THE ABTA MAGAZINE GUIDE TO
Luxury islands City guide: Athens Greek gastronomy
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In this issue 04 News The latest goings on in Greek tourism most luxurious islands 05 Greece’s A look at the best exclusive getaways guide: Athens 06 City What to do in Greece’s vibrant capital city in style 07 Cruise The best way to see Greece is from the water of ancient wonders 09 Land Greece’s Unesco World Heritage Sites paradise 11 Culinary The spectacular evolution of Greek gastronomy about Greece 12 All A round-up of the country in numbers
9 The ABTA Magazine Guide to Greece is created by Waterfront Publishing on behalf of the GNTO. See waterfront-publishing.com for more.
News November 2019
All the latest headlines from the world of Greek travel
Ancient shipwreck opens to the public By Anthony Pearce A 5th century shipwreck off Peristera, an island adjacent to Alonissos in the Thessaly region, will open to the public in the summer of 2020. “We have restarted the work of many archaeologists, won two European awards, and are proud of the ‘Parthenon of shipwrecks’, which – once fully operational – will change the image of Alonissos and of our islands,” said Kostas Agorastos, Thessaly regional governor.
“Thessaly is now entering the world tourism map, [offering] different and quality tourism. Diversity will bring [tourism] flows in the near future.” The wreck will not just be opened up to divers – a new information centre on land will offer virtual tours as well as simulated diving experiences. There are four underwater museums or parks slated for opening in Thessaly’s Magnesia prefecture at Peristera, Alonissos; Tilegrafos at Sourpi Bay; Amaliopolis, Kikinthos; and at Cape Glaros, Sourpi Bay.
Fermor House opens to public By Sam Ballard The Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor House is now open to the public for guided tours and visits. Considered one of the most beautiful private homes in Greece, the property is found in Kardamyli, in the southeast Peloponnesian Peninsula. It has been opened to the public thanks to the support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Patrick Leigh Fermor was a British author and decorated soldier, best-known for A Time of Gifts (1977). He also played a role in the Cretan resistance duringWWII . Patrick and Joan decided to donate this house to the Benaki Museum in order to contribute to the Museum’s mission.
More modern art for Athens By Emily Eastman A new museum of international contemporary and modern art has opened in the heart of Athens, further increasing the city’s cultural offering. The Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation museum, at 13 Eratosthenous Street in central Athens, has been planned for 26 years. It is named after Basil Goulandris, a Greek shipowner, and his wife Elise, an art collector, who founded Greece’s first museum of modern art, the Museum of Contemporary Art
Andros. The new permanent residence in Athens is open every day apart from Monday. Visitors will have the opportunity to see works by El Greco, Cézanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Picasso, Paul Klee, Jackson Pollock and Francis Bacon, among others. The founders, Basil and Elise Goulandris, as advocates of the idea that Art should be open to society and apart from their important contribution with the establishment of the Museum of Contemporary Art on Andros, also envisioned the creation of another museum in Athens.
© Christoforos Doulgeris
Greece’s most luxurious islands Roughly 6,000 islands make up the Greek archipelago. Emily Eastman looks at the ones to head for if you are after a luxury getaway Rhodes
The capital of the Dodecanese has been an important location since ancient times, thanks to its strategic position, but these days it is the perfect place for a luxury getaway. The coastline is peppered with upscale hotels and villas, many with a focus on spas and wellness. History and beauty is everywhere: the medieval city of Rhodes was named a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1988, but away from the cobbled Street of the Knights, there are magnificent Venetian, neoclassical and modern buildings.
A list of luxurious Greek islands would be incomplete without Santorini. Up and down the volcanic island five-star
accommodations abound within the whitewashed, cliff-side buildings for which Santorini is so well known. Opt for a private pool in one of the island’s cave hotels, bask in a Jacuzzi overlooking the westerly islands of the Aegean Sea, and catch a famous Santorini sunset from one of many awardwinning restaurants.
Crete is the largest island in Greece, and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean. There are numerous five-star hotels and villas from where you can admire the remnants of ancient civilisations, explore glorious beaches, impressive mountains, fertile valleys and steep gorges, and immerse yourself in the
island’s rich gastronomic culture. In Chania, you can explore the 14th century Venetian harbour and sample Cretan cuisine, much of which is sourced from the Med.
Favoured by the well-heeled and famous, the sophisticated island of Mykonos offers world-class hotels, postcard-perfect land and seascapes and an exclusive menu of activities. Beyond the beaches – where visitors can sunbathe, snorkel and party ’til dawn – are Chora, the island’s labyrinthine and beautiful capital; Little Venice, a charming quarter replete with quaint buildings, galleries and exhibitions; and the ultra-luxury boutique properties of Psarou, Ornos, Elia and Agios Stefanos.
The Greek capital offers a heady concoction of antiquity and modernity, with some gastronomic excellence thrown in, says Sam Ballard
hether it’s ancient history, contemporary culture or super cool restaurants, Athens has something for everyone. This is a city where antiquity sits right alongside modernity, where you will find radical bookshops a few streets away from parliamentary buildings. It’s a heady concoction that gives the Greek capital a feeling like no other. This is one of the oldest cities in the world, where you can spend a morning visiting Unesco sites followed by an afternoon shopping and an evening taking in the buzzing nightlife. No trip to Athens would be complete without a trip to the Acropolis, the remains of the ancient city. The Acropolis’s crowning jewel is the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to Athena, the city’s patron goddess. Athens is famed for being the birthplace of democracy and the Parthenon acts as a constant reminder – high up on a hill in the middle of the city, it can be seen from any rooftop and offers the perfect backdrop to sunset drinks. Admission is €20 and can be booked online. The relatively new Acropolis Museum (€12) is a five-minute walk from the
Acropolis and is well worth a visit, housing many of the monuments that were found on the hillside of the Acropolis. But not all of Athens is ancient history – the city is also home to a thriving contemporary arts scene, with numerous galleries, the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) and Neon, a nonprofit organisation that organises exhibitions and events in surprise locations around the city. There is also the annual Athens & Epidaurus Festival, one of the longest-running performing arts festivals in Europe, which takes place at various venues around the city between May and September each year. When it comes to eating and drinking Athens has got you covered. The city boasts four Michelin-starred restaurants and four more that have been awarded the Bib Gourmand. Many of their dishes are seafood or fish based, with the latter sourced directly from fishing boats plying the Aegean. In fact, there is so much fresh produce here. Order a mouth-watering choriatiki salad and expect organic tomato from Vravrona, cucumber from Kalyvia, oregano and capers from Mount Hymettus, black
olives from Megara, virgin olive oil from Troezen, red wine vinegar from Spata, onion and garlic from Marathon and feta cheese from Lavrio. And you won’t be short of choice wherever you are in Athens – small tavernas can be found on most streets. Grab a table, order fresh fish, pita and olives and a bottle of cold beer, and enjoy a spot of people watching. Plaka is the area of Athens probably best known by tourists, in the shadow of the Acropolis and with a villagey feel, but nearby Psyri, with its nightlife and small artisan shops is worth a look, too. The Athens Riviera, the coastline to the south of the city, begins in Piraeus and ends at the tip of Cape Sounion. It’s just a short distance away from the centre and the beaches and bays are popular with locals and visitors alike. Getting around is easy. Travel cards can be bought from any Metro station and a five-day ticket costs just €9 – and can be used on buses, too. With a flying time of about three hours and 40 minutes from the UK, Athens is the perfect city break and British tourist numbers indicate this, rising by almost ten per cent in 2018.
Cruise in style From big ships to small sailing vessels, the best way to explore Greece’s coastline and islands is to take to the sea, writes Sam Ballard
rom Mykonos to Santorini, the Aegean Sea is one of the most idyllic cruise destinations in the world. In 2019, more than 5.2 million cruise passengers are expected to come to Greece – that’s a ten per cent rise on the previous year. But why are Greek cruises so popular? For starters, Greece is one of the sunniest countries in Europe. Athens has about 2,771 hours of sunshine every year – almost double that of London. The food is unpretentious and delicious and there is an abundance of cultural and ancient sites to visit. There is also a huge amount of choice
– Greece spans 130,000 square kilometres and 6,000 islands. In theory, you could visit a different Greek island every day for 16 years and still not visit them all. There are numerous ways of doing this, too, with everything from giant ocean-going cruise liners to small sailing vessels making their way around the coast and from island to island. When it comes to cruising around Greece, there’s something for everyone, depending on what destinations you would like to visit. Piraeus is the cruise port for Athens, and is located about 15km from the city centre. Numerous
cruises begin, end or call here – and no trip to Greece is complete without a visit to its ancient capital city, which mixes contemporary culture with ancient history. Crete is the largest of the Greek islands – and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean – and the cruise port at Heraklion is within walking distance of the historic city centre, which is worth a visit for its many attractions, including the ruins of the Minoan Palace of Knossos, which dates back nearly 4,000 years and is said to hold the original Labyrinth of the Minotaur. The cruise port at Rhodes is close to the historical centre of the
ABTA Greece Old Town, a Unesco World Heritage Site, with its imposing Palace of the Grand Master and cobbled Street of the Knights. Cruises to Rhodes often include an excursion to Lindos, which is known for its incredible clifftop acropolis. In Santorini, large cruise ships are unable to use the port at Fira, instead they anchor and passengers are brought ashore by tender. The blue-roofed buildings of the clifftop village of Oia are familiar even to those who haven’t visited and other attractions include the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral and Museum of Prehistoric Thera, one of the most important collections in Greece featuring vases from the 7th and 6th centuries BC and a collection of prehistoric art from the Aegean.
According to mythology, Mykonos was formed from the petrified bodies of giants killed by Hercules. Today, it’s a popular destination for the well-heeled traveller and cruises will either arrive at the new port, or anchor in the bay for a tender landing in the old harbour. Once ashore you can meet the legendary pelicans and check out the beautiful district of Little Venice. Some cruises also offer passengers an excursion to the island of Delos, an archaeological site said to be the mythological birthplace of Apollo. Patmos was used as a place of exile by the Romans, and this is how St John ended up here. It is said he wrote the Book of Revelation in 95 AD in the Holy Cave of the Apocalypse, after he
heard the voice of God talking to him. The cave has been a place of worship since the 11th century. Today, you can also enjoy the lovely countryside the island has to offer and wander the steep streets down from the monastery to the port of Skála – where only smaller ships can dock – which is a good place to enjoy local seafood delicacies. Away from the more wellknown ports of call, some of the smaller cruise lines take in islands that most of us will have never heard of, such as Kythnos, Serifos, Kimolos, Sifnos and Milos. These ports are so small that dinners for the entire ship’s company can be hosted in the traditional tavernas that line the old harbours. Ancient or modern, a cruise around Greece will get you there.
Land of ancient wonders Greece, one of the oldest civilisations in the world, is home to 18 Unesco World Heritage Sites. Emily Eastman takes a closer look at five of them Acropolis of Athens
Sitting high on a rocky outcrop that rises above the Greek capital is the most striking and complete ancient Greek monumental complex still standing today. The Acropolis (above) houses the remains of several ancient buildings of architectural and historic significance, with artefacts dating to the Middle Neolithic era. Today, for an entrance fee of €20, visitors can walk around sites including the Parthenon – the temple of the goddess Athena – the Pandroseion, a sanctuary dedicated to one of the daughters
of the first king of Attica, and the Chalkotheke, which housed the treasury of the goddess of Wisdom, Athena.
Temple of Apollo Epicurius
The well-preserved ancient Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae is one of the most impressive in Greece, and the first of the country’s great monuments to be designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The temple was built between 420 and 400 BC, although archaeologists believe that beneath its foundations exists a temple from the seventh
century BC. Dedicated to Apollo the Helper, the temple bears three types of architectural orders of classical times that visitors can take in as they stroll the perimeter. Equally impressive is the surrounding landscape – a natural sanctuary of deep valleys and towering mountains that served as a backdrop to worship of the gods of antiquity.
Archaeological site of Delphi
Once the religious centre and symbol of unity of Ancient Greece, the pan-Hellenic sanctuary of
ABTA Greece Delphi continues to blend seamlessly with the magnificent landscape surrounding it. Nestled at the foot of Mount Parnassus, the area was inhabited in the second millennium BC, with the development of the sanctuary beginning in the eighth century BC. As its religious and political influence spread across Greece, the site became a place for pilgrims to receive an oracle from the Pythia, the priestess of Apollo – the Olympian god of light, knowledge and harmony. Today, the site remains unchanged except for the addition of an archaeological museum.
Medieval city of Rhodes
Visiting Europe’s oldest inhabited medieval city is an opportunity
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to get lost along the intricate network of some 200 streets and alleyways, meet locals who live and work in the same buildings the Knights of St John occupied, and delight in an area that people have been calling home for the past 2,000 years. Highlights include the Palace of the Grand Master, an impressive medieval castle which also serves as the Byzantine Museum; the charming cobbled Street of the Knights of Rhodes, once home to the Knights Hospitaller who ruled Rhodes; and the clock tower – particularly impressive at sunset, when the panoramic views are bathed in golden light.
If you’re after great photos, look no further than Meteora (below), the most photogenic spiritual site in Greece. The rock formation hosts some of the largest Eastern Orthodox monasteries, built upon immense natural pillars and enormous boulders. Meteora is Greece’s second largest monastic and pilgrimage area after Mount Athos. The rock monasteries have been characterised by Unesco as a unique phenomenon of cultural heritage and they form one of the most important stations of cultural map of Greece. Today, six of the monastries can be visited.
Culinary paradise Think you know Greek cuisine? Well, think again. The country’s food scene has undergone a spectacular evolution, says Nathaniel Cramp
here’s so much more to Greek food than souvlaki and moussaka. The last few years have seen a spectacular evolution in Greek gastronomy and, with the incredible produce that is available on their doorstep, local chefs have firmly put Greece on the international food map. Athens is home to four Michelinstarred restaurants, with another four having been awarded the prestigious Bib Gourmand. There are plenty of other places that are pushing the local cuisine forward, too. As the city itself undergoes a renaissance, and the art scene blossoms, the food offering is definitely following suit. However, it’s not just in the capital where Greek cuisine is developing. In the north of the country, Thessaloniki is known as something of a culinary paradise, with interesting twists and authentic flavours from Pontus and Asia Minor. Traditional recipes as well as modern trends have created a wide range of choice and the city’s many restaurants create original tastes against the canvas of
Mediterranean cuisine. Excellent fish and seafood dishes are accompanied by strongly-flavoured Macedonian wines. Succulent salads complete a perfect meal. For those with a sweet tooth, trigona panoramatos – custard cream-filled pastries – have become the city’s trademark along with bougatsas, which are available from numerous small shops. You don’t have to go far to find a good taverna or restaurant in Thessaloniki and there are several areas that are well known for their eateries. Modiano open market in the heart of the old city is undergoing a refurbishment and is set to reopen in 2020. Meanwhile, the Ladadika quarter is one of the most picturesque areas of the city – a former commercial centre that was restored at the end of the 1970s when the old shops were turned into tavernas, restaurants and bars. Every night it is teeming with people who love good food and the feel of old Thessaloniki. At the other end of the country, the South Aegean – an administrative area that takes in
a number of the Greek islands including Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes and Kos – has been named as a European Region of Gastronomy 2019. The idea is to showcase the gastronomical heritage of the islands around the world, and introduce such delicacies as savoro – fried, floured, salted fish with a sour marinade – to the wider world. The flavours here are unique: on Paros you will find grilled sun dried chub mackerel; on Rhodes oven-baked fish with sesame paste; on Mytilini red mullet coated with a barley rusk crust. Meat dishes include slowcooked lamb and syglino (a fatty, smoked pork), while the rich volcanic soil that feeds the region’s exceptional fruit and vegetables also produces thriving vines. No surprise, then, that viticulture is undergoing a renaissance Unique, mind–blowing gastronomic experiences,creative signature dishes, experimentation and new techniques, Michelinstarred restaurants: all of these make up today’s Greek cuisine.
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GREECE Capital: Athens
Time zone: GMT + 2
131,957 kmÂ˛ in size
Up to 6,000 islands 33 million 30 million 26 million 2015
Number of visitors
3.2 million Brits visited Greece in 2018
18 Unesco World Heritage Sites in Greece, including the Acropolis, Meteora and the Archaeological Site of Olympia
12 November 2019
Produced in partnership with the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO).