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In such a richly diverse country, where do you start? We’ve put together our top ...
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From the twinkling waters of the Aegean to the narrow, winding streets hiding authentic tavernas, Greece is what summer dreams are made of. And if you want to avoid the crowds, it’s worth considering meandering off the beaten path. In this post, we’ve rounded up all of our favourite beauty spots, from mysterious islands to secluded coves.
Mykonos may be one of the most famous Greek islands, but if you continue your journey south in the Aegean Sea, you’ll come across the serene Paros Island. This is the spot to kick back and take it easy - prices tend to be lower than the main tourist haunts, and so you can tuck into traditional Greek delights such as fresh horiatiki - a crisp salad of tomatoes and cucumber - with whole fish, otherwise known as barbouni, for less.
Highlights on Paros include the city of Naousa, where you may catch some live music or performances during the famous parades, or enjoy a cocktail and some grilled mackerel on the small fishing harbour. The capital city of Parikia typifies picture-postcard Greece with its quaint churches, cobbled streets and whitewashed houses. It’s easy to reach Parikia from Athens by ferry, making Paros a perfect day trip.
Although Naxos may be the largest of the Cycladic Islands, it still feels relatively quiet and 'undiscovered' in comparison to Santorini and Mykonos. This is one for the culture vultures - take a stroll along the city's ancient walls, and admire its 6th century marble gate, the Portara. Don’t miss Kastro, a 13th century hilltop castle which also encompasses a museum.
That isn’t to say there isn’t plenty for the beach bums, too. Naxos is famous for its beaches - for a chance of spotting tortoises or sea turtles, head to Plaka. To try your hand at kite-surfing or windsurfing, head to the serene Mikri Vigla. End your day in the capital of Chora - or Naxos Town - where you'll stroll amongst ancient temples and Venetian mansions. Naxos can be reached by ferry from Santorini.
Look no further for a peaceful day trip from the hubbub of Athens. Aegina can be reached from the Piraeus cruise port in Athens in just 40 minutes, and yet feels a world away. The perfect stop on your cruise to Athens. This island is a haven of warm olive groves, windswept beaches and neoclassical architecture. Most of its tourists are Greek, giving it a quieter and more authentic feel.
Start your exploration of the island at the hilltop Temple of Aphaia, dedicated to the goddess Athena. It remains in impeccable condition, with 25 of its original 32 Doric columns still standing. Make your next stop the Tower of Markellos, which is within a short walking distance of the island’s harbour, where you can learn more about the island’s past. Finally, relax on Souvala Beach, which sits in a naturally formed creek. Kick back in both hot and cold hot springs.
Chios is a little trickier to get to than the other destinations on this list - but is even more mysterious and untouched for that fact. It sits in the north-eastern region of the Aegean, close to the coast of Turkey. The island is famous for its production of mastic - a kind of aromatic gum used for everything from paints to food. Bring some home with you in the form of brandy or jam.
Every aspect of this island inspires awe, especially its quaint villages, whose buildings are completely covered in intricate patterns known as graffito. There’s also plenty of culture to soak up here, too - start at the Nea Moni Monastery, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the 11th century. Discover detailed frescoes, spectacular mosaics and, rather gruesomely, a collection of human skulls. Chios is best reached by Athens, and the ferry journey takes approximately nine hours.
One of the Dodecanese Islands, Symi is an essential stop for those searching for Greece's hidden beauty and is easily reached from Rhodes. You need look no further than the harbour, which is framed by sorbet-coloured neo-classical houses, independent boutiques and authentic little tavernas.
Take a short walk uphill to discover the town of Chorio. Dotted with picturesque church domes, it’s the perfect place to spend a lazy morning strolling. When your legs tire, simply stop for a rich and dark Greek coffee. And no visitor can leave Symi without paying a visit to the monastery of the Archangel Michael Panormitis, which dates back to the 18th century and features a striking bell tower.
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In such a richly diverse country, where do you start? We’ve put together our top picks to help inspire your next Italian cruise.
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