hydra

5 Exciting Reasons to Visit the Greek Island of Hydra

While the larger, more popular Greek islands like Santorini have a lot to offer tourist, people sometimes want a more relaxed experience. One of the most unique stops that people can make while island hopping in Greece is Hydra, a fairly large carless island that is located not far from Athens. The island offers great nightlife and a number of opportunities to spot celebrities who regularly vacation there. Furthermore, the island only allows buildings that are representative of traditional architecture. That feature, combined with the fact that water taxis and donkeys are the primary modes of transportation, make Hydra a unique destination.

Hydra as a municipality consists of two primary islands, Hydra itself and Dokos, although several smaller and uninhabited islets are also located nearby. The main town, known as Hydra port, is tiny, but has some great shops and restaurants. The island as a whole is largely known for its arts scene, and part of the Greek School of Fine Arts is based on the island. Individuals can easily reach the island by boat or hydrofoil from the mainland or other island destinations. Once they arrive there, a number of exciting options exist, including the following:

 

1. Breathtaking Churches

While Hydra is a relatively small island, it has hundreds of churches and six monasteries. While is can be hard to choose which one to see during a short visit, the Monastery of the Assumption of Virgin Mary should definitely be on the list. The structure, which is the main cathedral on the island, is situated in the center of the harbor just underneath a large clock tower. According to legend, a nun built the cathedral after arriving at the island in 1643. The structure was built in a Byzantine style and has frescoes that date back to the 18th century. Inside, visitors will find a vast array of Orthodox decorations.

greek church

 

2. Gorgeous Beaches

Like the other islands throughout Greece, Hydra has its fair share of picturesque beaches with crystal waters. One of the most popular ones is Vlychos Beach, which can be reached by water taxi or on foot from the main town. The beach remains rather quiet and undisturbed. Slightly closer to the main town is Kaminia Beach, which is located in a small fishing village that has some great restaurant choices. Another beach near the main town is Spilia, which has a number of rocks and is ideal for diving. One of the more remote choices is Agios Nikolaos, a beach sheltered within a charming cove. For a great panoramic view of mainland Greece, visitors should head to Plakes Vlychos. Since the beach is located in front of the Four Seasons, individuals can arrive there via a boat hired by the hotel to serve as a taxi.

 

3. Intriguing Museums

A number of different museums are located on Hydra. Perhaps the most well-known one is the Historical Archives Museum, which dates back to 1918. The museum displays various artifacts and documents related to the island and is a perfect way to obtain a sense of its traditions and culture. The museum also has an extensive library. Another option is the Ecclesiastical Museum, which is located in the former cell of a monk. One of the newer museums, it has displayed various holy vessels, manuscripts, and jewelry related to the church since 1999. Many of the mansions on the island have also been converted to museums, including one dedicated to Greek War of Independence leader Lazaros Koundouriotis. The home features various art and furniture that once belonged to his family.

 

4. Animal-Based Exploration

As stated above, donkeys have become one of the primary forms of transportation on the island, especially when people need to carry large items with them. Guests can hire someone to transport them via mule, and more than 1,000 of the animals live on the island. For a different experience, individuals can book a horseback adventure that lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to an entire day. Available itineraries include coastal walks and longer hikes up into the steeper terrain of the mountain.

hydra donkeys

 

5. Engaging Hikes

Due to the lack of cars, many people choose to get around the island by simply walking. As a result, a number of different walking routes exist. One of the most beautiful routes exists between the main town and Kamini, a small fishing village. This route is located off the beaten path and away from tourist shops, meaning that individuals can obtain a genuine feel for the island as they pass by churches, mansions, and even old ruins. Along the path is Sunset Restaurant, a great place to have dinner and watch the sun go down over the water, with mainland Greece in the background. More adventurous travelers may enjoy climbing the bastions. Hydra used cannons to protect itself during the 18th century, and the bastions still exist on both sides of the harbor. While climbing up to them, individuals will discover great views of the Aegean Sea while having an opportunity to experience some unique Greek history.

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greek church

7 of the Most Inspiring Churches in Greece Worthy of a Visit

Churches are an integral part of the Greek landscape, with structures ranging from simple chapels to magnificent displays of architecture and art. A number of renowned architects and builders, not to mention painters, have contributed to the rich collection of churches, cathedrals, and more that exist throughout the country.

The oldest churches date back to the 4th century AD. However, many key structures from the ancient world, such as the Parthenon, functioned as Christian gathering points during certain periods in history.

Travelers in Greece will find churches everywhere. Many of them are worth a visit, especially for people who like the particular style of Greek Orthodox art and design. Some of the must-see churches and cathedrals in Greece include:

 

  1. Church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani

Located on the island of Paros in the Cyclades, the Church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani dates back to the middle of the 4th century. This makes it one of the earliest Byzantine churches in existence.

The name of the structure means “Church of 100 Doors,” although legend has it that only 99 doors are actually visible when people tour the building. The hidden 100th door will appear only when Constantinople is returned to the Greeks, according to local myth.

The building is incredibly ornate. It contains breathtaking stone details and many gold decorations.

 

  1. Church of Agia Anna

In some ways, the Church of Agia Anna is the opposite of Panagia Ekatontapiliani. A small chapel, the church represents a very traditional and simple style with basic white walls and minimal decoration.

Church of "Agia Anna"

Image by Tilemahos Efthimiadis | Flickr

The structure sits on the top of a rock right by the water on Agia Anna Beach on Amorgos. Not far from the church is the Monastery of Hozoviotissa, which is also worth a visit.

The monastery was built directly into the face of a cliff hundreds of meters above the sea in the 11th century AD. A miraculous icon of the Virgin was found at the site, which prompted the construction.

 

  1. Church of the Seven Martyrs

Sifnos has been called the island of 336 churches, although this is actually an urban legend. However, the island does boast an overwhelming number of small chapels and monasteries. The one that attracts the most visitors remains the Church of Seven Martyrs, which is on top of an islet close to the village of Kastro.

The church perfectly represents Cycladic style. Its white and blue dome reflects the clear waters nearby. People may actually recognize the church as they approach. It has become one of the most photographed locations in the Greek islands.

 

  1. Church of Agios Isidoros

Another church that has attracted a lot of photographic attention is the Church of Agios Isidoros on Chios. It is not far from Sykiada on the northern part of the island. This church is in the midst of a bay. A long pier stretches out from the rocky beach to reach the structure.

An early Christian temple once occupied the tiny island and was later replaced by this small chapel. While it looks fairly humble from the outside, Agios Isidoros has some incredible design elements located within. These include mosaic floors and a crypt with holy relics.

 

  1. Church of Agios Ioannis

This church gained fame because it was featured in the movie Mamma Mia. However, it attracted people to the island of Skopelos even before that. The structure is located on the top of a cliff close to a village named Glossa.

Church of Agios Ioannis Prodromos

Image by Ava Babili | Flickr

Visitors need to trek up 106 steps to reach the church. They are rewarded with 360-degree views of the island and the surrounding waters. The cliff itself stretches out into the water. This means the panorama is unlike any other on the island.

 

  1. Church of Megalochari

One of the most important places of worship in all of Greece is the Church of Megalochari on the island of Tinos. Located on a hill above Chora, the church was built to celebrate and house an icon of the Virgin Mary.

Greeks strongly believe this icon can grant miracles. Many people travel long distances to visit the church and ask for assistance. Visitors may see some of the most devout pilgrims enter the church on their knees as a sign of deference to the Virgin.

 

  1. Church of Agios Dionysios

A relatively new church compared to others on this list, the Church of Agios Dionysios was built in the 1890s. Today, the church is recognized as one of the most important in the Greek Orthodox tradition because it houses a great deal of orthodox art.

Because the church was constructed on Zakynthos, it was dedicated to the island’s patron saint, Agios Dionysios. The structure has a unique, calming effect on visitors. Peace and serenity seem to enshrine the building. Visitors are able to put worries out of their minds and enjoy the beautiful architecture.

delphi

5 of the Top Reasons to Spend Time Exploring Delphi

Located only a couple of hours from Athens, Delphi has emerged as one of the most popular day trips for tourists based in the Greek capital. Most people associate the city with the historic oracle and come to see the wonderful archaeological attractions, but Delphi has grown into one of the largest cities in Greece. For that reason, it has a lot to offer tourists who choose to stay there for longer than a day. From excellent food and world-class shopping to exciting historical and cultural attractions, Delphi has something for everyone. Some of the must-do activities for visitors include:

 

  1. Visiting the archeological site of Delphi

Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Delphi archaeological site attracts about 500,000 tourists each year. The site includes the sanctuary of Pythia, a high priestess of Apollo who provided consultations to the Ancient Greeks. The majority of major decisions in the ancient world were not made until after a pilgrimage to see the oracle. Visitors can see what it was like to go through the entire process, from making a sacrifice at the Tholos of Athena Pronaia to bathing at the Castallian Fountain before entering the sacred site. The Sacred Way takes visitors to the main attraction by way of the Temple of Apollo. The Archaeological Museum associated with the site provides some great background on excavation efforts and includes a number of incredible pieces, including the Large Sphynx of Naxos and a bronze statue of a charioteer dating back to 470 BC.

 

delphi

 

  1. Exploring the art scene in Delphi Village

Delphi Village largely serves to welcome tourists as they first arrive to the area. While the two main roads have a handful of cafés, tavernas, and small hotels, they also feature two gems for art lovers. The first must-see attraction is the Angelos and Eva Sikelianos Museum, which occupies the former home of the famous Greek poet. Angelos and Eva organized the Delphic Festival in 1927 and then again in 1930. Eva made the costumes for the dance and theater performances using a loom that is still in the home. The couple also helped found the village’s other major attraction for art lovers: the European Cultural Center. In addition to hosting events, the center features sculptures and paintings from Alekos Fasianos, Yiannis Tsarouchis, and Giannis Gaitis, among other Greek artists.

 

  1. Hiking around the surrounding mountains

Hikers have discovered a number of paths around Mt. Parnassos that were once used by pilgrims coming to see the oracle. Today, visitors can choose from a variety of trails of varying difficulties that provide sweeping views of the landscape, as well as nearby villages and monuments. Trekking Hellas Parnassos is a local business that provides tours of the hills for visitors who do not want to explore on their own. One of the most popular sites is Corycian Cave, situated above the sanctuary of Delphi. The cave has served as the site of pagan rituals since Neolithic times and is associated with the god Pan and the nymphs. Greek mythology explains that the cave was named for Corycia, a nymph who was a partner to Apollo. Hikers can also complete longer treks on Mt. Parnassos to explore other caves, springs, and mountain shelters.

amphitheatre

 

  1. Venturing out to the nearby village of Arachova

Nicknamed the “Mykonos of the Mountains,” Arachova has a number of celebrated restaurants, boutique shops, and trendy cafes among its picturesque stone buildings. One of the most famous ski resorts in Greece is located in the town. Because the area is known for its wealthy visitors, it has attracted a number of global brands to its main street. However, even people who don’t care to shop will still find much to do. Arachova produces some unique local foods, including Formaela cheese, Amfissa olives, and a delicious spirit known as tsipouro. Several restaurants serve unexpected proteins like wild boar, goat, rooster, and other locally sourced meats. Once guests have their fill of food, they can burn off some calories by exploring the church of St. George, which has a massive clock tower that overlooks the whole village.

 

  1. Heading to the coastal town of Galaxidi

Another small town close to Delphi that’s worth a visit is Galaxidi, which is located on the Gulf of Corinth. Here, tourists will find charming cobblestone pathways winding around town and a number of small specialty shops that sell locally produced herbs and spices. The town is also known for its various olive-inspired products. Galaxidi has two different ports, Agora and Chirolaka, so there is an opportunity for guests to venture out on the water if they desire. In addition, Galaxidi has two museums: one that examines the maritime history of Greece and another focused on local folklore and its impact on Greek culture. People who enjoy exploring churches and monasteries will also find a number of them scattered throughout the town.

corfu

6 of the Most Amazing Beach Hotels in Greece

A popular vacation destination, Greece offers visitors a gorgeous island getaway. Considering that the country 6,000 islands, the options for an unforgettable trip are nearly endless. Accommodations range from camping sites to luxury resorts located directly on the beach. While some travelers will plan their vacation around which islands they want to visit and then search for accommodations when they arrive, others may want to base their trip around the many incredible beach hotels scattered among these islands. Here are a few of the best beach hotels in Greece.

1. Istoria

Located along the black sands of Perivolos Beach in Santorini, Istoria has been designed to feel more like a decadent mansion than a hotel. The accommodations include just 12 suites for a truly unique experience on one of the most popular islands in the country. The majority of the suites feature private outdoor pools and hot tubs. The hotel itself was designed by an Athens interior design group to reflect traditional Cycladic island architecture, and the decorations pull from local craftspeople. Guests will encounter forged cement flooring that is embedded with wonderful mosaics, as well as traditional carved wooden furniture with handmade textiles. The restaurant at Istoria features incredible dishes prepared by chef Alexandros Tsiotinis, who has worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris and Copenhagen.

black sands

Image by John M | Flickr

2. Casa Cook

With 100 rooms arranged in cubist pavilions, Casa Cook offers guests sweeping views of the mountains dotting Kos against a background of white sand beaches and olive trees. The property represents a collaboration between several different teams, including local architects and a design agency from Berlin. The result is a hotel that feels likes its own little village. Each of the rooms at Casa Cook has its own private terrace and features decorations in understated tones of grass and charcoal that enable visitors to feel immersed in Greek culture. The property is the second one from the Thomas Cook hotel brand, with the first on Rhodes. The Rhodes hotel embraces spartan architecture with a touch of midcentury California design. A third property will open this year on Chania. Each of these hotels has its own unique charm and would be a great choice for travelers.

3. Vora

Another option in Santorini, Vora offers an amazing experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. The hotel is carved into the cliffs of the island, with guest rooms overlooking the Aegean Sea and the nearby volcano. Vora has emerged as one of the most exclusive hotels in the world with only three villas. Each of the villas embraces a minimalistic Cycladic design with custom-made wooden furniture. In addition, each of the three villas has a private plunge pool. Due to the rocky location of Vora, construction equipment could not be used to build it. Instead, the hotel was constructed by hand over the course of four years.

4. Daios Cove Luxury Resort & Villas

Like Vora, Daios Cove is nestled into island cliffs that overlook a beautiful bay. Located on Crete, the hotel features 230 rooms, 40 villas, and 30 suites. Many people choose Daios Cove due to the wide range of recreational activities offered at the hotel, including outdoor pools, water sports, sailing, and boat rentals. In addition, guests have access to a private beach, four restaurants, a beauty studio, and a spa with an extensive menu of treatments. The spa is worth a visit for its unique decoration and style alone. Guests can also make use of a private jet and helicopter services, as well as various limousines complete with chauffeurs.

5. San Giorgio

Recognized as one of the most luxurious hotels on Mykonos, San Giorgio embraces a minimalistic style that can be described as bohemian with many traditional Greek elements. The hotel’s design was spearheaded by Michael Schickinger and Annabell Kutucu from Lambs and Lions. The structure of San Giorgio itself reflects the architectural tradition of the island. Guests enjoy an ideal location between Paradise and Paranga beaches with a wonderful veranda that faces the blue waters of the island, as well as a romantic gazebo. In addition, San Giorgio is situated only 300 meters from the famed Paradise Club. Guests have easy access to some of the best parts of the island.

6. Naxian Collection

Naxos, the largest of the Cycladic islands, features lush valleys and gorges, as well as charming villages. The Naxian Collection consists of a number of minimalist villas in the traditional white-washed style. A local couple has developed the property to be welcoming with verdant gardens and a restrained design. Guests can explore the vineyard, olive grove, and organic garden that produces some of the food for the hotel. In addition, guests can enjoy a glass of wine with the owners or even take a cooking lesson from them. The Naxian Collection is located a short distance from Naxos town and the ocean.