Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Greek Islands

No trip to Greece is complete without visiting some of its key islands. The islands are the main characteristic of Greece’s morphology and an integral part of the country’s culture and tradition. Greek sovereign land includes 6,000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, of which only 227 islands are inhabited.

Most of the islands are found in the Aegean Sea and are divided into seven groups. With the limited time we had, we couldn't possibly visit even the top 10 islands, so we decided on a day cruise to 3 islands in the Argosaronic Gulf - Hydra, Poros and Aegena.

We started with Hydra. This island has one main town, known simply as "Hydra port". It consists of a crescent-shaped harbor, around which is centered a strand of restaurants, shops, markets, and galleries that cater to tourists and locals. Steep stone streets lead up and outward from the harbor area. Most of the local residences, as well as the hostelries on the island, are located on these streets.

Hydra has no cars or motorbikes (by law), garbage trucks are the only motor vehicles on the island. Horses, mules and donkeys, and water taxis provide public transportation. The inhabited area, however, is pretty small and hence mostly walkable
Port of Athens - beginning of the cruise

Hydra Port - as visible from the island

Beautiful white houses, Hydra

Lovely Blue windows, Hydra

Our next stop was Poros - an island with rich vegetation. It has a good road network and adequate tourist infrastructure, which makes it a popular resort for short holidays.

Port of Poros

Port of Poros

View of Sea from the base of lighthouse, Poros

Another view from the base of lighthouse, Poros

Lighthouse, Poros

By the time we reached Aegina, we decided to spend more time enjoying the island, rather than clicking pictures, hence no photos to share. Aegina island is know for its pistachios and of course we also bought some. We skipped the optional tour to the Temple of Aphaia and instead just roamed around the island.

On the way back to Athens, we were entertained by local music and dance performances. Those really made our day. Overall the cruise was really worth it - ofcourse we didn't get to spend much time on any of the islands but it was still a great experience and I would highly recommend it if one is short on time and wants a flavor of Greek islands.

Next day we flew to Santorini (Thira) - one of the Cyclades. The name “Cyclades” refers to the islands forming a circle (the name in English means: “circular islands”) around the sacred island of Delos. According to the Greek mythology, Poseidon, God of the sea, furious at the Cyclades nymphs turned them into islands.

We took Ryan Air flight from Athens to Santorini and rented a small car there (quite similar to Santro and it was manual transmission). Thira is a small island and car came pretty handy - so if you can drive stick shift, I would definitely suggest renting a car - book it online and someone will meet you at the airport with the paperwork and keys.

With help from google maps, we were able to locate most of the key attractions easily and even managed to find parking in the busy downtown where we had a long leisurely lunch accompanied by some amazing wine.

Oia, Santorini
Oia, Santorini

View from Monastery of Profitis Ilias 

View from Monastery of Profitis Ilias 

It was a nice drive to the Monastery - not really steep as some of the blogs had suggested. I had no issues getting my small car up to the top.

We had booked 19:45 flight back to Athens and when we reached the airport around 6 pm, we found it closed. Apparently in off season months, the airport is not open whole day. The weather had turned quite cold as it was raining most part of the day and right now we were really grateful for the warm confines of the car where we had decided to wait it out.

To be honest, 2 days simply weren't enough but it did give us a taste of what Greek islands can offer. A vacation just to spend some quality time  on these islands is definitely in the offing.

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