This Monday marks the beginning of the last full-blown week of summer. Next Friday autumn officially kicks in. (Can you believe?!) It was a great summer for me. I was blessed with a chance to swim in the waters of Greece, Tunis, Adriatic Sea (Croatia and Montenegro) and, just a few weeks ago, at the feet of the Korean peninsula, in the strait of the Pacific Ocean between the Sea of Eastern China and the Japanese Sea. Idly laying on the beach, listening to the music of the waves, playing with sand and breathing in, greedily, the salty breeze, I was contemplating the ranking. Mediterranean Sea, to me, will always be the best. And the bingo on available flights, amazing food, scenery of all kinds and – relatively, depending on the island! – relatively sane prices is Greece.
Here goes to this summer paradise – #travelhacks to Kithyra. Most can be applied to pretty much any other Greek island with understandable exception of Mykonos and Santorini.
1.Pack wisely, leave with light heart. Greece is a country that makes you forget everything – so when leaving for it, think of fundamentals. The bare minimum is your bathing suit (leave the mirage image of summer boutiques with Côte d’Azur) and a beach towel (most beaches have no towel – and sometimes no sunbed – service). Good extras: your favorite sun lotion, your usual medicine, mosquito spray.
2. Know your geography. There will be something you forget, for sure. I often say that the essentials of packing are your passport, phone and credit card, – so make sure you hold on to these when you travel. Once you do, a little finders’ hint: every Greek island has the main city, Chora. Usually the central city is far from the beaches, in the middle of the island, at the heart of the summer heat. That’s where you want to go for most of your purchases, some of the best authenthic cuisine (which is the case with Mykonos, by the way) and, in case of Kythira, for the scarce night life. All the 3 bars/ night clubs of the island are located in its capital. Il Mercato is the bar it all starts – at 10 p.m., not earlier! (important). Just go along the town’s main street – you will not miss it.
3. Location, location, location. The same it true for choosing your hotel. Even small Greek islands can surprise you by the variety of lifestyle. Kythira, for example, has a family-with-small-kids zone at Diakofti (it is also the closest to the airport), the mass tourist part in the south (Chora and Kapsali) with low-budget-wide-choice-bus-delivery option, and a very exclusive northern part with its own infrastructure of restaurants, bars, – and even a gas station. And it takes 1h 20 to cross the entire island!
4. A note on the beaches (promise, the last one). There is some description of Greek island beaches on the Internet. Here is some handy translation: “semi-developed” in beach description usually means a few – sometimes, A VERY FEW – sunbeds. So taking water, food and other fundamentals with you could be a very good idea. On a (very) positive note, in Greece, even semi-developed beaches usually have bars.
5. Know where the best food is. In case you are not blessed with a Greek friend (like I am), think about researching best restaurants. Greek islands best restaurants are not necessarily obvious. In my history with Sofia, I have had the best food: at the very loud Athens harbour, in the middle of dark (and uninhabited) coast line from Crete and, far from the beaches or literally anything else alive, in the totally unexpected oasis of green, water and flavours in Kythira. On the Kythira topic, best restaurants are Skandeia (the oasis I have just mentioned), Taverna Filio and Sotiris Fish Tavern. Those ones I have tried myself and would do A LOT to come back. Other than that, Milopotamos, Greek village loaded with cuteness, small shops and fantastic souvenirs, has some great spots for coffee and sweets, – our favorite was Platanos.
(I have attached Kythira’s map with its best restaurants, sights and other key places of interest to the post on Kythira’s beaches).
6. Getting around. You do need a car in the Greek islands, and ideally a 4×4. Some of the beaches are hardly reachably by a small city car (even though we managed to conquer them all but one at Kithyra). Some hidden parts of the island don’t have decent roads leading to them. It would be a loss to come to a Greek island and not to discover all its treasures. While on the topic of cars, don’t wait until the last drop to fill your tank. Greece does not exactly produce oil, and the islands’ fuel situation is very telling of that. Kythira, for example, has four gas stations: two in the south, two in the north. Better map them.
7. Follow the local rhythms. In Kythira, for example, the tourist season officially starts the first weekend of June, just when Sofia and I were there. Tourist season means open hotels, beaches (in case of semi-developed beaches, see point 4 above) and – most importantly – bars! That’s when it comes to the official start of the season. To be on the safe side (mostly in terms of the open bars and restaurants), it is better to come two weeks later. If the infrastructure is not your focus, take advantage of the early rates. Weather is great regardless of the official opening times.
8. Invent your own adventure. Outside of Santorini and Mykonos, with travel tips enough to fill a year in a life of a tourist, other Greek islands offer less ready-to-vacation scenarios. Kythira, for one, has fantastic mountain tracks, fresh in the shade of the gorgeous local forest, – I really wished I had packed a pair of hiking shoes! So think out of the box of the beach vacation: discover, ride, climb, start and end the day later or earlier than you would at the usual beach vacation. Greek islands have endless ability to surprise.
9. Greece is a country that makes you forget everything – so do forget everything. Don’t plan much, improvise, celebrate summer, fall in love with the sun and the sea – once again. And, most importantly, share the magic of the Greek islands with your favorite people, – sunny memories of islands like Kythira is something that stays with you once the summer photos fade away.
Until next summer, Greece! ❤