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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 September 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 SEPTEMBER 2016 17 TRAVEL Santorini Poros Kalymnos Kefalonia has plenty of beautiful landscapes and Venetian architecture. My friend Stella Matt is quick to tell me this is the best island and points out that Antisamos beach is 'pure', while a visit to the Cave of Melissani is a true delight with its beautiful lake and forest, and you can even row across the lake. Visit at midday when sunlight filters into the cave. Also be sure to visit Petani, a picturesque white pebble beach with aqua blue waters. Catch the ferry from Lixouri and you will see a taverna with a view of the De Bosset Bridge, which is the largest stone bridge on a body of sea water. #4 SYMI With a population of about 2,500, Symi is less than an hour from Rhodes and I am amazed by the number of people who overlook a visit to the island. Sailing into the harbour, you will be greeted with the most incredible sight; multicoloured mansions hugging the mountain that surrounds the shore. If your breath is not already taken away, then clearly you are not kissing your partner, for this is a paradise for honeymooners and the romantic at heart. Once a commercial powerhouse of the 19th century, the population stood at 20,000, and ship-building and sponge-diving were prominent. However, over the last century, like most of the Dodecanese islands, Symi was occupied before it was returned to Greece in 1948, with many Symiotes in the meantime finding their way to Australia. While sitting in the harbour is amazing enough, my tip is that you climb to the top of the mountain overlooking the harbour. Twenty minutes of huffing and puffing will be worth it, especially if you arrive around sunset or sunrise and take your partner. If you wish to get away from the main hub, catch the caique to explore, as it is the only way to actually get around. Ten minutes from the harbour there was a beautiful beach where we all swam out to the little island in the bay with a small church, about a hundred metres into the ocean. #3 SANTORINI When people ask what modern Greece has achieved, I suggest they start with architecture, and it essentially commences here. An earthquake in the 1950s and a lack of wood resulted in the flatroof, cementsculpted structures that exist on every second Greek postcard. The white keeps the ants away, and the blue ushers in the sky and the water of summer. Aside from all the picture-perfect moments you'll have on the island, make sure you visit Thirassia island and the volcano/caldera. My tip is to visit Akrotiri, for this is perhaps Atlantis, well-preserved and waiting for visitors. #2 LESVOS The first island I ever visited, Lesvos has everything you would ever want, except for the Milos-style beaches. A hundred villages and towns, a capital that is a mini hustling bustling Athens in close proximity to Asia Minor. Molyvos, on the other side of Lesvos, is arguably one of the most impressive towns in the world, with 5,000 residents, a harbour, beach, clubs, colourful stone houses, cobblestone streets, all rising on a hill that meets a castle. The home of ouzo, I have lived there for a year and visited more than 20 times. And who could blame me? They have the best sardines in Greece, tasty olives and food that only your yiayia can cook. The perfect destination for anyone who has a week or two spare and wants to step away from the mainstream islands. In the place of Mykonos-style parties, you will find sophisticated Greek bars and clubs, tavernas, and nature. Visit an ouzo refinery, go mountain trekking, take in one of many monasteries or natural springs. A number of boats pull in to Mytilene harbour daily, though my tip is to fly in; there is nothing better than landing with the mountain on one side and the ocean on the other. #1 CRETE With a population of almost 700,000, Crete is one of the most amazing and Crete historical places I have ever visited. Phenomenal settings, incredible local wine, food that's out of this world, clear blue waters and great company, Crete became my paradise. To truly appreciate Crete, you must take at least 10 to 14 days. Stay away from Mallia during peak season as this is for the youngsters who party hard, and visit just about every other village or town. The best thing to know about Crete is that civilisation is here; this is where you can truly understand how Greek civilisation evolved. It is the home of Minoan culture and is the heart of fierce resistance against Venetian, Ottoman and German rule. My tip is to stay in Chania or Rethymno and try to visit Balos, with its tropical waters, and Elaphonisos. Crete has two main airports and various harbours, though I suggest flying there from Athens or across Europe. A year-round island, the people will appreciate your visit, for Cretans may be ferocious warriors and carried out vendettas in times gone by, but they are also the home of kindness and filoxenia. Honourable mentions: Kythera, Serifos, Sifnos, Byzantine Monemvasia, Tzia, Spetses, Carpathos, and Skiathos. * Billy Cotsis is the director of Lesvos: Fall in Love, which is playing at this year's Greek Film Festival.
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