With Greece’s economy in a state of crisis and hellish dismay, it’s easy to forget that its Islands still harbour a slice of paradise. The Cycladic Islands are the perfect post-Athens getaway.
I had already booked my return flight from London to Athens when I realised how foolish I had been. With all the excitement of going to Athens for Issue 4 I almost forgot that the beautiful Greek Islands were only a short ferry ride away. Not prepared to miss that boat, I quickly changed my flight, giving myself an extra week of pure island-hopping heaven.
I split my week between two islands; beginning with agricultural Naxos and ending on postcard-perfect Santorini. Travelling alone and without a car, both islands offered me the accessible transport links, glorious beaches and azure blue waters I had my heart set on. But while they may share the Aegean sea and sun, Naxos and Santorini actually offer two very different kinds of island escapes.
Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades, and is also considered the most fertile. The landscape is a mix of agriculture, natural mineral pools, grazing animals and beautiful Byzantine churches. I stayed at the Kavos Naxos Hotel for two nights in October and felt instantly welcomed by Mancunian hotel manager Barbara. It was coming to the end of hotel season but even though most of the cocktail-drinking crowd had moved on, I felt like I had picked the perfect time of year to visit this beautiful boutique hotel.
After spending the day walking along the splendid Agios Prokopios Beach, accidentally stumbling across a nudist hangout, and visiting a small church surrounded by lavender, I returned to the Kavos that evening for dinner. In the company of a friendly local cat, I tasted the best Seafood Saganaki I have ever tried.
The Kavos is very reasonably priced, and I would recommend this charming hotel to anyone looking for a peaceful, high-standard, yet unpretentious holiday. Kavos is closed for the winter but will open again in May 2013. Check their website for more details and bookings: www.kavos-naxos.com
The ferry ride from Naxos to Santorini is in itself worth the trip. The view offers stunning red cliffs lined with the island’s characteristic white cubist houses pinched with bright brushes of blue paint. Santorini is perhaps the most touristic of all the islands, attracting thousands of honeymooners and bum-baggers every summer. I spent 4 nights in the luxury Tsitouras Collection Hotel in Firostefani, where the hotel’s friendly manager, Eleni, offered me the breathtaking Byron Suite and a view of one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen. Staying at Tsitouras Collection is pure luxury – guests stay in suites each designed with their own individual theme, complimetary bar, cocktails at sunset and a full breakfast served on the terrace.
After spending a day visiting the Islands archealogical sites (Akrotiri or Ancient Thira) or visting one of its breathtaking beaches, The Tsitouras Collection is the perfect retreat. One of my most memorable days in Santorini began with breakfast at the hotel, followed by a bus ride to the Ancient archaelogial site of Akrotiri and a day at the red beach. I must warn you, however, not to make my mistake on the walk back from the red beach. After spending a day in the sun I walked past a pleasant looking woman selling dried figs on the way back. A seemingly harmless purchase, I realised two figs too late that there was a maggot crawling out of my half-bitten treat – do not make my mistake!
The Tsitouras Collection may not be the best choice for those looking for a budget hotel, but it is the perfect stay for honeymooners or holiday goers looking for the royal treatment. Sipping a cocktail at sunset in Santorini is heaven.
Check out The Tsitouras Collection website for more details: www.tsitouras.com
Words and Photographs by Zara Miller