Play castaway: Six romantic Greek island getaways
Photos by Carlo Raciti
Yeah, it’s Valentine’s Day this Sunday.
Are you going to be one half of the many canoodling couples splashing out on an over-priced, mediocre dinner for two in your city, or perhaps taking her hang-gliding in the mountains just because it’s a little bit wild and different?
Or would you rather spring a surprise on her that will have her heart palpitating? A gift that will linger in her memory for life and spark glassy-eyed reminiscing well into your twilight years, unlike the flavour of the petit fours and post-dinner espresso?
We’ve singled out six of Greece’s most romantic island destinations – all personal favourites, of course – to consider for a couple getaway this summer.
And we don’t just mean the peak season months of July and August. If you can avoid them, do so.
Even if you can find quiet sandy stretches of beach and hidden coves on many of these islands in the height of summer, we recommend booking a Greek island holiday or two for June or September.
September is ideal because the sea has been thoroughly warmed through all summer long and the beaches, brimming with people the previous month, are infinitely quieter.
The Ionian and Aegean Seas have calmed after being blasted by the meltemi winds in August, making it the perfect month for sailing. And you can’t get much more romantic than casting away on a boat, even if you have to hire a skipper to discreetly yet expertly lead your island-hopping adventure.
We’re huge fans of escaping to the islands in June when the beaches are peaceful and the days are languid and long, counting more than 14 hours of glorious sunshine each day.
Just imagine taking a late-night swim as the sun is setting over a shimmering azure Aegean then sharing a meal of masterfully char-grilled fish and seafood with a glass of crisp white Assyrtiko at a beachfront taverna, your feet barefoot and dug deep into the sand.
Greek island life is so laidback that, if you don’t feel like, you needn’t even bother swapping your beachwear for evening attire.
With many Greek island hotels and resorts offering tempting rates and packages for two – with savings of around 20 to 25 percent – if you book that beautiful boutique hotel early, you can beat the rush. 2016 is destined to be another very busy year for Greece.
- Sublime Serifos
Serifos, a 75-square kilometre arid, rocky isle just a two-hour fast catamaran hop from Athens, is absolutely perfect for those who want to get off the grid and spend some real quality time with their significant other. Switch off your phone, in fact leave it in the room, and go explore the sandy shores and crystalline waters of this lesser known Cycladic siren.
Along the southern coast is Koutala, a breathtaking bay with tempting waters that alternate from light green in the shallows through to a divine indigo as the sea deepens.
Unspoilt Ganema draws nature-lovers who prefer to hear the sound of waves lapping onto shore and that characteristic, most welcome sound of summer in Greece – the cicada’s boisterous leg-rubbing ritual.
Hideaways for two:
Read more on Serifos here
- Mysterious Milos
We have a serious soft spot for mineral-rich Milos and its drop-dead gorgeous beaches.
Small, sandy Tsigrado and long, curvy Firiplaka are both near-tropical oases; the former is reached by rope but well worth the extra effort. Firopotamos (photo above) is a perfect tiny beach hamlet, where some lucky souls spend their summers in their seafront beach houses. There’s even one called ‘Paradise’ and the sign on the doors says ‘Welcome to….’. We almost strolled in and took a seat with the lone holidaymaker who was reading a book.
Hideaways for two:
- Sprightly Skiathos
Skiathos, one of the Sporades sisters, turned out to be an incredibly wonderful surprise when we visited last July, for the first time. We were anticipating that the beaches and main town, known for its lively bars, might be too busy, but we found plenty of quiet spots to take long dips in the sea and unwind.
Long, lithe beaches with soft sand underfoot lapped by (mostly) calm, crystalline seas, protected pine and fir forests throughout and an attractive capital with some choice dining locations right on the water.
Couples who prefer serene beaches should skip the busy eastern coast and head to the western coast, which plays host to some of the most gorgeous combinations of verdant backdrop, sand and sea we’ve encountered in Greece.
Among our favourite beaches are Mandraki – with its cool, low-key beach bar, Mikri Aselinos and idyllic Kechria. At the latter, we watched the sun dip into the sea and savoured a simple yet incomparable dinner at a seaside taverna where barefoot luxury reigns supreme.
Hideaways for two:
- Magical Mykonos
If you give Mykonos a miss from mid-July through August, you will quickly figure out that the Cycladic wild child with the non-stop party reputation has a deeply romantic side.
Last September, we celebrated our anniversary by spending four dreamy days exploring the island’s least-populated beaches by moped, indulging in organic cuisine in Little Venice and lolling about one of the island’s coolest resorts to the tune of ambient house.
Skip celebrity-magnet Psarou beach and head for easygoing Agios Sostis, little Agrari and curvy Panormos (photo above).
Mykonos knows she is fabulous and effortlessly delivers all you could hope for in a luxurious lovebird escape. Time to hot-foot it over there with your beloved in June or September. Trust us on this.
Read more on Mykonos here
Hideaways for two:
- Idiosyncratic Ios
Ios is no longer simply the crazy party island on the Mediterranean party circuit check-list that draws thousands of tanned Aussies.
A couple of years ago, we paid a visit in early July – not knowing what to expect – and discovered a Cycladic island that still feels almost undiscovered; at least parts of it.
We may have stayed right above Mylopotas, the infamous yet delicious sweep of a beach, but we didn’t see a single party, most of which originate at the Far Out beach club.
Every day, we explored a different beach – from sweet little Kolitsani not far from the island’s capital and blustery Agia Theodoti, where we patted a pair of runaway former race horses, to a castaway dream of a beach (photo above) reached by speedboat, that we had all to ourselves for half a day.
Hideaways for two:
- Picturesque Paxi and Antipaxi
Visions of Paxi and miniscule Antipaxi are indelibly burned in our minds – but, then, so are all of the destinations we’ve visited together – because it was one of our very first holidays.
Elegant yet unpretentious members of the Ionian island chain, the sister isles are a brief fast catamaran ride from Corfu and particularly suit those who love to explore tranquil turquoise seas by yacht or motor-boat.
We stayed in a sweet little two-level studio, owned by a delightful Italian couple, looking over a tiny beach at Mogonissi Bay – not far from the quaint main town of Gaios, where we picked up the most delicate, fragrant local olive oil produced by gnarled, centuries-old trees.
Hire a motor-boat and sail right around Paxi, dropping anchor and taking a dip at any beach that appeals and in the waters of cavernous caves.
Make sure you sail to neighbouring Antipaxi, which is about 10 minutes away, to swim in the too-beautiful-to-believe emerald waters of Voutoumi beach, which ranks among Greece’s most spectacular. Your friends won’t believe you haven’t applied filters to your Instagram posts.
Hideaway for two: