The Essential Guide to Naxos

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I’m continuing my guides to the Cyclades, bringing you tips about things to see and do in Naxos, which is the largest island of the Cyclades archipelago. The island has a lot to offer: beaches, archaeological sites, picturesque villages and of course delicious food! So, here we go!

Beaches in Naxos

Plaka beach, Naxos, Greece

What I loved in Naxos was the long sandy beaches. The water was crystal clear and inviting, albeit cold. In a nutshell the ones I liked the most are the following:

Plaka – long beach with sand dunes, not very crowded

Pyrgaki – this beach is on the South West part of the island, it is long too and it is not crowded at all

Agia Anna + Agios Prokopios – these beaches are side by side. Beautiful water, but they are a bit crowded (Ag. Prokopios is better in my opinion)

All these are located in the west and south west coast of the island. The east coast has smaller, lesser known and more “raw” beaches like Moutsouna.

Sightseeing in Naxos

Portara, Naxos, Cyclades, Greece

Naxos is rich in marble, so from the ancient times, people used it to make temples, statues etc. The first thing you’ll see as the ship approaches Naxos, is a big marble door, which is called  Portara, on the north side of the port. It was the entrance of a temple dedicated to God Apollo.

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Apart from the door, there are many archaeological sites throughout the island. You can visit the temple dedicated to Goddess Dimitra (the Goddess of earth) and check out two sites where large scale male statue (called Kouroi) were found. You can see a Kouros near the village Apollon in the Northeastern part of the island and a couple of them in the site of Flerio, which is near the village of Melanes.

Koronos, Naxos, Cyclades, Greece

On the road from Koronos (a very picturesque village) to Moutsouna (one of the beaches I mentioned above) you will come across an abandoned emery mine and the cable cars (more like baskets) that people used to transfer emery from the mine down to Moutsouna port.

Villages to visit in Naxos

Next to the beaches and the archaeological sites, the island has many picturesque villages you can visit in Naxos. First off, there is the main town (and port), also known as Chora. Next up is the fishing village of Apollonas in the north east.

Koronos and Apeiranthos are two mainland villages, which are very beautiful and unique. The latter is my favorite one in the island and the one I’ve photographed the most!

Where to Eat in Naxos

Waffle at Waffle House, Cyclades, Greece

Maro tavern  is located in the town of Naxos and is ideal for meat lovers.

Meze2  or Meze Meze in two locations: Naxos town (Chora) and Plaka beach. This restaurant is ideal for both fish and meat lovers (I tried fish mainly).

Koronos, Naxos, Cyclades, Greece

Platanos tavern is located in the village of Apeiranthos (or Aperathos) and has very tasty food.

Platsa tavern (Matina+Stavros) is located in the village of Koronos. It is a family run tavern, which I totally recommend.

Waffle House, which is my favorite place in the whole wide world! You will find it both in Naxos town and Plaka Beach.

Practical information about Naxos

Apeiranthos, Naxos, Cyclades, Greece

Naxos has a daily flight and ferry connection to Athens (Piraeus). Ferry trip time ranges from 3 to 6 hours depending on the type of ferry you are going to choose. You will find more information about ferry trips in the website Open Seas.

Related: The Essential Info Guide to getting around the Greek Islands

Naxos is ideal for island hopping as well: Amorgos and Paros are nearby as are the Small Cyclades (Schinousa, Donousa, Iraklia, Koufonisia). It has also ferry connections to Mykonos and Santorini.

Accomodation wise, Agia Anna and Agios Prokopios are your best bets. You will find hotels and rooms to let in the beach of Agios Georgios which is next to Naxos town (Chora) and Plaka beach.

Have you visited Naxos? If not, here’s another island for your list!

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Babaji, Indian Restaurant, Athens

Kashmir chicken at Babaji Indian restaurant Athens

Indian cuisine lovers, there’s a restaurant in Athens you should visit! I was introduced to Babaji about six months ago on a lunch break with two colleagues. I’d already tried out another Indian restaurant a few blocks down and I was eager to explore this one too. I loved all of the dishes we tried out and especially the Chicken Kashmir (with litchi fruit, pictured above) and the Sweet Pulao (basmati rice with saffron, pictured below left). So I returned once more with my husband to try out more!

Of course we ordered Chicken Kashmir once more as well as Lamb Korma(pictured below). We topped off our order with Paratha bread (delicious) and a Green Salad. Everything was very yummy and I should add that every main dish is accompanied with a rice bowl, so you don’t have to order extra! What I also love in Babaji is that the food isn’t over the top spicy and I enjoy it without the urgent need of water!

DSC02010 salad at Babaji Indian restaurant Athens

Essential Information: Babaji is conveniently located in 11 Nikis street, a block down from Syntagma square, so it’s very central! It’s mostly ideal for lunch breaks during the week, but I like to visit it on weekends as well. The do not take reservations, but do offer delivery service! More information can be found on their website.

 

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Afternoon Walk in Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki seaside promenade and hotel Macedonia

Last week I spent a day in Thessaloniki for work and although I didn’t have time to see much of the city and explore new places (*ahem* food related), I did take a long walk along the seaside promenade that I gushed about on my guide to Thessaloniki. Unlike October when the weather was cold and rainy, the weather was warm and partly sunny which made it ideal for an afternoon/sunset walk.

Andromeda hotel, Thessaloniki

The starting point was City Hotel near Aristotelous square, where my colleagues and I stayed for the night and walked up to Fokas’ garden (which is part of the New seaside promenade redesign), covering almost 6km (return walk included). Being a photography sucker I stopped every now and then to snap pictures of beautiful buildings (the one you see up there is Hotel Andromeda) and of course the promenade and the view towards the port. Of course I could not not snap a photo with the Umbrellas’ sculpture included. This sculpture, created by George Zoggolopoulos, has to be Thessaloniki’s most Instagrammable location, much like the Urban Light sculpture in LACMA, Los Angeles.

The walk ended with dinner in Aristotelous square (nothing to write home about so I’ll spare the details) and cocktails (it’s been a while) in a cafe/bar called Saxofono by the seaside promenade (one of the many along the way). I got a cocktail called Toblerone which was nice but expected more of a chocolate-y taste and my colleague got an Apple Martini.

If you plan on visiting Thessaloniki then I have a very handy guide which covers everything from sightseeing to nearby excursions and of course a separate foodie guide, because the options in this city are endless!

Have you visited Thessaloniki? If not, what are you waiting for?

Thessaloniki Port at dusk cocktails at Saxofono bar, Thessaloniki

Fresh patisserie, Athens

dessert bowl at Fresh pastry store in Athens

Last week on my Saturday in Athens walk I mentioned Fresh pastry stores and particularly their Valaoritou branch and since it’s a pastry store/cafe that should be on your list if you visit Athens I came back with a full post!

Fresh is a well known chain of chic pastry stores in Athens and suburbs. It’s well known for cakes, assorted pastries and dessert bowls. But the dessert options don’t end there! In these pastry stores you’ll also find macarons, cookies, chocolate and gluten free desserts. A few weeks before Christmas, Fresh opened a new branch in Valaoritou street in Kolonaki neighborhood in Athens, pretty close to Syntagma square.

Lemon merFresh pastry store, Valaoritou street, Athens Lemon meringue dessert at Fresh pastry store, Athens

The space is designed Italian architect Paola Navone and features black and white tiles and large chandeliers. There are not many tables inside the store, but outdoor seating is also available, with heaters and blankets provided for the cold months!

Fresh’ location near Attica department store, Voukourestiou street and Kolonaki make it an ideal location for pre- or post-shopping stop. This particular store serves lunch and dinner as well!

So, what are you waiting for?

Essential information: Fresh is located in 7, Valaoritou street. More info (and drooling) over at its website.

The essential guide to Rethymno, Crete

Essential Guide to Rethymno, Crete, Greece

Being married to a Cretan means that I get the chance to visit this beautiful island multiple times per year. I’ve explored a lot of cities, villages and beaches but the fact is that I still have lots to explore! Ugh! Anyways! Today’s post is all about the picturesque city of Rethymno, which lies conveniently between the two large cities of Chania and Heraklion. It has a lot of similarities with the former as the Venetian influence is more prominent than in Heraklion (where they did a pretty good job on not highlighting the dry docks or the fortifications). Its full of picturesque cobblestone streets where you can easily get lost. In a good sense. I’ve visited Rethymno many times during the past few years, so it’s time to compile a guide to the city!

Sightseeing in Rethymno

Rethymno’s Venetian fortress is high on the sightseeing list, as it will provide you with views over the city. The Fortezza, as it is called, is located on Paleokastro hill and it’s a 10-minute walk from the Old Town and the Old Port.

Rethymno old port, Crete, Greece

The best part of the city is (you’ve guessed it) the Old Town. You’ll meet colorful houses, interesting restaurants, blooming bougainvilleas (depending on the season), old mosques and quiet squares. A favorite place of mine in the city is the Rimondi fountain. This fountain was built in the 17th century by the Rethymno’s rector at the time, called Rimondi and it was part of the city’s water system.

Where to eat at Rethymno

Mousaka at Avli Restaurant, Rethymno, Crete, Greece

The city’s waterfront and especially the old port is filled with busy restaurants and cafes but it’s actually not my favorite place to hang out in Rethymno. I prefer the area around the Rimondi fountain, where I’ve discovered a couple of nice restaurants, cafes and ice cream parlors. My favorite restaurant in Rethymno is Avli, which I’d describe as Cretan cuisine with a twist. Their dishes are delicious, the portions reasonable and its courtyard (that’s what Avli means) very picturesque! A recent discovery is Kook, which is an Italian inspired restaurant. Love the interiors and the fried cheese and must go back and try more!!

ice cream at Gelato.it Rethymno

Now on the ice cream front: you should try Meli, which is located next to the fountain and Gelato.it, located nearby! As far as cafes go, I’ve visited two, also on less crowded streets (that’s the perk when you have local friends)! One is called Bistro 22 and is located on Tsouderon street. Apart from coffee, tea and chocolate, they make delicious desserts; just look at the pictured profiterole and cheesecake!! Then there is Kimolia on 25th March square which is very quiet and a nice place to relax and chat with friends.

Beaches to visit in Rethymno

Souda cove, Plakias, Rethymno, Crete, Greece

The beaches I’ve visited and recommend in Rethymno are actually far from the city, but they are worth the trip. First up is Plakias (more specifically Souda cove next to Plakias) which is located in the southern part of Rethymno’s prefecture, and it’s about an hour drive. And if you do go there for I have the perfect tavern for you called Galini! My next beach suggestion is either Panormo or Bali, which are half an hour and 40-minute drive respectively from Rethymno.

When to visit Rethymno and how to get there

Rethymno is a city you can visit year round, but summer is always most popular, since it’s warmer and you can hit the beach as well. Personally I’d avoid the city in July and August as it’s going to be super crowded.

Rethymno doesn’t have an airport and is not connected to Piraeus via ferry, so you’ll either have to fly to Chania or to Heraklion (or take a ferry to get either to these cities) and then rent a car or take a bus to Rethymno. Aegean Airlines connects Athens to both Chania and Heraklion, but bear in mind that Ryanair flies to Chania too from selected European countries.

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A walk in Athens: Saturday in the City

Saturday Walk in Athens

When the weather is nice I’m all about Saturday walks in the city! It’s really pleasant to explore Athens during springtime (or fall) and that’s what I like to do! This past weekend the weather was cloudy, rainy and all over moody, but I do have a nice walk to share with you from the previous month!

But first brunch!

After experiencing the joy having brunch in Montreal and Boston, it was time to check out what Athens has to offer too! New York Sandwiches has been a fixture lately. I love their Eggs Benedict as well as their pancakes, although the latter are too much for my poor stomach! So this time, we skipped the pancakes and decided to get dessert elsewhere , thus made our way to Fresh!

Fresh is a well known pastry shop in Athens, with delicious cakes, tarts, assorted pastries and many more (full post will definitely follow). I opted for that delicious milk chocolate pastry you see above!  Then off course it was time to digest, so we decided to walk around Athens (and take pictures in front of now closed patisseries). I also dragged my husband at made a stop at Zara to stock up on a new pair of grey jeans, a blue shirt (perfect for spring) and a home candle. Funny thing is that I was never into home candles before moving to the US. There I discovered that Bath and Body Works make not only beautiful body lotions but candles as well. So now, I try to find candles that match up their candles and those from Zara do a pretty good job!

Change of the guards

Walking from Zara towards Syntagma square my husband pointed out that it was time for the guards’ change in front of the Parliament, which is an interesting sight to observe, especially if it has been ages since the last time you spotted it! So, we stood there with visitors and locals alike to view the procedure and my husband snapped some photos as well!

Walking down Mitropoleos street

Heading home we walked down Ermou and Mitropoleos streets for some shopping (*cough, cough*) and casual sightseeing. The statue you see pictured above depicts the last reigning Byzantine Emperor: Constantine IX Palaiologos, which has also been a ruler of Mystras, which I visited last year! The statue is tucked away in a corner of the square in front of Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens and noticed it recently as I was relocated to an office building in the southern part of the square. So here’s a little fun fact/sight in Athens that most people bypass!

P.S. If you’re looking for a nice cafe/restaurant in Mitropoleos Square check out The Zillers!

We ended our walk in Monastiraki square before catching the bus home! The view towards the Acropolis was beautiful, so I asked my husband to capture the scene (that’s the first photo of the post), as his camera is far better than mine (and he’s a talented photographer)!

So here you go! That’s how I like to spend my Saturdays in Athens! Now tell me how do you like to spend your weekends in the city!

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The Zillers roof garden, Athens

The Zillers roof garden, Athens

There’s a new roof garden in Athens that you should visit and it’s called The Zillers! The Zillers is a new boutique hotel that is opening pretty soon in the city center, whose roof garden features a very cozy all day cafe/restaurant. The latter is already in operation and quickly became the talk of the town!

The Zillers roof garden, Athens

The Zillers is the latest of a long list of rooftop cafes, bars and restaurants that popped up in Athens city center in the latest 5 years. A for Athens was the first one located on Monastiraki square (which has a killer view, frequently spotted on Pinterest), then 360 degrees opened up across the square, then Loukoumi in Avyssinias square, Couleur Locale a few blocks down and the list goes on!

The Zillers roof garden, Athens

The Zillers is centrally located at Athens’ Cathedral square (Plateia Mitropoleos), but you must be careful not to miss the white door that leads to the hotel and roof garden! I visited the roof top cafe/restaurant last Friday and was lucky enough to snap a seat by the railing, so I had the perfect view over the square and of course towards the Acropolis. The terrace is minimal and modern. Both the side walls are covered with plants (pictured below) giving off this garden feeling!

I opted for a chocolate souffle and hazelnut ice cream (pictured above) and wasn’t disappointed! It was the best dessert for ending the week. I spotted a lot of interesting dishes on the menu as The Zillers roof garden is primarily a restaurant and the menu is created by chef Konstantina Faklari. So you know…now I have to return and try out the food as well!

Essential Information: The Zillers is located on 54, Mitropoleos street. More information can be found on their Facebook page.

Exploring hidden Athens

exploring hidden Athens

Last month I embarked on a different walk around Athens, following Atenistas’ Open Walk. The walk’s purpose is “[…] to help Athenians get to know hidden and unknown parts of the city and its people. The sixth consecutive OWA comprises of locations in the center that we walk by every day but may never have been made aware of the treasures that are hidden within them, in their basements and on their rooftops.  The purpose of the OWA is to showcase these points and inform the citizens of Athens of the invisible treasures of the city.”

The Open Walk map contained 17 places of interest and I chose to visit 6 of them that were located near Klathmonos and Omonia Squares. I visited buildings that were created in the 20th century during the interbellum period and the 50s and 60s, which were modern Athens’ golden eras. Today those buildings are half abandoned, but I was kind of curious to explore nooks and crannies of Athens’ that I ignored.

My first stop was Anatoli Arcade (Stoa Anatoli), which rooftop provides absolute urban isolation! Then I popped in an Art Deco building, better known for its unique curved glass atrium, in Praxitelous street and headed to “Parnassos Literary Society” in Karytsi square and checked out it’s lobby which was full of pictures of past kings and queens of Greece.

Walking towards Omonia square I popped in a former eclectic hotel of 1924 which currently serves as offices in Kotzia Square and then walked up 8 stories to admire a different view of Omonia square and all the way to Piraeus! My last stop was an office building exemplifying the 1960’s urbanization in Panepistimiou street, where coincidentally my optician is located!!

Exhausted (it was warm that day and those 8 stories killed me) and hungry I headed home! I still have the map and intend to check out the rest of the spots (those who are open to the public) at some point! Hope you enjoyed my “alternative” view of Athens!

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Postcards from Amorgos Greece

Postcards from Amorgos, Greece

Last month I had the opportunity to visit Amorgos island for work, but you know how the drill goes: spend half the day working and the rest sightseeing. Thankfully we had planned the trip after the daylight saving time date, so we had long afternoons to spend around the island.

The lowdown on Amorgos

Amorgos belongs to the Cyclades archipelago and is the easternmost island of the group, located almost in the middle of the Aegean Sea. It’s primarily a mountainous island, with raw beauty and whitewashed villages.  The island has two natural ports: Aegiali and Katapola.That’s where most of the accommodation can be found and of course restaurants, cafes and bars. Since I’ve visited off season, Amorgos was pretty quiet, but beautiful nonetheless!

Chora Amorgos, Greece

The island’s “capital” called Chora in built up on the mountain, for fear of the pirates. It is very picturesque, with whitewashed houses and shops, narrow streets and Instagram worthy nooks. Again it was very quiet as it was off season, but it will be bustling with people come July and August and you might even get stuck in “traffic”!

Now, Amorgos is famous for two things: the Chozoviotissa monastery and the place were the movie The Big Blue (Le Grand Bleu) by Luc Besson was filmed. Let’s start with the monastery: it is built literally in the rocks on the southern part of the island and houses an icon of Virgin Mary and Jesus which dates back to 7th century AD and was brought to Amorgos from Israel. The monastery’s location is breathtaking (as are the steps you need to climb to get there) and the view is amazing! Just see how blue the sea is (honestly I didn’t even pump up the saturation). A little further to the south is the place where The Big Blue was filmed, where also the sea color is amazing!

An FYI though: if you’re after sandy, long beaches then Amorgos isn’t probably the island for you. But if you love raw, unspoiled landscapes, picturesque villages and crystal clear water, then you have to visit!

How and when to visit Amorgos

Aegiali, Amorgos, Greece blue sign in Amorgos, Greece

Unfortunately the island doesn’t have an airport, so you’ll get there by ferry either from Piraeus or from Naxos (which is the closest island with an airport). High season in Amorgos is July and August and as always I suggest that you visit either before or after high season. June and September (especially the latter since the sea is warmer) are the best months to visit any Greek island!

You can combine your visit to Amorgos with visiting Naxos or the Small Cyclades as well. The latter is a group of 6 small islands (and even more islets and rocks but lets not count these): Ano Koufonisi, Kato Koufonisi, Donousa, Schinousa, Iraklia and Keros. They are very low key and untouched by mass tourism. Ano Koufonisi has beautiful beaches and I’m sure you’ve spotted one of them on Pinterest!

If you’re planning a trip to the Greek islands then check out my tips on choosing the ideal one for you as well as the essential guide to get around the islands!

on Blue Star ferry leaving Amorgos Greece

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Cookie Land, Athens

Cookie Land patisserie cafe, Athens

I discovered Cookie Land some years ago, when a colleague brought cookies from this patisserie for his birthday. I recently realized that they also have a store/cafe in downtown Athens really close to my office, so a “dessert date” with my friends was in order.

Cookie Land has displays with the desserts and ice cream flavors so you can see what’s available. We were treated with a delicious butter cookie and then sat down to plot our order. One of my friends and I went for the rich chocolate cake (called sokolatopita, which literally translates to chocolate pie) topped with ice cream and my other friend went for the orange cake topped with ice cream.

desserts in Cookie Land, Athen

The hazelnut ice cream was delicious and the chocolate cake is made from bitter chocolate and its sweetness is very subtle! The butter cookie that we was treated was also very tasty and I’m still dreaming about it!

cookies in Cookie Land, Athens

Cookie Land is located in 3, Kapnikareas street, just off Ermou street, making it ideal for a pit stop while shopping or exploring Athens’ city center! More delicious creations from Cookie Land can be found on their Facebook page.

Cookie Land, Athens

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