Our travels during 2017.
We started the year in beautiful Thailand. We got there in December 2016 (read more here), and stayed till mid January. On New Year’s Eve we were at Phuket and watched an amazing spectacle of paper lanterns reaching the skies at midnight. For sure one of the most touching celebrations we ever witnessed and, in my opinion, much better than noisy fireworks.
Day, New Year, New Hopes! Tons of best wishes at Kata Beach, one of my favorite beaches on Phuket Island.
After spending lovely days on Phuket Island we flew to Bangkok where we had a lot of fun as well. We stayed at Le Siam Hotel and found it great, not only for comfort and cleanness but also for its great location, close to the metro lines.
We were also more relaxed than when we started our trip in December and already used to Thai’s informality.
The speed boat along the Chao Phyra River in Bangkok was scary but also fun. I must admit that I felt reapply good at the time we disembark! (The waves are huge and I am not sure what would happen in case two boats colide!)
We had great food in many restaurants and visited several Temples. Make sure you are wearing appropriate clothes. Hubby was wearing shorts, but there’s not a big issue as they rent trousers at the entrance of the complex. Of course it will be better if you are already properly dressed.
Wat Phra Kaew or the Themple of the Emerald Buddha (officially known as Was Para Sri Rattana Satsadaram) is the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand.
The period we were there was a very sad one, as Thai people were mooring their King who passed away a few months before. All religious sites, hotels, shopping malls and attractions had black ribbons and the people were lining up and paying their respects.
Bangkok is an “electric” and vibrant city and we were glad to return there. We went on an amazing tub-tuk tour that I highly recommend to anyone visiting Bangkok: The company is called “Expique”. You can book over the web and you will meet the guides and other guests at a metro station. From there, they divide the group with the tuk-tuk drivers and they will take you at great places, including attractions that would be closed to “regular tourists”. We were able to visit many attractions we already have been during daytime, but at night they had a different splendor.
I am not “really” driving the tuk-tuk. This is just a pose for taking a picture!
They also stop at the best restaurant for Pad Thai in all Thailand: It’s called “Thip Samai” and although there’s a huge line by the door, we didn’t have to wait as “Expique” had already booked a table for us. We loved the wonderful food and cozy atmosphere.
Visiting sites that would be closed to the regular tourists. Gladly we were attending a very organized sightseeing tour!
After dinner the group went to visit a nigh flower’s market (it was interesting having eight or nine tuk-tuks in the group, forming a line). Iy was very interesting to watch people working on millions of flower bouquets, ready to go to stores or to be exported.
From the flower market there our tuk-tuk driver drove us to our hotel.
No trip to Bangkok is complete without a lot of shopping. We helped to honor this tradition! 🙂
Bangkok International Airport is ultra modern and we had a pleasant time waiting at the Maple Leaf Lounge before flying to Beijing (China) where we changed planes and flew back to Vancouver.
On May 29 we flew from Vancouver to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt to Athens. Excellent service from Air Canada, flying “business first”. A lot of money but we got to Athens still in “one piece”.
On our way from Vancouver to Frankfurt where we connected flights to Athens
We had booked a private transfer with Mr Costa (someone I read good reviews on TripAdivisor) to take us from Athens Airport to Piraeus, there we would overnight before taking the ferry to Naxos on the next day.
Mr Costa waiting for us at the airport carrying a sign and a friendly smile but… I wouldn’t book with him again: He couldn’t avoid looking back to talk to us while he was driving, and this made me nervous. Every time he wanted to show something along the way or talk, he would almost turn around and look to us while driving (and talking!). I was almost saying “please keep our eyes on the road” but he was such a friendly chap and I felt it would be rude to ask him to shut up and drive safely to the hotel.
The hotel were we stayed (Piraeus Port Hotel) had an excellent location, a short walk to the Ferry Terminal. Very simple hotel, spotless clean and ideal for tired travelers waiting to go to the Greek Islands.
We managed to get to the ferry office as soon as we got to Piraeus, before it closed for the night. There, we had our vouchers exchanged by “real tickets”, and got instructions about where to board the ferry on the next day.
After getting our “real tickets” at the Ferry’s office we found a nice place to have dinner. It was almost 10pm and we were happy that in Greece the restaurants are still open atl “late hours”. We had a delicious pasta in a charming Greek Cantina called”Rakadiko Stoa Kouvelou”.
There are dozens of ferries from several companies departing from Piraeus, you must pay close attention to go to the correct spot.
In our case, the boat was going to depart from a distant bay and everyone had to take the bus as it goes along the bays taking passengers from the main entrance to the proper bay. Our bus was “sardine can” style as there’s not a luggage compartment: everyone embarks carrying all pieces of luggage (some of them really huge), so, it is crazy when you try to hold yourself having tons of people and tons of suitcases all over you! The good point is that the trip takes less than ten minutes. Hold tight and keep your balance!
On our way to Naxos the ferry had a (quick) stop at Paros. The ferry is quite comfortable and there was plenty of seats and a cafeteria selling snacks, coffee, pop, etc.
The suitcases stay at a separated compartment on the ferry and when the boat is approaching the island everyone goes down the stairs and pick up their belongings while wait to the boat to dock. You should notice that this process must be done on a “fast pace” as the boat doesn’t stay long at the pier and as soon as the passengers disembark, there’s another load of people getting in. It’s great to feel the “anticipation” of arriving at a new port to explore new adventures!
On board of “Blue Star Ferries”, arriving on Naxos: Nice views to the famous Portara
The largest of the Cycladic Islands, Naxos is the childhood home of none other than Zeus, king of the gods.
I had previously made reservations within Hertz, and it is super easy to get your car: Hertz is located just across the ferry dock and it didn’t tale long to get our rental. There’s no parking space in front of the store, so the will pickup the car and bring it to the front of the store (across the street). At the time of return, just park a the car on the opposite side of the store and go inside where they will get the keys.
We rented a brand new Peugeot 108 I do recommend you stick with a small vehicle as the roads are narrow and it’s difficult to find parking, specially close to the city centre.
We didn’t ask for a GPS on the car as I planned to use Google Maps. I must confess that although I am a big fan (and contributor) to GoogleMaps, it wasn’t a good tool to use on the island. Google directed us to narrow dirt roads that went “nowhere” instead of guiding us along the true roads existent on the island (most of them in excellent condition, by the way).
This was 2016, I hope by the time you are reading this post, you can rely on GoogleMaps. At that time, driving using GoogleMaps was awful and it created several issues for us.
Our rental car: Perfect for narrow roads and super easy to park.
I am very glad with my choice of hotel: Perla Hotel is a real gem. It’s family operated, super clean, with a big parking (free), and excellent breakfast with fresh ingredients prepared by the owner’s mom who didn’t speak English but had a contagious smile and friendliness. Our room was large and had a big veranda (ideal to hang wet swimsuits and beach towels). The view of the sunset from this veranda was to due for!
Perla Hotel on Naxos Island: Super comfortable accommodations, excellent breakfast and sunsets to die for.
Besides the mentioned features, Perla Hotel had another super important one: It’s located less than 5 minutes waking from the best beach on Naxos: right at Agios Prokopios Beach.
Agios Prokopios is an excellent beach to swim, with crystal clear waters and calm seas. in my opinion, Agios Prokopios is the best beach on Naxos sIsland.
Agios Prokopios benefits from several cantinas across the street, where it’s possible to eat fresh sea food or delicious pizzas. We had lunch / dinner at a different venues there and found all of them absolutely great!
On the left hand side of Agios Prokopios Beach, there’s this lovely tiny church with amazing views of the surrounding area. Looking to the sea, to the right of this small church is Agios Prokopios Beach and to the left is Santa Anna beach.
The Temple of Delian Apollo was built in the 6th century AD. The Temple was ruined after a series of earthquakes and never restored, leaving just the doorway standing on the site.
Portara is the place you should go for the most famous sunset in the Aegean sea. When the horizon is clear it’s possible to spot Delos, Mykonos and Syros. The sun goes down in the direction of Delos Island.
At sunset, the views of the island, and the sea beyond, are breathtaking.
We spent a little bit over than one week on Naxos and were able to explore the whole island.
It’s very common to have paper towels at local cantinas, most of them with a printed map of the Island.
Naxos is mountainous and its town and villages are spread all around the island. On Naxos, maybe most villages are to be found inland rather than sea-side. We stayed at seaside Agios Prokopios, close to the tiny Agia Anna. We found all the villages to be very charming and not too commercial as we see on other Greek Islands.
There are tons of interesting places to visit on Naxos Island. Here are the pictures of the “not to be missed” sites.
Located at the northern tip os Naxos, about one hour drive from Hora, there’s a protected bay with a tiny village called Apollonas. The Kouros (giant statue) is located on the top pf the hill, and it’s an interesting place for us, to imagine how was life on Naxos over 3000 years ago.
Agias Tower – Abraam beach – On the way to Apollonas you will reach Agias Tower. The spot offers a great view and offers you a journey to the way people used to live many many many years ago.
The statue depicts god Dionysos because of his characteristics beard and was meant to decorate the Temple of Dionysos in Naxos. The place whee these statues were made was a marble query, and when something went wrong during the work, the rush-cut statues got a crack and were left unfinished.
The driving trip tp the countryside of Naxos is fabulous, and we were able to explore several small towns, most of them located up on the hills with incredible views of orchards, white churches and endless sea.
Besides Naxos Old Town, we really enjoyed visiting Filoti, Apiranthos and Koronos.
We also visited Alykó, located in a remote location on the Southwest side of Naxos. There would be a huge luxurious hotel there but it probably went bankrupt during the construction and only the ruins remain. It’s a beautiful beach but there are no services close by.
Alykó: A different kind of ruins….
There are several interesting museums on Naxos, and one of them is the Olive Museum. This small museums dates back from 1884 and besides the instructive displays sells different products as olive oil, soaps, creams, etc.
Old Town Naxos has attractions to every type of traveler. Here are my favorites:
Beside the “main attraction”, the Portara, that I wrote about in the beginning, there are several churches and an interesting museum.
The most famous cathedral on Naxos is the Greek Orthodox Cathedral, located at the Old Town. The surrounding narrow streets were also a good place for parking our car when we went to the Old Town.
The Archeological Museum and the Catholic Cathedral are located close by and we must navigate the narrow alleys of the Old Town in order to reach them.
Situated inside the Chora’s Castle (Kastro), near the Archeological Museum, the Catholic Cathedral dates back from the 13th century. Constructed under the Venetian rule, the original temple has been restored between 1500-1600 AD.
Our visit to the Museum of Anthropology, located in the Kastro with beautiful views of the Old Town and the sea.
One of the best day tours of our trip was a full day sailing cruise to Koufonisia. We went with Captain Panos and Yannis, and they were responsible for a wonderful day onboard. We set sail just after 8.00am and returned around 6.30pm.
We went to three different islands where it was possible to swim and some of the guests also entered in caves and jumped from the cliffs. “Captain Panos” is for sure the best company to go sailing departing from Naxos.
Sailing with Captain Panos to Koufonisia and other small islands / caves
Full day sailing from Naxos Old Town
Captain Panos and us during our marvelous day on board his yacht
Exploring the seas around Naxos Island
We had lunch at Kapetan Nikolas Taven on Koufonisia Island
On our way back we went to our hotel to shower and change new no-salty clothes and went to have dinner at a nearby taverna.
More sunny days on the beach followed… more astonishing food and wine followed… more killer sunsets followed…
until we were ready to go! Next destination? MIKONOS!
It’s a short ferry trip between Naxos and Mykonos. We went on the “speed ferry”
We rented a small car at the Port and drove to our hotel. We stayed at “Petinos Beach”, a very nice hotel overlooking Platis Gialos.
Our “home away from home” on Naxos Island
The hotel’s pool was excellent for relaxing after a day exploring the island
Platos Gialos is beach with salt and shallow waters with dozens of restaurants, most of them offering services as lounge chairs, umbrellas, etc
During nine days on Mykonos we enjoyed almost all the beaches on the island. The map shows where we have been and below you will find pictures and comments of our top favorites:
Paradise beach, where every summer has its own story… 🙂
One of the best beaches: Paralia Kalo Livati. To have comfort on this beach you have to pay the fees to “Nemo Mikonos” in order to get a lounge chair, an umbrella and beach service.
Psarous is an exclusive beach with a “kind of difficult” access by foot and easily reached by yacht or helicopter. haha
We came here several times and there’s nothing compared to it anywhere on Mykonos Island or maybe anywhere in Greece…
Another mega-famous beach on Naxos is “Super Paradise Beach”. This is the “party beach”, where the music goes on during the whole night. We went there in the morning and despite a team of photographers working with a beautiful model, there was nothing happening there. The access road is a little bit scary as well, as it’s narrow and steep.
Although many reviews rate “Panormos Beach” as fabulous, we didn’t find it as good as expected. In fact, there are many other beaches on Mykonos that are much better.
One of the best excursion you can do from Mykonos is a visit to Delos Ruins, one of the most important mythological, archaeological and historical sites in Greece.
We chose to go to Delos during the afternoon in order to avoid the crowds from the cruise ships visiting Mykonos.
It was a windy day and the sea wasn’t calm. There were very few passengers and the company embarked us on a relatively small boat. After approximately 15 minutes the boat navigating on rough seas, the boat lost power. It was scaring to be on a drift boat while the captain and another man tried to bring the boat to life.
It happened after many trials but with very light power and with the waves still crashing. Finally we got to the port and they embarked us on a bigger and more powerful boat.
At the time we got on Delos there wasn’t enough time to visit it in a slow pace, we had to rush around the island and it was scary again, as there were less than ten guests and few signs. We didn’t want to get lost and stay there for the night!
Delos was an important religious centre, where Leto gave birth to Artemis and nine days later to Artemis’ twin brother, Apollo, as Homer narrates in his Odyssea. In return for the sanctuary, Leto promised that the birth of Apollo would turn this barren island into a place of pilgrimage and bring prosperity to its land.
Since ancient times no one could be born or die on Delos Island.
Delos, with pottery ranging from the 25th to the 1st century BC
the last day on Mykonos was closed with a golden key! We went to List Mykonos and LOVED every second. Liasti Beach Resort is located at the southeast coast of Mykonos, facing Lia Beach. It’s a beach club with paid entrance (as all others on Mykonos are), with the difference of an amazing item: There’s a bell on the umbrella, and when you want service just push the bottom and the waiter will be by your side in less than 3 minutes!
On the next day we returned our rental car and went to the ferry terminal to get the ferry to Santorini.
The trip between Mykonos and Santori is short and pleasant. We had a driver waiting for us at the Santorini ferry terminal to take us to the hotel. It’s a steep and narrow rod (from the port up to the mountain), with many hairpins. The driver was good.
Arriving on Santorini by ship or ferry is one of the best experiences for any traveler. The views of the mountains covered by white on the top is exhilarating!
We stayed at Pantheon Villas located at Imerovigli, Santorini. Despite being a “luxury hotel” and being exactly in the “middle of the caldera”, I do not recommend it. Not at all.
We rented a car from Hertz on our second day on the island and driving on Santorini isn’t pleasurable at all. Too many hairpins, narrow roads, no where to mark near the main sites and scary, scary, scary. Instead of staying with the car for the whole period I was pleased to return it after a few days of craziness. The hotel had a limited parking space close to the “precipice” and if you could not find space there, you would have to walk (in the dark).
The hotel is isolated from everything else. After walking approximately 15 minutes it was possible to go to the bus stop, that is located in a curve making it dangerous to cross to the other side of the road.
The room was decorated in “contemporary style”, although “too contemporary” for my taste. Not one single drawer, not one single hanger, not one single trame on the walls.
There is a veranda and this was the best part, as it has a private pool with astonishing views to the caldera.
Top day trips:
During the 8 days we stayed on Santorini we visited amazing places. The beaches on Santorini aren’t good for swimming (in my opinion) as the black sands make them super-hot and uncomfortable to walk. They beaches aren’t pretty as well.
From Persia we drove to the “Tomato Industrial Museum”. On the way we stoped at “to psaraki” for lunch and had one of the best meals in Greece.
There are several cantinas on this place but “to psaraki” is undoubtably the best of them all.
After lunch we went to Vlychada where we visited the “Tomato Industrial Museum”. The historical tomato factory of D. Nomikos in Vlychada has been transformed into a modern museum, offering a journey to the industrial past of Santorini. Besides the historical part presenting the way tomato was processed the site offers a modern art gallery on the premises.
Tomato Industrial Museum
MUST DO ATTRACTION: One of the best things we did during our stay on Santorini was walking all the way from Imerovigli to Oia.
There’s a hiking path that goes along the cliff most of the time. It’s 8 km long going up and down and up and down again with amazing views and scaring moments due to the cliff so close to the narrow path that in case there was a “slightly” vertigo the fall would be a “fall of no return”. 🙂
Another concern is that we started our hiking a little bit late and we were afraid to get caught in the dark before reaching Oia.
Another day-trip along Santorini is driving all the way to the lighthouse, located at the southern most tip of Santorini. Be aware that is a narrow road to get there and parking can be very limited.
We were there by the end of June and found a parking space after some waiting, and it was a scary one as the cliff was just close by.
While in Akrotiri we had lunch at a small tavern called Teofanis, This place is exactly the way you dream a Greek tavern serving fresh and delicious food in a familiar and friendly atmosphere.
Teofanis Tavern, located in Akrotiri
After visiting Akrotiri’s Monastery we drove south to the Red Beach.
It’s a quite impressive place, with a beautiful contrast between sea, sky and red sands. If the guy who sells silver jewelry is still there, please ask for his email and send to me. He is SUCH a great artist! I bought a pair of earrings, a ring and a necklace to one of my girlfriends here in Vancouver and I regret not having bought much much more. It’s pure silver, I wear it daily and it’s beautiful. Please have a look at the entrance of the hiking down to the beach, as he had a quite large cart there with a lot of variety.