YOU know when you watch a film and a supporting actor steals the show from the stars? Our Greek island-hopping holiday was a bit like that.
Before our first ever trip to the Cyclades last October, we were excited about the big marquee names — stunningly photogenic Santorini and A-listers’ party playground Mykonos.
But we came home talking about fun, relaxed, unassuming Naxos.
Just the way you might after watching Judi Dench blow away Scarlett Johansson and Leonardo DiCaprio on screen.
Anyway, Greek island hopping is very different to how I remember it from years ago as a youngster.
Back then, you were either too drunk to notice the squalor you were staying in or you were sleeping on the beach to save drachmas.
You can still do it that way, of course, but it’s much better using Olympic Holidays, who offer trips staying in a wide range of accommodation from five-star beach resorts to town-centre boutique hotels and bespoke apartments.
We spent ten nights last October in the Cyclades, arguably Greece’s most beautiful archipelago, starting in Santorini then heading north to Naxos and on to Mykonos.
You feel you know Santorini even if you have never been there.
It’s the Greek island with the movie star looks, all whitewashed buildings built into the cliffs and churches with blue domes.
It’s probably the most famous sight in Greece.
No surprise, then, that it gets two million visitors a year — many of them from cruise ships — it’s an Instagrammers’ paradise.
But it can feel like all two million have chosen the same week to come.
We stayed in Kamari, on the east coast of this volcanic, croissant-shaped island, and away from the crowds.
It’s a traditional Greek beach resort and very good, too.
But Santorini is all about that bucket list experience of photographing the sunset.
For that you have to take the bus up to the west coast (it’s not far) to the bustling capital Fira or, best of all, the beautiful village of Oia.
Oia is a warren of alleyways filled with gift shops and restaurants.
Come late afternoon, it fills up — and I mean really fills up — with sightseers who push and shove to get the best spot to photograph the sunset.
One tall American woman actually rested her camera on my wife’s head to get her shot.
If that’s your bag, fine.
But it’s much better to visit this beautiful village in the morning.
In Greek mythology, Naxos — the biggest island in the Cyclades — was the birthplace of Zeus, father of the gods.
In TV mythology, it’s where Lizzie Cundy, Annabel Giles & Co went looking for love in the reality show Our Shirley Valentine Summer.
As I recall, they didn’t find it but they did return home having fallen for Naxos. And quite right, too.
The main town must have one of the prettiest waterfronts in Greece and the town gets prettier as you climb the steep cobbled alleys full of bars, boutiques and restaurants up the hill to the cathedral.
Although it gets busy on the superb beaches, Naxos is friendly, unpretentious and less frenetic than its posher neighbours. Possibly because cruise ships don’t call here.
Try the rooftop of Bar 52 for that all important sunset shot and eat in the fantastic Lucullus Taverna, which claims to be the oldest restaurant on the island.
And make sure you have a walk out to what looks like a giant picture frame on a small island accessible by a causeway.
According to legend, it was the gateway to Apollo’s temple and the views back to town are tremendous.
As luck would have it, we spent an extra night on Naxos thanks to a strike by the ferry operators — possibly the only industrial action by public transport staff that I have ever benefited from.
That meant a slightly truncated stay on Mykonos, Greece’s very busy answer to Ibiza and St Tropez.
It is a heady mix of buff gay couples, cruise ship day trippers, serious clubbers and ludicrous, preening fashionistas.
You need serious cash in Mykonos — something you will gather from the number of super-yachts moored in the old harbour.
This not the kind of place where people in restaurants squabble over who had what when the bill comes.
Still, the Salparo Seafood Tavern on the waterfront is worth the expense — amazing food and incredible views.
It’s easy to get lost in Mykonos’s maze-like streets while looking around the wallet-emptying designer shops.
That’s because they were planned on purpose in medieval times to confuse pirates.
Once you have found your way out, head towards the famous windmills that stand over the town and the Little…
Continue Reading: Source Link