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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What are the top eco-tourism experiences in Greece?

Holidays are not necessarily unsustainable. However, the way that many people choose to celebrate holidays and take vacations can be so. For example, travel to distant locations often requires the use of fossil fuels, which can contribute to climate change. In addition, many people consume more resources and generate more waste during holidays and vacations. The causes are using disposable products or staying in hotels that use a lot of energy and water. For those of you who are interested in a more environmentally friendly option, there are many ways to explore Greece’s natural beauty. Here are some of the top eco-tourism experiences in Greece:

The 7 top eco-tourism experiences in Greece

Hiking and trekking in the Greek mountains

Greece has many beautiful mountain ranges besides the country’s famous Mount Olympus. The Pindus Mountains in central Greece, the Rhodope Mountains in the north, and the Taygetus Mountains in the south are only a few examples. These mountains offer a variety of hiking and trekking routes, ranging from easy walks to more challenging multi-day treks. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to see a variety of wildlife, including rare species of birds, and experience the beauty of the Greek landscape.

Since most of Greece’s tourists explore the country’s countless islands and beaches, the mountains are the perfect destination for an off-the-beaten-path experience.

Exploring the islands by bike

Many of the Greek islands are small and easy to explore by bike, allowing visitors to see the sights while also reducing their carbon footprint. Some of the best islands for bike touring include Crete, Rhodes, and Kefalonia. In addition to cycling, you can also explore the islands on foot or by kayak.

If you consider exploring Greece by bike, make sure you prepare for dirt roads and mountainous areas. Invest in a good mountain bike with wide tires and suspension for the best experience.

Diving and snorkeling in the Aegean Sea

The Aegean Sea is home to a rich array of marine life, including more than 2,000 species of fish and many types of coral. Diving and snorkeling are popular activities in Greece, and many companies offer guided tours of the underwater world. These tours are often run by local operators who are committed to sustainable practices, such as using eco-friendly equipment and respecting the marine environment.

In addition to the marine life in the Greek waters, the seas hold underwater ruins as well. A truly unique and sustainable experience. One example is the underwater city of Epidaurus in the Peloponnese peninsula.

Visiting a traditional village or monastery

Many of the traditional villages and monasteries in Greece have been carefully preserved, offering visitors a glimpse into the country’s history and culture. These sites are often located in remote areas, and many have been turned into eco-lodges or guesthouses, allowing visitors to stay in a unique and sustainable environment.

Agrotourism

Agrotourism, or farm tourism, is a growing trend in Greece. Many small farmers in rural areas are opening their farms to visitors, offering a chance to learn about traditional farming techniques and taste locally-grown produce. Agrotourism is a great way to support local communities and experience the beauty of the Greek countryside.

Animals

Greece is home to many species of birds, including rare and endangered species such as the Griffon vulture and the Egyptian vulture. And what many people do not know, there is even a chance to see wild flamingos during the winter months! Birdwatching is a popular activity in Greece, and there are many guided tours available for visitors who want to see these birds in their natural habitat.

Besides, birds, Greece offers other activities related to some unexpected animals. Brown bears! They live in the Pindus mountains in the North of Greece but are endangered. Arcturos and Callisto are two organizations that fight for the lives of the bears as well as the preservation of the Greek forests. By visiting them, you contribute to their goals, while you can be amazed by these beautiful and rare animals.

Sailing

Sailing is a popular activity in Greece, and there are many companies that offer eco-friendly sailing tours. These tours often focus on exploring the Greek islands and coastal areas, and they often use sailboats or other types of vessels that are powered by renewable energy sources. Not sure if a day trip on a boat in Greece is something for you? Read this article to get convinced.

Go eco-friendly on your holiday!

Overall, Greece offers a wide range of eco-tourism experiences that allow visitors to explore the country’s natural beauty and culture while also supporting sustainable tourism. Whether you’re interested in hiking, cycling, diving, or simply exploring the countryside. Did the activities above trigger your interest in more sustainable holiday options? Continue reading for more in-depth information on sustainability in Greece.

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.

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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!

Pool or beach? Where to go swimming in Greece?

Greece is full of hotels and apartments for tourists. Even the tiniest village in a good location has many accommodations to offer. In the mountains, on the coast, or in an idyllic traditional whitewashed house. Luxury, budget, or all-inclusive. With a swimming pool or without. Too much to choose from, and when you travel to Greece for the first time, you might not know what to expect. Do you need a swimming pool in Greece? Or is a sweet-water swim just a waste of money?

My experience

The first time I went to Greece, I paid extra for a swimming pool whenever I had the option. I used to believe that although the beaches of Greece might offer refreshments, a good swim requires an artificial pool. However, I barely used any of them. It turns out that the Greek sea is often like a swimming pool, but better. With clear, blue calm water at a pleasant temperature.

Over the years, I started to understand when it is worth paying for accommodation with a sweet water bath and when it is simply not. This summer, with just one night at a hotel with a pool, I was able to swim pleasantly on 100% of my 45 days in Greece.

When can you swim in the Greek sea?

The Greek seas, unfortunately, are not always comfortable to swim in. Water temperatures differ per region and even per beach. But in general, temperatures in Greece allow for swimming from half May till October.

When you visit Greece outside of this period, and you want to swim, a heated pool is what you’re looking for. But during the warmer months, the temperature of the seawater might be even more pleasant than water in an artificial pool. Booking accommodation with a pool is often just a waste of money in summer. Especially when you, either way, want to stay at the coast.

Why stay around the coast?

During summer, it is better to choose accommodation close to the sea. Especially when you are used to a colder climate. Temperatures in Greece are generally high but always lower at the coast. Inland there is less wind and more humidity. The temperature can be around 5 degrees Celcius higher compared to the shore. Besides, after a hot day, the evenings at the beach cool down much quicker after sunset.

The Greek sea is not an ocean

Since it is preferable to stay in the coastal regions of Greece in summer, you will always be close to the sea. When a refreshing jump at a free beach is near, a pool becomes completely unnecessary.

You might fear cold water, rough waves, and sea creatures, but in Greece a bad sea day is rare. The sea around Greece is the Mediterranean. This sea is almost fully enclosed by land. Because of this, the tides are minimal, and waves simply do not have enough space to become big. 

Besides, many of the Greek beaches are located in bays, either small or big. Here, land encloses an even smaller body of water, protecting it against wind and currents. This again results in fewer waves and, in general, very calm waters.

As a result, the Greek sea, with very few exceptions, is like a swimming pool. This is a saying many Greeks use, but one that is actually true. A natural swimming pool without waves and currents. Filled with clear and clean turquoise water.

Temperature-wise, the Greek sea is similar to the swimming pools in Greece. With an average of 250 days of sunshine, the Greeks often heat their warm water with sunlight. Pools, as well as the sea, are heated in the same way. The only difference is the amount of water that is heated. The Greek sun is strong enough to increase the seawater temperature to an average of 26 degrees, the perfect temperature for swimming. A benefit is that seawater cools down much slower than pool water at night because of the size, making a night or morning swim more pleasant at sea.

Benefits of the sea

  • Good for your skin. 
    Going for a refreshing jump into the sea is proven to be good for your skin. Salt opens your pores and works as a natural scrub. But there are other minerals too. Magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Salt water works antibacterial and may even help with skin conditions such as eczema. Besides, there are no added chemicals in seawater. Chlorine used in pools might harm your skin.
  • More relaxing. 
    Swimming pools always seem to amplify the noise around. Screaming children and splashing water, there is no way to avoid them. At the beach, however, you do not hear these noises. Sand filters the sound around, and often the only thing you hear is the crashing of the waves. Besides, a beach offers more space and is less packed. You can read your book in peace or just enjoy the sound of the sea. 
  • Sustainable. 
    A swimming pool consumes about 2,000 and 3,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year without considering heating. This is more than double the amount a single person uses at home in a year! The sea, on the other hand, requires no energy. So if you want a sustainable refreshment, the beach is where you want to go.
  • Fewer insects. 
    Without the use of any chemicals, the beach is a natural insect repeller. The lack of flowering plants at the beach makes this an uninteresting place for insects. 
  • Unique. 
    In Greece, there are sandy beaches, pebble stone beaches, and marble beaches. There are beaches surrounded by red or white cliffs, forests, or caves. And even the sea water seems different in all of them. Every beach is unique because of the nature that surrounds it, and often this nature is incredibly beautiful!

Children

As a parent, you might want to stay at a place with a pool. This might feel safer for your children. In a smaller environment, they are easier to watch while you don’t have to fear deep seas and waves. However, in this case, I would advise you to choose a children-friendly beach instead.

There are many areas in Greece where the sea is very shallow. Your child has to walk 100 meters into the water before he, or she, can not stand anymore. You will have plenty of time to respond before something goes wrong. Also good to know is that many of the popular beaches have a lifeguard during most of the day for extra safety.

Many of the more popular beaches in Greece provide an in-sea playground for children. With waterslides, trampolines, and obstacle courses. These beaches are the perfect place to amuse both young and older children.

Besides, the sand on a beach is a sound absorber. You don’t have to listen to other children playing around. Instead, you can read your book in peace and enjoy the nature around you.

Children-friendly beach in Elafonisos

Here is a list of family-friendly beaches around Greece, but there are many more, all around the country.

When do you want a swimming pool?

The sea in Greece makes an artificial pool a waste of both energy and money. However, there are a few cases in which you might want to consider sweet water swimming in Greece. 

  • Staying inland in summer. When you plan on staying inland during the summer months, a pool is a good option. When the beach is far away and temperatures reach 40 degrees (100 F), you want a closeby refreshment. Inland temperatures can feel unbearable due to a lack of wind and higher humidity. 
  • Between October and May. During these months, you should not expect to swim pleasantly in the Greek seawater. However, check if the accommodation’s pool is actively heated since many Greeks use the sun’s heat to increase the temperature of the water.
  • If your children beg for a pool. Younger children do not really care about sustainability, the beauty of nature, or the health of their skin. When they keep requesting a pool I guess you just have to give in. However, use the holiday to make them experience all the fun the sea has to offer. Next year they will beg for the beach!
Do you agree that swimming in the sea in Greece is better than a pool? Or do you believe the opposite? Let us know in the comments below!

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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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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Travel guide to Lemnos, Greece

Lemnos, or Limnos, is an island in the Aegean Sea, in the northeast of Greece. With just 476 square kilometers of land, it is not very big but enough to make one of the most surprising islands in the North of Greece. From a small desert to a giant salt lake, from the biggest castle in the Aegean to the famous traditional windmills, and from tasty local cheese to the most beautiful sunsets. This island is worth your visit.

Lemnos, Aegean Sea
Island
5 days
Free
Yes
Average

How much does it cost to stay in Lemnos?

Lemnos is not well-known by foreigners and maybe that is the beauty of it. There are no overcrowded landmarks, no packed beaches, and no overpriced meals or hotels. Staying on the island in the capital Myrina is affordable. In the summer months, you will spend around 50 euros per person per night on a hotel, while in May, June, and September just 20 euros are enough for a very comfortable stay. To make things even better, a good dinner, on average, will cost you no more than 10 euros and most of the amazing places you must visit on this island are completely free.

How to get to Lemnos?

You can reach Lemnos either by ferry, from Kavala or Alexandroupoli, or by airplane from either Athens or Thessaloniki within just 50 minutes. From the airport, there is a bus to take you to Myrina, the capital of the island. When arriving by ferry, you get off the boat in this capital.

How to get around on Lemnos?

When in Lemnos, you will need a car or motorcycle to get the most out of the island. There is public transport, but since many of the must-see areas are very secluded, a bus will not be able to take you there. In different locations on the island there are rental companies, but also taking your car on the ferry is an option.

If you want to rent a car, it is always good to reserve one before arriving, because especially in July and August, the companies may run out of cars. Besides, don’t go for the cheapest option since there will be many dirt roads waiting for you. A small 4×4 would be ideal.

How long to stay in Lemnos?

The island is not super big but since the roads on the island are not great, you will actually spend quite some time getting around the island. I went for four days, and although I saw most of the things on my list, at least one day extra would have been better. If you want to explore the whole island I would go for 5 to 6 days, of which 3 in Myrina, the capital, and 2 to 3 somewhere more to the west of the island.

What to do in Lemos?

Map

Much more than a beach. Paralia Mikro Fanaraki

In the East of the island of Lemnos, there is a small beach called Mikro Fanaraki. A small lantern. The beach is probably named after the little lighthouse on the rocks closeby. Although Mikro Fanaraki itself is small as well, there is so much to see and do around that it deserves a visit during your stay on the island.

Location Overview

Lemnos
Natural site
3 hours
Free
Yes but be careful
No

Beach & Sea

Because the beach is almost completely enclosed, the sea will be clear, blue, and smooth, almost every day. A sea like oil is what the Real Greeks would say. Besides, the water is shallow making it the ideal beach for families with younger children. And with the whole beach being surrounded by white rocks, it feels like you enter a paradise.

But there is so much more on this beach!

The rocks in mikro Fanaraki – by google’s local host Apostolos Petalotis

Rocks

Swimming a little bit to the left coming from the beach, there are some small rocks in the water that make for a perfect playground. The rocks here are easy to walk on, steady, and go into the water like a ramp. Amazing for older kids to play on but even adults can enjoy themselves here.

Since the beach of Mikro Fanaraki itself is pretty small and busy, these rocks make the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of this area. You can pick your own spot, away from other people. Spend some time enjoying the scenery, cooling off with a swim in the crystal clear water.

little blue clear bay with white cliffs and green
Abandoned estate in the cliff close to mikro Fanaraki in Lemnos.
Almost invisible between the surrounding nature.

Abandoned estate on the cliff

Following the rocks, you will end up at a small bay with its own little sand beach. This beach was once owned by a rich man, who build an estate in the cliff above. After building, the man was forced to leave because of economic reasons. And now the beach, as well as the property, are abandoned and open for a visit.

First I have to say, as an architect, the house is an amazing design. From the sea it is nearly impossible to distinguish the house from the cliff it is built on. The color of the stones matches perfectly with the rocks around and the greenery in front makes it part of nature. Only a big round window in the front of the house reveal’s its presence. It is not often in Greece that villas are so polite to the nature they’re built in.

Coming back to the beach below. From here you can take a path with stairs up to the house that is part of a giant abandoned estate. Walk around but definitely take the paved walkway all along the cliffs. The view is marvelous and it is easy to walk. This path will eventually take you back to the mikro fanaraki beach.

Seal’s cave

Seal’s cave – by google’s local host Lucian Bagia

Coming back to the beach, there is one more thing you should do, swimming to the right side. Or go for a hike, whatever you prefer! Seal’s cave is a place with beautiful stone structures where you can swim through. The stone’s here are volcanic, meaning that many have beautiful colors and textures. Although the water in the caves can get a bit dirty and it smells like sulfide, the cave is a beautiful creation of nature.

Tips:

  • Mikro fanaraki is one of the most popular beaches on Lemnos and in summer it can get very crowded. Come early in the day or late in the afternoons to have a more peaceful experience. Or leave the beach itself and find a spot around on the cliffs in the afternoon.
  • There is quite a big parking near the road. From here you walk down to the beach through the sand, making it difficult for disabled people to get there.
  • The sunbeds on the beach are owned by the beach bar here and using one means buying something to eat or to drink from here. They are slightly overpriced. But we had just two coffees and spend the whole afternoon exploring the area. Meaning it was worth the price.
  • If you visit the beach at the end of the day. Move to paralia fanaraki (the beach on the other side) to watch the sunset. This is super beautiful because you will see the sun go down behind the mountains of the western part of the island.
Did you see the abandoned house in the picture? Or do you know another beach house that truly blends in with its surroundings? Let me know in the comments below.

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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Faraklou. Where nature became an artist.

In the north of the island of Lemnos, near the village of Propouli, you will find the volcanic rocks of Faraklo. In ancient times, lava flowed from the heart of the earth to the surface, where it came in contact with the water from the sea. The lava cooled down and formed Faraklo’s strange and impressive formations.

The park feels like a different planet. The various golden-yellow rock formations have so many different shapes, sizes and textures that are all very unique to nature on earth. Some of the sculptures look like a wave, trapped inside a rock. Others look like giant snails or dinosaur eyes. It is like nature became an artist and sculpted this little part of our world. Like with most art, use your imagination and enjoy this extremely rare phenomenon!

Tips:

  • The road to the Geological Park passes through the village of Propouli. From there begins a dirt road that leads to the area. Follow the signs, because navigation might be wrong in this part of the island.
  • There seems to be some doubts about the actual name of this geological park. Following the signs, you might see different variation of Faraklo on every sign. Faraklou or falakra for example. Don’t get confused, they will all lead you to the same park.
  • The park is not really big. Don’t expect to spend hours around here. But even with it’s small size it is so unique that it is definitely worth a visit.
  • There is a small beach close by if you want to enjoy a swim.
  • Unfortunately, visiting Faraklo with a wheelchair is not possible. You enter the park over a small sandy path and after that you’re climbing over the rock formations.
  • Be careful with kids because at the edge of the park near the sea, there are some holes in between the stones. Also, the wet stones are very slippery.
  • The locals call the formations “faraklo” or “fragokefala” – “bald” or “bald heads”, due to their spherical shape.
yellow rocks in variety of shape as result of the collision of lava and sea water

Souli watermills

Along a small river that ends up in the gate to the underworld, between green mountains with thousands of years old trees, there is an abandoned old watermill. The Souli watermills are in a truly magical place. And although they are not on the list of must-visits in Greece, they are perfect for everyone who loves nature.

Location Overview

Epirus
Natural site
1 – 3 hours
Free
Yes
No

Location

The Souli watermills are located in the Epirus region, in the North East of the Greek mainland. The location of the mills is between Parga and Ioannina, in an uninhabited part of the lush green mountains that form the landscape of this region. The closest village is Glykí, known as the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of Acheron. Although the Souli watermills are much less known as this famous river, they are definitely worth a visit.

The watermills

There is not much known about the Souli watermills. There is no information on site, nor on the internet. Probably since the place is not of great importance and far from touristic. What I do know, is that the watermill stands along a 15-meter-tall waterfall. It was used to grind wheat grains with the power of the rushing water. When modernization made the use of the watermill unnecessary, it was slowly overgrown by nature. Lush greenery surrounds the abandoned structure. Which now looks like a natural and historical paradise.

Experience

You can reach the watermill by car, following a small mountain road overlooking the turquoise waters of Acheron. Once they disappear you will go down into an area without villages, just mountains, cliffs, trees and some cows. When you reach the lowest point in between the mountains, you find the first Souli watermill. The abandoned stone building, covered with vegetation, next to the waterfall.

Following the stream you will pass the second water mill. This one is owned by a family that turned it into a small cafe. Μύλοι Σουλίου. The cafe has tables on both sides of the river and even a swing over the water. It fits the landscape perfectly. They serve traditional greek food that is very tasty and reasonably priced. The unique location of the place is priceless though and the family that runs this small restaurant is extremely friendly. We ended up spending four hours here. Just sitting. Being blown away by the beauty of the surroundings.

But don’t sit down as soon as you find this little paradise. Follow the stream, and let it lead you further into the old forest. Here, you will loose any sign of the modern world. It is completely silent underneath the green roof that is created by the giant trees around. Only you and nature’s beauty. It is a magical place!

Souli old watermill in lush green forest, waterfall and river in front

Tips:

  • A visit to the Souli watermills is great for a warm summer day. The shadow of the trees and the cold streaming water really decrease the temperature.
  • In front of the watermill there is a kind of pebble beach on the river which makes a great spot for a barbecue if you’re up for a cheaper experience of this little paradise.
  • Although the Souli watermills seem far away from everything, they are actually very well accessible. The road from Glykí is a good asphalt road, and the drive is only 20 minutes.
  • The Souli watermills are a great location for lunch on a day at Acheron river. It is close by Parga, Ioannina and Igoumenitsa.
  • Bring water shoes or sandals when you visit the Souli watermills. The best experience is walking through the stream, so be prepared to do this.
  • The location is great for children. They can play with the pebbles, explore nature, or simply take a swing over the water. However, be careful and don’t let them get out of your sight. In the water are some slippery stones.

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

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