Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ithaca (Ithaki), Ionian Islands

In brief
Home of Odysseus, this tiny island attracts sailors and holidaymakers from all over the world. It is very beautiful, and is surrounded by some of the clearest waters in Greece.
Ithaca is truly a magical place, and stands for the homecoming. Odysseus sailed for a decade to reach his home, and many sailors believe Ithaca is the ultimate goal. Its friendly people will do their best to make you feel welcome, and it is no coincidence that many return here year after year.
General Information
(Area 96 sq. km)
Throughout the ages Ithaca has been known as the home of Odysseus. For years Homer’s hero wandered before he finally returned to his island kingdom. Though he visited beautiful, exotic, far-flung lands, Ithaca never left his mind for a moment.
And even today, once you’ve been to Ithaca, it’s difficult to forget this small, mountainous island with its captivating coves that conjure up some earthly paradise.
Ithaca is separated from Cephalonia by a channel some 2 to 4 km wide. The west coast of the island is steep and almost barren in contrast to the green, gentle shoreline on the east.
The capital and largest settlement is Ithaki or Vathy; its red-roofed delightful houses set amidst enchanting scenery at the end of the deep closed bay of Molos. Taking the capital as a starting point, it’s easy to get to know the island’s landmarks.
Three km to the northwest lies the so-called Cave of the Nymphs (Nimfon Cave). Here according to the myth, Odysseus hid the gifts bestowed upon him by the Phaeacians who deposited him upon Ithaca’s shores ten long years after the end of the Trojan War.
Also worth visiting is the medieval Monastery of the Archangels at Perahori.
North of the capital and 600 meters above sea level, the Kathara Monastery (Moni Katharon) has a unique view of the island from its bell tower. On the horizon you can make out the mountains of Akarnania, the Echinades islets, the peaks of Zakinthos, the eastern coast of Cephalonia and even the entrance to the Gulf of Patras.

The bay of Polis to the west is the site of another cave (Loizos’ cave). This one yielded up sherds on which were carved inscriptions testifying to the worship of Artemis, Hera and Athena. Even more interesting, in the cave were also found recently twelve tripods similar to the other that the Phaeacians were supposed to have given to Odysseus.

Stavros, a village 17 km northwest of Ithaki, is a good base from which to explore the northern section of the island.
About 1 km north of Stavros is Pelikata; excavations on this hillside between the bays of Polis and Frikes brought to light remains of a small Bronze Age settlement. The finds unearthed there reinforce the theory that the ancient city of Ithaca lies somewhere in the vicinity.
Kioni and Frikes, typically Ionian villages, on the northeast coast are unspoilt, wonderful places for a short excursion or an extended sojourn.
“When you set out for Ithaca”, wrote the poet Constantine Kavafis. He was referring to Ithaca as one’s ultimate destination. Thus, Ithaca, this verdant Ionian island, may become your own favorite place, a place that draws you back year after year, when you plan your summer holiday.

Ithaca’ s beautiful little capital Vathy has the world’ s largest natural harbour. Here you can visit the cave of the nymphs, as well as the small archeological museum. Local artists have their own shops, and the many small cafes and taverns will impress you.
The monastery of the Virgin Mary (Panagia) Kathara is open for visitors. It was probably built in the 16th or 17th century, and has very beautiful icons, as well as very nice surroundings.
There are also some ancient ruins just outside Stavros.

Ithaca offers lovely beaches for bathing, caves for exploring and uncrowded hamlets where noisy nightlife is unheard of. Mostly shingle with small, white pebbles, the beaches of Ithaca are small often looking like lakes or private beaches and some of them can only be accessed by boat. Amongst the most popular beaches are Aetos, Loutsa, Dexa, Mnimata, Skinos, Gidaki, Filiatro, Sarakiniko, Kaminia, Andri, Kathisma, Sikia, Alikes, Kritami and Robotis. 

Useful Information
How to get there
By Bus from Athens 
Athens Bus Authority (KTEL), tel.: +30 210 5129448
By sea from Patras and Astakos
Patra Port Authority, tel.:
+30 2610 341002, 341024, 341046
Astakos Port Authority, tel.: +3026460 41052

Useful telephone numbers
Area Code: +30 26740
Municipal Office: 33481, 32795

Police: 32205 Ithaca (Vathy) 
Port Authority: 32909 

Bus Terminal (Ithaca): 32445
Health Center: 32222, 31207

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Corfu (Kerkyra), Ionian Islands

In brief
The beautiful island of Corfu (or Kerkyra), the island of cantadas (traditional Ionian island love songs) offers a unique atmosphere and style that steels the heart of all its visitors. According to Greek mythology, the island got its name from the daughter of the river god Asopos, Nymph Korkyra, who was carried away by Poseidon.
In Homer's Odyssey we read that Odysseus found shelter here in Corfu at the end of his wanderings and received the care of King Alkinoos and his people Pheaces and his daughter Nafsika.

General Information
(Area 592 sq. km)
Corfu lies off the coast of Epirus North of Paxoi island in between Greece and Italy. It is 58 km long and about 27 km wide and its highest peak is “Pandokratoras” (906 m high). Its geographical position attracted powers in the past, from east & west. Through ancient history it was under the rule of the city-states of Athens & Corinth and later it was ruled by the Goths, Lombards, Saracens & Normans and was fought over from the kings of Sicily and the Italian city-states of Genoa & Venice.

Corfu has played an important role in the cultural and educational development of modern Greece. In 1815 Lord Guilford founded the first Fine Arts School and first University of Greece on the island with the support of Ioannis Kapodistrias who was born in Corfu to become later the first Prime Minister of the newly liberated Greece.
The island is well watered and very fertile full of Olive and citrus trees, grapes and corn. That’s why, Corfu is considered as having one of the most attractive countryside of all the Greek Islands.

Paleokastritsa, 26 km west of Corfu town, a miniature earthly paradise with its crystal clear waters, enchanting coves and lush greenery growing right up to the sea.
Angelokastro, near Paleokastritsa, a Byzantine fortress dating from the 13th century.
Pelekas, 13 km west of the town, a lovely village set on a rocky hill, whose summit – according to the Corfiots say – is the best place to watch the sun go down. Not far from Pelekas in the Ropa Valley is situated Corfu’s excellent golf course.

Kanoni, 4 km south of town is the most popular spot on the island. Here a narrow causeway leads across the water to the Monastery of Vlacherna and from there one can take a caique to visit delightful Pondikonissi and its 13th century church.
Gastouri, a picturesque hill village, is the site of the Achillion, the summer palace of the Empress Elizabeth of Austria and the last Kaiser. The Palace has many beautiful gardens ideal for a romantic walk. A part of it places an important museum as well.

Other sights not to be missed include, on the east side of the island Kassiopi, Ipsos, Dassia, Gouvia, Benitses, Moraitika and Messongi. On its west side Lake Korission (Limni Korission), the only lake on the island.
In the northern part of the island are the resorts of Sidari, with its sandy beach, and Roda, whose beach is even longer. From Sidari you can take a boat to the three picturesque offshore islands of Erikoussa, Mathraki and Othoni. Their sheltered anchorages are ideal for swimming and sunbathing. But Corfu also has another side: a vital traditional facet to its personality still very much alive in the costumes of its village women and in its local festivals.

The Town of the island offers unique and monumental spots for sightseeing. 
The Archaeological Museum, the Byzantine Museum housed in the Church of the Panayia Antivouniotissa; the Museum of Oriental Art in the English Palace of St. Michael and St. George; the Town Hall, a superb example of Venetian architecture built in 1663; the Byzantine church of Sts. Jason and Sosipater (12th century) with fine frescoes; the church of Corfu’s patron Saint Spyridon with its valuable icons and collection of gold and silver offerings; the Old Fort; the New Fort, constructed between 1576 and 1588 (not open to the public); and the Platytera Monastery with its rare post-Byzantine icons.

There are plenty of beaches around the island to satisfy various types of swimmers. Several stony beaches with calm, beautiful waters can be found ar Dasia, Ipsos, Kassiopi and Sidari with its picturesque "Canal d'Amour"; sand stone cliffs with narrow inlets, a natural archway and small paths to explore.
In addition, many choices with sandy beaches either crowded or isolated, offer visitors a wide range of swimming spots. Glifada, Benitses and Messongi; equally popular and crowded, are long, sandy beaches with lots of facilities nearby. Pelekas, Lefkimmi, Barbati, Chalikounas, Issos and Prasoudi are more isolated the most popular ones. 

Things to taste & buy
Fine examples of folk art and crafts are displayed in shops all over the island: hand-woven textiles and embroideries with intricate designs, objects of all kinds carved out of olive wood, silver utensils and lovely jewellery.
In September, Corfu hosts the well-known festival is also a worthy visit. 
While on holidays, sports' facilities are offered in the island such as ski, yachting, tennis, golf and horse racing/riding.

Useful Information
How to get there
By air from Athens 
Olympic Airways: +30 210 3550500
By sea from Patra & Igoumenitsa
Patra Port Authority: +30 2610 341002, 341024, 341046

Igoumenitsa Port Authority: +30 26650 22235
By Bus from Athens 
Athens Bus Authority (KTEL): +30 210 5129443

Useful telephone numbers
Area Code:  + 30 26610
Municipal Office: 44410, 62784-5
Police: 22353, 27778
Olympic Airways: 89622, (airport) 89600
Port Authority: 32655
Bus Terminal (urban, intercity): 28928
Health Center: 32533

Friday, November 25, 2011

Dodecanese Islands

In brief 
The letter ‘K’ brings the Dodecanese Islands to you. Karpathos, Kassos, Kastelorizo, Kos and Kalymnos seriously outrank the other dozen or so islands in the group when it comes to alphabetic supremacy.
Of course, there is more to these sun-drenched islands than their Sesame St synchronicity. Whitewashed walls, deep blue sky, olive groves, fig trees, azure Aegean waters...the Dodecanese Islands have all this and more.

General Information
Dodecanese is a group of islands in southeastern Greece in the Aegean Sea, It is located between the southwester coast of Asia Minor and the island of Crete, south of Samos, and Fourni, and east of the Cyclades. Although its name means ''12 (dodeca) islands'', the group consists of about 50 islands and islets. Only 18 of these islands are permanently inhabited.
Of these the most important are Rhodes, Kos , and Karpathos. Rhodes, on which Rhodes, or Rodos, capital of the group is located, has the largest area and population of all the islands. The other inhabited islands are Kalymnos, Leros, Nisyros, Patmos, Kastelorizo (Megisti), Astypalea, Kassos, Halki, Tilos, Pserimos and Lipsi. The total population of all the islands is about146,000 inhabitants .
Agriculture is the chief occupation of the Dodecanese, the leading crops being olives, grapes, oranges, and other fruits and vegetables. Sponge fishing is locally important (especially in Kalymnos), but of major economic significance to the island is tourism, which flourishes during the summer months.
Several islands of the Dodecanese, especially Rhodes, were settled by the ancient Greeks and figured prominently in Hellenic civilization for many centuries. The islands subsequently became Roman dominions. Following the division of the Roman Empire, it then belonged to the Byzantine Empire. In 1522 the Ottoman Turks, who retained control until the successful invasion of Rhodes in 1912 by Italian armed forces, seized the Dodecanese. During World War II, in 1943, German troops occupied the Dodecanese, and in May of 1945, the island were relinquished to British forces. The Dodecanese was formally ceded to Greece in 1948.
Nowadays, Rhodes and Kos are among the most popular and cosmopolitan islands in the Mediterranean. Kalymnos is the island of the sponge divers, while Halki, Nisyros, Kassos, Tilos and Pserimos are still kept away from the massive tourism , retaining their traditional character. Symi is a picturesque small island, which becomes popular, wild and mountainous Karpathos is dramatically beautiful, Agathonisi and Kassos are hilly and difficult to reach. Patmos is the island where Saint John the Divine wrote the prophetic Revelations, while the visitor has to make an excursion to the nearby islets of Fourni, Lipsi, and Agathonisi where one will find his or her own totally private beach. Leros is relatively quite, while Astypalea has a magnificent geographical location and the architecture matches Cyclades. Last but not least Kastellorizo or Megisti is the destination at the ''edge'' of Greece.  You cannot get any further.

Sightseeing & Main Attractions
Rhodes (Rodos)
The beautiful historic island of Rhodes is an absolute must on any Greek island odyssey. In addition to its many gorgeous beaches, there are unspoilt villages to explore and the largest inhabited medieval town in Europe, Rhodes City's World Heritage-listed old town, to savour.
Kos, home to father of medicine Hippocrates, is second only to Rhodes in its wealth of archeological remains. It's also very touristy - most of its beaches are wall-to-wall with sun beds and parasols. Instead of fighting for a place in the sun, take in some history in the capital, Kos Town, enjoy the bar life and leave your sun baking for quieter islands.
Nisyros (Nissiros) 

Volcanic Nisyros is one of the strangest and most beautiful of all Greek islands - an unusual mixture of lush vegetation and dramatic, barren volcanic moonscapes.
For a truly sacred travel experience, make your way to Patmos. It was on this island that St John wrote his divinely inspired Revelation (the Apocalypse), the last book of the New Testament. Today it is a place of pilgrimage for both Orthodox and western Christians, as well as the more profane sun and sand worshippers. Instantly palatable, Patmos entices visitors to linger and to almost certainly return.
Get away from the crowds by heading to Lipsi, an idyllic island with good beaches and relatively few tourists. Easy to get to, the place to lay your hat, and with few cultural or historical monuments on offer, day trips to the various beaches are the order of the day. You can catch a bus to most of the beaches, but walking through countryside dotted with olive groves and cypresses and small farm holdings is by far the more pleasant option.
If you really want to play Robinson Crusoe and escape the tourist hordes, hightail it to Kastelorizo. Its remoteness has ensured it has a character all its own and that tourism is low-key. It doesn't have any beaches, but there are rocky inlets from where you can swim and snorkel in crystal-clear sea. If you remember the 1991 film Mediterraneo you'll have some idea of what to expect.
Go for its uncrowned beaches, evocative abandoned villages and picture-postcard Greek island feel. If you're the poetic type you might like to see the place where Irini, one of the greatest of ancient Greece's female poets, lived in the 4th century BC. Tilos is a walker's paradise, with vistas of high cliffs, rocky inlets, the sea, valleys of cypress, walnut and almond trees, and bucolic meadows with well-fed cattle.
Rugged mountains, some of the greatest beaches in the Aegean and unspoilt villages characterise the slender island, which has not yet succumbed to the worst excesses of mass tourism. For hundreds of years the north and south parts of Karpathos were isolated from each other and developed independently, with the result that each has quite a different feel.

Windsurfing, water-skiing, snorkelling, diving and swimming are the activities de jour in the Dodecanese - what else would you do when you've got the warm azure waters of the Aegean rippling in front of you? Windsurfing is the most popular watersport in the whole of Greece. You'll find sailboards for hire all over the place, and if you're a novice, most outfits that rent gear also give lessons. Rhodes, Karpathos and Kos are the best places. Water-skiing nuts will need to head to Rhodes or Kos to get their fix. Make sure your insurance is up to date!
Snorkelling, on the other hand, is enjoyable almost anywhere, and the Dodecanese offer some of the best spots in the Greek islands. Strap on your mask and fins at Ammoopi on Karpathos, Telendos Islet near Kalymnos, Lipsi and anywhere off the coast of Kastelorizo. Diving is a slightly different matter. To protect the many underwater antiquities throughout the Aegean, you can only explore the depths with a diving school. Luckily, Rhodes has one. If you can drag yourself away from the beach, trekking, or simply wandering the pathways around islands, is another option - in the right season. July and August are a recipe for heatstroke, but April and May are just perfect. Yachting is incredibly popular - the Aegean rivals the Caribbean for its perfect sailing conditions. Oh, and did we mention sunbathing, napping and generally lazing around on the beach?

Mention almost any field of endeavour and you'll find the ancient Greeks were the first to do it: philosophy (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle), medicine (Hippocrates), architecture (think Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns), pottery (the ubiquitous painted terracotta pot), painting (frescoes), sculpture (draped nudes), literature (the Iliad and the Odyssey to name but a few) and drama (Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes). The Dodecanese Islands have much of this ancient cultural legacy in spades. You can see frescoes throughout the island group, some in better condition than others. Kos is the birthplace of Hippocrates, and there are plenty monuments to see. Rhodes and Kos, and other islands to a lesser extent, are more or less open-air museums, offering up a grand suite of antiquities, in differing degrees of decay. Other islands, such as Karpathos, are known for their folk - music and dance - traditions. Modern-day arts are very much wedded to the past, and festivals celebrating ancient drama, for example, are just one way to get in touch with the cultural riches on offer.
The Dodecanese, like the rest of the Greek population, are a mixture of all the invaders who have occupied the country since ancient times. Kos and Rhodes have a small number of Turks, while the Jewish communities on the island of Rhodes date back to the Roman era. Along with other parts of Greece, the Dodecanese Islands are rich in traditional customs. Name days, weddings and funerals all have great significance. Superstitions are part of the equation, with a range of strategies brought to bear to avoid the 'evil eye'. Religion, too, is still integral to life in Greece - nearly everyone belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church and the Greek year is centred on the festivals of the church calendar.
Eating and drinking with friends is at the heart of Greek culture, and there is ample opportunity to share in this tradition while visiting the Dodecanese Islands. The usual Greek menu can be found almost everywhere. The further you go from the larger, more tourist towns though, the more likely you will be to discover local delicacies and regional variations on traditional fare. On Kassos, for example, you can buy mezedes of kritamos, a plant that grows along the island's rocky shore line. Similarly, Nisyros has its own non-alcoholic beverage called soumada, made from almond extract. Seafood, of course, is plentiful and fresh on the islands. Many of the larger beaches in the Dodecanese have a taverna to keep hungry tourists happy and most towns generally have a selection of restaurants and kafeneia (traditional cafes). In smaller villages eating places are often connected to the accommodation.
Local Events
The Greeks have kefi in abundance - Zorba was the king of kefi - and you too can share in this lust for life by throwing yourself into the mix of religious, cultural and just plain celebratory events that make up the Greek calendar. One of your key opportunities for fun is the Greek carnival season, which takes place three weeks before the Lenten fasting period starts. Don a mask, and feast and dance with the locals. The Feast of Agios Konstantinos (20-21 May) honours the protector of Kastelorizo.
In June, fishing villages and ports, particularly Rhodes' harbour Mandraki, celebrate the long relationship between the Greek people and the sea in Navy Week. On 17 July the Feast of Agia Marina (St Marina) is celebrated with particular fervour on Kassos. The Feast of Panagia tou Harou on 22 August is the Lipsi island busiest time. August is also the month of Kos' Hippocratia Festival, so be prepared to drink to the health of the great medical man. Like Athens, Rhodes also boasts a nightly son et lumiere from mid-May to September and Greek folk dances from May to October.

How to get there
Flying to the Dodecanese Islands from the Greek mainland is fairly straightforward. Astypalea, Karpathos, Kassos, Kos, Leros and Rhodes all have flights to Athens, while
inter-island flight service operate between Karpathos and Crete, Kos and Leros, Rhodes, Karpathos, Kastellorizo, Crete, Santorini and Mykonos. Ferry schedules to the Dodecanese, on the other hand, are incredibly complicated - mainly because the islands are so far from the mainland.

Direct charter flights are available from European cities to Rhodes, Kos and Karpathos.

What you can bank on is that the shortest trip from the mainland ferry hub of Piraeus to the main port Rhodes takes about 28 hours. Departure times in both directions tend to be geared to an early-morning arrival, meaning onward island-hops can involve some antisocial hours. While there are some daily ferries between the mainland and the island group, boats to some islands only depart weekly or even every two or three weeks. From Turkey you can catch Marmaris-Rhodes and Bodrum-Kos ferries. If you're stuck for options you can always catch a lift on a long-haul boat - boats en route from Piraeus to Cyprus and Israel call at Rhodes. Lastly, you can make your way from the north-east Aegean island of Samos (and occasionally Ikaria) to the northern Dodecanese via hydrofoil. In general though, the Dodecanese are poorly linked to other Aegean island groups.

Getting around the Dodecanese
If time is of the essence you can fly between Rhodes and Kastelorizo, Karpathos and Kassos. Otherwise, get into the spirit of things and island-hop by boat. The principal islands have daily connections by ferry or excursion boat. Some of the more remote islands only have a twice-weekly ferry service. You can also catch hydrofoils from Rhodes to most islands in the group. Yachting is another excellent way to get around. Once you're on an island, you can get around by car (driving is on the right-hand side). Most towns - and some islands - are small enough to get around on foot or bike, although cycling hasn't really caught on yet because of the hills. Most islands have a taxi boat service and prices are usually reasonable.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tilos (Telos), Dodecanese Islands

In brief
One of the Dodecanese that lacks neither physical allure nor historical eminence. It has preserved its immemorial name down through the centuries and carries it today with pride. Foreign attempts to change it to "Piscopi” did not find the desired response from the locals and so failed.
Its mass rises up between Rhodes and Kos, roughly in the middle between these two islands.
General Information
Although small, this island situated to the south of Nissiros captures the imagination of anyone interested in paleontology, for here there once lived a prehistoric dwarf elephant, whose skeletons were found in one of its caves.
The capital of Tilos is Megalo Horio (literally Big Village), located in the interior to the north of the island. It is built like an amphitheater on a hillside topped by a ruined castle erected by the Knights. The village occupies the site of the ancient town, whose remains can still be seen scattered among the houses.
Some 2.5 km west of Megalo Horio, you can visit the monastery of Agios Antonios, while 6.5 km to the northwest is another monastery – with guesthouse – dedicated to Agios Panteleimon. Lush greenery surrounds this walled, 18th century edifice.
Tilos’s main port is Livadia, southeast of Megalo Horio.
The 15th century monastery Agios Panteleimon is abandoned, but worth a visit, since it is very beautiful and has some interesting icons.
You can also visit the Castle of the Knights, where the Knights of St. John had a base in the 15th century.
There are many little churches on the island, and the church of the Archangel Michael is probably the best known. It is situated in Megalo Horio.

Sandy Eristos beach and pebbled Lethra will charm you as well as Agios Antonios beach, Plaka, Livadia and Skafi. You can also try a day-trip caique tour and visit Tholo and Agios Sergios beaches.

Useful Information
How to get there
By sea from Piraeus
Piraeus Port Authority: +30 2104226000-4, +30 2104114005

Useful telephone numbers
Area Code: +30 22460
Municipal Office: 44212
Police: 44222
Port Authority: 44350
Health Center: 44210

Telendos, Dodecanese Islands

In brief
Telendos is situated opposite the village of Mirties on the island of Kalymnos. It takes a small boat from Mirties to get there, yet the “braves” are swimming to it. Actually it's nothing more than one rock in the sea with a beach in the front; an ideal day-trip destination!
General Information
If you desire peace and tranquility on holiday combined with real Greek hospitality and food and a more traditional style, then this could be the place for you.   
This tiny island has one village and no roads - you walk everywhere - if you can't find a donkey!
It also has 4 beautiful pebble beaches with little sand - ideal for snorkeling. It is a bit of a walk to the small rocky coves but worth it when you get there....
Separated by a channel only 700 meters wide, it was united with its larger neighbor until 535 AD. Though completely barren, it does have wonderful beaches with clear water on its west coast; which are still pretty quiet.  Its few inhabitants all live in the tiny fishing village across from Mirties. A caique ferries people back and forth between the two.
Sightseeing  Even though Telendos is only a small island it has an abundance of churches. Set on the rocky coastline is Agios Georgios - the church of St George so called due to the legend that behind the church lies the horse hoof marks in the rock said to be St George's steed.For the more energetic ones, there's the walk to Agios Konstantinos to consider. Set high on Mount Raki, it's about an hour and a half walk and a bottle of water or two are essential.
There are some beautiful beaches on Telendos on which to relax and soak up the sun. The cleanest and nicest bays are those of Pnigmenos, Chochlakas and Potha.  Idyllic coves with crystal clear water ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Potha Beach is also a step into the past as there are the ruins of a village house.  The next beach along is the beautiful Paradise Beach.

Useful Information
How to get there
By sea from Kalymnos
Kalymnos Port Authority: +30 22430 24444, 29304
Useful telephone numbers (Kalymnos)Area Code: +30 22430
Municipal Office: 59141
Police: 22100
Port Authority: 29304, 24444
Olympic Airways: 59370 (airport)
Health Center: 23025

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Symi, Dodecanese Islands

In brief
Symi (or Simi) has the most beautiful harbour in Greece. On either side of a steep-sided fjord rise tier upon tier of houses, some white, some pastel yellow, but virtually all with Neo-Classical pediments - a reminder that 100 years ago this was one of Greece's most prosperous islands. There has been virtually no modern concrete construction here and now these fine old houses are being resurrected for visitors. The spirit of the island remains intact.
General Information
A lovely, mountainous island, Symi (or Simi) was reputed to be the birthplace of the Three Graces.
While its interior is punctuated with small valleys, its coastline alternates between being steep and rocky or sandy and indented with little coves.
In antiquity it bore the names Aigli and Metapontis. It took its present name from the nymph Syme, who was Poseidon’s wife.
After its conquest by the Knights of St. John in 1373, commerce and shipping flourished until steam replaced sail. The stately mansions in the main town date from this period, which reached its peak in the 19th century.
The capital in the north of the island bears the same name and is divided into the upper and lower town, Ano Simi and Kato Poli. The lower town is also called Yialos. The two districts are linked by a lane so steep it has steps. Charming neoclassical houses flank it; some of them painted in warm pastel colours, with balconies and peaked, red tile roofs. Many of them also are embellished with neoclassical features on the doors and windows. Their interiors are decorated with woodcarvings, the locals having been adept at the craft for generations.
The highest point in Ano Simi is capped by the usual castle of the Knights of St. John, whose emblem can be seen above the main portal.
The traditional village of Emborios is Simi’s second port. The ancient town of Metapontis was situated close by.
One of the island’s most famous landmarks is the monastery of the Archangel Michael Panormitis on the southwest coast. Built in the early 18th century, it overlooks the bay bearing its name in a setting combining mountain and sea. 
The monastery of the archangel Michael (Taxiarchou Michael) is the most important sight on the island. It was originally built in the 6th century, but what you see today is the result of restoration and new buildings from the 18th century.
It contains marvellous Byzantine frescoes and an intricately carved iconostasis. Here, there are two museums, a folkloric and a religious, as well as a tavern.
In Ano Symi ("Upper Symi") you can see the old Castle of the Knights and visit the archeological museum.
There are also many churches all over the island, dating back to the Turkish rule.
There is no lack of wonderful beaches on Simi. You’ll find good swimming at Yialos, Pedio, Emborios, Marathounda, Nanou as well as on the nearby islets of Agia Marina and Nimos.

Useful Information
How to get there
By sea from Rhodes
Rhodes port authority: +30 22410 22220,28888 

Useful telephone numbers
Area Code: +30 22410
Municipality: 70110 
Police: 71111
Port Authority: 71205
Health Center: 71290, 71316

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Rhodes (Rodos), Dodecanese Islands

In brief
Rhodes is famous as the island of sun, sea and sand, the ideal place for vacations. It is the third largest Greek island and, officially, the sunniest place in Europe. The city of Rhodes is among the finest, not only in Greece but also in the whole Mediterranean era. It is situated at the island’s most northerly point and ringed by sea on the east and west. Rhodes (Rodos in Greek) combines the cosmopolitan character of a contemporary city with the picturesque of the medieval town, which gives the impression of having been untouched by the passage of time.

General Introduction
The largest of the Dodecanese, Rhodes (or Rodos) has become an important regional center, thanks to its location, climate and natural attractions.
It is known as the isle of the Sun. Pindarus mentions in one of his Odes that it was born of the union of Helios the sun god and the nymph Rhoda. In antiquity it also bore the names Aithraia, Ophiousa and Telchinis.
It was first inhabited in the Neolithic era. A major milestone in the island’s history, which affected the fate of the other Dodecanese as well, was the founding in 700 BC of the Dorian Hexapolis, a union of its three cities with Knidos, Halikarnassos and Kos. Its economy and culture continued to flourish until the 3rd century BC, when it was the predominant power in the Aegean. When, a thousand years later in 1309, it fell into the hands of the Knights of St. John, it became again the center of power, symbolized by its magnificent mediaeval town and the imposing castle and palace of the Grand Masters.

The island’s terrain is in large part fertile with a great variety of vegetation; its highest mountain is Atavyros (1,215 m.) in the southwest.
The capital, also called Rhodes, occupies the northernmost tip of the island. There are actually three cities on this site – modern, ancient and mediaeval. The modern town has a cosmopolitan character, many late 20th century buildings and hotels. The ancient town, which was founded in 408 BC according to plans by Hippodamos of Milesios (the first town planner), started from Monte Smith hill where the acropolis stood and extended as far as what is now the mediaeval city. All that is left of it today is the ruins of the temples of Zeus, Athena Poliados and Apollo, the Stadium, Gymnasium and the Theatre, which has been restored.
The medieval city is still surrounded by the high walls erected by the Knights. It is divided by an inner wall into two unequal parts, the smaller Collachio and the larger Burgo or Hora.

Collachio is further split by the Street of the Knights, both of whose sides are lined with the sombre stone facades of the Inns of the Tongues or nationalities that belonged to the order of the Knights Hospitalers of St. John. At the end of the street stands the palace of the Grand Masters, which today houses a collection of 16th and 17th century furniture and Roman mosaic floors from Kos. The Hospital of the Knights, another of the town’s most magnificent buildings, has been converted to the Archaeological Museum. Burgo / Hora lies to the south of Collachio; its walls once enclosed the humbler residences, the marketplace, the Synagogue and Jewish quarter, Orthodox and Catholic churches, public buildings and army barracks.

The capital, Rodos, is in itself very beautiful. Just walk around in the Old Town and see where the streets take you. Mandraki is a nice area, and from the hill of Monte Smith you get a wonderful panorama view. It is in the harbour of Mandraki the two famous bronze deer stand where the Colossus of Rhodes once was. The old part of the town is from the Middle Ages and you can visit the castle of the Grand Master as well as walk on the road of the Knights and visit the Castle of the Knights.

The island abounds in lovely and interesting places to visit, such as the Valley of the Butterflies; the village of Trianda near the site of ancient lalyssos (Ialissos) on the top of Filerimos hill, where the 15th century monastery of the same name also stands, along with the ruined temples of Athena and Zeus Poliea in the ancient acropolis; Kameiros (Kamiros) and the ruins of the Dorian city; Kallithea with its thermal baths; Koskinou, Afandou, Faliraki and Rodini.
But above all don’t miss Lindos. The contrast between the brilliant white houses and winding lanes of the more recent village built around two crescent beaches and the ancient acropolis towering above it from its austere pinnacle makes for one of the most stunning views in Greece. The temple of Athena lindia (4th century BC) coming gradually into view as you ascend the stairs is a sight never to be forgotten.The  acropolis here was only surpassed by the acropolis of Athens, and you can still see its ruins.

The healing baths of Kallithea are on the Eastern side of the island.
On the West side of the island there are several picturesque villages. If you like ancient history the "Pompey of Greece", Kamiros, is definitely a place to go. The monastery of Filerimo is also a place worth a visit.
Sianna is often considered the most picturesque village.
The Valley of Butterflies (Petaludes) is full of butterflies and is very pretty.

Finally, there are splendid beaches all over the island, some of which are equipped with facilities for bathers and equipment for water sports.
The east side of the island has almost continuous sandy beaches with calm waters; Rhodes town beach, Ialyssos, Ixia, Afandou, Faliraki, Kallithea, Ladiko (Anthony Quinn bay), Kolymbia, Tsambika, Agathi, Stegna, Vliha, Glistra, Lahania, Lindos. Beaches on the west are mostly more stony. The wind mostly comes in from the west and also the sea tends to be somewhat rougher to the west so that side of the island is better suited to surfing or kite boarding; Gennadi beach near Prasonisi at the south-west coast of the island is very popular among surfers and kite boarders.

Things to taste & buy
Local sparkling wine (Cair)
Ceramic souvenirs from the "Keramik factory"

Useful Information
How to get there
By air from Athens 
Olympic Airways: +30 2103550500
By sea from Piraeus
Piraeus Port Authority: +30 2104226000-4, +30 2104114005

Useful telephone numbers
Area Code: +30 22410
Municipal Offices: 61200
Police: 44140, 27423
Olympic Airways: 20359 (tickets), 23998 (airport)
Port Authority: 28888, 22220
Health Center: 80000, 60100, 80252

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pserimos, Dodecanese Islands

In brief
Its sparse population consists of sponge fishermen and their families. Its pretty beaches make it a wonderful place to relax. This tiny island lies to the southeast of Kalymnos and north of Kos and is about 6 n.m. (40 minutes) away from them. There is a small village in the harbour of the island. From there boats connect to Kalymnos on a daily basis. It is the perfect place for those seeking easygoing holidays, as there are nice beaches and also ruins of an ancient city.

General Information
It is also called Kapari probably because this plant (the caper) grows on the island or because according to another view, the name derives from the Italian capra (goat), as mentioned in nautical maps that fed on caper. Smaller islets like Plati, Krevati and Vasiliki surround the central island. On the island there are remnants of basilicas, which date back to the 5th century. Pserimos has only one settlement on its southwest side. Behind this settlement there are olive trees and pine trees.

Place of the same name and the only offers a wonderful, fine-grained sand beach, a handful of taverns and above all a relaxing, enjoyable and simple village life.
Walk around this small island and discover idyllic places that will be long remembered!

Along the west coast one finds beautiful, lonely sand beach sections with caves below the church Grafiotissa.
Coastal regions covered with gold-yellow sand offering cool waters, i.e. Mathies and Maratonda can be reached on foot after 30 minutes’ walk.

Useful Information
How to get there
By sea from Kalymnos
Kalymnos port authority: +30 22430 24444,29304 

Useful telephone numbers
Area Code: +30 22430
Police: 23197
Port Authority: 24444

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lipsi, Dodecanese Islands

In brief
Not far from Patmos is a group of tiny islands, known collectively as Lipsi. They cluster round the largest, the only one which is inhabited, Lipso or Lipsi. Located in the Northern Dodecanese, south of Samos, north of Leros, east of Patmos, with just about 700 residents, it is a quite island where people still live a traditional lifestyle and farmers still ride on their donkeys, mules or horses to the fields.
General Information
Most of the island’s real estate; its land was owned by the Monastery of St John the Baptist, on Patmos. Today, you can see small, white, blue domed churches dotted all over the island’s rolling hills, which gently slope down to meet the sparkling sea. Lipsi’s coastline consists of a number of small bays, sheltered coves & beaches with shallow crystal clear waters. Relax away your day at the beach or at sea, to one of the other nearby islands and then enjoy the evening at a taverna in the village harbour.
Here you will find beautiful sandy beaches and translucent waters. The island is so small that you can go everywhere you want to on foot. The hamlet on the protected natural harbour is composed of spotless whitewashed houses, while its mini-piazza boasts tavernas, ouzeri, cafes and other eateries.
Lipsi is ideal for people who enjoy a quiet holiday close to unspoilt nature in the beautiful Mediterranean climate. There are also little islands around Lipsi. During the season there are boats crossing over and back. Spending a day on one of these little islands, swimming, getting a tan, snorkelling in crystal clear waters, BBQing on tiny “private” coves, would be an unforgettable experience. But if you are the “travelling type” you can always take a day trip to Patmos, Leros, Kalymnos, Kos or Samos, to go sightseeing or shopping.
Christianity has a strong foothold here, which can be seen in the many churches and religious celebrations on Lipsi. In the capital, Lipsi, there are several churches with blue domes, the most dominating being the church of Agios Ioannis (St. John). Enjoy strolling around here! There is a small museum with archaeological findings and icons.
The mountain at Kimissi used to be a hiding place for hermits, and here there is a 16th century Church dedicated to the Sleep of the Virgin Mary (Kimissi tis Theotokou). It is very pretty and open to visitors.
A selection of 14 major beaches along with the innumerable small ones and tranquil little coves, makes your holidays anything but boring. Lientou, by far the most popular, at a very short distance from the harbour, Kampos, Platys Gialos; a beautiful sandy stripe of land on the sea and sandy Papandria are a few close to the harbour, at walking distance. Chochlakoura with pebbles and beautiful caves, Tourkomnima and Xirokampos, Monodendri and Kamares, slightly remote beaches of wild beauty definitely worth a visit.

Useful Information
How to get there
By sea from Piraeus
Piraeus Port Authority, tel.: +30 2104226000-4, +30 2104114005

Useful telephone numbers
Area Code: +30 22470 

Municipal Offices: 41206, 41209
Police: 41222  
Port Authority: 41133
Health Center: 41204 

Kos, Dodecanese Islands

In brief
Very popular with Scandinavians, Kos Island is rich in archaeology including Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Venetian sites. Many of the beaches can be quite crowded just as they are in other popular islands, but not everyone comes to Greece to be alone…despite the amount of tourists in the summer you can still get away and enjoy private moments by the sea. The interior of the island is still undeveloped, fertile and agricultural and best of all, largely flat so that riding bicycles (and of course motorbikes) is a fun way to get around.

General Information
Kos is the island that gave the world Hippocrates, the father of medicine. The third largest of the Dodecanese, it is long and narrow in shape, mostly flat with two low mountains, Dikaio (875 m.) and Simpatro that run along its southern coast.
It lies south of Kalymnos and was first inhabited in the Neolithic era. In 700 BC, it joined together with Lindos, Kameiros, Ialyssos, Knidos and Halikarnassos to found the Dorian Hexapolis.
In the 4th century B.C., Asklepieion became famous as the leading “hospital” of antiquity.

The capital, Kos, is situated in a verdant district on the northeast of the island, at the back of an open bay. Around the port you can still see the ruins of the ancient city and the castle, built between 1450 and 1478 after the Knights of St. John took over the island.
Excavations in the ancient city brought to light building foundations of the Classical era (e.g. the Agora) and of Hellenistic and Roman times (the Gymnasium, Odeon, Roman baths, a Roman mansion with beautiful mosaics), sections of wall from the Classical period, the foundations of a temple of Aphrodite and another temple, probably dedicated to Heracles.

The rest of the town is modern and well laid out, with contemporary buildings, hotels and avenues lined with palm trees. In a lush area 4 kilometres west of town, you’ll find the Asklepieion (Asklipiio) or Sanctuary of Asklepios. Its buildings, owing to the slope of the site, stand on four different terraces united by a marble staircase. The view from the highest one is stunning.
The most important structure is the temple of Asklepios, a Doric peripteral temple erected in the 2nd century BC. Other buildings include the Stoa (Colonnade), which housed Hippocrates’ medical school and the Bomos or Great Altar (3rd century BC), which was decorated with sculptures attributed to the son of Praxiteles.

During your visit to Kos, it would be well worth your while to visit the pretty villages, which are scattered round the island. Among them are Asfendiou, 14 kilometres southwest of town, built on the slopes of Mt. Dikaio overlooking the sea; Pili, further south, with its ruined Byzantine castle and the Ypapanti church within it; Andimahia, perched on a plateau in the middle of the island; Thermes, with its hot springs and spa and Kardamena, a seaside resort, both on the east coast; Tingaki (near the airport), Marmari, and Mastihari, Kos’s second harbour, on the north coast; and finally Kefalos on the southwest coast with its splendid beach. The ruins of the ancient town of Astypalaia can be seen at the district known as Palatia nearby.
You’ll find wonderful beaches all over the island. You can reach the closer ones by bicycle, a popular means of getting around on Kos.

Starting with the capital, Kos, there is an interesting archaeological museum, the Kastro from the 13th century, where the knights of St. John had a stronghold, the plane of Hippocrates where he supposedly taught and read, as well as the Mosque of Gazi Hassan Pasha from 1786.
There is also an archaeological excavation area here where ruins from the ancient agora have been found. Houses, temples, baths and mosaics from different eras have been found here as well as the statue of Hippocrates. You can visit the Roman Villa, Casa Romana, which is a replica of an ancient Roman house open for visitors.

Asclepion is a must for those interested in ancient history. Here, the great temple of the god of medicine lays, and it dates back to the 4th century BC, but might be even older than that.
Kos has many small villages worth visiting, and it is a good idea to rent a vehicle and explore them on your own. Palio Pylio is a deserted village from Medieval times, where there are many interesting little churches and a kastro. In Asfendiou there are very old churches and the Kastro of the Knights of St. John. Kefalos used to be the capital, Astypalea, in ancient times, and there are excavations going on here. Kardamena has a Byzantine church dedicated to Agios Theodotas, in Antimachia there is a Venetian castle, Zia is built like an amphitheatre with many little churches and shops.
You get the best sunsets on the southern peninsula Moni Agiou Theologou.

Kos has a lot of swimming options all around the island and can satisfy all kinds of swimmers.
Well known, organized beaches with extensive facilities such as Psalidi & Lambi just outside the town of Kos, Thermes beach with volcanic pebbles & hot seawater due to the nearby mineral water springs and Agios Focas at the northern side just before Thermes.
At the northwest side of Kos, there are well known sandy beaches such as Mastihari, Marmari and Tigaki.
At the southern coast of Kos, near Kefalos village there are many beaches, most of them long and sandy such as Limnionas, Agios Theologos, Kamari, Kefalos, Agios Stefanos, Kamila, Paradise, Magic beach (Polemi), Chryssi akti (Golden Coast) and Kardamena.

Useful Information
How to get there
By air from Athens 
Olympic Airways: +30 2103550500
By sea from Piraeus
Piraeus Port Authority: +30 2104226000-4, +30 2104114005

Useful telephone numbers
Area Code: +30 22420
Municipal Office: 23226, 28223 
Police: 28211
Port Authority: 26594-5 
Olympic Airways: 28331-2 (tickets), 51590 (airport)
Health Center: 23423, 28050