Winter in the heart of Epirus? Spring in the mythical land of the Centaurs? Summer on the matchless beaches of a Cycladic island? Autumn in a picture-perfect naval state? The only thing beyond doubt is that Greece is fascinating all year round! We recommend four charming destinations, one for each season of the year, where you can relish blissful romantic moments with your significant other!
Winter romantic destination: Ioánnina
Where: in Epirus, Western Greece
Why: Because only here, in the heart of Epirus, you can take in the nostalgic atmosphere of a melancholic winter evening while enjoying the view of Lake Pamvotida- the lake associated with the myths and legends of Ali Pasha and Kyra- (Lady) Frossini- or walk hand in hand along the narrow cobbled streets of Ioannina Castle Tower.
Must visit: Experience a world where Jewish, Muslims and Christians have been meeting and mixing over the centuries against the breathtaking backdrop of a castle town that evokes the spirit of a distant past. Take a romantic stroll along the Old Town’s picture-perfect neighbourhoods expanding around the Castle (Siaráva, Kourmanió, Yialí Kafené) and gaze at the well preserved edifices and monuments, the beautiful squares and the folk art workshops that produce the famous Ioánnina silverware. As you enter one of the largest castle towns in Greece through its monumental gates, you will encounter two acropolises, “Epano Goulas” with Ashlan Pasha Mosque and Its-Kale Acropolis, where the Fetihé Mosque built by Ali Pashá during the Turkish occupation lies.
Take a small boat and visit the isle of Ioánnina, in the northeastern part of the city’s lake. There, a colourful settlement with traditional buildings and historic monasteries inhabited by 150 people will embrace all your senses.
Get acquainted with the modern part of the city through walking along the bustling Avérof and Aneksartisías streets. In Ioánnina there is a plethora of grand mansions (Pyrsinella, Misiou, Despoti, Tzavella) that now house museums, libraries and civil services. The art aficionados should definitely pay a visit to the Archaeological, Folk Art, Byzantine and Vrellis Greek History Wax Museums.
Let us not forget to mention that the Archaeological Museum is a candidate for the European Museum Award 2012 granted each year by the European Museum Forum (EMF). If you have some time left visit also the Perama Cave, only 3km far from the city; it was actually discovered randomly by the locals in 1940 while they were seeking shelter to defend themselves from the bombings.
Activities: Follow a romantic biking route around the lake; go rowing or trekking through an exhilarating mountain path starting from Ligkiades and ending at the peak of mountain Mitsikéli.
Taste: Don’t leave unless you have tasted the mouth-watering traditional dessert “yianniotiko” and cinnamon-infused rakí from the local Women’s Association or indulge in sweet-smelling tsípouro together with the locals. On the islet of Ioánnina you certainly have to taste the gastronomic treasures of the lake, like trout and frogs’ legs.
Accommodation: The city boasts an excellent tourist infrastructure! From family run pensions to elegant luxury hotels, a variety of lavish sanctuaries will infuse a romantic atmosphere all over you...
Hot tips for romantic couples: The serenity of Lake Pamvotida will weave a powerful spell over you… Like a stunning mirror of outstanding natural beauty, Lake Pamvotida reflects the splendour of the surrounding landscape in its waters. To take in the most breathtaking view of the lake and the city alike you have to reach the village of Ligkiádes, on the slopes of Mitsikeli, opposite Ioánnina, ideally when the sun sets. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Zayorohoria, a complex of 46 picturesque traditional villages built in a magical setting amidst pine and fir trees with a unique traditional architecture, impressive stone mansions and undulating, natural forest surroundings.
Where: Only a few kilometres away from the busy port of Volos in Thessaly stands mythical Mt. Pelion, which according to Greek mythology was home to the mythical Centaurs, creatures who were half man and half horse. Ancient Greek heroes such as Achilles, Jason and Theseus came to Mount Pelion to master the arts taught by the Centaurs.
Why: The unique combination of superb natural surroundings, dense greenery, cascading waterfalls and gorges, romantic bays with crystal clear waters and outstanding local architecture make for a perfect romantic spring break destination.
Must visit: Mount Pelion is home to 24 beautiful villages. Set against an idyllic backdrop of olive groves that shimmer in the sunlight, dense forests and lush fruit orchards, these stone-built villages are the true gems of Pelion. Visit the lovely old village of Tsagaráda –home to a 1,000-year-old plane tree; Makrinítsa, the so-called balcony of Pelion, which affords magnificent views over the Aegean; Portariá, which thanks to its impressive traditional mansions has successfully managed to preserve its traditional colour untouched by time, and Hánia, with its famous ski centre.
Activities: Explore this unspoiled world with your better half… on horseback! The horseback trip starts in Argalastí, an attractive village in the south of the peninsula. From here you can reach beaches on both sides of the peninsula – open sea or calm gulf. The cobblestone trails among villages lead you back through time and are ideal for rides on horseback. The main trails out of Argalasti lead to many interesting locations, such as Kálamos (6 km to the west) and Lefókastro (6 km to the NW). Walk along narrow winding cobbled paths known as “calderímia”. The Hánia-Kissós path is one of the most popular among trekking lovers.
Taste: Taste mouth-watering pies and home-made “spoon sweets” (a traditional dessert consisting usually of fruit preserved in syrup) produced by local women’s associations with all kinds of local fresh fruit!
Accommodation: Ancient old mansions of traditional Pelian architecture that used to belong to rich merchants have been turned into cosy guesthouses blending mountain sophistication with luxurious elegance.
Hot tips for romantic couples: Follow a scenic route from the village of Miliés...by train! Take the legendary Pelion stream train, a narrow-gauge railway built more than a century ago by the father of the surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico, which crosses stone bridges and passes through rugged landscapes; all the stations are of unique architectural interest. Alternatively, you can enjoy blissful moments of relaxation while lying on one of Pelion superb beaches. Milopótamos, Áyios Ioánnis, Damouhári (where many scenes from the famous movie “Mamma Mia” have been shot) and Horeftó are only some of the choices on offer.
Summer romantic destination: Mílos
Why: enjoy 80 amazing beaches with your better half; among them stands out Kléftiko with its turquoise waters and Sarakíniko with white sharp rocks cutting deep into a sheer cliff; add the unique lunar landscapes, the rocky secluded caves, the mysterious catacombs, the “sleeping” volcanoes and a picturesque Cycladic Hóra and experience a unique version of romance!
Must visit: As many beaches as you can! The white rocky landscape that embraces Sarakíniko forms an once-in-a-lifetime encountered lunar landscape while on Kléftiko, which can be reached only by boat, you can dive in secluded rocky caves with crystal clear waters. Add the wild beauty of Alogomántra, the open cave of Papáfragkas, the sheltered Ahivadolímni- the biggest beach on the island where also the island’s camping site is situated- and the beaches of Fyripláka, Yérakas and Tsigrádos adorned with grayish-red rocks.
Only on this island will you encounter small colourful houses by the sea, the so-called “sýrmata”, which the fishers used as shelter for their boats in winter. Other sites worth visiting are the Catacombs of Tripiti and the mystical Sulfur Mines. The whole area of Trypití is full of caves carved on the rock that were used as family tombs.
Another highlight is the white-washed Hóra adorned with beautiful churches, such as Panayiá Korfiátissa and the Catholic Church and well worth visiting Museums such as the Folk Art and the Archaeological Museum, where also a replica of the masterpiece of Aphrodite of Mílos is kept. Adámantas, built like an amphitheatre overlooking the Aegean, is the second biggest natural harbour in Greece and is quite famous for its frenetic nightlife.
Don’t forget to visit Apollonía, on the northwestern tip of the island; looking for an unforgettable experience? Rent a boat from its picturesque little harbour to guide you through the island’s rugged beauties or to take you to the opposite situated island of Kimolos!
Activities: Milos boasts the biggest network of dirt roads on the Cyclades. Set off with your partner on a walking tour following ancient-old paths, which used to be the only “road network” until the previous century. Many of them lead to secluded beaches of pure wild beauty. Try easy routes like the one starting from Catacombs and ending at Profétis Elías (2,5 km, 35’); more difficult routes like the route Filakopí- Papáfragkas -Sarakíniko- Mandrákia (9km, 3hr) or a five-hour-route from Cape Vani to Áyia Marina boasting an astonishing landscape variety. The area of Ahivadolímni is ideal for wind-surfing, whereas the dirt road network in the areas of Emporió and Trahilas is perfect for off-road adventures.
Taste: mouth-watering handmade pies, the so-called “ladeniés” (oil-made) and “tireniés” (with cheese filling).
Accommodation: On the island you will mostly find family-run guesthouses; the big and luxurious five-star hotels have only established their presence over the last years. You can also choose to stay in one of the traditional colourful houses by the sea, the so-called “sýrmata”, mostly found on the settlements of Klýma, Madrákia, Mýtakas and Fyropótamos.
Hot tips for romantic couples: Wander around the castle district at dusk when the sun washes Hóra with its warm golden light… The Castle’s top, the benches on the courtyard of Panayiá Korfiátissa church or Panayiá Thalassýtra are all ideal spots to enjoy this breathtaking scenery that will certainly weave a powerful spell on you… How about private dives on secluded beaches and well-hidden rocky caves? Rent a boat from Adamantas Port and you will find yourself on beaches that you have never thought of putting foot on in your life!
Autumn romantic destination: Galaxídi
Where: Fokída in Central Greece; on the northern coast of the Corinth Gulf.
Why: Imagine a small “island” emerging from the mountains in the very heart of Central Greece… Nestling in a small bay, Galaxídi is a protected traditional settlement with a long naval tradition; most of its inhabitants used to be experienced sailormen while at its docks have been constructed the famous Galaxídian ships. Picturesque neighbourhoods with two or three-storey captain mansions (some of them even boast balconies adorned with carved figureheads as a sign of their naval past) narrow serpentine streets, small houses with lush gardens and tavernas lining the waterfront form an impressive scenery that actually resembles a film setting. It is not weird after all that many Greek movies and TV series have been filmed here.
Must visit: The little harbour, where fish boats cast colourful reflections in azure waters, and the small bay of Hirólakos are two of the most striking pictures of Galaxídi. In Eróon Square (where all litanies are gathered on Good Friday) you can marvel at the neoclassic building of the Virgin School, the Maritime-Historic Museum, the Folk Art Museum, the Tsalagýra building (housing today the city hall) and the churches of Áyios Nikólaos, at the highest point of the city, and Ayía Paraskeví boasting a zodiac circle carved on the floor. In the fishing village of Áyie Pántes you will indulge in fresh fish offered by the waterfront tavernas.
Activities: The area of Fokída offers a lot of adrenaline rush experiences to the couples seeking for some action and adventure! Parnassós, Gkióna and Vardoússia are among the most popular mountains in Greece for climbing and trekking fans. Try crossing Rekkas gorge through a route starting from Gkióna top and ending at Vániani plateau (12km). You can also opt for paragliding lessons at the school of Ámfissa, the capital of Fokída.
Taste: According to the local fishermen, in Galaxídi you will find only fresh fish! For dessert choose a mouth-watering local specialty, the so-called ravaní (= a semolina orange cake in syrup).
Accommodation: Elegant stone-built mansions offer a cosy atmosphere, ideal for unforgettable romantic moments with your significant other.
Hot tips for romantic couples: Spend a lazy morning strolling around “Pera-Panta” park, which covers the right side of the harbour, and let yourself be charmed by the view of the naval town sprawling on the other side; choose one of the benches lining Hirolakas, the picturesque square with the tall palm trees, that offers the most striking view to the sea and Parnassus, or sip a glass of wine in one of the cafes or tavernas of Yánthi Coast.
Extra tip: On Clean Monday join the Carnival celebrations and revel in the custom of pelting one another with colored flour and dancing around a fire (which the more daring even jump over) the so-called “alevromoutzoúroma”.