As we prepare to enter the New Year, we often think with anticipation of our plans for the months to unfold, the destinations we will visit, the experiences we will enjoy. Greece is endlessly rich in travel inspiration, whatever your taste in travel may be.
We very often think of Summer as the ideal time to visit Greece, and the Greek Islands in particular. To add a twist to this classic option, it’s interesting to consider some novel island destinations. The Dodecanese Islands – home to famous Rhodes and Kos – are also full of less frequented destinations, full of unspoiled charm for the traveler seeking something out of the ordinary. Or perhaps the Cyclades appeal to you. Locals leave stunning but quite crowded Mykonos and Santorini to the many tourists in the summer, seeking out instead places like Folegandros – a wild and enchanting island of the southern Cyclades – for their quieter pleasures. Kythira is another choice for those seeking a more authentic experience, the delight of anyone who likes a pristine beach, a beautiful traditional town, or the romance of a Venetian Castle – the ruins of four such castles are on this storied island.
Discover the Peloponnese
Kythira – just off the coast of Cape Maleas, is also an ideal add-on to an exploration of the Peloponnese, adored by Greeks and International visitors alike for its stunning variety of experiences. Monemvasia, the Byzantine wonder, is magical in any season – the captivating history of this fortified city resonates in every stone. Those seeking a more active holiday may wish to explore the famous Menalon Trail, the hiking path in Arcadia that passes through historic hilltop towns like Stemnitsa and Dimitsana, monasteries almost impossibly built into the sides of towering cliffs, and natural wonders amid the pine forests and cool mountain springs. While on the Peloponnese, it is interesting to visit its geographic border. The storied peninsula is separated from the Greek mainland by a thrillingly deep and narrow canal. The Corinth Canal was in the plans of many legendary leaders – including even Julius Caesar! Finally it was achieved by Greece’s King George I.
Culture on your Calendar
If you have culture in your sights, summer indeed is a good season, when the cultural calendar of Greece is in full swing, the balmy nights filled with music, theater, and dance. The Greek Islands add summer festivals to their many charms- here are some of the most interesting Greek Island Summer Festivals for you to consider in your travel plans. Contemporary Culture is also celebrated throughout Greece in the summer months. The most interesting Contemporary Culture Festivals in Greece fill historic settings with dynamic performances and events.
Those interested in Cultural Destinations may be deeply moved to visit some of the most famous of the Oracles of the Ancient World. Here, the mysteries of the Ancient World and the spiritual life of the Ancient Greeks are felt in some of the nation’s most stunning archaeological sites, such as Ancient Delphi or the Sanctuary of Asclepius of Epidaurus in the Peloponnese. Not surprisingly, a place with both so much ancient history and so much sea must also have some underwater archaeological treasures to contemplate – here are the stories of some of Greece’s sunken antiquities. And folk culture, too, continues to fascinate the visitor. Ancient beliefs still thrive in Greece. And the Greek grandmother who does not, for example, believe in warding off the harm of the Evil Eye is a very rare one indeed.
Still, as attractive as are the pleasures of spring and summer, there are many who find autumn and winter to be the most appealing seasons in Greece. Autumn is particularly wonderful for a drive – there are many Scenic Driving Routes in Greece that beckon to the explorer. Glorious Pelion, the lush, pine-forested, peninsula curving around the Pagasetic Gulf on the east coast between Thessaloniki and Athens, is another fine destination for a magical autumn escape – between the famous beaches for an autumn swim, the mountain villages with their famous slate-roofed homes, the historic monasteries, and the narrow gauge historic, scenic rail line, there are many attractions. Autumn is also the finest season for visiting the dramatic Lake Towns of Northern Greece. From the cosmopolitan elegance of Kastoria with its traditional lakeside mansions to the unspoiled wonders of Prespes, sanctuary to hundreds of species of birds, the red and gold foliage – to say nothing of the migration season – of interest for the birders among us – make autumn an ideal time to visit. Nature lovers will also appreciate the inspiring efforts of Arcturos, a Sanctuary for Flora and Fauna that is located near one of the Lake Towns.
Greece is a wonderful culinary destination in any season. Did you know that Greece has excellent truffles? Truffle Hunting is a popular pastime and profession for some, and their findings are a delight. Another rare Greek gourmet specialty is the pressed and preserved Greek Caviar – the Bottarga of Messolonghi is like a concentration of all the sweetness of the sea, shaved into delicate golden flakes. Given the countless leisures of the Cyclades, it can be no surprise that these world-famous islands are also home to exceptional culinary traditions. Among the Cycladic Islands’ Traditional Products to try are the Louza – a seasoned and savory smoked filet of pork – from Mykonos and the superb Graviera cheese of Naxos. And what better to go with them than a fine Cycladic wine? Santorini ranks among the world’s most ancient wine growing regions. The PDO Santorini, of the Assyrtiko grape grown in the mineral-rich volcanic soil in the strong island winds, is a taste of history, ingenuity, and dedication.
With that, we raise a glass to you for the new year ahead, wishing you beautiful travels. Have you had any of these rare Greek experiences?