Friday, July 25, 2014, 6:15pm
Introduction to the GREEK ISLANDS
Date travelled: CORFU - July 1993
Date travelled: RHODES - 15th Sept to 22nd Sept 1999 &
30th June to 7th July 2001
Date travelled: CRETE - 19th September to 3rd October 2002
Tour Operator: Not available
Although I had been to Paris for a weekend and spent my honeymoon in Canada, Corfu (Greek name:Kerkyra) was my very first package holiday. It had taken a while to convince my other half (Paul) that a holiday in the sun would 'do us the world of good'. Unfortunately for me it was everything Paul hated and I must confess that one week in Corfu was enough even for me!
Our accomodation left a lot to be desired and appeared to me to be a converted garage. It had metal shutters at the front and was completely windowless. Not a good start. The pool was nice and the weather was beautiful, so it wasn't all bad. We hired a car for a couple of days (that's all it takes to drive round the island) and after visiting Roda, Sidari, Ipsos, Corfu Town, Ag Stefanos, Kavos and Paleokastritsa decided that the resort we had picked, Kassiopi, had been a very good choice despite the accomodation.
Kassiopi is a small fishing village on the north eastern tip of Corfu, about 22 miles from Corfu Town. Reached by a winding road that leads around the foot of Mount Pandorkrator with views over to Albania, Kassiopi is an attractive resort. The narrow main street is lined with a variety of tavernas & bars, shops selling locally produced lace and crocheted goods and small mini markets. Kassiopi has four small, pebbly beaches but if the beach is not for you then there is a local bus to Corfu Town every day which takes about 90 minutes.
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean Sea. It is also one of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece.Tourist attractions in Crete include archeological sites at Knossos, Phaistos, Gortys and many other places, the Venetian castle in Rethymno, the Samaria Gorge and many other minor gorges (Agia Irini, Aradena, etc).
Rethymno is one of the main cities of Crete and one of the loveliest. Stroll through its old, narrow lanes with the wooden balconies, the tall minarets and the Venetian mansions. It is divided into the Old Town and the New Town which are both delightful. The old part of Rethymno is particularly beautiful, full of old buildings and stone-paved narrow alleys. A huge Venetian fortress, Fortetza, overlooks the city. Built on the Paleokastro hill by the Venetians around 1574 in order to protect the harbour and the city, it is an imposing construction with strong and thick walls, four bastions and three entrances. The fortress used to encircle various public buildings, ammunition storerooms, barracks and an army hospital but, today, only the walls, the cisterns and a beautiful mosque with a large dome (the Ibrahim Can Mosque which was initially a Venetian church) have survived. An endless sandy beach and the impressive gorge of Kourtaliotiko are worth visiting. Excellent taverns with Greek music, modern bars of all kinds of atmosphere and night clubs playing all kinds of music can be found in Rethymno Town.
We stayed at the Christina Apartments, situated 6km from the main town of Rethymno, in an area called Adelianos Kampos just a short walk from the village of Platanes. The apartments are very basic with a small (tiny!) pool at the front of the building. I would recommend the White Lady restaurant which is a few minutes from the Christina Apartments. The food is excellent, even for vegetarians, and the atmosphere is brilliant. Beware of their cocktails, especially Sex on the Beach, they are extremely potent!
Knossos is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete. Knossos, also known as the Palace of Minos, was discovered in 1878 and excavated in 1900 by Sir Arthur Evans, an Englishman. We visited this site via an organised tour and it was horrendous. Hundreds of tourists were milling around the site and we had to queue, for up to 30 minutes in the blazing sunshine, to see the Throne Room and the Dolphin Sanctuary. If you intend to visit the site I would suggest going early in the morning when hopefully the site is less crowded.
The world famous Santorini is the last of the Cyclades islands to the south and is located 63 nautical miles north of Crete. We refer to it as one, but actually it is a complex of five islands. Santorini (Thira) is the main island and around it Thirasia and Aspronisi (parts of the ancient Stroggili) and the two volcanic islands Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni. It was one island named Stroggili (circle in Greek) until about 1645 BC, when the volcano in the middle of the island erupted and Caldera was created. The two volcanic islands appeared much later from various eruptions starting from 157 BC until the last one in the 20th century (1950).
The ancient city at Akrotiri is not merely the most important archaeological site on the island, it is also the most important prehistoric settlement found anywhere in the Eastern Mediterranean. Akrotiri could be called the prehistoric Pompeii of the Aegean.
We visited this volcanic island on a day trip from Crete. The journey by boat took approximately five hours and within an hour of arriving there was a torrential downpour which lasted most of the afternoon. This happened not long after our tour guide told us it never rains on Santorini!
Rhodes is the third largest Greek island and, officially, the sunniest place in Europe. It is situated at the island's most northerly point and ringed by sea on the east and west. Rhodes (Rodos in Greek) combines the cosmopolitan character of a contemporary city with the picturesque of the medieval town, which gives the impression of having been untouched by the passage of time. The main harbour of Rhodes town is Mandraki & this is where the majority of the day trip boats are moored. It is also a fashionable place to visit for morning coffee. The town of Lindos is the tourist capital of the island. Often described as a quaint island village, in reality it is a resort with a small village at its centre. The beach is excellent but crowded in summer. The village itself is closed to traffic and is a labyrinth of tiny streets and alleys that make wandering through the town an adventure. The famous Acropolis of Lindos, dedicated to the godess Athena, is the most well known of all ancient sites in the Dodekanese and can become very crowded in the summer months. Donkeys can be seen transporting tourists to the top of the hill fortress. Pefkos & Lardos are situated further south from Lindos and are havens for sun worshippers while Faliraki is the noisiest and liveliest resort. So if you are looking for a quiet holiday retreat give Faliraki a miss.
Symi is situated 24km north of Rhodes and is famous for its' production of sponges and spices. It is relatively unspoiled and the approach to the island is quite beautiful. Boats to Symi leave Mandraki harbour each morning at 9am and usually call in at Panormitis monastery, dedicated to St. Michael, where the bells of the Monastery of the Archangel Michael ring out in greeting as boats approach Panormitis harbour. The church is laden with frescoes and icons and there is an exhibition of the church's treasures and ancient sponge diving equipment in the small museum.
The port of Gialos on Symi is said to be the loveliest in Greece. At the sponge centre you can learn all about the private life of a sponge, the best kind to buy, and how to look after it once you get home. The islanders manage to earn a frugal living from sponge-fishing and handicrafts. You will find plenty of restaurants, tavernas, craft shops and stalls selling local products such as honey (yummy), herbs, spices and essential oils. I would definitely recommend a day trip to Symi.
** Information on the travel pages was correct at the time of publishing. Passport & Visa information applies to UK citizens.