An Island Paradise is Just One Hour Away from Athens

Although close to Athens – just an hour away from the port of Lavrio – the island of Kea (aka Tzia) is not well-known by tourists (yet) and has thus remained quiet and authentic.

Unlike most other islands in the Cyclades, Kea is quite fertile and green. It is an island with numerous natural attractions, rich traditions and authentic hospitality.

The island has fanatic admirers, mostly Greeks, since it maintains its traditional character, charming its visitors with its beautiful communities and villages, archaeological sites, as well as its spotless beaches and forests. Those that enjoy visiting the island begin their getaways around Easter time and, for the most part, end them sometime in early November.

In the Archaic period, the island was divided between four city-states: Ioulis, Karthaia, Poiessa and Koressos – which are connected by 36 kms of cobbled trails. Today, the main town of Kea is Ioulis, a beautiful traditional settlement built on the side of a hill, with a Venetian castle from the 13th century dominating on the top. The three other ancient cities are mentioned in Greek mythology as having been the first home of the Water Nymphs.

During the Byzantine period the prosperity of the island rose, but the island was considered in 1204 when it was captured by the Venetians in the wake of the Fourth Crusade. It was re-captured for a short period by the Byzantines before falling again to the Venetians, who built the famous castle on the ancient acropolis of Ioulis. Kea was taken from the Venetians by the Ottoman Turks in 1537, and following the Greek War of Independence, Kea finally joined Greece.

Kea has something for everyone: adventure seekers can explore the exciting hiking trails and underwater shipwrecks or go off-roading over the wild terrain; sailing aficionados frequent the island due to its proximity to the Attica mainland; eco-minded visitors are attracted to places like La Maison Vert-Amande, a local house and farm owned by a French-Greek couple and rented out to visitors – as well as the fact that the eastern part of the island boasts the largest oak forest in the Cyclades (included in the Natura 2000 network) which is perfect for bird-watching; art history buffs can admire the carved lion statue, the Lion of Ioulis – the guard and emblem of the island; individuals interested in religion can visit the church of Agios Sostis in September for its annual festival (or any one of the other 130 churches and cathedrals on the island – let alone the Byzantine monasteries and shrines); foodies can explore olive groves and vineyards (and of course, taste the fabulous foods), etc.

Photos and articles from various newspapers, including The Telegraph, illustrate the unique houses of Kea – with pitched roofs of clay tiles – much more substantial than the usual Greek cube since the island has always been a prosperous and self-sufficient island.

And Kea has remained simple and authentic – the way the Greek islands used to be before they were overrun by tourists. So if you’re in the market for a truly traditional Greek-island vacation, without the thumping disco music, Kea might be the perfect escape for you.

Source: The National Herald

Places to Travel in 2020 To Combat Overtourism

Take the road less traveled, and still get your wanderlust fulfilled.

Overtourism, described as the “perceived congestion or overcrowding from an excess if tourists, resulting in conflicts with locals”, entered our lexicon in 2012, but wasn’t used widely until 2015. With an increasingly global middle class (who often value travel and experiences over material items), social media FOMO, and the rise of airbnb and discount flying, many moving parts contribute to the overtourism in some of our beloved places. That doesn’t mean traveling is out the question. It’s just about being more conscious of our decisions when traveling. As a rule, traveling during off peak, taking alternative modes of transportation when visiting multiple countries (instead of just flying), and being mindful of local customs and lives are a small way to combat this larger problem. Let’s say bon voyage to traveling thoughtlessly. Even popular sites like Kayak are promoting under-the-radar places to inspire travelers to choose the path less traveled. Here are our picks:

KEA AND KYTHNOS, GREECE

Santorini was a major destination in 2019, so much so that the city has had to limit the amount of ferry’s and tourists on the island per day. If you still want the beautiful beaches, breathtaking views, and quaint charm of Santorini, try the neighboring islands of Kea and Kythnos instead. Kea has similar architectural draws (think white and blue hilltop villages without the tourist crowds), and Kythnos features gorgeous thermal springs and some of the best restaurants in Greece. Stay in Athens (we’re loving Niche Hotels at the moment) and day trip to both islands, or book early to enjoy an overnight stay on the beach at Hotel Kythnos Bay.

Source: redbook

Kea one of the “Best Islands to Visit in 2020” By cntraveler.com

We find it curious that Kea escaped attention for so long. Only an hour’s ferry ride from Lavrio, just outside Athens, this Cycladic island has everything going for it: a prettily faded Hora straddling two hills, a ritzy yacht scene around the mini-resorts of Vourkari and Koundouros, and blindingly blue bays with some of the best wreck diving in Greece. (The most famous shipwreck is the Britannic, sister ship of the Titanic). Then there’s the magnificent ancient city of Karthaia, poised above the twin bays of Poles like a mirage. “A narrow ridge of land, but I would not swap it for Babylon,” wrote the poet Pindar.

Katerina Katopis-Lykiardopulo

Like many of Kea’s beaches, Poles is only accessible on foot or by boat. But it’s all change on the bay of Vroskopos: Greece’s first One&Only will open here in 2021, with a beach club and three restaurants. Go before the crowds catch on, and head inland where Athenians’ stone villas are hunkered into the sun-bleached landscape—Hipaway has some nice hideouts. Or disappear at Kathikies, a century-old farmhouse stranded at the end of a dirt track with nothing but cicadas, butterflies and boundless Aegean views for miles. —Rachel Howard

Source: cntraveler.com

FT Magazine Travel – Top Mediterranean escapes

9 — Kea, Greece Kea is among the least visited, most understated islands of the Cyclades. It’s an oasis of relaxation, with sleepy beaches and small villages featuring excellent tavernas. The charming Porto Kea Suites is an ideal spot to sip a cocktail by the pool.

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Sam Armytage says “Greeks know how to live”

Greek holiday

Popular Australian TV morning host Samantha Armytage has fallen madly and deeply in love with Greece and who can blame her!

After taking a holiday to Greece last year to celebrate a friend’s wedding in Mykonos and spending time in Athens, Sam says she experienced the best food, hospitality, beaches and also tells the world, “Greeks know how to live.”

Read Sam Armytage’s write up on her love affair with Greece, which was shared in the Daily Telegraph today. 

“I TOOK a holiday in Greece last year, lobbing in with some locals (long-time family friends) for a big, fat, fun-tabulous three-day wedding. Which, along with the toga and souvlaki, those brilliant Greeks invented — and still execute beautifully.

The trip was fuelled by the best food I’ve ever eaten, filled with the most outrageous, hospitable, gregarious people I’ve ever met (plus a few European royals!) and punctuated by days lazing on blue boats in even bluer seas, lots of carefree laughs, and even more delicious tucker.

Greek holiday
*Photo of Sam in Mykonos on her IG page @sam_armytage

The Greeks know how to live. If I could have bottled this ability and brought it home on the Qantas flight I would. But alas, I got as far as Dubai and the memories of the octopus and those tomatoes stuffed with rice were fading as quickly as my tan.

While my Greek friends are fun (and did I mention their food?), what I adore about them most is their pride in their culture. They are great storytellers — the way to any journo’s heart — and even the youngsters at the dinner table tell ancient tales that could rival the guides at the magnificent Acropolis Museum.

Hearing stories about gods and goddesses by candlelight on a warm Greek summer night will beat anything TV can offer. Yes, even Sunrise… although we too create order out of the chaos of the universe every morning. (Confession: I was so inspired on my return to Australia, I named my four chooks Harmonia, Persephone, Calliope and Eos.)

*Sam shared food shots from her Greek holiday on her IG page

Yes, my name is Samantha Armytage and I love Aristotle, Socrates and Plato. I like to think of those major philosophers as the first A-list celebrities. Rock stars, if you like. They were well-known, wealthy and powerful, the masses hung on their every word and they had to endure rumours about their sexual preferences. And they have a longevity that Paris Hilton can only dream of. Now this might sound flippant, but one century’s Pericles is another century’s (Brad) Pitt. No-one embraced celebrity culture more than ancient Athens. Humans through the ages have looked for role models in society, and for good or bad these mere mortals become heroes. Their thinkers were superstars.

And in a similar way to us, their best musicians and boxers and soldiers were the ones they most admired. Deep down we like to think our best-known people — the ones whose homes and hairstyles and relationships we admire and pore over in the tabloid magazines — also have the best morals and values and manners.”

*This story first appeared in The Sunday Telegraph Stellar Magazine. 

Food Tourism in Greece: A Destination for Every Taste

From wineries to cheese workshops and cattle farms; Greece is becoming a true foodie paradise with guided tours and museums as an added bonus.


With so many amazing places to visit in Greece, when it comes to booking a vacation, the biggest problem is often how to pick a destination. Well if you love Greek food (and if you don’t, you’re probably doing it wrong), here’s a suggestion: why not let your belly decide?

Food tourism in Greece is bigger than ever. Oinotourism, or wine tourism, has been leading the way, with ever more well-designed wineries around the country offering comprehensive and delightful tasting tours. But did you know that you can also go mushroom hunting, visit farms, take cooking classes, and visit museumsfocused on the making of traditional sweets?

Depending on what you’re looking for – wine, olives, marmalades, cheeses (it’s cheeses, isn’t it?), or something else, there is a place or a route that’s perfect for you. Below are some of Greece’s best interactive foodie destinations, arranged geographically to help you plan your trip.

CYCLADES

Aglaia’s Table
Aglaia Kremezi is a cookbook author who, along with her husband Kostas Moraitis and their small group of coworkers, also runs a farm in Ioulis. At this farm, you’re welcome to join them on gastronomic adventures including cooking lessons, tastings of wine, olive oil, cheese and honey, combined with walking and guided tours around the surrounding villages, beaches, and archeological sites. Every season features a different program. In the fall, for example, you can take part in the production of olive oil.
Ioulis, Kea, Tel. 22880.21917, 693.2413205. Go for one to six days, or arrange a custom visit. You have to call ahead.
Sikourtis Loukoumia
It is said that the secret behind the loukoumia (Turkish delight) of Syros is the semi-salty water from the Aghios Athanasios spring. For sure it also has to do with the copper cauldrons in which they were – and are still – cooked. The Sikourtis family makes them in this traditional way, ensuring their product always comes out as delicious as it was in the old days. Here, you can watch the loukoumia being made, sample the various flavors, and go on a guided tour of the Industrial Museum of Ermoupouli, curated by Ms Sikourti, where you’ll find objects saved from the old closed-down loukoumi stores that were once the pride of the island.
Ermoupolis, Syros, Tel. 22810.81390, 697.745.5145. Only by appointment.Cooking Lessons with Nikoleta Delatola Foskolou
Nikoleta Delatola Foskolou is an author and an expert on Cycladic cuisine. She welcomes you with warm hospitality, makes you feel at home, and teaches you the local cooking methods and recipes using seasonal ingredients from her own vegetable patch, and meat and fish from the island. You’ll feed the animals, learn how to cultivate vegetables, get familiar with the island’s culinary history, and have a barbecue. Everything you try, from the wild artichokes to the cured meats, the bread and spoon sweets is homemade.

Smourdia, Tripotamos, Tinos, Tel. 22830.23506. Only by appointment.
Farmers Cheesemakers

Using modern equipment, Giorgos Syrianos and Thanasis Kousathanas make cheese using fresh goat and sheep’s milk from around the island. The cheese workshop, near the busy Psarrou area, is new but has already gained a great reputation. They make traditional local cheesessuch as ksinotyro (“sour cheese”, aged for 5-12 days), tyrovolia (a soft spread locals often enjoy with pita bread), and two versions of the famous kopanisti (one is matured and sharp, the other younger and lighter). You can buy cheese to take home, of course, and they also organize cooking classes on occasion, with a focus on Mykonos’ traditional cuisine and cheeses.

Mykonos Farmers, Aghios Lazaros, Mykonos, Tel. 22890.23970. Open Mon-Fri 08.00-21.00 from April to October. During the winter only by appointment.
 
Vallindras Distillery

There is an old mansion in Halki on Naxos, where the Vallindras family have been producing their liqueurs from the peel of the islands citron fruits since 1896. A member of the family will gladly show you around the distillery, with its old stills, bottles, and bottling tools, and tell you about the art of distillation and the history of this famous Naxian liqueur. The highlight is the tasting hall next to the showroom, where you can purchase liqueur to take home.

Halki, Naxos, Tel. 22850.31220. Open Mon-Fri 09.30-23.00, or by appointment.
 
Domaine Sigalas

Wine tourism has been a growing industry in Santorini for years, thanks to their excellent wines, which are some of the best Greece has to offer. At the Sigalas Estate, you’ll experience something very different from the busy atmosphere around the caldera. In the lush garden by the vineyard, in front of the winery which looks more like a rich farmhouse, you’ll taste the wide range of their incredible wines and spirits. You can also enjoy a fantastic meal, cooked with local ingredients.

Baxes, Oia, Santorini, Tel. 22860.71644, www.sigalas-wine.com. Open Mon-Fri 10.00-20.30, and Sat-Sun 11.00-20.30.

14 Delightful little Greek words you absolutely need to know

When Shakespeare famously wrote ‘It all sounds Greek to me’, he pretty much summed up how the Greek language has sounded to foreign ears since always. Unintelligible as it may seem to you, Greek is notoriously rich in expressions and meanings, so that’s one reason you want to tackle with it; but more importantly, if you’re planning a visit to Greece, learning some basic Greek can be just the thing to make your travel experience a whole less complicated. But if you thought this means sweating over that dry English-Greek dictionary, think again, because we’re here to introduce you to the Greek words and phrases you actually need to know, be it because of useful, or just plain awesome they are.

#1 Yia Sou

Possibly the most essential Greek phrase, and one of the most common Greek greetings, ‘yia sou’ [jaː su] is an informal way of saying ‘hello’. What your Greek phrasebook probably won’t tell you though, is that ‘yia’ is a shortening for ‘iyia’ [ijiːa], which means ‘health’ in Greek – i.e. you greet people by literally wishing them good health (isn’t that the sweetest?). The slightly more polite version is ‘yia sas’ [jaː sas], which you probably want to use with strangers, older people, etc.

#2 Yia Mas

As you can probably guess, ‘yia mas’  [jaː mas] is also a wish for good health, but this time our own. Unlike ‘yia sou’, ‘yia mas’ isn’t a greeting, but the standard toast we Greeks make before sipping down that glass of alcohol in our hand. So if you’re planning on exploring the world-famous Athens nightlife, this is a phrase you’ll most likely hear a lot. If someone raises a glass to you saying ‘yia mas’, return the toast simply by repeating it yourself. Pretty easy, right?

#3 Kalimera

‘Kalimera’ [kalimeːra] is another super basic/useful/beautiful word, literally translating into ‘good day’. Technically, you’re supposed to use it until 12:00, after which it’s preferable to say ‘kalispera’   [kalispeːra] – i.e. ‘good afternoon’. Both words are pretty easy to pronounce, so if you want to impress your Athens tour guide or the Greek restaurant owner you just met, casually throwing a ‘kalimera’ or ‘kalispera’ in the conversation will probably get you a warm pat on the back (or, in the latter case, even a drink or small dish on the house).

#4 Malaka

Speaking of basic Greek, ‘malaka’ is technically the Greek equivalent for the J word, or the A word – you get the point – which is why most tourists, hearing Greeks use this word literally all.the.time., think they’re perpetually quarrelling. However, ‘malaka’ is equally often used as ‘dude’ or ‘mate’, while sometimes it is simply uttered a general exclamation of surprise or amazement at what you just heard. For the time being we don’t advise you to use this word yourself lest you get the context wrong but, still, it can come in very handy knowing what ‘malaka’ means, especially if you’re around youths.

#5 Ela

As you’ve probably figured by now, we love those Greek words with multiple meanings, and ‘ela’ [e:la] is one of them too. Its basic meaning is ‘come‘ or ‘come on’, but Greeks also use it 99% of the time to informally answer the phone when they know whose calling. Obviously they don’t expect the caller to come over, so why they came to use ‘ela’ as a way of acknowledging who they’re talking to will remain yet another mystery of the fascinating Greek culture.

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The Incredible Balance of Kea

Located only one hour away from Attica and perfect for a weekend getaway, Kea is a rich Cycladic world teeming with surprises

As you approach the island of Kea (also known as Tzia) you are greeted by its wild western slopes, the port of Korissia and, in the distance, Ioulida – the island’s capital (or Chora). Pretty and low-key it is among the most charming in the entire Cyclades.

The first impression is that Kea’s landscape is typical of the Cyclades, yet behind this exterior, Kea has a surprisingly unique and varied landscape: oak forests; a few olive trees; rugged rocky slopes interspersed by almond groves and, scattered throughout, tasteful summer homes, many of which have been built by charismatic architects inspired by the simplicity of Kea’s traditional farmhouses built out of local stone.

Overall, the island has managed to maintain a remarkable sense of balance. On the one hand it remains closely connected to nature(roughly 60% of the island’s forests are protected as part of the Natura network) and the traditional practice of raising livestock remains an important economic activity. Yet at the same time it is developing a sophisticated form of tourism, maintaining a discreet cosmopolitanism.

Well known figures from the worlds of the artsjournalism and other walks of life from Greece and abroad are among those who have country homes on the island and visit frequently. As the island’s mayor, Yiannis Evangelou, tells us, during the high season the population of Kea does not exceed 6,500 together with the roughly 2,500 permanent residents. While the number of hotel rooms remains limited, in the last three years over 150 luxury villas and another 100 country homes have been added to internet platforms like Booking.com and Airbnb, significantly boosting the number of available beds on the island.

“It is a good thing that more people are coming, even if it has made things more difficult for us who have hotels and guesthouses,” says Marcie Mayer, one of the owners of the agritourism business, Red Tractor Farm. Mayer has also played a key role in resurrecting the commercial exploitation of Kea’s acorns (thus helping to preserve the island’s oak trees), producing acorn cookies which have acquired a dedicated following in Greece and abroad.

In 2012 she also launched the Acorn Initiative which seeks make use of the acorn caps produced on the island by exporting them for use in the tanning industry. This summer arrived to find Kea quietly rejuvenated – and ourselves enjoying the hospitality of Porto Kea Suites in Korissia, dining on the exceptional dishes of its restaurant and lulled to sleep by the sound of the sea.

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KEA, my favourite non-touristic island

KEA the place to be!!

Even though I’m Greek, our islands still manage to fascinate me and they’re my absolute favourite summer destination. I love crossing a new island off my list every year!

This summer, I decided to go to Kea (aka Tzia), the island adored by the Athenian low profile – high society. I’m very happy I did!

Kea doesn’t have the Myconian glam. It doesn’t have an epic nightlife. No hordes of tourists strolling around its alleys either. But this is exactly what makes it the perfect island for serenity, relaxation and endless beaching.

The island’s beaches are mostly unorganized; it has a small number of hotels and the villas to rent are usually too expensive for the average tourist. Kea holds standards and character and doesn’t want to be seen as commercial; no-no.

Kea keeps it chic, simple and private. With gorgeous yachts scattered around Vourkari and luxurious hidden villas decorating every single cliff of the island, how could it not?

Let’s just put everything in the correct order, shall we?

Great location!

Kea is part of the Cyclades island complex and the closest one to our Greek capital of Athens.
It can be reached by ferry from the city of Lavrion on the southernmost side of Attica.

What to expect:
• Wild and mountainous landscape.
• Endless views of the Aegean from any route you choose.
• Rough, rocky roads leading to crystal water beaches.
• Delicious, good quality food.
• Friendly locals.
• Pet-friendly beaches.

My favourite beaches:
• Xila – green, clear, tropical waters and a small beach bar that usually requires a reservation. But don’t worry, you can also bring your beach towel and enjoy the water, reservation & cost free, a few meters away.
• Kambi – for many reasons, my absolute favorite. The water is clean and crystal clear, the scenery wild and raw, there’s no beach bar whatsoever and it is totally dog friendly. In my books, it can’t get any better than that.

Other beaches to choose from:
• Otzias
• Gialiskari
• Spathi
Of course, there are more beaches on the island but these 5 will do the trick for a first timer. Plus, if I tell you everything, I’ll take away the magic of exploring and discovering … You want to be a traveler, not a tourist, right? ☺

AfterHours:
Night owl? Don’t worry. Kea has something for you too! In the area of Vourkari and right in front of the marina there are few cocktail bars that play all kinds of music and are packed from vacationers of all ages. The best thing? No dress code – go as you please!

Food:
Because Kea’s crowd is quite specific, the food on the island is good pretty much everywhere. I would highly recommend any of the two taverns right in the heart of Ioulida for a well-prepared traditional meal with a view, as well as the very popular “Aristos” in Vourkari for its wicked spaghetti with lobster.

Accommodation:
I stayed at The house in the port and I really must recommend it because Chrysa, the landlady, is the sweetest host I ever had. She was very helpful, attentive and also welcomed us with fresh juice and pastries as well as dog treats for Kiara!

If you are more of a hotel person, then:
1. Anamar Kea
OR
2. Porto Kea Suites
Both luxurious and pricey, with an elegant touch of glam!

Tip:
When in Kea, make sure you explore it in a car, specifically an SUV. The roads are rocky and difficult and you really need to drive around in order to explore the island, as you should.

So if you find yourself in Athens, and are looking for a quick getaway, Kea is a 30min drive and a 1hr boat ride away. Don’t think about it, just do it!

Source: nikoza.com