Monday, August 12, 2019

Kefalonia-The next hot Greek island?

Myrtos Beach has been in Kefalonia, Greece for the last week, exploring the extraordinarly blue waters and beautiful beaches around the island, the picturesque villages and the lush mountainous landscape of this paradise.  Kefalonia is the largest island in the Ionian Islands, with frequent flight and ferry connections. 

Kefalonia may not be as popular with Americans as other Greek islands, such  as Corfu, Mykonos or Santorini, but it should be...This island has plenty to offer, and is becoming a very popular cruise port on Greek Isles and Southeren Mediterranean cruises.  In fact, during this last week there were visits from Silversea, Celebrity, MSC, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Costa.  Cruise ships dock in the capital of Argostoli, at the new cruise ship pier, which is just a short walk to the town center.  If there is more than 1 ship visiting on the same day the other ships must tender their passengers to shore.  

In Argostoli, there are many shops and services, including tavernas, supermarkets, coffee shops, seaside restaurants, and ATMs.  The earthquake in 1953 destroyed many of the houses and other unique architecture of the beautiful old city, so many of the buildings are newer but still have a typical venetian style.  There are several museums, monuments and historical squares throughout the city and region.  There are also cultural festivals and two tourist trains that tour around the city during high season.  Boat and yacht rentals and sailing tours are available in the port.  A popular attraction for tourists are the large, gentle sea turtles that swim around the local small fishing boats in the harbor in the mornings. Definitely worth a visit!

Norwegian Star at Argostoli Harbor
Church in Kefalonia

Argostoli is connected with the town of Lixouri, located opposite the bay by a car and passenger ferry that depart every half hour.  The journey takes about 20 minutes each way and is a pleasant experience in itself. 

If you want to explore more of the beauty of Kefalonia, you can take shore excursions, take an island tour, or rent a car. Driving your own car can be challenging with windy, steep, and crowded roads, but if you are prepared and adventurous, you will have the time of your life!  Some of the highlights of the island include Myrtos Beach, the island's (and perhaps the world's) most beautiful beach, Assos or Fiskardo, two picturesque fishing villages, Xi or Petani Beach, or maybe Drogarti Cave, a deep cavern (135 meters) with long stalactites and stalagmites!  You can also take day cruises to other islands, like Ithaca, or Zakynthos, or rent a motorboat in Agia Efima to explore the many private boat-access only beaches along the coast up to Fiskardo.
Whatever you choose, Kefalonia will amaze you!
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Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of  the Seas in Kefalonia

Assos village
Xi Beach

Drogarti Cave

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Mamma Mia! Greek Island hopping

Skopelos, the Greek island made famous from the movie, 'Mamma Mia!' ten years ago, is still as beautiful as ever, and evokes that carefree island feeling of youthful passion, although you will now be sharing it with many others.  Pictures like this one here stir thoughts of escaping to the Mediterranean, swimming in those crystal clear warm waters, and relaxing at a whitewashed taverna on the beach under a shady tree...Those pulsing Abba rhythms go nicely day or night with this island.  I have to admit, I listened to the movie soundtrack quite a bit as I prepared for this trip, as well as in the car, on the's still in my head. 

The highlights of Skopelos:

Skopelos Town charms visitors at first sight, as they arrive into port on the ferry from a neighbor island ,Skiathos, where the flights come in from all around Europe.  The whitewashed buildings, narrow winding cobblestone streets and the lush mountains in the background make a postcard setting.  It feels like it could be a movie set.   Along the waterfront and within the city streets you can find many excellent tavernas serving traditional Greek food, some with live music. Many taverna owners will bring you into their kitchens to look at their food before you look at a menu! Food is delicious and prices are very reasonable in Greece!

If you are into exploring, you can start off right from town and go hiking up the many mountain roads to visit some of the country churches, small villages and monasteries on the island.  The peaceful silence in the mountains, the fragrant scent of wild rosemary and flowers and the incredible views over the town and the sea are your reward for your climb.  Remember to bring water!

Skopelos has a variety of some amazing beaches with crystal clear water and dramatic rocky cliffs.  They are mostly pebble or flat stone beaches and most are well equipped with tavernas, beach loungers and some watersports.  You can also find some where you need to bring your own food and water and just lay your towel on the rocks.   There is some decent snorkeling around the reefs on the island. 

Finally, this is the Mamma Mia! island, where the hit movie/musical was filmed in 2007, so there are still tourists choosing to come to this island partly because of that.  I wouldn't say the island is exploiting the movie for tourism, but they do show the film 3 nights a week in a charming outdoor theater in town.  If you happen to be walking down one of the streets nearby at night, you can hear the music in the dark!  The famous scene in the movie at the little church of Agios Ionnis on the rock is probably the most visited movie location.  It is located at the top eastern coast of the island.  Climb the 110 steps to the top, like in the movie for spectacular views  of Skopelos and Alonissos.  There are many tour buses to take you here, or you can rent a car. It's a great drive, about 1hr from Skopelos town, up some steep windy roads.  Parking at the end of the road and getting out can be a little tricky when it's crowded!  Then there's also Kastani Beach, where they were all dancing on the pier, but that's been taken away now.

You can take a ferry from Skopelos to Alonissos, an island about 45 minutes away.  I stayed for a week on Alonissos first before going to Skopelos, and the contrast between the two islands is noticeable.  Alonissis is much calmer, with less tourists, less expensive and has a very relaxed, more authentic Greek feeling to it.  The town is not crowded, the locals are friendly and very nice....I discovered the first night that I had forgotten my toothbrush in Copenhagen and went up the street to a little pharmacy to buy one...The store was open, just two elderly Greek ladies sitting and talking inside...When I selected my toothbrush, they motioned and tried to explain the cash register was closed, but then just smiled at me and said, " Take, take...tomorrow.."  So, I happily thanked them and said I would come back tomorrow to pay-just an example of how things are there.  The harbor at Patitri is beautiful, filled with sailboats, fishing boats and a few luxury yachts, and surrounded by mountains and the town on the hillside.   -Morning in Patitiri, on Alonissos,Greece.

Alonissis has a beautiful Old Village, Chora, up on the top of the mountain.   Buses run frequently from Patitri to Chora and back, but you might also want to try walking up to the Old Town and take a bus back.  The path is an old donkey trail, and steep, but you will pass through olive groves, the air is filled with the scent of rosemary and the sounds of chicatas, and you will work off the delicious dinner you that awaits you in Old Town!  It's about a 4km(2 1/2 miles) walk.  There are many different tavernas, shops, and charming old buildings, squares and churches to explore, and beautiful views of the island. 
The beaches on Alonissos are also amazing!  Crystal clear blue waters, good snorkeling, and there are both beaches equipped with all facilities, as well as incredibly beautiful secluded beaches.  If you are looking for a Greek island escape with charming quiet villages and intimate restaurants and beaches with mostly Greeks instead of other tourists, try Alonissis. or better yet, combine it with Skopelos for a truly amazing Greek holiday experience!  Voulez vous!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Harmony of the Seas-The World's Largest Ship

WOW! Royal Caribbean's most amazing NEW ship, Harmony of the Seas currently sailing 7night Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona and Rome, then 7nts Eastern and Western Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale starting in the fall. Harmony of the Seas has 3 nerve racking water slides, GREASE-the musical!, 2 Flow Riders, the Bionic Bar, and much more. I think this would be fun for a week!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

2018's Hottest Cruise and Vacation Deals