The top Greek secret island for 2017

It is no secret that Greece hides many beautiful islands that can dazzle even the most demanding tourist. But when it came to voting for a hidden paradise, it was one island that came to mind at the Business Insider team and that is no other than Skopelos.

The island belongs to the Sporades islands cluster, together with Skiathos, Alonissos and Skyros (and a series of many more smaller islets). What gave Skopelos its recent fame was the “Mamma Mia” film, which introduced its many charms to the “unsuspected” public.

So, if you are tired of hearing about Mykonos, Paros and Santorini all the time and still haven’t finalized your summer 2017 plans, here is your chance. Skopelos offers a wide variety of hotels, apartments and studios. Apart from all that, if you are looking for something out of the ordinary, you will be surprised to find many traditional cottages and standard or luxury villas with various amenities depending on your budget. For those who think that reserving an entire house is expensive, think again. Skopelos villas is actually an economic accommodation, as long as the villa is fully occupied.

Relax between the blue of the sky and the sea and the green of the pines and let Skopelos offer you a holiday to remember.

Packing for Greece summer holidays

Most of us have done this several times, but each time it is equally difficult. All our clothes, accessories, cosmetics … lay on our bed for days, next to our luggage but not even our wildest imagination can’t fit them in there!

Packing for Greece summer holidays
Packing for my Greece summer holidays

So, each time, our summer holidays start in stress and confusion. This is not how it is supposed to be at all.

Get more info on your Greece destination(s)

When it comes to travelling, weather plays the major role not just for our trip but for our stay as well. We need to be ready to face local weather phenomena, wearing the appropriate clothes. I know we all think of Greece as a warm (or very warm) holiday destination but this is not always the case.

During my visits to the beautiful Greek islands, I had to endure strong and cool winds almost every time. My first visit there, on Mykonos and Tinos, was a great surprise. I was not well prepared and was, therefore, forced to buy a jacket and a pair of shoes to be able to enjoy my holiday without catching a cold. Yes, the days were warm enough but after 8 o’clock in the evening, while the sun was setting for the night, it was impossible to stay out wearing my T-shirts alone. Imagine my disappointment when I realised I couldn’t fit them in my suitcase for the trip back home. A great lesson for sure.

Exploring the Small Cyclades

Cyclades islands holidays is not all about the frenzy Mykonian parties, the idyllic sunsets of Santorini, the appealing nightlife of Paros and the secluded beaches of Naxos.

For those who wish to explore the “other way” of holidaying, the Small Cyclades are an ideal destination. It is only recently that they have been discovered by the majority of tourists while they had always been an attraction point for nature lovers and for those who appreciate the most traditional of the Greek islands.

The Small Cyclades are located south and south-east of Naxos. Their size justifies their name, being rather small compared to the rest of the islands in the group. I won’t lie to you, it is not so easy to get there. But this is part of their charm. This is what has left them unspoilt and has helped the inhabitants to retain their traditional characteristics.

Beaches of Small Cyclades islands
Beaches of Small Cyclades islands

Still, during August (the high season for the Cyclades islands), Koufonissia become such an attraction pole that it is almost impossible to find a place to stay without prior arrangements or a beach to yourself. Other than that, I would highly recommend them as your next Greece travel destination.

How to get to the Small Cyclades

First of all, you need to get to Naxos. This is really cool (at least for me) since Naxos is one of my favourite islands in the Cyclades and for a very good reason. It offers just about everything your heart might desire. If you have the time, do spend a few days on Naxos; you won’t regret it, I promise.

From Naxos, you can either continue on the same ferry or hire a sailing boat to get you to one of the Small Cyclades islands. It is also important to know that during middle and high seasons, small ferry companies depart from the port of Naxos on daily tours to this wonderful island group. Such a tour will help you decide which of the islands you prefer the most and visit them only.

I need a holiday!

Oh yes, I do need a holiday. Summer is getting closer day by day and I am getting impatient. All these cold winter months with very little sun have taken their toll on my usually happy disposition. I really feel like this guy in the photo that can’t manage to concentrate to work.

My destination for 2016 is Greece, again. This time, I am starting with a 2 week holiday break in mid May, visiting some of the Cyclades islands. This will not be my first visit there, but I just can’t get enough of them.

The anticipation is great. I wake up each morning thinking which swimsuits to take with me, which shoes will be more comfortable for my island explorations and how big will my suitcase be. All clothes have already been gathered on the couch and I even now I know that they won’t fit in one suitcase, no matter how big. Greece, here I come …

Traditional Cyclades islands

The Greeks and the olive oil

Did you know that each Greek consumes about 18kg of olive oil per year? Greece is on the top of the world list in per capita consumption and has been there forever.

A story of true love

According to most Greeks, there simply cannot be a meal that does not include olive oil. From breakfast to brunch, lunch or dinner, they all contain their fair amount of this shiny golden product that has formed the Mediterranean cuisine ever since antiquity.

The olive tree had always been regarded as a sign of prosperity and honour, in recognition to its contribution in the health and economic development of Ancient Greece. Together with the olive, its fruit, they have helped sustain, cure, light, aromatize and clean ever since 8.000 B.C.

As for the Greeks, there is simply no other oil. When they say that they use oil in every food, that could only be one: olive oil!

Greek olive oil
The Greeks and the olive oil, a story of true love!

When and how to use olive oil

A myth has been spreading for decades now that olive oil shouldn’t be ued for cooking. Well, that is all wrong. The only way you are not supposed to use olive oil is at very high temperatures and you cannot use the same olive oil to fry repeatedly. Other than that, it can freely by used in frying, in cooking in the oven and you can also use it for many sweets.

But its by far most useful usage is in raw form, in salads, poured on already cooked and served legumes, on meat, on cheese, on bread, when making phylo pastry, in spinach pies and all sorts of pies, on your hair (! yes, it is true, they become soft, elastic and shiny), on your skin (it gets smoother and younger) … you get the point, right?

You can’t expect anything different from me. After all, I’ve been living in Greece for 6 years now that I already consider myself Greek.

Is it safe to travel to Greece?

A lot has been said lately on whether Greece is a safe enough holiday retreat. Recent political events have been used to promote the argument that Greece is not an ideal travel destination and that people should select other places to visit.

However, this statement is totally untrue and contrary to all relevant statistics. In fact, the statistics reveal that Greece is one of the safest holiday destinations in Europe. That applies not only to the Greek islands but to the mainland as well.

So, whether you plan to visit one or more of the spectacular Greek islands or Athens and the Greek mainland, be sure that you will be found in a secure place where people just want to enjoy themselves and cause no trouble. Greece is waiting for you so start making your plans.

The spiral rock engravings of Iraklia

Spira, a symbol of invigorating power for Greeks ever since the Palaiolithic Era will continue to appear throughout the Greek prehistory and history. Spiral shaped shapes and engravings have been found in many areas in Greece and the Cyclades where archaeologists believe they had been inhabited.

Spiral shapes (spira or speira) depict the way life is formed and it is seen in galaxies, in our DNA, in vortexes, in sea shells, … nearly everywhere.

For prehistoric people, spira bears divine origins and was a sign of power.

It was in 1997 that Mr. Kanakis came face to face with spiral shaped engravings while visiting Iraklia, a quiet non touristic island in the Small Cyclades group, with 100 inhabitants more or less.

It is not yet known why the specific locations had been chosen and there are various opinions with either astrological or other explanation. Some scientists even consider that they served as graveyard area markers.

Less touristic Corfu

Corfu (or Kerkyra as it is called by the Greeks), is one of the best known touristic islands in Greece. Every year it accepts several thousands visitors from all over the world.In fact, Corfu has been familiar with the tourism industry long before the rest of the Greek islands starting getting involved with it. The expansion of the airport’s runway in 1959 allowed for an even greater touristic development.

There is plenty of rain in Corfu (and the other Ionian islands for that matter), which explains the island’s dense forests and rich vegetation. However, its tourist season starts as early as April.

For those of us who would love to go there but insist on having some sort of privacy, Corfu is still an ideal destination. Most tourists gather in certain areas only that offer various amenities for their comfort. These areas are quite easy to spot while getting around the island and, therefore, equally easy to avoid, if so required. If you wish to be better prepared, an early internet search will provide all this information well in advance.

By avoiding areas with big hotels and by visiting Corfu island anytime between April and June or between September and October, you will find all the privacy you need.

So, if you do want to enjoy this exquisite combination of green and blue, to relax your eyes and soul, you will love Corfu with its fantastic beaches, its historic sites and its marvellous architecture. There is so much to see and do in Corfu and still escape the masses.

My escape to Ithaki

You can call it as you like, Ithaca, Ithaki, Thiaki … the fact remains that this undiscovered Ionian island has remained in my heart ever since my first visit there in 2011. It was my dream to go back there and 2016 is the lucky year that my dream came true.

I fell in love with its countless cypress trees that appear out of nowhere. I adored its marvelous beaches, its beautiful countryside and its people. But most of all, it was the colour of the sea along its coastline that captivated my heart, as it is no longer blue due to the many olive trees, mirroring themselves on the Ionian Sea.

Ithaki has kept its traditional architecture that you can mainly admire in Vathy, its capital. Colourful houses and hotels create a rich palette as they appear in between the olive and pine trees.

It takes no more that 5 days to get to know Ithaki, the homeland of Odysseus, but it will take you a lifetime to enjoy it. You just can never get enough of it.

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