We weren’t planning on spending any time in Greece. We presumed the country was over-touristed and expensive, well above our tight budget. At best, we were going to travel across the mainland on our way into Eastern Europe from Turkey. Meeting fellow travelers on the road often helps us polish the itinerary, and we found those who were even island hopping on a tight budget. Who better to meet than Cha Cha who is working on a blog devoted to travel connections. She recommended some islands that we might be able to afford, and were worth checking out.
We love the feel of the Greek islands. There are so many different sizes and types, that everyone can find the experience they are looking for. Some travelers hate the quiet islands but love the party lifestyle of Mykonos. Others prefer historic ruins, or the big city feel of Rhodes.
Our first stop was only a brief glance, as we moved on from Rhodes before midnight the same day we sailed in. We were told there are great villages, parks, and caves hidden away from the hustle of the cities on the massive island, but that will have to wait until another trip. Need a better look? Here’s more from Rhodes.
Droves of backpackers seemed to enjoy the chic islands of Paros and Antiparos. They combine the feel of smaller islands with an energetic night life. Everyone here is proud of their resident celebrity, Tom Hanks. You can see the money here; more expensive and expansive homes are dot the island, some claiming private beaches. There is even a giant Cancun-like dance club beach called Punta Beach, if that’s what you’re into. All in all, the Kastros (main streets) were quaint and relaxing, the food was fine… but like Goldilocks, we were looking for something else. Want more of Paros & Antiparos?
By now, you may be imagining what a perfect island is for you. Does it have beautiful women? perfect waves of crystal clear water to surf? Flower lined streets? High style or low? We finally managed to find our perfect island getaway. While we love the hustle of big cities and endless museums, multicultural events filled with alien rituals, the effort of traveling sometimes needs a rest.
The perfect island for us had no banks, no hotels (really!), one internet hotspot, two grocery stores and no souvenir stalls. No big museums, no loud nightclubs with vomiting coeds. Nothing fancy, just simple daily life that loves to be lived. We will never tell you the name of this place — that’s right, this is our secret and we, along with the locals, swear to keep it to ourselves (recognize it? shhh!) So far, it’s name hasn’t made it to any travel mags and island life hasn’t changed in a long time.
A little over 200 islanders live here, mostly atop one hill in a tightly packed white village. We thoroughly enjoyed winding through the little alleys and eating at one of the 4 restaurants in town, overlooking the broad expanse of ocean in the moonlight.
Most evenings we ended up at our favorite restaurant, listening to the live band. Without a stage, the band played facing each other over a table in the center of the dining terrace while the locals all sang along.
One night, we were lucky enough to enjoy a visiting band from Crete in the town square — the whole island showed up for the show. Everyone drank 50 cent Raki shots while dancing and singing along with the traditional greek music, cheering on the greek bagpipe.
We did explore a little, renting a scooter to get around the 18 square kilometers that make up the island. Spotting the entire island are little white churches, almost one for every family, dedicated to different saints and often decorated with memorabilia of a deceased family member.
We could even see these little churches on rock outcroppings in the ocean surrounding the island. Historical sites are limited to two monasteries, one of which has ancient temple ruins and kind nuns who gave us apricot preserves.
The other monastery is on top of the highest peak on the island; the adventurous can reach it by a steep and sometimes perilous-looking hike along the rocky ridge.
Oh yeah, and every day we went down to the beach and tanned our tanlines off with all the surreally good-looking locals, sometimes swimming in the crystal-clear water and often stuffing ourselves to catatonic levels at the Taverna located just off the sand.
This family run restaurant served beyond-good food and our hosts, the family that ran it, were the most hospitable people you could meet, resident trio of identical kittens and all. Our last night they got us so thoroughly drunk, we barely made it home.
Most people on the island asked us how we found out about this place. Truth is: in passing, by chance… This was our perfect holiday, nothing to do but eat and sun bathe and ride our scooter. We have a feeling we will be coming back.
More photos from our secret island are here on flickr.
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