Northern Aegean Attractions

Those who want to enjoy the beauty and grandeur of the Greek Islands – but are not too excited about the usual crowds – will surely enjoy the Northern Aegean islands. These islands offer a serene escape from the masses without sacrificing spectacular scenery and fabulous beaches. With several islands to choose from, you can easily change surroundings and find a variety of experience you may be craving.

One of the most popular destinations in the Northern Aegean area is the island of Chios. It is also only 5 miles from the Turkish coast so you won’t have to worry about day excursions while you are there.

Okay, Chios is not exactly devoid of tourists considering that it is the 5th biggest of all Greek islands. However, it still has so much to offer visitors that it is certainly worth visiting. You can hang around the picturesque beaches of Komi, Daskalopetra and Agia Markella.

If you get tired of the sea and the sand, you can go visit more than 30 monasteries scattered all over the island. Nea Moni Monastery is the most awe-inspiring of all and a perfect place for those who are looking for a bit of tranquillity on the island. You can also check out the opulent displays in the Palace of Ioustiniani, the pieces of interest in the Maritime Museum or a glimpse of history in the Archaeological Museum.

An exploration of the fortified old town is also a must. If you need to take a break from all the walking, sit by the cafes on Aegiou Street and enjoy the waterfront view along with your frappe. Finally, don’t miss verdant Kampos where you will find lush greens, citrus groves and centuries-old mansions.

If you are looking for another scenic and beautiful destination for your holiday, then Thassos is a perfect choice. The island is naturally endowed with so much beauty from its splendid beaches to its picture-perfect mountain villages. Archaeological ruins are also plentiful on the island for those who are history buffs.

If you love markets and fresh produce, make sure to visit the Prinos Street market on a Monday morning for great buys and lively atmosphere. Of course, Thassos beaches are a sure delight – especially Tripiti and its natural bathtub, Pefkari as well as lively nightlife, family fun at the Golden beach and spectacular scenery at the nudist Paradise beach.

A good nature getaway destination in Northern Aegean is the beautiful island of Samothraki. This island is the perfect setting for outdoor enthusiasts who seek for springs, waterfalls and lush forests. Visit the Sanctuary of the Great Gods whose ruins are a pleasant surprise after you have hiked through a densely wooded area. The archaeological site is not just an awe-inspiring piece of history but also provides breathtaking views.

Those looking for easy treks will delight in the trail along Fonias River which ends in the dramatic view of a waterfall cascade. Not far away from the ruins can be found the hot springs of Loutra, where you can take a rejuvenating dip to keep you energized for the rest of your days on the island.

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Crete, The cradle of European Civilization

Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands.

Here, the visitor can admire the remnants of brilliant civilizations ( Crete was once the center of the Minoan civilization (c. 2700–1420 BC), which is currently regarded as the earliest recorded civilization in Europe ), explore glorious beaches, impressive mountainscapes, fertile valleys and steep gorges, and become part of the island’s rich gastronomic culture.

History oozes out of every orifice of this ancient island – whether strolling around the old Venetian town of Chania with its magnificent fortress and lighthouse standing guard over the bay, or exploring the beautiful nearby port of Souda, with its marvellous Archaeological Museum housed in a 16th-century Venetian church and its endless side streets overflowing with craft shops and eclectic architecture reflecting myriad epochs.

Also, you can take a cultural safari around the Palace of Knossos, with its colourful frescoes, famous architecture and Minoan antiquities. Or head back even further in time, to Idaion Antro – the cave where, according to mythology, Zeus spent his childhood.

The extraordinary Cretaquarium, home to hundreds of marine species, opens up a wealth of other oceanic mysteries and marvels.

One of the most famous places to see on Crete is the Samaria Gorge, Europe’s largest gorge. This National Park is 18kms long with unbelievable natural beauty. The walk through Samaria National Park is 13 km long, but one has to walk another three kilometres to Agia Roumeli from the park exit, making the hike 16 km long. The most famous part of the gorge is the stretch known as the Gates (or, albeit incorrectly, as “Iron Gates”), where the sides of the gorge close in to a width of only four meters and soar up to a height of almost 300 meters (1,000 feet). The gorge is open for hiking from May through October.

And if that all sound far too active, there’s always the island’s endless array of sands, from Falassarna in the west to Vai in the east, complete with its exotic forest of rusling palm trees.
At Chania, you can bike through Venetian architecture to colourful markets awash with the natural bounty of Crete – a kaleidoscopic array of virgin olive oils, fruits, meats, vegetables and legumes. Or, for the ultimate cultural immersion, there is Rethymno’s colourful carnival.

Every year in Rethymno, for almost a whole month, the city plays host to a succession of fun-filled celebrations, bringing together locals and visitors who participate in this carnival because they love to enjoy every moment of their lives. You will see groups of people sitting together in traditional cafés (kafeneia) drinking “tsikoudiá” (raki), tasting Cretan titbits and thinking up “mantinádes” (folk couplet songs) on the spot.

The whole town becomes one big party; people work together in order to organise all the festivities that take place in Rethymno and the surrounding areas. The most important work is done by volunteers, people of all ages who freely contribute their efforts and come up with ever more innovative ideas for the festivities because of their passion for the city’s carnival. Each year the carnival celebrations has a different theme, the element on which the main theatrical act of the dance groups will be based.

What you can not avoid when visiting Crete is the Greek traditional cuisine. Tzatziki, Suvlaki or Gyros, are just a part of the menu on which the list is, of course, the famous Greek salad. There is a great chance you will eat it every day because it will be the best Greek salad you’ve ever tried.

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Kastellorizo is peaceful island in the Mediterranean sea.

Kastellorizo is a very attractive destination because of its originality, easy pace of living and the stark natural beauty.

A Kastellorizo, whose official name is Megisti, is a Greek island on the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and popular tourist destination. The smallest of the Dodecanese Islands, it is 2 miles off the Turkish coast and borders Athens and Rhodes.

The island has become more popular in recent years among tourists looking for an isolated place in the Dodecanese, thanks to the 1991 Oscar-winning movie Mediterraneo, by Gabriele Salvatores, which is set on the island during the Second World War.

Despite this, Kastellorizo is famed for its warm temperatures, sumptuous seafood, crystal clear waters, hospitable people and breathtaking sceneries. You can get here by air, through Olympic Air, or using a boat or ferry. There are nearly no streets in the town and harbour, which makes it ideal for family holidays.

The picturesque Megisti (or Chora) is the only settlement, located at the northeast end of the island. It is a tranquil village, built on a slope above and around the natural harbor, full of brightly coloured Greek island houses, two storey neoclassical mansions, churches, and quiet alleys. In the harbour there are also attractive churches and also there are still the remains of the 14th century Castle of the Knights of Agios Ioannis on a hill with red rocks.

Kastelorizo town

The houses of the town are slender and characterised by wooden balconies and windows of the Anatolian type. At the entrance to the harbour, on the east side, stand the single story remnants of the former Italian government house, erected in 1926 by the Italian architect Florestano Di Fausto, who also designed some of the most important buildings of the Italian period in Rhodes. Nearby is the island’s former Ottoman mosque which dates from the second half of the 18th century and which has been restored and re-opened as a museum since 2007. From here starts the town’s quay, which runs along all three sides of the harbour. The central square — Plateia Ethelondon Kastellórizou (“Kastellorizo Volunteers’ Square”)— lies at the midpoint of the eastern side, near the vessel dock. On the opposite side of the harbour one has a good view from this vantage of Pera Meria, the western quay, and the monasteries of Profitis Ilías and Aghia Triadha, the former now an army base.

Above the quay on the eastern side there is a pathway which leads to the Castle of the Knights (14th century). Of it remain the curtain wall, part of a square tower, the remains of a cylindrical tower at the east corner, and toward the sea another cylindrical tower. A Doric inscription, carved in the rock, attests to the existence of an earlier fortress here during Antiquity. Inside the tower there is a large covered cistern.

Ascending the steps on the eastern side of the town, one reaches the suburb of Horafia, where there is a square surrounded by the Church of St. George (1906), with a high dome of Byzantine type, and the Cathedral of Saints Constantine and Helena (1835). It has three naves divided by monolithic granite columns from the temple of Apollo Lykios in Patara (Anatolia). The columns carry ogival arches. Further east is the small bay known as Mandraki, the secondary harbour of the island.

West of the town, beyond the summit of the island known as Vigla (270 m), stands Palaiokastro (old castle), the island’s ancient acropolis. This fortified elevation has classical origins (see below, history section): its plan is rectangular and measures 60 by 80 metres (200 ft × 260 ft).[9] In its interior stand an ancient tower, built with square limestone blocks, and large water cisterns. Carved on the base of the castle there is also a Doric inscription, dating back to the 4th or 3rd centuries BC, with references to Megiste (the ancient name of Kastellorizo) and its dependence on Rhodes. On the east side there are remnants of a gateway, or propylaea.

Similarly, at Mandraki is the Monastery of Agios Giorgis Vounou, an old and abandoned monastery which offers a majestic view of Mandraki. In Castello Rosso is a 14th Century church called the Castle of the Knights of Saint John. This castle is believed to have been built in the 14th Century using stone remnants of previous buildings.

Other attractions include the Lycian tomb, the only Lycian tomb in the whole of Greece, and which dates back to the 4th Century. Also just opposite Kastellorizo is a small rock island, the Isle of Ro, named after its only inhabitant, the famous Lady Ro who died in 1982. If you would like to know more about Katellorizo’s rich history, then the Archeological Museum of Katellorizo is the place for you. Situated at the harbour of Mandraki, the museum exhibits artifacts such as religious icons and traditional costumes from the island.

As the island was the main port in the 19th century, the coasts of Kastellorizo and neighboring islets include many interesting wrecks and exploration treasures. Although there is no real diving center on the island, you can still take advantage of clean water and enjoy diving near the coast.

Kastellorizo is also famous for its natural attractions such as Azure Grotto, or the Blue Cave. This is one of Greece’s largest underwater caves estimated to stretch up to 96 miles. The cave derives its name from the deep blue hues it emanates. Although Kastellorizo does not have any beaches, there are a number of swimming, snorkelling and diving sites with good sceneries and clear water. You can decide to swim near the harbor, but if you want hidden corners, take a taxi boat or simply explore the shore and find your jumping or swim place. Divers should take advantage of cliffs and platforms such as at Nifti, Mandraki, Kavos and Plakes.

July, August and September see Katellorizo celebrate three of its most important festivals; a celebration in honor of Prophet Elias in July, a celebration in honor of Virgin Mary in August and commemoration of the day of independence in September. Tourists should anticipate traditional music and lots of food and dance.

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