds of little boats.

The only other people here are a couple of workmen who are carrying out renovations.

No more putting it off.  We climb the steep steps back up to the main road and head off to Platis Gialos the next village along the coast.

The first thing that we see once back on the main road is a freshly squashed snake.  It is spring and the snakes like nothing better than to warm themselves on the hot (yet perilous) tarmac.  From what I've read it looks like the venomous yet endangered Milos Viper.  Do I sound rather blase about this?  I'm really not!  I now find myself walking straight down the middle of the empty road so that I will get advance warning of any oncoming vipers!

As we approach a wide bend in the road we see below the village of Platis Gialos.  First things first.  We stop off at cafe bar La Playa for chocolate crepes and ice cream!

The village is also almost deserted but I imagine it is completely different in mid season.  Platis Gialos is pretty but there isn't much to do (and the sea is still a bit cold).  We have a wander around the streets and pop into several of the potteries where we make a few purchases to take home with us.

We catch the 15.00pm bus back to Kamares taking in the scenery along the way.

Later that evening we decide to walk along the bay to Agia Marina and hike those 2000 steps to the church.  Early evening is a perfect time of day for this.  Although a bit challenging we are rewarded with fabulous views over the bay of Kamares.  

Walking down those 2000 steps did kickstart the old vertigo a bit!  I need a drink! Not far from here is Cafe Folie where we stop off for a cocktail.

The wind is still high and the sounds of the waves crashing against the rocks is deafening!

Before we go for dinner we buy our ferry to tickets back to Athens (Piraeus) and book 1 night in Hotel Arion.  Unfortunately our favourite Athens hotel the Attalos is fully booked. We didn't intend to stay so long on Sifnos and had hoped to get a day or two in Syros but we have absolutely fallen in love with this island.

Saturday 10th May 2014 - Sifnos - Exploring Apollonia and Beyond

From what we have deduced - most buses depart from the islands capital Apollonia so we catch the first bus up there.

First stop for breakfast is the cafe in Hotel Anthousa and Patisserie right in the centre of the town.  Before we leave we given a biscuit each from the patisserie.

We follow the path out of the village to Pano Petali.

The path continues on to the village of Artemenos where we stop in the pretty square for a cup of tea.  We can smell the freshly baked produce coming from the nearby bakery.  The pottery chimney pots are really something!

We continue down an almost deserted road towards the windmill which now provides accommodation for tourists.  

It is a bit overcast today but that doesn't detract from the amazing view of neighbouring islands.  I'm sure the islands we can see are Anti Paros, Paros, Naxos and maybe even a bit of Sikinos and Ios (pushing it a bit!).  I don't think I have ever seen so many islands from one vantage point like this before - it was pretty amazing!  

From here we can also see the village of Poulati

It is very hard to resist to keep on walking to keep discovering what is around the corner.  We do keep on walking along the coastal road until the road almost grinds to a halt.  Down below we can see what we think is the Kastro but it looks so far away.  To get to it we need to start walking through farmland and down winding paths that look quite labyrinthine from where we are standing.  Peter goes on ahead to explore and I wander around photographing the wildlife!

So close and yet so far - but we decide to call it a day anyway.  We head back through the same little villages again in reverse.

As we pass through Pano Petali again, an elderly lady waves her arms to Peter to attract his attention.  She beckons him to climb the steps to her little balcony and through gestures asks him to unpeg her washing from the washing line (like being at home eh Peter!).

We have just missed the bus back to Kamares and it is 3 hours before the next one.  We decide to go to the bakery near to the bus stop to have a cup of tea and some baklava and Kanaifa to warm us up - it is getting a bit chilly.  

There is no way we can spin out 3 hours in the bakery so catch a taxi back to Kamares.  The sun is already beginning to set on the surrounding hillside.  The lovely warm orange hue bounces off our walls back in Pension Morfeus.  We are then treated to the pinkest sunset I have seen in a long while.

After a shower and change we head out for cocktails on the beach at the Captains bar on the recommendation of Matt Barrett's Travel Guide.

We then take short walk to one of the beachside restaurants to eat.  Peter has goat and I have stuffed tomatoes - all washed down with a bit of ouzo!  I'm in love with Sifnos already!