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Holiday in the Cyclades in May 2011 & other updates and news

Hello lovers of the Greek islands, here is the update of my website The Greek Islands. If you have received this newsletter by mistake or if you want to unsubscribe please reply to this email and write "unsubscribe" in the subjectmatter.

At last a new newsletter. We're already back from our holiday in the Cyclades for more than two months, but after all the updates that I have placed on the website I did not immediately feel like making the newsletter, so that is why it took some time.

Truus de Graan & Hans Huisman @ Schiphol Airport Leandros Suites in Oia, Santorini Leandros Suites in Oia, Santorini Leandros Suites in Oia, Santorini

Thursday May the 19th early in the morning our flight would leave to Santorini. At the airport I met my friend and faithful correspondent Truus de Graan, who was leaving on the same plane. Truus regularly writes pieces for my website The Greek Islands. Her favorite destinations are generally small and peaceful islands in the Cyclades. This time she returned to Donoussa and later she would end up on the tiny island Schinoussa on which she wrote a report including photos (sorry people, only available in Dutch). Our ways parted on Santorini, but during our vacation we had regular contact via SMS and telephone.

After a nice flight and a stopover in Mykonos we arrived in Santorini, where the streets were wet from the rain that had fallen down just a few minutes before. Not everywhere in Greece it was beautiful and sunny weather. Also on Santorini there were a few clouds, and we have had more days that the sky was not completely blue, but still compared to some other people we know we have been pretty lucky. Truus de Graan had rain and thunder on the island where she was staying and on Crete there were also thunderstorms and bad weather and there was even a small earthquake near Kissamos (Crete).

Our car was waiting at the airport, so we could immediately start our holiday. We were staying at a familiar address where we also stayed for a few days two years earlier, the very nice and quiet Leandros Suites in Oia, with its magnificent views. Owner Angela was already waiting for us and she had reserved the same house for us that we had two years before (there are only three houses). After some chitchat we gave her a bag of special Dutch candy, and she left us on our terrace with a small bottle of ouzo so we could enjoy and recover from our nightly journey as we looked out over the blue sea and islands.

Oia in Santorini Oia in Santorini Oia in Santorini Santorini, Oia, Alkiona Restaurant

We had a short afernoon nap and after that we made a walk through Oia to see the sunset. In the evening we ate at Restaurant Alkioni where they serve tasty and affordable food. This restaurant is near the Leandros Suites and it doesn't overlook the caldera, but it is nice and the people are friendly. The views of the caldera we had already at "home" and when you eat out in Oia you pay for the views. Actually we have been here every night of our three days stay in Oia, so I did not add not many new addresses in Oia in my restaurant guide ;). That night we had a drink on the terrace and then it was time for bed.

The two days we had on Santorini before we were to set off to the island of Milos it was very nice weather but not warm enough to go for a swim in the sea, so we took the time to drive around in the car and go and see some villages and beaches, like the capital Fira (where we also bought tickets for the boat to Milos) and the beaches in the South (Red Beach and White Beach) and near Oia (Paradise, Kartharos). We also looked at Kanakari Beach in the east of the island. Next to this this big empty beach is a harbor where swans swim, and there is a beautiful church on a hill behind the beach.

Fira in Santorini Red Beach in Santorini Paradise Beach in Santorini Kanakari Beach in Santorini

The third day of our holiday we decided to fo for another visit to the small island located opposite Santorini, Thirassia. You can go there from the port of Oia and the boat trip costs only one euro and 10 cents. It takes about ten minutes to get to the other side. The boat stops at two places on the island of Thirassia and this time we got off where there are stairs on the mountain that lead to the main town. We wanted to go see that town and I wanted to look for "the tomb of the vampire" which according to the inhabitants is buried next to a beautiful church on a hill, where you have a spectacular view. I believe they occasionally sprinkle salt on the grave so that this "vampire" is not coming back to life. I had seen images on TV and then immediately put on the wish list.

The boat stpped in a cozy and quiet harbor with several tavernas, a few houses and some small pieces of beach. Here is the start of the stairs which take you upstairs to the chora (main town). Along the way you pass a stable with donkeys. You can also go to the top on the back of a donkey, but we thought "we walk would just walk". Halfway through the climb we already felt tired, especially since it had become warmer, so we we made the occasional break for some rest.

Thirassia, Thirasia Thirassia, Thirasia Thirassia, Thirasia Thirassia, Thirasia

When we were at the top of the stairs we immediately bumped on a Kafenion where they tried to lure us inside to have a drink, but somehow that felt too commercial and we didn't like that, so we walked a bit further to the first and best spot with some shade. There we sat down to have a sip of water before further exploring the town.

The main town is very similar to a village that you might encounter on Santorini, set on top of a cliff with all white houses and a couple of beautiful churches, but it is just missing the tourists. It was very quiet and we saw only a few people. The views down and over the sea to Santorini are beautiful. In the meanwhile I had seen my church with the cemetery of the vampire. I recognized it from the television. Sofar the good news. The bad news wass that it was situated even higher outside the village on a hill, so that meant we had to climb more.

Thirassia, Thirasia Thirassia, Thirasia Thirassia, Thirasia Thirassia, Thirasia

But anyway, after climbing the mountain, the walk up the hill was easy. I think it took about 10 minutes to get there. The church was indeed beautiful and it was open, so you could also have a look inside. Behind the church there was a big turkey with some chickens making noise. The grave of the vampire was obviously not pointed ou, so we've probably seen it, but we had no idea which one it was. Well: mission completed. We started our walk around the island back to the beach where the other berth for the boat was that would take us back to Santorini. We had a couple hours of time to get there.

There are a number of roads across the island from the chora to the other village where the boat docks. The names of the villages on all the maps of Thirassia are different, so I will not try to name it. There was a sign "Agia Eirini" in the other village, so that it probably what it is, but on the boat they called it by a different name: very confusing. The walk took one hour to one and a half hour in a quiet pase. Along the way there are many picturesque churches at the sea and many flowers and fields of grapes, because Thirassia is known for its fine wines. Also we passed a deserted medical center where an ambulance was waiting with a flat tire. Just before you reach the village (Agia Eirini) you will pass by a monastery that is off course closed.

The last stretch to the village is quite steep going down, which is a bit tiring. In the village we quickly went to a taverne for some drinks and after that we sat with our feet in the sea. We could feel the tiredness go away. A little later the boat arrived on time for and it took us back to Santorini.

All together it was a nice walk on Thirassia. We've seen a lot, but not the church in a deserted village that I had seen on a picture somewhere, so for us a good reason to come back one day and look for it. There are other hiking trails on the island that we want to try. Thirassia is worth a visit.

Karterados Santorini Monolithos Beach Santorini Monolithos Beach Santorini Karterados Santorini

After a good meal and a delicious drink on our terrace, we ended up in a deep sleep. The next day at 11 o'clock we said goodbye to Angela and Leandros Suites. Our boat to the island of Milos wouldn't leave untill 5 o'clock in the afternoon (and it also came in a little too late) so we had time to see some more of Santorini. We visited the village of Karterados with its fruit trees, flowers and beautiful churches and we had a long lunch at the deserted beach of Monolithos. After seeing some closed churches and several other villages on the island we went to the port of Athinios where we waited for our boat that we would bring to the island of Milos, in the meantime enjoying a cup of coffee. Milos was the first island of the holiday that we had never been to and we were very curious about it.

I had heard many reports about Milos before we were going. Some said that the beaches were not nice and others said that the beaches were just beautiful, that the villages were not pretty or nice. Well: reason enough to take a look ourselves and judge it with our own eyes.

Milos, Soultana Apartments Milos, Soultana Apartments Milos, Soultana Apartments Milos, Soultana Apartments

The trip from Santorini to Milos took about two hours, including a short stop at the island of Folegandros that we were to visit later on our holiday. We arrived in the main town of Adamas, where Athena Travel waited with a car for us. We had to go to the northeast of the island to the village Pollonia, where we had booked at Soultana Apartments. On the way to Pollonia you could already see that the island of Milos was quite beautiful. The complex was in a very quiet street close to the sea. What a welcome we had here: Mrs. Soultana was a real sweetheart and ditto her friend Anastasia. We had a veranda that overlooked the sea and the sunset. After a shower we were both refreshed and it was time for a drink to celebrate our new accommodation.

At the suggestion of the hostess we went to eat at Gialos Restaurant on the promenade by the beach. What immediately struck me was that the people on the island were very friendly and hospitable. The food was really terrific in Gialos Taverna, something we did not expect on this island. (Professional) cook Achilles cooks the stars out of the heaven, and he also has original recipes on the menu. Christos, the owner of the tavern, is a real charmer that tries to make everybody happy. First impressions of Pollonia were good (and stayed that way). We found it a pleasant village, nice and quiet (not much traffic) with a nice atmosphere and nfriendly people. After dinner we got a free raki (drink) off course, and after that we had an ouzo on out veranda. We both had a good feeling about this island.

Milos, Gialos Restaurant in Pollonia, cook Achilleus & Hans Milos Milos theater Milos, Achivodolimni Beach

The next day we had breakfast across the road at the sea with Makis and Stravoula of the Apollon Hotel. After that we went straight to the car to drive around like headless chickens to. We hadn't really seen anything on the island yet, so it didn't matter much where we would go. Along the roads we saw many colorful flowers in yellow and red and the island turned out to be quite green and with beautiful rock formations. We looked at the ancient theater and wanted to go and see the Roman catacombs. After we had parked the car at the sign of the theater and the location of the Venus of Milos (the famous statue), we walked straight ahead (and thus took the wrong path). We were not alone, because we saw more people who could not find it. If you want to see the theater you had to follow another path leading down just before the parking lot. The theater was beautiful and there were still working on excavations. Unfortunately, the catacombs were closed that day, so we decided to come back another time.

After a delicious lunch in Adamas we drove along the coast a little further and saw a very large and (almost) empty beach. It was called Achivodolimni Beach and is located just behind the airport (we have never seen an airplane landing or taking off there). At the beginning of the beach there was a bit rubbish, but if you walked further it became clean and it was really a beautiful sandy beach where you could also easily go into the sea. There were about eight people (ourselves included) and the beach is a few miles long. Just like us there were four other people sunbathing without swimsuits. What a lovely sunny day, the first day that the weather was so nice that you could swim in the sea without getting goosebumps.

Milos, Sarakiniko Beach Milos, Sarakiniko Beach Milos, Fyriplaka Beach Milos, Tsigrado Beach

After a while in the sun, we drove further and looked at the lake behind Achivodolimni Beach and then took the road home. Just before reaching Pollonia we took the exit to Sarakiniko Beach. It is hard to explain what Sarakiniko Beach is like and it is difficult to make it look as beautiful as it really is on a picture. It feels a bit like you are on another planet when you walk over all the polished white rocks. The water of the sea is also lovely turquoise because it reflects on the white stone. A bit further is a sunken cargo boat that was beaten to the shore. We walked around for an hour to view it all. Anyway I found it difficult to compare Milos with other island we have seen. Sometimes it was a bit like Crete, sometimes like Samos, and other places made us think of Paros and Antiparos. The evening was like all evenings on Milos ended with a dinner in Gialos Restaurant and a drink on the veranda.

The next day after breakfast we first took a look at the excavation of Filakopi, which lies not far from Pollonia. This is a big pile of old stones in a place where once stood a city. Part of Filakopi disappeared into the sea and there is a beautiful beach next to it. We went on to Fyriplaka Beach in the south. This proved to be a really beautiful beach that is divided into two by some rocks (you can climb over them). Here we stayed a while, and we swam in the sea. It was quiet and we could lie there without swimwear. Then we wanted to take a look at the adjacent Tsigrado Beach. I read that you could walk to it but it seemed very difficult (or impossible?). It looked a better plan to go and see it some day with a boat.

Milos, Provatas Beach Milos, Paliochori Beach Milos, Agia Kyriaki Beach Beach Milos, Mitakas Beach

When we got up the next day there were more clouds in the sky and gradually it became darker. When we had parked our car at Provatas Beach where we wanted to eat something, it suddenly started to rain. Fortunately it did not last an eternity and it stopped after fifteen minutes, but the air was still dark here and there. We went looking for Paliochori Beach, which on many sites is described as the most beautiful beach on the island of Milos. It consists of three consecutive wide beaches and there is also a tavern. The beach is indeed beautiful, but somehow Fyriplaka Beach was more our thing. Even if only because it is a bit more remote and we could swim in the sea there without our swimwear. We continued and looked for Agia Kyriaki Beach. We had previously missed the exit to the beach because we thought that it was the way to a church and stopped there.

The paved road turned into a kind of really sandy path, so we decided to leave the car and just walk to the beach. Soon the road became a little better again. The route to Agia Kyriaki Beach can be done by car. After about 45 minutes walk we arrived at another beautiful large sandy beach. The sky in the distance was still a bit dark, but it wasn't really cold, so we took a dip in the sea. Then we walked back to the car and we got more rain on our heads. We went back home to Pollonia and just before we took the exit marked "Mitakos Beach", and again we came across a beautiful empty beach. Who said that the beaches on Milos were bad? I do not know how anybody can say this, unless you only like busy beaches with sunbeds and parasols. I found the beaches beautiful and by now we had both fallen a little bit in love with Milos.

Kimilos Kimilos, Psathi Kimilos, the Windmill Hotel Kimilos, Echinoussa Tavern Restaurant

Three times a day from Pollonia there is a small boat going up and down to the island situated opposite Milos which is called Kimolos. This gave us a good opportunity to go there as well just to look around. Kimolos is a relatively unknown island and tourism is still in its infancy. You can not rent a car on Kimolos, but luckily it was possible to bring your car on the ferry for not too much money. We went to Kimilos for a day and decided to stay overnight at the Windmill Hotel. The crossing with the ferry was definitely fun and there were beautiful views of the islands and islets in the area, including for example the uninhabited Polyaigos. In the port of Kimolos, which is called Psathi, we were met by an employee of the Windmill Hotel. Not that it was necessary, because we could have easily found it ourselves. It is housed in an old restored windmill on a hill between the port and the upper chora, and you could see it from afar. It was a very nice place and we had a large terrace overlooking the harbor, a large piece of Kimolos, the sea and the island Polyaigos. It couldn't have been better.

After we had left our luggage we drove to the port because we had seen a couple of tavernas on the beach there. We sat down at the Echinoussa Tavern Restaurant, and we really did not have high expectations of the food they would serve on this island, but to our surprise was great. Like in our restaurant on Milos (Gialos) there was a professional cook behind the stove here. He was called Fotis and made something special of it. He also gave us a map of Kimolos. Helping the guests in the taverne was a very hospitable guy called Panagiotis. For such a small island where they are not really busy with the tourists, we found the people very friendly and open.

Kimilos, Chora Kimilos Chora Kimilos, Ellinika Beach Kimilos, Ellinika Beach

After a delicious meal we went to have a look at the old capital of the island. The streets of this town are very narrow so it is better to leave your car at the edge and then walk. The chora was very nice and very quiet. There were a lot of churches (all of which were closed), quite a few windmills, and there is an old "Kastro", that you can go and see. The Kastro consists of a number of houses that are arranged in such a way that they form a defense (against pirate attacks). You find that kind of fortresses on Antiparos and Folegandros as well. It was fun to walk through the old streets and look around.

After having viewed the chora we drove along the south coast of the island to the southwest, where there is an official nudist beach called Elinika. There is also a sunken city on the site. The last part of the route we walk because the road was getting worse. Eventually we ended up on a nice and quite a large beach where no one else was. There were indeed some square stones on the beach (also of marble) that could come from old buildings and in the turquoise waters you saw dark spots, which could also indicate buildings. Here on Elinika we just lie down, looked for shells and we took a little swim in the sea.

Kimilos, Psathi Kimilos Kimilos Kimilos, klima Beach

From Elinika Beach we drove back to the harbor Psathi to get a cup of coffee with a metaxa, because we had also seen a kafenion. Again to our surprise the coffee was very good (no nescafé, what we feared). The atmosphere was so relaxed in the village, with a little music in the background, the beach and the sea and besides that just the silence and nothing at all. Panagiotis (from the restaurant where we had taken lunch) came by and paid for our coffee! After an hour or so we went back to the windmill to take a shower and have a drink on the terrace before going out to dinner. This time we walked from the windmill to the port (maybe 10 minutes or less, the distance is 200 meters?), and we went to the same restaurant for dinner. Again it was wonderful. That night it was early to bed.

The next morning we had breakfast at the Windmill Hotel and we got a deluxe breakfast that looked wonderful, with a good cup of coffee. Then we parted, threw the luggage in the car and decided to have a look at another small piece of the island before we were going back to the ferry to Milos. We visited a few beaches and occasionally made a stop to have a look around. What was remarkable was that there was little or no traffic, and a lot of people still travelled on donkeys. There were also quite a few cows.

Milos, Fyropotamos Milos, Fyropotamos Milos, Klima Milos catacombes

Back to Milos it was already time for our last day on this island. The next day we would be leaving to Folegandros early in the morning. We took some time to visit several places with "syrmata" (houses at the sea totally or partially built into the rocks). We went to two of the most beautiful spots to find this type of houses: Fyropotamos with its beautiful church and a beach, and Klima. That day we also made a visit to the Roman catacombs, where we got a private tour.

Then it was time to pack the bags and for the last dinner at Gialos Restaurant. The next morning after breakfast at Stavroula and Makis of the Hotel Apollon it was time to say goodbye to everyone, drive to the port and bring back the car. This time the ferry was reasonable on time and the trip to Folegandros took only an hour.

Folegandros, Fata Morgana Studios Folegandros Chora Folegandros Chora Folegandros, Panagia

In Folegandros we were picked up in port by a car from the Fata Morgana Studios where we were staying. The weather had not improved in the meantime: there were more clouds and it was getting colder. It would stay like that the first two days of our visit to Folegandros. Occasionally there was a patch of blue sky but 80 percent of the time it was still cloudy. In any case it was good weather for hiking.

During the ride to the studios you could see that Folegandros was a lot more barren than Milos, but colorful, with red and yellow and rust colors. Our studio was beautiful and decorated with antiques and had two nice outdoor seatings: one by the pool and one on our private balcony. The view was really pretty amazing. We went to the Chora of Folegandros, which was around the corner from our accommodation: it was really beautiful and well maintained with lots of beautiful old churches (closed of course) and nice little squares with restaurants. It looked much like Mykonos Town, only not at the sea and without all the tourists. We had lunch there and then went to view the famous church of Panagia, which is set on a hill just outside the village. This large church was built on the remains of an ancient shrine and in its walls are pieces from the ancient period. Of course the church was closed.

Since the weather was not good enough to lie down on the beach, we decided just to walk a bit further, and so we walked from the Chora to the harbor where the boat had arrived (Karovastasis). Along the way we got a lift offered by the waiter from the taverne where we just had lunch. He drove us along the coast and we let ourselves be dropped off at Livadi Beach, just outside Karovastasis. We walked back along the coast to the seaside village and saw even more nice beaches that were accessible by stairs. In the first taverne where we sat down to have a drink we were ignored (Evangellis Beach Bar), so we walked to the next (Kalymnios) where people were extremely nice. Then we walked back to the Chora, had a cup of coffee with a metaxa and went to dinner in town.

Folegandros Folegandros Folegandros Folegandros

The next day we took the time to walk over the island and do little exploring. We walked from Chora to the village called Ano Meria, in the north of the island. Ano Meria is spread over a large area and the village is very elongated. It didn't really feel like it was a village. You could enjoy "matsata" (homemade pasta with chicken or lamb) here according to the guides and by a friend on Paros, that I just talked to over the phone that morning. I couldn't leave the island without trying it. It was quite a tough hike of at least more than one hour, but worth it because when you can take a better look at everything. As you walk on the mountain you have a wonderful view over the countryside and the sea.

We sat down at the first taverna we bumped into (Mimis Kouzina, in the end there were only two taverns in the village) to order that matsata that everyone was talking about. It was on the menu but there was no price, and they didn't have it. Disappointed we ordered something else. When the food arrived we were even more disappointed because it was really bad. The saganaki (fried cheese) was hard as a stone, the Greek salad did not even have a piece of feta cheese (Greek cheese) on it, the tzaziki (garlic / cucumber salad) was nothing special, the bread was dry, and the only good stuff was the water and the fried potatoes. The tip is that if you ever go to Ano Meria just walk on to the next tavern, because it cannot get worse than here. After lunch we walked further to the north and then back again. Pretty tired but satisfied we came back in our studio. That evening I ordered the matsata with chicken in the Chora, because here they had it on the menu. There was no need to walk all the way to Ano Meria for it. By the way: it tasted fine.

Folegandros, Agali beach Folegandros, Ampeli Beach Folegandros, Vardia Beach in Karovastasis Folegandros, Kalymnios restaurant

On our third and final day on the island of Folegandros, we decided to hire a car to go see some places. The weather had by now quite cleared up so we wanted to look for a nice beach. The first beach we saw was Agali, which lies about one hour walk from Chora. A pretty beach with some houses around it. From Agali Beach there is a path to Agios Nikolaos Beach, which is a naturist beach. But we drove all the way north again and took one of the paths leading to the various beaches here. We decided to try Ampeli Beach, left the car behind and walked the last part (half an hour to three quarters). We arrived at a beautiful small pebble beach in a turquoise bay. There was no one so we could take our clothes off (later there came more people to the beach on a quad bike).

After a bit of sunbathing and a swim we went south to Karovastasis to have lunch: a delicious fish in the Kalymnios Tavern. It tasted fine and the service was again very friendly. We discovered a beautiful and quite a large beach on the other side of the village. You had to go there by stairs. There were only two people here and the view was overwhelming. on the Folegandros beaches page I put a movie of this beach. In the evening it was time to pack the bags and the last meal at the Chora. The next day after breakfast we got in the Fata Morgana Studios they gave us a ride to the harbor to catch the boat that would bring us back to Santorini.

Santorini, Mesa Pigadia Beach Santorini, Emporio Santorini, Perissa Beach Santorini, Vlyhada Beach

The last three days of the holiday we were back on Santorini, where we had started. I will write too much about it because this newsletter is already turning out much longer than I had planned. Upon arrival at the port our car was not there and I had to call where it was. The man had simply forgotten us, so I have removed him immediately from my site after I came home.

We stayed in Perissa, a tourist town with a long sandy beach, but actually we found it very cozy, especially in the evenings. The apartment we had just booked online on the Internet. We visited quite a number of beaches and some villages and came to the conclusion that Santorini has actually quite a lot to offer and is very varied. Apart from the popular tourist attractions and the popular seaside resorts, there are quieter spots and beautiful and quiet beaches.

In the meantime, of course, we have already booked the next holiday. We are going to Crete again. This island keeps calling us back. We go to a few new accommodation addresses and a few old favorites, like Sophia's House and the Kastania Lodge where they still have availabilities (if you do not have plans and want to stay at a nice place, beginning mid-September they still have space!). Afterwards I am back with a report.

Okay people, this is the end of my newsletter. I hope to maybe see you in Greece one day and I wish everybody the best. I will be back with a new newsletter after my holiday in Crete next September.
Take care, best regards,
Hans Huisman, webmaster of The Greek Islands.


Hans Huisman 2011