Some people will complain that the Greek islands are not what they used to be. The words ‘crowded’ and ‘over-developed’ are sometimes used, but there is no denying the fact that away from the main tourist resorts, beautiful islands full of culture and ancient history await. The number of visitors to Greece seems to grow year on year, and in 2011 arrivals reached 16.4 million, almost 10 per cent up on the previous year’s figures. The debt crisis that has taken hold of Greece has created worries about whether the number of tourists in 2012 will exceed last year’s record levels, at a time when Greece desperately needs to boost its economy.
A holiday in Greece is something everybody should experience, and the 150 inhabited islands that surround the mainland are perfect places for newcomers to Greece to experience everything the birthplace of civilisation has to offer. With so many exquisite islands to explore, Greece has something for everyone, and finding pristine, secluded beaches on idyllic islands is not as hard as you might think.
This tiny island is the southernmost island of Greece, tucked just below the imposing mass of Crete, and is often side-lined as a destination to visit in favour of its larger neighbour. The truth is that Gavdos is the perfect island to visit if isolation and unspoilt scenery are what you are looking for. Saying this, you will have to keep in mind that tourist facilities on the island are basic, as they simply do not have to deal with a large influx of tourists each year, but that is what makes this island so special. The permanent population of Gavdos is thought to be around 100, but could be even lower than this.
Visitors to the island are encouraged to sleep on the beaches, unlike the majority of other Greek islands, and many people that come here are campers. There are a number of rooms and apartments available on the island, but don’t expect 5-star luxury hotels. Your entry point will be the small harbour of Karave, as there is no airport on this island. Here you will find the majority of the island’s services, including the police station and tourist information office, along with a tavern serving fresh fish, and accommodation at the Calypso rooms.
There are some truly spectacular beaches on Gavdos, including Korfos, Sarakiniko, and Ambelos to name just a few. Each has basic amenities, and you should be able to find a room, a local shop, and somewhere to eat and drink. Even during the summer months, the number of people on the island peaks at around 3,000, and it is definitely one of the best undiscovered Greek islands.
Situated close to the Greek mainland, Skiathos offers a little bit of everything for the indecisive traveller. Beaches, bars, water sports, fishing, and much more are all on offer here. The motion picture ‘Mamma Mia’ was also filmed on the island. It’s a pleasant blend of modernity and traditionalism, with everything served in moderation.
Photographer: Arne Nordmann (norro), Germany
The beaches and coastline along the south of the island are the most busy and built-up, but not to the extent there are high rises apartments back to back. The interior of the island is full of lush green vegetation, and the north of the island is almost completely empty, with very little in the way of accommodation and restaurants. Hire a car or motorbike and explore the island to find beaches with nobody else on them.
No article concerning Greek islands would be complete without a mention of Santorini. This island is ranked again and again as one of the top islands to visit if holidaying in Greece, and for good reason too. The steep cliffs, which were the result of a catastrophic volcanic eruption, tower more than 300 metres above the water in places and give this island its unique geography. Fira, the island’s capital, is built along these dramatic cliffs, and the buildings are a variety of different colours thanks to the volcanic ashes that are in abundance on the island.
photo by Yoo Chung
Perissa beach has been named one of the world’s most unusual beaches by Lonely Planet. Its hot black sand make it torture to walk over, so make sure you remember your flip-flops. It is overlooked by the enormous rock Mesa Vouno, and if you stay here until after sunset you can watch as the lights on the rock are turned on. The crystal clear water is almost always completely still, thanks to the bay being protected from the summer Aegean winds.
Tina West is a freelance travel writer from London England. Fresh from reviewing the luxurious Fred Olsen Balmoral she penned this little piece about the beautiful Greek Islands. The birthplace of civilisation and some memories she’ll treasure forever.