DREAMING of a big fat Greek getaway?
These gems will fulfil your fantasies, says writer Heidi Fuller-love.
Best for: Trendsetters
A hippy hangout for many decades, party-loving Ios has become seriously stylish in recent years.
Forget boozy backpackers – this bijou island boasts some of Greece’s best beaches, and is all about sun-dazzled days and starry nights, sipping dangerously affordable cocktails in chic beachside hangouts. We’re sold!
“Agalia” means “hug” in Greek, and you’ll feel like you’re receiving a warm, cocooning cuddle when you stay at the Agalia Luxury Suites.
Rooms offer blissful seclusion, while the private pool overlooks Ios’ picturesque old town Chora.
Sip your welcome cocktail by the infinity pool and then visit Ithaka, a stylish taverna overlooking the island’s yacht-studded harbour, for some mouth-watering kakavia – fish stew – £9 (Ithakarestaurant.business.site).
The best way to discover the island is by quad bike. Remember to bring water and slap on plenty of sun cream before zipping up the dirt tracks to the islets of Agia Theodori and Kalamos, and other hidden coves where you can sunbathe with barely another soul in sight.
Hire costs from £22 per day (Trohokinisi.com). Or leave the “pig” (as locals call quad bikes) at home and enjoy a chilled day on a butler-serviced day bed overlooking Mylopotas beach at Free Beach Bar, from £18 (Freebeachbar.gr).
Work up an appetite with a stroll along the capital Chora’s winding streets to Panagia Gremiotissa, a whitewashed church with panoramic views over to Ormos, the lofty hill where legend says Ancient Greek poet Homer is buried.
End your evening at Pathos Beach Bar, the island’s most chic nightclub, where you can enjoy DJ sets while munching on super-fresh sushi by the infinity pool and admiring the artist-owner’s giant heart-shaped cushions, life-size human sculptures and other quirky deco.
The £8 entrance fee includes a drink (Pathoslounge.com).
Make like Justin Bieber and take your crew to hip resort Calilo to spend the day living it up by a breathtaking rock pool, with staff taking care of your every need.
It costs around £500 for up to 30 people, not including food and drinks (Calilo.gr).
Double rooms cost from £175 a night, including breakfast (Agaliahotel.com).
- FYI: Fly to Santorini, then take a ferry from Thira port to Ios (Seajets.gr). Return flights to Santorini cost from £119 per person (Easyjet.com).
Best for: Foodies
From horta, a nourishing dish of wild greens slathered in olive oil, to the fibre-rich barley snack dakos, Greece’s friendliest island is renowned for its healthy food.
Located in western Crete, Chania’s Venetian harbour and warren of shopping streets are a magnet for tourists, so head east to discover unspoilt beaches, beloved-by-locals tavernas and a more authentic atmosphere.
A perfect haven, White River Cottages lies within olive groves along a bamboo-lined lane close to the laidback resort of Makrigialos.
Spacious stone cottages offer antique furnishings alongside modern comforts, including a good-sized oven handy for whipping up something delicious with the fresh local ingredients that you’ll buy at Makrigialos’ weekly farmers’ market.
Remember the “taste of paradise” Bounty commercial from years ago? That dreamy ad was filmed on Vai’s golden beaches.
This stretch of coast near the eastern Crete town of Sitia is also home to Europe’s only palm forest, which you should explore before stopping off at Toplou, a fortified 15th-century monastery where you can sample the monks’ award-winning wine.
Back in Makrigialos, make the half-hour boat trip to Koufonisi, an uninhabited island with shell-strewn beaches, from £9 return (Cretandailycruises.com).
Or rent a car and drive the looping road – via a string of near-deserted beaches – to Ierapetra, Europe’s southernmost town.
Wander Ierapetra’s cobbled seafront, before tucking into grilled calamari with caramelised onions and an array of other seafood specialities, from £7, at Vira Potzi, a stylish tavern located in the turreted shadows of the city’s Venetian fortress (Facebook.com/virapotzi).
Mochlos, a picture-postcard fishing village close to Ierapetra that has a cluster of family-run tavernas serving succulent local specialities, including kouneli stifado – rabbit slow-cooked in a rich garlic and tomato sauce, from £8.
Double rooms cost from £72 per night (Whiterivercottages.com).
- FYI: Return flights cost from £116 per person (Easyjet.com).
Best for: Adventure lovers
Often overlooked in favour of its glitzy Cyclades sisters Santorini and Mykonos, charming Naxos boasts picturesque old-fashioned villages full of “kouroi” – ancient, often naked statues – as well as plenty to keep adventure-seekers enthralled.
Expect a warm welcome at the Kavos Boutique Hotel, a village-style complex of stone houses, just a short drive from Agios Prokopios’ beaches and buzzing nightlife.
There’s a small restaurant with candlelit tables by the pool, and dinner options include homemade moussaka, as well as tasty veggie options. Portions are huge, so do it the Greek way and order sharing plates.
Breakfast is served to your room at no extra charge and will set you up for the day – think creamy Greek yoghurt with honey and nuts, and strapatsada omelette made with spicy local cheese.
Overlooking a breeze-buffeted headland on the island’s south-west coast, the village of Mikri Vigla draws windsurfers and kitesurfers, who lounge on its glorious golden beaches after battling that feisty Meltemi wind.
If you want to have a go, you can hire a board – or take a lesson with professional instructors, from £35 for two people – at Thalasea (Thalaseasports.com).
For calmer thrills, hire a car and step back in time walking the streets of Naxos’ traditional mountain villages.
In Halki, seek out the blue-painted shopfront of Vallindras Distillery and tour the vast copper stills where they’ve been steeping lemon leaves in alcohol to make Kitro, the island’s iconic citrus-flavoured liqueur, since 1896 (Facebook.com/kitronaxouvallindras).
Soak up the alcohol with a hunk of Naxos’ succulent melachrino walnut cake from the bakery next door and then follow the winding road to Apeiranthos, an atmospheric cluster of ancient stone houses linked by winding, marble-paved alleys, where you can end your day on a luscious high note with ladles of local speciality goat stew at the family-owned Taverna Lefteris, where dishes start at £7.
Make sure you hit Alyko, where Greece’s largest cedar forest casts its centuries-old shade over a spectacular dune-studded beach. Book it Double rooms cost from £76 (Kavos-naxos.com).
Double rooms cost from £76 (Kavos-naxos.com).
- FYI: Fly to Santorini, then take a ferry from Thira port to Naxos (Seajets.gr).
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