With the exception of Elounda - a pocket of bling popular with oligarchs - the north-east coast is scarred by over-development. Instead head south, where there are miles of empty sand dunes, sprinkled with simple yoga retreats such as Yoga Rocks at Triopetra and Yoga Plus at Agios Pavlos. Or take a back-to-nature break with Wild Fitness at Milia, a 17th-centruy hamlet powered entirely by solar energy. Time slows almost to a standstill in the mountain villages, where locals with formidable whiskers welcome you with shots of raki (Cretan grappa) for breakfast and celebrate saints' days with a volley of gunshots. Even the road signs are peppered with bullet holes.
Yachts moor in the deep, sheltered harbour of Vathy, or Kioni, a miniature port where you’ll find Spavento, the perfect pier-side café-bar. Go any time of day or night for ice-cream sundaes, excellent cocktails, and a soundtrack to make your heart sing. Ideal for low-key family holidays or retreats, rugged little Ithaca is somewhere you can still disappear.
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.
When the writer Lawrence Durrell arrived in Rhodes after World War II, he found an island devastated by centuries of crusaders and invaders. Like the fallen Colossus, it was 'a Rhodes dispersed into a million fragments, waiting to be built up again.' Since then, Rhodes has reinvented itself as one of Greece's top travel destinations. The big draw is the medieval citadel in Rhodes Town: : stroll along the battlements and you'll spy Byzantine churches, Roman ruins, synagogues and minarets. In the maze of alleys, seek out Marco Polo, a 15th-century guest-house decorated like a pasha's harem, with an enchanting restaurant in the garden.
Lefkada is the island that’s not an island. You can drive to it across the causeway from the mainland, but it feels every bit an island. Aristotle Onassis bought the satellite island of Skorpios here as his own bit of getaway paradise. Beaches, windsurfing, boat hire, good food and wine are all here and there are few built-up package resorts. The main tourist area is centred on Nydri.
Thank you for putting together such a great site. My husband and I are planning a trip to the Islands in May – neither of us have been and, honestly, have no idea where to even start putting together an itinerary. We have at least 14 nights to spend there (and may be able to push that to 17). I’m in my early 30s, my husband’s in his early 40s. Our priorities are culture and history, swimming, beautiful views, nice towns, and food and drink. We’re not interested in clubbing at all, but more laid-back late night bars definitely appeal. This is probably our one big holiday this year so while the budget is more mid-range than sky-high, we can push it a bit for the right places or experiences. We’re happy to take in quite a few islands, or with a mix of longer and shorter stays.
Though this country has some 322 islands, less than a third are inhabited. Most of the action happens in the western islands, but no matter where you go, this is heaven. Any time the name Fiji is heard, visions of beaches and tropical ocean dance in people’s head. There’s a good reason for that – because this place is one of the best places to go in the world, and with so many islands, you’re bound to find one you like.
Fabulous site Dave! I am taking my daughter to Greece for 12 days in late May 2017 as a grad gift (yeah I know…, I think my Dad gave me a Timex watch, but I digress) and we are flying into Santorini expecting to spend 5-6 days there then ferrying over to Mykonos (not really sure why?) for a couple days. A couple days there and then flying into Athens for 2-2.5 days to inject some culture into what is otherwise somewhat hedonistic trip. I was wondering, after reading about other islands whether it is worth going to Mykonos. I’d love to go to Crete but it seems to be tough to squeeze that in. The original plan was to go to Istanbul for a couple days but it seems really sketchy right now. So is Naxos a better idea than Mykonos? Should we stay longer in Santorini? Is 2.5 days too much for Athens? Any and all info is appreciated.
With its pastel villages, rolling olive groves and grand manor houses, the rest of the island recalls Tuscany - but with far better beaches. The smart set stay on Corfu's north-east coast (nicknamed Kensington-on-Sea) where the Rothschilds like to unwind. It's wall-to-wall Sloanes and speedboats at Agni, a tiny fishing village with three rival tavernas (Toula's is the best). From here, you can rent a boat and putter to your own cove: perhaps Nissaki, Agios Stefanos or Kerasia. These idyllic bays still resemble the 'delectable landscape' that Lawrence Durrell fell for in the 1930s — now back in vogue thanks to the ITV series, The Durrells. Or venture inland to Ambelonas, an enchanting winery, restaurant and cooking school that specialises in Corfiot dishes, such as squid with chickpea and turmeric mousse and rose petal jelly. Steer clear of the south, especially Kavos. Unless you happen to like wet T-shirt contests.
Private jet is the best new way for VIPs to travel south: Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, now offers direct seaplane air service with Key West Seaplanes from Florida airports to the property’s private beach pier. Slightly farther north on Key Largo, Playa Largo Resort & Spa debuted last summer with signature Sunshine State coral reefs and sea glass, plus 144 rooms and suites, 10 secluded bungalows and a standalone luxury guesthouse.
Known as the Cradle of Polynesia, Samoa is notable for its Fa’a Samoa way of life — a 3,000-year-old social code that prizes family, tradition and the environment. Happily, the landscape is as lovely as the local culture. On the main island of Upolu, a plunge into the To Sua Ocean Trench swimming grotto is a must. On Savaii, Samoa’s largest island, visit caves, waterfalls, blowholes and the Saleaula lava field, formed by a 1905 volcanic eruption that buried five villages.
Casting Penélope Cruz as a Greek peasant is improbable. Shooting a World War II film on an island flattened by an earthquake in 1953 sounds even crazier. And yet Captain Corelli's Mandolin put under-the-radar Kefalonia (Cephalonia) in the spotlight in 2001. The dramatic scenery still lives up to the hype: milky-white Myrtos beach, the island's pin-up; pine-fringed Horgota beach; and the giddying heights of Mount Ainos, a national park where deer and wild horses roam. Outdoor Kefalonia organises four-wheel-drive safaris, if you can't face the hairpin bends. Surprisingly, the two prettiest seaside villages - Assos and Fiskardo - didn't make the cut. But the yachting set has discovered their photogenic charm. Everyone from John Galliano to Jon Bon Jovi has jumped ashore to taste the seafood pasta at Tassia in Fiskardo, washed down with local Robola and Muscat wines. (We recommend the organic muscat from the 19th century Haritatos Estate in Lixouri, also an enchanting setting for wine tasting.) The rocky coastline around Fiskardo is deliciously pristine: go snorkelling at tiny Dafnoudi or Emblissi, flanked by slabs of limestone that turn the water electric blue.
Panama is an underrated destination in Central America, including the San Blas Islands. This is a popular spot for sailing and boat tours, though there are also some resorts in case you’re looking for a more luxurious stay. Generally, the islands are quite rustic and make for a great off-the-grid island getaway. There are tons of beautiful spots for good sailing, diving, and snorkeling.
To island-hop some of the most beautiful havens in the world, book a trip to Asia, which lays claim to six of this year’s top 15 destinations. But if you only have a week, you’ll hardly suffer. Each of the islands on this list is worth a visit on its own, from the perennial World’s Best list-makers Maui and the Galápagos to Portugal’s rising star, the Azores, with its friendly locals and awe-inspiring landscapes.
Close to this island is a little island that provides excellent snorkeling opportunities. You may even spot a few reef sharks. Bathtub-warm water and fine sand beaches kept me here for over three weeks. It will do the same for you. Visit between November and March for the best weather and the fewest people. May through October sees a harsh monsoon season that shuts the island down. The best way to get there is by boat from Pak Bara.
Hi Dave, going to Greece in September from the 3rd to 18th. Paros and Milos are pretty much decided but we are not sure about adding a 3rd island. We arrive in Athens early in the day from an overnight flight so will be jetlagged. My husband is staying on for an additional week near Thessaloniki. We have already visited Athens, Aegina, Crete, Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, and Rhodes. My husband isn’t really a beach person and I love the beach so we do need a mix of things to do. We are pretty fit and enjoy being Active. Great restaurants are a must. Any suggestions?
The almighty church has kept nightlife in check. If you must see and be seen, head to quietly glamorous Astivi or Stoa bar, on miniature Agia Lesvias square, in Hora. Beach life is generally languid and low-key; Psili Ammos and Livadi Geranou are our favourite hideouts. Dinner reservations are essential at Benetos, for Med-Asian fusion on an organic farm, and Lambi for grilled fish on a purple pebble beach.