Our selection of authentic experiences
With various chains of islands, some of which are hidden gems, Greece offers endless opportunities for discovery and travel. Picturesque villages of whitewashed houses, wild coastal landscapes and ancient traditions await. Cast off to reconnect with nature during a beautiful getaway in the middle of the Aegean Sea.
Make secret stopovers on islands with wild beauty
The popular and mythical Cyclades includes Mykonos and Santorini, of course, but they have other, wilder neighbours who do not reveal their charms so easily. Emerging from the cobalt blue of the Aegean Sea, mineral islands with abrupt cliffs and graphic rocks evoke lost territories at the ends of the earth. But none are inhospitable. The incredibly peaceful turquoise waters that surround them invite you to explore.
These rough diamonds include the beautiful Polyaigos. This uninhabited island is one of the Aegean Sea’s best-preserved sites and also one of its best kept secrets. To discover it, jump into the water for a snorkelling adventure taking you from cove to cove – including the delightful Galazia Nera and Ammoura – through beautiful sea caves (Fanara). You can also explore the island on foot following paths made by goats, the only inhabitants of the island besides the local wildlife. Your efforts will be rewarded with outstanding hilltop views.
With its arid hills and dizzying cliffs, Folegandros may seem austere at first. All the more so when you find out that it served as a working prison for exiled political prisoners in the 1950s. However, its minimalist, rustic beauty has captured the hearts of lovers of quiet and authentic hideaways. As you explore the island, you gradually discover secret coves, rocky peaks, small stone walls forming terraces and panoramic views. Make a date with the sunset to experience a spectacular and entirely natural feast for the eyes.
Some of the volcanic landscapes in the Cyclades make you feel like you’re on the moon. Volax, on the island of Tinos, is one incredible example where large round granite blocks contrast with the small white houses.
Sample the generosity of traditional Greek cuisine
Beneath their beautiful rocky exteriors, the Greek islands of the Aegean Sea are temples of gastronomy and the art of living where conviviality and pleasure reign supreme. Here, it’s all about local flavours prepared according to traditional recipes and served simply at the table of welcoming tavernas. These deliciously quaint, small Greek restaurants serve up slices of nostalgia. The tavernas in Cheronissos in Sifnos or in the small fishing village of Faros, whose decor seems unchanged since the 1950s, are well worth a visit.
Take your time wandering lazily through the streets of these beautiful villages, admiring their whitewashed houses and blue shutters. In Folegandros, take a break in the central square, bordered by two pretty churches, to drink a hot rakomelo, accompanied by sesame seed pasteli. Then, climb to the Church of Panagia, or the hilltop above it, to gaze at one of the most spectacular sunsets the Aegean Sea has to offer.
Spetses, in the Peloponnese region, is the ideal place to disconnect from city life. The so-called island of perfumes is peaceful, car-free and has beautiful traditional tavernas where you can share mezze with friends. Head to Patralis Psarotaverna to enjoy a typical fish soup or the Tarsanas Fish Tavern near the old port for freshly caught fish.
Immerse yourself in ancient history and customs
A trip to the Greek islands also means absorbing their history and myths, rubbing shoulders with people with deep-rooted, ancient customs and religious practices. Push open the door to the small white churches scattered throughout the archipelago, including the orthodox Lourdes in Tinos. To fully appreciate it, head to Panagia Evangelistria. This Marian shrine is the subject of incredible fervour with the devout walking there on their knees from the harbour. Built in 1830, this renowned building is home to an icon that has been encased in jewellery.
The history of Greece uplifts the soul and the body, with wellness practices developed all the way back in antiquity. Loutra in Kythnos has been renowned for its hot springs for thousands of years. Although the original spa has disappeared, you can still make the most of its waters famed for their healing properties.
Continue exploring the Aegean Sea by heading to the southern Peloponnese region, where the medieval town of Monemvasia sits surrounded by Venetian ramparts. Get lost in this fortified peninsula’s winding streets, lined with beautiful stone houses. Stop on panoramic terraces and make sure you take home a good bottle of Malvasia wine, a bottle of local olive oil and a bottle of mead, a traditional alcoholic drink made from honey.
Photos credits : © Istock
Explore the most secret islands of the Aegean Sea
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