The hidden beaches of Kardamyli

Kardamilli is an idyllic mountain village, with traditional stone houses and narrow streets. However, Kardamilli is not on a mountain. Instead, it is surrounded by many of them, but situated next to the sea. This special village was the movie set from “Before Midnight” and is in reality as romantic as the movie. But what makes Kardamyli the perfect summer holiday destination, are the hidden beaches in the area.

Location Overview

Natural site
min 2 hours to max 2 days
Free
Be careful
No

Location

Kardamyli is located in the Mani region. This is a region in the middle of the Peloponnese peninsula. You can get to this beautiful village in two ways. Either you fly to Athens and drive 300 km (190 miles) South-East. Passing along many interesting places in the Peloponnese. However, if your holiday goal is to explore only the Mani region, you might prefer to fly to Kalamata. This city is only 47 km (30 miles) away from Kardamyli.

Landscape

Kardamilli was first mentioned in 1200 B.C. as the main port of Sparta. And today, the village’s connection with the sea is still what it is known for. The rugged coastline, surrounded by lush green mountains on one side, and clear blue waters on the other, are what make the area unique. Kardamily is the perfect place for nature lovers. Both on- and off-shore.

The beaches

Kardamyli offers countless opportunities to explore the Greek coastline. Around town, there is the organized beach of Ritsa, as well as multiple smaller beaches you stumble upon at the end of a village road. However, the real beauty of the region can be found a couple kilometers South of the village. At Foneas and Delfinia.

Delfinia

Let’s start with the least spectacular hidden one of the hidden beaches in Kardamyli. Delfinia is about 5 kilometers (3 miles) South of the villages, which is less than 10 minutes by car. You can park your car next to the main road and from here, the experience of Delfinia begins. 

There are stairs leading down to the beach, surrounded by beautiful old trees. Along the way, you will be amazed by the views of the sea and the untouched landscape around.

The beach is made from white pebble stones, and the water is clear as crystal. Because the beach is located in a bay, you will have beautiful scenery to enjoy during your swim. But another benefit of the bay is that (most days) you will find a natural swimming pool. A sea without waves or currents. As the Greeks call it, a sea-like oil.

Foneas

Foneas beach is slightly closer to Kardamyli, just 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) South. Although the way to Foneas is less spectacular (you can park your car in front of the beach), the beach itself is one of the most amazing places I have ever seen. 

Foneas lies in a much smaller bay than Delfinia, and the landscape here is extremely impressive. There is a cliffside cave, an underwater tunnel, and a giant rock in the middle of the beach. All surrounded by calm blue water.

What makes Foneas special, is the underwater life around the rocky coastline. Not many places in Greece are home to interesting and various species of fish. At Foneas, however, you will be surprised by the life that hides underneath the calm blue surface.

Tips:

  • Protect yourself against the sun. Both Delfinia and Foneas beach are unorganized, meaning there are no umbrellas to protect you against the sun. Bring your own, or find shade in the rugged landscape. Bring enough water, sunblock, and even a hat.
  • Unfortunately, the beaches of Kardamyli are becoming more popular each year. For the best experience, the end of May, the beginning of June, or September are the best times to visit. Nevertheless, if you’re passing by during the busy summer months, you can wake up early and have the beaches all to yourself during sunrise!
  • Delfinia means what it sounds like, dolphins. Although the beach has this name due to the dolphins that visit this part of the Greek seas, don’t get your hopes up. You might spot a dolphin, but you will have to be very lucky to do so.
  • At Delfinia, there is a small cantine halfway down the stairs that lead to the beach. They sell delicious pitas, small pies. We ate some for breakfast while enjoying a beautiful view over the beach. A priceless moment.

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Fall in love with Greece in Autumn

We said goodbye to our sunglasses and shorts. Now we wear jackets and don’t leave the house without an umbrella. Days have become shorter and grey. Summer is over, and we look forward to Christmas or spring next year. However, the fall doesn’t have to be rainy and cold, not when you treat yourself to a getaway in Greece!

Fall is perfect in Greece

Although Greece is the place to be in summer, the country is a perfect destination through all seasons. Autumn in particular. While temperatures are still more than pleasant, tourists are rare, and prices are much more budget-friendly. Besides, the mountainous landscape of Greece turns into a beautiful painting when trees change the color of their leaves.

Temperature

Autumn’s temperatures are perfect for those who don’t like the heat of Greece’s summers. In September, temperatures reach between 25-30 degrees(77 – 86 F). October averages 20-25 degrees ( 68 – 77 F), with mostly sunny days. In November, the chance of rain increases, and temperatures drop to 15 – 20 (59 – 68 F). But still, most days are more than pleasant. Just pack a jacket for the nights and early mornings.

Benefits of visiting Greece in the fall

Lower temperatures

The lower temperatures in autumn in Greece, especially in September and October are a huge benefit compared to the summer. Summers are great for the perfect beach holiday, but often prevent you from many other activities Greece has to offer. During the fall however, you can fully explore this beautiful country.

The view

High temperatures and dust tend to obstruct the views of the Greek landscape during summer. It is continuously hazy in July and August. Close-by islands and mountains look vague, making landscape photography or even a good view difficult. However, as soon as the temperature drops and the chance of rain increases, the sky clears. You can see further away while the landscape adapts to its beautiful autumn colors. The result? Magnificent views, perfect for both landscape photographers and nature lovers.

Lower prices

Prices are always a result of the combination of supply and demand. Since many tourists want to visit Greece in the hot summer months, prices increase, and a holiday can become extremely expensive. During the fall, demand drops, and with it, the prices decrease. This results in cheaper accommodation, food, drinks, car rental, and plane tickets. 

Less crowded

Greece is full in summer. There are about three times more tourists than there are locals and a cue for every popular tourist attraction. Fall, however, is the time you can enjoy Greece without these crowds. Perfect beaches can be private, lines at archeological sites disappear, and you can explore the idyllic traditional villages at your own pace.

Culture

Fall in Greece is magical, giving the most precious fruits: olives (olive oil), grapes, chestnuts and more. And people express their love for those product in famous agricultural festivals, small or big, all around Greece. From a family harvesting and pressing the grapes to a whole village celebrating their precious product. Attending one of these festivals is the most authentic experience you can have.

What to do in Greece in Autumn?

September is the time the real Greeks go on holiday in their country. The Greek islands and sea still have a pleasant temperature this month, while accommodations are much more affordable.

From October, a beach holiday might not be the best option anymore. The sea-water temperatures are still ok, but many beach bars are closed, and an entire day in beach-wear can get chilly. However, this is the perfect time to discover everything else Greece has to offer. The mountains, the cities, and the culture.

Archeological sites

Greece is famous for its rich amount of archeological sites all over the country. However, visiting these sites on a summer day is far from pleasant in my experience. Days are too hot, and the sites often lack a shadow or a cooling breeze. Autumn, however, provides a great climate to discover Greece’s history. Plan a visit to Delphi. Or combine Epidaurus, Mykines, and Mystras with the colorful landscape of Peloponnese. 

Agricultural festivals

During September you can join the harvesting and pressing of grapes in many areas around Greece, especially around Thessaly. You can also join the famous festival of pistachios in Aegina.

October is the month of the distillation of tsikoudia in Crete or tsipouro in the mainland. Be prepared to be invited to a family’s celebration, which includes a lot of food, alcohol, music, and dancing. Chestnuts also have their special moment during October. You can find those festivals all over Greece, especially in mountainous areas.

Finally, end of October and November the most famous Greek product, our beloved olives, are getting picked. Peloponnese, Crete & Lesbos are the biggest producers. There you can see locals picking the olives and in many agro-tourism guesthouses, you can see and even join the process of olive oil production.

City trips

Athens and Thessaloniki are the two largest cities in Greece. Both have a lot to provide, from historical sites to amazing food. And with the beautiful urban atmosphere at night, there is something for everyone. During the Autumn months, the temperature in Athens is still pleasant. So don’t be surprised if you enjoy your Greek coffee under the rock of the Acropolis wearing only your t-shirt.

On the other hand, the weather in Thessaloniki can be unpredictable, but still, the temperature is pleasant. The gastronomical experience the city has to offer deserves your visit. And don’t forget to visit the many historical sites that are hidden throughout the whole city.

Another Greek city that is not well known but perfect for an Autumn getaway is Ioannina. Ioannina is surrounded by mountains and is located around a huge lake. Visit the old castle, enjoy local food, or go hiking in the mountains around.

Hiking

Greece is over 80% mountainous and perfect for hiking and climbing. Since the summers are often too hot for these activities, the Greek mountains are the perfect destination during the fall. Wonderful locations for an active autumn getaway are:

  • Zagorohoria and Tzoumerka in the Epirus region.
  • Crete, where you can hike along multiple beautiful gorges
  • The Corfu trail, the whole length of the island from North to South. 
  • Conquer Mount Olympus, the highest mountain of the gods.

Tips:

  • What to do on a rainy day?
    Although most days in the fall have plenty of sunshine, you might get unlucky and encounter a rainy day in Greece. But don’t worry, there is still plenty to do in Greece. Visit one of the many indoor museums, go shopping in the giant indoor shopping malls around the big cities, or go to one of the many religious sites. Besides, a rainy day is perfect to get in touch with your inner real Greek. Go for a coffee in one of the many kafeneio’s to wait till it gets dry. I am sure you will meet many locals who join you to do the same.
  • Check what is open. 
    Although Autumn is perfect for a trip to Greece, many touristic places are only open during the summer months. When you plan on visiting one of the smaller islands, it is a good idea to check what is still open during the fall. Beach bars, boat rentals, or even taverns might have adjusted opening hours, or might close completely.
  • Pack a jacket
    Although temperatures in Autumn in Greece can be more than pleasant during the days, the night can get chilly. When you’re traveling outside the months of July and August, it is always a good idea to bring a jacket for the nights!

Do you want to prepare yourself for a visit to Greece? Or do you simply want to learn all there is to known about this beautiful country? Leave your email below and get the answer to all your questions!

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Upon arriving at Athens airport in the summer of 2022, an interesting advertisement was to be seen. A poster from a promotional campaign of EOT, Greece’s National Tourism Organisation. This poster showed something unique. A clear blue sea, photographed from above. With tree bright yellow kayaks floating above something that looks like an archeological site. An impressive scene, but without any information on where to find it. Luckily, we discovered it was close to Athens and on our way. The sunken city in Greece, is in Epidaurus.

Location Overview

Argolis, Peloponnese

Natural / Archeological

0.5 hour
tour: 4.5 hour

Free
tour: €70,- p.p.

Be careful
tour: >12 years

No
tour: contact

The EOT

The EOT (Hellenic Organization of Tourism) is an organization that falls under the supervision of Greece’s ministry of tourism. Their main mission is the development and promotion of tourism in Greece. Which counts for over 20 percent of the country’s GDP.

The 2022 summer campaign of EOT is based on the true story of Otto, an Austrian man who visited Greece and ended up “staying forever.” This sentence is the campaign’s slogan. And since the EOT was unclear about the location of their posters, you might end up doing just that.

EOT campaign greece sunken city kayak poster water archeological site ruins sea kayak
The summer 2022 campaign from Greece National Tourism Organization.

Location

The sunken city of Epidaurus is located in the North of the Peloponnese peninsula. In the East of the region called Argolis. This explains the nickname of the site, Argolida’s lost Atlantis

The Argolis region is home to Archaia (ancient) Epidaurus. The famous site which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. But there are also Nea (new), and Palaia (old) Epidaurus. The latter is where you can find the sunken city of Greece.

The historical underwater site is located in the Aegean sea. The Saronic Gulf, to be specific. In order to reach the site by car, navigate to Gliati beach in Palaia Epidaurus. There you can find a small parking area from which you can walk to the sunken city in less than five minutes.

History

Little is known about the sunken city. There is no information on site nor online, and even the tour guides are uncertain about what it is that is hidden underneath the water.

It could be an old Mycenean settlement dating back to the 12th century A.D. The site shows the remains of ancient walls, foundations, and paved streets. The second possible explanation of the history of the sunken city is a bit younger. A Roman villa from the 2nd century B.C. 

How to visit?

The sunken city of Epidaurus can be experienced in two ways. By a guided kayak tour or by yourself with a snorkeling mask.

The tribal kayak tour

From the village Panagia, just South of Palaia Epidaurus, starts a guided kayak tour to the sunken city. This tour will take you along multiple historical and natural sites. A guide will tell you a lot about the region’s history and help you with your kayak. After the adventure, there is even home-cooked traditional Greek food. The complete tour takes 4,5 hours and costs 70 euros per person. This price includes water, dry bags, snorkeling gear, and a GoPro for underwater pictures. An absolutely recommended experience! However, pregnant mothers-to-be and children under 12 are not allowed to attend this tour.

Visit for free

If you travel through Greece on a budget or belong to one of the groups that are not accepted on the tour, there is another option. All you need is a snorkeling mask or goggles to be able to see the marvelous underwater scenery. Because the sunken city is just a few meters offshore and in shallow water, it is easy to reach swimming. Just bring water shoes or slippers you can walk in the water with. But these should be in everyone’s suitcase when traveling to Greece.

sealife at ancient ruins in sunken city Greece in Epidaurus fish and stones underwater kayak tour
Sea-life inside the ruins at the Sunken city
picture from tribal_kayak_argolida

The experience

Swimming over the sunken city of Greece is a unique and wonderful experience. Usually, archeological sites are organized, preserved, or even restored, and always packed with tourists. This one, however, is just there, taken over by nature in a unique way. And allows you to explore all by yourself.

Usually, only a drone can give you the perspective from above. At the sunken city, you are this low-flying drone. Floating over the ruins, you get a new kind of understanding of the spaces and sizes of ancient times. You can nearly touch the old walls and walk the ancient streets.

Where the Greek seas are usually very scarce when it comes to sea life, the sunken city is home to a rich underwater world. The ruins at Epidaurus are full of colorful fish and beautiful sea urchins, who now inhabit the structures once made by men. Add to that a clear blue sea like everywhere else in Greece, and you have a priceless experience. For free!

Tips:

  • If you plan on visiting the sunken city by kayak book your tour upfront through the website. 
  • Unfortunately, the site is difficult to reach with a wheelchair or with other difficulties walking. A couple minute walk over a pebble beach is needed to get there. However, you might be able to attend the kayak tour if you contact the company in advance and discuss your medical situation.
  • When you visit the site on your own with children, be careful. Make sure they wear shoes or slippers when they go in the water. For children not good at swimming yet, it is a good idea to take an air mattress or something else they can float on, so you can take them to the site inside the water.
  • For adults, the site needs caution as well. Wear either water shoes or slippers, or be extremely careful where you step inside the water. When we visited in August, the beach in front of the sunken city of Greece was home to giant wasps, so do not plan on nicely-staying at the beach here.
  • If you want to combine the archeological site with a lazy day at the beach, there are two options close by. Yialasi beach, just South of the site, or Kalamaki beach in the North.
  • The site is perfect to combine with a visit to ancient Epidaurus, the city of Nafplio, or the dolines of Didyma. By car, the sunken city is two hours away from Athens airport.

Take your underwater camera!

Don’t forget your underwater camera when you have one! We left it at the hotel the day we visited the sunken city and now do not have any pictures of this beautiful site. Did you visit, take pictures, and want to share them on our website? Please leave a comment below or send an email to discoveringrealgreeks@gmail.com

Curious to learn about more hidden gems in Greece? Leave your email below and explore Greece together with us!

Meteorites, UFOs, or rebellious priests? The dolines of Didyma

In the Argolis region, in the North East of the Peloponnese, satellites reveal a rare geological phenomenon. Two big green circles not far away from each other. The dolines of Didyma. These dolines are not the first thing you will find in any Greek tourist guide. However, they are impressive and unique natural landmarks.

Location Overview

Argolis, Peloponnese

Natural site

1 hour

Free

Be careful

No

The village of Didyma

Didyma is a small farmers’ village on the foot of the mountain, also called Didyma. The name shows the importance and the connection to the dolines. Didyma in Greek means twins. And the twins this name refers to are the two sinkholes close by. 

In spring, something unique happens in the village. The fields around Didyma fill with a rare orange-red tulip. Every year in April, these beautiful flowers are celebrated with a festival. So when you’re around during this time of the year, don’t forget to attend this colorful event.

What is a doline?

A doline is “a shallow funnel-shaped depression of the ground surface.” Dolines are also known as sinkholes, a term that might trigger your imagination. Dolines appear when water and carbon dioxide underneath the earth’s surface dissolve the limestone in the ground. The earth collapses, and a hole is created. This process can happen gradually or suddenly. But the result is the same, a circular hole in the ground. 

Usually, dolines have a pool of water at the bottom. Like the famous caves in Cephalonia, for example. In Didyma, however, there is no water at the bottom. Just lush green vegetation. Because of this, scientists are not one hundred percent sure the dolines of Didyma are the dolines described above. They might result from natural gas explosions, which can explain the amount of debris inside them.

Miki Spilia from above. A green oasis, even in August.

The myths of Didyma

Although modern geological knowledge can justify the existence of the dolines of Didyma, this has not been the case in the generations before us. The sinkholes have, therefore, been the subject of many great stories the locals still tell today.

The most known story is about meteorites. Two of them crashed into the earth just outside of Didyma. As a result, the two green craters mark the landscape today. 

Another explanation is extraterrestrial life. Aliens. They came in their UFOs to Didyma and crashed into the earth upon landing. Leaving two perfectly circular marks in the ground. The sinkholes.

The third explanation is (of course) a story of the Orthodox church. A rebellious priest who worked on the name-day of Agios Georgios. A day of celebration for the church, on which work is prohibited. The earth collapsed underneath this priest when he said bad things. But what about the second doline? Maybe the priest had a rebellious twin brother?

History

The dolines are called mikri and megali Spilia, the big and the small cave. Throughout history, the dolines have been used as caves. Natural voids, able to provide shelter from bad weather and enemies.

The age of the dolines at Didyma is unknown, but they have been around long before even the ancient Greeks. Stone tools from the prehistoric age (4.000 – 2.800 B.C.) have been found inside the dolines. Proving that the dolines have been inhabited for centuries.

The churches inside the small doline date back to the Byzantine era. During this era, many priests choose to lead a solitary life in huts or caves. Both churches are a result of this and started as nothing more than a cave inside the doline. A place to practice the orthodox faith. Alone in peace.

Later, during the Turkish occupation, the dolines of Didyma have been a place for shelter and protest. Due to the enclosed and hidden shape, the Greeks used the space to make ammunition to fight their occupants.

One of the two cave churches inside the dolines

Visiting the dolines of Dydima

Mikri Spilia

Following the signs to the dolines, you will first find Mikri Spilia, the small cave. Don’t expect an impressive view of the doline upon arrival. Instead, you will find a small grey fence in between many trees. Inside this fence is a narrow hole carved out of the red ground. This hole marks the beginning of a staircase which leads you down into the doline.

A tunnel with white-washed walls encloses the narrow staircase. Halfway down, you will find a natural skylight which might have been an older entrance. Only at the end of the tunnel, you catch the first glimpse of the scale of Mikri Spilia. High red walls enclose you in a perfect circle. And on the right, you can see the first of the two white churches. Agios Georgios. 

The skylight inside the entrance tunnel toward Mikri Spilia

Being inside the doline, you feel like you have entered a different world. There are many trees, plants, and birds. And the blue sky seems closer than anywhere else due to the contrast with the circular walls of red stone. It is a quiet oasis of peacefulness. And the natural beauty here is unique for the Greek mainland.

It is possible to hike the perimeter of the doline. Simply follow the path along the red crater wall. On your way, you will discover the second church, Naos Metamorfosis. A cave church, marked by white paint on the red wall.

Megali Spilia

Although Megali Spilia is the biggest of the twins, this doline is less accessible and impressive from the inside. Megali Spilia is at the bottom of the mountain called Didyma and therefore enclosed by a wall that is uneven in height. The walls are less red, the sky is less framed, and the bottom is less green. However, what this doline has that Mikri Spilia has not, is an impressive view. 

Magali Spilia is not as much a place to visit as her little sister is. But it is the doline that attracts you toward the twins. You can see this hole in the mountain from far away, on the main road between Epidaurus and Porto Cheli. 

Megali Spilia, the big doline at the foot of the mountain.

Tips:

  • The dolines of Didyma are still active. When you hear stones falling upon entering, please be super careful and leave the site. Although chances are small that something will happen, better be safe than sorry.
  • Unfortunately, the dolines of Didyma are not accessible for people with a walking disability. The entrance of the small sinkhole is steep and slippery. And the big doline is not even accessible by car because the dirt road is too rough. However, just a glimpse of the shape and size of the big doline from far is worth it.
  • Don’t try to reach the big doline by car unless you have a very high off-road car. The dirt road gets progressively worse. With a normal car, there is a big chance you will get stuck. Leave your car at the small parking, and continue on foot. Walking will take just 10 to 15 minutes.
  • When you plan on visiting the doline with children, be very careful with them. The dolines do not have a balustrade or fences at dangerous spots. Keep them close.
  • The best time to visit the dolines is around April when rare tulips flourish in the fields around Didyma. However, you can explore the dolines throughout the whole year. The depth of the dolines makes them a great summer activity because the temperature will not be as high as above ground. Be careful when it rains. The entrance staircase gets even more slippery when wet.
  • Combine Didyma with a visit to Epidaurus or the cave of Franchthi, for which you can hike a beautiful trail along the coastline. Or pick out a close by beach and enjoy Greece’s clear blue seas. Didyma is easily accessible from Nafplio, Porto Cheli, or Tolo.

Curious to learn about more hidden gems in Greece? Leave your email below and explore Greece together with us!

Impressively deep and incredibly blue. The Corinth canal

The most popular holiday destination on the Greek mainland, Peloponnese, is known as a large peninsula in the South. However, technically, Peloponnese has been an island for almost 150 years. The Corinth canal separates this famous peninsula from the mainland of Greece as a narrow straight line of clear blue water.

Corinthea, Peloponnese

Natural / Architectural

1.5 hours

Free

Be careful

Yes

Location

The Corinth canal is at the border of the most southern peninsula of Greece, Peloponnese. Just one hour West of Athens Airport. The waterway cuts through the mainland in a straight line. From Isthmia in the East, on the coast of the Aegean Sea (Saronic Gulf). To Posidonia in the West, on the coast of the Ionian Sea (Gulf of Corinth). With this location, this man-made canal connects the two main seas of Greece.

History

Peloponnese reaches far South of Athens and has formed a dangerous detour for ships throughout history. The round around the famous peninsula put 185 nautical miles (340 km, 213 miles) in between the Aegean and the Ionian sea. And it comes as no surprise that even the Ancient Greeks understood that the two seas should be brought together.

Periander, who ruled Corinth in 602 BC, was the first to imagine the Corinth canal. He tried. But digging a 6.4 km (4 miles) long waterway turned out to be too advanced for his time. As an alternative, Periander created a diolkos. Dia means across in Greek, and the diolkos was a paved trackway to move boats across the land. This diolkos was in use for over two centuries.

The second attempt to create the Corinth canal happened in 67 AD. Emperor Nero and a group of 6.000 (!) of his slaves started work at the side of Corinth. Historians believe that during this attempt, almost a tenth of the waterway was constructed. However, Nero died long before completion, and construction came to a stop for centuries.

The idea of the modern waterway arose in 1830, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire when the Greek economy wasn’t strong enough to start. In 1882, with the help of an Austrian company, construction started. But soon came to hold (once more) due to financial issues related to the Panama canal. In 1890, and with the help of a Greek investor, the Corinth canal finally became reality. It opened in 1893, on October 28.

The Corinth canal in use

After more than two centuries of waiting for the Corinth canal to be opened, it turned out to be far from the success everyone had hoped for. The only 21 meters (70 feet) width at the bottom proved to be insufficient for larger ships. Big vessels do not fit, and many captains have difficulty navigating through. Not only the narrowness of the canal, but strong winds and currents as well, make the waterway a dangerous place, even for smaller boats.

Besides, the steep 90 meters (300 feet) tall canal walls have proven risky. Even for the most talented captains. Rock debris often falls down into the water. Closing the passage for weeks, months, or even years. Today, you can see many man-made fortifications of the walls. As well as wider parts that are a result of big land slides. Fully functional the waterway has never been in the 130 years it is open.

Visiting the canal

Despite the Corinth canal being a struggle for most boat owners, for us tourists, it is a spectacular place to visit. The canal walls are impressively tall and steep, and the water at the bottom is incredibly blue. The scale of this man-made project is unbelievable. And the fact that a big ship looks small here, makes you question your own size like nowhere else.

corinth canal white cliff walls with blue water at bottom and greenery around
The depth of the Corinth canal, seen from the old bridge
The old bridge

The best-known location to admire the Corinth canal is the old bridge. A steel structure, in the middle of the canal, on the main national road between Athens and Peloponnese. Here you can park your car and walk high over the water. In the middle of the bridge, you can feel the scale of this project, and seeing a ship passing underneath you in the clear blue water is exciting. 

For more excitement, there is an option to bungee jump, down along the canal walls. However, since my legs were already shaking of the height on the bridge, I will not be able to tell you about this experience. But if you’re not afraid of heights, please let me know how it is in the comments below!

What I can tell you, is that the famous old bridge is not the only place to experience the Corinth canal. It is the most popular one and makes the best Instagram picture, but it can be packed with tourists. I would really recommend you to visit Isthmia or Posidonia. The beginning and end of the waterway.

The submersible bridges

At the end of the 1980s, Greece constructed two unusual bridges at both ends of the Corinth canal. Reaching Isthmia and Posidonia, you might believe you have reached the end of the road. The clear blue water of the waterway blocks the passage to the other side, while a connecting bridge structure seems to be missing.

But when the last boat has passed through the canal, something incredible happens. Machines turn on, and from the depth of the crystal water, the silhouette of a structure appears. A wooden deck, complete with balustrades, emerges from the water. The bridge arrives. Cars, cyclists, and pedestrians can cross the water. Until the structure slowly dives back to hide at the bottom of the Corinth canal.

Isthmia is the perfect spot to have a coffee and enjoy the beauty of this tourist attraction without tourists, and in peace. The place is close to being abandoned. Which is hard to believe, coming from the over-crowded touristic old bridge, just 2 km (1.2 miles) away. Why have people stopped coming here? I think it’s a shame. At the old bridge, the canal is more impressive in size, but the best experience is found here. Besides, in Posidonia, the remains of the old diolkos are preserved! 

corinth canal at istmia big red ship towed by small blue boat in between rocks on blue water
A big ship passing through the Corinth canal at Istmia

Tips:

  • The Corinth canal is just an hour away from Athens and easily accessible by car from the highway. It is the perfect destination for a trip away from the city. Or as the start of a holiday in Peleponnese.
  • The Corinth canal is very close to two famous archeological sites on the UNESCO world heritage list. Combine your visit with Mykines (30 minutes) or Eupidaurus (1 hour).
  • During a hot summer day in Greece, it can be difficult to see clear blue water without being able to swim in it. But don’t worry. Around the site are many great beaches and beach bars perfect for a refreshing swim.
  • The name of the village Isthmia is chosen for a reason. Isthmia in Greek means a narrow piece of land connecting two larger areas across the water by which they would otherwise be separated.

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Nature, religion, and a box of bones. The monastery of Timios Prodromes

The holy monastery of Timios Prodromes offers everything a culture-loving tourist in Greece desires. From the mountainous landscape to incredible architecture, fascinating stories, religion, and exclusivity. With just 50 reviews on Google, this monastery might be the hidden gem of Greece.

Location Overview

Arcadia, Peloponnese

Religion / Nature

2 hours

Free

Yes

No

Location

The holy monastery of Timios Prodromes lies just west of Argos, in the Arcadia region of Peloponnese. This region is known to hold the oldest signs of human life but is still an area filled with lush green mountains and a limited population today. Arcadia’s beauty made its name develop into a poetic term. The idyllic vision of unspoiled wilderness.

Driving to the monastery, you discover what poets mean with Arcadia. A small winding road leads you away from Argos. Over the mountains, along steep cliffs, and through old forests and small villages, you reach the monastery. Only the journey by itself is a beautiful adventure.

the monastery of timios prodromes from afar. three white buildings in steep grey and red cliff on green mountain
The monastery of Timios Prodromes from far

Architecture

Greeks have proven to be masters in the matter of the architecture of religious buildings. Churches and monasteries all around the country are built in the most surprising and remote places. The monastery of Timios Prodromes belongs to this category.

The monastery is located around a cave in the hollow of a cliff, 200 meters above the ground. From afar the religious site is an almost invisible structure in a giant gorge. Close by, however, the monasteries multiple story counting man-made buildings are revealed.

There is a central courtyard with a church, refectory, and guest rooms in the three surrounding buildings. Each of these buildings is integrated into the cliff, with at least one natural interior wall, the mountain itself. For the man-made part of the buildings, a similar rock is used. You can feel the connection this monastery has with nature everywhere.

the monastery of timios prodromes from the courtyard. stone building with wooden balustrade en pitched roof underneath a rocky cliff and blue sky
One of the buildings at the monastery of Timios Prodromes

History

The cave behind the monastery was used in ancient times to worship Pan. Pan is the God of the wild, shepherds, and flocks, with his homeland in Arcadia. In the 8th century, the cave started being used for the religion we know today, and in 930 the first monastery was built. Making the monastery of Timios Prodromes the oldest monastery in Greece. However, the entrance says that the opening was at 1126, and what happened in the 200 years in between is unclear.

What is clear is that the monastery has played a significant role in many wars due to its remote location. It has been a refuge for the civilian population, a military hospital, and a supply station for Greek soldiers. 

During the Second World War, German soldiers came to the monastery for food but offended the Orthodox faith. This made one of the priests very angry, and he forced a German soldier to the ground. The rest of the priests got afraid. “They will kill us all!” They ordered the priest to stop and offered food to the soldiers. The priest, however, became the high priest of the region due to this heroic attack on the German soldier.

Modern times

The monastery has been the main monastery in the area until the 1960s. Then, a nearby and better accessible monastery received the tears of the virgin Mary, something that is believed to only occur in the holiest places in Greece. People stopped coming to the monastery of Timios Prodromes. From 2004 till 2009, the monastery, as well as the road leading there, were renovated. An effortful job since materials still had to be brought up by hand. However, this did not increase the number of visitors. The monastery is mostly quiet, without tourists, both religious and cultural.

The experience

When entering the monastery, the place seemed deserted. There was no sound other than the rushing of the wind. The only sign of life was a black garden hose. Following this, lead to the courtyard of the monastery, where we first met father Germanos. He was watering his flowers, wearing capri pants, flip-flops, and sunglasses. We were afraid to disturb him or even see a priest without his religious attire. Father Germanos, however, was very pleased with our arrival. He greeted us friendly and spent the next two hours showing us around. Something very unique for Orthodox priests, who usually just mind their own business.

entrance of monastery timios prodromes with marble entrace and steel gate. A black lantern on curved ceiling light coming through hallway woman entering with backpack and long skirt
The entrance of the monastery of Timios Prodromes

The tour

The church

From the courtyard, he leads us to the church, where we light a candle and honor all the religious icons that are special to this place. In the church, some murals date back to the 18th century, and father Germanos tells a story about all of them. He describes how all Orthodox sanctuaries are located to the East but not here. This church is an exception and faces the South. Since it is built inside a cave, there wasn’t much to choose from in orientation, but the murals falsely claim the sanctuary does face East.

After the church, he takes us to a small staircase leading up to the cave where the history of this monastery started. But first, we enter the church’s attic. Here, he opens two wooden boxes, one filled with bones and the other one with skulls. The last resting place of the previous priests that served in this monastery.

The cave

The cave is extremely long and dark. He tells us how previous priests used to store food and fresh water here because it stays cool during the hot summer days. He takes out his mobile phone to turn on a flashlight and takes us to the back, where stalactites and stalagmites have grown over the years. A beautiful place!

The monastery

After the cave, he invites us to his current project, the renovation of the guest chambers. Small rooms, carved in the rock of the mountain, for his fellow priests from other monasteries. He renovates the rooms by himself, one by one, and he is very proud of his result so far. 

We climb to the roof of the monastery, where you can feel how small and vulnerable we humans are. Chunks of the cliff above have tumbled down on the roof. He proudly tells us that no one got injured from any falling rocks here. God protects all in this place.

The living quarters

At the end of our tour, father Germanos invites us into his house for fresh water and loukoumi, a traditional Greek sweet. He has a small home, with a living room and kitchen. And in his fridge is a small plate of fassolada. He explains how eating here is the same as anywhere else. Priests don’t eat meat, but do use a microwave to heat up his leftovers

Father Germanos seems sad when it is time to say goodbye and walks with us to the main entrance, continuing his storytelling. We are always welcome to come again, and may God protect us on the road home.

The buildings at the monastery of Timios Prodromes

Life at the monastery

Father Germanos lives most of his days in solitude. Or together with God but without other humans, as he calls it. He keeps himself busy with more than just praying since he has to take care of the monastery by himself. He waters the flowers, cleans the monastery, renovates the guest chambers, and gets his groceries from the villages around. 

Father Germanos has a friend in the village on the mountain on the other side. Another priest who helps him in the monastery when he asks. And he is happy when a visitor comes to see the monastery. However, father Germanos might get trapped for weeks during the winter months. Bad weather and cold can close down the road. He doesn’t worry or feel scared or alone when this happens. God will be with me and protect me, he says. His biggest fear seems to be an old cypress tree that grows in his garden. After 300 years, it started dying. He asks all his visitors how he can revive it. 

His life seems easy, and his calmness and contentedness add to the spirituality of the place. I am not religious, but the location and the openness of father Germanos at the monastery of Timios Prodromes made me feel something ethereal. Maybe not God, but at least thankful for nature and the opportunity to discover it. Grateful for my own life and happiness. Blessed with the experience of a place so pure.

Tips:

  • There are actually two monasteries with the name Timios Prodromos in Arcadia, Peloponnese. This is the one that we visited for this article.
  • Father Germanos is extremely welcoming but does not speak more than a few words of English and German. The best experience is, unfortunately, in Greek.
  • The monastery is not accessible by wheelchair or for people with difficulty walking. You can get to the entrance by car, but after you park, you have to climb some steep stairs to reach the entrance.
  • This is a monastery, meaning you can not enter with every type of clothing. Women need to wear a long skirt or dress, men can not wear shorts, and shoulders have to be covered. Read our tips for visiting religious sites.
  • Although father Germanos is really open, friendly, and even has some humor, he is also very religious. Don’t offend the Orthodox church and treat him with respect.
  • The holy monastery of Timios Prodromes is located in a beautiful mountainous landscape with many religious sites at amazing places. Combine with a visit to the small church inside an old church ruin just North of Nea Chora. Or the famous monastery of Panagia Melevi.
  • Not that much of a religious tourist? Go hiking in the beautiful mountains around, or enjoy the blue waters of the Argolic Gulf on the beaches around Astros.

Curious to learn about more hidden gems in Greece? Leave your email below and explore Greece together with us!

Explore Xanthi. In the North of Greece

The day I heard my Greek boyfriend is from North-West Greece, I felt a bit sad. Why didn’t I find a guy from Crete, Kefalonia, or Mykonos? How am I supposed to enjoy my summers, spending an entire month in Xanthi? The only place in Greece that can have months of rain. And just 60.000 inhabitants in a region of almost 500 square kilometers.

Three years later, however, I realize how I based my opinion on prejudices. Asking me today if I want to go on a holiday in Crete, I would reply, only if we visit Xanthi as well! This small and unknown region in western Thrace stole a place in my heart.

Thrace,
mainland

City

5 days

Free

Yes

Yes

Why visit Xanthi?

Looking at the facts, Xanthi does not do well. The region does not have the bluest seas, the highest mountains, the most picturesque towns, interesting archeological sites, or idyllic churches. Xanthi is not the best at anything. However, it has everything. And that’s Xanthi’s power.

After waking up at the beach house in the morning, I have the freedom to do anything. Go for a swim or go shopping in the city center. In the mountains, I can go hiking or canoeing. I can get lost in the narrow streets of the old town, visit multiple archeological sites, or see an idyllic white church on a lake surrounded by flamingos. The best thing is, I can do all of the above without meeting other tourists and not spend more than 30 minutes in a car!

The region of Xanthi

The region of Xanthi is bound by mountains in the North, on the border with Bulgaria. In the South, the region is enclosed by the Aegean sea. In between, there is a plain, where the people of Xanthi used to grow tobacco. Which used to be the most important part of Xanthis economy.

The city of Xanthi consists of two parts. The old town, on the foot of the mountain Augo. Augo means egg in Greek, which perfectly describes the shape of the peak. Below the old town, towards the south, the new city of Xanthi is built. From here you are going towards Xanthis coastline.

In the east of the region are the wetlands. Home to many different bird species and part of Natura 2000. In the middle of a lake, part of these wetlands is a small monastery, built on a wooden deck in the water. In the winter, this area is home to thousands of flamingos.

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How to get to Xanthi

Xanthi doesn’t have an airport, making the region not easily accessible. In the summer months, however, many smaller airplanes fly from Athens and the islands to both Kavala and Alexandroupoli. From here, Xanthi is very close by.

The other option for reaching Xanthi is to fly to Thessaloniki. You can take a rental car or bus from here. This journey is about 2 to 2.5 hours, depending on how Greek you drive. On your way, you will pass the giant lakes of Korneia and Volvi, but you will also see Halkidiki and drive through the mountains. 

Is Xanthi expensive?

No. Xanthi is not (yet) discovered by tourism, meaning that prices here are Greek. You can buy a coffee, with a bottle of water, for less than two euros. Going out for food at one of the many tavernas costs approximately 10 euros per person. And staying in a hotel with two people during the summer costs only 60 euros a night. Outside of the summer season, prices will drop to 50 or even 40 euros. Besides, along the coast are many privately rented beach houses which usually offer a pretty good deal.

Meet the real Greeks

The prices make Xanthi the perfect place if you want to stay in Greece for a longer period and get to know the Greek culture. Tourism is not a big thing in Xanthi, so every person you meet or see during your stay will be Greek. 

Great events to visit in Xanthi are Carnival, Easter, Christmas, their liberation day on the 4th of October, and the old town festival at the end of the summer. But even the usual days here are worth experiencing. Pick up bougatsa for breakfast in the morning. Work only till 2 in the afternoon. Leave town for a swim in the summer, or a hike in the winter. Enjoy long and tasty Greek lunches. And visit the main square or the old town, at night. That is what life is like for the locals.

What to do in Xanthi

Here is a list of all the things you can do in Xanthi:

  • Go to the beach in Myrodato or Mólos. Or visit the beach bar Porto Moló at night.
  • Hike in the mountains, especially from Augo. The view on the top is amazing.
  • Canoe or barbecue on the Nestos river. 
  • There is also an accessible “monopati” if you want to watch the river on foot. From here you can see many old railway tunnels through the mountains.
  • Visit the Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas.
  • Get lost in the old town.
  • Visit the bridges around Xanthi.
  • Watch flamingos in the lakes during the winter months.
  • Visit the Pomaks villages, like Smithi or Echinos.
  • Eat at local taverns, or try bougatsa, and a lot of other sweets.
  • Go to the Bazar on Saturdays. It used to be the biggest one in the Balkans.
  • Visit the waterfall of Levaditis.
  • Have a look at the great mansion of Manos Hatdjidakis. One of the greatest worldwide recognized music composers of Greece.
  • Walk the path of life.
  • Hang out at the square, together with the locals.

How long to stay in Xanthi?

As I mentioned before, Xanthi is perfect for a longer stay in Greece to blend in with the locals. Nonetheless, a shorter stay is also possible. Rent a house or room at the beach and relax for a week or two. Or, go hiking in the mountains. To visit all the landmarks of Xanthi four or five days should be enough. However, I do not recommend staying only for those days. Xanthi has to grow on you, so give it a chance!

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Why everyone should explore Greece

There are many beautiful places in this world, but I can recommend anyone to explore around Greece for a longer time. As a working nomad, backpacker, or just as a traveler, Greece can be as interesting as other, more popular, countries. The warm and welcoming culture merged with the paradise-like landscapes will never get boring. Everyone should spend time in Greece.

Greece has 110.496 square kilometers (42,663 sq mi) of the mainland and over 6.000 islands. Of all this land, more than 80% is mountainous, and the country has 13,676 km of coastline. All around, there are sights worth seeing. From something as simple as a beautiful white church on top of a mountain to the world’s only inhabited caldera, Santorini.

Greece is never boring

No matter how often or long you go to Greece, you’ll never finish exploring. For me, it became an addiction. To find an undiscovered and mind-blowing spot, only to start looking for the next one as soon as I succeed. It provides an extreme feeling of freedom and connection with nature to travel through the places only locals have discovered. And breathtaking views are everywhere in Greece.

I believe the best thing about Greece is that even when traveling from one site to another can be an adventure. The landscape’s beauty keeps surprising. Driving through mountains, fruit plantations, forests, and coastlines continues to excite. Besides, hopping on a ferry is not trite either. Surrounded by the blue seas, you can observe the coastline of the islands, and you might even discover dolphins on the way. 

Nature in Greece

Untouched nature

Greece provides the opportunity to connect with nature in almost every way possible. Hiking through Zagoria or Tzoumerka, for instance. Amongst lush green forests and giant cliffsides, solely accompanied by Mother Earth. There are rivers and waterfalls, blue water ponds, impressive caves, and monasteries. This area is not what you expect to find in Greece, nor are there many tourists visiting. However, exploring these mountains in Greece, the country of the perfect summer beach holidays, created my addiction. I can recommend everyone to experience it.

couple in lush green mountains on cliff side
Hiking through the mountains of Northern Greece
Unexpected Animals

In Greece, there is also the possibility to spot animals you did not expect to see. Bears and flamingos. In Northern Greece, along the borders of Albania and Bulgaria, around 450 brown bears are living. Finding them in the wild is both dangerous and difficult. However, there are guided bear hikes available, or you can visit the bear sanctuary in Nymfaio, called Arcturos. This non-profit organization tries to reintegrate ex-captive bears. 

Flamingos are a much easier find in Greece, but still as surprising as the bears. Around November, they come from Africa to the Greek wetlands and stay for about four months. They come with many and can be extremely loud. Finding them in Greece is easy. During the winter, they are in almost every shallow water in the country. The island of Lefkada, the Lefkimi lagoon in Corfu, Agios Mamas in Halkidiki, or Porto Lagos in Xanthi, are spots famous for their seasonal flamingo inhabitants. However, last winter, I encountered them in an unnamed small wetland, so I believe they are everywhere. 

Unique seasons

This brings me to the third reason for spending time in Greek nature, the seasons. You might not expect seasons in Greece since temperatures on islands like Crete rarely drop below 15 degrees. However, the further North you go, the more you can recognize the different seasons. The fall will turn the mountains into the most colorful paintings. The winter allows skiing and snowboarding in one of the many ski resorts on the mainland. But it is also the time to enjoy the hot springs, of which there are many throughout the country. Spring comes with blooming flowers and the celebration of Easter. And the summer months are perfect for a visit to the islands.

Greece changes throughout all seasons, and these changes come with new reasons to spend time and explore the country. When you believe you have seen all the beautiful beaches in summer, try the fruit plantations and mountainous areas in spring. Or experience the olive harvest during the fall. 

Do you want to prepare yourself for a visit to Greece? Or do you simply want to learn all there is to known about this beautiful country? Leave your email below and get the answer to all your questions!

Unexplored beaches

Last but definitely not least is the Greek coastline. Although Greece is famous for its organized and easily accessible beaches, much of the coastline is still unexplored territory for tourists. The most amazing shores are the ones that require at least an hour of hiking along cliffs or through forests. Since they are often not marked on Google Maps, you can only find these places through locals. But when you reach the beach, surrounded by nature without anyone else there, you will understand why it was worth the afford to get there.

reflacting lake with blue water and mountains around with snow on top
February in Northern Greece

Culture

Greeks teach you to slow down

Greek culture is warm and welcoming, but more important is that Greeks can teach you how to unwind. Going off-grid in Greece, you will meet people who know what it is to slow down while still working hard. The Greeks are masters when it comes to not worrying or rushing when there is no point to do so. To work hard but not stress over having to work harder. 

It is a misconception that Greeks are lazy, or that slowing down life means you can not work hard. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Greeks work more hours than any other European. The difference is that besides their jobs, they choose not to stick to schedules, spend time with friends and family, and live life at a slow pace. The further you are from Athens, the more relaxed life is. The people in the Greek remote villages have a kind of serenity over them, and whenever I am amongst them, I absorb their tranquility and feel like a different person.

Culture is something local

It is impossible to visit one island in Greece and say you know everything about Greek culture. Although Greek culture as a whole does exist, every region, or even village, has something unique to add to it. One Greek mousaka recipe does not exist, every Greek grandmother will have her own, as will every tavern cook. The same goes for lifestyle, cheese, liquor, traditions, and history. 

Exploring the whole Greek culture is impossible. However, it is extremely interesting to try. Every Greek region or island can teach you something different. 

The ancient history

Greece is known for its archeological sites. While history often remains no more than a story or object in a museum, in Greece, you have the opportunity to explore ancient cities and architecture. Popular examples are Mycenae in Peloponnese, Delphi in central Greece, and of course, the Acropolis in Athens. One of my personal favorites is Epidavros. This theatre, built in 400 BC, is the most well-preserved in the entire world. Visiting during the summer months, I can recommend attending an ancient theatre performance here. It is impossible to get closer to the Greek ancient culture.

religious site Meteora with monastery on a rock pilar with a lush forest below
One of the famous monasteries of Meteora.
On the UNESCO world heritage list.

Food

It is nearly impossible to have a bad meal while traveling through Greece. Feta, good olive oil, and fresh vegetables can turn any recipe into a delicious meal. Combine this with fresh fish or souvlaki, and you have heaven on a plate. Local products, vegetables, fruits, and olives, grown by natural sunlight, have a flavor unique to Greece.

As I said before, recipes will differ in every region or island in Greece, often based on the availability of products in the region. When entering a tavern, ask for the local specialty and try it! Explore Greece through food and don’t stick to the well-known gyros. 

Take your time in Greece

Although Greece is great as a summer holiday destination, many tourists fail to discover the real experience Greece has to offer. In 10 days spent on a famous island, you will not meet the real Greeks and not learn the Greek way of living. 

The beauty of Greek life is that it moves at a slow pace, so you should take it slow and take your time to explore. Don’t rush through a list of sites you want to visit. Don’t plan your entire trip and stick to a schedule. Instead, go to Greece without a program and see what happens. Explore different seasons and the different activities that they bring. This beautiful country deserves your attention, and you will be surprised by what it can give you! Everyone should explore Greece!

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Blue Flag beaches in Greece

What is better than a summer holiday on a perfect beach? Swim and relax, absorb some vitamin D, and enjoy the beauty of nature around. This is what attracts over 30 million tourists to come to Greece every summer. Greece is famous for its beaches, and it would probably be no surprise that if there is an award for beaches, Greece would be amongst the top countries to receive them. Well, there is an award, the Blue Flag. And Greece has many Blue Flag awarded beaches, marinas, and recreational boat operators. A tourist magnet. But are these Blue Flag awarded places the best you can find in Greece? 

What is Blue Flag?

Blue Flag awards are the Oscars amongst beaches. Only with many price winners. With the help and support of the Foundation of Environmental Education, the program aims to protect our coasts and promote sustainable tourism. The goal of Blue Flag is “pure water, clean coasts, safety and access for all.” 

Blue Flag started in France in 1987 as an initiative to raise environmental awareness amongst children. Although the program had the right goals, it chose the wrong way to achieve them. Groups of children would write messages in plastic bottles to throw into the sea. The idea was that currents would take the bottles to different shores. Whenever someone far away would read this message, he or she should understand the impact litter has on nature. However, not many bottles were ever seen again, and the program started with actually increasing water pollution.

After this, Blue Flag evolved. With the support of the European Union, it grew into the number 1 program to develop quality standards for beaches and seawater. Today the program is active in 48 countries. The majority of participating countries are in the European Union. But, for instance, islands in the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, and New Zeeland take part as well.

How does a beach get a Blue Flag award?

“A Blue Flag beach, marina or boating operator, is not only a place to give a sense of pride to the community and attract tourism but also promotes environmental issues and awareness.”

A Blue Flag is not only awarded to the most beautiful and clean beaches in this world. There are four categories in which a beach has to score points to acquire this eco-label.

Environmental education and information

One of the main goals of Blue Flag is to connect people to their surroundings. Each awarded beach has to inform visitors about ecosystems and provide environmental education activities. 

Water quality

The waters at a Blue Flag beach should meet ” the requirements for excellent bathing water.” No sewage systems can connect, nor can there be any industrial discharge. The waters have to be clean, healthy, and safe.

Environmental management

Proper waste and recycling management are included in this criteria. But also requirements related to domestic animals, camping, driving, and maintenance of buildings, are covered in this category.

Safety and services

Lifeguards, first aid equipment, and fresh drinking water have to be available to the public. It must be safe to both reach the beach as well as to be there. 

Blue Flag beaches in Greece

Around the world, 48 countries participate in the Blue Flag program. Amongst these 48, there are 5.042 awarded beaches, marinas, and boating operators, in 2022. Greece has a total of 602, 12% of the total awards, making Greece the 2nd country on this list. Most awarded are Crete (128), Halkidiki (87), and Rodes (55). But all over Greece there are awarded beaches. Even my beloved, nontouristic beach house is on a Blue Flag beach. Check the map on the Blue Flag website to discover if you have ever been on an awarded beach.

How to interpret the Blue Flag label?

A comfortable, clean, and safe beach

The Blue Flag eco-label is a tourist magnet, but should you travel, chasing the beaches granted this trophy? The answer depends on who you are and who you are traveling with. 

When traveling with young children, or if you are disabled or older, the award might be a good guideline when deciding where to go. The Blue Flag beaches must be easy and safely accessible. First aid equipment and lifeguards should be available to help in case something happens, and so are toilets and drinking water. A sea with strong currents or dangerous waves will never make it on the list. 

The Blue Flag beaches are safe for children and comfortable for their parents. And since Greece has many cliff-side beaches and terrible dirt roads, the list of Blue Flag beaches is a good indication for people with limited mobility. Besides, all beaches carrying the eco-label must encourage visitors to learn about the environment and contribute to at least 17 Sustainability Development Goals.

The eco-label is not a travel guide

When I look at the 2022 Blue Flag labeled beaches, I can say that the most impressive spots on the Greek coastline did not get the eco-label. Even though requirements for the eco-label include pure water and clean coasts, other criteria are safety and accessibility. Resulting in many Greek paradises that do not make it on the list. 

Blue Flag has the status amongst tourists of a travel guide to the best beaches. This is a misconception. Although awarded beaches are clean and environmentally friendly, non-eco-labeled spots can be even more worth visiting. 

A beach with the cleanest, bluest water, surrounded by wild nature and without any disturbance of natural life and peace, will not make it on the list. Instead, a concrete road through the untouched nature, is needed for safe access. Environmental education activities have to be offered. Lifeguards should be available, and waste disposal bins should be installed.

The Blue Flag eco-label includes the necessity of human interference. But does this genuinely upgrade the nature of this place? Do these measures increase the sustainability of nature itself? Does it even make the beach a better spot to go to as a tourist? 

I would answer with no to all of these questions. 

The risk of the Blue Flag award

Most Blue Flag beaches in Greece, are located in areas well known by tourists. Combining this with the fact that municipalities of the beach have to apply themselves for the award, shows that the Blue Flag is not only about a green and eco-friendly holiday. There is economics and competition involved as well. 

Today, Greece is second on the list of countries with the most awarded beaches. Spain is first, and Turkey is third. For all these three countries, tourism is important to the economy. Being first on the Blue Flag list plays a role in the number of tourists that visit, making it economically beneficial to have as many beaches as possible granted with the award. 

This raises my doubts when it comes to the Blue Flag label. What if competition drives countries to get as many beaches awarded as possible? The result would be a lack of unique, secluded, and rural coastlines. 

The Blue Flag award is beneficial in places already known as good holiday destinations. For a beach organized and visited often, I can only praise any attempt to increase sustainability through human action. But I fear that with the increase in the familiarity of the Blue Flag label amongst tourists, the beautiful and untouched beaches of today will turn into tourist magnets in the coming years. Great for the economy, but not for us travelers.

Do you want to prepare yourself for a visit to Greece? Or do you simply want to learn all there is to known about this beautiful country? Leave your email below and get the answer to all your questions!

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Whenever I travel through Greece, no matter how busy my itinerary, I always make time for the sunset. Every day and during every season. The magic of the sunset is that every time and in every location, it is unique. You might think otherwise since it happens every day. However, going to the same spot before nightfall daily, you will always find something different. Making each end of the day a truly exclusive experience. And the most wonderful picture I take on a trip to Greece, is always during sunset.

For me, every sunset is a special moment. Like fireworks on New Year. The fall of the sun marks the end of the day and the beginning of a new one. It is the moment I use to reflect on the things I have done and seen that day, and make a plan for the next one. A time to remind me to cherish the beauty of our world and remember how blessed I should feel to be a part of it.

What makes a sunset special?

Greece’s most famous sunset is in Santorini. In the village of Oia, thousands of people gather here daily to share this special moment. Although I must admit seeing the sun fall in the sea behind the white houses on a cliff is marvelous, I disagree that it is the best sunset in Greece or even the world. Especially not during the summer months. The picture you take in Santorini might be breathtaking. Yet I believe the experience while taking that picture is far more valuable. And fighting over a spot with thousands of other people is not the most romantic circumstance.

All throughout Greece, there is the opportunity to enjoy a magical ending of the day. So why stick to one spot and be amongst many others? As I said before, for me, experience comes before the picture. And the real sunset experience is in the ability to connect with your surroundings. Either the Greek culture or the nature. Not tourism and crowdedness.

Taking in the beauty of the descending sun surrounded by quiet is the most peaceful thing I can think of. It is like the sun says to our world, ” take a breath, rest, and rejuvenate. Tomorrow we will continue.” And while nature listens, I allow myself to breathe with her. The red and orange light helps me to find inner peace because that is what nature around me does together with me. This all might sound a bit too meditative for you, but I dare you to try and feel the same. It is an amazing feeling!

And for those of you who want a more practical guide to a good picture of a sunset in Greece while not having to fight for a good spot amongst many other tourists. Keep reading.

What makes a sunset picture beautiful?

What makes the Santorini sunset in Greece a tourist attraction? It is not so much the sun itself. It is the orange and pink light that changes the color of the picturesque white-washed villages. The sun is the same everywhere, but it is the foreground, your direct surrounding, that makes a difference.

The image below shows the picture of a similar sunset in Greece. In both, the sun falls over the sea, behind the mountain of Athos. And both pictures are taken less than one kilometer apart and with only a 24-hour difference. However, the foreground is what is missing in picture number one. And although the angle of the sun behind the mountain is slightly better in this picture than it is in the other one, the lack of close-by context really turns this one into more of a snapshot.

Sunset nr 1
Behind Athos over the sea but without a foreground reference. Although the setting is perfect, the lack of a context makes this picture quite boring to look at.
Sunset nr 2
Mount Athos and sea like in picture number 1. But now combined with a foreground showing the walls of a hundreds of year old castle and the silhouette of a deer.

How to find the right location?

There is a variety of applications available to help photographers find their perfect lighting conditions. An example is Golden Hour. This app can tell you when the sunset starts and points out where the sun will fall. All you have to do is find the spot where the lines of the app align with a beautiful landscape, be at this spot at the right time and capture a wonderful Greek sunset in a picture.

In the image below, you can see how the blue line, the direction of the sunset, perfectly aligns with mount Athos in the top left corner. Combining this line with old castle walls in the foreground results in the beautiful picture above. But more important is that I was alone when I took the picture. Observing the sky turn to gold while being surrounded by deer and hundreds of year-old structures, was what really made this experience unique.

A screenshot from Golden Hour, an app that shows you everything you need to know about the sunset.

Another great location to watch the sun go down is where the foreground consists of multiple peninsulas. One behind the other, with water in between. Every piece of land will reflect a different shade of orange sunlight. Again these spots are pretty easy to find using the application.

It might also be a good idea to watch the sunset in Greece either on the beach or close to a little harbor. Standing, or even swimming, in the golden water while the day ends is a unique experience. The reflection of the sun on the waves makes for a perfect picture. The same goes for the harbor. Here you might also have the chance to capture a traditional fishing boat heading out to sea.

Lastly, definitely go out at nightfall when it is just partly cloudy. These clouds turn the orange sunlight into all shades of pink and purple. The perfect dramatic end of a day which makes the perfect sunset picture in Greece.

Inspiration:

If you have any question about where these sunsets took place in Greece, please leave a comment below! We would also like to know your idea about the daily sun's descent and your best experiences of this moment.

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