Guide to Greece 2021

Guide to Greece 2021
Editor’s letter

Going Greek again

Dear colleagues and readers of ABTA Magazine.

We are delighted to be collaborating with ABTA Magazine on this Guide to Greece.

It goes without saying, but the last 18 months have been a huge challenge for our industry. However, we hope that this guide helps to remind you of what treasures await you in Greece, from our metropolitan cities to far away islands – we’ve even included a feature on visiting in autumn where your clients will get an altogether different experience.

We look forward to warmly welcoming you and your clients back to Greece as soon as it is possible.

Emy Anagnostopoulou, director of the Greek National Tourism Organisation UK & Ireland Office

Contact

Get in touch with the team

The ABTA Magazine Guide to Greece is produced in association with the Greek National Tourism Organisation. Click here for more information about Greek tourism

ABTA Magazine is produced by Waterfront Publishing on behalf of ABTA, The Travel Association.


Contacts

Editorial

Mark O’Donnell, head of client content
mark@waterfront-publishing.com

Anthony Pearce, director
anthony@waterfront-publishing.com

info@abtamag.com
020 3865 9360

Design
DJMWeb, The Studio

Sub-editors
Nathaniel Cramp, Emily Eastman

Sales and partnerships

Sam Ballard, director
sam@waterfront-publishing.com

Bryan Johnson, senior sales manager
bryan@waterfront-publishing.com
0203 865 9338
075 3270 9734


About ABTA

Waterfront Publishing is an independent publisher based in central London. It has an in-house magazines, Cruise Adviser, which is aimed at the travel trade. It has also produced magazines on behalf of ABTATravelzoo; and Emerald Waterways. Its design agency The Studio by Waterfront offers copywriting, proofreading and design for print, digital, advertising and branding.

Get in touch

Waterfront Publishing
Hop Exchange,
Southwark Street,
London, SE1 1TY
info@waterfront-publishing.com
020 3865 9360

Wine map of Greece

Feature

On the wine trail in Greece

A guide to the different wines to be found around the country, from the Cyclades to Crete, plus the vineyards to visit and the food to enjoy them with


Greece’s climate and terroir result in the production of some outstanding wines. Sharing a carafe of house wine over homestyle food is very much a part of holidaying in Greece, while visiting vineyards and sampling wine in the winery where it was crafted is a great way to explore this idyllic land. 

The Cyclades
Santorini’s volcanic soil, low rainfall and sunshine are factors in producing quality wines. They include minerally white wines and bottles proudly referencing the island’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). 

The Aegean island’s soil is too acidic for phylloxera, tiny pests that destroy vines, meaning you can see vines of prodigious age while touring vineyards. The long-established Estate Argyros and modern Vassaltis Vineyards are among those that welcome visitors, along with Venetsanou, Boutari and Gaia. Look carefully and you’ll see vines trained into shade-casting basket shapes.  

Assyrtiko grapes produce crisp, full-bodied white wine. Relax while sipping a glass accompanied by a plate of fava dip and freshly baked pitta bread. Afterwards, try pairing a glass of the island’s Vinsanto dessert wine with baklava or a chocolate-based dish.

In Paros, visit the Asteras Winery or the Moraitis Winery, near Naousa, to see a vineyard set in sandy soil typical of the region. The island’s PDO was established in 1981. It’s unique as Greece’s only appellation permitting use of a white grape varietal in red wine production – featuring indigenous varieties such as Mandilaria and Monemvasia among others.

Revithada, a chickpea stew finished with lemon and olive oil, pairs well with Paros’s white wines. So too does gouna, a traditional dish of sun-dried fish grilled with herbs and lemon juice. Karavoli, snails in a garlicky sauce, are ideal with the island’s red wine. Wherever you visit, experiencing Greece means good food and wine.

Epirus
Epirus, in Greece’s northwest, is known for its undulating mountains and verdant landscapes. The region’s winemaking is concentrated around Metsovo (and the Katogi Averoff Winery) and Zitsa (which has the Zoinos Winery and Estate Glinavos), with PDO Zitsa being the only wine in Epirus to have the highly-valued PDO badge – and the only one in the whole of Greece to be given to a white sparkling wine. 

Once visitors have had their fill of the local drop, they can visit some of the region’s fascinating sites, including the monastery of Prophet Elias in Zitsa, which Lord Byron visited in 1809. While there he sampled the wine and declared it among the best in Europe. He even included the monastery in his epic poem, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

Halkidiki
Northern Greece’s Halkidiki region is famed for organic, vegetable-rich cuisine. Locally landed seafood also features. The region’s traditional diet, of which an occasional glass of wine is part, is reputedly a factor in locals living lengthy lives. Tzikas’ Family Winery near Kassandreia welcomes visitors to its organic vineyard to taste wines, while the Petralona and Tsantali wineries are also worth visiting. 

The region encompasses the autonomous Mount Athos region. Monk Epifanios of Mylopotamos, a renowned chef, reintroduced winemaking to the peninsula after phylloxera devasted vines during World War Two. Vines in the Mylopotamus vineyard grow on the lower slopes of Mount Athos and Limnio grapes provide the eponymous Epifanios red wine with body and minerality.

Peloponnese
Driving or cycling the Peloponnesian wine routes enables visitors to admire landscapes in a region that produces nearly a third of all Greek wine. With seven PDO appellations it presents wine-loving visitors with variety and quality. 

The Mercouri Estate – 40 minutes’ drive from Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympics – was established during the 1860s and is a reason to visit the western Peloponnese. The Monemvasia Winery reproduces a version of Malvasia, a wine that was popular during the Middle Ages, while Lafazanis in Nemea and Domaine Skouras in Argos are also firm favourites of oenophiles. 

The region’s succulent goat stew pairs well with red wines made with Agiorgitiko grapes. Grilled octopus is lifted by aromatic white wines crafted from the Moschofilero varietal. 

Crete
Crete is home to four wine-producing PDO appellations: Archanes, Dafnes, Peza and Sitia. Look for vintages produced using indigenous grapes. Sip white wines made using the Vidiano or Thrapsathiri varietals with roasted rooster. Red wine crafted from Mandilari grapes pairs well with rabbit stifado, a stew slow-cooked with onions and garlic.

Crete’s rugged interior commonly receives a covering of winter snow. Touring vineyards is a reason to head inland through villages with palpable rustic traditions. The Idaia Winery at Veneratou is in a region dotted with the remains of ancient winepresses: evidence of Greece’s lengthy winemaking heritage. Visiting the Diamantakis Winery highlights the adoption of modern equipment and practices.

Click here to find out more

Video: Taste Greek flavours

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Map: Greek delights

Learn more about the country’s many highlights

Athens

Find out more about Athens here.

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Chania

Find out more about Chania here.

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Kefalonia

Find out more about Kefalonia here.

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Rhodes

Find out more about Rhodes here.

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Santorini

Find out more about Santorini here.

 

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Feature

Beyond Athens: six other must-visit Greek towns and cities

A wealth of enticing places await those who decide to venture beyond the Greek capital


Greece’s ancient capital may steal the limelight in the city break stakes, but it’s far from being the only game in town. While some historic Greek centres such as Sparta may have paled in importance over the years, and others such as Kalamata and Preveza function primarily as regional air gateways, many others remain ripe for exploration, awash with charming old towns, unique cultures and vibrant local cuisines. Here are six of the best. 

Thessaloniki
Notwithstanding the excellent Archaeological, Byzantine and Olympic museums, Greece’s second largest city, on the northeastern coast, cries out to be explored with your feet and tastebuds. Its unique energy, cuisine and architecture comes from a fascinating fusion of historic influences, from Greek and Roman to Ottoman – Thessaloniki is an open air museum with its Byzantine and Paleochristian monuments on Unesco’s World Heritage list.

Revitalised areas such as Ladadika and Ano Poli throng with inviting bars, restaurants and fancy buildings, while walking tours curate grand gestures such as the Rotunda of Galerius, Aristotelous Square and Heptapyrgion fortress, offering sweeping views over the city. Scenic strolls along the coastal promenade, meanwhile, are watched over by the city’s emblematic White Tower. 

Every year Thessaloniki plays host to major cultural events, including the Thessaloniki International Fair (September), the International Thessaloniki Film Festival (November) and the International Book Fair (May).

Halkidiki’s sun-soaked resorts are within easy reach, too, as are the epic landscapes and trails spilling out from Mount Olympus. Alternatively, conjure a beach-backed twin centre by adding time in Kavala, which is just 160km to the east. Wine-lovers need not look far to sample the local drop, with the Gerovassiliou Winery and Wine Museum being well worth a visit – the city also has some exceptional wine roads. 

Volos

Located halfway between Athens and Thessaloniki on the Greek mainland, Volos is a mythical destination where tourists can walk along paved Argonauts Avenue on the seafront and bask in the region that the centaurs called home.

The city of Volos has a rich history. Grand mansions and government buildings tell their own tale, while walking along the seafront you can pop into one of the small restaurants for the famous tsipouradika, named after tsipouro, the traditional spirit of the area, which is perfect when combined with seafood teasers. You’ll do it while overlooking the harbour’s picturesque fishing boats and yachts – and even a replica of the ancient ship the Argo.

Sightseers can visit Volos Castle, in Palia, towards the west of the city, or head to Agios Konstantinos, a pretty corner of the city that that is perfect for wandering around – or rent a bike and cycle on the city’s 10km cycle lane network. The region stretching out around Volos is beautiful. Visitors can tour archaeological sites, explore nature, get to know the picture-perfect villages of Pelion or set sail for the lush-green Sporades islands.

Ioannina

This northwestern charmer owes much of its allure to its idyllic lakeside setting, ringed by mountains. Cosy cafés dot the shady, tree-lined promenades edging Lake Pamvotis, offering a great place to kick back over a drink or a bite. More attractions await those who venture out to its island, not least the Ali Pasha Museum and fresco-filled Byzantine monastery.

Another of Ioannina’s draws is the sixth century Byzantine castle area, which remains inhabited. It’s a fascinating place, the Byzantine Museum,  Silversmithing Museum and Acropolis of Its Kale, which feature among its highlights. 

Ioannina has a rich gastronomic tradition based on the use of high-quality fresh local produce. A wide range of spices and herbs are used to complement local delicacies such as eels, trout and frog’s legs.

The town also makes a great base for touring the wider area, from the mystical monastic landscapes of Meteora, so beloved of hikers and photographers, to the national parks of Pindos and Vikos-Aoös, with its famous gorge and natural springs. 

Heraklion

Gastronomes find much to savour in the airport-backed Cretan capital. In the market of Heraklion, one of the richest in the Mediterranean, visitors can find all sorts of modern products, as well as traditional Cretan products such the famous Cretan olive oil, raki, local wine, honey and herbs. Fresh local produce and snacks also flavour the Central Market on 1866 Street, vying with souvenirs for visitors’ attention – be sure to check out the monuments, many of which date back to the Middle Ages, such as the Venetian Loggia.

Beautifully floodlit by night, Koules fortress, by the old Venetian port, adds an air of romance to pre or post-prandial harbourside strolls while the impressive archaeological museum helps school visitors ahead of a visit to Knossos, pictured. The major Minoan site is but a short bus or taxi ride away, as are some lovely elevated inland villages such as Archanes. Exploring the latter makes for a pleasant diversion, powered by tasty pastries from the local bakeries, or extended stops at welcoming tavernas. 

Chania
Not for nothing has Chania been prized as a settlement since Neolithic times. Served by an international airport, the city offers a more compact and characterful alternative to Heraklion, some 145km east along the northern coast. 

Despite its clear Ottoman and Byzantine influences, and Minoan and Roman roots, much of its prized architecture hails from the Venetian era, including the remnants of the fortified walls and harbour. The latter help define the Old Town where myriad bars and restaurants grace the narrow stone alleyways, and squares such as Eleftherios Venizelos. Bargains await at the central market while the inviting harbourside eateries make worthy outcomes for evening strolls along the promenade. 

Outside of town the pink-sanded beaches of Balos and Elafonissi await, with Samaria Gorge National Park catering to active types.

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Feature

Five reasons why autumn is the perfect time to visit Greece

Despite being known as a leading destination for summer holidays, Greece’s charms remain long after the holiday season peaks


Greece’s sun, sandy beaches and warm seas are factors in the country being a leading summer holiday destination. Yet even after the holiday season peaks and autumn arrives long hours of sunshine result in warm days and evenings, helping the mainland and Greek islands remain pleasant places to spend time. Here are five reasons why autumn is the perfect time to visit Greece.

Enjoy Athens without roasting 
Travelling during Greece’s shoulder season, from mid-September into November, means being able to enjoy sunshine without experiencing fierce heat. Cooler than in summer, the footpath corkscrewing around the rocky hillside towards the Acropolis makes for a leisurely walk on autumn days. Climbing it gives you an incredible view of the sprawling metropolis. Meander through the streets of Plaka and Psyri where you can grab a beer and watch the world go by. Visit the newly refurbished National Gallery, try one of the multiple award-winning restaurants or even go for a swim in the close by Athens Riviera.

Walking trails in Naxos and Andros
The biggest island in the Cyclades, Naxos has plenty to offer, but its hiking trails are among the best in the world.

 

Discover the varied landscape of the island by following numerous routes (Chora-Melane-Halki, Halki-Danakos-Apeiranthos, Skado-Apollonas). There are incredible views from the top of Zas Mountain – and en route to the summit you will pass a cave that was dedicated to Zeus in ancient times.

Andros, the northernmost island in the Cyclades, has a totally different landscape to its neighbours, but with equally interesting walking routes (Zagora-Panachradou Monastery, Chora-Batsi). Here you will find lush vegetation and rocky coastlines and amazing cobblestone paths that run along the island through meadows where you can smell the thyme, saffron and sage growing nearby.

If you want something shorter, you can wander over to Korthi or Gialia beaches, both of which are great for swimming.

Big islands that are not so busy
Autumn also means fewer people at popular attractions, including the ancient city of Knossos on Crete. The hub of Minoan civilisation thrived more than 3,500 years ago. The Palace of Knossos with the labyrinth of King Minos is ideal for exploring early in the day, leaving the afternoon free to view artefacts at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.

Popular beaches draw fewer bathers after the summer peak. Travelling in autumn brings opportunities to photograph beautiful coastal landscapes such as Navagio Beach on Zakynthos. A rusting wreck sits on the golden sand of what is nicknamed Smuggler’s Cove, limestone cliffs hem the beach, and the water temperature remains pleasantly inviting until late in the year.

Climb the path to the Lindos Acropolis in Rhodes for a leisurely Autumn walk. Climbing it brings opportunities to view the ancient temple dedicated to Athena Lindia and medieval buildings constructed by the Knights of St John. From the walls of the acropolis you can view Lindos’ white houses and sunbathers on the beach in St George’s Bay.

See some surprising wildlife
When the crowds start to dissipate, the wildlife becomes far more abundant in Greece, and there is plenty of it to be found.

Whether you’d prefer to see the majestic water buffalo at Lake Kerkini or the incredible bird life in Prespes National Park – including 1400 pairs of Dalmatian pelicans – there is something for everyone. At Arcturos Sanctuary you can learn more about the brown bears and wolves that have been saved from captivity.

Greece also boasts some superb marine wildlife, which can be seen from both the Alonissos National Marine Park and the National Marine Park of Zakynthos respectively.

While it might not be the first reason for visiting the region, there is plenty to go wild about.

See the grape and olive harvests
Grapes tend to be harvested during September in northern Greece. Being present means that, if you want to, you can participate in the harvest. A time of celebration, picking and crushing grapes brings people together. Thessaloniki has many wineries that offer visitors an introduction to the winemaking process during a tour that includes tastings.

Olives are harvested on Crete from October onwards. Being present late in the season gives you opportunities to view gnarled trees being shaken so the fruit falls into nets below. Cretan olive oil is sold throughout the year from Chania’s historic market hall, an easy stroll from the Venetian harbour.

The harvests don’t just stop there, either. There are crocuses in Kozani, chestnuts in Pelion and, of course, olives in Kalamata – one of Greece’s most famous exports.

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Feature

Five under-the-radar Greek islands you need to discover now

There are thousands of Greek islands – here are some lesser-known ones where you can avoid the crowds


Blessed with more than 6,000 islands – of which 170 are inhabited – glorious Greece has plenty of places where you can laze on golden sand beaches, eat succulent food and enjoy spectacular cultural attractions – without the crowds. 

Here are the five under-the-radar Greek islands you need to discover now.

Alonissos
Sister to Skopelos – the Sporades island where feel-good movie Mamma Mia! was filmed – Alonissos’ pristine waters attract divers who come here to explore Greece’s first underwater museum near the uninhabited isle of Peristera.

Renowned since ancient times for its health-giving herbs, Alonissos is also a paradise for hikers who can explore a web of walking trails leading to mediaeval castles, ancient churches and mountain villages. There are some incredible beaches, with crystal-clear waters, too, including Megalos Mourtias, Steni Vala, Milia and Marpounta.

Lovers of marine animals should head the to the National Marine Park of Alonissos, the first of its kind in Greece, where people can spot common dolphins and Mediterranean monk seals.

Folegandros
Tucked between Milos and Santorini, this charming Cycladic island has a timeless quality which is best discovered in the spectacular cliff-top capital Chora, where sugarcube houses linked by winding alleys lead to the island’s centuries-old Church of Panagia, home to a silver icon that’s said to work miracles.

This unsung island, surrounded by mirror-clear waters, is also famed for fabulous food: must-try dishes here include matsata, a handmade pasta served with rooster or rabbit in a rich tomato sauce. There are also some fantastic beaches, such as Katergo, which is made up of thin pebbles that run into the beautiful blue water.

Kalymnos
One of the largest islands in the Dodecanese group, Kalymnos is known for its sponge harvesting trade – the only Greek island to be involved with it after the Second World War. However, the island is arguably now better known for its outdoors sports, with people heading there for scuba diving, rock climbing, mountain hiking and spelunking, including an annual Climbing Festival and Diving Festival.

Walk around Pothia, the island’s capital, and you’ll soon be seduced by the cobbled streets and colourful buildings. Many of the grander mansions were owned by the sea sponge merchants of years gone by.

One of the island’s most popular sandy beaches is Masouri while Vlychadia, in the south, consists of two beaches, a sandy and a pebbly one. Emporios, towards the north, is a favourite among wind and kite surfing lovers.

Serifos
One of the lesser-known Cycladic islands, Serifos has much of the charm of its more popular neighbours, without the crowds – despite its proximity to Athens (2 hours and 30 minutes by speedboat). White and blue buildings dot the landscape and sit beautifully against the azure waters of the Aegean. There are some incredible beaches, too, including Ganema, Agios Sostis and Vagia.

The capital, Chora, is split into an upper neighbourhood (Pano) and a lower one (Kato) with the town seemingly cascading down the side of the island. The Venetian castle, the highest point of Chora, boasts views of the island’s harbour and the Aegean.

Kythera
The birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, Kythera has inspired artists, poets and filmmakers for centuries – many of whom would have arrived through the ancient port of Skandeia. The southernmost of the Ionian Islands, Kythera boasts valleys that end on the seashore; mountainsides that can be green or rocky and barren; spring waters cascading down the slopes; wonderful beaches (including Palaiopolis for water sports, Diakofti and Avlemonas for families, Fournoi for relaxing and Chalkos for a more cosmopolitan vibe); picturesque little villages; and an architecture that blends the apparent Venetian influences with the style found in the south Peloponnese. This is especially evident in the medieval castle at Chora and the lively Kapsali village close nearby.

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Feature

The most Instagram-worthy beaches in Greece

From spectacular volcanic seascapes to pink sand beaches lapped by crystal waters and hidden coves, Greece has some of the world’s most photogenic beaches


Whether you’re seeking dazzling strips of sand where you can photograph that perfect sunset, or tropical-style beaches that provide a picturesque backdrop for your selfies, here are eight Greek beaches that are guaranteed to set your feed on fire. 

The lunar lookalike – Sarakiniko, Milos
Santorini might be the Greek poster child when it comes to calderas, but Milos’ moon-like Sarakiniko – a short drive from the island’s capital Plaka – is definitely a strong contender for the title of the country’s most picturesque volcanic beach. 

Insiders’ tip: Set against a backdrop of perfect azure sea, this photogenic beach also has a half-submerged shipwreck, which is guaranteed to add drama to your photos – get here at sunset when the colours reflected on the white rocks are stunning.

The pale pink beauty – Elafonissi, Crete
An hour and a half’s drive from Chania’s Venetian harbour and warren of shopping lanes, Elafonissi’s rose-pink sands – separated from a sand-dune-studded peninsula by a shallow lagoon – will have photographers in a frenzy.

Insiders’ tip: The western side of the beach where you’ll find sunbeds and snack bars tends to get crowded. For the best photos explore quiet coves further along the peninsula, but make sure not to disturb endangered loggerhead turtles that come here to nest here in summer. 

The celebrity-loved hangout – Shipwreck Beach, Zante
Featured on Instagram feeds around the globe, this scenic sand-lined beach, hemmed in by high cliffs on Zante’s northwest coast, earned its name from the MV Panagiotis, a shipwreck that was washed up here after a violent storm in the 1980s. 

Insiders’ tip: Skinari is the starting point for half-day boat excursions to Shipwreck Beach, but you’ll get the best photos from the clifftop viewpoint near Volimes village.

The local-known gem – Simos Beach, Elafonissos
The island of Elafonissos is reached via ferry from Pounta port near the Peloponnese town of Neapolis, this scenic strip of sand on the local-loved island of Elafonissos is actually two beaches – megalos (large) and mikros (small) – linked by a narrow band of grass-studded dunes. 

Insiders’ tip: Stay in Simos campsite which is right on the waterfront, and then get up early to take sumptuous sunrise photos when there’s no one else about. 

The flamingo’s hangout – Agios Prokopios, Naxos
Backed by a small lagoon where pretty pink flamingos strut their stuff in spring, this strikingly lovely 2km-long strip of golden sand lapped by mirror-clear waters has been named one of the six best beaches in Greece, and is within easy strolling distance. 

Insiders’ tip: For the best shots make a beeline for the chapel of Agia Anna overlooking the Kokkini Limni (Red Lake) salt pans.

The remote beauty spot – Lalaria, Skiathos
Lalaria is accessible only by sea and those willing to make the journey. The beautiful spot on Skiathos is made up of colourful pebbles that help give the sea a stark green-blue colour. Visitors can swim out to the various – and impressive – rock formations that dot the shallows.

Insiders’ tip: If it’s too windy you won’t be able to sail to Lalaria, so have a back up plan!

The award-winner – Myrtos, Kefalonia
Widely regarded as one of the best beaches in Greece – if not the world – Myrtos is a vast bay that is banked by high green cliffs, giving it a dramatic look. During the summer, the local government puts on tourist buses from the harbour area of Agia Efimia.

Insiders’ tip: Stay until sunset to see the sea change from green to orange and rose.

The secret beach – Seychelles, Ikaria
Closely guarded by locals, Seychelles in Ikaria is a beautiful pebble beach with a dramatic rocky backdrop – perfect for picking up an incredible shot. The beach is relatively young, forming as a result of a landslide less than 30 years ago.

Insiders’ tip: the beach is not the easiest to access so if your clients aren’t very mobile, it might be best to point them to another of the island’s beaches, such as Nas.

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