Tinos has more than 50 villages, each vying to be fairest of them all. In Pyrgos, famous for its marble craftsmen, sculpted birds and flowers decorate every doorway. In Volax, basket weavers squat outside cottages carved from giant boulders, seemingly flung from the heavens by Zeus in a fit of pique. There's even a village called 'love’, Agapi, where you can tuck into wild-fennel fritters at the only taverna. Tinos takes its food culture seriously: there are artichoke, caper and honey festivals. For a perfect meal in perfect surroundings, go for cuttlefish risotto and octopus caramelised in grape must at Thalassaki, served on the jetty in Isternia bay, then watch dusk bleed into the horizon from Exomeria bar.
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Blaca Hermitage in the south of the island is a must-visit, as well as Vidova Gora Mountain, which is the highest peak on the island, offering you stunning views across the Adriatic and to neighboring islands on a clear day. Brač is also where you’ll find the famous Zlatni Rat Beach, one of the absolute best Croatia beaches (and even in all of Europe) and a wonderful place to spend a day. This all makes Brač one of the best islands near Split, a perfect day trip from Croatia’s second-largest city.
The other groups are best tackled individually. For example, the Ionians have no ferry connections to the rest of the Greek islands; the same story with the Sporades and the Argo-Saronics. The NE Aegean islands do have a link to the Dodecanese and the Cyclades but are probably best left for another trip once you have got the feel of the rhythm of the Greek islands.
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Where to stay in Crete: A 300-year-old hamlet surrounded by olive groves, Kapsaliana Village Hotel exudes peaceful authenticity. On a sandy bay just beyond Chania, Ammos Hotel smartly combines Scandi chic with a child-friendly vibe. Blue Palace Resort & Spa beats the (stiff) competition in Elounda with its spiral stone Isola Beach Club, thalassotherapy spa, and boat trips to Spinalonga island, a national monument just across Mirabello Bay.