Where to begin? We just spent 8 days in Greece hiking on 3 different islands so I’ll start in Athens at the Acropolis! To be up close to these magnificent structures is amazing—and to think about when and how they were built is unbelievable.
After a day in Athens, we took a ferry to the island of Tinos. The weather was unusually hot for mid September and we felt it. I wouldn’t normally be out hiking in the heat of the day with very little shade but that’s what we did!
The hills were barren, with the odd cow and many churches dotting the landscape. A recent article in Travel & Leisure states that Tinos has over 700 churches! The most famous is the Church of Panagia Evangelistia (Church of the Virgin Mary) which attracts pilgrims to the island who crawl on their hands and knees from the port to the church, a distance of about 800 metres – uphill!
In the village of Volax, we watched a man weave the traditional baskets of Tinos. I really wanted to get one but it just didn’t fit in my luggage.
In another village, there was a well-stocked cafe that operates on the honour system. Our amazing guide, Dafni, made Greek coffee for all and pulled a bag of marzipan cookies from her pack for our mid-morning break!
We hiked on footpaths that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere and then a picturesque village would appear.They often seemed deserted. I think the locals knew to stay inside during the heat of the day!
The bold blue doors catch your eye after looking at so much white or dry hillsides.
We took a ferry from Tinos to Naxos, the largest and most fertile island in the Cyclades and started hiking. In the village of Chalki we poked in several shops with hand made woven goods and local honey. Dinner was at an amazing restaurant tucked down an alley and included BBQ and some of the best french fries we had ever tasted. Apparently the island of Naxos is known for their potatoes. Later in the week we saw Naxos french fries on a menu in Santorini and ordered them immediately!
Our most challenging hike was to the top of Mt Zeus on Naxos, the highest point in the Cyclades. According to Greek mythology, Zeus was raised in a cave on this mountain. It was extremely windy at the top, as you can see by my hair and the fact that I am holding on to the stone marker!
The hike ended in the village of Filoti where we tried caffe freddo, a cold coffee drink with whipped milk on top. The coffee we drank varied from place to place with many cafes serving instant coffee…it has a taste that is very recognizable and always disappointing to me.
The island of Naxos is home to a massive 2,500 year old marble doorway, the Portara, that was the entrance to the unfinished temple of Apollo. It provided a spectacular backdrop for the sunset. From Naxos we took a high speed ferry to Santorini. From the port, the road zig zags up the side of the volcanic cliffs for some stunning views into the caldera, the underwater crater left behind after a massive volcano in 2000 BC submerged the central part of the island.
The hike from the town of Fira to Oia in Santorini was amazingly beautiful the whole way. Hiking in Santorini seems to be popular, the day we flew to Greece the NYTimes had an article called In Search of the Authentic Santorini? Skip the Beach. Take a Hike. Many of the places mentioned in the article were part of our hikes. We left Fira late afternoon and literally walked into the sunset, framed against the dazzling white buildings and blue domes of Oia, one of the most photographed towns in Greece, with good reason! After dinner we had some very delicious gelato at Lolita’s!
The only downside to Santorini was the number of tourists. On our last day on the island, we got up early and wandered the back alleys of Oia, took some photos and saw very few people. By 10am, the narrow alleys were clogged with people and we headed back to our hotel for the short walk to the nearby beach and taverna.
We flew from Santorini back to Athens, the flight took less time than the drive from the airport to our hotel in Athens. We enjoyed one more dinner in Athens at Gods’ Restaurant near the Acropolis Museum and left the next morning. Since our return I have been reading about other Greek islands and trying to figure out when we could go again and spend more time doing less! On my want-to-visit-list is the island of Folegandros after reading an article in the NYTimes a few years ago about a little hotel called Anemomilos Apartments. It is a little more challenging to access so it’s going to take more planning but it’s going on my list!
Yamas! (Cheers in Greek!)