Choosing whether to spend your summer holidays in the Cyclades or the Ionian islands can be a tricky task. There are so many beautiful islands to visit in Greece instead of the popular Santorini and Mykonos. Sometimes you just need some advice from a local Greek!
So, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Marios and I am a photographer. I was born and raised in Thessaloniki, a city in the north of Greece. Fortunately, I have had the pleasure of doing a bit of travel around many of Greece’s beautiful destinations. With this experience I would like to provide you with a few recommendations.
But first let me tell you more about myself. Living in Greece and surrounded by its beauty everyday, I started taking my first landscape photos with my smartphone. However, I started to realise that the photos taken with a smartphone could not reflect the reality of the beauty in Greece. I thus purchased my first DSLR camera.
Searching for this better result – I started to experiment and test my point of view with the beautiful Greece as my canvas! Day by day, my skills have been improving, my point of view is changing and today I think I have achieved a satisfying result in my photography work.
My passion for photography and my love for exploring new destinations have resulted in me becoming a travel photographer. So now let me show you some of my beautiful country, including tips on whether you should visit the Cyclades or the Ionian Islands!
My Favourite Place in Greece: Chania in Crete
Let’s start with my favourite place in Greece: Chania! This wonderful city is located in Crete, the biggest Greek island and the 5th largest of the Mediterranean Sea. Chania is a place that offers a great variety of activities for all types of travellers!
The landscape is breathtaking and it changes as you move around the island. There are many beautiful beaches located very close to the city center (approximately 40 minutes drive) and the sea is a shimmering beautiful blue.
Chania is also a great place for nature lovers and adventurers as well! From here you can explore the Samaria Gorge (one of the biggest gorges in Europe) which is located in Western Crete at Samaria National Park. Afterwards, you might want to head back to the city to go for a walk around the old port and take in a stunning sunset.
Once the sun sets, of course, there is a surprisingly good nightlife in Chania. Hundreds of bars are open offering all kinds of drinks and some clubs stay open until the early hours of the morning. All of the points mentioned above combined with the beauty of the Mediterranean summer make Chania a must-see destination.
Personally, I try to visit Chania at least once per year in order to experiment my photography with its amazing landscape.
Choosing between the Cyclades or the Ionian Islands
As I mentioned before, Crete is my favorite Greek island. However it is impossible for one to say that the other Greek islands are not worth visiting! Every island has its own special character and charm making it difficult to choose between the Cyclades or the Ionian Islands.
In the Cyclades (islands in the Aegean sea), the sunlight is mirrored in the white small houses, making the day seem brighter! The colorful flowers close to the blue and white houses make for a mesmerising color contrast. The wind in the Cyclades also turns the summer fresh at times and the cold waters of the seas are breathtaking!
On the other hand, you can find amazing places in the Ionian sea. The architecture and the warm colours of the buildings with the green colours of nature in the background, create beautiful destinations and the feeling of living in the past!
Last year, I visited Parga and Syvota (seaside villages in western Greece near the Ionian sea). Later this summer, I will visit Cyclades. Every part of Greece is unique making it difficult each year to pick one destination. If you have the time try including both of these regions on your travels to Greece. You won’t regret it!
Beautiful Destinations on the Mainland of Greece
Except from the islands, in Greece’s mainland, there are places of exceptional beauty. One of them is Meteora. Meteora is a very unique place and a popular tourist attraction. Fortunately, its religious elements have not been distorted due to the thousands of tourists that visit this place every year.
Monasteries are built on top of incredible rock formations. Nowadays, only 6 of them are inhabited by actual monks and are open to the public. These monasteries have been declared as a world heritage centre by UNESCO. Every traveler will feel awe when they experience the size of the ridges and the beauty of the nature found here.
The sunset in Meteora (in particular) is a special experience. Additionally, when you visit Greece take the opportunity to spend some time in Athens and visit the Acropolis. You will be amazed by its beauty and its architectural perfection!
The Food, History & Culture of Greece
Everything concerning the Greek people and their culture has to do with their hospitality and the joy of living life to the fullest! This is the feeling that every traveler will catch when they leave Greece. This is the feeling that characterises me as well and it means everything.
Greece is a country with great history and everything is connected to its heritage. Except from the most famous ancient Greek monuments like the Parthenon, I love the fact that travellers in Greece can find thousands of places that are related to its heritage and culture.
From these incredible hidden monuments to the way a restaurant owner welcomes a traveler and serves him to eat, one can find aspects of our ancient culture in it! Let’s also not forget that Greece has had a huge contribution to the world and to the sciences today.
Words like philosophy, democracy, theatre and geometry were all born in ancient Greek civilisation and are still fundamental to our everyday life!
Then there is Greek cuisine which is famous worldwide. Its main characteristic is mild taste. It contains every kind of ingredients, such as meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. Most of the dishes are freshly made with extra virgin olive oil!
Dishes that you should try are: Greek salad, tzatziki, souvlaki and mousakas. However, if you are on holiday in the Greek islands such as the Cyclades or the Ionian Islands, don’t hesitate to try fresh fish cooked in several authentic local ways!
How to Avoid Tourist Traps in Greece
Like every famous tourist destination, just as in Greece, there are tourist traps. If you want to avoid these mistakes, I would recommend that you do as much research about the destinations you are visiting before your departure.
For example, in some tourist hotspots, it is possible that the restaurants serve a low quality of Greek food. To avoid that, you should ask the locals which restaurants they like to eat at or do some thorough research on the Internet for highly recommended places. Whenever you can, try to eat original Greek cuisine! You will love it.
When it comes to the Cyclades or Ionian Islands, there are many unknown and hidden beaches just waiting to be found. However, tourist offices often promise amazing trips there with organised boat trips. Personally, I do not recommend these trips and I suggest you hire a private boat and organise your own trip.
It is easy to drive the boat. Not too expensive. And, in fact, you don’t require a license for a small boat in most of the Greek islands. Last but not least, try to interact with local people to learn more about their culture. If you want the ultimate Greek experience try to communicate with Greek people!
Tips for Travellers to the Cyclades or the Ionian Islands
High season in Greece is between July and August. If you plan to travel to Greece for a summer vacation, make sure you book your stay at least two or three months in advance. This way you will find value-for-money options for accommodation and transportation.
Finally, all Greek islands (be it the Cyclades or the Ionian islands) are close to each other and there are usually daily boat trips offered from one to another, making island-hopping easy and affordable. You can easily visit more than one island during your stay in Greece.
So, don’t forget to bring your camera and live your myth in Greece!