The Greek islands are exactly what we all think of in our day dreams – beautiful blue waters, ancient history, and idyllic atmosphere. But this destination offers far more than meets the eye. Beneath this beauty queen’s flawless exterior lives a woman of substance – a thriving culture with a timeless past, and unique experiences around every turn. Hidden in plain sight are the things that make the Greek islands an amazing destination.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m totally biased, but the island of Crete is my favorite…..so far. As the famous saying goes, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list!” In the same vein, I definitely haven’t dug my toes into the sand of all the Greek islands, but hey – you’ve got to have goals, right? But enough about me. Crete stole my heart from the moment my flight touched down and I felt the warm wind blowing through my hair. I was immediately greeted by warm and friendly locals, and I basked in the feeling that I was among locals – not a tourist in sight.
Crete is the largest island in Greece and is also the southernmost point in Europe – just 200 miles from the coast of northern Africa. It’s known for its laid-back vibe, friendly locals, and fresh produce. This island has the unique ability to self-sustain its own food supply, and much of the land is dedicated to farming. It’s also a mountainous island with a vast chain dividing the north and south coastlines from end to end. Throughout the island you’ll find small picturesque villages nestled in natural bays, many of which are home to boutique hotels that offer warm and upscale accommodations on pristine beaches.
Other islands that have great appeal for similar reasons include Ios, Paros, and Naxos, all of which are scattered in the waters between Santorini and Mykonos. They’re easy to combine with an itinerary that covers these more highly trafficked destinations and would offer a welcome quiet reprieve for a few days. All have charming port towns crammed with unique shops selling handmade items, local restaurants serving authentic fresh food, and gorgeous beaches where you have a high chance of spending the day on a stretch of pebbly shoreline all to yourself.
The reasons to get off the beaten path in the Greek islands are numerous – secluded and peaceful beaches, fantastic food and wine experiences, and the opportunity to interact with locals. The Greek people are naturally warm and welcoming, and even if you run into a bit of a language barrier, rest assured that they are dedicated to hospitality and will make every effort to both communicate clearly and understand your needs.
So, if you love the idea of spending a few days “living like a local” and relaxing in paradise, be sure to spend time getting to the lesser known islands – whether for your whole trip or just a few days. You’ll return home feeling sun-kissed and refreshed – even if you ARE a few pounds heavier – and with memories that will bring you back again and again to this precious destination.
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