All posts filed under: Travel

20 Beaches of Greece

Let me help narrow the field of amazing Greek beaches to relish. With a coastline of 8,498 miles, Greece challenges tourists and locals alike. In a good way! For every new beach found, another discovery awaits. Whether your mood is mellow or high energy, whether you prefer to lie on pebbles or sink your toes in the sand—you’ll find your perfect beach experience on either the mainland or one of the numerous islands. I’m happy to provide a short list of can’t-miss beaches that my dear Instagram followers assure me are THE BEST. Because I have not combed every single Greek beach, you’ll have to take their enthusiastic words for it. On Instagram, I simply posted a picture with the instructions to leave a comment with a name of their favorite beach in Greece with a short why. The endorsements below came from local Greeks in Greece, as well as Greeks living in America, Australia, South Africa, Trinidad and the UK. The results cover nearly every corner of Greece and range from beaches that cater …

5 Favorite Beaches in Crete

Greece’s largest island, Crete, provides hundreds of beautiful beaches that draws crowds in the summer months. Below are just five of my favorites, plus some extra suggestions for you to check out on your next visit to Crete. Do you have a favorite? Please comment and share 🙂 Falassarna Beach: I’ve taken some of my best photos on Falassarna, catching shots of the big waves and vibrant skies. My favorite beach in all of Crete, Falassarna stretches far along the coast and makes an especially nice spot for sunset lovers since the beach faces west. There’s no need for an Instagram filter or Photoshop, the natural beauty of Falassarna does all the work. Elafonisi: The early bird gets the worm, or better, a sunbed to lie on at the always-crowded Elafonisi beach. Don’t let the crowds deter you, though. Elafonisi is one of the most sought-out beaches in the world for good reason: the pretty pink sand contrasts brilliantly with the tranquil turquoise water. Talk about paradise! Do visit, but be diligent in picking up …

5 Things to do in Crete

Of the thousands of Greek islands, one holds a very special place in my heart—Crete. With sandy shores, rugged terrain, bustling nightlife, ancient treasures, and world-renowned gastronomy, Crete is a feast for the senses. Everyone agrees Greek hospitality rates a ten on a scale of ten. However, Cretan hospitality rates a 20. Cretans robustly share their traditions with friends and strangers over endless drinks and abundant food, providing an experience like nowhere else in the world. But that’s only half of it. My Greek roots span much of mainland Greece, but my Cretan roots are what I am most proud of. My yiayia and other Cretan women have taught me the most about cooking, and I’ve danced in Cretan groups my whole life. Whenever I step foot on Cretan soil, a feeling of pride and excitement rushes through me. Crete is the largest and most populated island in Greece, making it impossible to get the full feel of Crete in anything less than one week or just one trip. But let’s try. Let’s pack our …

Monasteries and Churches of Greece

With 97% of the country comprised of Greek Orthodox members, it’s no wonder there’s an abundance of historic monasteries and churches with generations of monks, nuns, and priests who have preserved the Greek language, culture, and religion. Greek Orthodox monasteries stretch across the countryside in some of the most beautiful locations imaginable—some balanced atop steep rocks with others burrowed in lush, green valleys and olive groves. Many of these monasteries were built centuries ago by hermits and monks in an effort to escape religious persecution. During Greece’s most troubling times, monasteries offered safety and comfort to the people of Greece. In addition to the monasteries, visitors will find countless Orthodox churches, packed with holy icons and whose architecture reflect particular regions of Greece and the period in which they were built. Some of the oldest date back to the Byzantine era (330-1453 A.D.). The architecture and the earthly tones of the churches on the Ionian Islands like Corfu, Lefkada, and Zakynthos were heavily influenced by the Venetians during the 15th century. Santorini, Tinos, Milos, and …

Monastery of St. John the Baptist, Megara

The first Greek Orthodox Monastery I ever visited was the Monastery of St. John the Baptist, above Megara, Greece. I was traveling through Greece with my family in the summer of 2003, just a 12-year-old with her mind preoccupied with thoughts of home and concerned about what I would wear for my first day of junior high school upon my return from Greece. When my family got to the Monastery of St. John, we were invited to stay overnight, a rare treat offered to very few people. That night is forever cemented in my memory, and sparked my interest in monasteries. It was at St. John’s where I learned to live in the present. During our stay, I learned the monastery was founded in 1960 by a nun who was first drawn to the site over two decades prior. This nun would spend her Sundays visiting and praying at local churches in the hills throughout the Megara region, walking great distances from her home and back each week. By the time my family visited, the monastery …

Agia Lavra and Mega Spileo Monastery

“EIPHNH”—Peace. “OXI PIA POLEMOI”—No more war.  I pause, frozen, for what seems like eternity whenever I stare at these words cast in huge white letters on a quiet hillside in the Northern Peloponnese region of Greece. At the top of the hill, a large cross overlooks the city below, and a date reads 13-12-43. All serve as messages of peace and symbols of the martyrdoms that took place there.   On December 13, 1943, Kalavryta experienced one of the worst atrocities of World War II. On that day, Nazi soldiers locked women and children in the town’s school and set it on fire. Soldiers took over 500 males from Kalavryta and surrounding villages to that quiet hillside. German soldiers lay in wait in the surrounding brush. On command, the soldiers fired at the unarmed mass of men, killing all but 13.  Today, a stone monument stands tall in memoriam and lists the names and ages of the dead. The first time I visited Kalavryta with my family, both my brothers wept as they stared up at the monument, seeing …

St. Dionysios Church, Zakynthos

Travelers arriving to the port of Zakynthos by ferry can’t miss the Church of Saint Dionysios, the largest church on the island, which dominates the view from the seaport. A fairly modern church, it was built in 1948. The only distinguishing thing about its exterior is its marvelous bell tower, otherwise it’s not a notable structure by itself. By contrast, the inside of the church is truly wonderful. Every inch from the ceiling to the floors are covered with exceptional iconography depicting the life of Jesus Christ and his apostles. Natural light beams through the stained-glass windows. A small room next to the alter contains the tomb and body of Saint Dionysios. Although he died on December 17, 1622, his body, plus his vestments have not deteriorated. While visitors can venerate the relics of the Saint, sometimes the tomb itself is impossible to open. It’s believed that when the tomb is sealed, Saint Dionysios, another of the “walking saints,” is out performing miracles to those who pray for peace and protection, appearing in dreams and …

Meteora Monasteries

In the mountainous region of Thessaly, Greece are the famous monasteries of Meteora, perched upon massive clifftops at a dizzying height above the neo-modern city of Kalambaka. Meteora (“suspended in the air” or “the one that doesn’t have support”) is a stunning sandstone rock formation and is home to one of the largest monastic communities in all of Greece. The largest community is Mount Athos in Northeastern Greece, the Holy Mountain where more than 2000 monks reside and where women are forbidden to enter. That’s the main reason why my bucket list item “visit the holiest place in Greece” directed me to Meteora for the first time in September 2017. I’m a woman. My first trip to Meteora lasted less than 24 hours, which provided me with just enough time to gaze at the landscape, and develop a yearning for a return for a longer stay. During that short visit, I took a guided bus tour of the monasteries. Each monastery has its own operating hours, and some are closed to visitors altogether. The bus …

Holy Trinity Monastery, Aegina

Saint Nektarios, the patron saint of Aegina, was recognized as a saint in 1961, making him one of the most recently canonized saints in the Greek Orthodox church. A philosopher and writer, Saint Nektarios became widely known as a healer and was particularly sought out by persons suffering from heart disease and cancer. Having lost my own Yiayia (grandmother) Metos to cancer in 1996, visiting this monastery has always held special meaning for me. Saint Nektarios is now considered a “walking saint,” meaning a saint who appears regularly to the faithful in dreams or visions, and continues to do so today. Until his death in 1920, Saint Nektarios lived in the Holy Trinity Monastery, which he established, and where many nuns continue to reside today. The monastery sits high on a hill, overlooking the more modern Saint Nektarios church at the base of that hill. The panoramic views from Holy Trinity Monastery stretch all the way to the sea. Start your visit at the monastery, where you can explore the very room where Saint Nektarios …

Cretan Cooking Class

Who would’ve known a Cretan cooking class spent stuffing farm fresh tomatoes and rolling thick Cretan dough would make for one of my favorite nights ever spent in Greece? I knew it would be fun—but not “so fun that I had to write about it fun.” Best of all, the 20 fellow travelers with me would agree it was the highlight of our trip to Greece. Our day started bright and early at our hotel in Heraklion, Crete. After quickly scarfing down the typical continental breakfast, we boarded a large charter bus and began our trek to Chania. Along the way, we made a pit stop in my family’s home village of Gavalachori. At the Aposperitis taverna (which is directly opposite of the house my great-grandfather was born) we were treated to a light snack of traditional Cretan fare, including kalitsounia, kolokithokeftedes, dakos, kefalotyri cheese, grapes, olives, and of course the two Cretan favorites of all time—snails barbonitsa washed down with delicious Cretan tsikoudia. Soon we were on the road again to our next destination, …