UNDIS­COV­ERED IS­LANDS

Es­cape the crowds – and dis­cover ad­ven­ture – on Greece’s re­mark­able wealth of is­land gems

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Promotional Feature -

It goes with­out say­ing that Greece’s is­lands of­fer some of the most en­chant­ing es­capes in the world. Look be­yond the big names, though, and you can ex­plore some un­der-the-radar gems, get­ting a glimpse of what Gre­cian is­land liv­ing is re­ally all about, even dur­ing the busy sum­mer months.

Kythera was the re­puted birth­place of Aphrodite, the God­dess of Love, and its rugged in­te­rior is cer­tainly easy to fall in love with. Lo­cated off the south­east­ern tip of the Pelo­pon­nese penin­sula, this moun­tain­ous area is awash with val­leys, all swoop­ing to­wards the sea.

But first head to the cas­tle of Chora, which was built back in the 13th cen­tury and is of­ten re­ferred to as the eye of Crete. It dom­i­nates the sky­line, and be­hind its walls lies Vene­tian ar­chi­tec­ture aplenty, in­clud­ing a prison, a church adorned with old mu­rals and a swathe of two-storey houses that, just two cen­turies ago, housed over 200 in­hab­i­tants. A few kilo­me­tres away, to­wards Limnionas beach, you can see the Cave of Agia Sofia. Its sta­lac­tites and ever-chang­ing colours are well worth the walk.

Else­where, the is­land of An­dros is a rich blend of moun­tains, beach and agri­cul­ture, per­fect 365 days a year. Fly to Athens and then take the two-hour ferry from the port of Ra­fina on one of the daily cross­ings. It’s the green­est and most northerly of the Cy­clades, and se­cond in size only to Naxos. Mean­while, the cap­i­tal, Hora is a heav­enly mix of neo­clas­si­cal build­ings, mar­ble pave­ments, pretty squares, tow­er­ing churches and golden beaches.

An­dros is also a hik­ers dream, recog­nised by the Eu­ro­pean Ram­blers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, with well over 100km of foot­paths for those want­ing to wan­der. The An­dros Route, a 100km walk that runs from the top to the bot­tom of the is­land, is a fine ex­am­ple. For a more cul­tured

visit, there’s also the Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art, the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal mu­se­ums in Hora and Pa­le­opo­lis, as well as the Cy­clades Olive Mu­seum, so get out and ex­plore.

THE QUIET LIFE

If you’re look­ing to switch off, Anafi in the Cy­clades is an­other is­land yet to be dis­cov­ered by the masses. It’s still ac­ces­si­ble in au­tumn and spring, and blessed with un­trod­den beaches, hilly, high ter­rain and ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites. Cap­i­tal Chora is just 20 min­utes’ walk from the har­bour of Aghios Niko­laos, and its swathe of white-washed build­ings and wind­mills cas­cad­ing down from the peak is a clas­sic im­age of is­land Greece. It’s free from con­ges­tion, and to get around you must walk or travel by mule.

Nearby, you can visit the ru­ins of a Ro­man ceme­tery and an an­cient town, or head up to Mount Kalamos in the is­land’s south-east. Here, a foot­path winds this spiky mono­lith, where­upon you can en­ter its for­bid­ding bow­els via the cave of Dra­con­tospilo. Wan­der­ers can also hike 90 min­utes to the white bell tower of the Monastery of Pana­gia Kalami­o­tissa via a path that be­gins at the Monastery of Zootho­hos Pigi. Keep your eyes peeled for pass­ing seals from some of the awe-in­spir­ing view­points along the way.

If that isn’t enough ac­tion for you, the is­land of Ka­lym­nos in the Dode­canese of­fers a wilder take on is­land life. There’s am­ple op­por­tu­nity to scuba-dive, hike trails, visit the won­drous Esperi­don fjord, ex­plore over 50 caves and scale rock for­ma­tions. The is­land is home to one of the most ex­ten­sive climb­ing net­works in Greece; there are more than 1,300 climb­ing tracks for clam­ber­ers of all abil­i­ties, with slabs, boul­ders, big walls and over­hangs to con­quer. The most pic­ture-wor­thy is the arch at the Grande Grotta cave.

The is­land is also famed for its sponge div­ing, with 30,000 har­vested here each year. From the two div­ing cen­tres, it’s easy to ex­plore un­der­wa­ter where cape slopes, ship­wrecks, reefs and caves all pep­per the seascape. Div­ing is so pop­u­lar here that there’s even a fes­ti­val in the sum­mer with free or­gan­ised dives for vis­i­tors.

But no mat­ter whether you’re look­ing for a city-break, an is­land ad­ven­ture, sun, shade, cul­ture or na­ture, Greece whets the ap­petite 365 days a year.

Foot­prints on the sand Be­yond the iconic white-washed houses and wind­mills of Anafi are clas­sic beaches; ( top) An­dros doesn’t just de­liver post­card coastal vil­lages but is one of Greece’s best hik­ing des­ti­na­tions

You’ll be climb­ing the walls Ka­lym­nos is a won­der­land for climbers; ( bot­tom) the nar­row streets of his­toric Kythera of­fer a glimpse into Greece’s past

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