Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Greek Island Hopping


This page covers SAMOS, SYROS, MYKONOS, NAXOS, PAROS and KOS and is pretty lengthy. People wanting info on a specific island will find:
SAMOS - 5% down page
SYROS - 15% 
MYKONOS - 25%
NAXOS - 45%
PAROS - 60%
KOS - 75%
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I'd been waiting for a decent fare into the area since my last visit in 2005 and when Singapore Airlines (a class act) came up with a bargain to Istanbul I jumped at it. I wasn't wasting my time going via Tukrey - its Aegean and Mediterranean coasts are as attractive as the Greek islands and have quick transfers to the latter. And Istanbul beats Athens as a tourist destination any day.


The plan was to hit a few of the islands I missed in 2005 and revisit Naxos. Due to ferry schedules I also revisited Syros and Paros. Kusadasi was the port of exit from Turkey and Bodrum the place of re-entry (image: modified Google Earth).

SAMOS
Samos is not a front line island like Santorini or Mykonos. But it was the first nearby Greek island with good transport links to others as I travelled down the Turkish coast (big attractive Lesbos further north had no direct transfers to the Cyclades in shoulder season 2012). Samos may not be not front line, but it's still an attractive place which draws a loyal bunch of return visitors each year, particularly Germans and Brits. It also gets a reasonable number of day trippers from Kusadasi, a bustling and enjoyable toursit city in Turkey.

Samos is a medium sized mountainous island with a bunch of beaches, nice touristy towns to stay at and non-touristy mountain villages. On the map are only the places I mention below. The local bus company runs an around island trip on Sundays which I booked. But they cancelled due to lack of numbers - a consequence of shoulder season and maybe the economic downturn - otherwise I would have a bunch of other places to mention.


Samos town (aka Vathi) is built at the end of a long fiord-like inlet at the eastern end of the north coast. It's an attractive place (like just about every Greek island capital). If you click the image to expand you will better see the pier for the Turkish ferries top far left. The bus station is on the seafront esplanade about mid-curve, just past that small breakwater which is the yacht marina. Go online to find the bus timetable. The buses serve the island well and inexpensively.
Most of the main street businesses are between the Turkish ferry pier and the bus station - there is a line of restaurants and bars in the first half. Behind this section the parallel narrow street is pedestrianised with lots more restaurants and shops.


The inter-island/Athens vehicle-passenger ferry pier is on the opposite side of the bay to most of the town ( go left 500m from the bottom of the previous image). If you are walking from town central give yourself 35 minutes or so. Note that in shoulder season 2012 this ferry was leaving on only every second day. Some ferries to islands south like Patmos, Leros etc leave from the southern harbour at Pithagorio. 
The opposite side of the bay is closer than this appears - my elcheapo camera's built in wide angle tends to add depth (and de-emphasise height - those hills are more like mountains).





This is the view from the balcony of my inexpensive room at Cleomenis Hotel towards the north end of Vathi. This is 10 minutes walk from the Turkish ferry, another 5 to town central and another 5 to the bus station. A quiet, clean place with great family staff and a nice inclusive Greek breakfast. Google for the website (also on many mass-booking sites). Hard to see in the twilight in the nice little beach bottom right.


The beach is called Gagou and is the only one right in town. It is largely pebbles as are most on Samos so those sunbeds are not a bad investment. The beach is backed by two competitive tavernas. The water is crystal-clear. Cleomenis is the central of the 5 higher places in at top-middle of shot. The road down to town from there is not too steep and contains much of Vathi's nightlife although things were pretty quiet in mid-September 2012.


About 10km west of Vathi on the north coast is the smaller and very attractive twin-bay tourist village of Kokkari. The town beaches are pretty nice but over the next few km westward is a series of small attractive bays down from the coastal road containing nicer beaches - this is the second of them, Tsamadou. Note that the far end is clothing optional - Greeks are pretty keen nudists and the islands attract a good variety of international naturists. There are 2 scenic tavernas up the hill from the beach and the guy hiring sun-lounges on the southern half also delivers food and drink from one of these - it comes down the steep hillside by way of a flying fox. Prices are remarkably fair. However for variety I walked the 15 minutes or so into Kokkari for a feed - the tavernas behind the beach there are nice places to spend time.
Tsamadou beach is also pebbles - I tried the sarong on the stones but gave in for a 4 euro sun lounge. Water is the usual super-clear stuff. As I said on one of my Turkey pages, this may be unsurprising seeing the place has had no polluting rain run-off for 6 months or so. I wonder what it is like at the start of the season? One thing I do know from research - water temp in May/June is pretty cool, not the wonderful 25 degrees of August/Sept/Oct - like most places, water temp in the Greek islands tends to lag air temp by 2/3 months.


This is Pithagorio (named after that triangle guy who came from Samos), an attractive tourist town on the south coast, a scenic not-too-long bus ride from Vathi. There are historical ruins of interest in the town and nearby. The town is built on the hills behind an attractive harbour - there is no shortage of restaurants etc both around the harbour and in the town itself.
When my around island bus trip fell through I decided to try it on the normal service buses - but most services on Sundays are severely curtailed - not so to Phithagorio on account it is the second busiest tourist place on the island.

GETTING AROUND - many tourists were taking advantage of the inexpensive bus system. However every third or fourth Greek island business seems to be a car/motorcycle hire joint and this seemed to be the preference of the majority of visitors (best to have an EU or International driver's licence). UPDATE -  a friend who was on Samos and other Greek locations in August 2012 told me his Aussie licence worked okay hiring cars and motos.
Some islands have a fair few bicycles for hire usually at the same joints - Samos is 90% high steep mountains so bicycles are not the go. However Cleomenis Hotel gave me a bicycle for free which I rode to Kokkari and Tsamadou Beach several times (also great for fanging down town at night for a feed) - the route sticks to the coast and has less severe hills.
There are also some small day boats out of Pithagorio to beaches further along the coast and bigger ones to islands south - I think a few have historical sites of interest. Quite a few day-trippers jump on the morning ferry to Kusadasi for a taste of Turkey. Kusadasi itself is an interesting place to spend time (scroll down) and the first class ancient ruins of nearby Ephesus are a major attraction.


On both sides of Pithagorio harbour are small town beaches - this is the eastern one. Behind are a handful of the usual tavernas. After a cooling swim (the only place in the Greek islands I found water clarity less than pristine - not bad but not sparkling clear) I adjourned to this joint for a 500ml flagon of my favourite local rough red. Sand here has a large amount of pebbles and was quite dusty so the sun lounge (better seen click-expand) would be the go for people intending to spend any time on the beach. Lounges are free to taverna users.


 
West of town is a longish beach area packed with sun lounges and backed by package resorts. Beach surface is 100% pebbbles. Water clear. Note the island airport is close in back of the beach behind camera and seemed to get a fair few day flights - I doubt late nights would be busy. If you click to expand you will better see the restored castle on the headland a short distance west of Pithagorio harbour.


 This is the view defenders would get as the Ottoman fleet approached. Unlike the wall tower above, much of the castle has been restored - the attractive interior houses a museum with a nice variety of historical artifacts. Entrance was free which goes down real well with this budget traveller.

The trip to Pithagorio was a real nice way to spend my last day on Samos. It gave me plenty of time to get back to Vathi, have a nice meal and another 500ml of red in one of the waterfront restaurants and then walk around to the other side of the bay for my late afternoon boat to Syros.


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SYROS
I spent only 12 hours on Syros this trip - waiting between ferries (0300 to 1100 on the way to Mykonos from Samos and 1830 to 2330 between Paros and Kos). But I'll write a short section here because some of you may find yourself in the same situation - and because from my few days here in 2005 I found "untouristy" Syros is a very nice island with probably the best main town in the Cyclades.

Eurmoupoli is a much bigger main town than a small sized island should have. This is because it is the administrative capital of the Cyclades islands. Syros' position at the junction of east-west and north-south ferry routes mean a lot of people/vehicles/goods have to change ferries here. The fine natural harbour does nothing to hinder this and has also attracted the area's ship repair industry.
I waited too long to snap this shot hoping to get the full town in - the distance-wide angle de-emphasises the super steep and high hills the town extends up behind the harbour. The area looks more impressive if you click-expand the image.


I raided Google images for a better shot (I have no pix from my 2005 visit made in my 'travel-lite no camera' era) which originally came from http://www.greekislands.com
The big buildings way up the top are a Catholic cathedral far left and a Greek Orthodox church on the right. The upper area is called Ano Syros (upper Syros town) and is the original settlement, built in the days when they wanted to make it tough for raiding pirates. I spent several hours up there in 2005 - the steep, twisting narrow lanes (few roads in the area), white-washed houses and marble steps are as attractive as Santorini and the views almost as good.
The U shaped harbour area is a winner - it is lined by shops, restaurants and bars, particularly in the arm facing the camera. The big building a few blocks back from waterfront-central is the town hall. There is a large plaza there lined with palm trees and restaurants. 
There are way fewer cruising yachts in this shot and a Google Earth image I just looked at than when I visited in 2005. But the GE image shows a big marina south of the shipyard (the shipyard is maybe 300m to left of this image) which may be new from 2005.



I ripped this pic off the photos embedded on Google Earth via photographer skonix (panoramio: skonix http://www.panoramio.com/user/2733961?with_photo_id=45052685) It is taken further up the hill from the catholic Agios Georgios cathedral (centre). I didn't get this far up in 2005, concentrating on the area up to the Greek Orthodox church top far left. skonix's panoramio link is worth clicking - he/she has some fine shots of the narrow alleys etc in the Ano Syros area - it's kind of a pity that half the above pic is in cloud-shadow.


THE ISLAND
Syros is a compact island with a lot of attractive bays and some nice beaches. Galissas is one of the main tourist villages. Kini is also popular. The majority of settlements are in the southern half of the island which has the main circular bus route joining them - great for sightseeing and for people with time on their hands. You can get a bus direct to Kini and back but also one thru Kini to Galissas and then the southern part of the main route. There are a couple of buses per day, the short distance from the waterfront at Ermoupolis to Agios Ana in the heights which makes it easy for tourists: be driven up and then walk back. Google for the bus schedule.


Galissas is an attractive village with a good range of accommodation including a camping ground. If you continue over the headland the camera is on you willl come to a smaller protected bay - the beach there is called Ameos Beach and is clothing optional. Some of you may be thinking I have a thing about clothing optional beaches and you are right - I have been a naturist for many years. I should maybe do a blog: TEZZA'S NUDE BEACHES - but this would require pix and I'm not all that keen about snapping away around nudists, many of whom don't fancy their image going public.

WAITING STRATEGIES
Some of you may find yourself in the same position as me, having to wait some hours on Syros for a ferry connection.


Chances of a lengthy wait are much lower in high season when there are more ferries - and more direct routes island to island without having to use hubs like Syros.
This is my shoulder season (Sept 2012) route IN from near the Turkish coast and after a few weeks BACK. My IN destination from Samos was Mykonos - in high season there is a direct boat. But 3 days later I had to go via Syros with an 8 hour wait from 3am. Similarly high season has a direct boat from my starting point in Naxos BACK to Kos near Turkey. But in late Sept 2012 I had to go via Paros and Syros. Check the ferry booking sites for when you travel - the economic crisis seems to have made the situation fluid (there were way fewer ferries running than at the same time in 2005). Note that those sites don't publish shoulder season timetables until a few days before they kick in - around Sept 12 this year.

At 3am there was still a handful of locals meeting the ferry and offering rooms - I recongised the old guy who gave me a cheap but adequate room in 2005 (off an earllier 2000 ferry from Naxos). So if you must get some sleep, you won't have to trawl around hoping some of the hotels have all night reception.
I'm tight with money and can do without sleep. There was a small cafe directly opposite the main ferry landing area which was still open when I landed. This did a good trade in coffee and snacks until it closed at 0430. About half a dozen of us continued to sit at the sidewalk tables and swap travel tales - a nice Kiwi lady told me about a good budget hotel on Kos which proved very useful a few weeks later.
It's by no means boring on the pavement. Around 5am a huge superferry from Rhodes enroute to Athens put in - lots of locals and vehicles showed up to embark. My old room guy was back - and I noticed he got a customer.

Watching the ferries do their thing is good entertainment. They scream into the harbour, throw a huge U-turn impossibly close to the pier, back in, get a couple of hundred people and dozens of cars, trucks and motorcycles off/on and then fang away to the next stop. All this takes about 15 minutes. The above is obviously not 3am or 5am.

At 0630 another ferry came in enroute to Paros/Naxos and the circus was repeated.

Around 6am a bigger cafe with nice baked stuff and very inexpensive coffee opened a short distance to the right facing the water. This place also had wifi with purchases - a couple of waiting backpacker babes set their laptop up and were still there when I returned for another coffee hit at 1030 - the wifi must be time based because one of them scrounged my receipt for some more time.
I found a small produce market in one of the small alleys leading from the harbour up to the town hall also open around 6am (they probably set up earlier) and there was a handful of fast-food places open in this laneway.
Some of the very nice absolute waterfront cafes on the harbour concourse in this area open for breakfast about 0800.

At about 0900 I wandered across to the "bus station" (a section of the harbour concourse a short distance to the left [facing the water] of the main ferry landing spot) and jumped on one of the buses to Galissas because I knew from my previous stay that this does a circular route visiting many of the scenic bays and villages in the south of the island. The trip is supposed to take an hour but my bus was picking up everyone who wanted to go into town that morning (ended up standing room only - if you have a big pack, maybe leave it at a cafe or ferry booking agency) and took more like 90 minutes.

Alternatively you could jump on the 0930 bus to Agios Ana (or like me in 2005, walk up there) to explore the wonderful twisting laneways and drink in the views. Once again, leave your luggage down at the harbour.


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MYKONOS

The famous windmills in western Mykonos town.

Mykonos was not one of the 6 islands I visited in 2005. But people have since told me a broad understanding of the Greek islands needs Mykonos so I made a point of staying there latest trip.

Turn 180 from the previous shot for the equally famous Little Venice area. There were 3 big cruise liners in and despite shoulder season the place was pretty crowded.


Even more so at night when people from the surrounding beaches seemed to make a point of going into town. Mykonos is the celebrity-spotting capital of the Aegean - Brad Pitt, Daniel Craig and all. But no-one recognised me - must be the month-old Saddam Hussein beard. Or the $3 Bali bazaar Billabong board-shorts knock-offs.


If you are seeking those picture-book narrow town lanes with the whitewashed buildings and an array of shops and restaurant/bars, Mykonos town does it real well. Surprisingly uncrowded here and nicely lit at night. Plenty of night-life too which can kick on until sunrise.



THE ISLAND

 Mykonos is fairly compact with rugged semi-barren hills rather than the mountains of many islands. 
Ferry passengers should ask which port their vessel leaves from - most (but not all) of the big ferries plus the cruise liners use the new port about 2km north of the old port near town central) - there is a shuttle bus between the ports but I don't know how often it runs.

THE BEACHES

There is no shortage of beaches all around the island but the most famous and arguably the best are along the south coast. A real problem with beach-hoppers like me is that the narrow island roads radiate away from Mykonos town to the beaches - there is no coastal road joining them. The headlands between the beaches are seriously steep and rugged. Mykonos Camping aka Paranga Camping was my place of abode. Click image to expand if printing is too small.


Paradise beach is perhaps the best known of them all. This shot is misleading - what appears to be a narrow strip of people and sun lounges along the water is in fact 4 or 5 rows deep as a click-expand will show. 
The guide books talk about golden sand - hur hur hur. A brownish shade of yellow is the truth, and quite coarse in structure. Water is clear. 
Paradise used to be THE gay beach of the Aegean but there was a good mix of both sexes. It used to be known for nudity but there seemed to be only a few brave male singles and couples mainly at the near end. As a matter of fact topless women were far less common than on a typical Sydney beach. No lack of hot ladies though. Or hunks if that's your preference.


They sure can pack them in. Not everyone's idea of paradise.


Paradise is also known as THE party beach with thumping music and dancing 24 hours. I shot this about 1600 - the pro go go girls have got a few members of the public up for a shuffle. I've led a protected life and I'm not too sure about the dance move of the young lady at right. Mum warned me about those Euro girls.
My camping cabin at Paranga beach was less than 2km away and I didn't hear any thump thump thump after about 2200 - I don't think the party goes 24 hours in shoulder season. 


Super Paradise beach is about 35 minutes steep walk from Paradise Beach over the headland the camera is on - which is every bit as high and steep as the hill in background (which you need to cimb to shortcut to Agari/Elia). As I've pointed out elsewhere the wide-angle built into my elcheapo Olympus de-emphasises height and steepness - should see the real thing. A lot of the shortcuts between the beaches are across rocky thorny sheep fields where you have to climb stone fences. If you are lucky you might go part of the way up/down a slope on a 1 in 7 roadway or path.
Super Paradise is nicer IMHO than Paradise - maybe a bit less crowded but still busy. Has the thumping music too. More nudists - 85% male couples but "textiles" of both sex predominate. 
Interestingly Super Paradise does not have a bus service from town - Paradise Beach does, at half hourly intervals well into the night.

Agari Beach far left (small, uncrowded, over 50% male nude couples) and Elia (large, nicer than Paradise and Super Paradise, more nudists, maybe 70% male couples - but once again textiles in the majority. A fair crowd for a beach further from town with no bus service. Got the thumping music but you can't hear this much down the far end which I thought was a very nice area with some interesting underwater rocks for the face-mask and the usual very clear dry season water. I can't tell you what the fishies are like - a naked Miss Mykonos 2012 swam by prompting a huge intake of breath - unfortunately I didn't have a snorkel).
The approach from Super Paradise is over the steep headland background far left - the trek takes a good 45 minutes plus to Agari because once you climb the slope in the background of the previous shot you drop steeply into a gully with  a small beachless bay and then climb a similar slope to the top of the headland background of this shot.
But those climbs are nothing in steepness compared to the one I took to get this shot - at least there was a road most of the way up through some failed real estate area - I swear it had a gradient of 1 in 5. The view behind camera of the beaches of the lower east coast is similarly good but these are much less busy and I was damned if I was going to trudge on to check them. Hell, I had to get back over 5 headlands to Paranga Camping from the above spot. I was so fit from climbing hills when I left Mykonos that I had muscles on my boogers. For some reason I only visited the above beaches once vs three times for Paradise and Super Paradise.
Note to those interested - the section between Agari and Elia above is a gay cruising area. As such there are plenty of tracks to take unlike the gaps between other beaches.


Some of the seriously steep headlands in Mykonos' south - beach hopping still seemed popular with lots of people using quad-bikes on the longer road routes. Relief better seen if you click-expand.


Check the highest buildings foreground and middleground. Those uncompleted holiday units looked like they'd been that way for a long time. Lots of semi-finished individual villas on the slopes facing the various beaches too. The other main sign of the difficulties on the islands was a fair few cars sitting around with flat tyres and a thick coating of dust suggesting they had not been driven since at least last wet season. Plus the already mentioned lesser ferry activity. I didn't see an unusual number of shops, restaurants etc closed for business although some retail prices seemed extremely low - maybe to generate some cash flow. 
Certainly the people in holiday accommodation, restaurants/bars, transport yada seemed hard workers - maybe the goof-offs are in the public service and those doctors don't wanna pay tax. But you can't build sustained national wealth with hard work in some sectors if the country has a relative shortage of natural resources, innovation and leadership. Sure, you can match northern European living standards and national infrastructure for a short while using borrowed money. But that ends when the lenders start to worry they won't get repaid.


I saved the best of the southern beaches to last, on account I got on to it last despite my abode overlooking it - the camping ground which takes up the headland stretching out of frame at right. This is Paranga Beach - a sort of nicer version of all the others. Had the sun lounges and music but the latter ended around 1800. The near end was a nice area to stretch a towel out on the sand. A lot of nudists in this section and more of them non-gays.
So here's me - arrive at Mykonos/Paranga Camping and the first thing I do after getting settled is to take off for Paradise Beach, unaware that a far better beach is a few steps away. Duh. I blame it on the guide books that give no indication how nice Paranga is. Those guide books.


Paranga Beach from the area adjacent Mykonos Camping's pool. This beach has a pretty good hourly bus service into town - an entertaining trip along the twisting narrow rock wall lined lanes.
To get to Paradise Beach, follow the path behind camera around the headland where you will see Paradise less than 15 minutes away. No ridiculous headlands to scramble over.


This is one of the two beaches at Mykonos town, not far south of the windmills. The water here looked real nice and there were a couple of people snorkelling. The other beach is just east of the old harbour -  more sand but only one sunbather when I passed a bit after this shot.

MYKONOS/PARANGA CAMPING

The pool area at Mykonos Camping is a nice place to spend time. There is a bar behind camera with overpriced 3euro beers (about 300ml in plastic cups) and okay music, plus a nice outlook over the bay and beach.  
I wanted to stay at one of the beaches without wasting too much time finding a joint (arrival day was half-gone) - MPC's van was at the ferry so I jumped in. Paradise Camping's van was also there but I'd heard the all night parties make that joint noisy.

Mykonos/Paramga Camping has a big range of accommodation - google the website. These are the "bungalows" - basically a steel framework/roof with fabric covering. That's mine in background - the Spanish couple staying first night in the near one moved out (thank God - I think they were honeymooners) and because the venue was shutting down in a fortnight (unusual - closing at the end of September when most venues and the good weather last 'til the end of October) the guys stripped the fabric for repair. 
These cabins were overpriced at 10 euros per person (I paid e20 solo "because mine could sleep two" - couldn't bargain a discount despite the lower wear and tear, hot water use etc of one, and I'm a world class haggler) but were fairly spacious, not hot and had a comfy double bed. The bathroom blocks were clean but the nearest one had a bust hot water system which they weren't prepared to fix in a hurry, necessitating a 300m walk to the other block for a shower - this place covers a big area. MPC has a medium-sized overpriced supermarket with only about 20% of stock left so late in its season. Breakfast was no longer served past my first morning (it was free presumably to clear stock - I did my best to help: btw the price list suggested nothing is normally a bargain), but the rather good "stone-oven" area continued to sell big tasty pizzas, pita wraps and other yummy meals at dinner time for very reasonable prices.
I would be leery booking an "apartment" at MPC if I was expecting the typical Greek island white-masonry type - they are plywood structures not too much flasher than my joint - although they have their own bathroom.

Miss Mykonos 2012 knows where the fishies are. Okay, maybe technically dolphins aren't fish. You have to trust me on the authenticity of this shot.



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NAXOS

Nice twilight at Agia Anna

Naxos is the only one of my 2005 islands I planned to revisit. It is one nice island. I'm not the only one thinks this - I notice GREEK ISLAND HOPPING which comes out annually (and is a fabulous resource), rates in their readers' survey Naxos as most visited island and most days visited. I would have thought Santorini would have won hands down - so Naxos has the goods for more than me.

Naxos is a medium sized island with plenty of nice beaches and an impressive main town. The eastern half is dominated by mountains. I have made no attempt to place all spots of interest in the above - only the places I mention below - plus the airport. 
 Note too that spelling of places varies - Apperirantho(s)/(n) and Ag(H)ia/(os)) Anna  - (image - modified Google Earth).

When I arrived at the pier half a dozen ladies were waving their accommodation signs at me. Which one? Well I picked the lady on the left. Sofia told me her place was at Agia Anna which I knew was a good area and she had a studio for e20. Sounded good to me. Not wrong.

Sofia's was on a slight rise 700m from the sea - position ideal, close to my favourite beach location. This is the outlook from my balcony - that's the  neighbouring island of Paros in background - closer and higher than my elcheapo camera makes out. My room was spacious, clean, comfy bed, quiet, had a kitchenette. Breakfast was included but was a bit basic and at 1000 too late most mornings but Sofia made up with a Friday night bbq to which she invited guests and a bunch of friends.

Sofia's and Agia Anna in relation to Naxos town. There is a regular bus service runs from town past Agia Anna and continues south of Plaka. It leaves from the bus station at the arrivals pier on the hour. My favourite section of beach runs from that small headland just under the "a" in Anna past the Plaka label. That bare patch left of the airport is a salt lake.

Agia Anna-Plaka beach. This is the northern km or so - it stretches the same distance or more behind camera. This is the best stretch of beach I've seen in the Greek islands - the sand is fine-grained and actually more light yellow than brown. Water is the usual super clean stuff - mostly sand off the beach although there are some sections where you step out onto a rock shelf. In the far north around that distant point the beach ends in a rocky section near a small church, where there is a small sandy bay with a lot of offshore rocks okay for snorkelling. The beach isn't perfect - it has the coast road behind (quite a lot of accommodation and a few good tavernas) which is dirt surfaced and so you can get some dust in sections closest the road when the wind is from the wrong direction. The infamous meltemi northerlies are not too bad from this point of view, blowing along-shore, but some parts of the beach are exposed.
This is another clothing-optional beach. Starting at the area up around the rocks in north, there are several areas which are just about 100% nude. In other areas "textiles" predominate, but it's not unusual to see a nudist couple stretched out on a sun lounge surrounded by half a dozen textile couples. And vice versa - no-one gives a damn. As you can see from the above shot, there is plenty of space to stretch out a towel if you are not into sun lounges.

The previous beach started about 5 minutes walk west of Agia Anna central. This stretch of beach was right in town - pleasant enough if you don't want to walk. The road is paved here so no dust problem.

And this is the section of beach just to the north of Agia Anna central - lots of holiday accommodation in this area. This section of beach seemed best protected on the blowy meltemi day.

btw - lots of other beaches on the island but having having found and enjoyed these on my 2005 visit I had no real want to seek anywhere else.

NAXOS TOWN

This place loses nothing to most Greek island capitals. There is a real nice stretch of bay-front restaurants and bars behind the marina you can see slightly left of central. The town spreads up moderate hills behind - if you are seeking the narrow alleys and white buildings of the old-time island choras this section has no shortage. You may be able to see a bigger white structure just right and a bit lower than mid shot - I'm not sure if this is town hall, but in that area is a nice central square with lots more restaurants and bars. The surviving gates of the Temple of Apollo are on that tied islet at left (oblique image - Google Earth)

There's quite a few ruins on Naxos but the most accessible are the gates of the Temple of Apollo 300m from the ferry pier in Naxos town. The temple was started by some ancient Naxos tyrant but never finished - I think some later invading dudes smashed everything standing but this.

MOUNTAIN TOURING
On my last full day on Naxos I decided to check the mountains out. Sofia told me that the best destination was just past the mountain village of Filoti  - and the bus station ticket office (look 100m inland-left from where the buses park at the ferry pier) had some maps showing a number of treks in that area. So I jumped on a bus - but a misunderstanding saw me overshoot my stop and the ride was such a hoot over the narrow twisting Tour de France mountain stage type route that I stayed on right to the end - Apollon which is about 55km from Naxos town.

Better than watching the Monaco Grand Prix. Here the bus is nose-in to that building, part way thru a back-and-file shuffle negotiating a super-tight village corner BEFORE that left hander in shot. Those bus guys are great drivers.

Apollon is a nice little fishing/tourist town in the north-east corner of the island, 54 km from Naxos town. Plenty of accommodation and restaurants, and a nice town beach sheltered from the meltemi which was reasonably strong that day. When the bus got in I adjourned to a bay-side restaurant for a coffee and consulted the bus timetable: Sunday: meaning curtailed services with no return bus for 4 hours. So I began trudging up the steep twisty mountain road for some exercise/sightseeing - I figured the bus had to come by wherever I got to.

This is one scenic walk. That's part of Apollon's little bay background-center. btw we are only half way up the slope here. Nice shot to click-expand.

Stereotypical picture-postcard mountain villages clinging to the steep hill sides. That's Koronas in the foreground, Skado behind. My aim was to get to Apeirantho towards the top of the range on account this was where the most people got off the bus on the way in.

Apeirantho(s) is a sweet fairly large village 32km from Naxos town, 650m high. Lots of whitewashed buildings and marble lane ways. There seemed to be a hell of a lot of small museums - "Museum of Village Tapestry" etc - so if that's your thing, this is the place. 

No shortage of neat little lane-way restaurants either. I made it up here from Apollon in 3 hours including 2 short car lifts from a sight-seeing Dutch couple. The trek was pretty hot so when this restaurant's host told me she had some elcheapo chilled rose made by her grandad in 500ml tankards I went for it. The passing parade was interesting.

Oblique angle Google Earth image of part of the route looking from the north-east. Note you can do a circular route Naxos town-Apollon-Naxos town using the east coast road. The Dutch couple said it was scenic. There are weekday buses from Naxos town to Apollon via the coast - I don't know how well they co-ordinate with the mountain buses time-wise. Apeirantho is towards the top of the eastern side of the mountain range - Filoti is on the western side a fair bit down from where the road  peaks.

On return I decided to forego my usual meal bayfront at Naxos town for dinner at the taverna across from Agia Anna's small pier. The food was tasty and inexpensive. The view wasn't shabby either....

.....and didn't get worse as time passed.


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PAROS

I didn't intend to revisit Paros. But my memories of it and close neighbour Antiparos are positive so when my route from Naxos back to Syros then Kos then Turkey entailed a ferry via Paros, I decided to bail out and spend a few days there.

When I arrived from neighbouring Naxos on that big ferry just leaving the quay the usual dozen or so people were waving their accommodation cards. Once again I picked the person on the far left: he had a hotel with pool opposite the  first section of Livadia beach 700m south of the quay for 25 euros. Sounded good to me. While we were talking the smaller ferry at left arrived - I suggested he try to get another customer while I had a coffee from the footpath place where this shot was taken. I used to sit here in 2005 to watch the ferry activity and passers by. 
A short distance to the right is a kind of windmill in the middle of the square with a good tourist information office. Plenty of accommodation booking/ferry ticket/forex agents in this area. The bus station is a section of the quay about 100m left. The bay-side road which continues to the left has a big range of shops, restaurants and bars - not only good for a feed but a great people-watching place in the evenings when visitors and locals come out to stroll. Walk inland this section and you are very quickly in one of those areas of the original village -  the narrow twisting lanes which make these towns so attractive - more restaurants/bars and shops here. The bayside road to the right has the busy marina in its first section and a bunch of hotels, more restaurants/bars and shops on the other side. The main street angles off just behind camera - the first part is a big civic square with lots of green and some good restaurants at the side. 

Parikia - some of the places mentioned in the previous caption. Note the bay top left continues for some distance with a big western headland - Parikia has a nicely protected harbour in most conditons. The small beaches on the northern side of those bays are nicely sheltered from the strong meltemi winds (modified Google Earth image).

Hotel Argo - 60's style place in pretty good condition. Friendly efficient hosts. Busy road between Argo and beach but I had a comfy, quiet and cool room at the left side (didn't get the afternoon sun). Road immediately right has a couple of small supermarkets and some good value bay-view restaurants. Beach pretty nice for a town beach, sand fairly clean and not too coarse, water okay with sandy bottom. Sun lounges are comp for guests, nice places to spend time with a beer or three from the supermarkets near sunset.

Paros is a reasonably big island with a host of bays and beaches - so many places to stay. Much of the mid-section if not mountainous is best described as seriously hilly. Antiparos is similar and only a few minutes ferry trip from the bigger island.


NAOUSA (say Nowsa)

Parikia is a good place to be located and there are a heap of other nice places around this fairly big island. But the guidebooks and travel websites all reckon Naousa in Paros' north is the pick. This is still a working fishing town but tourism is more important with a lots of accommodation in every price range. Naturally the town abounds with all that is attractive - the narrow winding alleys with dozens of restaurants/cafes/bars and the trendy shops. A picturesque harbour.
There is a frequent bus service to/from Parikia which makes a day visit here easy - be careful because the route thru town is circular with the departure waiting spot some distance from where you are dropped just behind the harbour. Don't ask me how I know this.

The surrounding area is likewise attractive. The area around Monastiri beach top left is a national park with rugged rocks and headlands. I visited the beach in 2005 - it is in a very sheltered cove (head here if the strong northerly meltemi is blowing) and has a trendy sort of beach bar/club which seemed to attract the island's in-set - lots of yachts and other leisure craft moored off the beach. The bay area back around to Naousa has several small sheltered sections of sand. Lageri Beach top right is clothing optional in its southern section. A water taxi service from town takes you to Monastiri and Lageri relatively cheaply - it wasn't running my latest trip (taken same time of year shoulder season mid September) maybe reflecting the economic difficulties. It took me just under an hour to walk from town to Lageri. 
Santamaria Beach is at the northern end of the east coast - you can walk from Lageri in about 10 minutes. Santamaria catches winds nicely and is the focus of the islands's wind-surfing/kite-surfing activity, which is pretty big in the Cyclades. In 2005 I caught a bus to Molos half way down the east coast and walked to Santamaria. Lots of nice little bays and beaches with cute villages and a huge array of tourist accommodation along here. This was in the day when I travelled super-lite without camera so I don't have any shots to show.

As said before, I'm not real keen about waving a camera around nudists' beaches - so I pinched this great Lageri shot off Captain Barefoot's great guide to Greek naturist beaches. The beach is narrow but clean, the sand not too coarse and as you can see, the water super clear. It doesn't shelve too quickly so is not a bad beach for people with kids. Quite a few "textiles" sharing this section when I visited and there is a dedicated textile area with sun beds maybe 400m to the left where the taxi boats from Naousa normally come in.


ANTIPAROS

Antiparos is a destination in itself and quite a few people make it their exclusive Greek island holiday destination. It's such an easy visit from Paros that a daytrip here is a natural.

There are a couple of daily ferries from Parikia, but for convenient access you can't beat the small half-hourly vehicle ferries from Pounta to the south (don't confuse with Pounda further south). The ferries take about 10 minutes to cross and the frequent bus service Parikia/Pounta  20 minutes - both inexpensive. Most buses seemed timed to the ferries.
Here we are cruising into Antiparos town - a sweet little place that has everything you look for in a Greek island village.

The island has a lot of historical sites plus (according to the websites) some pretty good beaches down south - all of which is ideal for dudes with EU or International Drivers' Licences who bring their cars and motorcycles across. I walk so both visits I've stayed close to Antiparos town. The nicest beach in that area is Theologians (various other names) in the north maybe 15 minutes walk via Antiparos Camping (follow the signs).

Once again I've pinched this from Captain Barefoot. The pic is a bit misleading - this is from the narrow western end of the beach - in background it widens to a nice triangular area technical beach nerds would call a cuspate foreland - sand okay, real nice water (no currents, very clear and fairly shallow for some distance offshore: ideal for people with kids.  You can wade across to nearby Diplo island if the tide is down). This is an official nudist beach but once again "textiles" use it and no-one gives a damn. I noticed some local guys brought a rake, shovel and bin across during my latest visit and spent some time cleaning the beach. Nice.
There are 3 beaches easily walked to from town on its southern side - these are nothing to write home to mum about sand-wise but have the sun-lounges yada. The first has a beach club with pool at the northern end with cool dudes hanging around. I felt quite out of place. Not so the completely naked obviously local babe standing on the sand out front talking to a clothed bloke when I passed by in 2005. Those completely naked local babes.


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KOS

I used Kos as a departure point back to Turkey - its closeness is a plus as is the intense competition between day-boats to Turkey making the one-way fare 10 euros, considerably cheaper than alternatives Samos and Rhodes. To cap this, Kos is a very nice destination.

Paradise beach in the south west of Kos - a nice shot to click-expand.

Kos is a fairly big island with a permanent population of around 30000 which swells in summer - it is a popular tourist destination, particularly with Scandinavian packagers. I've only put in the places mentioned in the text down page.  The airport was surprisingly busy for shoulder season - buses to Kardamena and Kamari on the south coast call by and the 4 times I visited saw a couple of hundred people waiting on the concourse outside, presumably for hotel shuttles. 
That's the western end of Turkey's Datca peninsula bottom right, the nearest part only 15km from Kos. But the narrowest gap is to the south-west corner of the Bodrum peninsula directly north of Lambi at top - 5km. Bodrum town itself is about 17km by sea. 
The island just north of Tigaki is Greece's Pserimos, small, pretty barren and sparsely settled (population less than 150) but a fairly popular call in for day boats. The island tip you can see top left is Kalymos, about half the size of Kos and a holiday destination in itself with good beaches, rock climbing, some rugged scenic country and a very attractive main town. Day trip boats from Kos' Mastichari are popular. Just out of frame bottom center is the small volcanic island of  Nisyros - a popular day visit out of Kardamena.

Nisyros is a classic cone-caldera. The volcano has been dormant for some time. The island has 3 small villages and a bit of holiday accommodation.

This oblique Google Earth image from the NNE shows the impressive mountain range which dominates central and southern parts of eastern Kos. Further west is mainly a low plateau although it gets hilly towards the island's western end. 
Despite the mountains in image it is very flat in the near coastal section from Agios Fokus far left past Kos town and Lambi to Tigaki far right and beyond. I have never seen so many locals and tourists riding bicycles in the Greek islands. On my last day I rode Kos town/Embros/Tigaki/Marmari/Kos town maybe 60km, and passed literally thousands of cyclists. There are dedicated cycling lanes in/near town and the coastal plain between Lambi and Tigaki has some quiet roads away from the (hillier) main road further inland. From Agios Fokus to Embros the road climbs some pretty decent slopes, only for the fit. There is a super steep track down the mountainside to the sea-side themal pool here - only skilled mountain bikers and fools like me will attempt to ride this stretch..
The near coast in the image is very touristy. There is an intense section of package accommodation behind the beach from Kos town to Lambi. The beach continues backed by intermittent resorts to busy Tigaki far right (check the salt lake just past Tigaki). It is similar but a bit busier in the section from Kos town to Agios Fokus far left

The thermal pool at Embros. This is connected with the seismic activity in the general Nisyros region. I didn't go in on account I was already hot and sweaty from my ride here. I was real pleased with myself - I managed to ride down the super steep/rough access road without my usual trick of locking the brakes, sliding into a rut and going head over turkey. Great entertainment for watchers but not so enjoyable for the performer. And on the way up I fluked the right gear so I did't get wheelspin when off the seat or front wheel lift when on. A technical mountain bike rider I'm not.

Part of the Kos town to Lambi package beach strip in background, photographed from the top deck of the daytrip boat waiting to clear emigration on the way to Turkey.

West of Lambi, the north coast is more or less a continuous strip of sand for the 20km to just past Mastirchari, but it gets widest here in the Tigaki area. Not bad sand (a fair bit of fine weed at the water's edge), the usual lovely clear water which here shelves fairly gently with no rocks underfoot. In the background is a very big section of sun-lounges closer to Tigaki town which is perhaps 800m from the camera. Behind the sun lounges are some nice beachside tavernas - they do the quick delivery of drinks and food to the sun lounges. 
Immediately behind camera is the entrance to a salt water lagoon . A pipeline had been rigged up to help the tide drain/refresh the lagoon - seemed to be working surprisingly well. On the other side of the pipeline was the clothing optional section - now I'm pretty relaxed and I don't want to sound elitist, but I gotta say it seems Kos is the only chance in the year for a lot of Scando senior citizens to do their nude thing . And they aint in real good shape.

Tigaki town itself is a busy place with a heap of shops, restaurants, bars and accommodation. The bus service here from Kos town is quite frequent but make sure you get the incoming driver to show you where the outgoing bus picks up - not the same place as where you are dropped.
Marmari and Mastichari further west are similar to Tigaki athough Mastichari has a nice little harbour.

SOUTH COAST BEACHES

This is the beach area just west of Kardamena. I wasn't whelmed - the sand was not particularly clean (the hills just across the road are semi-arid meaning a lot of dust gets blown when the strong northerly meltemi winds kick in - here things seemed worse with evidence of a recent scrub fire across there) - and the entrance to the water  was rocky. About 600m behind camera is the clothing optional section which Captain Barefoot calls Natural or Tropical Beach. It looks much the same as the above with maybe more rocks waterside - the taverna people there have put a string of sandbags into the water to make it easier to enter (I found a sandy bottom once I swam out 25m) - the Cap'n enthuses, saying it is one of the nicest naturist beaches around. I don't think so - I reckon he has been carried away by the hospitality of the nice Brit lady who runs the taverna.

Kardamena town is the typical small tourist town with the usual things people are looking for in a 
Greek island coastal village. It's another place where the bus pick-up is different from the drop-off point. There is a heap of package-type resorts along the coastal road behind shot west of town.

This is the best section of beach on Kos IMHO - Magic/Exotic Beach in the south west. Start looking for the Magic Beach sign once the road gets near the coast on the way to Kefalos/Kamari from the airport. The bus driver knows where to drop you off. Follow the steepish road downhill and turn left at Magic Restaurant which has a neat position on the dunes just above the beach and would be a nice place to spend time (NOT those white building up top in shot). The sand here was pretty clean despite the semi-arid hills behind (but a few thorns!) and is fairly fine grained. The water was gorgeous - warm, clear, no rocks and shelving not too quickly
If you click-expand you will better see the sun lounges section - and the end of the long strip of sand at Paradise Beach against the far headland. There were several other sun lounge sections before Paradise. Behind camera begins the clothing optional section which runs equally as far up to the start of the higher ground the airport is on. Polemi beach is part of this section.

Paradise Beach foreground, Magic/Exotic middle ground (you can see that high white building) and Polemi further away. I thought Paradise pretty sweet but a step down from Magic/Exotic - a few stones in the water in places plus all those sun lounges. 100% textile when I passed by despite what the Cap'n suggests.

Turn 180 degrees from the previous shot for this pic of Camel Beach. If you want somewhere off the beaten track this could be the place - that far section was particularly uncrowded and appealing once I trudged down there. Ony problem - I had to trudge back up to ....

.... get this shot of Agios Stefanos (foreground) and Kamari (background). Lots of resorts and tavernas backing these beaches. I wan't real impressed with beach quality - the water was the usual good thing but the sand while not too bad at Stefanos, got progressively more coarse-grained and grey. Towards the far end it becomes pebbles/shingle. No shortage of sun lounges along here. The picturesque hill town of Kefalos is up the slope right background, but I was a bit tired of trekking slopes and gave it a miss ....

---- instead retiring to the upstairs deck of Santa Barbara Restaurant with a bottle of their elcheapo local red - just the thing for whittling away time until the next bus.

Watching the passing parade at Santa Barbara was interesting - here's something a bit different: poochie having a ball; mistress in cool over-achieving sun hat.

This contraption passed by later when I was waiting at the bus stop. It's the tourist "train" which does a circular route past points of interest. I noticed others at Kardamena and in Kos town. The latter would probably pass most points of interest. Bit cheesy for me

KOS TOWN
At first I wasn't all that impressed with Kos town - but a 4.30am arrival off the ferry from Syros doesn't show the joint at its best. Which is maybe after sunset when all the restaurnants, cafes and bars lining the concourse at the old harbour and just inland at historic Eletherias Square get crowded with people. The narrow alleys between these places and leading further inland towards the bus station are packed with trendy shops which draw a crowd. I was surprised how busy the above areas were despite shoulder season and the economic woes. And Greeks outnumbered tourist, not that there was any shortage of the latter.

The scene at the old harbour. Those are day boats in background - some to Turkey, others to nearby Greek locations. Sorry about picture quality but you don't get a powerful flash, fast shutter and quality lens for $85.

 
The old harbour from the departing day boat to Turkey. That's the emigration/immigration office close at left. The day boats come across from their berths at the harbour-front concourse in background and wait for passengers to get their passports stamped. Bit of a circus - at least 6 dayboats, maybe 700 people and 2 officials - but maybe this is a reflection on austerity spending cuts.
The wall behind the e/i office is part of the old crusader castle which extends way back as far as level with the harbour front concourse. There is a heap of historical sites in Kos town - walk around and you are constantly passing ancient places in ruins, under restoration or refurbished. I'll leave you antiquity enthusiasts to Google search.


Modified Google Earth image to show places mentioned. Hotel Paritsa was a pretty nice joint - less than 5 minutes from the old harbour and 15 from the bus station, e25 for a quiet, comfy aircon room with a very adequate Greek buffet breakfast. The bus station is a busy place with a pretty good service around the island - google for the timetable. This is one island where you don't buy tickets at the bus office (or away from town, a nearby shop) - a conductor usually jumps on mid-trip. This is the only place I found the bus drivers a bit impatient - maybe it's to do with Kos town and other places on the island having traffic lights, a Greek island first for me (although maybe Santorini and Syros have a few - can't remember).
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XXXX - If you have any questions, please ask them in THE FORUM rather than below. I don't get a chance to check all threads daily, but unless I'm travelling I'll try to monitor THE FORUM regularly.

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