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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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.

island Paros

6 of the Top Attractions Not to Miss While on the Island of Paros

When people think about Greek islands, their minds most often turn to Santorini or Mykonos, but a number of other islands are worth exploring. One of these is Paros, a mountainous island that attracts outdoor enthusiasts with its numerous camping options and a thriving watersports culture. A short ferry ride from Athens, Paros often becomes the first destination for individuals intending to island hop, but tourists who give the island more time will quickly realize its charm. With Venetian castles, picturesque windmills, and crystal-blue waters, Paros epitomizes the rustic appeal of Greece. Some of the top attractions for visitors while on the island include the following:

 

  1. Paros Park

This natural park features some incredible rock formations characteristic of islands in the Cyclades. Tourists can explore the park by walking along well-demarcated paths that will take them to some of the best vantage points in the area. In the summer months, they can take a dip at the beach of Monastiri or take in a free film at Cine Enastron, an open-air theater. Between June and October, the park features a music festival with jazz, classic, and traditional Greek concerts, along with other cultural events. Meanwhile, the Museum of the Park provides a unique perspective on the history of the island, and visitors can get even more historical detail at the Ai Yiannis Detis monastery.

 

Monastiri Beach

Monastiri Beach | Image by Sally Taylor | Flickr

 

  1. Archaeological Museum of Paros

Located in Parikia, the capital of Paros, the Archaeological Museum of Paros provides visitors with a glimpse of how the island has changed over time, starting with artifacts from the Neolithic period and moving all the way up to early Christianity. The museum is relatively small, so visitors can get a solid sense of the island’s history without burning an entire day. Furthermore, the museum features a number of notable pieces, such as a marble statue of Gorgon from the 6th century BCE and a massive statue of Artemis from about 490 BCE. Visitors should also be sure to see the Neolithic-era figurine of a seated woman.

 

  1. Panagia Ekatontapyliani

Also located in Parikia, Panagia Ekatontapyliani (“the church with 100 doors”) is a Byzantine church constructed in the 4th century. It has emerged as one of the most sacred sites in the country. According to legend, 99 different doors have been found in the structure, but the hundredth will not be found until Constantinople is again returned to Greek control. In addition, the icon of Panagia is believed to have made miracles happen. No trip to Paros is complete without an exploration of this landmark church.

 

  1. Byzantine Path

Fans of hiking should definitely devote some time to following the Byzantine Path. Built as a defense when Paros faced pirate raids, the path is comprised of stone streets connecting the village of Lefkes, which served as the capital, to other towns and ports throughout the island. A section of these streets is preserved as the Byzantine Path, which has become one of the best hiking paths in all of Greece. The trail starts at Lefkes and proceeds through olive groves and fields of wildflowers to Prodromos, a village that dates back 1,000 years. This section alone will take individuals about an hour. From there, people can hike to Marpissa, which has interesting 17th-century homes and windmills, or take the sharp uphill course toward the Agios Antonios monastery.

 

Byzantine Path

Byzantine Path | Image by Sally Taylor | Flickr

 

  1. Naoussa

Today, Naoussa serves as the primary resort town for tourists in Paros, and many would argue that it is also the prettiest part of the island. Venetians built the old quarter so that the backs of houses created a wall along the water as a defense against pirates. They also constructed a beautiful and colorful old fishing port that still features the ruins of a fortress. Here, tourists will find white-washed cobblestone alleys and passages that look almost like mazes. The town has a number of different bars and restaurants with outdoor seating where diners can enjoy the sights of the island while enjoying their meal. At night, Naoussa can become a party town, especially around the old port, so people craving some nightlife should definitely check it out.

 

  1. Golden Beach

Recognized as one of the best spots for watersports in the entire world, Golden Beach is ideal for kayaking, wakeboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, windsurfing, and more. In general, rental prices here are very affordable, although they can change between companies and across different seasons of the year. However, with several rental spots right on the beach, competition between companies helps keep everything affordable. When taking a break from these activities, tourists will find various beach-themed shops and boutiques, as well as tavernas serving some of the best seafood on the island.

skiing

6 of the Most Wonderful Ski Resorts for Winter Sports in Greece

For travelers, Greece conjures up images of sandy beaches and ruins from antiquity, but the country is also home to rugged mountains perfect for winter vacations. Tourists will find a number of excellent winter resorts that provide impressive slopes for skiing and snowboarding, with options for people of all skill levels. While Greece has become a popular winter sport destination among Europeans, international visitors are now recognizing its unique appeal, especially in the winter months when it’s possible to go from the beach to the slopes in less than a day.

Some of the top ski resorts in Greece include:

 

  1. Mount Olympus Elatochori Ski Center

Mount Olympus, famous for being the mythological home of the Greek gods, has emerged as one of the most popular choices for winter sports among tourists. Elatochori Ski Center is located on the northern peak of the 2,917-meter mountain. Individuals will find six slopes served by two lifts, as well as a run specifically for snowboarders and another reserved for sleds. Beginners can choose to take lessons from two different ski schools, and several nearby villages provide affordable lodging and restaurants. In addition, the Ski Center has a chalet where people can take a break and warm up during the day. Any travel mates who do not want to ski can opt to climb Mount Olympus instead.

 

  1. Parnassos Ski Resort

Among Greeks, Parnassos Ski Resort has become the most popular choice for skiers, especially because it’s close to Delphi and only a couple of hours by car from Athens. Mount Parnassos actually consists of two different peaks: Fterolakas at 1,950 meters and Kellaria at 1,750 meters. One of the largest resorts in the country, Parnassos features 19 runs, 10 trails, seven ski routes, and three smaller slopes meant for beginners. Children will enjoy a special playground if they do not want to take to the slopes, and novices can take skiing and snowboarding lessons. The resort is open from December until May, and most visitors choose to stay at the nearby town of Arachova. Generally, skiers should make a reservation as quickly as possible since the passes do sell out, especially on the weekends.

skiing

 

  1. Mount Pelion Ski Center

Mount Pelion is easily one of the most gorgeous regions in Greece—and one that provides a rich cultural experience as well. The area around the mountain is dotted with charming villages, as well as beaches and thick forests great for hiking. Here, especially in the village of Volos, travelers will find the traditional spirit tsipuro, similar to ouzo but without the anise flavoring. The resort itself does not always have snow, so it is important to check beforehand; when operating, it has five slopes and a chalet with both food and accommodations. The Ski Center also has clearly marked trails that take hikers to great vantage points.

 

  1. Kalavrita Ski Center

Another option not far from Athens is Kalavrita Ski Center on Mount Helmos, which is 2,340 meters high. Kalavrita boasts 12 slopes, half of which are rated as easy. While skiers and snowboarders with less experience will enjoy these options, two of the runs are marked as difficult, so experienced athletes can still have fun. In addition, two of the runs are specifically for beginners, and there are separate areas for snowboarders and skiers who like doing tricks. Most visitors will stay in Kalavrita, a quaint town known for its small train that transports people to the mountain from the waterfront town of Diakofto through the Vouraikos Gorge. At certain parts of the year, it is possible to go skiing in the morning and then swimming in the sea that same evening by a short train ride alone.

 

  1. Velouxi Ski Resort

Located in Karpenissi, Velouxi Ski Resort has 18 different slopes of varying difficulty, as well as a snowboard park and a shop for renting skimobiles. The resort is on Mount Tymfristos, which is 2,220 meters high. The greater region, called Evrytania, is known as Little Switzerland, although travelers from the United States have also compared it to the mountainous part of North Carolina. While most visitors stay in Karpenissi, a number of other villages nearby also have accommodations. Plus, the tavernas in this part of Greece are famous for their grilled meat and dishes made with fresh trout.

children

 

  1. Kaimaktsalan Ski Center

One of the most luxurious ski resorts in Greece, Kaimaktsalan Ski Center sits on the northern slope of the 2,480-meter Mount Voras. Individuals will find 13 different runs, as well as four ski trails, a park for snow tubing, and a designated area for snowboarding. Kaimaktsalan has earned the name “Winter Mykonos” because it attracts a wealthy, affluent crowd. Travelers who want to stay in a less ritzy town can look into Edessa and Florina, two charming villages. The resort is also not terribly far from the major city of Thessaloniki.