Advertisement

Four overlooked Aegean island gems

Santorini is spectacular but overrun. There are quieter islands that are just as beautiful, says Chris Carter.

Folegandros: a quiet spot for enjoying sunsets

Santorini is famous for “epic sunsets illuminating its whitewashed houses, volcanic slopes and shimmering blue seas”, says Oliver Smith in Lonely Planet magazine. Less pleasingly, it is also known for crowds. Nearby Folegandros has “all of the same ingredients”, minus the hordes. It is a “hiccup of land at the southern edge of the Cyclades” archipelago, 40 minutes by fast boat from Santorini.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Political dissidents were exiled there during Roman times. “You might well chance insulting a tyrant to savour the sunset from Hora – one of the loveliest villages in the archipelago.” A footpath leads from its “higgledy-piggledy core” to Panagia, “a church standing sentinel over the island”. From the hilltop you can catch “the last drops of the day’s sunshine”. The Ampelos Hotel (£100, top-hotels-gr.com) has “sparse, comfortable rooms” with views of the church.

Astypalea: a favourite with arty Athenians

Astypalea: “easy airs, untamed beaches and authentic charms” © George Sfakianakis
Astypalea: “easy airs, untamed beaches and authentic charms” © George Sfakianakis

Astypalea is smaller than its siblings, Kos and Rhodes, in the Dodecanese archipelago, says Amanda Dardanis in The Sunday Times. Popular with “arty Athenians”, who come for its “easy airs, untamed beaches and authentic charms”, the island is a “classy choice for those seeking quiet repose”.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

“You might not fall madly in love with it at first sight”: with its pebble beaches and burnished hills, everything is “khaki, cinnamon or ochre-coloured”. But the clifftop capital of Chora “spills downwards with sugar-cube houses, mini churches and blue-shuttered streets… At night, it sparkles like a Tiffany’s window”.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Crowning the town is Castro, a ruined Venetian palace, and a legacy of Astypalea’s Italian and Ottoman past. You can see it and enjoy the sunset from your open-air hot tub at Saluti da Stampalia (from £127, salutidastampalia.com), a recently opened “light-soaked villa”.

Milos’s delightfully untrodden beaches

Milos Island © iStockphotos
Milos Island © iStockphotos

The southernmost of the “sun-baked Cyclades”, Milos is a “volcanic oasis”, home to “picturesque whitewashed villages and hidden cliff-ringed coves”, says Michaela Trimble in The New York Times. It is formed around a central caldera, hence its “lunar-like rock formations”. Despite its many beaches, Milos is “delightfully untrodden compared with its more famous neighbours, Santorini and Mykonos”.

It has an interesting history, too. The Minoans once exported the island’s obsidian to Crete for weapons. More recently, it was in Milos, in 1820, that amateur archaeologist Olivier Voutier unearthed the “Venus de Milo”. The statue now lives at the Louvre, “but Milos’s mystique remains intact”. Stay at Skinopi Lodge (around £400, skinopi.com). The minimalist, boutique hotel is set amid wild sage, lavender and thyme, and sits above a fishing village on a rocky ridge overlooking the sea. 

Turkey’s unspoilt sprinkling of islands

An excellent spot for diving © Getty Images/iStockphoto
An excellent spot for diving © Getty Images/iStockphoto

Compared with Greece, Turkey has “a mere sprinkling” of islands and hardly any in the Aegean Sea, says Terry Richardson in The Daily Telegraph. They “are truly off the beaten track”. Gökçeada is Turkey’s largest. The Greeks know it as Imbros and it gets several mentions in Homer’s Iliad. “Its rolling, volcanic mountains are fragrant with thyme, dotted with attractive oak forest and there are numerous unspoilt sandy beaches lapped by pristine waters.”

Not many Greeks remain, but their “picturesque stone houses and churches survive”. Flamingos pass through during the migration season and the “stiff Aegean breezes” make kite and windsurfing popular pastimes. Turkey’s only underwater national park, off the north coast, is also excellent for diving. “Imbros Organik Hotel (from £40, gokceadaimbroshotel.com) is set in “an isolated Greek village”. It “is a real hideaway”.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

Five of the best alternative camping sites
Travel and holidays

Five of the best alternative camping sites

From an open-air bed in Devon to a peaceful retreat by the coast in Wales.
24 Jul 2020
Six hidden spots around Britain and Ireland
Travel and holidays

Six hidden spots around Britain and Ireland

Find some peace and quiet in some of the UK's most secluded spots. Chris Carter reports.
17 Jul 2020
Four Airbnb bookings as seen on TV
Travel and holidays

Four Airbnb bookings as seen on TV

The small screen has lent added glamour to these luxury apartments. Chris Carter reports.
10 Jul 2020
Three quiet destinations to consider as the rush to the airports begins
Travel and holidays

Three quiet destinations to consider as the rush to the airports begins

As quarantine restrictions are lifted for many destinations, the summer holiday is now back on the agenda, says Chris Carter.
3 Jul 2020

Most Popular

BP has slashed its dividend – and markets love it
Income investing

BP has slashed its dividend – and markets love it

BP has bowed to the inevitable and cut its dividend in half – and its share price promptly rose. John Stepek explains what it means for shareholders …
4 Aug 2020
Listed companies are dying out, and that could have serious consequences
Stockmarkets

Listed companies are dying out, and that could have serious consequences

Private equity is taking over from public stockmarkets as the biggest provider of capital to companies. That’s bad for investors and bad for society a…
3 Aug 2020
Can the recent rally in sterling continue?
Sponsored

Can the recent rally in sterling continue?

A "double top"  – a very recognisable pattern – is forming in in the US dollar. Dominic Frisby explains what it is, and what it could tell us about st…
3 Aug 2020