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Home Travel Greece Greek Islands off the beaten track

Greek Islands off the beaten track

greece_1There are thousands of islands in Greece – although only a hundred or so are permanently inhabited. Finding somewhere to visit which is relatively quiet but still accessible should be easy but, like most things in Greece, it presents its own unique challenges.

You could spend hours pouring over guidebooks and maps flicking to and fro and attempting to find previously unheard of islands, confused by those which appear to have two names – Thira and Santorini, for example – or ones which sound familiar but are two different places, such as Ithaca (Ionian Islands) or Ikaria (Northeast Aegean Islands). The challenge is to find an island which has yet to be adopted by the UK mass-market and subsequently over-run by hordes of charter flight arrivals. In reality most of us have only a week or two to squeeze in our precious holiday so the choice of islands has to be restricted to those which you can reach in less than a day’s travel.

If your time is precious you don’t want to spend hours booking flights, ferries and rooms so it helps if there are knowledgeable companies who will organise things for you. Whatever you are looking for our choices will give you a starting point – obviously they are only just off the beaten track, but if true solitude is what you are after, most of these islands have a neighbouring island which you can reach easily by hiring your own boat or catching the local caique.

Amorgos (Cyclades)

The mountainous island of Amorgos was the perfect hideaway for the political exiles of the 1960s. Since then its popularity has surged. The capital Chora is topped by the Venetian fortress of Apano Kastro, and the island is home to

the smallest church in Greece, Agios Fanourios. Spend your days on the sandy beach at Aigiali or following the donkey tracks to the villages of Tholara and Lagada. Set aside a day to explore the hilltop ruins of Minoa and during your stay make sure you drop in on the few remaining monks at the Byzantine Monastery of Chozoviotissa, the white washed building which defies gravity by clinging to the sheer cliffs on the east coast of the island

The Back Islands (Cyclades)

Lying between Naxos and Amorgos, these five tiny almost deserted islands all have a population of less than 200. When you step from the ferry shrug off your every day worries and fall in step with the slower pace of island life. Iraklia is tiny; the only ‘must-see’ is the stalactites in the cave of Agios Giannis. Koufonissi is actually two islands, Ano and the uninhabited Kato reached by caique. On Schinoussa the walk from Chora mvia the deserted hamlet of Messaria earns you a well-deserved swim in the turquoise waters of Psili Ammos. Donoussa is the least accessible but visitors can enjoy excellent walks across the island to the fine sandy beaches of Livadi and Kentros.

Antiparos (Cyclades)

Anitparos used to be joined to its larger neighbour, Paros, by a causeway. The quayside coffee shops and cafes are a perfect spot to while away the hours, sipping coffee and watching the activity. The old Venetian Kastro was built to withstand pirate attacks. Savour the sunset from Sifnaikos Gialos, and marvel at the stalactites and stalagmites in the Cave of Antiparos reached by 400 steps down. Lord Byron carved his name on the walls.

Nisyros (Dodecanese)

This almost circular volcanic island was once part of Kos. The volcano last erupted in 1422 leaving a semi-active caldera. Steep paths lead down to the floor of the Stefanos crater with its rather alarming hot springs, boiling mud

pools and gas vents. Despite having no natural water the island is lush, the hillside terraces heavy with figs, fruits, almonds, olives trees. Nicknamed the Polo Mint island, because it is round and green outside and white inside – with a hole, the crater, in the middle. Two villages perch on the rim of the crater – Nikia, with an impressive choklakia mosaic in the village square, and Emporios. The main port of Mandraki is topped by a medieval castle of the Knights of St John which has a monastery within the walls.

Paxos (Ionian)

Hire a boat and discover your own little cove or pebbly beaches on this tiny green, wooded Ionian island. Sail past the dramatic limestone cliffs on the western coast, and be sure to visit the seven sea caves – one of which Homer described as having rooms of gold. The island boasts more than 300,000 trees and is thick with olive groves, many planted during the Venetian occupation. The capital, Gaios, is named after the disciple of St Paul who brought Christianity to the island. It has two harbours, one of which fills with fleets of yachts in the summer, but don’t let that put you off. Head instead for Porto Lonos to discover your own coves. If you want even more peace, move on to Antipaxos, a 15-minute sail south, this has fewer than 100 permanent residents. The local vines produce some good quality wines and the beaches boast beautiful turquoise sea, but there is very little accommodation.

Alonissos (Sporades)

The island has a dramatic history – including attacks by pirates, a disease which killed the orchards and vineyards, and– in the mid 1960s – an earthquake. Helped by the foundation of Greece’s first National Marine Park in the waters around the island, Alonissos has slowly been revitalised. The Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal has its HQ on Gerakas; its aim is to protect the seal, of which there are only 500 remaining (300 of which are in Greece, 30 off Piperi, the largest community). Palaia Alonnisos, the former capital, boasts a Ventian castle and the tiny Tou Christou chapel, with an intricate roof. Away from the harbour, the back streets of Patitiri are a visual delight.

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RECOMMENDED

Hotel Pagali, Langada:

In the area of Aegiali in the

hillside village of Langada.

Nearest beach at Ormos 30

mins walk away or 5 mins on

bus. Prices per person, based

on two sharing, half board,

£1023 for eight nights (£1285

for 15 nights). Includes fl ights,

transfers, fi rst class ferry tickets

Go to www.sunvil.co.uk

Tel: 020 8758 4758

 

THE BACK ISLANDS

Flying Heathrow to Athens

in September for two weeks.

Price per person based on

two people in double room.

 

Donoussa, Pension Sunset:

room only, £624

Iraklia, King Zog’s:

B&B, £587

 

Schinoussa, Villa Tholaria:

Self-catering studio, £613

 

Koufonissia, Villa Nikitas:

Room only, £561. Go to

www.hidden-greece.co.uk

Tel: 020 8758 4707

 

ANTIPAROS

Hotel Artemis: overlooking

the picturesque port in the

capital. 12/9/08 for one week,

flying from Gatwick to

Mykonos, inclusive of transfers.

Price from £619 per person

based on two sharing a

double room B&B. Go to

www.islands-of-greece.co.uk

Tel: 01444 225626

 

Soros Villa, Antiparos:

A traditional island house,

whitewashed inside and out

and just yards from the beach.

Sleeps nine, from £2,800 per

week in September. Go to

www.elysianholidays.co.uk

01580 766599

 

PAXOS

Villa Magdalena: a fiveminute

stroll from beach at

Levrechio and the waterside

tavernas and mini markets

of Loggos.  Three bed villa

with private pool from £769

per person based on four

sharing for a week,

including flights, transfers

and car hire. Go to

www.ionianislandholidays.com

Tel: 020 8459 0777

 

NISYROS

Hotel Prokopis: family run

hotel close to the square in

Mandraki. charter fl ights from

Gatwick to Kos, transfer via the

adjacent island. One week from

£406, two weeks from £552 per

person, B&B

www.hidden-greece.co.uk

Tel: 020 8758 4707

 

ALONISSOS

Paradise Hotel, Patitiri: 500m

from the beach with a pool.

Seven nights with breakfast

based on twin share including

Gatwick fl ights, transfer. £415

per person on September 26.

www.olympicholidays.com

Tel: 0844 499 4448

 

Villa Peristera: a 15-minute

walk from Steni Vala and

Patitiri, with private pool.

From £699 per person for

one week based on four

sharing, including fl ights,

transfers, accommodation

and car hire. Go to www.

aegeanislandholidays.com

Tel: 020 8451 8686

 

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