10 Things I Love About the Greek Islands
"Happy is the man... who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean sea." --Nikos Kazantzakis
I've been to the Greek Islands many times over the past 12 years. Here are some of the reasons why I love going back!
1. The Landscapes
There are many opportunities for outdoor activities in the Greek Islands. Samaria Gorge is the most famous hike, but there are great walks on almost all the islands.
Here is a photo from the top of Mt. Zeus on Naxos:
Cycling is also possible, but beware of the heat in July and August. Here is a photo from a 3-month cycle tour of the Islands in 2004:
2. The Colors of the Sea
The sea in Greece is a different color than I've seen anywhere else. Sometimes weather conditions and sediments change it to an opaque light blue.
This photo is of the Libyan Sea at Plakias in southern Crete:
3. The Architecture (Cyclades)
The blue and white villages of the Cyclades are fascinating mazes of winding streets, passages, and stairs, sometimes built in a way to confuse invading pirates (and tourists).
There are many interesting buildings to discover on other islands, such as the dovecotes of Tinos, which are used to raise pigeons for food and fertilizer:
4. The History
Many islands have interesting archaeological museums as well as ancient ruins. Be sure to also stop at the Acropolis in Athens on the way to the Islands:
Learning a bit of Greek history helps increase appreciation of the destinations.
There aren’t many English language bookstores in the Islands outside of the most touristy areas, and even there, their selections aren’t great. Bring a book from home, or find an English language bookstore in Athens. I recommend something like Herodotus (history), Homer (Iliad and Odyssey), and/or Greek Mythology.
5. The Climate
Islands, in general, have great climates. Greece usually has perfect weather in June, as well as in the evenings in July and August. The daytime can be very hot, but Greece has a siesta time where you can get out of the sun and take a nap. After sunset, the temperature will be perfect.
6. The Food
Greece has a wide selection of tasty foods, from moussaka to grilled octopus, fish soups, Greek salads, baked eggplants, and cheap pita gyros.
This giant pita gyros is from a city called "Hercules" (Iraklio) on Crete:
7. The Traditional Music
Greece has a wide variety of folk music. Check out Markos Vamvakaris (Syros), the clarinet playing of Nikos Karakostas, and the Cretan lyra and laouto.
Here's a sample of Cretan music with lyra, laouto, and guitar:
8. The Friendly Locals
Greek Islanders are typically very friendly. It helps to learn at least a few words of Greek, even if most people speak English.
A friendly Islander:
9. The Travelers
Greece attracts many interesting travelers, which you can meet in hostels, on ferries, and just traveling around. If you play guitar, bring it along. You will meet many other travelers and locals that way.
TIP: If you play guitar, always travel with it, even if some people who have never done it try to talk you out of it. :)
10. The Ferries
Hopping on a train, boat or plane anywhere is exciting. Every time I board a Greek Island ferry there is anticipation for new destinations and adventures. Sit back with a frappe in the sun while listening to the rumbling engines, and enjoying the deep blue Mediterranean Sea.
Have a great trip to Greece, and maybe see you there!