Greek get­aways

Our ex­perts pick 12 is­land idylls for a cut-price sum­mer es­cape

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE -

Now that one of the Med’s best des­ti­na­tions is start­ing its long jour­ney to re­cov­ery, Tele­graph ex­perts pick the per­fect is­land to match your hol­i­day needs

Fin­gers crossed – Greece seems fi­nally to be back on the road to re­cov­ery. The hia­tus in book­ings is over, and hol­i­day­mak­ers can re­lax and think about re­turn­ing to one of the best des­ti­na­tions in the Mediter­ranean for a re­laxed and es­capist hol­i­day. There is plenty of avail­abil­ity too – even for last-minute book­ings.

We’ve con­sulted our ex­perts in Greece, Marc Du­bin and Jane Foster, and other Tele­graph writ­ers who know the is­lands well, to come up with our top 12 for dif­fer­ent types of hol­i­day. We’ve also in­cluded a spe­cial deal or hol­i­day for each. Please note that prices and avail­abil­ity are sub­ject to change.

For our ex­pert guides to the Greek is­lands and our ho­tel rec­om­men­da­tions, see tele­graph. co.uk/greek­islands. For our de­tailed book­ing guide and list of op­er­a­tors, see tele­graph.co.uk/greeceguide.

Best for beaches Zakyn­thos

The Io­nian Is­lands are the place to head for sandy beaches backed by dra­matic coast­lines. Shipwreck Bay on Zakyn­thos, ac­ces­si­ble only by boat, trumps them all – even if it does get a bit crowded. “Visi­tors to Zakyn­thos should avoid the boozy corners of the south coast and stick to the beau­ti­ful, un­spoilt north and the moun­tain­ous west of the is­land,” says Tele­graph Travel’s Joanna Sy­mons. “Or base your­self on the pine-forested Vasi­likos penin­sula in the south-east, most of which has been pro­tected from large-scale de­vel­op­ment be­cause of the log­ger­head tur­tles that breed on Ger­akas beach – a per­fect curve of golden sand. Those tur­tles know how to pick a good spot.”

Deal: Thomas Cook (0844 412 5970; thomas­cook.com) is of­fer­ing seven nights at the four-star Smartline Mar­garita in Zakyn­thos for £599 per per­son on an all-in­clu­sive ba­sis. Price is for two adults shar­ing a dou­ble room and in­cludes re­turn flight from Glas­gow on Au­gust 23.

Best for fam­i­lies Corfu

“If I could give a child a gift, I’d give him my child­hood,” said Gerald Dur­rell, the au­thor and con­ser­va­tion­ist, shortly be­fore his death in 1995 – a ring­ing endorsement for Corfu, where the Dur­rells spent four years from 1935-39. Much has changed since then, but away from the ex­cesses of Kavos in the south, you’ll still find idyl­lic, sleepy spots. “Tourist de­vel­op­ment is quar­an­tined on cer­tain coastal patches, and once in­land you re­ally seem to be on another is­land, even in another era,” says Marc Du­bin, our Corfu ex­pert. Fam­ily-friendly ac­com­mo­da­tion is ubiq­ui­tous.

Deal: A one-week stay at the lux­u­ri­ous Mar­bella Beach Ho­tel in Corfu, rec­om­mended by Marc Du­bin, costs from £584 per per­son, in­clud­ing flights, based on se­lected de­par­tures in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber. Call 0333 005 9018 or see tele­graph.co.uk/cor­fudeal.

Best for ho­tels Mykonos

Greek ho­tels have a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing rus­tic. Not so on trendy Mykonos, which has some of the most stylish bou­tique prop­er­ties around. Marc Du­bin rec­om­mends Cavo Ta­goo, near Mykonos Town (Hóra). “Built atop an aban­doned quarry in 1985 by owner-ar­chi­tect Paris Li­akos, then ren­o­vated thor­oughly in 2007, this ‘bare­foot chic’ com­plex sets the stan­dard for all the cut­ting-edge lodg­ing that fol­lowed,” he says.

Deal: A seven-night stay at the five-star Cavo Ta­goo suites, in Mykonos Town, with views of the Aegean, costs from £1,369 per per­son. Price in­cludes flight, trans­fers and break­fast. Valid for travel be­tween Au­gust and Oc­to­ber. Call 0333 005 9018 or see tele­graph.co.uk/mykonos­deal.

Best for food Crete

The southerly lo­ca­tion of Crete gives it the long­est grow­ing sea­son in Greece. It pro­duces a cor­nu­copia of de­li­cious fruit and veg­eta­bles – you’ll even find av­o­ca­dos and bananas. Marc Du­bin says: “Crete has fig­ured promi­nently in the re­vival of Greek cui­sine, draw­ing on such lo­cal in­gre­di­ents as fresh or cured meats, wild ed­i­ble plants and rakí or tsik­oudiá, the fa­mous lo­cal dis­tilled clear spir­its made from grape press­ings in Oc­to­ber.” His guide to the best restau­rants on the is­land can be found at tele­graph.co.uk/crete.

Deal: Seven nights at the five-star St Ni­co­las Bay Ho­tel and Villa in eastern Crete, rec­om­mended by our ex­perts, costs from £899 per per­son. Price in­cludes flight, com­pli­men­tary up­grade to half board and re­turn trans­fers. Valid for travel be­tween Au­gust and Oc­to­ber. Call 0333 005 9018 or see tele­graph.co.uk/cret­edeal.

Best for wine Ke­falo­nia

There’s won­der­ful wine to be quaffed in Crete and San­torini, but we’re plump­ing for Ke­falo­nia, whose Robola

win­ery is re­spon­si­ble for the tip­ple of choice of drunken Fa­ther Arse­nios in Louis de Bernières’ clas­sic novel Cap­tain Corelli’s Man­dolin.

Deal: Villa Ni­cholas in Fis­cardo, of­fer­ing views across a small bay to Ithaca, and with four bed­rooms sleep­ing up to eight, now costs £6,280 – re­duced from £7,381. The price, through GIC The Villa Col­lec­tion (020 8232 9780; gic­thevil­la­col­lec­tion.com), in­cludes flights from Lon­don Gatwick de­part­ing Au­gust 1 and trans­fers.

Best for peace and quiet Kou­fonis­sia

Jane Foster’s pick is hid­den away be­tween the larger Cy­cladic is­lands of Naxos and Amor­gos. “Kou­fonis­sia is made up of two tiny islets, Ano Kou­fonissi (Up­per Kou­fonissi) and un­in­hab­ited Kato Kou­fonissi (Lower Kou­fonissi), sep­a­rated by a 200yd sea chan­nel,” she says.

“Ano Kou­fonissi, with its white­washed Cy­cladic cot­tages, has a buzzing lit­tle com­mu­nity. Lo­cals live mainly from fish­ing, there are no real roads and hardly any cars, so ev­ery­one ei­ther walks or cy­cles. It is only over the past decade that Kou­fonis­sia has be­come a pop­u­lar es­cape with Athe­ni­ans in search of an un­pre­ten­tious and in­ex­pen­sive sum­mer hol­i­day. ”

Deal: Jane Foster rec­om­mends a stay at Kou­fonis­sia’s wind­mill (0030 2107 293789; wind­mill-villa.gr), which sleeps four and dates from 1830. The prop­erty has avail­abil­ity for a one-week stay from Septem­ber 27, for €450 (£315) per per­son. You will need to book flights to Athens (try ba.com or easyet.com) or San­torini and then take a ferry to reach the is­land.

Best for hik­ing An­dros

There are won­der­ful walks all over moun­tain­ous An­dros, the most northerly of the Cy­clades. Tele­graph con­trib­u­tor John Gim­lette re­calls a hik­ing trip: “We marched along an­cient pave­ments bounded by mas­sive stone-pan­elled walls. We stum­bled into or­ange groves or splashed along streams colonised by ter­rap­ins and op­er­atic frogs. Then we climbed into great, crackle-dry val­leys, home only to pine martens. Fi­nally, we clam­bered up through al­mond groves and mul­berry forests to the Panachran­tos monastery, where the last two monks were liv­ing in a state of bliss­ful de­crepi­tude.”

Deal: A one-week stay at Aegean Castle, over­look­ing the sea at Agia Eleousa Beach, costs £658.50 per per­son, based on an Au­gust 3 de­par­ture, through Book­ing.com (bit.ly/1LCTJCn). Flights cost ex­tra.

Best for cou­ples Symi

San­torini is a strong con­tender, but Symi gets our vote. It has one of the most pic­turesque har­bours in the coun­try, crowded with pastel­coloured houses, bars, tav­er­nas and chic bou­tiques, and dozens of tiny beaches ac­ces­si­ble only by boat. Tele­graph writer Francesca Syz calls it a “rugged gem with a har­bour of crum­bling neo­clas­si­cal man­sions, of­fer­ing a won­der­ful lo­cal ex­pe­ri­ence and some of the best food on the Greek is­lands”.

Deal: Marc Du­bin sug­gests a villa hol­i­day at the Laza Pen­t­house, avail­able through Travel à la Carte (020 7286 9255; trav­e­lalacarte.co.uk) for a one-week stay from Au­gust 19 for £675.50 per per­son, not in­clud­ing flights.

Best for vil­las Skope­los

On a Greek is­land hol­i­day, cool, stone-floored vil­las are in­fin­itely prefer­able to ho­tels. Skope­los, which was the set­ting for the film adap­ta­tion of Mamma Mia!, has some won­der­ful op­tions. Tele­graph Travel’s Oliver Smith sug­gests Villa Ae­toma, a 10-minute drive from Skope­los Town, book­able through Io­nian & Aegean Is­land Hol­i­days.

Skope­los is also known for its monas­ter­ies. There are dozens of them scat­tered around the is­land, in­clud­ing per­haps 10 on Mount Palouki, oc­cu­py­ing the south-east cor­ner of Skope­los. They make for a per­fect ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal crawl – what more in­no­cent, life-af­firm­ing ac­tiv­ity could there be?

Deal: Io­nian & Aegean Is­land Hol­i­days (020 8459 0777; io­ni­an­is­land­hol­i­days.com) is of­fer­ing a one-week stay at Villa Raches in Skope­los (sleeps 2-4) for £955 per per­son (sav­ing £514). July 31 de­par­ture. Price in­cludes flight from Lon­don or Manch­ester and car hire.

Best for views San­torini

For stun­ning views, it’s hard to look be­yond San­torini. “The is­land is best ap­proached by sea,” says Marc Du­bin. “As your ship ma­noeu­vres over the mid­night-blue wa­ters of the caldera, the sheer lava cliffs of the crater’s lip, lay­ered in vari­coloured rock, loom over­head, with white houses on top like a dust­ing of snow. It’s one of the spec­ta­cles of the Med, as is the re­verse view when star­ing out over the caldera wa­ters from up top – some­thing not lost on the strangely as­sorted clien­tele of honeymooners, cruise-ship pas­sen­gers and back­pack­ers.”

Deal: The Tele­graph’s Ul­ti­mate Cu­nard Cruise from Is­tan­bul to Rome in­cludes a tour of San­torini with the his­to­rian Bet­tany Hughes, plus ap­pear­ances by seven other Tele­graph writ­ers dur­ing the voy­age. It costs from £4,949 per per­son for 14 nights in a top suite. Call 0333 005 9159 or see tele­graph. co.uk/cu­nard­cruise.

Best for nightlife Rhodes

Kos, Corfu and Mykonos all stand out, but we are plump­ing for Rhodes. The re­sort of Fali­raki has a bad rep­u­ta­tion, but things are in­fin­itely more re­fined in Rhodes Town. “Head to the fast-chang­ing old-quar­ter bars around Platía Aríonos and along Miltiá­dou,” sug­gests Marc Du­bin.

Deal: Thom­son (020 3451 2688; thom­son.co.uk) is of­fer­ing a sav­ing of £211 on breaks at the five-star Ho­tel La Mar­quise in Rhodes. Fly from Lon­don Gatwick on Septem­ber 2, and stay for seven nights, half-board, and you’ll pay £637 per per­son, based on two shar­ing.

Best for wa­ter­sports Le­fkada

Large bays and con­sis­tently good winds at­tract droves of sailors and wind­surfers to Le­fkada. The coastal towns of Vas­si­liki and Ny­dri are the most pop­u­lar spots for hir­ing boats and boards. The is­land has plenty more to rec­om­mend it, from its glo­ri­ous beaches to its sleepy in­te­rior – the gor­geous for­mer cap­i­tal of Karya is a par­tic­u­lar high­light.

Deal: A five-night stay at the four-star Grand Theoni Ho­tel on Le­fkada, be­tween Au­gust 11 and 16, costs £399 for two adults through Book­ing.com (bit. ly/1OxmtMZ). Flights cost ex­tra.

Shipwreck Beach on Zakyn­thos, above, a high­light of the Io­nian Is­lands; Corfu, left, is ideal for fam­ily hol­i­days; stay in a wind­mill on Kou­fonis­sia, right, and en­joy the peace and quiet

Oia in San­torini, above, the is­land deemed best for spec­tac­u­lar views

Large bays and con­sis­tent winds at­tract sailors and wind­surfers to Le­fkada, above; Symi, right, is known for its pic­turesque har­bour; An­dros, be­low right, is ex­cel­lent for hik­ing

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