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Winter light in the Greek islands

The season’s soft light makes the winter colours warmer, and mild temperatures raise our spirits and provide us with just the right boost to start exploring Greek nature. And if you thought that the only proper time to visit the Greek islands is during the summer months, well… it’s time for you to reconsider!


Follow the light in

Cosmopolitan Corfu Island

Where: The northernmost island in the Ionian Sea

 



Why: Corfu is known for its great Italian finesse; its cosmopolitan Venetian character impresses visitors any time of the year. According to Greek mythology, Corfu is the green island of the Phaeacians, the last place Odysseus visited before he reached Ithaca, his beloved homeland. Corfu is one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean, with a luxuriant countryside and impressive sights.

What to visit: The famous Old Town of Corfu, and the lovely Spianada, one of the prettiest squares in Greece; the Old Fortress to the East and a cricket court on the grounds. Walk along kantounia (the narrow alleys in the Old Town) and admire the grand old gentry’s houses.
Enjoy a stroll along beautiful Liston, adorned with elegant colonnades. Visit the imposing church of Saint Spyridon, patron saint of the island, and notice its crimson bell tower. Admire the palace of Saint Michael and Saint George, the only Georgian-style monument in the entire Mediterranean basin. Southwest of the town centre, at a 10km distance, lies Achilleion - an 19th century architectural gem. Picture-perfect Pontikonisi is a small island and it is considered Corfu’s landmark. Visit the town’s impressive Archaeological Museum, Antivouniotissa Museum (housing Byzantine exhibits) and the Banknote Museum.

Travelling tip: Head NW to Palaiokastritsa area and enjoy the lovely view on Aggelokastro – a ruined byzantine fortress built on a hill looking out over the entire area. Kassiopi (N) and Kalami (NE) are two beautiful villages also recommended for your travels. And if you choose to head south, make a point of visiting Vatos, a traditional village and the exquisite Korission lagoon (a Natura area) with a lovely shoreline (Chalikouna and Issos beaches) and a small cedar forest.



Evia Island- Discover its beauty

Where:
The island stretches across the northeast coastline of Central Greece Region

 


Why: Evia is the second biggest island of Greece and the sixth largest in the Mediterranean, an easily accessible destination near Athens. There are many beautiful towns and traditional villages, surrounded by lovely nature and impressive sights, offering tempting alternatives for winter trips. Its varied scenery includes imposing mountains and beautiful lakes, and it will offer you a wide choice of activities, such as hiking, biking and horse riding, making your trip a memorable one.

What to visit: Beautiful Chalkida, the island capital, where you can enjoy a stroll by the beachfront, facing the imposing Evripos cable-stayed bridge. Stroll in the Castle’s old quarters and notice the area’s particular architecture, a blend of Ottoman and Venetian influence. Visit the town’s Archaeological Museum and Folk Art Museum.
The ruins of the ancient city-state of Eretria lie southeast of Chalkida at a 22km distance from the capital. This must-visit area used to be a prestigious Greek city, and an ally of the Athenians.
Travel south towards Karystos town; this beautiful and historic area lies at a 130km distance from Chalkida. You will see beautiful neoclassical buildings, and the most impressive historic site is Castello Rosso, a Venetian medieval castle overlooking the town.
In the harbour area you will find traditional cafes, picturesque tavernas, and restaurants to suit your taste buds. In the northern part of the island, visit Aidipsos hot springs whose reputation goes back to the classical Greek antiquity; in the area you’ll find some of the best known health and wellness centres in Greece. Make also a point of visiting picturesque Kymi village, located in the centre of the island. You will be amazed by the spectacular views over the Aegean Sea.

A tip for action lovers: Go horse riding, enjoy a biking ride, and follow the hiking trails that will take you deep in Evia’s lovely nature.


Crete: a place to fall in love with

Where: The southernmost and biggest island of Greece

 


Why: The varied terrain, the mild climate, as well as the numerous cultures the island came in contact with since 6000 B.C., when the first prehistoric settlements appeared, and all the way to 1913, when Crete became part of the modern Greek state, are the decisive factors that helped shape contemporary Crete. The beautiful and particular natural and cultural features have made this Southern Aegean Sea island a place that charms its visitors and earns a permanent place in their heart.


Where to visit:

Chania:
Chania is the westernmost of the island’s four counties; it includes the imposing White Mountains and the national forest reserve that takes up the largest part of the county. Chania town is the county capital and one of the most beautiful towns in Crete and in the whole country. The Venetian strongholds and the magnificent neoclassical stately homes create a unique setting. In the harbour you will find the town’s greatest attractions, such as the Maritime Museum and the Turkish mosque, the oldest Ottoman building on the island.

Tip for family trips: If you travel with your children, look for the small zoo and the playground in the municipal garden (designed in 1870) where your little ones can relax and enjoy their free play.
Enjoy the renowned Cretan cuisine, known for its beneficial effects on health and longevity. Nature-lovers note the region’s landmark: Samaria Gorge is the ideal destination for you, especially during the summer months. Lake Kourna is the only freshwater lake to be found in Crete; visit the area and take an enjoyable afternoon walk around it, or go for a family picnic.

Rethymno: The county of Rethymno is surrounded by the White Mountains and Mount Psiloreitis (Idi), and it is a region of great natural beauty and history. The old district of Rethymno town, the county capital, stands out for its unique architecture as it involves a combination of Venetian and Ottoman mansions that make a lasting impression on all visitors. One of the town’s major sights is Fortezza fortress in the harbour area, built in the 16th century in order to protect residents from pirate invasions. A visit to the Archaeological Museum will take you on a journey in the local history.
The historic Arkadiou Monastery is located at a 24 km distance southeast of Rethymno; the place is a symbol of bravery of the Cretans against the Ottoman rulers.
If you are a mountain lover, travel 79 km southeast of Rethymno town to Mt Psiloreitis; there you will find the breathtaking Nida plateau where stone constructions are kept, called mitata. These are vaulted stone-built shacks used by herders and they are considered as the area’s landmark. If you are a winter sports fan, you will enjoy skiing –weather permitting- at the plateau’s ski centre.
Take a trip to Anogeia, a beautiful and picturesque village built on a rocky edge, at a 730m elevation. Wander in the streets and buy handmade, colourful textiles and embroideries from local shops. Savour superb traditional dishes made with locally sourced meat and produce in the area’s tavernas. Have a memorable culinary experience!

An extra tip: Treat yourselves to some tsikoudia (strong-flavoured spirit) and enjoy listening to melodies played on Cretan lyra instrument.

Heraklion: This is the largest and most populated county on the island with some of the greatest archaeological sites in Greece. The Palaces of Knossos and Phaistos are famous relics of the Minoan Civilisation Period, the oldest Culture that flourished on the European continent, and in many respects one of the greatest civilisations in human history. This is also the birthplace of one of the greatest artists of all time, Domenikos Theotokopoulos known as ‘El Greco’, whose paintings were among the most prominent Spanish Renaissance works of art.
In the town centre, Venizelos Square is surrounded by shops and cafes. A must-visit site is the imposing Venetian Castle which dominates the harbour. Nearby, in Eleftheria Square, a visit to the Archaeological museum is not to be missed as it houses the largest collection of Minoan civilization finds. The two most important Minoan Period palaces lie within a short travelling distance: the Phaistos archaeological site is only 5 km south of the town, and the impressive Knossos Palace is located at a 65 km distance southwest of Heraklion.
Beyond the town outskirts you will see amazing landscapes. Caves, ravines and green areas shape the hinterland and invite you to explore it as you enjoy a variety of activities such as hiking and biking. Continue your explorations and you will discover out-of-sight traditional centuries-old villages, nestled among vineyards and olive groves, in valleys and mountainsides.

Lasithi: This county is surrounded by three seas, to the north, south and east, called the Cretan, Libyan and Karpathian Sea; this is the easternmost area of Crete where the varied terrain and sudden change of scenery create a charming land. You will find well-known tourist resorts here as well as luxury tourist hotels in the vicinity of destinations and attractions which will satisfy your need to get away from it all and enjoy the pristine natural surroundings.
The picturesque area of Agios Nikolaos is the county capital and one of the most visited areas of the island. In the town centre you will see a picture-perfect harbour which is connected to Lake Voulismeni, a small salt water lake only 64 m deep. The town’s Archaeological and Folk Art Museums will offer you an interesting journey to the past. Starting from Agios Nikolaos town, plan your trips to quite a few interesting destinations, such as Ierapetra, Europe’s southernmost town, visit its beautiful Venetian castle and the old Ottoman district. Travel 94 km NE of Agios Nikolaos; your destination is Vai, one of Europe’s few palm tree forests where over 5000 palm trees cover an area of approx. 250 hectares.

An extra tip: Take part in a traditional Cretan festival where you’ll enjoy dancing to the accompaniment of a lyra instrument and feasting on mouthwatering Lasithian dishes. One such festival takes place on January 17, on Agios Antonios feast day (St. Anthony’s festival) in Zakros village, to the east.


Syros Island. The beautiful capital of the Cyclades Group

Where:
in the South Cyclades group of islands

 


Why: Syros Island ranks high among the most beautiful islands in the Aegean Sea. Today, it is the commercial, administrative and cultural centre of the Cyclades, a gem of an island that impresses visitors with her elegance, nobility and cosmopolitan character. Its diverse features and contrasts, combined with the harmonious coexistence of Catholic and Orthodox communities on the island, make up its unique character. Syros is the ideal destination for a memorable, romantic weekend, as it is located within a short distance from Athens and there’s a regular ferry service running from Piraeus harbour.

What to visit: Explore the singular beauty of Ermoupoli town, the capital and largest town in the Cyclades group. It is built up the hillside, and it boasts a number of amazing neoclassical mansions and imposing churches. During the 19th c. it used to be one of the busiest Greek ports. Wander in the narrow streets of Ano Syra neighbourhood, on the hill where St. George’s medieval style Catholic Church dominates the area. Enjoy your walk on the opposite hill where the Orthodox Church of the Resurrection of Christ is located. In the lower part of town, take a stroll in the beautiful Miaouli Square where the impressive Town Hall stands, designed by Ernst Ziller, a famous 19th c. German architect. Head to the nearby Archaeological Museum of Ermoupoli, where you will see exhibits that go as far back as 3000 B.C. Visit also the Apollo Theatre, a copy in a shorter scale of La Scala di Milano, where you can watch theatrical and musical performances.
Travel approximately 12 km southwest of Ermoupoli town and visit Delagratsia or Poseidonia, a cosmopolitan area and one of the top tourist destinations on the island. Feast your eyes on the wonderful neoclassical villas that stand out for their architectural style and well-tended gardens. Syros Island is a lively place to be all year round; it is a place with a busy social life, bars, restaurants and tavernas, which will offer you a memorable holiday.

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