Eleven Greek islands for complete tranquility
The Greek waters are full of dozens of small treasures, forgotten by time, brought from other ages, with only a few inhabitants, but with nature prevailing in beauty by far, compared to many other more tourist islands. We suggest to those who prefer holidays away from the crowds, eleven alternative island destinations for relaxation, tranquility and special holidays in crystal clear waters.
1. Kastellorizo, Dodecanese
The quaint and charming Kastellorizo, with its 498 inhabitants, is located at the eastern end of Greece and is named after the Castle of the Knights, the famous Castello Rosso (Red Castle) in the 14th century, while its preserved settlement with the colorful neoclassical buildings and its great historical route are only some of the elements that make this small paradise stand out. One of the most impressive natural monuments in the Mediterranean and one of the largest caves in the country, known worldwide for its stalwart wealth and its crystal blue waters, is located south of the island. Monk seals live in the “blue cave” of Kastellorizo – which are usually invisible to visitors – and this is why it is called “Fokalis” (seal-like). In addition to the seals, the cave also hosts thousands of wild pigeons, while there are unique and rare species of fish on the seabed.
2. Halki, Dodecanese
Vivid shades like mosaic colors, tranquility, beautiful landscapes and a permanent population of fewer than 500 people. This is Halki, the small but idyllic island of the southeastern Aegean, with its unique sense of tranquility. Its name is either due to copper mines and copper processing laboratories that existed on the island during antiquity or from the Phoenician word “kari” or “kali”, meaning “dark red”, the shell that abounded on the island’s shores. The traveler’s footsteps are led by the cobbled streets, between mansions and renovated mansions that retain their character and their past. Its highest peaks are Merovigli and Prophet Elias, while most of its beaches are steep and rocky, with crystal clear waters that remain unforgettable in one’s mind.
3. Psara, North Aegean
Travel guides describe Psara as “a dot in the sea, a place away from the famous tourist paths”, where travelers from all over the world discover and create their personal paradise, with the materials offered by the Aegean nature and the 458 inhabitants. The main feature of Psara is the 67 chapels, the small ornaments of the island that belong to the parish but are maintained by the inhabitants, as each family takes care of one. The travelers will also appreciate the splendid beauty of Saint Nicholas Church with its sixty steps, which was built in 1793, and Assumption of the Virgin Mary’s monastery, with its rare manuscripts and priestly texts printed in Moscow and Venice. Outside the settlement, in the area of Archontiki, one should visit the Mycenaean tombs, which were brought to light by the Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. Palaiokastro, which was built by colonists (Thessalis, Euboea, and Chiotes), in the 15th century, by the fear of pirates (here, a lighthouse illuminates the busy passage between Chios and Psara) and the hill of Mavri Rachi, with the monument of slaughter. The Memorial of the Holocaust of Psara is honored every year on the last Sunday of June and is the occasion for festive and cultural events.
4. Koufonisia, Cyclades Islands
Koufonisia is a favorite destination for those who are looking for quiet vacations, windy beaches with golden sand, small natural pools with turquoise waters, authentic island feasts and fresh seafood. It is a small complex of Naxos and Amorgos and includes the islands of Pano and Kato Koufonissi, which are separated by a narrow strait of 200 m. Their name (Hollow Islands) originates from the towering caves, which the corsairs viewed from the distance, believing that the islands were hollow. In Pano Koufonissi, the beached of Loutro, Parianos, Finikas, Fanos, Italians, and Pori are offered for windsurfing, while in Kato Koufonissi the deserted sandy paradises of Panagia, Detis, and Nero. One can go round the island, by boat, to admire the seaside caves and the nearby islands of Prasoura, Glaronissi, Voulgari, Tsouloufi, Lazaros and Megali Plaka, which have been declared as areas of natural beauty. Chora is a typical Cycladic settlement with freshly painted houses and picturesque alleys. In the center, there is the church of St. George, the patron saint of the island.
5. Sikinos, Cyclades
Sikinos, a small island between Ios and Folegandros, with fewer than 300 permanent residents, is the ideal choice for quiet holidays free of anxiety and fatigue. The landscape is authentic Cycladic, dominated by the terraces with the dry crops, the dry stone walls, the numerous chapels – the pale white chapel of Panagia Pantochara was a wish-vow of Odysseus Elytis, the poet – and the amazing beaches with the blue-green waters. Port of the island is Alopronia, while Chora “shares” in two neighborhoods, on opposite hills, Kastro and Horio. Castro is a fortified settlement of the 15th century, with whitewashed houses and well-tended courtyards. The church of Pantanassa stands in its square and is dating back to 1787, while at its highest point stands the Chrysopigi monastery, dating back to 1690. Despite its small size, Sikinos has clearings of breathtaking views and its nature is protected by the Natura 2000 network. Worthy souvenirs from this magical place are the delicious thyme honey, the pasteli, the melletini, the local cheeses and the caper.
6. Anafi, Cyclades
The city of Anafi, with 275 inhabitants, is built on the ruins of a Venetian castle and has whitewashed houses with domes and narrow alleys made of stone. Churches, small squares, vaulted ceilings, flat-roofed houses and whitewashed stairs create a picturesque ensemble, while the ruins of the Venetian castle have been incorporated into the building fabric of the settlement. Hiking, cycling, and donkeys, which are still used by locals, are the best ways to wander around the island through the network of 18 km long paths that run most of Anafi. In the Renaissance landscape, there are the “bourne houses”, old farmhouses with a dormitory and a large oven, and the “memorials”, small ossuaries on prominent places. On the hillside, there is an impressive necropolis with monumental graves and numerous tombstones, and at the location “Vrissi” there is a verdant location with running waters and plane trees. At the eastern end of the island, stands the imposing Kalamos (480 m high), the second highest monolith after Gibraltar, a climbing field of high standards in recent years. At the foot of Kalamos, you can find the sanctuary of Eglite or Apafalo Apollo and the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi (Kato Panagia), while at the top of Kalamos you can reach the Monastery of Panagia Kalamiotissa (Ano Panagia) after a one-hour hike through a magnificent mountainous landscape.
7. Schinoussa, Cyclades
The lacy beaches, the low houses with the blue windows and the stone-paved courtyards with flowers are some of the pictures that you can see in Schinoussa. The island has two settlements, Chora and Messaria, with 226 inhabitants. It belongs to the Small Cyclades complex and is one of the most beautiful small Aegean islands that fill the travelers with unforgettable memories. The shrub plant (schinos) grows throughout the island, giving it its name, while the island’s port, Mersin, is considered one of the best shelters of small boats across the Aegean. Schinoussa has joined the Natura 2000 network as it hosts migratory birds and endemic Cycladic plants. It has crystal clear waters and many small harbors, while in the small beach of Psili Ammos, turquoise waters and white sand with dunes give an exotic feel to the scenery. The feast of the 15th of August is in the name of Panagia Akathi, where local food specialties, like fava, ladotyri and xinomyzithra are served.
8. Agathonisi, Dodecanese
Agathonisi, is the northernmost island of the Dodecanese complex, is very close to Samos and has a population of 200 inhabitants. What makes it stand out is that it is part of the Natura 2000 protected area as a valuable refuge for rare birds and that it is characterized by slow life pace and particularly hospitable inhabitants. The permanent population is engaged in agriculture, fishing and livestock farming. In Agathonisi there are three settlements, the Megalo Chorio, which is the largest and most ancient settlement of the island but is hidden from the sea, Mikro Chorio and Agios Georgios. It has an architectural particularity, as it has a stone wall around the houses with large entrance doors. The small untouched paradise of Agathonisi has a lot to offer to tourists, from crystal clear beaches such as Agios Georgios, Spilia, Gaidourolakos and Tsagari, to interesting sights such as Tholos, a unique building complex of an outstanding architectural monument of Byzantine times.
9. Donousa, Cyclades
Donousa is the northernmost island of the Small Cyclades, it has 110 inhabitants and is located east of Naxos and north of Amorgos. The heart of the island it Stavros, the largest village at its southwest end, with white houses with blue and green windows matching the classic Cycladic image. The settlement was built by the first inhabitants who came to the island from Amorgos. In the waterless Donousa, the water flows abundantly into the village of Mersin, generously generating nature. The beaches are Livadi, Limenari, and Kalotaritissa, while on the bottom of Kedros there is the shipwreck of a German ship from the Second World War. You can also reach all inaccessible from shore and equally impressive beaches with emerald waters by boat. The caves of the island, Fokospilias (in Moschonas Kavo), a pirates sanctuary in the past, where seals are now assembled, and the Cave of the Wall (in Aspro Kavo) with the magnificent stalagmites and stalactites are magnificent to see. Also noteworthy are the local foods, such as “souvli” – a cream made from wheat – potatato, pasteli, aranista, xerotangana, prickly jam and raki by dried figs.
10. Iraklia, Cyclades
The island with its 150 inhabitants is the westernmost of the so-called Small Cyclades and is located south of Naxos. The port and the village of Panagia, the city of Iraklia, are approximately 4.5 km away. The village’s houses were and remain stone-built and fully integrated into the environment to protect them from pirates and are not visible from the sea. The view from Chora to the surrounding islands is dazzling, since Naxos, Paros, Amorgos and other small Cyclades interrupt the panoramic view of the Aegean Sea. One of the most impressive sights of the island is the cave of Ai-Giannis, the largest of the Cyclades. The legend says that from this cave, stones were thrown to Odysseus by Polyphemus, and that is how the two islets that surround Iraklia were formed, the so-called Avelonisia. The tens of meters high bay with the steep rocks, Merichas, where vultures nest, is of great beauty,
11. Arki, Dodecanese
Arki is a small piece of land next to Patmos and Leros. It is a terrestrial paradise, since the only buildings that exist are the houses of 45 inhabitants, two taverns, and a bar, while looking around the eye sees only the sea and the natural wealth of the island, since there are no cars – the distances are very small and the road extends only for 3 km. During the day, boats from neighboring islands carry tourists for swimming and diving in the beautiful, blue lagoons with crystal clear waters of Arki. Guests who love quietness, walking, relaxing on the beach and want to stay on the island for more than one day, there are rooms to rent and a mini-market. In the southern part of Arki, where the road ends, is the Tiganaki beach, which consists of a series of three coves and a wonderful view.