Winning tip: The Sporades
We are just back from two weeks “island hopping” in the Sporades. With flights being so expensive, we bought a two-week package of flight, transfer and accommodation to Skiathos for little more than the cost of a flight, but absconded from the package-tour accommodation and backpacked for part of the two weeks to Alonissos and Skopoeloscorrect. Alonissos is an unspoilt island: one road, one bus, three taxis!!. Village rRooms on Alonissos and Skopelos were easy to find. , and wWe stayed at Maria’s House on Alonissos in a quiet side road, 50m from the port in the only town, Patitiri for €30 a night in a spotless en suite. Breakfast every morning was under the lemon trees. There is superb walking and swimming on Alonissos, but get hold of a copy of Alonissos Through the Souls of Your Feet by Chris Browne, available at travelleur.com. Although there’s only one main road, car hire costs €25 a day from Albedo Travel which also organise sea kayak trips
South of the Pelion
The south of the Pelion region on the eastern mainland has everything to offer at all seasons. Walk ancient stone paths under plane and olive trees with glorious views of the Pagasitikos gulf or the Aegean; swim at deserted pebbled coves with fine sandy beaches; choose from reasonably priced places to stay; and enjoy food in fish restaurants and small tavernas that offer regional cuisine, or more international eateries such as Casablanca in Horton. There are hill-top villages with quiet, shaded cobbled squares, little fishing harbours, historical sites, tiny frescoed churches, or the market in Argalasti, with local produce including home-brewed local spirit tsipouro. You can also take a trip to the nearby island of Skiathos on the Africana from Platania for a day or two of partyingcorrect. You will certainly be glad to return to the peace and beauty of South Pelion. At Camping Louisa (camplouisa.gr), pitches start at €4 a night; Des Roses hotel (peliondesroses.gr) and Kima hotel have rooms from €30correct and accommodation includes Katerina (papanero.com) in Pelion and Valtoudi in Milina.
Just 6km north of the beautiful, sleepy fishing harbour of Gytheio on the Mani peninsula is a stunning shipwreck standing defiantly on a perfect beach. With the help of a rental car, off-peak season camping is really easy on this and the many other remote, tranquil beaches of the Peloponnese, with prices from about €6 per pitch, per night. For the less outdoorsy, there are also plenty of hotels, tavernas and cafes in Gytheio.
Milos is a lovely, lesser-known island close to Santorini, but I think the people are friendlier and the island more romantic (if that’s possible.) Go late September or early October for empty beaches, weather that’s still hot and accommodation and tours half the price of the August peak. Try venere.com for cheap boltholes (from ¤25 per night). Rent a car and explore all the beaches – Sarakiniko looks surreal, like the surface of the moon, and Tsigrado is another stunner – isolated and well worth the death-defying cliff descent. Take a day trip by boat to see Kleftiko, where pirates used to hide out. Tours in October are about €35, available along the main pier. Milos is easily accessible by ferry from Piraeus.
Cheaper flights to Corfu now make organising your own bespoke holiday easy on an island thatThere are cheap flights to Corfu, which still has miles of unspoilt coastline. Just 15 miles south of the airport is the village of Messonghi. A picture hanging in a taverna shows a large group of the villagers socialising on the beach, and is titled “1974 BT – before tourism”. Eating in tavernas is part of what make this type of holiday special. Great affordable food and an authentic experience. With rooms and apartments from £300 a week (seaside-apartments.net), it’s a great way to enjoy the Greek experience on a budget. There is a small coast road that follows the contours of the many bays going south towards Boukari, Petriti and Notos. It’s only 10 miles long and, with hardly any traffic, it is a beautiful walk or bike ride. Bikes can be hired for just are €5 a day in Messonghi. With a taverna roughly every mile, you can stop to refresh yourself and sample the delicious seafood then wallow in the clear warm waters. Spiros Taverna in Boukari is renowned for its fish. Petriti has a small fishing fleet and is a stop-over for flotilla holidaymakers. Stamatis Taverna, on the beach at Petriti, is straight out of Zorba the Greek.Ask for the local wine, it’s wonderful. If you want to sample the real Greece and not just sit around a pool, then this could be the holiday for you.
Sougia is a small harbour in the far south-west of Crete, about two hours’ drive from Chania. A quiet and relaxing spot facing the Libyan Sea, Sougia has long been a “hippy resort” and still attracts long-term holidaymakers who camp for free on the beach. However, it is also the centre for walking holidays in the White Mountains and has excellent restaurants and tavernas that offer the best of Cretan food. For non-drivers, there are two buses most days, or from Paleochora there is a ferry link that goes along the south coast to Chora Sfakion.
Little-known Lentas is a small harbour about two hours’ drive south of Heraklion. It’s a quiet and peaceful place, with plenty of good-quality accommodation and some fantastic restaurants. Lentas Sweet Home rents rooms from €30 a night. Lentas sits in its own microclimate at the foot of a mountain, with only one road in and out, but there’s a long beach to the west, and several beautiful bays to the east accessed by a precipitous road from Lenas. It’s not easy to find the road over the mountain, but local people will guide you.