ISLAND UNDER-THE-RADAR

Secret Spots Where The Locals Go

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ANTI PAROS / THE SECRET PARADISE


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'I feel 110 per cent Greek,' says Hollywood star Tom Hanks who owns a house in Antiparos.

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Tom Hanks, the popular hollywood actor with great blockbusters to his credit is a known lover of Greece, and particularly Paros and Antiparos. In fact Tom Hanks owns a holiday villa in Antiparos, which for the past 13 years has been the getaway retreat of him and his wife actress Rita Wilson who is of Greek origin.

The couple owns this 450 square meters villa between Glypha and Chora in Antiparos. It is built on a 1.5 acre property they bought 14 years ago.


Greece is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Magical sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, hospitable people, traditional cuisine and a rich history combine to make the birthplace of democracy a very attractive destination for the world’s rich and famous. 

Hollywood stars not only visit Greece regularly but are also known to often purchase their own little slice of heaven there. 

TOM HANKS
Married to Greek American actress Rita Wilson, Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks, has always celebrated his love for Greek culture and music. Hanks and his wife own a 450-square-metre stone villa located on a six-acre property on the small island of Antiparos between Glypha and Chora. 

The Hollywood couple has been spotted on their beloved island in the Cyclades numerous times. According to locals, that’s the only place where Hanks and Wilson are “left alone to relax, catch up with friends, throw dinner parties and unwind, away from Hollywood’s demands and flashing lights.”

Rita Wilson was born to a Greek mother (Dorothea Genkos), and was raised Greek Orthodox. With her 61-year-old husband, she served as an executive producer for Mamma Mia, the ABBA-based musical starring Meryl Streep, which was filmed in Greece.

The 29-year-married couple, who attend Greek church services regularly, enjoy mixing with the locals, indulging in Greek cuisine and even visited the new Acropolis Museum shortly after it opened in 2009. 

“I feel 110 per cent Greek. I am more Greek than most Greeks,” said Tom Hanks when asked what it’s like to be married to a Greek. 

CATHERINE DENEUVE
French actress and style icon Catherine Deneuve reportedly purchased her own neoclassical style house in the cosmopolitan chora of Ermoupolis, on the island of Syros, before she sold it and purchased a number of smaller properties in the coastal area of Delfini, which is known for its crystal clear waters and serene relaxed atmosphere. 

The 73-year-old star is always welcomed on the island and enjoys the simple island life. 

“I met Catherine Deneuve when I was a little girl and she was really sweet and kind with everyone,” says 35-year-old Marita Stefanou in an interview with Neos Kosmos

Marita’s uncle used to own one of Deneuve’s favorite tavernas in the area of Delfini and the Hollywood star used to dine there often.

“I was much younger back then but I will never forget her. She was a beautiful, engaging and classy woman, who was courteous to everyone. I have fond memories of her. She still visits Syros often but I don’t know whether she ended up developing and building on the properties she purchased back then,” explains Marita who works for the council of Syros. 

JULIA ROBERTS
Inspired by Buddhist beliefs and meditation, Academy Award-winning actress and producer Julia Roberts showed particular interest in the island of Patmos a few years ago. 

According to international press, Roberts’ spiritual beliefs together with the natural beauty and serenity of the island inspired the actress when she first visited and the 49-year-old Hollywood star purchased a €900,000 double-storey home overlooking the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, and the clear blue waters.

“Julia Roberts visits our island regularly and we enjoy having her spend time on Patmos, but we can’t confirm whether she has purchased her own home here,” Ioannis Skebes, Patmos Tourism Coordinator said in an interview with Neos Kosmos.

ROWAN ATKINSON
English actor, comedian, and screenwriter Rowan Atkinson loves Greece and also owns a cottage on the island of Andros. The famous Mr Bean actor has been spotted spending his summer vacations in the Aegean numerous times in the last few years but prefers to make his presence unknown. 

YIANNIS CHRYSOMALLIS
Although Greek-born composer Yanni (Yiannis Chrysomallis) lives permanently in the US, the award-winning musician never forgets his Greek roots and his family in Greece. The 62-year-old frequently visits his birth place – Kalamata – and has a home in the area of Akrogiali, where he enjoys spending time with his friends and family. 

SEAN CONNERY
Scottish actor, producer, and Academy Award winner Sean Connery, has reportedly purchased a luxurious house on the ‘Greek Riviera’ in the area of Porto Heli. The 86-year-old legendary James Bond figure visits his Greek home often and enjoys talking to the locals and indulging in traditional Greek cuisine. 

ROMAN ABRAMOVIC
Russian billionaire and businessman Roman Abramovic has also purchased a 29-acre property in Porto Heli. His land reportedly includes a church, a tennis court, and pool houses. 

EMIR KUSTURICA
Captivated by the beauty of the Greek island, prominent Serbian film director and actor Emir Kusturica bought a house on the island of Sifnos, expressing once again his love for Greece. The director’s adoration for Sifnos grew during the making of the film Nicostratus (The Pelican), in which he also starred.

According to local press, during the premiere of Nicostratus, the two-time winner of the Cannes Palme d’Or revealed that he doesn’t view the island of Sifnos just as a place for a holiday, but the place where he intends to retire. 

BRUCE WILLIS
Bruce Willis is also rumoured to have bought land on the island of Corfu, northwestern Greece, but this information is yet to be confirmed. 

RICHARD GERE
Similarly to Julia Roberts, Richard Gere has shown particular interest in the serene island of Patmos, but whether he has purchased a property on the island remains unknown. 

ANTHONY QUINN
American legend Anthony Quinn, used to also have his own land in Greece which ‘Zorba the Greek’ purchased during the filming of The Guns of Navarone in Rhodes. Infamous Anthony Quinn Bay and Beach in Rhodes, near the village of Faliraki were named in honour of a true Philhellene.





THE Greek island of Paros is not easy to get to, even with a map. During a recent trip to Athens, the conversation with a travel agent went something like this:

“I’d like to book a ticket to Paros.”

“Paris?”

“Paros.”

“France?”

“The island.”

“But France isn’t an island.”

Even when I learned where to put the stress (PAH-ros), I was out of luck. Mid-June, the apex of the tourist high season, was totally booked. Sorry, I was told, all planes, all ferries, all hydrofoils, every way of getting to Paros in the next month was full. Short of swimming, Paros was not going to happen — which, of course, only added to the island’s allure.

Two months later, when I finally managed to set foot on Paros, it was easy to see what all the fuss was about. The island is vast and mountainous, its periphery dotted with crisp white buildings and all of it surrounded by clear turquoise water rolling gently against its shores. And it’s packed — rock-concert packed. The main street in Parikia, the port town, was bursting with tanned and young Europeans, American honeymooners, families with strollers, elderly Greek couples and an inordinate number of young women who looked like Kate Hudson.

I was beginning to see how Paros was supposedly usurping Mykonos as the party capital of the Cyclades. Its position, smack in the middle of the archipelago — and the first stop for nearly all ferries leaving from the mainland — has always made Paros the perfect jumping-off point for island hoppers. In the last few years, however, day trippers have taken note of Paros’s stunning landscape and cheaper prices. In other words, the spillover from Mykonos and Santorini has turned Paros into a destination itself.

But this is Greece, which means even here, among the bronzed beauties and beach parties, there is history that dates back a few millenniums. Paros itself is said to have been founded by St. Helen, Emperor Constantine’s mother, on her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Recessed two blocks from the port and lending credence to the story is the beautiful and massive Cathedral of Ekatontapiliani (“Church of 100 Doors”), which was built in A.D. 327.

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“It’s actually only 99 doors — they never found the last one,” said an elderly Greek man I had stopped to ask for directions. Before long, he was regaling me with stories about his native island as he escorted me to the giant church himself.

This was my first lesson learned in navigating the island: ask a local. In most neighborhoods, street numbers and names simply don’t exist. Getting somewhere often requires guidance from Paros natives along the way.

The teardrop-shaped island is rocky and arid, speckled with dry, thorny flora and roaming herds of goats — the source of the fantastic feta cheese that’s sprinkled throughout every menu. Though Paros is only 13 miles long and 10 miles wide, it is rich with ancient history, thriving towns and postcard-worthy harbors. The eastern edge boasts the island’s best beaches; to the north, the bustling town of Naoussa; in the center of the island is the ancient city of Lefkes. And the best way to see it all is by moped.

PhotoThe well-filled harbor at Naoussa with the town rising above it. CreditJohn Kolesidis for The New York Times

The first stop is Naoussa, the hub of the island’s nightlife. Starting around 11 p.m., Naoussa’s bars and discos spill onto the narrow streets with revelers who don’t retire until dawn and sometimes 10 a.m. (no, really). By the way, all those places called Sex Club aren’t brothels, just discos.

“We call it the spandex crowd,” said Lisa Kosta, owner of the trendy Caffe Latte. “It’s mainly young Greeks who go there and stay out until the next morning. Naoussa is today what Mykonos was 10 years ago.”

But it’s not all cleavage and Jell-O shots. By day, the picturesque fishing town of Naoussa is also a great place to spend money. New shops like Korinna, an antiques and restoration store on the town’s main road, offer a needed respite from the souvenir bodegas — overstocked with surfer shorts, beach wraps and beaded necklaces — that have popped up all over the island.

For the opposite extreme, head to the middle of the island, to the marble quarries of Marathi — an oasis of snowy white stone that makes the whole trip worthwhile. The quarries have been excavated for centuries for their spotless and pure marble. In fact, they provided the raw material for the Parthenon and the Venus de Milo. But somehow this enormous alabaster-colored mountainside, a place where Fred Flintstone might have gone to work, has escaped the collective eye of the masses — it’s rarely crowded. Go at midday, when the thin, dry light of the Mediterranean sets the mountainside aglow.

But the main reason people visit Paros is the beaches. The Aegean Sea, which laps gently along the sandy shore, is aquamarine in Technicolor — warm, glittering and crystal clear right down to its rippled floor. The most popular are Golden Beach, on the eastern coast that is known for great windsurfing, and the nearby Pounda Beach, nicknamed Music Beach for its D.J.’s, dance parties and spring break atmosphere.

Mykonos may have gorgeous beaches by day and wild parties by night, but Music Beach has both around the clock. On a recent Thursday, there was a water volleyball game under way, a wet T-shirt contest gearing up and bartenders pouring ouzo shooters everywhere — and this was 11 a.m.

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Since I haven’t been 22 in many years, I once again turned to the locals for destination advice. And once again they were more than happy to oblige. Several suggested Glyfa and Tripiti, two tiny crescents of sand and soft rock on the island’s southern tip. They are the nicest — and quietest — beaches in Paros. Dropping my towels and beach bag on the rocks, I dove into the Aegean, warmed by a season of sunshine. Two hundred feet from shore, the water was still as translucent and smooth as bath water.

But Paros is still Paros, and in the far distance, the thud-thud-thuds from a beach party bounced over the water. The stranded-on-a-deserted-island fantasy ended.

The anti-Paros is, well, Antiparos — a tiny island less than a mile off the western coast of Paros. With fewer than 900 residents, the islet’s claim to guidebook fame is its Agio Ioannis cave, a stony abyss of stalactites and stalagmites where Lord Byron carved his name. There are very few mopeds and cars in the main town, the streets are as narrow as sidewalks, and covering it all is a bounty of bougainvillea.

PhotoCreditThe New York Times

After a glorious day of doing nothing much at all, I joined my fellow sunburned tourists on the ferry back to Paros. With the sun setting over the Aegean, I watched as tiny rowboats disappeared behind a mammoth cruise ship pulling into port.

The next morning, it was time to leave. Just before I walked out of my hotel, the woman at the front desk asked me if I enjoyed my stay on her island and intended to return. “If you do, plan ahead,” she said conspiratorially, apparently letting me in on a juicy secret. “We can get pretty busy here.” I smiled and nodded. You don’t say.

VISITOR INFORMATION 

GETTING TO PAROS

Paros is a three-hour ferry ride from the port of Piraeus in Athens. The most reliable ferry company is Hellenic Seaways (30-210-4199-000; www.hellenicseaways.gr). Ferries run at least once a day and one-way tickets are about 50 euros (about $65 at $1.31 to the euro), depending on the season. Delta and Olympic airlines fly nonstop from New York to Athens, with roundtrip tickets starting at about $900.

GETTING TO ANTIPAROS

Antiparos is a 30-minute ferry ride from Parikia, the port town in Paros. The ferry leaves every two or three hours. Tickets (3 euros) are bought on the boat.

WHERE TO DINE

Levantis (Central Market Street, Parikia; 30-22840-23613; levantisrest@yahoo.gr) tops the proverbial food chain in Paros. Sit on the outdoor patio under the leafy canopy and order the baked lamb rolled in vine leaves, herbs and feta (15 euros).

The best family-run taverna, on an island full of family-run tavernas, is Katsoynas (Santa Maria, Naoussa; 30-22840-51246). Sit on the patio and feast on salted sardines, crusty bread with ricotta, capers and tomatoes, and whatever seafood the owner caught that morning. Lunch for two, about 40 euros with wine.

WHERE TO STAY

The main town of Parikia is dotted with small hotels and rooms to rent. The Asterias Hotel is clean and spare, and the family that runs it is happy to tell you about their island. Double room, 45 euros including breakfast (30-22840-21797, www.greekhotel.com/cyclades/paros/paroikia/asterias/home.htm). Few places have proper addresses; ask directions.

On the northern tip of Paros is one of the island’s few luxury hotels: Astir of Paros, which features a three-hole golf course, helipad and infinity pool. It’s just outside the center of Naoussa. Double room, 225 euros including breakfast (30-22840-51976; www.astirofparos.gr).

There are only six hotels on Antiparos, all within a few feet of the ferry port. The most central is the Hotel Mantalena (30-22840-61206). The rooms are small but the lobby’s seaside patio is airy and comfortable. Double rooms begin at 35 euros, not including breakfast.

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3 Idyllic Greek Isles That Most Tourists Miss

by LINDSAY TALBOTPhotography by GABRIELA HERMAN

March 24, 2015

The secret’s out on Mykonos, Santorini, and even Patmos—but on the lesser-known islands of Antiparos, Paros, and Pano Koufonisi, the beaches are unspoiled, the tavernas are rustic, and the pace of life is blissfully slow.

I have been an islomaniac since birth, but I am a picky one. My islands need to have all the right proportions. I like them rugged and remote. They shouldn’t try too hard, but they should have enough to keep you from growing bored. The first time I visited the 220-island-strong Cyclades—the most frequented and most famous of the Greek archipelago’s seven island groups—I traced the tourist’s trilogy of Mykonos, Delos, and Santorini, spending a few nights among the crowded bars and beaches of Mykonos; a day walking around the sacred ruins of Delos; and another few lounging by the infinity pool overlooking the caldera and the dizzying jumble of cliffs on Santorini. All three were islands whose charms, I found, revealed themselves rather quickly—and perhaps a bit too generously.

But in 2008, I made my first trip to the lesser-known (at least to Americans) central Cyclades—including Paros, Antiparos, Naxos, and Pano Koufonisi. Here were islands that surrendered themselves much more slowly. There were hardly any nightclubs, boisterous restaurants, or high-end shops—and yet there seemed to be no end of whitewashed hillside towns and hidden swimming caves to discover and explore. Each island is a swimmer’s paradise; I’ve now been to about 30 beaches on Paros alone. They come in endless varieties: There’s Kolymbithres, on the northern tip of the island, famous for bizarre rock formations rubbed so smooth by the sand that they’re almost lunar; or the windsurfing meccas at Chrissi Akti, on the southeastern side, where kiteboarders’ colorful sails fly across the sky in arching swoops. Many have little tabernacles, bamboo-thatched umbrellas, and sleepy tavernas where roasting spits of souvlaki slowly pirouette.

A sunbather on the cliffs of Pano Koufonisi, where some of the most secluded swimming spots require a short hike.

Like its neighbors, Paros has never been entirely dependent on tourism: While its ports draw summer crowds, it’s largely been the protectorate of a population of European families and ex-pats who maintain summer homes outside its four main villages—Naoussa, Parikia, Lefkes, and Marpissa. There are mostly just quaint bed-and-breakfasts on the island, and a stately high-end hotel or two dotting each end. But recently, a handful of boutique hotels—like the Greek-owned Beach House on nearby Antiparos, which opened last summer—along with a flashier kind of visitor (Tom Hanks, Madonna) are shining the spotlight on these central Cycladic isles. The fashion set have even been trading Patmos (an airportless island in the north Dodecanese that’s an eight-hour trip from Athens by ferry) for Antiparos—which can be reached by ferry in about four hours from Athens or 30 minutes from the Paros airport.

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In fact, it seems that tiny Antiparos is becoming the new Patmos in that it’s the anti-Patmos: While Patmos in August has the distinct see-and-be- seen social whirl of New York Fashion Week—an exhausting, ceaseless scene, teeming with it girls (self-anointed or not) and interior and fashion designers—Antiparos is a place for those who seek and require no society but their own. On Antiparos, old men sit beneath ancient oak trees play- ing backgammon, while the hippies who washed up here in the 1970s still run nudist campgrounds. Though you might bump into Bruce Springsteen at The Doors, a local bar where the owner gives free ouzo to anyone who can sing all the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane,” you’ll otherwise be left alone. And in summertime in Greece, that is the rarest, most precious thing of all.

A colorfully painted fishing boat.

Bougainvillea drapes a veranda at the hotel Astir of Paros.

The farmers' market in Parikia.

Fresh-caught sardines and a Greek salad at the taverna Captain Pipinos on Antiparos.

Octopus hanging out to dry in the port of Naoussa.

Gala Beach (or Milk Beach), on the island of Pano Koufonisi.

Whitewashed streets in the village of Lefkes.

A plunge pool on Paros.

A sunbather on the cliffs of Pano Koufonisi, where some of the most secluded swimming spots require a short hike.

Tavernas line the waterfront on Paros.

Gabriela Herman

A whitewashed street in Parikia.

Breakfast at the Argonauta Hotel in Parikia.

Night falls over Parasparos Beach on Paros.

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And yet for all the rediscovery, the truth is that these isles have been drawing writers and artists seeking escape for centuries. In the early 1800s, Lord Byron inscribed his signature in a cave at the southern end of Antiparos, a place where millennia-old stalactites and stalagmites spiral, corkscrew-like, into the darkness. Truman Capote, having just finished Breakfast at Tiffany’s, spent the summer of 1958 on Paros. Throughout his long stay in Parikia, he worked on the text for Richard Avedon’s Observations, the photographer’s first book of portraits, and read Proust and Chandler. He also began writing Answered Prayers, his final—and famously unfinished—novel.

Even today, it is easy to imagine how Capote must have found here a refuge from all the things which by that point had come to define and, equally, oppress him: New York society, the literary world, and even his own persona. On Paros, there was none of that—there was only sun, sea, and serenity. “We have not seen a newspaper since we arrived on the island,” wrote photographer Cecil Beaton, while staying with Capote at the Meltemi Hotel in Parikia. “We have lived in a timeless haze of repetition. Life is nothing but sleep, swim, eat, and read. One day merges soothingly into another without incident. Each day is a pattern.”

A whitewashed street in Parikia.

And like Beaton’s, my days on Paros—a week or two almost every August for the past eight years—are also a pattern. I find myself immediately in the island’s lull, falling into its idle routine. Its alchemy is restorative, cathartic, elemental—swimming every day in the sea, driving through the amber pastures of arid farmlands, eating the same simple Greek dishes you find at every little taverna. Time slows, as if running counterclockwise.

Toward the end of my stay, I always make a day-trip to the Caribbean-blue waters around Pano Koufonisi—a small island just off Naxos that’s so undeveloped it may have been what Paros looked like when Capote and Beaton visited. Its low coastline looks almost porous—so pocked with natural swimming pools and cavernous cliffs that it resembles a slice of Swiss cheese.

But the rest of my time is spent on Paros, and whenever I return, I notice, as if for the first time, how in the rosy satin dusk, everything is electrified by the white candescence of the sinking Mediterranean sun; I watch the town’s domed churches, Frankish castles, and Venetian palaces gild in the late-afternoon light. The island burns on like a piece of Murano glass. The final day of my trip each year, I sit in a spectacular cove at the foot of a plunging ravine, one flanked by wind-swept olive trees that look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss storybook. In the distance is a funky campground with tie-dyed tents, neon-bright dune buggies, and a pirate flag flapping in the breeze. The beach is wide and, but for one family, deserted. There are no umbrellas or chaises—just a stretch of pale smooth stones, palm trees, and turquoise water. A small taverna sits above the beach, its terrace shaded by grapevines. Plates of vivid-red stuffed tomatoes and clouds of feta mixed with olives and onion cover the rickety little tables, while octopus dries outside in glass display cases. The restaurant is run by an old sea captain with a mop of yellowed curls weathered by the sun and salty air. He wears a navy-blue wool sailor’s cap and could pass for a Homeric sea god.

A donkey roams on a hill in the distance, and the outline of a motorized skiff from Antiparos starts to appear. As lunch arrives, I begin talking to a sun-kissed Englishman who used to work in publishing. I ask him how long he’s been on the island. “Ten years ago I came over for a week to clear my head,” he says. “I never left.”

I realize then that it’s time for me to pack up—before the island captures me as well.

DOSSIER

The information and inspiration you need before you go.

READ

The Greek Islands

Lawrence Durrell’s rich history (Faber & Faber).

Hellas

William Abranowicz’s stunning portraits of Greece (Hudson Hills).

FOLLOW

Instagram @irini_ioto.

STAY

Astir of Paros

An elegant resort overlooking the sea, with lush tropical gardens. Kolymbithres, Naoussa, Paros; from $245.

Yria Resort

Set on a former vineyard, this contemporary hotel has an inviting infinity pool. Parikia, Paros; from $215.

EAT

Levantis

A modern twist on Greek cuisine. Parikia, Paros.

Soso

Locals love this tiny, romantic spot. Naoussa, Paros.

 
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Expert guide to Paros

  1. Overview

  2. Hotels

  3. Attractions

  4. Restaurants

  5. Nightlife

  6. Getting there

An insider's guide to Páros, featuring the island's best hotels, restaurants, bars, things to do, attractions, and how to travel there and around. By Marc Dubin, Telegraph Travel's Páros expert. Click on the tabs below for the best places to stay, eat, drink and shop, including the best things to do and what to do on a short break.

Why go?

Páros has a bit of everything you’d expect from an island in the Cyclades archipelago – whitewashed villages, blue-domed churches, blonde-sand beaches, fishing harbours overlooked by taverna tables, plus lively bars and cafés. The landscape is perhaps not the most dramatic, with its modest 771-metre (2,530ft) -high Ágii Pándes summit, but from the ring road the views out to sea over dozens of surrounding islands are unbeatable.

The first outsider in our era to celebrate the island was Kevin Andrews, who in his classic book The Flight of Ikaros describes arriving on impoverished Páros in 1948, to be hosted by a local family near Náoussa.

Thereafter the island’s fortunes improved slowly but steadily, as an obligatory stop (along with adjacent Antíparos) on the hippie trail between Ibiza and Asia, until a fateful 1981 article in the New York Times entitled “Quiet Heart of the Cyclades”. Quiet it was no longer, but somehow Páros has managed to preserve some integrity and local spirit in a way that other islands have not. 2014 saw the first cruise ships arrive – but the main harbour is too small for them, so they must anchor out in the bay while tenders take punters ashore. The main looming issue for both visitors and residents is an acute water shortage, aggravated by a couple of dry years – wells have been invaded by the sea, and boreholes are clogged with mud.

The originally Venetian old port at Náoussa is arguably the Cyclades' most picturesque one

When to go

The Cyclades are most enjoyable in late spring – when the landscape is still green, the sea has warmed up to feasible swimming temperatures, but the crowds have yet to descend – and early autumn, when the summer hordes have departed and the sea is at its warmest. In both spring and autumn you can expect attractive prices for accommodation compared to summer.

But take note – not too late in autumn; after the third week of September many facilities close down, storms do hit, ferry links get sparse but paradoxically cruise-ship calls at Mýkonos and Santoríni become more frequent, with their patrons on shore leave clogging the streets of the main towns all day. There are also swarms of flies, and individual wasps or hornets on Páros and Náxos, to contend with through much of September and October.


Where to go

Ágii Anárgyri monastery above Parikiá is a peaceful eyrie affording stunning views, while Márpissa and adjacent Pródromos are the most photogenic, strollable inland villages. The great cave on nearby Antíparos has been impressing visitors since ancient centuries.

For those of a more active disposition, the 19th-century lighthouse on Cape Kórakas is accessed by the best network of walking trails on Páros. You can get upright on a windsurfer at Khrysí Aktí or Tsardákia beach, or kite-surf at Poúnda.

The Cyclades are most enjoyable in late spring

Getting there

To find flights, check Skyscanner or Kayak.
See also our expert guide to the best flight search websites

Know before you go

British Embassy, Athens (00 30 210 7272 600; gov.uk)

The Greek National Tourist Office is at 4 Great Portland Street, London W1W 8QJ (020 7495 9300; visitgreece.gr)

Ambulance 166; fire brigade 199; forest fires 191; police 100


Greece — this is what summer dreams are made of. Beautiful beaches. Perfect blue water. Healthy, delicious cuisine. We tapped into a handful of local experts who know this dreamy country inside out and got their insider tips for the best places to go now, from Athens to the islands.

These are the experts:

Andria Mitsakos: Embracing the art of travel through culture and style, Andria Mitsakos is an accomplished interiors and accessories designer who began designing accessories in Milan in 2010; Wanderlista was born in Athens shortly thereafter. Through her company, Mitsakos Design + Co., she also consults on developing hotel spaces, interior design and hospitality furniture made in Athens. Mitsakos is also a branding expert who splits her time between Athens, Miami, New York, Mexico and the Caribbean. Follow her on Instagram @wanderlista.

Today In: Lifestyle

Mina Agnos: An inveterate traveler, Mina Agnos is listed in Travel + Leisure's A-List of the world's top travel agents and is one of Conde Nast Traveler's Top Travel Specialists. Her leadership and passion have been instrumental in the growth of Travelive, a company that specializes in personalized travel experiences.

Argiro Barbarigou: Greece’s media darling, Argiro Barbarigou has cookbooks, a television show and a magazine. She is also the country's foremost female celebrity chef and the force behind the restaurant, Papadakis, in Athens. 

PROMOTED

Orsalia Parthenis: A self-described "fashion designer, mum, tough cookie," Orsalia Parthenis is at the creative helm of the minimal Greek fashion brand, Parthenis, which was founded by her father. Based in Athens, Greece, Parthenis operates stand-alone boutiques throughout Greece, from Athens to Mykonos, as well as locations around the world. 

Elena Fotiadi: A marketing director at White Key Villas, a 12-year-old company that markets 300 properties across Greece, and a former publishing exec, Elena Fotiadi has a deep knowledge of the country.

ATHENS

Ano Petralona neighborhood, Athens

Just a hike down Philopappou Hill, Ano Petralona is the neighborhood to be if you want to feel like a local Athenian. The tavernas, bars and restaurants do not only offer some of best affordable menus, but the cocktails and music also make this area a popular destination. The old-time classic Oikonomou has been there since the 1930’s and offers some of the best traditional food in town on simple marble tables. Diomataris on Dimofontos offers Cretan cuisine with ingredients he grows and breeds on a farm just on the outskirts of the city. Don't miss the fried eggs with fries and Staka and some of the best kaltsounia and lamb. His bread is also homemade. There is also a roof terrace where you can enjoy your meal on a hot summer night. Live Cretan music plays most Sundays. Blue Bamboo offers great Thai food, a great playlist and some of the best margaritas in Athens. Try and get there for an early dinner — they don’t take reservations. Theo Tragi (translated Holy Goat) is the place to try a Mediterranean-inspired creative menu with an affordable pricetag. A self-proclaimed "punk bistro," it also has amazing cocktails and some of the best music in the neighborhood. When you start walking around Ano Petralona, you are sure to discover many more interesting spots for coffee, food, drinks and music — but mostly, a great crowd.—Orsalia Parthenis

Papadakis restaurant, Athens

Owned by Argiro Barbarigou, Papadakis began on the island of Paros, Argiro’s birthplace. After many years of owning a successful restaurant there, she closed it to migrate to Athens to open the doors of Papadakis Athens. Barbarigou has become a household name, yet even as the First Lady of Greek Cuisine, her cooking remains authentic and honest, just like her.—Andria Mitsakos

Ilias Lalaounis Jewelery Museum, Athens

While the most iconic jewelry house in Greece might be globally praised, the museum — which is housed in the old workshop of the master Ilias Lalounis — is often overlooked when visiting Athens. Under the shadows of the Acropolis, the incredible space (now with a 501c3 organization in the U.S.) is run by Lalaounis’s daughter Ioanna, who is launching a number of initiatives to help cultivate new talent. Call ahead and organize a private tour.—Andria Mitsakos

Dimitra Goula beauty institute, Athens

Dimitra Goula is the goddess behind every Greek celebrity’s flawless façade. Her beauty institute in Athens offers facials and body treatments that will leave you hydrated and glowing like she is. Organic, natural and without chemicals, every product in her artisanal skincare care is filled with ancient herbs hand-harvested by monks on the slopes of the Holy Mountain of Athos. She has proprietary ingredients like wild chestnut oil from a new breed of tree only accessible to these monks. Her products are made at the moment you order them (usually post facial), and you’ll take them home in a refrigerated bag. Your skin will thank you for it.—Andria Mitsakos

Ellinika Kaloudia market, Athens

I’m lucky to call this spot my neighborhood market. Pop in early in the day and ask for owner Stamatis. Tell him that you want everything that Andria buys. He’ll show you my favorite picks, including gorgeous rolled grape leaves, zea grain pasta and the most incredible pepper and tomato sauce that will rival any Italian grandmother. Stock up. You’ll be happy you did.—Andria Mitsakos

Takis Bakery, Athens

Also in my neighborhood in Athens and well known with the locals, this might possibly be the best baguette sandwich you’ll ever have in your life. I always order the melanzana (eggplant), with fresh tomato, parsley and feta cheese. It will set you back only 2 euro, and it’s the perfect breakfast to fuel your Acropolis climb. Go early.—Andria Mitsakos

Nice n Easy restaurant, Athens

Owner Dimitris Christoforidis and his partner/chef Christos Athanasiadis are pioneers of the sustainable organic food movement in Greece. Order the konjac noodles, and if you eat meat, the buffalo meatballs, which are from their very own water buffalo farm in northern Greece. If you go for breakfast get the “Gavras” omelet, which isn’t on the menu but, nonetheless, a staple there. It’s filled with egg whites and oats topped with tahini and honey.—Andria Mitsakos

En Fiali, Athens

While it might look like just a liquor store from the outside, once you venture inside, you’ll feel like you’re in the wine cellar of your best friend’s home. George has the best collection of whiskies in the country (and slowly tequila, too, thanks to my prodding). He also sells inexpensive wines from kegs and is a licensed retailer of Nespresso, so when your pods run out at your Airbnb, you can stock up. Call him to organize a tasting in his newly renovated loft space on the second floor. I’d like to think I had something to do with it.—Andria Mitsakos

BEYOND ATHENS

Athenian Riviera

I believe that many people come to Athens as a connection point and to see the Acropolis and perhaps the Acropolis Museum, because it’s “the thing you do” before heading to the islands. And yet, Athens hides so many treasures that are really off the radar for so many visitors. I find it surprising how few visitors to Greece are aware of the Athenian Riviera. It’s the gem of the Greek summer for Athenians, yet international visitors have it completely off their radar. Small boutique properties such as the Margi Hotel offer a fantastic base for those wanting to experience a more summery side of Athens.—Mina Agnos

Lake Vouliagmenis

Lake Vouliagmenis is located along the coast and is the starting point for the stunning drive known as “Limanakia” meaning small ports. Because of its constant warm water temperature and its rich content in hydrogen sulphide, the lake functions as a spa since the end of the 19th century.—Mina Agnos

Temple of Poseidon

The coastline beyond Athens rivals that of Rio de Janeiro or the Amalfi Coast in Italy. You have stunning coves, gorgeous untouched beaches and a variety of towns, restaurants and nightclubs dotted along the coast en route the to stunning Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion. The Temple of Poseidon is one of the more overlooked and most easily accessed classical sites of Athens. The sunsets from the temple are stunning.—Mina Agnos

Astir Beach

Astir Beach is the most popular organized beach for Athenians. Here you will find local celebrities, the in crowd and those who want a beautiful beach club with a high level of service. This year, Nice n Easy Seaside opened here in May and offers the brand’s signature farm-to-table fare in a chic, beachfront setting for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks.—Mina Agnos

Glyfada

Just a half an hour from Athens center, there are happening beach towns like Glyfada and Vouliagmeni as well as Varkiza, which is a bit tamer after nightfall. Glyfada is the most commercial and has high-end shops, traditional as well as fine dining and rich local life. You'll find unique handmade Greek souvenirs at Zayiana and ladies' and men’s fashion from Greek designers at Georgia P.—Mina Agnos

Vouliagmeni

Vouliagmeni is suburban and dotted with exclusive homes and pretty, quiet beaches. There are also a number of waterfront restaurants and cafes. For coffee or cocktails, En Plo and Moorings offer stunning water views.—Mina Agnos

Varkiza

Varkiza is a laid-back beach town and home to Yiabanaki Beach, which is popular among Athenians looking for a more relaxed beach scene. Nearby Latini serves up fantastic fish — select your own and opt for the ones with holes (caught by spearfishing).  For a more traditional meal with a more economical cost, the Naftiko Omilo (Yacht Club) of Varkiza has tables set up right on the beach. Island Club and Restaurant in Varkiza is a go to for locals in the summer months. The stunning location and outdoor atmosphere offering sea and coastal views provides a beautiful backdrop for nighttime revelry.—Mina Agnos

Beach Hopping and Saronic Island Day Trips

One of my favorite experiences is to take a day trip with Aegean Rib Voyages from Glyfada marina. It is an incredible surprise to see how much there is to do around Athens by sea. Aegean Rib Voyages offers exciting daytime discoveries from the Athens coast to nearby beaches and coves such as Nissida and Fleves, several islands that are totally off the radar (Aegina, Mani, Poros, Kea, Agistri, Fleves), as well as some that are on the radar (Hydra, Kythnos, Spetses). You can also visit untouched spots in the Saronic Islands — just a short boat ride away — and pop into traditional beachfront tavernas for local specialties on nearby islands like Aegina, or dive on your own to collect fresh sea urchin (you can really taste the Greece sea). The private rib boats are also an excellent day trip and transport experience to hotels in the Saronic Islands region such as Poseidon Hotel in Spetses or Nikki Beach and Amanzoe in Porto Heli.—Mina Agnos

PELOPONNESE

Eumelia hotel, Laconia Region, Peloponnese

Given my heritage, my obsession with the Southern Peloponnese is strong, having had four grandparents from the region. And now, the new road from Athens has shaved off about 90 minutes of travel time to the area. This five-room hotel/working farm is Greece’s answer to an agritourism. Owner Frangiskos Kerelas is a visionary when it comes to biodynamic farming, and his wife creates the most perfect, this-is-why-you-travel-to-Greece meals. Think tables laden with organic vegetables, freshly baked bread and pools of their very own olive oil made from ancient trees. Oh and yes: You can take a bottle home with you.—Andria Mitsakos

Kardamyli

Magnificent, picturesque scenery. Breathtaking roads hanging off cliffs. Cypress and olive oil trees. That's the Peloponnese and Mani Peninsula. Kardamyli is a true diamond, with dedicated fans all over the world and is considered an upmarket destination of great appeal to writers, artists, walkers and nature lovers. A must-see highlight of the area is the house of the charismatic writer Leigh Fermor, which is now a modern museum. Scenes for the move, Before Midnight, were shot there. Surrounded by Mediterranean gardens with wild flowers rolling down to the sea, the house is open to the public. Incorporated in this fabulous scenery is Villa Jade, a luxurious beachfront establishment that takes the local architecture and elevates it to another dimension. If you love food, Kardamyli offers a variety of excellent local tavernas. Places not to miss include Dioskuroi restaurant, where you can enjoy spectacular views while tasting delicious local dishes. Liastres is a lovely tavern in the nearby village of Stoupa with spectacular views of the Messenian bay and the Taygetus mountains. Fish lovers should make a visit to the village of Agios Nikolaos, a small fishing village which is renowned for the best fish restaurants in the area. Don't miss a visit to Foneas beach, one of its most famous unknown beaches. Walking down a narrow path, you'll find yourself in a small paradise with blue-green waters, white stones and big rocks offering natural shade.—Elena Fotiadi

Kavos 1964 restaurant, Corinthos

Rent a car or hire a taxi and go here. A very simple spot that’s at the end of a very difficult to find road. The restaurant was started by Takis Vlassis in 1964 and is now operated by his son, Tasos. Hailed by many as the best seafood in the country, make sure you call ahead and tell Tasos that you’re going to have the razor clams so he doesn’t sell out. Don’t be surprised to be met by his 15 dogs when you arrive, and then led to your table. Ordering is simple. Just let Tasos know how hungry you are. I never order anything but the razor clams. I always let him do the rest.—Andria Mitsakos

MYKONOS

John Shortall Jewelry, Mykonos

I first met Shortall in 2011 while strolling the beach at Agios Sostis, Mykonos. He’s lived in Mykonos for over 30 years and creates jewelry from smoking pipes dating back to the Georgian era in England. I’m the only one who sells his line internationally through my company, Wanderlista. It just isn’t a Greek summer if you’re not wearing one of John’s baubles. He sets up his wares on the wall next to Kiki’s, a taverna at Agios Sostis. Just look for his blue towel and you’ll know you’re in the right place. No phone or website. Just get to Kiki’s before noon.—Andria Mitsakos

SantAnna beach club, Mykonos

At the epicenter of the Cycladic wild child, SantAnna opened last year in Mykonos as the island’s newest luxury beach club and true day to night destination. The brainchild of Nice n Easy Group’s Dimitris Christoforidis and Christos Athanasiades, the venue is an architectural marvel at Paraga Beach and home to Europe’s largest beachfront saltwater swimming pool, three restaurants, bars, beachfront cabanas and sun beds, a new subterranean spa helmed by Mykonian brand Despina Gavala and private islands that can be booked by the day. Emerging chef dream team Akis Amiras and Nikos Anagnostou have developed menus based on sustainable ingredients from the surrounding Cycladic islands and throughout Greece. So come here for its stunning location and stay for the multi-faceted experiences.—Andria Mitsakos

Albatros Hotel, Mykonos

Everyone always asks me where to stay in Mykonos and while the usual suspects are obvious, the Albatros is not. Mostly frequented by German tourists on a package tour (don’t cringe yet), the lesser-known secret is that the owners built a panoramic suite that could easily be priced as one of a five-star resort in the world, but with priceless views cliffside over Panormos Beach. In fact, this private gem was launched with my nod of approval, so ask for the Andria Mitsakos suite. Trust me, your Instagram comments will be, “Are you on an airplane?”—Andria Mitsakos

Absolut hotel, Mykonos

Family owned and operated, with no connection to the vodka brand, this boutique property boasts one thing you absolutely need to see, and sleep in: a windmill. I stayed here in May and loved the circular room hugging me at night and waking to the birds that live in the thatched rooftop. Seafront suites are also available. The infinity-edged pool has killer sunset views. Bonus: It’s a two-minute walk from Mykonos town.—Andria Mitsakos

OTHER ISLANDS

Astypalea

An island shaped like a butterfly, Astypalea belongs to the Dodecanese group of islands, but it has the spirit of the Cycladic islands. It' s the ideal location for an off-the-beaten-path vacation with its white houses, windmills and breathtakingly wild natural beauty. It' s small, beautiful and is surrounded by gorgeous beaches. The main town is built under the shade of the castle and is considered one of the most beautiful traditional settlements in the Aegean. Entering the central square, you' ll be blown away by the breathtaking view of the eight windmills, and the view of the sunset is so gorgeous you' ll think you' re dreaming. Every tavern serves local homemade food, traditionally prepared with local ingredients. One must-go spot is Maroula's Agoni Grami restaurant, which serves heavenly lasagna with saffron. Astypalea is easy to reach from Athens, as it' s a short hop on a plane.—Argiro Barbarigou

Syros

A truly cosmopolitan destination that goes way back in time and still carries the majestic feeling of the 19th century, when it was home to elite entrepreneurs, merchants and artists. Syros still remains the capital of Cyclades, attracting the more sophisticated crowds seeking to enjoy the cosmopolitan feel, the cultural happenings and the quiet family life. Its proximity to Mykonos offers the opportunity for a flashy daytrip. A highlight of the magnificent architecture is the Apollo Municipal Theatre (also known as La Piccola Scala), a replica of Scala di Milano. My favorite activity in Syros is horseback riding, which allows visitors to discover paths and landscapes and even visit a beach and swim with the horses. In order to avoid the crowds and enjoy the more secret side of the island, I recommend the secluded beach of Grammata in the northern part of the island. As it is only accessible by boat, it is mostly frequented by sailors; you can take a boat there from Kini village. The rocky scenery and crystal clear waters of Grammata beach guarantee a calming and refreshing experience.—Elena Fotiadi

Andros

A true gem amidst the Aegean due to its natural beauty and its unique neo-classical architecture. This is a perfect destination to reconnect with nature. It is just a short 90-minute trip from Athens. On the east side of the island, there' s a hidden treasure, a secret known to many, named Axla. It' s a natural paradise, a place of unique beauty and biodiversity. Its heritage has its roots in one of the earliest and most important civilizations in the Mediterranean, which is known for its peaceful growth and sincere hospitality. Visit Onar hotel to experience a true connection with nature — you' ll find shade under the plane trees, tranquillity from the sound of birds and rivers and a glorious white sandy beach with turquoise water that will fill your heart with contentment and marvel. It' s not by chance that the name of the hotel, “onar,” means “dreaming” in ancient Greek. It is simply my favorite destination in the world and the food is marvelous. They have their own organic farm and only source vegetables from there. They have a selection of fresh-caught fish, a variety of pies that are made with their own vegetables that change daily and lamb from the wood-fired traditional oven that will haunt you with its aromas.—Argiro Barbarigou

Rina Island, Cyclades

While it’s only about 30 minutes from the shores of the Cycladic wild child of Mykonos, you’ll feel worlds away on this island where the water is Yves Klein blue and the beaches are talcum powder white. I spent my 40th birthday surrounded by my best friends from all over the world here. Contact Christos Papadopoulos (+30-697-482-2840) to arrange a day trip. There’s zero infrastructure, so he’ll organize everything including the boat, food and appropriate cocktails to fuel your Robinson Crusoe experience.—Andria Mitsakos

Patmos

A true hidden gem, Patmos could never fail to impress travelers, offering a mystical, exhilarating experience. Patmos is home to Chora, one of the most beautiful Aegean towns. The island can satisfy all kinds of tastes with its exquisite architecture, crystal clear waters, laid-back bohemian vibes, along with gourmet local cuisine. To enjoy the latter, I recommend Benetos Restaurant in Chora. The true highlight of Patmos is the Monastery of St. John the Divine, where the book of Apocalypse was written in 95 AD and to which the island owes its magical ambience. The remote beach of Psili Ammos is accessible only via a footpath but will definitely reward those who will dare the 20-minute walk to it. The beach is also home to a traditional restaurant offering local dishes such as goat and green beans. Visitors should stay until it gets dark to enjoy the magical sunset.—Elena Fotiadi

Kimolos

Kimolos is an island of the Cyclades that acquired its fame by word of mouth, mainly by those who love sailing, as they were instantly entranced by its beauty. You can reach Kimolos by a 30-minute flight from Athens to Milos and then take the local ferry which is a short 30-minute trip. From the very first moment I arrived on the island, I immediately felt an almost magical aura, a vibe that everyone had been telling me about. It's not just the stunning beauty that gives it its vibe, it's also the locals who are so hospitable and warm. Walking through the narrow alleyways of the village, you'll feel like you've traveled to another time. I always stay at Mezzo Lovero, which is a fantastic traditional boutique hotel located in the heart of Horio town. While you're there, the must-eat location is the tavern of Kali Kardia, which serves some of the best slow-cooked meals you'll ever try. If you head out of town, don't miss a chance to eat at Kyma, for catch-of-the-day seafood by the seaside.—Argiro Barbarigou 

Mediterraneo Restaurant, Naousa, Paros

Petros Tsounakis is a former chef turned restaurant owner, avid kite surfer and native Parian. I always order the giant beans (he uses sweet paprika which gives the dish massive depth), local horta (wild greens) and whatever fish he wants me to try. Stay until closing and you’ll sample some of Petros’s homemade "suma," which is a Parian grappa of sorts. It will get you primed and ready to hit some of the local bars, either of which he’ll be happy to accompany you.—Andria Mitsakos

Statheros Meze Place, Naousa, Paros

The daughter of famed female celebrity chef Argrio Barbarigou opened this simple mezedakia a year ago and she’s had full restaurant ever since. Konstatina Manolaki focuses on three generations (she being the third) of family recipes. She ran her mother’s restaurant in Athens from the age of 12 and now only 12 years later she’s running the show at her own, humble spot in the back streets of darling Naousa. Don’t miss her orange cake and stewed chickpeas.—Andria Mitsakos.

Antiparos

You can combine a fabulous stay in the off-the-beaten track and yet cosmopolitan island of Antiparos with an exciting tour of the small island of Despotiko, guided by the archaeologists who did the excavations. Antiparos features various fine restaurants like Captain Pipinos in Agios Georgios, where you can taste fresh seafood from local fishermen. Although Antiparos has limited hotel infrastructure, the island offers some of the loveliest villas and private homes, like Villa Melissa, a recently renovated seafront estate with magnificent views over the vast Aegean Sea. Two of my favorite and less frequented beaches are Apadima and Sifneiko. Apadima is set in a lovely cove fully protected from the summer winds, while Apantima is a charming pebbly beach with crystal-clear waters and a rocky sea bottom providing an atmosphere of serene calm in the most picturesque of settings. Sifneiko, also known as the Sunset Beach, is a tranquil paradise with golden sand named after Sifnos island, which can be viewed in the distance. The sea can at times be a little rough with the exposure to the summer winds, but is ideal for those seeking an exquisite snorkel adventure or for the pure enjoyment of splashing in the sea. —Elena Fotiadi

Day Trips from Paros and Antiparos

Aegean Rib Voyages offers day trips from the Cyclades. With a base on a central island like Paros or Antiparos, you can check out the off-the-beaten-path spots such as Koufonisia, Keros, Iraklia, Schinoussa and Anafi, as well as the more well-known Ios islands, Mykonos and Santorini.—Mina Agnos

Tinos

Tinos has an authentic feel. Despite religious fame, it has avoided mass tourism and remains a true representative of the Cycladic scenery. The real beauty of the island hides in the more than 500 picturesque villages spread around the island and the hundreds of dovecotes scattered around the countryside. Excellent traditional cuisine can be found in the simple family-run eateries. The destination is ideal for travelers seeking to explore, offering an intriguing scenery and featuring exciting activities for adventure lovers such as trekking paths and rock climbing sites. A beach not to miss is Livada, with its impressive, rough scenery and secluded location. Overall, the purity of the island can turn even the most dubious guest into a true believer.—Elena Fotiadi

The unexploited gem of the Aegean! It is only 90 minutes from Athens. You can also reach it with a 15-minute ferry from Mykonos. It's a dream destination for those of you that like to explore. While the town has its beauty, it's the traditional villages you'll find all over the island that are truly unforgettable. Triantados is a medieval village, only 20 minutes from town, which is my favorite destination. Stay at Aeolis Suites, which are built into the mountain and canyons and reach from the mountain top down to the canyons and rivers. Apart from being warm, friendly and extremely hospitable they are blessed with a jaw dropping view of the Aegean. Don't forget to eat at the hote's Zoga restaurant, which has stunning traditional flavors and a menu built around local ingredients. Try the eggs with loutza and volaki, the pickled wild artichokes, the traxana with olives, feta and calamari and lastly the wonderful rizogalo dessert.—Argiro Barbarigou 

Sailing in the Small Cyclades

This is the Maldives of the Aegean! The Small Cyclades are a group of four islands surrounded by wonderful turquoise water and golden beaches — it's is the ultimate destination to island hop with a yacht or a chartered boat. Since they' re four islands I' ll share my best kept secrets on each.—Argiro Barbarigou

  • On Shinousa, you have to eat at Kira Pothiti's restaurant. From her hands, come delicacies that are simply unforgettable. I can still remember the aroma and flavors of her goat pasta.

  • On Koufonisia, get ready to have fun. It's one of the liveliest islands and has an impressive collection of fine food and drink places. Don't miss Captain Nicola, for his fresh-caught seafood and traditional food.

  • On Iraklia, go to Akathi for home-cooked seafood. For mouth watering mezes visit Syrma and no matter what happens, climb to the top of the village and try Anios cheesepies, which she prepares fresh every day right out of her wood-fired traditional oven.

  • On Donousa, do not forget to visit the famous and exquisite Kedros and Livadi beaches, try the traditional food at Kori tou Mixali, grab some mezes at Tzi Tzi. And for an unforgettable experience visit the grocery-restaurant of Tsifti.