The myths and the legends amid what’s real that make a trip to the Greek Islands a memorable and lasting experience. These 6,000 islands, 227 of which are inhabited, form part of the country’s tradition and culture. The islets and islands are strewn all over the Ionian and Aegean Seas, giving the Greek archipelago a total of 16,000-kilometre long coastline. Thus the landscape of Greece is so diversified, with its coastal caves, pebble beaches, coves and bays that are quite sheltered and steep rocks, hills and cliffs. The islands hold many secrets and there are islands that remain a secret to many visitors. Now is your chance to discover some of these beautiful and fascinating islands, with the Early Birds to Europe program of Skiddoo, so book your trip to the Greek Islands early.
BEST TIME TO VISIT THE GREEK ISLANDS
Travel experts suggest visiting the Greek Islands in spring and the early part of summer, meaning around mid-April to mid-June or in the fall, which is from September to the middle of October. These periods are off season so you avoid the swarm of tourists, the high prices as well as the scorching heat. The tradeoff however is there are fewer hotels and restaurants that are open and the waters are colder. Tourist season in the Greek Islands are from July to August when the sun is at its hottest.
Summers in Greece are idyllic and many festivals are held during this particular season, but this is the time when most Europeans descend on its shores. Greece does not have frigid winters, therefore the country is good to visit all-year round as the average temperature in country is between 10 °C and 37.7 °C (50 °F and 100 °F). Even during its low season, you’ll find that Greece could still have an international crowd, since the temperature is still good and the waters are still warm.
The Greek achievements wielded great influence on the rest of the world, brought to the East through the conquests of Alexander the Great and to the West by the Roman and Byzantine empires. Intrinsically, what draws people to Greece it is position in world history and while many would visit the mainland, it was in those scattered Greek Islands where European civilization was born. Today, the core of Greece is located in Athens however, the Greek Islands remain as the silent monuments to the country’s beginnings and its bucolic society and culture. While modernity slowly encroaches in some of the islands, the evidence of Ancient Greece still remain.
Belonging to the Dodecanese group, Karpathos is a remote island located in the southeastern section of the Aegean Sea. Due to its location, the local dialect, customs and mode of dress reminiscent of old Cyprus and Crete were preserved. You can say that when you come to Karpathos, you are entering a totally different world, particularly when you are in the mountainside village of Olympos that still follow medieval crafts and customs. Karpathos is a very peaceful island, divided by a row of mountains. The beaches here either have pebbles or fine white sand, without wind or with slight wind blowing. It is a great place to visit when you want a quiet vacation while experiencing a traditional way of life that you’d probably not see anywhere else.
If you look at a map, you’d find that the island of Monemvasía looks like Gibraltar. Its name translates to “single entrance,” which is very true since the only way to the walled town is to pass through a stone archway at the base of a fortress, with is door permanently wide open. An earthquake in AD 735 separated it from the mainland. It is now connected to the main island by a short causeway. Monemvasía’s charm is in its antiquity, since the architecture in the little community remained unchanged since the Byzantine era. The only town on the island is on the rock’s southeast side, rising about 15m above sea level. Many of the old buildings here were restored and turned into inns to cater to the increasing number of tourists coming to the town. Restaurants on the island serve local dishes, which you should sample.
Belonging to the Ionian group, the island of Kíthira is culturally diverse. Because of its strategic location, conquerors, sailors and merchants have landed on its shores. Its architecture show Venetian, Aegean and traditional Greek influences, while the customs and traditions of the population show the influence of Ottoman, Venetian and Greek cultures. According to mythology, Kíthira is the land of Aphrodite and Eros. It is not frequently visited by tourists due to the strong winds, its rugged bays and steep cliffs. Likewise, there are few available ferries that travel to the island, thus very few venture to visit the place. The island has its unique charm that is a bit on the rugged side. It could get busy during summer, too. Aside from its beaches, other attractions include the cave where the body of St Sophia was said to be found. A chapel built by the locals is inside the cave. There are several monasteries to explore, some picturesque fishing villages to visit and the Paleohora ruins from the Byzantine era to inspect.
Samothraki or Samothrace, is famous for its healing waters from Therma’s therapeutic thermal springs. Otherwise, the island is a place where folklore and mystery are still very much present. Rumours continue to circulate that Samothraki is frequently visited by witches and sorcerers, probably due to the belief that it was a centre for the occult during the pre-Hellenic times. The highest point in the island is Mount Fengari, which towers over the island. Samothraki is home to the Sanctuary of the Great Gods where the statue of the Winged Victory (Nike) was unearthed. Homer describes the island of Samothraki as the place where the fall of Troy was witnessed by Poseidon. Samothraki is great if you are after some wild adventure as there are many waterfalls, streams and rock pools where you can have a swim. Its coastline is secluded and have several pebble beaches, such as
Pachia Ammos, Kipos and Vatos. The entire island invites you to discover its many secrets as you go from village to village, not to mention that the nightlife and the food are equally enticing.
If you are keen on religious history, then the island of Patmos in the Dodecanese group is a destination that you should not miss. In one famous poem penned by Friedrich Hölderlin in 1802, he said that Patmos was the place where St John the Evangelist wrote the Book of Revelations in the New Testament. While some scholars now believe that it was a different person, a monk named Khristodoulos decided to build a huge Monastery of St. John the Theologian, which is now the island’s main attraction, including the three historic windmills that have been restored to their former glory by a Swiss banker. It’s built above Skala, the main town in Patmos. Below the cave where the Revelations were written is the Monastery of the Apocalypse. Although both lend a spiritual vibe to the island, it does not prevent Patmos from enticing holiday makers with its scenic landscape, interesting boutiques and splendid beaches.