Don’t Make These 8 Common Mistakes in Greece
01 of 08
Visiting Only Famous Landmarks
Travel in Greece can be among the most rewarding experiences you'll ever attempt. But many visitors make common, preventable mistakes when they set foot in this ancient land.
The picture above comes from Santorini, and is one of the most famous scenes in all of Greece. The turquoise-topped churches and the whitewashed houses are striking, and you shouldn't miss your chance to take pictures and spend time in such places.
But take care not to shortchange yourself by only checking off a few famous spots like this one and perhaps the Acropolis in Athens. Add value to your trip by visiting lesser-known islands where you can observe the quiet everyday existence of Greeks — without having to move so another tourist can take your place for a photo opportunity.Continue to 2 of 8 below.
02 of 08
Focusing on Convenient Restaurants and Hotels
You'll see inviting outdoor cafes and centrally located hotels in most tourist spots. Sometimes it makes sense to patronize them. Other times, you might get far more value elsewhere.
Find a few English-speaking natives and ask them for their favorite places to enjoy lunch or dinner. Chances are good you'll learn about places the locals patronize. You'll get a better look at daily life and usually much better values for your money.
The same can be true of hotels in Greece, although this strategy doesn't always pan out on islands with limited tourist facilities. But there are places where a very short bus ride from the hubbub can land you in a reasonably priced hotel that can become a refuge from the tourist crunch. It's worth investigating.Continue to 3 of 8 below.
03 of 08
Mismanaging Athens on Your Itinerary
Some approaches to itinerary time in Athens are quite extreme.
For a few, the idea is to spend little or no time in the capital. They've been told the air is polluted, the people are rude and the tourist attractions are crowded.
On the other extreme, visitors could wind up spending most of their time in Greece right here, missing out on the beautiful islands and the historic treasures of the mountains and ancient cities nearby. Don't sway to either extreme. Give Athens its due and discount some of the negative comments. But don't spend the bulk of your time here if there are opportunities to experience other parts of the nation.Continue to 4 of 8 below.
04 of 08
Expecting to See Greece from a Cruise Ship
Cruising can be a very economical way to encounter Greece, especially for first-time visitors. The cost of transportation between islands is paid before you leave home, and cruise ship schedules are fairly dependable.
But that dependable schedule will create trade-offs.
If you want to see the sunset from Santorini, chances are good you'll be disappointed. The allotted five-hour stopover probably ends well before dusk. You'll be limited to hours in settings where you'd rather spend days or even weeks.
If you do plan to visit Greece as part of a cruise, understand that you'll only be getting a brief introduction to places you will want to revisit in years to come. To do otherwise sets up a budget traveler for disappointment.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Shying Away from Ferry Services
There are well-established ferry services that run between major islands and Athens. Some of the routes are served with several ferries a day, while runs to the smaller islands might only be scheduled for a few times a week.
The schedules can be confusing, and there is often a language barrier to overcome as well. A few people fear they'll get seasick aboard a tiny vessel.
But don't be intimidated. Island hopping in Greece can be a rewarding travel experience. For example, booking an overnight sailing to one of the islands could save you the cost of a hotel and add hours to your daily visits.
Be aware that simply booking a ferry passage does not necessarily entitle you to a place to sleep or even sit. Ask questions at time of booking about seating or berths. At times, those berths and the extra comfort they provide can be a valuable investment.
When Thomas Cook publishing ceased operations in 2013, it meant the end of annual published updates for the excellent resource Greek Island Hopping. There are plans to create an e-version with updates, but even the outdated copies contain valuable strategies, maps and other information useful to island hoppers. It's a resource worth consulting as you build an itinerary.Continue to 6 of 8 below.
06 of 08
Scheduling Tight Itineraries
This picture begins to tell the story of a frenetic bus station, but frankly it doesn't do the chaos justice. Confusion reigns. Some buses are late, while others are delayed. Drivers have little patience for those asking questions and they shout and gesture to express that dismay.
It's important to anticipate delays and cancellations, especially in the off-season. There are sometimes demonstrations or strikes that crop up quickly and cancel a bus or ferry that had been reported as “on schedule” only a short time earlier.
Careful planning for a trip to Greece is essential. Allow plenty of time to catch buses, ferries and airplanes, or you could be stuck with extra expenses and change fees.Continue to 7 of 8 below.
07 of 08
Failing to Exercise Caution with Taxi Drivers
Driving a taxi in Greece isn't the most rewarding of professions. Pay is low and shifts are long. The driving is difficult.
So it's not always possible to find a cheerful driver who has your best interests at heart. One common problem I encountered in Athens was not having enough small bills and change to make payments. The driver (perhaps purposely) did not carry change and I wound up overpaying him when he wouldn't wait for me to get change at a nearby store.
There have been reports of travel scams involving cab drivers here that are also common in other parts of the world. One common ploy is to claim that the passenger's chosen restaurant or hotel destination is sub-standard or even closed. Instead, you'll be taken to a place where the driver receives a kickback from your business.Continue to 8 of 8 below.
08 of 08
Neglecting Famous Sites in Nearby Turkey
This is a story about visiting Greece, but in some parts of the country, you won't be too far from the western coast of Turkey.
The excavation at ancient Ephesus can be reached by putting into the port of Kusadasi. Connections are possible from Rhodes and other Greek islands. If this can be added to your itinerary, you will be grateful for the extra effort to get there. Ephesus was once the fourth-largest city in the world with more than 250,000 people. Its magnificent multistory library (pictured here) is a sight you'll never forget.
Beyond Ephesus, you can visit open-air markets and see carpet weavers and leather workers engaged in their time-honored work. Beware of the sometimes high-pressure sales pitches you'll encounter to buy their products, but enjoy a day or two in Turkey if it fits your itinerary for a visit to Greece.
Read about common travel mistakes for popular destinations
The 13 Most Famous Movies Filmed in Greece
01 of 13
Mamma Mia! The Movie and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
By far the most successful movie shot in Greece, this modern musical based on ABBA songs is silly fun against a backdrop of Skopelos, Skiathos, and the Pelion coast.
Singlehandedly, it has probably inspired more trips to Greece than any other film shot there, and its legions of fans continue to grow with each viewing.
Released in 2018, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a new film with some of the old cast returning for an encore.
The movie features many of the old cast like Dominic Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, and Julie Walters.
Not returning is the old filming location. This time, the producers moved the filming location to the remote Croatian island of Vis, which sits off the Dalmatian coast in the Adriatic sea.
02 of 13
Zorba the Greek
This tremendous, life-affirming classic epitomizes the Greek spirit and was filmed in various locations on the island of Crete, including Stavros, a village and beach in the Akrotiri district of the city of Chania, Crete.
The beach and village were the places where Michael Cacoyannis partially filmed the movie Zorba the Greek with Anthony Quinn in 1964.
The main beach, which was awarded a blue flag designation, is known for its white sand and turquoise water. The beach lies at the base of the mountain where the scene with Anthony Quinn, dancing the Greek sirtaki, was filmed.
03 of 13
This light-hearted romantic comedy has an intriguing darker side, but it all takes second place to the beautiful Greek island of Rhodes. There are nine main characters in the film, a mixture of English, Greek, and a Greek-American. The film stars Jacqueline Bisset and a young Kenneth Branagh who has a small role.
Rhodes is known for its beach resorts, ancient ruins and remnants of its occupation by the Knights of St. John during the Crusades.
04 of 13
A guilty pleasure, this light-on-substance movie is filled with shots of Darryl Hannah and Peter Gallagher, an irresistibly upbeat soundtrack (“I'm So Excited!” is the theme song), and glorious shots of Greece.
Unfortunately, they combine several locations in Greece (including Santorini, Mykonos and Crete) into one “super-island.”Continue to 5 of 13 below.
05 of 13
For Your Eyes Only
This lively James Bond 007 flick offers heart-stopping shots of hang gliding at the hanging monasteries of Meteora.
The beauty of these cliff-top monasteries and beautiful mountain formations can easily inspire a trip to Meteora. From the early Christian times, the Meteora vertical cliffs were regarded as the perfect place for the location of monasteries. The isolation and natural beauty supported the monk's desire for spiritual growth.
06 of 13
Only a part of this is shot in Greece, but after seeing the movie many folks want to find out where it is so they can make their own escape there. If you're one of them, we can tell you it's on the Greek island of Mykonos.
Mykonos is an island in the Cyclades group in the Aegean Sea known for its vibrant party atmosphere and number of bars and discos.
Mykonos is also known for the 16th-century windmills which sit on a hill above the town of Mykonos.
07 of 13
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Starring Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz, this loosely fact-based action-romance story depicts Cephalonia during World War II. It prompted a tourist deluge for the island.
Cephalonia is the sixth-largest of the Greek islands. It is known for sandy coves, hidden beaches, and dry rugged landscapes. The capital, Argostoli, is built on a hillside overlooking a narrow harbor. To the east of Argostoli, there is a preserve, a feeding ground for loggerhead turtles.
08 of 13
Frustrated housewife Shirley finds romantic adventure, and her own soul, on the island of Mykonos. The “Shirley Valentine beach” is Ai Giannis.
Ai Giannis is known for the parties that take place during the summer organized by the beach bars there. It's also known as a beach that doesn't get too crowded.Continue to 9 of 13 below.
09 of 13
Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
Angelina Jolie returns as Lara Croft in this action-packed movie which features many Greek locations, including the island of Santorini. Your own travel adventures may vary from this fictional depiction!
Greek archaeological authorities are sticklers at preventing the theft of Greece's cultural heritage. But now there is one “tomb raider” that is being welcomed with open arms by Greece and the citizens of Oia (Ia), the heretofore quieter sister of Thira (Fira) on the island of Santorini.
10 of 13
Starring Matthew Modine, this independent film had a limited release when it came out in 2009. It's shot on location on the Greek island of Patmos.
Patmos, an Aegean island in the north of Greece’s Dodecanese island group, is an important Christian pilgrimage site. There is a cave where John of Patmos is said to have written the Book of Revelations. An 11th-century monastery dedicated to the saint overlooks the capital, Hora.
11 of 13
The Big Blue
A fascinating movie shot in part near the Greek island of Alonissos, it's the fictionalized story of a determined deep-water free diver.
Alonissos is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, the third member of the Northern Sporades. The island is somewhat isolated with no airport. You get to Alonissos via ferry from the nearby islands of Skopelos and Skiathos.
12 of 13
Two Faces of January
Based on the Patricia Highsmith novel, this movie was shot in Athens and Crete and stars Viggo Mortensen. It enjoyed just a limited release but is available on DVD.
In the film, con-artist (Viggo Mortensen) kills a detective. He and his wife (Kirsten Dunst) find that they must trust a potentially dangerous stranger (Oscar Isaac) to help them get out of Greece.Continue to 13 of 13 below.
13 of 13
“D'Agostino” was shot overlooking the caldera of Santorini, with the volcanic islands of Nea Kameni and Paleo Kameni visible below and the partial crescent island of Thirassia in the distance.
From the angle, it looks like the balcony we see in the film is located in Imerovigli, between Fira and Oia. Some scenes were shot beachside on the cliffs below. The script is minimal so there are many pretty shots of Santorini, showing scenic vistas, chickens, donkeys, shops, markets, and the iconic 'on the balcony with a glass of wine' shots.
These montages sometimes last for minutes at a time as we watch the hero walk through the winding lanes of Fira, hike in ancient Thira, and wander elsewhere on the island.
Listed as “producers” on the film are the cheerful and bright Santorini eatery Mama's House, located in Fira (Thira) and the Kavalari Hotel, a TripAdvisor Award of Excellence winner. Mama's House probably provided the catering and the hotel provided the location and lodging.
The Top 5 Things to Do on Crete
01 of 06
Mountains, Beaches and Millennia of History — There’s Plenty of Choice
Crete, Greece's biggest island, has a lot more to offer besides sun and sand. If two lazy, barefoot weeks on a beach, punctuated by strolls to nearby tavernas for calamari and resin scented wine is your idea of vacation heaven, you won't be disappointed. But there is a lot more packed into an area not much bigger than the state of Delaware that has 8,000 years of history, dramatic ruins and mountain ranges, over 600 miles of coastline and gorges for every level of hiker. And of course, there's always a beach and a tavern at the end of every excursion. Here are the top things to do on Crete.Continue to 2 of 6 below.
02 of 06
Knossos — The Capital of Minoan Crete
Visit Crete and you must visit Knossos, a Bronze Age settlement that was the center of Minoan civilization, said to be the oldest in Europe. Knossos is considered the oldest surviving city in Europe and it, in turn, is built on even older, Stone Age settlements going back to 7,000 BC. Excavated between 1900 and 1931 by Sir Arthur Evans (and still being excavated today), Knossos is traditionally associated with the legendary King Minos, and the mythical maze prowled by the Minotaur. The stories arose because of frescos discovered in the Palace of Knossos that depict Minoan bull dancers, but it's more likely the maze was at Phaistos in south Crete (see below).
The palace, a structure of about 1,000 linked rooms and chambers, is brightly painted in shades of ochre. Much of it, including parts rebuilt in concrete, is more of an imaginative recreation than an archaeological reconstruction. Evans, keen to promote his theories and preserve as much as possible during a time of political upheaval in Greece, used flakes of paint found during the excavations to determine the colors of the columns and frescos. The polychrome results are often criticized by modern archaeologists, but despite this, Knossos, the number one visitor attraction on Crete, is a huge and fascinating place to visit.
There is very little signage at Knossos so either buy a guide book or join a guided tour. Group tours cost about €10 per person and can be booked at the ticket office. Here's some other essential information:
- The site is just a few miles south of Heraklion, the capital of Crete. You can reach it by bus from Heraklion
- Admission in 2017 ranged from €8 to €15 but there is an unusually long list of conditions through which you could be eligible for reduce – or even free-admission. It's worth checking the official website to see if you qualify.
- It's an enormous site with lots of steps, hills and levels so wear sensible shoes and carry some water.
- Knossos is only partially wheelchair accessible.
- For more information visit the Greek Ministry of Culture website
The new Archaeological Museum of Heraklion is packed with objects artifacts discovered at Knossos and elsewhere on Crete. Opened in 2010 and nominated as European Museum of the Year for 2017, its collection includes original frescoes from Knossos, bare bosomed figurines of the snake goddess and several remarkable works of Minoan sculpture. And if you haven't had enough archaeological digs for one trip, plan to visit the Minoan excavations at Phaistos, believed to be the real location of King Minos's labyrinth.Continue to 3 of 6 below.
03 of 06
The Venetian Kingdom of Candia
During Crete's chequered history, it has been under the control of the Mycenaeans (the first Greeks), the Romans, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Turks and, during WWII, the Germans. They've all left evidence of their occupation but the most visible and interesting to look for in Crete's towns and cities are the signs of the island's more than 460 years of Venetian occupation. Between the 1205 and the mid 1669, Crete was a colony of the Republic of Venice, officially known as the Kingdom of Candia. It played a vital role in protecting their trade routes and their fortresses guarded Crete's harbors. You can explore several of them in:
- Chania – The Maritime Museum of Crete, opened in 1973, in the walls of the Venetian “Firka” Fortress. Walk the fortress walls for photogenic views of the Chania lighthouse, one of the oldest in the world.
- Heraklion – The Venetian fort that guards Heraklion's old harbor is known by its Turkish name, Koules, but it was originally the Venetians' Castello de la Mare. A multi-media museum on the ground floor traces Cretan history and the history of the sea fortress itself. There's also an exhibition of finds from famous shipwrecks or you can climb to the top for views from the battlements.
- Rethymnon – The hilltop, star-shaped Fortezza is one of the largest Venetian sea fortresses in the world. The Archaelogical Museum of Rethymno is just beside the entrance.
Chania and Rethymnon are well worth visiting even if ancient forts and museums are not for you. Both have extensive old towns, packed with colorful Venetian houses, tiny churches, local shops (look for pottery, jewelry and carved olive wood) and kafenion – Greek island cafes where you can eat sweet, honeyed pastries and drink strong Greek coffee.Continue to 4 of 6 below.
04 of 06
Samaria and Other Gorgeous Gorges
Crete's mountainous spine is crisscrossed with gorges. There are dozens of them — some challenging and all but inaccessible, some about as easy as a walk in the park. The most famous, the Samaria Gorge in the heart of the White Mountains National Park, south of Chania. It descends from about 1200 meters (3,900 feet) above sea level at Xyloskalo to the beach near the village of Agia Roumeli over a distance of 16k (just under 10 miles). The gorge itself is 13k (about 8 miles) and the walk to the village is another 3k (1.8 miles). After a steep descent at the start, Samaria levels out into fairly easy walking. It varies from 150 meters (492 feet) wide to only three meters (less than 10 feet) at the dramatic pass known as The Gates.
Because it can take between four and eight hours to complete, the Samaria Gorge is more of an endurance test than an adventure challenge. Years ago, hikers had to carry their own water and supplies but now, as its part of the National Park, there are rest stops with water (most with toilets) about every mile and a half.
- There's a small entrance fee of about €5. Keep your ticket because it will be collected when you exit the gorge (to make sure no one is left behind).
- Samaria is open from early May until mid October but, if you can, avoid the hot summer months and walk it in May or after September.
- You can walk Samaria on your own but if you book a group walk you can be sure that a ferry will be waiting for you at the end of the walk to take you onward to villages and bus stops. Don't worry, if you sign up for a group walk, you won't be in the middle of a parade. It just means that you have an appointment to meet a ferry at the end.
- See the gorge the lazy way starting at the bottom and going to the Gates (about 2.8k from Agia Roumeli) or into some really spectacular scenery just beyond the gates. If you spend the night in Agia Roumeli you can enjoy the easy walk in the cool shade of the morning.
Aside from Samaria, there are quite a few Cretan gorges that offer short, relatively easy walks through fennel-scented valleys or to waterfalls and cool, green pools you can swim in. One of the best of these is Richtis Gorge in Eastern Crete. The gorges are great havens for wildlife, flora and fauna of all kinds. If you are interested in exploring further, My Crete Guide has an excellent online and downloadable catalogue and app of all the walkable gorges and canyons.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
The Windmills of Lassithi and the Birthplace of Zeus
The high plateau of Lassithi, on the western end of Crete, was once covered with more than 10,000 gleaming white windmills, their distinctive sails slowly turning as they pumped irrigation to the plain. Today, more than half of them have been replaced by diesel powered pumps but there are still enough of these traditional windmills – unique to Crete – to make a photo safari worthwhile. If you're not comfortable driving in Crete (the mountain roads up to Lassithi can be daunting), hire a taxi driver for the day from Heraklion or Agios Nikolaos. Stop for a traditional Cretan lunch at Taverna Vilaeti in the village of Agios Konstantinos, on the plateau.
After, aim for the village of Psychro and its cave, the Diktaion antron, traditionally the birthplace of Zeus. It was here, according to legend that the Titan Rhea hid the baby Zeus from his father Cronus (who, ahem, wanted to swallow him). The cave, on the slopes of Mt Dicte above the village, is reached by a short, steep but paved path. Tickets (in 2017) cost €6. Inside there are several chambers, giant stalactites and stalagmites, an ancient altar and a lake. Offerings found in the cave are kept in the archaeology museum in Heraklion.Continue to 6 of 6 below.
06 of 06
Visit a Winery
There was a time, not very long ago, when the wine most often served in Cretan tavernas came in bottles with crimped metal caps and cost about 25 cents for a small bottle. The wonderful grapes grown all over the island were sent to winemakers elsewhere in Greece and Europe. But things have changed dramatically since the 1980s. Committed winemakers, using the latest winemaking technology, have been winning international wine awards right and left. The north facing slopes of Crete's mountains, particularly south of Heraklion but also just south of Chania, are covered in vineyards. Native Cretan varieties that were almost extinct are being revived and grapes of the Southern Rhone – Syrah, Grenache – are thriving on Crete, which has a similar climate. If you imagine that visiting a winery is a serious experience for experts and connoisseurs, visiting a Cretan wineries will be a delightful surprise. Here are a few to keep in mind:
- Lyrarakis Winery – The family vineyard produced its first vintage in 1992. This winery is credited with saving two rare native varieties – Dafni and the green apple scented Plyto from extinction. The tour packages are great value, starting (In 2017) at €5 for a guided tour of the vineyards and the cellar and a tasting of six different wines accompanied by rusk and olives.
- Douloufakisa – This is another vineyard that had been producing grapes for other people's wines since the 1930s. They're now focused on their own vintages of native grapes and natives blended with international varietals. The winery is open to visitors year round by advance telephone booking, with a €5 tasting fee.
- Manousakis Winery – Just south of Chania, in the Lefka Ori or White Mountains region, this winery was established by a Greek ex-pat who returned home from the USA and is run by his American-born daughter. Under the label Nostros, they produce a combination of international varietals blended with some native grapes. Tours, conducted in English, range from simple tastings at €7 per person all the way to full lunches for €35, vineyard tours and cooking classes. Tours can be booked online from mid April to the end of October. Out of season, telephone +30 28210 -78787 or book by email
Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, Greece
01 of 08
Cape Sounion Temple of Poseidon near Athens, Greece
Cape Sounion (also spelled Sounio) is about 45 miles south of Athens, and the drive is quite scenic as it follows the coastline. Travelers can take a bus or half-day tour from Athens to see the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, visit from a small sailboat like I did on a “Sailing Greece” itinerary with G Adventures, or visit before or after a Celestyal Crystal or Celestyal Odyssey cruise that embarks/disembarks at nearby Lavrion, Greece..
The Cape Sounion area is naturally beautiful, and the ruins of the Temple of Poseidon occupy the highest point of the Cape. The area has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and Homer was the first to describe the site as sacred in his famous poem, the “Odyssey”. The Temple of Poseidon is made of marble and was built in the 5th century BC, about the same time as the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens. Although the structures are similar, the atmosphere is much different. The Acropolis is amazing and a “must see”, but the site is always packed with visitors. I've been to the Temple of Poseidon three times on different visits to Greece and never saw a huge crowd. The views of the Aegean are magnificent. and it's not difficult to understand why the ancient Greeks chose the site to honor Poseidon, the god of the seas.
When driving or sailing to Cape Sounion, the Temple of Poseidon is always easy to spot, with its white marble gleaming in the sun.Continue to 2 of 8 below.
02 of 08
Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, Greece
The Temple of Poseidon sits on the top of the Cape Sounion prometory, which is more than 200 feet above the sea. Its brilliant white columns can be seen from miles away, and sailors returning home were always happy to see this structure. The views of the Aegean Sea from the Temple are quite spectacular.
This photo was taken from our sailboat on the G Adventures “Sailing Greece” itinerary.Continue to 3 of 8 below.
03 of 08
View of the Aegean Sea from Cape Sounion, Greece
Visitors to the Temple of Poseidon and Cape Sounion often watch the sun set from this spot, and it's a memorable event almost every night in sunny Greece.
A Greek legend says that King Aegeus waited on this spot for the return of his son Theseus, who had gone off to fight the Minotaur on the island of Crete. Aegeus made his son promise to use a white sail on his ship if his battle was successful and he killed the Minotaur. When King Aegeus saw a black sail on Theseus' ship, he leap to his death from the Cape. However, Theseus had killed the Minotaur, but forgot to change his sail. So, Aegeus' death was in vain. Sad story, but the Greeks named the sea Aegean in honor of this dead king.Continue to 4 of 8 below.
04 of 08
Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, Greece
I love the lone tree in this photo! It's hard to believe that this Temple has been standing at the apex of the Cape for over 2000 years.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Chukar Partridge at Cape Sounion, Greece
The first two times I visited Cape Sounion were via a taxi tour from Athens. My third visit was with G Adventures on one of their “Sailing Greece” itineraries, and my fourth visit was from nearby Lavrion while disembarking from the Celestyal Odyssey and embarking on the Celestyal Crystal. Some of my shipmates on the 8-passenger Baltra sailboat hiked the 200+ feet up with me from the harbor to see the Temple of Poseidon. The trail leads from the beach through some thick brush up to the summit.
As we neared the summit, we saw a group of chukar partridges who were also admiring the view from the Temple. This one even posed for me. On the next page, you can see the view we and the birds enjoyed.Continue to 6 of 8 below.
06 of 08
Chukar Partridges at Cape Sounion, Greece
It's probably my imagination, but don't these chukars look a little like tourists gawking at the spectacular view?Continue to 7 of 8 below.
07 of 08
Harbor at Cape Sounion, Greece
Our Captain took us ashore in the dinghy from the Baltra sailboat that was anchored in this harbor. Four of us decided to hike to the top of Cape Sounion to check out the view and to see the Temple of Poseidon. This photo shows the narrow harbor to summit trail that was lined with mostly thorn bushes (or so it seemed).Continue to 8 of 8 below.
08 of 08
Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, Greece
One last photo of this magnificent Temple of Poseidon, one of Greece's finest.
Responsible Tourism In Santorini
01 of 06
Welcome To Santorini
With white and blue dome churches, winding streets, crystal blue waters and sunsets that produce the pinkest of skies, it's no wonder Santorini is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. For such a small island, it packs a punch for those seeking a slice of Greek life.
Santorini is the result of a massive volcanic eruption that is estimated to have happened some 3,600 years ago during the Minoan civilization. It's said to have been one of the largest eruptions of all time. The island is still susceptible to earthquakes, the last major one taking place in 1956.
While the caldera is currently dormant, there is always the possibility that it may become active again. Despite this fact, many call the island home, and plenty of visitors flock to see the caldera. The mainland is comprised of several major settlements,– Fira (Thira), Oia, Emporio, Kamari, Perissa, Imerovigli, Pyrgos and Therasia.
The Greek economic crisis of 2015 left the country weary and vulnerable.
Not surprisingly, the cost of traveling to Greece dropped significantly. Despite global fears, many took the journey to the Aegean Sea to visit the Cyclades islands, which Santorini is a part of.
With nearly two million visitors each year, Santorini has a lot of consumption for such a small island (only 35.12 miles in length). Because of this, it's becoming increasingly important to look at how the tourism industry is impacting the landscape and people of the island. Here is a list of resources for those looking to travel responsibly while visiting.Continue to 2 of 6 below.
02 of 06
Where To Stay
What most don't realize is that the “Instagram-worthy” resorts, where you see pristine pools overlooking the sea, are quite detrimental to the structure of the island. The weight of the water in hotel pools is causing cliffside erosion and sagging.
Pleiades Eco Houses — Luxury
If a high touch, but environmentally responsible accommodation is what you are looking for, The Pleiades Eco Houses are the answer. The houses are bioclimatic and made from materials traditional to the ecological environment. Guests can stay cool during the summer months with air saving cooling systems and warm during the winter season with passive solar heating. They also collect and harvest rainwater during the wet season for the pool and the garden. Even the bedding is eco-friendly and luxurious (made by Coco-Mat).
The houses are far enough away from Thira that you get to experience a quieter and more private stay. The complex is comprised of four individual homes and guests can enjoy the south-eastern side of the island, Vothonas.
And the runner up for luxury accommodations, Native Eco Villa.
Caveland Hostel — Budget
Just because you're on a budget doesn't mean you have to skimp on quality or that “wow” factor. Luckily, Caveland Hostel in Santorini is the perfect option for students or those who'd rather spend their money on other aspects of the trip.
This 5-Star hostel was once a former winery turned into cave homes. The owner of Caveland has carefully curated the decor and environment in a way that honors the natural resources of the land. Many of the items in the hostel are refurbished and repurposed and give the place a unique and vintage feel. Social events are held weekly and you can rent equipment for outdoor adventures like biking or kayaking.
The hostel is big on recycling and offers many community driven amenities. The coffee bar is donation based and there is a book-swap section. All in all, this is the perfect location for those looking to spend less but still have a comfortable experience. There is a bus stop right outside the Hostel that can take you into Thira. Or, if you prefer to walk, it is a 25-minute journey into town with no shortage of breathtaking scenery.Continue to 3 of 6 below.
03 of 06
Where To Play
Santorini is a paradise for those who love adventure sports. The island offers plenty regarding water and land activities. Beyond the beaches and caldera tours, visitors can enjoy some epic hikes, wineries and bike tours.
Santorini MTB Adventure is much more than biking through the hills and getting in a workout. The tour takes you on a journey to hidden spots on the island like a church, a winery and a rock formation that is shaped like a heart. The level of intensity is moderate, and you don't have to be a huge bike enthusiast to participate.
In fact, for the more challenging parts of the tour, the bikes are equipped with electrically charged motors. You can adjust the power to your level of comfort to help you up the steep hills. The tour guides, Vassilis and Katarina, are so gracious and friendly. They want their guests to enjoy every moment and are very knowledgeable about the history of the island. They offer three different tours to different parts of Santorini, one of which is a custom tour.
Sailing around the Cyclades at sunset is one of the most dreamy activities we can think of. If you want to charter a sailboat while in Santorini, Barca Sailing is the ideal choice. Captain Yiannis and his crew are attentive, fun and provide an unforgettable time. They cook for you with fresh and local ingredients, take you to the best snorkeling spots and once will even turn up the music and host a dance party for you. It's the perfect activity for couples, friends, families and anyone who loves the open seas. The best part, it's a sail boat…so it's already pretty eco-friendly!
For those looking for a more low-key activity, head over to Hatzidakis Winery for a tour. The well-drained volcanic soil of the land lends its way to some seriously tasty wines. While most know Santorini for its Vinsanto (sweet holly wine), there are many indigenous varietals, such as the Athiri, Aidani, Roditis and more. What makes Hatzidakis special is that they harvest their wines using natural raw materials and free from pesticides. They also practice linear planting and use the left over skin and seeds from the grapes as compost.Continue to 4 of 6 below.
04 of 06
What Not To Do
Much like the elephants in Thailand or the tigers in India, the donkey rides in Santorini are a tourist trap. The 588 steps down to Thira port are daunting, and you don't have to walk them if that's not your jam. That said, the alternative–riding the donkeys– is not a great one. The animals are poorly treated and whipped regularly when they get tired.
According to a source at The Society of Animal Welfare Administrators (SAWA) animal shelter, when the animals get old and are no longer able to carry passengers, owners will often push them off the cliffs. Luckily SAWA takes in mules and donkeys for rehabilitation. Those looking to get involved in community engagement can volunteer to walk SAWA's dogs on the beach or help out around the shelter.
Even cruise ship U.K. publication The Daily Express has urged visitors not to ride the donkeys due to their mistreatment.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
How To Get Around
If we've convinced you not to take the donkey rides and you are now asking yourself, “How do I get back up those stairs?”– you can take the cable car for a mere six €.
Once you are in Fira again, the next thing you'll probably wonder about it how to get around in general. While riding ATV's is another hot activity for tourists, you'll often see a lot of reckless driving. Since the terrain generally is full of hills and winding roads, take precautions if you do decide to rent an ATV.
Our recommended alternative is to take the Santorini public buses if and when you can. They have stops along the entire island and are well equipped to handle the curving roads. Other suggestions are to rent a bike with Santorini Bike Rental or arrange transfers with your hotel and excursions.Continue to 6 of 6 below.
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Having a life-changing experience in Santorini isn't hard. You'd have to try hard to not have a lovely time. The people are lively, welcoming and there is no shortage of ways to have an authentic experience while there. As always, look into the customs and culture while you are there and be respectful of this ancient and magical island.
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Mykonos – Great Shopping, Beaches, and Partying
Mykonos is one of Greece's most popular islands. Almost every cruise line that sails in Greek waters visits Mykonos for the day, and thousands of other tourists pack the hotels during the high season in summer. The island is not what most would consider scenic; it's dry, barren, and mostly flat. Visitors don't come for the natural scenery; they come to enjoy the beaches, shopping, restaurants, bars, and nightlife.
Some also come to visit one of Greece's most important archaeological sites, the island of Delos, which is only accessible via day trips from Mykonos or from a ship small enough to anchor in Delos' small harbor.
Most of the action on Mykonos is centered around its main town, which is usually simply called Mykonos town, although is is also known as Hora or Chora. Like most of the rest of the island, Mykonos town is filled with low, white-washed buildings, most with a colorful door and/or windows. The town's designers laid out the narrow streets much like a maze to confuse attacking enemies. Today those narrow streets might confuse only tourists, but it's impossible to get too lost in Mykonos town. Most visitors love the atmosphere and ambiance of Mykonos town, and even those who are stone sober might even see a pink pelican patrolling the narrow lanes.
Cruise ships usually dock at the old port, which is about a mile from Mykonos town. Many cruise ships offer a free bus shuttle into town for their guests, but there's also a public bus, taxis, or a water taxi. Buses and taxis will drop you at the old port, which is just a short walk into town. Just follow the curved harbor. Walking is not recommended since there are no sidewalks most of the route into town, and the road is very busy.
Some cruise ships anchor in the Mykonos harbor and use their tenders to take guests ashore, dropping them at the pier used by day boats and the water taxi. You can't miss the town; it's right ahead of you.
Other than the beaches, the most popular activity on Mykonos is strolling around the amazingly picturesque old town. Every narrow passageway features one or more shops or homes requiring a photo. The island is more expensive than other islands, but visitors still like to shop or sit in one of the cafes nursing a drink and watching visitors from around the world stroll by.
This photo gallery captures a look at Mykonos town.Continue to 2 of 17 below.
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Mykonos Town near the Old Harbor
These buildings are on the outskirts of Mykonos town and are representative of most homes on Mykonos. They are almost cubist, with straight lines and flat roofs.Continue to 3 of 17 below.
03 of 17
Bars and Restaurants Line the Old Harbor of Mykonos
The curving harbor in Mykonos town is lined with restaurants, bars, and cafes. Many visitors drift from place to place, following the shade. However, they never have a problem finding a cold drink (or ice cream) along the harbor.Continue to 4 of 17 below.
04 of 17
Windmills of Mykonos
Mykonos is almost always windy, so it's not surprising to see these old windmills on the island. They aren't functional any more, but are one of the iconic pictures from Mykonos.Continue to 5 of 17 below.
05 of 17
Windmills and Little Venice of Mykonos
The small harbor near the windmills is lined with bars and restaurants, and the water comes right up next to the buildings. Since many of the buildings have balconies overlooking the water, this area is nicknamed Little Venice.Continue to 6 of 17 below.
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Close-up of one of the iconic windmills of Mykonos.Continue to 7 of 17 below.
07 of 17
Little Venice of Mykonos
The Little Venice area of old town Mykonos features balconies overlooking the Aegean, water lapping at the edge of the white-washed buildings, and great views of the Mykonos windmills.Continue to 8 of 17 below.
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Tiny Church on Mykonos
Although Mykonos is famous for its nightlife, the island has many churches, most of which are Greek Orthodox. I glimpsed this tiny church while sailing into Mykonos from Delos on the G Adventures' sailboat the Baltra.
A small church on the outskirts of Mykonos town doesn't get photographed very often, but most everyone with a camera in Mykonos town gets pictures of the two churches on the next three pages of this article.Continue to 9 of 17 below.
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Mykonos Church of Panagia Paraportiani
This lumpy church is probably the most photographed in Mykonos. It's actually 4 or 5 (depending on which guidebook or guide you ask) tiny churches linked together by a layer of whitewashed stucco, which gives it the odd appearance. The sunlight on Panagia Paraportiani gives it a different look throughout the day, and it seems like someone is almost always taking a photo of the odd little church.Continue to 10 of 17 below.
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Church of Panagia Paraportiani on Mykonos Island
This close-up view of Panagia Paraportiani shows how it was built of both stucco and brick before the whitewash was applied.Continue to 11 of 17 below.
11 of 17
Greek Orthodox Church on the Old Harbor in Mykonos
This small church sits next to the pier for the day boats to Delos and the water taxi to the new port. It's very typical of Greek Orthodox churches throughout Greece–whitewashed with a bright blue dome.Continue to 12 of 17 below.
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Street Scene in Mykonos Town
This street is a good example of what visitors see all over Mykonos town–a narrow lane, whitewashed buildings with brightly colored doors and shutters, and some brilliantly colored flowers. The look is very simple, but spectacular.Continue to 13 of 17 below.
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Shopping on Mykonos
This shopping area is along the harbor in Mykonos town. It's one of the first souvenir shopping areas visitors see when walking into town from the taxi square or the old port bus stop.Continue to 14 of 17 below.
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Old Town Mykonos with Harbor
With all the winds on Mykonos, it's not surprising that a breakwater is in the tiny harbor near the town.Continue to 15 of 17 below.
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Mykonos Town Waterfront
Standing near the tiny shoreside church with the blue dome, I took this photo of the rounded harbor of Mykonos town.Continue to 16 of 17 below.
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Petros the Pelican, the Symbol of Mykonos
Yes, this is a pink pelican walking through a bar in Little Venice on Mykonos. His name is Petrous, and he's the mascot of the town. I'm sure Petros is often a head-turner, especially for those who have had a couple of drinks!Continue to 17 of 17 below.
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Like many of the Greek isles, Mykonos has amazing sunsets almost every evening. People gather near Little Venice and the windmills to watch the sun set. It's cheaper to buy a bottle of cold wine at the bottle shop across from Zorba's than to buy just one glass at one of the bars in Little Venice. The bottle shop will open the wine and provide plastic cups to drink from. So, grab your bottle and cups, find a seat along the wall, and watch nature's nightly show. Then, find a restaurant or bar (or both) and enjoy the evening on Mykonos island.
Corfu – Greek Island in the Ionian Sea
01 of 09
Things to See on the Greek Island of Corfu – Achilleion Palace
Corfu is one of Greece's northernmost islands. It's located in the eastern Ionian Sea, and residents can see nearby Albania from the harbor at old town Corfu. The island is packed with visitors during the summer months. Many come to explore old town Corfu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; see the historic palace of Empress Elisabeth (Sissy); enjoy one of the beaches, or sit at a bar overlooking the airport and watch the planes take off and land at the tiny international airport.
This photo tour of Corfu provides information on the things to do and see with a day on the Greek island of Corfu. Cruise ships sailing eastern Mediterranean cruises offer tours to many interesting sites in and near the old town and others elsewhere on the island. The history and mix of Greek, Venetian, and English architecture make Corfu a fascinating place to spend a day or more.
The Achilleion Palace seen in the photo above is one of Corfu's most popular places to visit. Today it is a government-owned museum, but this villa was built over 100 years ago and features some mementos of two famous previous owners–Empress Elisabeth (Sissy or Sisi) of Austria and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.Continue to 2 of 9 below.
02 of 09
Statue of Empress Elisabeth at Achilleion Palace on Corfu
Empress Elisabeth of Austria (also known as Sissy or Sisi) became engaged to Emperor Franz Joseph I only five days after they met and married him eight months later. She was only 16. The Emperor's mother Archduchess Sophie had handpicked Sisi's older sister as his bride, but he rebelled against his mother and chose Sisi instead. For him, it was a love match. Because of this insult, the Archduchess never liked Sisi, which probably contributed to the young empress spending most of her time away from Vienna. Sisi had many health issues, some of which were probably due to issues with her domineering mother-in-law. Sisi found she felt better in a warmer climate. Her favorite vacation destination was Corfu.
Sisi loved Corfu and Greek history and architecture. The Empress visited Corfu often and even learned to speak Greek fluently before she had a summer home built there. She built the Achilleion Palace between 1889 and 1891 to honor the Greek god Achilles since she admired the themes of escapism and romanticism. Statues of Achilles and other Greek gods once adorned the palace and the spacious grounds. Sisi visited quite often in the summer, and the property offers great views of the sea from its location on a hilltop about six miles south of old town Corfu. She loved to walk and spent many hours hiking on the island of Corfu.
In 1898, at the age of 60, Empress Elisabeth was stabbed in the side by an Italian anarchist. Since she always wore a very tight, uncomfortable corset, she didn't even realize she had been stabbed between the stays of the corset until her maid noticed she was bleeding. She died soon afterward, and the palace stayed vacant for over seven years before it was purchased by King Wilhelm II of Germany in 1907.Continue to 3 of 9 below.
03 of 09
Entry to Achilleion Palace on Corfu
Visitors to the Achilleion Palace on Corfu can tour the inside and the gardens. Very little of Sisi's original interiors remains, but the palace is beautiful on the inside and outside.
Sisi hated aging and refused to be painted or have any artwork of her done after she was 30. Sisi also didn't like keeping a set schedule, so had the hands of all the clocks removed. She was definitely rebellious for a royal!
More of King Wilhelm's mementos can be found inside the Achilleion Palace since he visited frequently prior to the start of World War I. During that war, the French and Serbian armies used the Palace as a military hospital. After the end of the war, the Greek government took possession of the palace (Greece was on the winning side of the war), but it sat vacant for many years. During World War II, it was used by the occupying forces of Germany and Italy but was returned to the Greek government after that war. In 1962, Greece leased the Palace to a private company who transformed the upper floors into the country's first casino. In 1983, the Greek Tourism Organization took over responsibility for Achilleion, and it was restored as a palace in time to be used for the European Union Summit in 1994.
Since 1994, it has been open to visitors and also used for special events.Continue to 4 of 9 below.
04 of 09
Mouse Island and the Church of Panagia Vlacherna at Kanoni on Corfu
Kanoni is a suburb of old town Corfu. It is also the site of Corfu's oldest settlement and is the site of the island's most photographed place–Mouse Island and the Church of Panagia Vlacherna seen in the photo above.
The 17th-century Greek Orthodox Church is connected to the mainland by a small causeway. Although the chapel is very small, it has some beautiful frescoes inside.
Mouse Island was named because of its tiny size. Greek mythology claims that the lush green, rocky island was once the ship of Ulysses that was stoned by Poseidon. A 13th-century church is in the middle of the island.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Corfu Airport Runway
Airports are not usually included as a tourist site, but residents and visitors often visit one of the Kanoni bars overlooking the Corfu international airport. The airport is tiny but very busy in the summer. It's fun to sit in one of the bars that overlook Mouse Island on the left and the airport on the right, very close to the Church of Panagia Vlacherna.Continue to 6 of 9 below.
06 of 09
Old Town of Corfu, Greece
Old Town Corfu was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 because of its architecture, which includes a mixture of all the different cultures that influenced the town. The old town dates back to the 8th century BC, but much of the town reflects its Venetian and British heritage.
The Venetian empire controlled Corfu from the 14th to the 18th century, fending off the Ottomans on several occasions. Corfu is one of the few places in Greece that never was under Turkish control. Although Corfu fought off the Ottomans, they couldn't resist Napoleon, so the island was under French control from 1796 to 1815. The British moved in next, and the island flourished until it officially became part of Greece in 1864. Corfu may be Greek, but many British residents love to vacation on the island.
The old town is well preserved and is filled with quaint shops of all types. It's fun to explore on foot, and the limestone streets look much like those in Dubrovnik.Continue to 7 of 9 below.
07 of 09
The Liston in Corfu, Greece
The Liston is Corfu's most famous street and features terraces with arcades and fashionable cafes. It was built in 1807 and is a good example of Napoleonic period architecture. Over the centuries, residents and visitors have strolled along The Liston, taking the time to enjoy a drink in one of the cafes or bars. It was a place to be seen, check out the latest fashions, and even look for a bride or groom.
Across the street from the Liston is the Spianáda, which is a large park that once separated the old town from the fortress. At one time, the French used the park as a firing range, and the British used it as a cricket pitch.
One Corfu guide told us that the street used to be very restricted. Not everyone could promenade up and down the street; your name had to be on a List–therefore it was nicknamed Liston. The term “Liston” also refers to the marble slabs used to pave the streets. That's probably true, but I like the guide's story better.Continue to 8 of 9 below.
08 of 09
Palace of Saint Michael and Saint George in Corfu, Greece
The Palace of St. Michael and St. George, which is also called the Royal Palace, is on the opposite side of the Spianáda from The Liston. It was built from 1814-1824 during the early days of British domination. The palace has played many roles during its history. It was once a government building and a summer house for the Greek Royal family. Today it is Corfu's Museum of Asian Art.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Old Fortress in Corfu, Greece
The Old Fortress of Corfu town occupies a prominent place on a rocky peninsula that juts out into the Ionian Sea. The Venetians built the Old Fortress in the 15th century and it remains an iconic symbol of the 400 years of Venetian rule. Although the fortress is still standing, the buildings inside the fortress that once served as homes for the military and aristocracy are long gone. The buildings inside the Old Fortress mostly date back to the British period of the 19th century.
It is important to note that Corfu also has a “New Fortress” near the old port that was built between 1577 and 1588, only 30 years after the “Old Fortress”. It is not as large as the Old Fortress but kept the Turks out of Corfu in 1716.
Both the New Fortress and the Old Fortress are interesting places to visit. The Old Fortress has the city's only Doric-style church inside its walls and offers great views of Corfu town. The New Fortress is filled with many tunnels and fortifications that will fascinate those who love to explore old forts.
Outside of Corfu town, visitors will find many other historical sites, lovely beaches, water sports of all types, and great hiking trails. Corfu has a much different look than the dry islands of the Aegean, but many visitors return again and again to this lovely green island of the Ionian Sea.
Visiting Lindos on the Greek Island of Rhodes
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Acropolis of Lindos, Greece on the Island of Rhodes
Everyone has heard of the famous Acropolis in Athens, but the Greek term “acropolis” applies to any hilltop fortification that is part of an ancient city. Athens certainly has the most famous acropolis, but the village of Lindos on the Greek island of Rhodes has an impressive acropolis that is one of the country's most important archaeological sites.
Lindos is a small town located on the east coast of Rhodes, about 30 miles (an hour's drive) south of the town of Rhodes. The village is exactly what one expects of a Greek town on the Aegean Sea–lots of narrow cobblestone streets, white-washed houses, small shops, and a lovely beach.
Most cruise ships visiting Rhodes for a day usually offer both a half-day shore excursion to Lindos and a full-day shore excursion that includes a few hours in Lindos, lunch, and a tour of old town Rhodes. Guests on either shore excursion enjoy the scenic drive to Lindos from the town of Rhodes and can use their time in Lindos to climb up the acropolis from the village to visit the 2400-year-old archaeological site. After exploring the acropolis, there's still time to do a little shopping.
Travelers with mobility issues may not be able to ascend the acropolis at Lindos. It's a 1000-foot climb over an uneven trail from the village up to the edge of the acropolis, followed by a climb up a steep flight of stairs through the fortress when the hikers reach the top. The good news is that there are plenty of shops in the village to occupy the time of those who can't make the climb. Donkeys are usually available to take visitors up to the fortress on the acropolis, but the donkeys can't ascend the stairs at the fortress.Continue to 2 of 6 below.
02 of 06
Fortress on the Acropolis of Lindos
Visitors who make the climb up to the top of the Lindos Acropolis will not be disappointed. The first structure they see is the ancient fortress, the Castle of the Knights of St. John, which dates back to the 14th century. Many of the other ancient remains are older, and the Knights used the ruins of an old church as the foundation for their fortified castle. They built the fortress to defend the island of Rhodes from the Ottomans.
Those who climb up the steps of the fortress are rewarded with views of the Doric Temple of Athena Lindia, which dates back 300 BC along with amazing views of the Aegean. With views like these, it's easy to see why this acropolis was so important for the island for thousands of years.Continue to 3 of 6 below.
03 of 06
Ancient Ruins on the Acropolis of Lindos
The columnar ruins of the Doric Temple of Athena Lindia are among the most remarkable of those seen at the Acropolis of Lindos. Many of the ancient buildings on the acropolis were buried or torn down when the Knights built the giant fortress on the top of the acropolis.Continue to 4 of 6 below.
04 of 06
View of Lindos on the Greek Island of Rhodes
The Acropolis of Lindos offers great views of the village below. The village offers diverse structures from ancient, medieval, and modern times. Lindos was once a major naval power from the 16th to the 19th centuries. At the height of its importance, the village of Lindos had over 17,000 residents. Not that many people live in Lindos today, but the ruins on the Acropolis of Lindos get over 600,000 visitors each year, making it the second-most important archaeological site in Greece (after Delphi).Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
St. Paul’s Bay
Visitors to the top of the Acropolis of Lindos get views of the village of Lindos on one side and the interesting St. Paul's Bay on the other. St. Paul supposedly shipwrecked at this bay in 51 A.D. and spent time introducing Christianity to the residents of the Greek island of Rhodes.
From the Acropolis, St. Paul's Bay looks like it is separated from the Aegen Sea, but the narrow opening to the sea is hidden by rocks in this photo. The bay has a nice small beach.Continue to 6 of 6 below.
06 of 06
Lindos Beach on the Greek Island of Rhodes
Lindos has two main beaches near the town. The largest beach is seen in the photo above and is called Megali Paralia. The photo was taken from the Acropolis, so it's easy to see that the beach is nearby. The second beach is smaller and quieter. It's still within walking distance of Lindos and is called Lindos Pallas.
Kefalonia – Natural Beauty and Turbulent History
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Overview of the Greek island of Kefalonia
Kefalonia (also spelled Cephalonia) is the largest Greek island in the Ionian Sea on the western side of Greece. Like its neighbor Corfu, Kefalonia is much greener than the Greek islands found in the Aegean Sea (like Santorini and Mykonos). The evergreen, cypress, and olive trees provide a gorgeous contrast to the brilliant blue-green Ionian Sea.
Kefalonia is famous for its natural wonders like the Drogarati Cave and Melissani Lake. The island is mountainous, so driving can be a challenge, but the mountain and coastal scenery are spectacular, as seen in the photo of Myrtos Beach above.
The island also has many charming tiny villages that are perfect for exploring. One such village is Sami on the eastern coast of Kefalonia. Sami was used as the setting for the 2001 movie “Captain Corelli's Mandolin”, which was adapted from the Louis de Bernières book of the same name. This book was set on Kefalonia in World War II, and most of it was filmed in Sami. The German massacre of Italian troops on Kefalonia in 1943 is the central theme of the book.
History of Kefalonia
Like much of Greece, Kefalonia has had a turbulent history. The island was occupied by the Byzantines, Turks, Venetians, British, and the Ottomans before it became a Greek state in 1864. During World War II, Kefalonia was occupied by the Axis powers, primarily Italy. However, near the end of the war, the Axis alliance fell apart on Kefalonia, and German and Italian forces fought on the island, with the Germans eventually winning out, killing over 1500 of the Italian troops in the battle. The Germans then executed about 4500 of the Italian soldiers who had surrendered when they ran out of ammunition. The rest of the Italian troops were put on a ship and sent to Germany. However, their ship hit a mine and sank, killing 3000 of the 4000 Italian prisoners onboard. After World War II, Kefalonia was involved in the Greek civil war, but finally again became part of Greece in 1949.
Cruise ships visiting Kefalonia for the day stopover at either Argostoli or Fiscardo (also spelled Fiskardo). Argostoli is the capital city, but it doesn't have as much of the Venetian style architecture as other western Greek towns. The city (along with much of the rest of the island) was almost completely destroyed in a 1953 earthquake, so many of the buildings in Argostoli have a more modern look. Argostoli has a lovely harbor, and it's fun to stroll along the water and check out the cafes and local people.
Fiscardo is on the far northern end of Kefalonia and survived most of the devastation caused by the 1953 earthquake. So, many of its elegant buildings are painted the pastel colors of the Venetian style and have balconies and tile roofs.
Cruise ships offer a walking tour of Argostoli or Fiscardo, transfers to famous beaches like Myrtos Beach, or shore excursions to natural sites like the Drogarati Cave and Melissani Lake. Other tours go to quaint villages like Sami or to a lighthouse, monastery, or winery. The island is spectacular to look at, so even a bus ride around Kefalonia can be enjoyable.
The rest of this article provides a photo tour of some of the things to see on the Greek island of Kefalonia.Continue to 2 of 8 below.
02 of 08
Entering Drogarati Cave on the Greek island of Kefalonia
Drogarati Cave is one of Kefalonia's most visited natural wonders. The cave was discovered about 300 years ago and has been open to tourists since 1963.
Entering Drogarati Cave can be quite challenging. The staircase leading down into the cave is often damp and slippery, and it's over 300 feet down to the cave's large underground cavern. (It's also 300 feet back up the same stairs.)Continue to 3 of 8 below.
03 of 08
Drogarati Cave on the Greek Island of Kefalonia
Once visitors have negotiated the steps down into the Drogarati Cave on the Greek island of Kefalonia, they are rewarded with this huge cavern (65 m x 45 m x 20 m high). The acoustics are superb in the cavern, so it is often used for concerts of up to 500 people. Since the 64-degree temperature is always about the same, it is especially nice to visit or attend a concert on hot summer days.Continue to 4 of 8 below.
04 of 08
Drogarati Cave on the Greek island of Kefalonia
The Drogarati Cave is still forming. However, since the stalagmites and stalactites are growing less than a half-inch every 100 years, it's not likely to change much during our lifetimes.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Fisherman at the small town of Sami, Kefalonia in Greece
Small towns like Sami give visitors the opportunity to explore on their own and interact with the local people. Watching this fisherman sort out his lines was fascinating to us as well as some of the local cats who were more interested in his catch.Continue to 6 of 8 below.
06 of 08
Melissani Lake on the Greek island of Kefalonia
Melissani Lake is inside Melissani Cave on the Greek island of Kefalonia. Visitors must walk down a narrow tunnel to reach the shore of the underground lake. The tunnel exit is seen in the photo above.Continue to 7 of 8 below.
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Melissani Lake on the Greek island of Kefalonia
Small row boats with local guides (almost like Venetian gondolas) take guests around Melissani Lake and into a large chamber that is only accessible by water. Since the roof fell into Melissani lake many years ago, the lake is open to the sky. The sunlight is spectacular on the water.Continue to 8 of 8 below.
08 of 08
Mountains and windmills on Kefalonia
Those who don't enjoy beaches or caves can enjoy exploring Kefalonia on a bus or car. The roads are curvy, but the mountainous scenery and views of the white sandy beaches are some of the best you can find in Greece.
Rhodes – Greek Island Home of the Knights of St. John
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Old Town Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes (also called Rodos) is a Greek island in the southeast Aegean Sea and is located less than 10 miles from the coast of Turkey. The largest town on the island also is called Rhodes. The island is the largest in the Dodecanese archipelago, which consists of 15 large islands and 150 smaller ones. Twenty-six of the Dodecanese islands are inhabited, with the best-known being Rhodes, Patmos, and Kos.
Rhodes is loved by travelers for its good weather, lovely beaches, ancient archaeological ruins, and its historical connection with the Knights Hospitaller, who is also called the Knights of St. John. It was also the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Colossus of Rhodes.
Many cruise ships sailing the Greek isles or the eastern Mediterranean include Rhodes as a port of call. The ships dock within easy walking distance of the walled city of old town Rhodes, so guests can explore this fascinating city on their own or take a tour that includes the highlights of the old town. In addition to tours of the old town, other shore excursions include a bus tour of the island, transfer of guests to one of the beaches, or include time to walk to the Acropolis and explore the fascinating medieval village of Lindos.
Since most everyone who visits Rhodes takes the time to explore the old town, we'll start our tour with this fascinating part of the island.Continue to 2 of 14 below.
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Gate to the Walled City of Rhodes
The old town of Rhodes is surrounded by a wall with seven large gates like the one seen in the photo above. Each of the gates is named.Continue to 3 of 14 below.
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Wall Surrounding Old Town Rhodes, Greece
The city wall surrounding the old town of Rhodes is still impressive. As seen in the next photo, it's actually a double wall with a dry moat between the two walls.Continue to 4 of 14 below.
04 of 14
Double Wall Surrounds Old Town Rhodes, Greece
Enemy armies attacking the city of Rhodes had to climb over the first wall, cross the dry moat open area, and then climb over the second wall.
The Ottomans were the primary enemy of the Knights of St. John and the Christian residents of Rhodes. After a long siege in 1522 where 2000 Christians and 50,000 Turks died, the Ottomans finally took over the city. However, both sides were tired of fighting, and the Knights were able to negotiate a peace with the Ottomans, who offered the remaining Knights and Christians safe passage to go into exile away from Rhodes. On January 1, 1523, about 5000 Christians and Knights left their homes and moved to the island of Crete. The Knights stayed on Crete until 1530 when the Holy Roman Emperor gave them the islands of Malta and Gozo.Continue to 5 of 14 below.
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Street of the Knights in Old Town Rhodes, Greece
The Street of the Knights is the most famous street in old town Rhodes. It stretches from the Grand Master's Palace to the New Hospital-Archaeological Museum. Strolling down the cobblestones, you can almost picture the knights inside the residences that line the street. They were praying, practicing their military skills, or just living their lives.Continue to 6 of 14 below.
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Grand Master’s Palace on the Greek island of Rhodes
With a name like the Grand Master's Palace, it's not surprising that this is the most impressive building in old town Rhodes. The leader of the Knights of St. John was called the Grand Master, and this was his residence. The huge palace is built around this large courtyard.
The Palace has 158 rooms, and 24 are open to visitors. There's a surcharge to tour the palace, but the furnishings and mosaics make the cost worthwhile.Continue to 7 of 14 below.
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Mosaic Tile Floor in the Grand Master’s Palace on Rhodes
Many of the mosaic tile floors in the Grand Master's Palace in Rhodes were originally on the nearby island of Kos. The mosaics date back to the first century A.D. and are spectacular.Continue to 8 of 14 below.
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Cats and Flowers on Rhodes
Medieval towns like Rhodes often feature unique sights around every corner. Doesn't this look like a stereotypical Greek island setting–cat, bougainvillea, and narrow cobblestone street. As seen in the next photo, Rhodes has many of these picturesque places.Continue to 9 of 14 below.
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Greek Cat, Bougainvillea, and Colorful Door
Another typical scene from Rhodes and other Greek islands in the Aegean–a cat, a whitewashed building with a brightly colored door, and bougainvillea.Continue to 10 of 14 below.
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Cafes in Old Town Rhodes
Not all of old town Rhodes is made up of palaces and picturesque streets. Visitors will find many souvenir shops, cafes, and bars. It's a fun place to eat lunch and watch the world go by.Continue to 11 of 14 below.
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Mosque in Old Town Rhodes, Greece
The Mosque of Suleiman is the largest remnant of Ottoman rule. It was originally built in 1522 after the Ottoman conquest and was remodeled in 1808. The mosque was named for Suleiman, who was the leader of the Ottoman armies.Continue to 12 of 14 below.
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This long beach is on the eastern side of Rhodes near the old town. The island of Rhodes has at least 42 good beaches.Continue to 13 of 14 below.
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Rocky Beach on the Island of Rhodes
Visitors who arrive by cruise ship can walk around the old town harbor. Ships dock on one side, the old town is at the foot, and the entrance to the harbor is the site of the ancient Colossos of Rhodes.Continue to 14 of 14 below.
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Entrance to the Harbor at Rhodes
The legs of the famous statue of the Colossos of Rhodes once straddled the narrow entrance of the old town harbor of Rhodes. Today two deer, which are one of the symbols of Rhodes, guard the entrance.