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Winter light in the Greek islands

The season’s soft light makes the winter colours warmer, as mild temperatures raise our spirits and provide us with just the right boost to start exploring the Greek countryside. And if you thought that the summer period is the only right time for you to visit the Greek islands, well… it’s high time you reconsidered!

 

Corfu


Follow the light in cosmopolitan Corfu Island

Where: The northernmost island in the Ionian Sea

Why: According to Greek mythology, Corfu was the green island of the Phaeacians, the last people and place Odysseus visited before he reached Ithaca, his beloved homeland. Corfu is known for its Italian-style ambience; its cosmopolitan Venetian character will impress you any time of the year. It ranks high among the popular and beautiful Mediterranean Sea islands, as it can boast a luxuriant countryside and impressive sights.


What to see / places to visit: The famous Old Town of Corfu, inscribed in UNESCO’s list as a World Heritage Site. Go for a stroll in popular and green Spianada square; visit the nearby Old Fortress and enjoy your walk along the elegant colonnade at beautiful Liston. Have a cup of coffee by the cricket court, in one of the coffee shops. Walk along kantounia (the narrow alleys in the Old Town) and admire the grand old gentry’s houses.
http://www.visitgreece.gr/en/culture/world_heritage_sites

Visit the imposing church of Agios (Saint) Spyridon, the island’s patron saint. Its red-coloured bell tower stands out in the distance. Admire the palace of Saint Michael and Saint George, a Georgian architectural style edifice which houses the impressive Museum of Asian Art. Plan a trip to Achilleion – a 19th century mansion that is a must-visit architectural masterpiece located 10 km south of Corfu town. Corfu’s landmark is picture-perfect Pontikonisi, a small islet, opposite Kanoni area. Visit also the Archaeological Museum, Antivouniotissa Museum (housing Byzantine exhibits) and the Banknote Museum.

Travelling tip:
Head NW to Palaiokastritsa area and enjoy the lovely view on Angelokastro – a ruined byzantine fortress built on a hill dominating the surrounding area. Kassiopi (N) and Kalami (NE) are two beautiful villages also recommended as destinations. And if you choose to travel south, take a trip to Vatos village and tour the exquisite Korission lagoon (a Natura 2000 protected area) which includes a lovely shoreline (Chalikouna and Issos beaches) and a small cedar forest.

 

 

Evia



Evia Island- Discover its beauty

Where: The island stretches opposite the east coastline of Central Greece Region

Why: Evia is the second biggest island of Greece, and an easily accessible destination, not far from Athens. There are tempting alternatives for memorable winter trips on this island, so choose among the beautiful small towns and traditional villages, surrounded by lovely nature and impressive sights. The countryside includes a green mountain range (Mt. Dirfys) and beautiful lakes, where you can enjoy activities such as hiking, biking and horse riding.

What to see / places to visit:
Beautiful Chalkida, the island capital, where you can enjoy a stroll by the beachfront, facing the impressive Evripos cable-stayed bridge. Walk in the Castle’s old quarters and notice the area’s particular architecture, a blend of Ottoman and Venetian influence. Visit the town’s Archaeological Museum and Folk-Art Museum.

The ruins of the ancient city-state of Eretria lie southeast of Chalkida at a 22km distance from the capital. This area used to be an important city and an ally of the Athenians during the classical ancient Greek Period.

Travel south to Karystos town; this beautiful historic area is situated approx. at a 120km distance from Chalkida. Enjoy your stroll past the beautiful neoclassical buildings, and visit the Archaeological Museum. At a 4km distance from the town, you will reach Castello Rosso, a most impressive Venetian medieval castle, overlooking the island’s southern shores. In the harbour area you will find traditional cafés, picturesque tavernas, and restaurants.

In the northern part of the island, visit Aidipsos hot springs; the area’s popularity as a healing centre dates back to ancient classical antiquity. In the area you’ll find a number of health and wellness centres. Visit also picturesque seaside Kymi village, located at the east coast of the middle part of the island. You will be amazed by the spectacular views over the Aegean Sea.

A tip for action lovers: Go horse riding, enjoy a biking ride, and follow the hiking trails that will take you deep in Evia’s lovely countryside.

 

Crete: a place to fall in love with

Where: The southernmost and biggest island of Greece

Why: The varied terrain, the mild climate, as well as the numerous cultures the island came in contact with since 6000 B.C., when the first prehistoric settlements appeared, and all the way to 1913 when Crete became part of the modern Greek state, are the decisive factors that helped shape contemporary Crete. The variety of natural and cultural features have made this Southern Aegean Sea island a popular destination all year round.

What to see / places to visit:

 

Chania

Chania: Chania is the westernmost of the island’s four districts; the imposing White Mountains (Lefka Ori) and the national forest reserve on them occupy the largest part of the region. Visit Chania town, the district capital and discover its Venetian fortresses and remaining Walls as well as the neoclassical stately homes with an old-fashioned glamour about them. The town’s sights by the harbour area include also the Maritime Museum and the Mosque, the oldest Ottoman building on the island.

Tip for family trips: If you travel with your children, look for the small zoo and the playground in the municipal garden (designed in 1870) where your little ones will enjoy playing.

Taste flavourful Cretan cuisine dishes in the town’s traditional eateries and restaurants. For those of you who like outdoor activities, Samaria Gorge is a great destination for hiking, especially during the warm months of the year, as well as Lake Kourna area – the only freshwater lake on the island – where you can enjoy an afternoon walk or a family picnic.

Rethymno: Rethymno district is surrounded by the White Mountains and Psiloreitis (Idi) mountain range; it’s a place that combines the beauty of nature with a long and eventful history. Go for a stroll in old Rethymno town in the district capital; you will be impressed by the combination of Venetian and Ottoman architectural elements in the grand old houses you will pass by. One of the town’s major sights is Fortezza fortress in the harbour area, built in the 16th century in order to protect residents from pirate invasions. A visit to the Archaeological Museum will take you on a journey to the area’s long past.

Take a trip to the historic Arkadiou Monastery which is located 24 km southeast of Rethymno; the place is a landmark symbolising the bravery of Cretan revolutionaries against the Ottoman rulers.

If you are a mountain-climbing fan, travel 79 km southeast of Rethymno town to Mt. Psiloreitis; the breathtaking Nida plateau is dotted with ‘mitata’ i.e. dome roof stone-built shacks used by herders, which are considered as the local landmark. Visit Anogeia, a beautiful and picturesque village built on a rocky edge, at a 730m elevation. Stroll in the streets and buy handmade, colourful textiles and embroideries from local shops. Savour flavourful traditional dishes prepared with locally sourced meat and produce in the area’s tavernas.

Extra tips: 
1. Try a shot (or two) of tsikoudia (a Cretan strong distilled alcoholic drink)
2. Listen to madinades i.e. impromptu poems and melodies played on Cretan lyra instrument.

Heraklion: This is the island’s largest and most populated district with some of the greatest archaeological sites in Greece. The Palaces of Knossos and Phaistos are the most important remains of the Minoan Civilisation that flourished on this part of the European continent during the Bronze Age, at the dawn of history. This is also the birthplace of one of the greatest artists of all time, Domenico Theotokopoulos known as ‘El Greco’, whose paintings were among the most prominent Spanish Renaissance works of art.

Shop or enjoy your coffee and snack in any of the establishments around Venizelos Square, in Heraklion town centre. A must-visit site is the imposing Venetian Castle dominating the harbour. Plan a trip to the Archaeological Museum in nearby Eleftherias Square, and enjoy the largest display of Minoan Period finds. Head south of the town and visit the impressive Knossos Palace (a short 5km trip), or follow the route towards the Phaistos archaeological site (a 62km ride, SW of Heraklion).

Beyond the town limits you will see some amazing landscapes. Caves, ravines, and green stretches of countryside in the hinterland create the perfect surroundings for you to enjoy a variety of activities such as hiking and biking. You will discover out-of-sight traditional centuries-old villages, nestled among vineyards and olive groves, in valleys and on mountainsides.

Lasithi District: This is the easternmost area of Crete, washed by the sea on all sides except the west; its varied terrain will offer you a memorable trip across changing natural surroundings that create beautiful contrasts. Book your stay in a tourist resort or in a luxury hotel close to areas where the beautiful nature, the local colour and way of life will enhance the pleasure of your stay.

Picturesque Agios Nikolaos town is the district capital and a popular tourist destination. In the town centre you will see a picture-perfect harbour which is connected to Lake Voulismeni, a small 64m deep salt water lake. Visit the Archaeological Museum where you’ll enjoy an interesting journey that starts at the dawn of Cretan history, and the Folk Art Museum for a taste of the local folk culture. Starting from Agios Nikolaos town, plan your trips to interesting destinations, such as Ierapetra, where you can visit the beautiful Venetian castle. Travel 94 km NE of Agios Nikolaos town and you’ll reach Vai, one of Europe’s few palm tree forests covering an area of approx. 250 hectares.

Extra tip: Take part in a traditional Cretan festival where you’ll enjoy the music played on the local lyra instrument while you savour delicious Lasithian dishes.

 

Syros


Syros Island. The capital of the South Aegean Region

Where: in the central Cyclades islands

Why: Syros Island is admittedly one of the most beautiful islands in the Aegean Sea. It is the commercial, administrative, and cultural centre of the Cyclades, and it will impress you with its elegance and cosmopolitan character. Its diverse features and contrasts, combined with the age-old traditions of the Catholic and Orthodox communities on the island, make up its unique character. Syros’ short distance from Athens and the regular ferry service from Piraeus Harbour make it the ideal destination for a short holiday or a romantic weekend.

What to see / Places to visit: Explore the remarkable Ermoupoli town, the largest town in the Cyclades group of islands. It is built up a hillside, and it boasts a number of amazing neoclassical buildings and imposing churches. It used to be one of the busiest Greek ports during the 19th c. Walk the narrow streets of Ano Syra neighbourhood, on the hill where St. George’s medieval Catholic Church is located; then visit the opposite Dili hill dominated by the Orthodox Church of the Resurrection of Christ. In the lower part of town, take a stroll in the beautiful Miaouli Square where the impressive Town Hall stands. Head to the nearby Archaeological Museum of Ermoupoli, where you will see exhibits that go as far back as 3000 B.C. Visit also the Apollo Theatre, a smaller version of La Scala di Milano, where you can watch theatrical and musical performances.

Travel approximately 12 km southwest of Ermoupoli town and visit Delagratsia or Poseidonia, a cosmopolitan area and one of the top tourist destinations on the island. Pass by the wonderful neoclassical villas; their architectural style and well-tended gardens will catch your eye. Syros Island is a lively place to be all year round; it is a place with a busy social life, bars, restaurants and tavernas; one that’s guaranteed to offer you a memorable holiday.

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