After the summer rush, when the great heat starts to wane and the light softens, Greece is at its most pleasurable. Here are some of our favorite excursions to make the most of this fleeting and beautiful season.
Yachting in the Aegean
The very words conjure up images of deep blue seas, rocky islands in their elemental purity, and the vernacular architecture of the Cyclades, pristine and white. The seas are usually quite calm, the days mild, and people are much more scarce. The romance is all true – yachting around the Aegean is the trip of a lifetime.
Instead of hitting the more famous destinations, exploring the “Small” Cyclades is much more in keeping with the mood of the shoulder season – a slower, more intimate approach to travel. Mooring in marvelous Naxos– the largest of the Cyclades but fairly low-key, places you in a perfect spot for exploring the secret destinations of the Aegean.
Between Naxos and Amorgos which is just to the southeast, there is an island sub-group: Donousa, Iraklia, Schinoussa, and Koufonisia – four petite islands where the true culture of the Cyclades is in its purest form. The islands are much less touristy, and only got electricity in 1982 – so you can expect a slower pace of life, island-style. Hiking is an excellent way to get to know the islands- trails are all over. You can then enjoy a refreshing swim at secret beaches in the turquoise seas.
The cuisine of the Cyclades is very special. Whatever thrives in the stark landscape under the Aegean sun is packed with flavor – the sweetest tomatoes, the most fragrant herbs, the zing of local foraged capers, and freshly caught fish. Local dishes are inventive, flavorful, and elemental – an elegant cuisine to suit the elegant simplicity of the islands. Casual tavernas by the sea, catering to locals and not tourists, serve meaningful and memorable meals.
Road trip in the Southeastern Peloponnese
A road trip is the best way to have an adventure in the Peloponnese. The landscape is stunning, and the journeys are destinations in themselves. For an autumn road trip, the southeastern Peloponnese makes for a compelling destination. It has the ideal proportions for quality leisure: a perfect balance of culture, nature, history, architecture, and cuisine.
The prefecture of Lakonia is a good place to start. The UNESCO World Heritage site Mystras is a splendid 13th century castle built by the Prince of Achaia. From here, ancient Sparta calls, steeped in the history and lore of the Ancient World, and key to its contemporary identity too. Laconic – strong and silent – is derived from the name of the region – Laconia, and of the most famous strong and silent people of the Ancient World.
For natural beauty, an out of the way treasure is the hidden lagoon of Gerakas. Deep and narrow, this inlet surrounded by dramatic cliffs is Europe’s southernmost Fjord. From here, another surprise awaits- the Neolithic cave of Kastania, a fantastic display of stalactites and stalagmites with fantastical forms. One of the most beautiful and dramatic caves of Europe, it has been three million years in the making. Near here is another geological treasure- the petrified forest of Agia Marina. This rare phenomenon – a surreal and lovely landscape – is now part of Europe’s Geopark network.
Onions grow very well on this stark landscape – the Vatiki onion of Laconia is one of the best varieties of Greece, and stars in many local dishes, both raw in salads and cooked in savory stews.
Lastly, Monemvasia is a treasure of culture and an atmospheric delight, a medieval town whose perfection and romance must be experienced first hand, wandering through its mysterious alleyways of golden stone, then coming on to the unexpected open vistas of the sea- breathtaking. This beautiful historic place also offers stylish boutique accommodations, and fine cuisine with a sense of place- the perfect treat for an autumn getaway.
Greece in Autumn
Have you visited Greece in Autumn? Is it the sea, or the road, that calls to you the most?