for Cyprus Airways
Today, tourists want experiences rather than destinations. This informative travel article takes visitors off the beaten track, providing authentic local alternatives
Think you know the Greek islands? Here we take a look at Corfu, Rhodes, Crete, and Skiathos from a different perspective: the hidden gems, secret beaches, quirky stays, and alternative eateries which are well off the beaten track.
Home of the Durrells, the stunning island of Corfu is a traveller’s dream – evergreen hills and ageless orchards falling away to glittering sands, secret coves, and an endless azure horizon.
Watching over the island from its highest point, the Angelokastro (or Castle of the Angels) conceals – deep within its ancient fortifications – the secret chapel of St Kyriaki. Converted from a hermitage to a place of religion in the 18th century, this rock chapel boasts an early Christian altar stone and age-old frescos.
Named for the island’s spiritual protector, Saint Spiridon Beach is hidden away at the very northern tip of the island. Close by the protected wetlands of Antinioti Lagoon, this Blue-Flagged haven is the epitome of Greek island getaways: soft white sand and glass-clear waters, with sunbeds, umbrellas, and a watersports facility.
Where better to stay in Corfu than the former home of Lawrence Durrell? Although not the house from the ITV series, the White House Villa is similarly gorgeous, right on the seafront at Kalami Bay, just 30km from Corfu Town. Open all year round, the upper floor boasts four spacious bedrooms maintained in traditional island style.
The only exclusively organic restaurant on the island, Bioporos restaurant’s ever-changing menu is testament to the farm’s produce. Located near Korission Lake, the restaurant is eminently warm and hospitable and Mrs Agathi, the cook, is always willing to welcome into her kitchen those who wish to learn a few traditional Greek recipes.
The largest of the Dodecanese, Rhodes is history, culture, and scenery rolled into one. From the medieval streets of the capital to the charm of the outlying villages, the island is a true sightseer’s paradise.
Just 10km inland from the airport is the Valley of the Butterflies – one of Rhodes’ most unique attractions. Although June to September is true butterfly time, the valley is open all year round, and well worth a visit for its lush nature, sparkling streams and ponds, and serene atmosphere.
On the west coast lies the beach of Fourni – rarely frequented, even by locals. A pebbled haven of crystal waters lapping a small cove, the beach offers sunbeds, umbrellas and a small kiosk. Perfect for real explorers, the cove is surrounded by rocky headlands and boasts a camping area under the trees which line the coast.
On the east coast, the three-star Lindian Polis is just 1 km from the local Acropolis (take a donkey-ride up the cliffs!), and 3 minutes from the rocky beach at Saint Paul's Bay. Four traditional whitewashed houses offer self-catering accommodation and spectacular views over Lindos, the island’s most charming hillside village.
Bang in the centre of Rhodes Old Town, and just a short walk from the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, Dromos Street Food attracts locals and visitors alike with its mix of tasty sandwiches, delicious soups and traditional bites – the lentil patty with hummus, beetroot tzatziki and pickled carrots is a favourite!
Greece’s largest island, Crete boasts ancient sites, modern resorts, and an endless array of activities for families, couples and solo travellers. Sun-soaked in the summer, and pleasantly warm in winter, it’s the Mediterranean island with it all.
In Margarites, it’s all about the pot; the clay kind that is! Known as ‘the village of the jars’ this hamlet in the foothills of the Rethymno district is the second most important pottery centre in Crete. Each of the local workshops features a different style, and the results grace many a flowered courtyard in the picturesque homes.
Hidden away at the tip of the island’s western peninsula, the secluded Balos Beach is renowned for its wild beauty. Accessible by boat (or by car, if you’re willing to walk the last 1000 metres), the pink sand lagoon leads into deep turquoise waters which are excellent for snorkelers.
A night in the heart of Heraklion at the Veneziano Boutique Hotel is a step into the past. Classed as a historical monument and work of art by the local Ministry, this historic landmark incorporates elements of Venetian and Ottoman architecture, including a secret inner courtyard and impeccably-restored stone archways.
Located in Lion’s Square, Heraklion, the award-winning Phyllo Sophies offers everything from traditional Cretan pastries (bougatsa with cream, and mizithra) to tasty omelettes, salads, and homemade pizza. Take a break from sightseeing and enjoy a lengthy brunch: delicious crêpes – both sweet and savoury – are perfect with a healthy cup of the local herbal tea.
Part of the Sporades archipelago, Skiathos is known as an Aegean paradise. Gorgeous beaches, endless sporting activities, and buzzing nightlife turn this tiny island (just 12km by 4km!) into a non-stop party.
Dividing the Skiathos port into two distinct areas, the Bourtzi Peninsula was once home to a medieval fort with two great towers. Today, hidden amongst the pines, lies a cultural centre known for its theatrical and musical performances, and the wider neighbourhood offers a host of cafés with breath-taking views of the port.
Given the size of the island, it’s hard to get away from the crowds. But Aselinos Beach, 13km west of Skiathos Town is a good bet: quieter than most, it boasts soft sands and clear waters, and is known for attracting those who want to strip it all off (literally) and get back to nature!
The Kivo Art & Gourmet Hotel above Mikros Vasilias Beach prides itself on offering the ultimate in Greek hospitality. With the obligatory views over the endless blue, it’s the sumptuous fare (traditional and tasty) and the multitude of works from local artists (lining the corridors and frescoed directly on the walls!) which make this tranquil getaway so unique.
The family-run Windmill Restaurant, high above Skiathos Town, is located in one of the island’s oldest buildings – a converted windmill no less! Multi-levelled stone-flagged courtyards host the tables, which all overlook the Aegean; fresh produce lends a distinctive Greek flavour to all the tasty treats on offer.