A rushed drive from Delphi to Athens, deliver the car and and get to airport to fly to the island of Skiathos started our time heading for our Greek island experience.
In all we will spend near three weeks on the three “postcard” islands of Skiathos, Santorini and Naxos.
First Skiathos, a typically Greek/Mediterranean island, (really, the second of the 4 for us including a short visit to Hydra), is a relaxed and popular place for tourists.
As always there are some thrills, some issues and some fun and lots more of photographic images to share than can be included in these blogs.
Walking the streets, lanes and beaches of these islands provides lots of photographic opportunities.
A few facts, Skiathos is one of the northern Sporades group in the Aegean with a current population of abut 8,000, is recognized as a party island with tourist numbers said to reach up to 70,000 at a time. Its known for its beaches, olives and is very green compared to the mainland.
Walking the streets for a meal you’ll come across large trays of whole fish packed in ice, ready for your selection for dinner. This was along waterfront restaurants on Skiathos.
Cafes, shops and tiered buildings in Skiathos opposite the new port.
The streets are deserted at 6.00 am, peacefully awaiting the jostling hordes. The high point and church though looking distant here are only a short walk and climb.
From the hill with Church of Saint Nikolas, the town can be seen laid out below with it’s characteristic terra-cotta tile roof tops and whitewashed buildings.
Lights of Skiathos Town reflect along the water’s edge.
Streets of Skiathos
Though some of these shots show empty streets, July & August are the hot months, both from point of view of tourists and temperatures which have been well up into the 30’s.
Colourful quaint boats in Old Port at Skiathos
The sky’s have never had a cloud in them and the sunrises and sunsets are intense, especially on Santorini. The Greeks are on holiday too, and swelling the numbers of tourists and those returning home from the mainland, so hectic is the way here at this time of the year. Many heading to the beaches to hire a deckchair and umbrella, bare some flesh and darken their skin a little as well as bathe in the luke warm Mediterranean water and sipping the odd cocktail in between.
While on the subject of baring some flesh, see if you can read this fruiterers sign above the nectarines!
Dining on these islands offers great variety. From the rip sh.. and bust fries with everything including your Greek salad (excuse the mild exaggeration)to really lovely “fine dining” restaurants.
Luckily we spent our time here with a group of great friends who ensured we dined in splendor.
Our hotel at Santorini, our next stop, deliberately chosen to be out of the two main touristic hotspots of Ia and Fira is just the best. The Ampelonas Apartments, it turns out is situated at the highest point of Santorini. And it it is a lovely comfortable and well run property. Sunsets and sunrises without moving (other than to wait 10 hours and turnaround that is), quite unique.
And turnaround – 10 hours later;
Another Santorini sunset, with silhouetted thistles
This is an island in the Cyclades group. Has a resident population around 16,000 before tourists arrive. Grow grapes and olives and is comprised essentially of the 2 cities (Ia and Fira or in their alternative spelling Oia or Thira) built on the caldera.
From our hotel in Imerovigla its only about 20 minutes walk to Fira, one of the 2 postcard style towns and the capital of the island, and about 30 minutes bus or taxi (a story about this later) ride to Ia (or Oia).
Probably the most photographed church on Santorini, The church and Three Bells of Fira, with sailing cruise ship in bay below. But there is so much more photographically in this town.
As well as the over-exposed whitewashed buildings, there’s the fascinating walkways and staircases seemingly ending nowhere and everywhere
The classical Oia hillside shot.
Busker at top of the 230+ Oia steps to Ammoudi Bay below.
Mules, waiting to carry tourists up, in the heat can’t even keep their eyes open standing at bottom of Ammoudi Bay steps
Octopus drying by restaurant at Ammoudi Bay
So to Naxos on the ferry. Hell just getting on and off this this thing is an experience. The mayhem of Greek organisation seems at it peak in this exercise. No signage for the hordes to work out when or where to move, just people shouting unintelligible instructions, men in uniforms blowing whistles and waving their arms while the aspiring travellers rush about in some form of unmitigated confusion and chaos. Somehow most seem eventually to make it. A bit like the bus timetables, a lower level of chaos, but then often the bus will depart 5+ minutes early, so don’t arrive bang on time and expect to be on. That it seems to me is high -risk strategy.
Trucks, cars and poorly informed tourists all jostling to get aboard a Greek ferry leaving Santorini for Naxos.
Like the others the island of Naxos comprises historic buildings and not so historic presented for the tourists, separated by narrow stone paved lanes with those white painted mortar patterns.
Tourists traipse up the low climb to experience a sunset at another Temple of Apollo, this time at Naxos.
Along with the flowering bougainvillea, the oleanders, the wild figs and olive plantations cats abound. Little wonder there’s no birds or wildlife to speak of. They are everywhere and if you look, they are usually in multiples.
But our find in Naxos was in form of a very pleasant and helpful guide, Stuart Thorpe,
There’s little sign of any industry that’s not tourism or olive related, but this old abandoned industrial building just out of Chalki (or Halki) caught my eye as we walked between a couple of villages with Stuart.
We had to shift a modern wooden and iron bench seat placed for locals to rest on in front of this irresistible old wall. We did put it back! Other than a locked church and a few homes there was little else here in Kaloxilos, the next village
Byzantine era church of Agios Apostolos which although we didn’t see them has frescoes inside dating its construction back to 12 or 13th centuries.
Only standing part ot these stone remains in the countryside, an arch through which there’s a landscape of olive trees and in the distance, the methodologically named Mount Zeus, highest peak on Naxos
Ancient olive trees are the dominant landscape feature around here.
Couple of men in small town of Filoti, doing what old Greek men do best. Sit, drink and endlessly hour after hour philosophise.
Thanks to Stuart, we got to out of the way villages, a Byzantine church in a paddock somewhere and an authentic lunch up in the hills at a family run taverna. The owners quickly prepared a range of dishes we shared. All the produce was grown on their own small farm. A great experience and one to be recommended if you are seeking a bit more than the typical tourist.
Open sign on the only food place for miles, a family run restaurant in Moni in the hills of Naxos where all the produce is grown on their own small farm. An experience to stop for, and another we’d have totally missed without Stuarts guidance.
Below, the remains of our multi course meal.
Inside another small church next to where we stood to take the photo below at a spot known as Stavros Keramotis.
View to coast from the only spot on Naxos where you can see both coasts, by turning around off course, Stavros Keramotis.
A couple of cheese makers selling their artisan cheeses on the street in Filoti. Generously they cut sizable slices for us to try.
We had the opportunity to spend 4-5 hours with Stuart, a photographer and guide.
Stuarts contacts are;
Would have to say this was probably the best value for money spent while here on Naxos.
Stuart’s knowledge and taking us to places we wouldn’t have made it to if we’d hired a car, which was the option we considered, was simply excellent.and cost effective too.
So, over 5,000 images, a number instagram
posts and many to publish to my website
there’s plenty more if you are interested, now we are about to complete our journey and head home to get stuck into processing all these images. Perhaps we’ve shared some travel inspiration and ideas through our experiences over these blogs.