When visitors think of Greece, they tend to think of the mainland: the Parthenon, an overabundance of venerable ruins and history, and delectable cuisine such as baklava. However, look beyond Greece’s shores to its outer territories floating in the Mediterranean, and you will find so much more history and recreation than you ever imagined. It’s no wonder that the Greek Islands are quickly rising as one of the cruising industry’s favorite destinations.
One of the most popular of the Greek islands, Santorini is a sea of square and clean white buildings covered in azure blue roofs. Located in the Cyclades islands group of Greek islands, Santorini houses a volcanic crater created by one of the most explosive volcanic eruptions ever seen in history. This island is a popular shore excursion and port for cruise ships, and can be quite crowded during the height of cruising season. The best time to visit is during the off-season from December to March, when temperatures are cooler and the weather tends to be wetter.
Filled with ancient Greek sites and one of the closest islands to the culturally-rich city of Athens, Aegina is as relaxed and laid-back as they come. Once a powerful player in antiquity, Aegina invaded its neighbor Athens out of jealousy at its wealth, and also was a significant factor in the defeat of the Turkish Empire in the 19th century. Today mainland Athenians invade the island, coming to play on the weekends and explore the local ruins and cuisine. The Temples of both Apollo and Aphaia are both well worth a look, as well as the mysterious Paleohora.
The island of Hydra is in fact not named after one of the labors of the famed Herakles, but after the Greek word for “spring”, hydrea. This island is another tourist hot-spot by day, but by night becomes a quiet haven for the wise who can wait out the hustle and bustle. Sunbathing is a popular activity along the pebbled beaches here, as beach-goers gaze out over the turquoise waters. The Cathedral of Hydra and the Hydra Museum are both excellent distractions for a leisurely walk through local history.
The colorful island of Poros first enters your sight with its cliffside filled with pastel-splashed houses, creating a striking impression on the first time visitor. Though technically two islands, Poros is fairly small and easy to get around for a reasonably fit person, but buses are also available to take you to different ends of the island. Grey taxis are reputable and reliable, and cheap at 6 Euros from the center of the island to Poros’s famous monastery. The Holy Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi was built within a forest of pine trees in the early 18th century.
Popular for its gorgeous medieval towns, Rhodes, however, is not lacking in the typical stunning azure Greek waters or gravel-covered beaches. Thanks to abundant tourism, the locals here are fairly fluent in English and some German as well, but the local dialect has often been described by mainland Greeks to have a musical quality to it. Some of the best medieval ruins on the island are on Filerimos Hill, which includes a chapel and monastery. Another must-see on the island is the Asklipio, the remnants of the cult of Asklipion, the original Greek deity of healing. The internationally-recognized medical symbol of a snake wrapped around a staff is derived from the figure of Asklipion who carried a similar staff with him in all depictions throughout history.
Including all famous monuments: the Panathenaic Stadium, the ex. Royal Palace, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Hadrian’s Arch, the Parliament, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Academy, the University, the National Library and the Constitution Square (Syntagma)
Enjoy a half day cruise (included in the package) to the small islands of Nea Kameni & Palea Kameni located inside the caldera and the Hot Springswith the green and yellow waters. Admire the town of Fira’s white-washed houses, narrow streets and open air cafes that cling to a steep cliff accessible by cable car or mule
Explore this beautiful island, the largest of the Greek islands. Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos, Chania, Elounda, Rethymno and the Gorge of Samaria are only few of Crete’s attractions. Archaeological treasures, magnificent ruins and museums, glorious beaches and fabulous restaurants make Crete a complete vacation spot
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