3 Arty Greek islands
Greece is a very diverse destination and depending on your mood you can go from mountain to beach and from city to village in a very short amount of time. Being Greek, I sometimes struggle to decide on where to go, I have a summer addiction and a tendency to always look for beach holidays of the isolated variety. This year I decided to combine beach and food with some seaside culture and paid a visit to 3 of the county’s most arty islands
So here is my list of favourite Greek islands for those who love to delve into art and culture while on holiday:
Close proximity to Mykonos makes this island a great short trip as you can fly directly to Mykonos airport from many major European cities and from Athens. A mere 30 minutes by boat and Tinos already looks and feels like miles away. Overlooked for ages due to its ties to religious tourists who flock every August on a pilgrimage to the grandiose Panagia Evaggelistria church, Tinos has managed to retain a rural charm that is unique amongst the Cyclades island group. Get yourself a car and drive away from the port to one of the many villages tucked away in the mountains and you will experience this first hand.
Tinos was home to famous sculptor Giannoulis Chalepas whose marble Sleeping Beauty still brings me the shivers every time I come across it. It currently lies on the 1st Cemetery in Athens. Visit Pyrgos village for some galaktoboureko (sweet semolina and milk pastry) on the main square and pop into the town’s museums hosting Chalepas’ and other great sculptors’ work.
Another great artist coming from Tinos is Kostas Tsoclis and the small museum bearing his name is definitely a must see as is the lovely village of Kampos nearby
Where to sleep
I steered clear of hotels near the port and opted instead for Airbnb. My favourite picks are The Hare in Kardiani village, the Rock Cottage near Loutra and the Orange Grove near Tarampados. You can use this link to get 25$ off on your first booking with Airbnb
Another great choice near the port is Anemos Villas, an ode to minimalism run by lovely Aggeliki and Anastasia who also own A&A concept store on site
Where to eat and drink
Not to be missed is Thalassaki all the way down to Isternia bay. We visited this restaurant because it was featured in all the local guides available, but also because it came recommended by friends of ours from nearby islands! We were not disappointed and in turn, would heartily recommend it to anyone. We tried many dishes but I still remember fondly the taste of garlic shrimps and the orange flavoured artichokes. This can only be a good thing. A very special mention to the indie music playlist, a breath of fresh air compared to the tired traditional Greek music usually played in tavernas all over the country- in combination with the lovely sunset and the setting around us it almost got us to tears.
Where to swim
Compared to other islands such as Mykonos, Tinos is not the go-to place for long sandy stretches. Most beaches are rough and a bit windswept but luckily this means that surfers can have a go at Kolibithra beach. Check out Surf Lessons and do not miss a drink or a cold coffee at the beach bar
What not to miss
Yannoulis Chalepas and Museum of Marble Crafts in Pyrgos
Kostas Tsoclis museum in Kampos
Read on: Summer in Tinos and 10 things to do in Tinos
Andros is very close to Rafina and Piraeus port and can definitely be combined with Tinos, Syros or Mykonos if you are up for some island hopping. Andros has a long history of economic prosperity due to its close ties to shipping and this has had an effect on the island’s architecture. Ship owners and captains have made this island home ever since the 18th century. As a result, the architecture in the main city, Chora, as well as the plenty smaller mountain villages, is not the typical example of the Cycladic style. The houses are more eclectic and impressive, often dyed in pastel colours and featuring neoclassical columns and terracotta roof tiles. Andros is a rocky island with hilltops touching over 900 meters altitude which makes for some impressive views once at the top. The beaches are also a delight and range from the secluded to the cosmopolitan with common feature the golden sand and crystal clear waters. One piece of advice if you are not into touristy and overexploited beach towns: better avoid Batsi and drive the extra mile to Chora
The most impressive sight in Chora is the Museum Goulandri which hosts a permanent collection of modern and contemporary works as well as temporary exhibitions of Greek artists rotating every summer. The building itself is no less impressive with its clean lines and minimal airy structure
Where to sleep
It’s hard to imagine a nicer, lusher and more pleasant guesthouse to stay in Andros than Ktima Lemonies. Ktima Lemonies or Lemon Tree Estate as it would translate in English is a country style paradise almost in the middle of nowhere. Owners Michalis and Nelly took great care in restoring an old farmer’s estate that was lying amidst lemon trees and wild vegetation and created a tranquil refuge comprised of mini-suites and isolated double bedrooms all adorned with antique furniture and many of the original features – Cherry on top is the homemade breakfast on the sunny communal garden which was prepared with a lot of care using local and homegrown ingredients. Seriously second to none.
Where to eat
Head to hidden gem Nεω Jazz bar a few steps of the main piazza in Chora for amazing Italian Pizza and great cocktails, Endochora for local nibbles and Greek dishes on the “creative” side, or to Skalakia for grandma’s home cooking
Where to swim
Piso Gialia and Apothikes are both wonderfully sandy with nice beach bars – Ask around for wind advice!
Sifnos might not be the home of a significant art gallery such as Goulandris in Andros, it is, however, the place to go for all of you pottery lovers out there. The tight relationship of this island with pottery has come a long way since the 3rd century BC when it was first mentioned in ancient texts.
Sifnos is home to more than 12 pottery workshops scattered around the island, working mainly on terracotta, which is then glazed with bright colours or left unglazed in the typical deep orange hue. There are many artists to choose from but my favourites are Sifnos Stoneware and Julie Tzanni
Where to sleep
Airbnb once again saved the day, check out our favourite Gallery House in Apollonia. Another great option if you are up for some splurging is the Verina Hotel and Suites in various locations across the island
Where to eat
If there is one island that will spoil you for choice with regards to locally produced homemade traditional food in great settings, this is definitely Sifnos. Assuming that you will be by the beach you need to visit To Limanaki in Faros for amazing fresh fish soup and To Tsikali in Vathy for super tasty BBQ
Where to swim
Vathy, Platy Yalos and Kamares are the most popular organised beaches in Sifnos, all with golden yellow sand, umbrellas and cool beach bars. You can go off the beaten track and try the rocky Poulati or Chrysopygi and Faros all of them semi organised with at least one tavern next to the sea
Read on: Summer in Sifnos