Greek Isles Tour: Part 1

Posted by on Oct 17, 2013 in Featured, Greece | 0 comments

I can’t think of a better way to wind down both the European leg and our entire 9-month journey than by spending fifteen days in the Greek Islands. We knew a beach vacation here was in the cards at some point in our future, so it was great to have the time to slowly enjoy. There are too many islands to visit them all, but the four we chose gave us a good sampling of what the region has to offer. Our first two stops were Sifnos and Folegandros, two less-traveled islands that pack a lot of cultural punch. 

Similar to the islands and beaches of Thailand, Greece has almost too many to choose from, each distinctly different with unique beaches, views, small towns and busy nightlife. We were able to narrow down our options with recommendations from friends and by reading up on a few travel blogs. Kat and I were looking for a relaxed vacation so we sought out pristine beaches, dramatic scenery and a calm, local nightlife scene. Although we were only two weeks into the off-season (high season ends in the middle of September), Sifnos and Folegandros were surprisingly quiet. We were still able to get an authentic feel for both islands and the warm late-summer weather allowed us to bask in the sun. 

Sifnos was the perfect start to our Greek Island tour. It’s big enough to spend a week and small enough to really feel a part of it. We stayed in the port town of Kamares and fell in love with it’s beach and quaint main street. On our second day, we rented a car for 36 hours to visit all the other towns and beaches. Platis Gialos has a gorgeous beach and a nice stretch of cafes and hotels. Vathi Bay has the most picturesque sunset. Herroniso’s church belongs on postcards. And Apollonia (the island’s capital) has winding streets filled with shops and restaurants. But none have as complete an offering as Kamares. We spent our days sunning on the beach, swimming in the crystal clear Aegean Sea, eating hearty Greek cuisine and getting to know the townspeople. Our favorites were Kostas, our pension owner, and Moska, the matriarch of Meropi restaurant. After three straight nights dining at Meropi, we found out that Moska was Kostas’ sister-in-law. We were getting to know the whole family! Sifnos is a place we may want to return to just for its people. A canceled ferry due to high winds stranded us for an extra two full days (ferries run sparingly after September). Although initially bothered, we ended up wanting to stay even longer.  

Due to the ferry situation, our time was cut short in Folegandros (2n/3d), but we still got a great feel for this small island. We found an isolated B&B a short 15 minute walk into the main town (Chora) with an incredible view of the sea. The small town center was a maze of narrow, bright-white alleyways and restaurants, blue shutters, and fluorescent pink and purple flowers. It seemed like a photographer’s ideal setting for capturing the quintessential Greek Island architecture. In addition to meandering through Chora we hiked up to the town’s church and the peak beyond. Here, we were afforded amazing views of the whole island as well as the neighboring islands of Ios, Sikinos and Milos. One evening we trekked to Irini’s restaurant in Ano Meria for dinner. Her small convenience shop doubles as a local taverna where she serves up homemade Greek specialties every night. It was one of those places where she cooks whatever ingredients she happens to have and tells you what you’re eating. This approach, coupled with old locals arguing (the Greek equivalent to talking) over fresh bread and ouzo, made for one of our most memorable meals of the year. Although the weather had cooled quite a bit, we still explored many of the island’s secluded beaches and walking trails. 

What Kat and I found so fascinating about the Greek Islands is how uniquely beautiful they are. We’ve been to our fair share of beaches on this trip, but these islands have a distinctly different look and feel. The visual beauty shrines through in the Cycladic architecture. Kat and I were previously unaware that the islands are actually brown. The barren, dried-out look, however, is miraculously saved by whitewashed walls and blue shutters and doors. It’s a landscape combination unlike anywhere else in the world. We were also mesmerized by the color and clarity of the Aegean Sea, its bright blue constantly sparkling in the steady sunlight. When we weren’t enjoying the sand and water, we were soaking up the culture through its food and its people. 

Sifnos and Folegandros are picture-perfect Greek Islands. They offer stunning landscapes in a relatively quiet setting. The locals are friendly and want you to love their island, their accommodations, and their food. After just a few days on both islands, it felt like we had been longtime annual visitors. They welcomed us with open arms and we plan to welcome any opportunity to return in the future.

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