From Alonissos to Zakynthos...
Alonissos, one of the Sporades islands, for Mediterranean monk seal sightings and locavore tuna fish tastings...Athens for the best big-city break in Europe...Βόλος, which is Greek for Volos, for the waterfront tsipouradika tavernas and easy access to the famously green Pelion peninsula (Boris Johnson's Dad has a house there)...Chania, the city on the north coast of Crete with its pretty Venetian harbour and proximity to the rustic Balos beach—likely to be far less crowded this year...Despotiko island off the coast of Antiparos is a place you'll be hearing more about soon as its secret ancient sanctuary of Apollo will open for the first time ever to the public (hint: there's nowhere great to stay in Antiparos unless you're a guest at Tom Hanks' place; stay in Paros instead and take the ferry over)....Evia, as we've said before, is like Corfu but without all the British package tourists and yes, it is indeed an island, with some of the most spectacular drives in Greece and back to the Cyclades because there's Folegandros which looks pretty foreboding when you approach it by sea (there's no other way) but may be about to have its moment in the sun in 2021; its Katergo Beach has been called one of the best in the Mediterranean by Esquire magazine.
Gytheio is the closest thing to a city you'll find in the rugged Mani peninsula, where the lack of great places to stay is either the most annoying thing about it or its salvation...Heraklion is the biggest city in Crete, the least beautiful and also by far the most interesting built-up place on that island and if you take a ferry from the Aegean island of Ios, you'll make a stop in Santorini first which would put nowhere at all near Kefalonia, the Ionian island that the Greeks go to for (though we almost hate to say it) better beaches than any you'll find in the likes of Mykonos,
but we hear there's lots to see and even more great food to eat over in Lesbos, or Lesvos as they say in Greek but back to the mainland for a sec because Greece's answer to Mont St-Michel also starts with a "m" and it's Monemvasia, way down south in the Peloponnese—find a way to get there and you'll be thanking us later, like Nafplion it has a dramatic citadel and don't overlook the ruins of Olympia and if ever there were a year to visit an island you haven't heard of, Psara, it's probably 2021 because its the bicentennial of the Greek Revolution and cryptic but enchanting Psara, off the coast of larger Chios, figured prominently in it while back in Crete, of course, there has been a fiercely independent streak since time immemorial and each city has its own identity as you'll see in Rethymno, the third city in Crete after Chania and Heraklion and located about midway between them; the lack of a big port keeps things mellow but the Venetian architecture will set your Instagram on fire (if those are the kinds of fires you like to light) and to paraphrase a certain Stein Santorini is Santorini is Santorini is Santorini only this year, it won't be flooded with cruise ship day-trippers; just remember you don't go to Santorini for the beaches but you do go to 2019-trendy Tinos for the beaches and some of the best locavore cuisine in all of Greece; but be warned the island is close enough to Athens that all the good spots to stay will be going fast by July and gone by August whereas the time is always right for the city Greeks sometimes call their co-capital, Thessaloniki, which is so different from Athens it will knock you off your feet but don't worry, it's pretty relaxed for a bit city so someone is bound to help you up and show you the nearest ouzeri or taverna—where unlike in Athens, musical serenades of the non-touristy kind are the rule, not the exception. Closer to the Acropolis, which by the way will be basking in a spectacular new lighting for the Parthenon, there's Ύδρα or Hydra, the island that's also a heavyweight in Greek history because of its prominence in the Greek War of Independence; if you want get a whiff of its aristocratic airs check out Phaedra, the deliciously naughty 1962 Anthony Perkins flick with star Melina Mercouri, who is so irked by her tycoon hubby Thanos she could send him tumbling over the high white villa walls into the cobalt Myrtoan Sea, which is how they call the Aegean around here (fun fact: the sea was named for mythical hero Myrtilus, who was tossed in the sea here by an angry Pelops); but Hydra is the very picture of Greek island serenity with yachts, donkeys and no cars. You can't drive to Zakynthos either, which is a probably a good thing because that would make its iconic Navagio, or Shipwreck Beach, even more crowded. But the island has plenty of other beaches too, with that signature powdery white Ionian Sea sand...and more than a few cool new places to stay that might make you think twice before booking that trip to Corfu.
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