OUR FIND THIS YEAR IS THESSALY: Stay in Elati at the Hotel Giamandes and explore this beautiful mountain area from the ancient bridge at Pyli and the stunning church Porta Panaghia to the fascinating city of Trikala. In the mountains Pertouli and the dainty monastery of Timios Stavros at Doliani with 13 domes and 9 aspes will take your breath away. Part of THE PINDUS it matches well with METEORA and the amazing magnificent pinnacles of rock with ancient monasteries perched upon them, incredible to consider how they were built but now with steps to them all can be approached by all.
CHIOS will prey on your memory for many years. Aside from its beaches of silver pebble, black or golden sands, its variety comes in the form of the ancient monastery at Nea Moni with its outstanding gold mosaics, its old villages, some deserted and others very much work a day in the mastic fields - the uniquely and richly decorated village of Pyrghi and the solid fortified walls of the compact village of Mesta, a complete maze within its narrow streets.
CORFU is the grand old lady of Greece, far too elegant and dignified to be brought to its knees by mass tourism; the charm of the old town with its Venetian buildings, the indescribable beauty of its mountains and olive tree clad slopes and the blue of the sea against the fragile but translucent blue sky, and views over all of this to the moody green blue purple mountains of the Pindus range across the sea, the island is regaining its rightful place as a Mediterranean gem.
KYTHIRA should always remain a secret. Although just off the Peloponnese coast and served by ferries and flights it is not easy to reach and once there the toy-town feel to the tiny capital of Chora, and the twin horseshoe bays of Kapsali beyond may hold you in their grip; but to miss the market town of Potamos, the many remote bays and often deserted beaches and the tiny churches and castles would be a great mistake.
HYDRA is easily reached from Athens but except around midday when the cruise excursions visit it is a sleepy, exclusive and expensive honeymoon sort of place with stone built captain’s mansions climbing steeply up the hillside from the harbour.
LESVOS is so worthwhile, with beaches and very varied topography. Like so many of the Aegean islands it dissects as four corners of a jigsaw into the desert western side with its petrified forest, the ouzo manufacturing towns of the south, the historic castles such as Molyvos in the north and the fascinating capital of Mytilini. If looking for accommodation we have every reason to think the Hotel Votsala at Thermi is worth considering.
NAFPLIO in the north-eastern Peloponnese, has three castles and ancient Venetian buildings but is a sea facing city with a sophisticated waterfront lined with cafes and bars and old paved streets hosting numerous shops, jewellers, potteries and leather shops and clothes – often made by sophisticated local designers. We recommend Villas Christina and Karayiannis in the hills behind the city and Hotel Minoa in Tolo.
OLYMBIADAhas been a well-kept secret. Being in Northern Greece on the fringes of Halkidiki it both usually avoids the excesses of high summer temperatures but also has wonderful sandy beaches – they just get better the further you walk (or drive)! Not that the village beach is not good – you simply walk out of your hotel or away from your lunch table across golden sand and into perfect shallow sandy waters. Try the Hotels Liotopi and Germany.
OURANOPOLI is the main port for the monks who live on Mt. Athos (and for those discouraged or barred from visiting the monastic republic, namely all women and those who would feel uncomfortable applying for the right credentials from their priest). That said it is a pleasant place with access to the beautiful white beaches of Ammoliani, nice shops and restaurants.
PREVEZA one more small Greek fishing port, beloved by the flotillas. Two apparently parallel main roads lead south down to Preveza’s long waterfront but the fact that one goes straight into the town and the other curves round to come in from the opposite direction and the curious layout of the modern town behind with the old town captured within makes it very easy to get lost! The fact that it is overlaid with colour and energy, provided mainly by local people and the best restaurants seem to collect in a couple only of the narrow paved streets with the old clock tower presiding over them all and pre-dinner drinks and coffee afterwards all take place within a stone’s throw of these eateries give it a charming intimacy. Stay at Hotel Kalamitsi Apartments, 3km north.
PYLOS – for years completely isolated from the trappings of tourism with a nineteenth century atmosphere among the old-fashioned colonnaded shops around a beautiful plane tree shaded square right on the waterfront at the southern end of the beautiful and historic Navarino inlet. Once the golf clubs are up and running things are bound to change – or are they given the inclusive nature of all golfing communities? See www.eleonas.com for accommodation.