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The Cyclades is home to the archetypal Greek islands. There are islands to suit all tastes – from the spectacular volcanic caldera of Santorini to the jet-set beaches of Mykonos. The most notable Cycladic holiday islands include Amorgos, Andros, Ios, Folegandros, Naxos, Paros and Syros. The lack of direct flights to many Cycladic islands keep the big tour operators at bay while good ferry links attract island hoppers holidays and the yachting set.

Santorini cruise ships
Santorini sinks under cruise ships

Santorini may be a favourite island for holidaymakers but it's also a must-see port of call for cruise ships and looks set to pose problems for yet another year. Not only its Santorini the most popular Greek island destination for regular tourists but in the spring the island also gets swamped by tens of thousands of cruise ship visitors. Any holidaymaker staying in the island resorts of Fira to Oia will experience the heart sink as the next cruise ship pulls in and thousands pour down the gangplanks before ascending the cliff face to cram the streets. You might think that local shopkeepers and taverna owners jump with joy at the sight of another cruise ships but the sad fact is, Santorini islander benefit little from the extra arrivals. According to Bank of Greece figures, cruise tourism contributes just 8% to the economy of Santorini, compared to 44% for the port of Piraeus, near Athens and 15% to the island of Corfu. And cruise ship visitors spend a lot less in the shops and cafes than other tourists as they mostly hop ashore to take a few photos of the notable Santorini sunsets before climbing back aboard to get their inclusive evening meals. You only have to wander the overcrowded streets above the port to wonder if the drawbacks outweigh the benefits. The Santorini island population amounts to only 15,000 people yet more than 12,000 tourists arrive on cruise ships every day during the summer with almost all of them cramming into the tourist hotspots of Fira and Oia. On busy days, cruise ships queue up for a berth in the caldera and some even transfer passengers on small pleasure boats until they can bag a berth. Add to this the 2,000 or so daily arrivals on scheduled high-speed ferry services from Crete and it results in days when it is almost impossible to find a spot free from the hordes And it's not just tourist on foot that causes problems with overcrowding. Hundreds of tour buses and shuttle services now operate on the island to carry cruise ship tourists around the island sights. Many buses now become trapped in the narrow village streets, especially in the evening when they haul in their passengers to take a photo of the famous sunsets over the caldera. Recent research papers have issued dire warnings if Santorini authorities fail to tackle the problem. The number of houses on Santorini has trebled since 1970 from under 4,000 to more than 13,000. Experts warn of the strain on the island infrastructure, especially the water supply, waste treatment and rubbish disposal. And the soaring number of cruise ship visitors is causing more traffic congestion and environmental pollution while putting a huge strain on energy supplies. Santorini is already one of the most popular for Greek island holidays with around 60,000 tourists beds of which 23,000 are apartments and 12,500 are hotel rooms with the rest taken up by holiday lets. According to the latest figures around 1.3 million-a-year book holidays to Santorini, nearly double the numbers in 2012. Domestic arrivals at the small island airport near Kamari are up nearly 200% since 2009 with passengers complaining of long queues (sometimes up to three hours) and delays in boarding flights, even out of season. New airport owners Fraport-Greece plan to extend the terminal, doubling the floor space and check-in counters to help speed up services. Santorini is not the only tourist hotspot to be troubled by the sharp rise in cruise ship visitors in recent years but, unlike others, appears to be unwilling to do anything about it. Venice, for example, now bans cruise liners above a certain size from berthing near the main canals while authorities on the French Riviera have limited cruise ship arrivals and spread times of day when ships can berth. No such solutions for Santorini so far where cruise ships can arrive all at once and island authorities limiting their actions to managing immediate problems instead of planning for the future.

Mykonos island waterfront
Mykonos pays price for popularity

The Greek island of Mykonos is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the Mediterranean but there is a heavy price to pay for popularity. But popularity comes at a price. Not only has the Greek island has seen a staggering 20% rise in tourist numbers this year it has also seen an unprecedented rise in prices and a massive increase in new hotel and apartment building, much of it illegal. The average rental price of a luxury villa on Mykonos this season was €10,500 per week. In August this year, the cheapest single room in Mykonos main town cost, no bigger than a broom cupboard, costs €120 a night. This summer, some of the top island restaurants demand a minimum €10,000 a table. Admittedly tables come with private chefs and luxury cars to ferry guests to their yachts and helicopters but even so; It is harder to find higher prices on luxury Mediterranean resorts like Cannes and St Tropez. Tourist visitors to Mykonos report higher prices in the tavernas, bars and clubs, around 50% higher than other popular islands such as Crete and Rhodes with average room rental around double that on nearby Paros or Naxos. Mykonos gets very crowded from April to November. The island has its beaches but this is at heart a party island and a big draw for visitors from all over Europe There are relatively cheap places to stay on Mykonos but they are of lower quality and will not be in the best locations. Out of season visitors will pay less but many of the attractions shut down at the end of summer. Island council officials are increasingly concerned at the amount of illegal building going. Concrete lorries are often heard at night. There have been police crackdowns on the illegal building but there are too few officers to track down offenders. And illegal construction is not a new problem for Mykonos. The profits to be made for renting or sale heavily outweigh the fines that are imposed. A four-bed villa overlooking Agios Stefanos beach, for example, will cost more than €3 million and a one-bed townhouse in Mykonos Chora is on the market for €200,000. But locals have been complaining about indiscriminate building for years. As long ago as 1989 the island newspaper was warning of illegal construction in Platis Gialos and other beaches but it failed to stem the building boom. Around 40 residential building permits for new hotels have been issued on Mykonos so far this year with at least another 50 in the pipeline as entrepreneurs continue to cash in on the seemingly insatiable demand. But the rocketing demand and soaring prices have triggered social problems for the locals and for the seasonal workers in the bars and restaurants hoping to find somewhere cheap to live. With monthly average rents of Mykonos average at €4,800 euros and rising to €6,500 in high summer season workers are forced to share bunk beds in tiny windowless rooms. Mykonos remains one of the most tourism-driven islands in the Aegean Sea and is famous for its cubed whitewashed houses that climb the hillsides and for its splendid beaches, mostly lying along the south coast. The organised summer beach parties are famous throughout the world and its a favourite haunt of cruise ships which can unload thousands of visitors every day. Mykonos may have its 24-hour party population but the island is still small compared to clubbing islands in the Mediterranean such as Ibiza. But it does attract the rich and famous with regular visits from movie stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Lindsay Lohan as well as social media performers like the Kardashians. Greece's economic problems appear to have escaped Mykonos which is covered in five-star resorts that host celebrity guests such as Mel Gibson and Sharon Stone although many stars choose to dock their mega-yachts in Mykonos harbour. The centre is crammed with outlets for luxury brands and international restaurants such as London's Hakkasan and the Buddha-Bar of Paris now have tables on Mykonos, so the celebrities can feel at home.

The caldera of Santorini Greece
Santorini suffers tourism boom

Santorini may be pulling in the holiday visitors; the problem is where to put them all. Tourism leaders on the popular Greek island are delighted and the steady rise in international arrivals at the island airport – up more than a third year on year. And they are flying in greater numbers too with a 400% rise in holiday visitors to the island over the past five years. But the influx has triggered a massive increase in hotel and apartment building on the small island, and not everyone is happy with the results. Santorini mayor, Nicos Zorsos, says he is, of course, pleased at the soaring popularity with visitors but describes the hotel building on the island as 'excessive'. It follows reports that the number of hotel beds on Santorini now is 990 per square kilometre, a number greater than many popular holiday resorts on mainland Greece. The rise in visitor numbers is not confined to the regular summer season. Arrivals in October were 'exceptional' as Santorini markets itself as an all-year-round destination. The tourist season on the island of Santorini now extends from March until Christmas, and more than two million tourists visit each year. But the downside is that around 140 new hotels are poised to open their doors over the winter, helping to make Santorini one of the most crowded islands in the Cyclades. Not all holidaymakers are staying on the island as cruise ships can thousands of visitors each day – around 15,000 daily at the height of the summer. Up-market fashion boutiques, stylish coffee shops and fancy restaurants have mushroomed to cash in on the tourist trade. Goodies on offer include helicopter flights over the caldera, luxury boat hire and scuba diving lessons. It's all good for the island economy but some fear over-exploitation and the loss of valuable rural land. In particular is the threat to the vineyards for which the island is famous. Santorini currently has 2,700 hectares of vineyards and the volcanic soil produced some award-winning wines with the industry providing jobs and significant revenues. But the island building boom and encroaching hotels could see precious vines dug up to make for holiday apartments and boutique hotels. Santorini, also known as Fira, is one of the Cyclades group of Greek islands and has long been one of the top holiday hotspots in the Greek Islands. The volcanic island has villages of white-cube houses perched on top of a sheer cliff face, giving dramatic views of the massive caldera. Islets in the centre of the caldera are still active and the offshore fumes give rise to some of the most dramatic sunsets to be found anywhere in the world. Santorini is also a favourite port of call for Mediterranean cruise ships that ferry in visitors by the thousand while the island airport gets thousand of charter flights over the long holiday season. Despite it's popularity, this is not a great island for beaches. Most are found on the south-east coast and are made up of gritty, grey and black volcanic sand that can sizzle in the summer heat. But the clifftop villages in the west are picture postcard stuff with white cube houses dotted with blue domed churches while glitzy boutiques and classy restaurants cater to the well-heeled visitors.

Koumbara beach Ios
Luxury complex for Ios

A popular Greek holiday island for clubbers, Ios looks set to go ahead with a multi-million euro tourism complex. The go-ahead has been given for a luxury coastal tourist resort near Koumbara. Plans are said to include the building of a small port to connect Cape Diakofto to the mainland, man-made breakwaters, artificial beaches in coastal bays of Maniata and Koumbara bays and a desalination unit to provide fresh water for the complex. Greek-American millionaire Angelos Michalopoulos, a former Wall Street futures trader, is behind the scheme which is expected to cost around € 1.54 million. According to reports, the Greek-American investor has been buying land for the project since 2003 and has already planted more than 60,000 trees across his land in anticipation of the green light. The tourism complex will cover 18,000 square metres and include a five-star hotel and tourist villas with a total 249 beds, with a completion date for 2017. The villas will be available to rent or buy and the whole project could turn the island into a major Greek tourist destination for thousands of annual visitors. The island of Ios lies in the southern area of the central Cyclades group of islands to the south of Naxos and Paros. It is already a top destination to young clubbers thanks to the reputation of the main hilltop village and the sandy beach at Mylopotas. Although branded a party island, the clubs, bars and discos are confined to the island capital port, Chora village and Mylopotas. Beyond the capital lies a classic Greek island with some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean, especially on the wild east coast. The Ios project is only one of a number planned for a number of Greek islands as developers bid to cash in on the growing tourist boom. More than 25 million visitors are expected to have visited Greece this year, the third in a row when tourism records have been broken. Schemes totalling €5 billion are already in the pipeline that could help transform the country into a luxury tourist destination. Major resorts are already planned in the Ionian, Aegean, Crete, the Peloponnese and Halkidiki. They include new hotel and golf facilities at resorts on the Greek mainland and the island of Corfu The Rothschild family plans to build luxury villas on Meganissi and there are plans for the nearby island of Kithros. An international group is set to develop the Iliad resort on the island of Ithaka with a scheme that includes six hotels, a golf course and marina. On the island of Milos, a development company is about to build a luxury five-star 216-bed hotel while Dolphin Capital plans to invest in a five-star tourist resort and scuba diving centre on the island of Kea. The growth in luxury spa hotels, golf courses, conference centres, marinas, villas and other tourism facilities look to change the face of Greece for good.

Santorini tempts winter visitors

Santorini wants more winter visitors to the island and hoteliers are to launch a major initiative to tempt off-peak travellers. Not only have hotel owners been persuaded to stay open throughout the winter months but visitor attraction will keep their doors open too. Without the soft sand beaches of many other Greek islands, Santorini has never actually based its tourism model on the usual sand and sea attractions. Its biggest draws are the amazing cliff-top villages around the rim of a volcanic caldera, some impressive archaeological sites and its world famous food and wine. The plan has the backing of island mayor Nikolaos Zorzos who launched a collaborative initiative 'Santorini: Year-round Destination'. "Santorini may already be acknowledged internationally but we will not rest on our laurels as we are aiming for the island always to be on the top of the traveller's mind," the mayor told a tourism meeting. This winter around 100 hotels on Santorini have agreed to stay open along with a number of restaurants, bars and shops. Other initiatives aimed at promoting all-year-round tourism include keeping transport services active over the winter including regular flights from Athens and daily ferry services. The initiative may well pave the way for other Greek islands to cash in on attracting more winter visitors. As tourist numbers look set to reach record levels this year, the Greek government has already committed to backing moves to extend the tourism season beyond the traditional months of May to September. Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura added: "I am sure also that Santorini will be an example and encourage other destinations to invest in 12-month tourism." Santorini is well placed to pioneer winter tourism in the Greek Islands with a number of key attractions that don't just rely on sea, sun and sand. Not least is nightlife in capital Thira, which sits on the edge of 300 metre high sheer cliffs overlooking the flooded caldera of an ancient but still active volcano. A favourite docking port for cruise ships, the village along with neighbouring villages of Imerovigli and Oia are famous for their sunset views over the islet-dotted bay. To the south is Akrotiri and one of the finest and best preserved archaeological finds in the Cyclades, if not the whole of Greece. A former Minoan city was buried in volcanic ash around 1500 BC and remained untouched until the 1860s when excavations unearthed paved lanes lined with well preserved three-storey houses. Inland from the holiday resort of Kamari is the site of Ancient Thira where excavations are spread over a long terrace with exhilarating seas views. Regular boat excursions can take visitors on trips to the active volcanic islets that sit in the Santorini caldera such a Palia Kameni and Nia Kameni while the volcanic soils are ideal for growing some of the finest white wine in the world. Santorini certainly has lots to offer the holiday visitor at any time of year.

Windsurfing on Naxos
Naxos hosts windsurf spectacular

The Greek island of Naxos has been showing off it windsurfing skills in style at the biggest freestyle event in Greece. The weekend event was held on the beach at Agios Georgios at the beach hotspot known as the Laguna, close to the Naxos town capital. Naxos is a popular target for windsurfers any time of the year with this marks the highlight of the Greek Freestyle Windsurf Tour that began in May at Drepano in the Peloponnese. Scores of athletes turned out to make waves at the resort that attracted some of the top names in the sport. Naxos island regularly attracts thousand of windsurfers each year with many south and east coast beaches having the perfect combination of shallow shorelines and the strong northerly Meltemi winds. The Laguna has a reputation as an ideal natural windsurfing spot and an excellent location for world-class competitors to display their skills at slaloms, flips and stunts. Event organisers, the Water Board Sports Festival (WBSF) are old hands at these sorts of events and handle many water competitions throughout the year including windsurfing and kitesurfing. This year's Naxos event has been organised with the Laguna Beach Park, the Flisvos Sports Club and Flisvos Watersports and the event was described as ne of the best with clear skies and good winds. Participating athletes have been able to enjoy free accommodation and the possibility of cash prizes at the three-day event that has become one of the biggest in the Greek sporting calendar. Music events, beach parties and dancing added to the atmosphere. The island of Naxos sits at the heart of the Cyclades group. It's a big island where most of the tourist beaches along the south-east coast. Beaches are mostly long stretches of golden sand backed by dunes and fertile farmland. Inland are some impressive mountains with Mount Zas dominating the island.

Visitor guide to Santorini

In the sea just north of Crete, over three thousand years ago during the Minoan Era, sat a volcanic island. Known as Stronghyle to the Minoans of Crete, it became home to a bustling trade port. However, on a day historians of the day still cannot pinpoint, the volcano erupted violently, with cataclysmic results. So great was this eruption that it changed not only the face of the island, destroying all civilisation on its shores, but led to the downfall of the Minoan people, such was its effect on the lands and weather of southern Greece. It wasn't all bad though, as the falling ash and newly formed rock led to the creation of the beguiling and mysterious island we know today as Santorini. With such a violent and interesting past, it might come as a surprise to know that the island is one of the most relaxed and beautiful places to visit in all of Greece. What is the culture like on Santorini? Nowhere in Greece is quite like Santorini, especially when it comes to their laid-back nature. Being a tourist hotspot, you might expect locals to be a bit tired of all the new faces, but in fact, Santorini is known for its friendly residents, who welcome newcomers to their way of life. Here, it is perfectly acceptable to while away the time in the sun, laying out on the unusual dark sand beaches or in one of the many cliffside villa pools. If you really want to go all in on the local culture however, take part in their daily siesta, lasting from 3pm until 5pm; and if you don't, try to keep it down. Towns and villages of Santorini Santorini is home to a number of beautiful towns and villages, all of which are worth a visit if you have the time. If you don't have long on the island though, make sure you check out these three places: Oia – Famous for its architecture, Oia features beautiful white-walled houses, pristine chalky walkways flowing between their cliffside resting places and churches topped with exotic blue domes. In the evenings, residents can look out across the bay of Santorini and watch the sunset over the glittering Mediterranean. The perfect place for a romantic retreat. Fira – Similar to Oia in terms of architecture, Fira is the capital of the island and is, therefore, a bit larger and a bit more lively. It still gets those fantastic sunsets, but when night falls the town comes alive as the hub off all nightlife on Santorini. Clubs and bars aplenty, this is a great place to be if you want to enjoy what the island has to offer in the day and what the city has to offer at night. Pygros – A little-known gem, when it comes to tourism anyway, Pygros is a small village set atop a hill in the heart of the island. A classic example of medieval Greek architecture, the village is great for exploring, with many small side alleys and hidden passageways. On Pygros's highest point sits a beautiful Venetian castle, and from here you can take in the spectacular views of Santorini. Activities on Santorini While it might be one of the most relaxing places in all of Greece, Santorini also boasts a wide variety of fun things to see and do, including: Diving – Out across the western bay of Santorini, divers are treated to one of the most incredible underwater experiences in Europe, let alone Greece. The rich Med waters, combined with the stunning underwater rock formations left behind by the volcano, make this dive spot a truly awe-inspiring spectacle. Watersports – While the sheltered waters may make for an amazing diving location, there is still plenty to do above the waves too. On Santorini's coasts, you can get up to all sorts of watersports, such as jet skiing, surfing, banana boating and wakeboarding. The active water sporting nature of the island is great for anyone who likes to get out on the water, from the very experienced to complete novices. Hiking – When mother earth makes something, she rarely does it with much precision. The Santorini eruptions are a testament to that, as the dark and ominous looking landscape is now warped with steep and jagged cliffs, winding caverns and towering hillsides. While this isn't easy to build on it is absolutely perfect for hikers looking for unique place to explore. Crammed with incredible rock formations, views out onto the Med and stunning coastal walks, Santorini is an unmissable place for any walking enthusiast. Beaches – Finally, we have the usual time-stealing culprit, however, beaches on Santorini aren't exactly what you would call, 'traditional.' The volcanic history of the island means that instead of being glossy and white, the beaches are paved with dark grey, red and black sand. This unusual touch makes for a rather beautiful spectacle. Far more unique than many other beaches you'll find along the coasts of other Greek islands, they are still perfect for a spot of sunbathing or a nice afternoon doze. If you're visiting Greece and want to experience Santorini along with other incredible islands, then book your trip with www.deepblueyachting.co.uk

Santorini holidays all year round

The popular holiday island of Santorini hopes to pave the way in making the Greek Islands a year-round holiday destination. Island authorities have agreed to promote Santorini as a winter holiday break and cash in on the increased number of flights and ferries. Santorini mayor Anastasios-Nikolaos Zorzos told a meeting in the resort of Firostefani: "Santorini has all the requirements in place to attract visitors throughout the year and has the agreement of all parties involved to immediately work towards extending the tourist season." Santorini has long been one of the most popular summer holiday islands with thousands of visitors arriving during the summer months, including many thousands of cruise visitors and day trippers. The island's volcanic origins have given it a unique spectacular landscape that has turned the Greek island of Santorini into one of the world's top summer holiday destinations. Now increased ferry arrivals, in particular, cheap direct flights from Europe by no-frills airlines like easyJet and Ryanair and the plans for seaplane flights in 2016, has given tourism officials the chance to extend the holiday season throughout the year. Santorini Hoteliers Association President Manolis Karamolegos said sheer market demand for accommodation had led to the decision. He said Santorini has the opportunity to work closely with tourism firms and holiday booking platforms to ensure that accommodation and transport links are synchronised to that all of the island's services, including rooms, flights, charters, cruises and transfers can be arranged in advance. The island certainly has plenty to offer the out-of-season visitor. There are not only the attractive villages perched along the dramatic rim of the volcano caldera, offering spectacular sunset sights but a host of other island attractions too. The archaeological attractions of Akrotiri are world famous. One of the finest and best preserved archaeological sites in the whole of Greece is enclosed by a massive roof structure, recently reopened to visitors. The former Minoan city was buried under volcanic ash around 1500 BC and discovered in the 1860's. Excavations brought to light paved lanes lined with houses full of artefacts in a remarkable state of preservation as well as very fine murals and wall frescos. Another ancient site inland from Kamari is Ancient Thira, a post-Minoan settlement with exhilarating views and a dizzying drop to the sea below. The site has an early Christian basilica, ruins of temples and houses, a huge amphitheatre, rock carvings and even some 3,000-year-old graffiti. Santorini is also famous for its cuisine. The mineral-rich volcanic rock has made the white wines from Santorini much sought after. Many Santorini vines are more than 100 years old, having survived deadly diseases that ravaged crops on many other Greek islands. The island of Santorini is also known for its famous fava beans, its very small cherry tomatoes and for its 'chloro' goat milk cheeses. Also popular with visitors are the boat excursions to the active volcanic islets that sit in the Santorini caldera. The islets of Palia Kameni and Nia Kameni are still active, with a crater on the Nia islet being formed in only 1950. The islet of Thirassia is the other islet, once part of Santorini island, has an attractive port, a fertile inland plateau and a shingle beach at Korfos. Santorini, like Mykonos, has seen visitor numbers increase sharply over the last few years. Most hotels on Santorini are one or two star but the higher end four to five-star hotels provide rooms for up to 40% of island visitors. Santorini enjoys high levels of international awareness are a positioned well in the 'luxury' market. The benefits of making Santorini an all-year-round Greek Island holiday destination are obvious, especially with higher-end visitors, improved tourism services, a steady year-round business operation and more jobs for the islanders.

Naxos gets new video promo

Despite having some of the best beaches in the Greek Islands and at the centre of the Cyclades group of islands, Naxos finds itself sidelined by other islands in the fight to attract tourists. Lack of an international airport has left Naxos lies just off the main Greek Island tourist trail but it hopes to change that with the launch of a new tourism video. Funded by the Municipality of Naxos and Small Cyclades, the promotional video features the holiday delights of Naxos and the surrounding islets of Iraklia, Schinoussa, Koufonissia and Donoussa. The video is the second in a series of promotional videos aimed at tempting more tourist to choose Naxos for their next Greek island holiday. The video is aimed at the young and young at heart with a fast-paced three-minute overview of the island's top visitor attractions set to a pop music background. Naxos Deputy Mayor of Tourism, Dimitris Lianos said: "Our aim was to promote Naxos in a modern way. Music and dance are part of our rich cultural heritage and inspired us to take a youthful, contemporary musical approach that features a variety of images of the island." The video follows the holiday adventures of a young couple recalling their holiday on Naxos and longing for the summer to come around again so they can return to the island. The couple recalls the fun they had with friends when sightseeing, swimming, hiking, kite surfing, wandering the narrow streets and having fun in tavernas and bars. The video also features island's famous 'gravier' cheese and its Kitro liqueur. Directed award-winning video producer, Yiannis Papadakos, a native of Naxos, it also features popular Greek singer Kostas Doxas. Naxos Greece lies at the centre of the central Cyclades group of Greek islands, the largest of the Cyclades and the most mountainous with a string of beaches stretching along it south-west coast. The beaches are noted for their variety. As well as busy beach resorts like Agios Georgios there are quiet coves such as Agia Anna, long stretches of wild, empty sands at Plaka and Kastraki and famed windsurfing centres such as Orkos and Mikri Vigla. At the centre of the ferry services, Naxos Town has a huge harbour and long promenade packed with tavernas and shops. The much photographed Portaras gate can be seen on the offshore islet of Palatia while the walled Kastro sits above a maze of whitewashed alleyways. The hilly interior is peppered with mountain villages, many set in lush green valleys fed by mountain streams with the area around Mount Zas a particularly beautiful blend of rugged hills and green valleys full of citrus and olive groves. Although it has no international airport, Naxos is easy to reach with daily ferries to Athens (Piraeus), Mykonos and Santorini. The offshore islets are also favourite day trip destinations and there are regular daily sailing to neighbouring Paros.

ios port
Yachting guide to Ios

Santorini has always been on people's wish-lists for a place to visit if you happen to be charting in the Cyclades, but the local authorities have now made Ios a definite little bit of heaven to visit. However, the pilot and nautical books do not do the place justice. When we sailed into Ios after a very bumpy, cold and wet crossing from Kos, it was a lovely surprise. In fact, so much so that our three-day stay has brought us back to Ios for our third summer. Ios has a way of getting into people's hearts and brought a big increase in repeat visitors of the floating type. I suspect we see even more now that visa restrictions have been tightened for sailing in Turkey. So it's now a case of getting the word out that Ios is a safe, beautiful place to visit. The town quay has been updated to include proper lazy lines (fixed mooring lines) to the shore so the need for anchoring on the main quay has now been removed – a good job as a massive heavy chain across the harbour was just the place to catch most anchors. The quay now also has both power and water accessed via an electronic key system. The system is reliable, the water is drinkable and because the instructions on the meter are in multiple languages, they do take some working out – but stand around looking puzzled for long enough and a local with come and help. The keys are available from all the local restaurants in the immediate port area – a very clever move as it means you can still pick up a key late at night, with a nice cold beer to go with it. The only real negative is that the town quay suffers from a lot of water movement when the ferries come in and out. This can be up to nine times a day in peak season. The water movement can be up to two metres and so you need to ensure planks are lifted and, where possible, to pull the boat far further off the quay than normal. If not, you risk hull damage. It's not dangerous – more of an inconvenience that catches people out. Wireless Internet is also available for purchase locally. Simply see what wi-fi you can pick up, and then look around for the name of the business. But restaurants all have free wi-fi and are happy for the boat people to have the codes if you buy a coffee or something. The town quay is clean and tidy with good rubbish collection and the water in the visitors' quay area is clean and well cared for . Early in the morning one of the local municipality staff is out with a net removing plastic bottles and cans . If you have a large bag of rubbish, there are two trash compactors for disposal – one behind the police station and the other just past the mini roundabout leading away from the harbour. The fees for a night vary depending on time of year and the size of the boat. On arrival to Ios you must report to the marine police, remembering to take your boat documents and cruising logs. As this is Ios, and the police are extremely friendly. In the past we have all been a little lazy on getting formalities done on the smaller Greek islands but our recent travels show the authorities checking up a little more. My advice is get checked in and out of Ios – its easy and painless and keeps you on the right side of the law. As with all town quays in Greece, emptying grey or black water tanks is illegal. If you did decide to empty your tanks you are likely to be reported and fined as any discharge hangs about. Anyway, with such clean water in the port that its nice to keep it this way. There is a basic public toilet – an excellent place to empty portable black waste tanks. The toilet is opposite the health centre car park. To find it, head towards the ferry terminal, then head towards the nice-looking beach and you'll come across it. Ios port also has a supermarket right on the quay so there is no need to carry the bottles of wine too far! The supermarket has an excellent fresh meat counter, a good selection of frozen fish and the bags of ice for your gin and tonics. The port area also has a lovely little bakery that in the summer months is pretty much open 24 hours, so early morning fresh bread is easily accessible. As we found, Ios is great for provisioning. For those who want to take a quick swim a lovely beach is in walking distance with some nice bars and restaurants. It's a great stretch of beach if you have kids on board to tire out before dinner. Sandy and clean, you can off-load the kids or guests for an hour while you sort out the boat or have a sneaky five-minute break. Having settled into the port area, it's very easy to stay put. Indeed, after a hard days sailing a lot of visitors simply fall into a local restaurant and then enjoy an evening on the yachts. Even in the middle of summer with more than 20 visiting charters it never seems rowdy or noisy. But to stay in the port is to miss out! Chora is a short, if steep, walk up the hill, or buses run all day and late into the nights and go everywhere. The the village has a reputation as the party place and clubbing kicks off at about 11pm and rarely stops before dawn. But there is another grown up side of Chora. There are some lovely little bars, cafe and small restaurants that serve excellent food and drink, many of which welcome yachties. In addition the narrow streets are crammed with little shops, so if you need gifts to take home this is a very good place to go. Some of the shops are open till 2am. Over the hill from Chora is Mylopotas Beach. Now, Ios has lots of excellent beaches, but Mylopotas is my favourite. It is golden, beautiful and has great watersports, coffee shops and places to eat. Mylopotas is also a great place to anchor the boats in all but windy meltemi conditions. Stay well away from the buoy lines and also be aware of frequent speedboats with skiers and tube rides going past. You can comfortably anchor in five metres of water on sandy bottomed areas. There are some rocks but keeping a good lookout will avoid problems. The watersports companies provide transfers to shore if you want to do watersports or diving. Finally moped, quad-bike and car hire is easy if you want to explore further. Ios is also an excellent place to leave your yacht and take a day trip to Santorini. You can also arrange for fuel to be delivered to the quay, cooking gas is available in the port and there is a small yacht chandler/DIY shop in walking distance. At least two laundry firms collect from the boats so soaking wet and salt-ridden clothes turned round in a matter of hours. A good sail repair guy works on the island over the summer months and the work is of an excellent standard. For major repairs, parts can be sent from Athens – normally taking two days to arrive. The main thing about Ios is that everyone is very helpful. Simply ask for what you need and, if the person you ask does not know, they will normally phone or point you to someone who can help. Finishing on a few points of safety: be aware the ferries come in and out through the entrance very quickly, and will not get out of the way of yachts, even those under sail. The swell from the ferries can be very dramatic and can creep up on you. At the entrance there is a lighthouse to assist with night arrivals. Do not cut the corner when entering, or you may fall foul of shallow hazards. It is illegal to anchor anywhere inside the approach to the port area and this is clearly marked on the charts. Inside the harbour, anchor with care if you want to avoid getting tangled up. The harbour depth is 4.5 metres so, if bringing in a vessel over 20 metres its best to contact the port police who will advise you where you can moor. The port area is bumpy in strong south west winds and many of anchorages around the island become untenable in south winds. If you decide to visit Ios please call by and say hello to us! We are on the old-fashioned, black hull, gaff-rigged ketch that can be seen in the harbour or moored off Mylopotas Beach – complete with the husky dog called Deifer and two very bossy cats called Dice and Biscuit – all rescue animals from our travels. You will be most welcome aboard S/Y Crystal Stream and if we can help you fall in love with Ios, the way we have, please just ask. Fair winds and safe passage.

paros airport construction
Paros to get new airport

Greek minister pledges that flights will take off from a new Paros airport early in 2015. The Greek island of Paros looks set to open a new airport next year after the Greek government stepped in to speed up the project. Work on the new airport for Paros first started in 2012 and the project should be finished early next year. Full services of domestic flights from Athens and from airports on other Greek islands could be in operation at the new Paros airport as early as April 2015. But, at only 1,400 metres long, the new runway is still too short to take international charter flights direct from the UK so holidaymakers will still only be able to reach Paros by ferry or on a domestic flight. Nevertheless, the new airport will give a shot in the arm to the local economy on the island of Paros and hopefully help to boost the annual tourist numbers. The current airport, near Alyki, in the south of Paros, which opened in 1982 will be abandoned and its future remains uncertain. The original Paros runway was designated a national airport in 1989 following a number of upgrades. Plans to build a large military airport at Kambos in the late 1950s were abandoned because of local opposition and the airport was eventually built at Santorini. As a result, Paros was left behind in the tourist boom of the 1060's and 1970's as charter planes flew in thousands of holidaymakers to Santorini each year. Paros remained off the tourist trail until the 1980's when tourists began to look for more independent holiday islands, off the main tourist trail and relatively unspoilt by cheap package holiday flights. A firm favourite of more discerning tourists, Paros combines a beautiful interior with a succession of dune-backed sandy beaches, picture postcard hill villages and a capital port at Parikia that, although busy, has kept tourist development low key. The new Paros airport scheme has not been without its problems. Plans for a runway big enough to take charter planes had to be scaled back in the wake of fierce local opposition. The scheme ground to a halt in 2000 when local residents demanded an environmental study to safeguard a nearby butterfly colony. Further efforts suffered a setback in 2011 when Greece missed the chance to get European funding for the €23 million project Special laws to appropriate the land got through parliament eventually in October 2011, just in time tfor the airport scheme to qualify for funding from the Greek government. The new airport will certainly mean increased capacity for domestic flights but it will not be able to accommodate large jet airliners from major charter companies which need a minimum of 2,000 metre of runway for take-off and landing. This is welcome news to opponents who say an international airport would threaten the traditional character of the island but bad news for those who point out the huge benefits to be gained from increased tourism on Paros. It's not all over yet. Opponents of the new airport are still pressing to get the project halted, even at this late stage. Formal complaints have been lodged over the potential harmful environmental impact with demands for a new environmental study to meet recent environmental legislation introduced in 2011. Anti-airport campaigners warn of the danger of polluted run-off water being channeled into nearby Voutakos Bay despite assurances that the water will be properly treated. Now the Greek government has stated it plans to open the new airport on the island of Paros in early 2015 even if temporary structures need to be used, Greece 's Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Michalis Chryssochoidis has given assurances on the project in a series of meetings with Paros island officials. Photographs and videos of the work on the new airport can be seen on the official website of the Paros island council here.

mykonos club
Mykonos clubs close in protest

Owners angry at imposition of 3am curfew. Nightclub owners on the popular Greek holiday island of Mykonos have locked the doors to their clubs in protest at new regulations. Club owners are angry at new laws which now force them to close their doors at 3am and ask customers to leaves. Now theyt have imposed their own 10-day strike to try and force island authorities to change their minds and let clients dance until dawn. It means that holidaymakers hoping to dance the night away at popular Mykonos resorts will find club doors closed and notices explaining why club owners have taken such drastic strike action. New regulations on late night entertainment venues across Greece include a ban on opening after 3am without special permission. Greek authorities have been vigilant in imposing 3am curfews on nightclubs and bars across the island, prompting a backlash from owners who claim they are only meeting public demand. Club owners argue that the new regulations will have a dramatic effect on their businesses, as well as hurting the whole of the island's economy. Some bars and restaurants have joined in the protest by closing their premises just as the main holiday season is getting under way. Mykonos, lies at the heart of the Cyclades islands, and is a popular destination for young people with scores of late night bars and nightclubs in the island capital. A famous playground for the rich and famous, Mykonos is also favoured by gays who make up a large proportion of the holiday population each year. Noted for its party atmosphere Mykonos also attracts young couples who want to marry and spend their honeymoon there with several Mykonos-based wedding agencies now offering luxury weddings in a dream Greek island setting. The island's newly elected mayor is backing the protest and has asked for talks with ministers in Athens to try and reach a solution. Meanwhile the doors of many clubs, bars and restaurants are staying firmly shut and owners threaten more action over the peak holiday season.

View over Santorini caldera
Speak Greek on Santorini

Learn the language while on a Greek holiday. Holiday visitors to the popular Greek island of Santorini can pick up the language at a series of 'speak Greek' courses being run over the summer. The Hellenic Culture Centre is organising a series of two-week intensive courses on Greek language and culture on the popular holiday island this year. The courses, which run from June to September, are aimed at non-native speakers and consist of 40 hours of language tuition and Greek speaking workshops as well as 34 hours of educational and cultural activities at no additional cost. The Hellenic Culture Centre is a private organization which specialises in teaching Greek as a second and as a foreign language. Its aims include the promotion of the Greek language and the Greek culture worldwide as well as the development of the linguistic and intercultural skills. It started life in 1995 on the Greek island of Ikaria island in the Aegean Sea, where it organised summer schools with Greek courses, cultural activities and teacher training for teachers of Greek as a foreign language. It continued its work in Athens, where it is now based and now runs courses in selected places in Greece and abroad. Staff are experienced and specialized teachers as well as special associates who work in teaching and research fields and the centre cooperates with organisations in Greece and abroad and participates in national, European and international projects. The Santorini courses include an intensive two week programme of Greek language lessons, language workshops and speaking practice as well as an 'Unexplored Santorini' cultural programme on the rich local history and traditions of the Aegean. The school is based in Megalochori, one of the most beautiful villages on Santorini and one of the few that has protected status as a 'traditional settlement'. The educational programmes can also be attended through grants from the European Commission (Erasmus Plus programme). Find more information at www.hcc.edu.gr Santorini, also called Thira, or Fira, is one of the Cyclades group of Greek islands and is one of the top holiday hotspots in the Mediterranean. The island has its own airport and ferry port so getting there is easy and it has plenty of good hotels and other accommodation an. The main tourist resort of perches precariously on top of vertical cliffs formed from a massive ancient volcanic eruption offering spectacular views over the caldera and the romantic pull of its famous sunsets makes Santorini a favourite with wedding parties and honeymoon couples. Santorini is a very popular port of call for cruise ships which ferry in visitors by the thousand to gasp at the island's romantic sunset skies and to enjoy the vibrant Santorini' night-life

Naxos Portara
Naxos top ten award

Greek island voted one of the world's best. Naxos has been placed among the top ten favourite holiday islands in the world by a leading travel company website. The Cycladic island of Naxos has been ranked the sixth best holiday break island in the world in the TripAdvisor 2014 Traveller's Choice Awards in a worldwide vote by the website's regular readers. The awards are handed out every year to holiday island destinations across the world that get the highest ranking for the quality and quantity of its hotels, restaurants and attractions. Site users are asked throughout the year to give marks for their holiday experience after visiting the islands. Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades group and a big island, although most tourist accommodation is confined to the south-west coastal beach resorts. The long, empty stretches of sand and dunes interspersed with charming beach resorts make for an attractive holiday destination both for those who like busy holiday crowds and those who enjoy an empty expanse of beaches. The main port resort at Naxos Town has an impressive harbour overseen by the offshore islet of Palatia with its famous Portaras gate. Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades and the most fertile with many crop fields and citrus orchards in the verdant valleys. It has miles and miles of white sand beaches which are considered many to be the best in the Cyclades and, as Naxos is at the hub of the Cyclades ferry system, it is an easy island to reach and an ideal location for a Greek island hopping holiday. Naxos islanders have a strong Greek identity, particularly in the many charming hill villages and many visitors comment on the friendliness and generosity of Naxiots. TripAdvisor describes Naxos: "A spot of white in the turquoise waters ... a unique blend of ancient ruins and beach culture." Naxos came sixth overall in the world rankings of holiday islands beaten by islands in Belize, Caicos, Polynesia, Florida and Scotland. but ahead of the Cook islands and islands off Madagascar, Chile and Thailand. "These winning islands have been highly rated from travellers around the globe," said a spokesman for the travel company. Favourite holiday destination on Naxos are the main town or Hora, which has the huge marble gateway of Portara standing more than twenty feet high on the tiny islet of Palatia and linked to the town by a short causeway. The main town beach of Agios Georgios lies just outside the capital, a long crescent of sand with lots of tourist beach facilities and beyond that, over salt marshes, is Agios Prokopios with a resort village behind. The charming harbour and sands at Agia Anna are visited daily by taxi boats taking tourist to enjoy the family tavernas that lie behind the beach of soft, golden sand. South of here are vast stretches of dune-backed sandy beaches from the famous Plaka beach to the beach resort at Pyrgaki on the south east tip of the island. Naxos island attraction include the charming hillside villages of Chalki, Filoti and Apeiranthos and its fortified towers or 'pyrgi' built either for defence against pirates or as homes for Venetians.

andros dovecote
The dovecotes of Andros

Triangle motif found everywhere on Andros. Anyone on holiday in Andros cannot help but be impressed by the intricately designed dovecotes that are dotted in fields and villages all over the island. Although the dovecotes on neighbouring Tinos are more numerous and more inventive, the dovecotes of Andros still have their own special quality that sets them apart. The large stone-built dovecotes are a legacy of the Venetians who held sway here in the 13th century and who kept doves for both sport and for the table. But these are no ordinary birdhouses. Many are extremely large; some are nearly as big as the house of their owners. Most are two-storey affairs with the upper storey housing the doves and the lower used as a storeroom. The ground floor or 'katoi' was actually once used as the living quarters of Greek peasants who looked after the birds while the upper floor, the 'anoi', was for the pigeon nests. The most remarkable feature of the Andros dovecotes is not their size but the intricate designs constructed out of the local slate. The entrances for the doves are triangular arrangements of the slate-like schist that can be found all over Andros. The thin pieces of slate are laid out in innovative triangles, squares and diamonds to decorate the buildings. This triangle motif is found everywhere on the island of Andros island is a special decorative feature of many houses and garden walls. The motifs are never identical but always are similar and come in three main styles – the sun-wheel, the lozenge and the cypress tree. Most of the dovecotes of Andros are located in the south, in the Korthi region of the island. The most beautiful dovecotes are to be found at Aidonia and Kaparia. More attention was lavished on these dovecote designs than on even the family home as the dove was a symbol of peace and love. The dovecotes reflect the Andros islanders' traditional love of the arts which also finds expression in the many art exhibitions, folklore festivals, religious and other festivities that are staged on this Greek island every year.

santorini panorama 3d
Panoramas of Santorini

Panoramic photos of the most spectacular sights. Holiday visitors to Santorini can now recall the highlights of this amazing island with a digital tour which captures many amazing panoramas of the island. A team of Russian photographers has captured some startling panoramic photos of the most spectacular sights on Santorni and placed them online at an interactive website. AirPano is a non-commercial project which is at the cutting edge of high resolution 3D aerial panoramas. The team from AirPano has also created digital panoramic tours of other sights from many different countries across the world. The AirPano team is a group of Russian photographers and panorama enthusiasts and over the next few years they plan to shoot a wide variety of aerial panoramas and create virtual 3D tours of some the most interesting places they can find. The Santorini panoramas taken from more than a dozen sightseeing points on the Greek island can be opened in several different resolutions. High resolution panorama with the best quality is about 7 Mb large and it is suitable for fast Internet connections and modern computers. For slower Internet links and those with older computers the team has created smaller low resolution panoramas where small details have been sacrificed to make the low resolution panoramas no more than 2 Mb. The natural beauty of Santorini, created by a massive volcanic explosion is a perfect choice for a panoramic tour with the white cube village houses spilling down the dark cliffs into the deep blue of the caldera below. Santorini was named by the Venetians after the local saint Irene but, although the name is used across the world, the Greeks still call it Thira or Fira, after the island capital. Continuous volcanic activity has slowly shaped modern Santorini which resembles a sickle surrounding the small active volcanic islets of Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni. The villages of Oia and Fira are a magnet for photographers and artists as well as tourists. They site precariously on the rim of the caldera and enjoy spectacular views and remarkable sunsets. The houses of white and blue cascade down the steep cliff face with roofs of lower level houses often acting as balconies for those above. The traffic free village streets are packed with holidaymakers and cruise ship visitors throughout the summer many of who are day trippers and only here for a few hours to capture the remarkable sunsets for which Santorini is famous.

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