This blog aims to give a personal and totally biased view of the Greek islands I have visited. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to the islands. Two aspects of Greek islands that I love are seeing goats wandering around and the dawn chorus of cockerels crowing. Accordingly, each island I have stayed on will have a Cockerel Count and Goatiness rating.
Unless otherwise stated, all images are my copyright and may not be reproduced or copied. Should you wish to purchase a license for commercial use of my images please follow the link to my stock photography blog where you will find details of my agents. Comments are welcomed but reviewed before publication. Enjoy your visit. Regards, David.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Paxos (Ionian) - Walk to Arkoudaki beach:

The rocky beach at Arkoudaki
This is a lovely round walk from Lakka taking in one of my favourite spots during my stay in June 2014 -the rocky beach at Arkoudaki. Allow circa 45minutes for the complete walk without any stops. You will, of course, want to stop -for water, photographs or just to sit on the rocks and watch the boats passing.
Starting from the "upper" road in Lakka (the one on the left, looking inland) head to the harbour end of the road where, on your right, you will find the Sweet Gallery shop. Just past this is a steep road heading upwards, again on your right.  Enjoy the views over the harbour as you quickly climb above Lakka.

When you reach the top, turn right onto the larger road and follow this round a left hand bend then straight ahead. Shortly after you pass a turning on the right you will see a wooden sign for the beach pointing into woodland on the left. If you end up in someones front drive you have gone too far and need to backtrack a few yards. Even if the sign has gone you should still spot the path going into the woodland.
Scramble over the rocks to stay dry
This well trodden footpath then descends down through the pretty woodland roughly following a dried up ravine on your left. The footpath stops some feet above sealevel and you are left with a bit of a steep scramble to drop down to the beach. Just watch your footing carefully on this bit. Once there you can either turn right for the rocky beach or to continue the walk turn left onto the impressive slabs of rock. These are fairly flat and make a good place to sit or sunbathe. Looking straight ahead you will see the Greek mainland with the mountains of Albania behind. Looking slightly to your right you will see Corfu. And looking in any direction you will see plenty of small boats heading to or from Lakka harbour.

Boats heading into Lakka harbour
Continue walking along the rocks towards the headland of the harbour -there's a bit of rock scrambling involved (especially if you want to avoid the inlets of seawater towards the end). When you reach as far as you can go, just before the headlands, you will see a steep "path" heading up the cliffs. This brings you onto a proper footpath at the top which will lead you along the clifftops around the harbour and back into Lakka. This last stage of the walk gives good views and photo opportunities looking down onto all the boats moored in the harbour. You can, of course, reverse this walk but I think this way round works better. Now, time for a Mythos.
Regards, David.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Paxos 2014 (Ionian):

Small boats at Lakka
And so back to the lovely Ionian island of Paxos in June 2014. Paxos was only the second Greek island I had ever visited back in 2003 and I had always had fond memories of my stay there.

Things got off to an inauspicious start when I realised the train guard had inadvertly sold me a day return ticket -not one valid for two weeks. Not a good start but soon sorted out. Failing to get into my room at the Gatwick Hilton I was informed that the room wasn't ready yet and I had to haul my luggage back down to reception to get a new room allocated. It was just as well I was already in Greek Island mode and didn't let any of this bother me. Things happen, or in the case of my flight to Corfu didn't. At around three hours I'll admit it is not the longest of flights to Greece but nowhere had it said anything about no meal being served on the plane. I'd only had a snack at Gatwick assuming there would be lunch coming in flight.

Gaios harbour
Oh well, at least I would soon be stepping out into the glorious heat and sunshine of the Mediterranean (albeit hungry). That didn't go quite to plan either as on our final appoach to Corfu heavy rain started lashing over the aircraft. Luckily I had got a window seat this time so was able to see what happened next as just before touchdown the plane started lurching violently as we hit crosswinds over the runway (windsheer to use the jargon) before the pilot aborted the landing and we rapidly powered back into the skies. Some further thirty minutes of circling round Corfu followed before we finally made a perfect landing. I wasn't the only passenger carefully double checking my seat belt as we made the second approach! Far from stepping out into a wave of heat we stepped out into cloudy skies and large puddles of water on the Corfu tarmac.

Still, shortly aboard the fast Kamelia Lines boat for the 90 minute or so crossing to Paxos, I was able to sit outside in the bow area and enjoy the view ahead -which mainly consisted of dark black cloud. Eventually the captain blew the horn and indicated we should all come inside as we approached the storm. Being inside wasn't as bad as I expected as we got to watch the crew in action not least the impossibly glamourous young woman expertly steering our boat through the, by now, rolling seas. When lightning bolts started hitting the sea around the boat with a loud crack it just added to the fun (possibly not for those letting out screams each time).

Finally, after an eventful journey (apart from the non event that was lunch) I was able to open the shutters of my appartment in Lakka and step out onto my balcony knowing I was, at last, back on a small Greek island. Now all I needed was the Retsina (and food). Luckily the Bastas appartments/hotel (call it what you will -they do) are just a few yards walk from the harbour and its collection of tavernas, bars and several mini-markets so the Retsina and food dilema was quickly resolved. It turned out that the Bastas was right next to the appartments I had stayed in back in 2003 which gave me a glow of nostalgia every time I passed them.

I am pleased to say that nothing much in Lakka or the rest of Paxos seemed to have changed much in the eleven years I had been away. The island is densely packed with pine and olive trees and quite a contrast to the barren look of some islands. This makes Paxos ideal for walking as there is plenty of shade available when you want it. And I certainly did plenty of walking, accompanied by my camera of course.

Local bus in Loggos
One of my favourite regular walks was the road walk to Loggos which took me around 35 minutes each way. Take either of the two roads that lead inland from Lakka to the point where they both meet up. Loggos is down the road to the left here (it's clearly signposted). This is quite a steep road curving its way down to sea level and the pretty village/harbour at Loggos where you will find a number of tavernas and shops. Of interest in Loggos is the old stone factory building to the left of the harbour -complete with a very tall chimney. Now semi derelict, this very photogenic building used to be an olive soap factory. For a great view down onto Loggos follow the road that goes up and behind the factory. Ignore the turning to the left but carry on foward to what now becomes a narrow footpath leading to an old WW2 defence post. Just before the pill box there is a path to the right which takes you out to the headland of the harbour giving you a panoramic view down onto the village. This walk was also notable for goat sightings (just on the outskirts of Lakka) and, on one occasion, a pair of snakes (just outside Loggos). The only time I have ever seen live snakes on a Greek island.

Lakka harbour, Paxos

As well as the walks (I'll post more walk details later) do take a trip on the island bus which runs from Lakka to the capital of Gaios several times a day. For 5euros return this made for a fun outing and, as previously posted, you may get the spectacle of diners at Loggos having to vacate their seats as the bus negotiates the narrow harbour front road. When in Gaios turn left along the harbour front for a walk right up to the "new harbour" (where you will have arrived on the island). Just before reaching that look out for the, now closed Pegasus seaplane dock where you used to be able fly to and from Corfu. I would have liked to have tried that! As I said before, Gaios is much bigger and busier than Lakka and Loggos and whilst good for a day visit I was glad to be staying in lovely little Lakka.

The main beach at Lakka is Harami beach which you reach via a stone path at the left hand side of the harbour. This boasts an excellent taverna where I enjoyed a number of lunches of Saganaki and a cooling Mythos beer -with a great sea view. Another favourite lunch venue was the Albatross snack bar (better than it sounds) right where the path to Harami starts.

Paxos was everything I remembered from eleven years ago and more. Peaceful and friendly with lots of lovely walks to be had. The bad weather I encountered on arrival very soon passed and apart from the odd light shower (and a reported tornado -more likely a water funnel!) I enjoyed two weeks of glorious Greek sunshine.

Ilida II hydrofoil, Corfu harbour
My journey back to Corfu was this time on the fast hydrofoil Ilida II. Apart from the atrium like roofless centre of the craft you can also enjoy the fresh air and view from an open area at the stern -which was certainly where I spent my hour long journey. This was also good for getting photographs as we came into Kerkira harbour in Corfu.

Goatiness rating for Paxos still remains low as I only really saw the few outside Lakka -there's just too many trees to fit in the goats I suspect. Cockerel Count on this visit dropped from High to Medium (quite possibly because my rear facing appartment didn't really let me hear the dawn crowing as much as last time). I would have to place Paxos in my top four favourite Greek islands now and is certainly one I would seriously consider making a third trip to one day. Regards, David.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

My Dreamstime blog on small Greek islands:

For anyone that hasn't realised, as well as writing about and photographing small Greek islands I also sell my images for commercial use through a variety of agents. One of these, Dreamstime, offers photographers a blog feature to promote their work.
Chapel near Emborio, Halki island
So, having just returned from two great weeks on the lovely island of Paxos (a new post on Paxos will follow here soon) what better to blog about on Dreamstime than the beautiful small islands of Greece. It's only a short generic piece  and features a selection of my images from Halki, Symi, Alonissos, Meganissi, Skopelos and Nisyros.
Feel free to take a look via this link: My Dreamstime blog on small Greek islands
You can also check out my full portfolio there for lots more Greek island images. Regards, David.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Lazy Days on Symi (Dodecanese):

Fading beauty of Lazy Days on Symi
When I wrote my full post about Symi last year (Symi island ) I briefly mentioned the lovely old excursion boat Lazy Days which has been crumbling away in the Harani boat yard at Yialos for years. I've just recently edited the images and have been uploading them to my various photo agencies - giving me an excuse to publish them here.
Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I found this boat utterly charming and wondered about its history, where it had been and who had been on it. Most importantly, why had it ended up here in Yialos. Some of the answers were on the boat itself with peeling signs advertising Moonlight Cruises and excursions to Lindos (on Rhodes island).

For more information I turned to the excellent and informative . This is a site I had looked at a lot before my trip to Symi in 2011. There's a host of information about the island on the site and even a webcam looking towards the harbour which you can look at (note: these are updated stills, not a live video feed!). Even better the site has a chat page (just click on the link there)
which is a forum all about Symi -with active contributions from both permanent residents of the island and visitors new and old. Pretty much anything you want to know about Symi is there and if not just ask. Someone on the forum is sure to have an answer for you.
Lazy Days excursion boat on Symi
Before I went most of my questions were about ferry schedules and what was likely to be operating (2011 saw a lot of industrial action in Greece and, indeed, I was delayed by an Air Traffic Controllers strike on my return journey). In the end, my flight arrived too late for the last ferry anyway and I had to stay on Rhodes until the next morning. As I said in my previous post, this was the only time ever I had failed to reach my destination island on the same day.

Where to find Lazy Days in Yialos (click to enlarge)
Obviously, on my return, who better to ask about Lazy Days. The forum came up trumps with all sorts of memories of actually travelling on it, old photographs, and an approximate date of circa 1995 for when it had arrived at the boat yard. The concensus seemed to be that there was some kind of dispute between various owners of the boat and that as a result Lazy Days had just been effectivly abandoned there for all those years.
Interestingly, views about Lazy Days ranged from how charming it was through to it was getting to be an eyesore. We do all, indeed, see things in a different way.
The big question that had to be answered before writing this post was Is Lazy Days Still There? Needless to say, the forum provided the answer when two regular visitors posted this month about walking past Lazy Days. It seems it has substained more damage from storms last Winter but, yes, it is still there.
So, if you are heading for Symi, take a walk past the clocktower on the left of the harbour and a few minutes later there she is. I hope you appreciate her as much as I did. Do you have any memories of Lazy Days? Feel free to comment below. Regards, David.

Edited to Add (October 2014): Sadly, the Symi Visitor Facebook page recently posted that Lazy Days is no more. Not clear if it is being broken up -or just collapsed through natural causes. We'll always have the photographs though.....

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Tilos (Dodecanese):

Tilos Sea Star in Symi, 2011
I spent two weeks on little Tilos in August 2006. Situated between Rhodes and Kos, Tilos is some 14.5km long with a population of well under a thousand (actual reported figures vary). Staying at the harbour town of Livadia I was well placed to watch the comings and goings of various shipping -not least the islands very own fast catamaran ferry boat the Tilos Sea Star on which I had made the transfer from Rhodes. Built in 1989 in Norway it started service on Tilos in 2000. There's more about the Sea Star in my post about Symi where I saw it again in 2011 (pictured).

One of the big things about Tilos was that it was the first Greek island to ban hunting and shooting (circa 1987) and is subsequently a haven for wildlife -birds in particular. With over 100 reported bird species it has been designated an Important Bird Area, not to mention an EU registered Special Protection Area, so if bird watching is your interest Tilos may well be worth considering for a holiday.

Approaching Livadia
I don't know a lot about birds (other than the Herring Gulls on my window ledge) but I do know an elephant when I see it and Tilos has one of those. This was actually a prehistoric pigmy elephant whose bones were discovered in the Kharkhadio caves. You can visit these caves but, in 2006 at least, you couldn't actually go in them. What you can do is go to the island museum at Megalo Chorio (the Capital of Tilos) and see the assembled bones there. Megalo Chorio is a pretty village with a few tavernas and shops at the further end of the island from Livadia. There's an island bus you can catch to there. When I went I decided to walk back to Livadia which, though quite a long walk, was well worth it. Probaly also a good chance to look for all those birds if you know your stuff.

Ferry arrival, Livadia
Another outing (coach trip this time) was to the old monastery of Ayios Pandeleimon. You can have a good walk around here and look inside the monks cells. There is also a fresh water spring here which you can drink from or fill your bottle with. Inevitably, the water is said to have no end of health giving properties and I would probaly be able vouch for that if I hadn't just stuck to the Retsina provided for lunch on the trip!

Ayios Pandeleimon monastery
A highlight for me was a walk to the old abandoned village of Mikro Chorio which lies inland of Livadia (30 minutes at most). Here you can walk along narrow alleyways of derelict stone houses. You probaly won't see any/many other people while here but expect to encounter numerous goats and sheep also wandering round the same narrow alleyways. The predictable result was that myself and livestock managed to startle each other at every turn. Just be ready to step smartly out of the path of fast moving animals. Rather incongrously the only non derelict building here was a music bar/club that opened at night. I assume only in the peak season.  Whether this was also frequented by the goats and sheep I didn't get the chance to find out.

Whilst in Tilos, consider the opportunity to take a day trip to the island of Nisyros and the volcano there (see my earlier post). Certainly in 2011 Dodekanisos Seaways were running a scheduled service taking in Tilos and Nisyros (just under an hour long trip). As I previously wrote, it is a great experience.

Cockerel Count on Tilos ranks as Medium but the Goatiness rating gets a High (mainly thanks to my Mikro Chorio visit).

As ever, note the date of my visit as things can change. Feel free to comment by clicking on the comments box below. Regards, David.