Greece special 2018: the best beach and island holidays

Remember that Greek island-hopping trip you took when you were 20? Trying to live on 1,000 drachmae a day and sleeping rough on beaches? Here’s a chance to do it in a bit more style: a two-week jaunt around the Cyclades, the most romantic of all the island chains. Start with five nights in Santorini, then take the ferry for three nights in Paros — the one with the golden beaches and the gorgeous architecture. On the ninth day, sail to Naxos, where Theseus abandoned poor Ariadne, for three nights, then end your odyssey with three nights of hard partying on Mykonos. Accommodation is in four-star hotels throughout, and prices start at £899pp, B&B, including all travel (

A cottage with a view on Ithaca
More than 1,000ft above Afales Bay, on Ithaca’s north coast, is the tiny red-roofed village of Exogi. The name means “out of this world”, and it’s home to Fassoulou’s Cottage. Fassoulou was a widow who grew fabulous vegetables irrigated with water she carried up the hill from the spring, balancing her bucket on her head. There’s running water in the two-bedroom cottage now, but that’s probably the only running you’ll encounter in this sleepy village, where birdsong and the tinkling of goat bells are the loudest noises. The sea views should be enough to keep you glued to the terrace, but if you need to get closer, there’s a cove at Polis, two miles down the hill. A week’s self-catering starts at £210pp, based on two sharing ( Fly to Cephalonia with easyJet, then take the ferry.
Soothe sore legs in the pool at Cavo Olympo
Soothe sore legs in the pool at Cavo Olympo

Slow food in Pieria
Hikers may know the northeastern Greek region of Pieria because it’s home to Mount Olympus, but for most of us it’s a gap in our mental map — as were the now wildly fashionable Italian regions of Puglia and Le Marche not so long ago. Like Le Marche, Pieria is made up of long, golden beaches and a rich agricultural hinterland rising to a pine-cloaked walkers’ paradise, the Pierian Mountains. Like Puglia, it’s famed for slow food — not just its pies, but also sour xinotiricheese and Katerini black pig. Like both, it’s going to be huge, so get in early. A week at the chic, adults-only Cavo Olympo, between the olive trees and the sea at Litochoro, starts at £835pp, B&B (

Stress-busting on Evia
Irritable, snappy and close to burnout? We have the cure: a week’s anti-stress break at the luxury Thermae Sylla Spa Wellness Hotel, on the Aegean island of Evia. It’s a culturally rich spot, second only to Crete in terms of its archaeological treasures, but you probably won’t be seeing them, because you’ll either be in the hotel’s natural hot springs or receiving one of the 18 treatments scheduled for your stay. These include body peels, ayurvedic massages, hydromassages and reflexology. The course begins and ends with a medical examination, and prices start at £1,418pp, half-board (

Sail like an oligarch
In 2015, Fleewinter launched affordable superyacht sailing in the Ionian Sea. The yachts — Jeannous, Argentous, Aurous and, new for 2018, Lunous — come with a skipper, a cook and all the essential toys, from paddle boarding equipment and windsurfers to a speedboat for fun and for posing. The 65ft Lunous has four double cabins and a bunk annexe that’s suitable for a couple of kids, and it’ll be based at Piraeus for sorties into the Saronics this summer. A week starts at £1,090pp, half-board, including watersports, fuel and marina fees ( Fly to Athens with easyJet.

Wild swimming in Epirus
If you’ve ever gazed on the mainland from the east coast of Corfu, you’ve been looking at Epirus, a rarely visited, little-known and ridiculously beautiful region of mainland Greece with an embarrassment of cultural and natural riches. Yes, there are secret beaches and Instagrammable tavernas, but the best stuff is inland: the magnificent Vikos Gorge, technically the deepest on earth; the jade-green wild swimming on the Acheron River; mysterious Dodona, the oldest oracle in Greece; and, just over the county line in Thessaly, the clifftop cloisters of Meteora, Patrick Leigh Fermor’s giddy “monasteries of the air”. See them all on a one-week tailor-made trip with Original Travel; from £1,800pp, B&B (

Classic rock: the cliffs of Meteora
Classic rock: the cliffs of MeteoraJEAN-PIERRE LESCOURRET/GETTY

Adults-only Corfu
The elegant MarBella Nido opens on May 5. It’s in Agios Ioannis Peristeron, next door to its big sister, the MarBella Corfu, and just down the coast from Corfu Town. Built to resemble a Venetian loggia, the 70-suite, adults-only hotel is a flower-filled maze of alleyways and courtyards, with public spaces that feel like the interior of an 18th-century merchant’s house. Every suite has a sea view and there’s a pebbly beach down the hill and across the road, though you’re more likely to loaf poolside, gazing over the Corfiot Straits. A week starts at £994pp, B&B (

Recover from late nights on the outdoor sofas at Villa Tramonto d’Oro
Recover from late nights on the outdoor sofas at Villa Tramonto d’OroAPOSTOLOS SAHAS

Party time on Mykonos
The Party People’s Republic of Mykonos is bright, white and stays up all night. This season’s opening parties take place from late May to mid-June, and after that it’s full tilt until autumn. The village of Agios Ioannis is three miles south of Mykonos Town, and here you’ll find Villa Tramonto d’Oro, a six-bedroom party pad with a huge pool and sunset views across to Delos. It has air-con, wi-fi, fat outdoor sofas and maid service, but, unless you’re minted, you’re going to need 11 friends or relatives to make this work: a week in June starts at £13,362, or £1,114pp ( Fly to Mykonos with easyJet.

Peloponnese spa retreat
Euphoria is not a state of ecstasy, but a deep and contented feeling of wellbeing. The new Euphoria Retreat, in the woods above Mistras, on the Peloponnese, aims to achieve exactly that through the application of a wellness concept inspired, it says, by a combination of ancient Greek and Taoist philosophies and Hippocratic and Chinese medicine. It all takes place in a 45-room complex, which, when it opens this May, will feature a spa spread over four floors — the biggest to open in Europe for years. Five nights of Euphoria start at £1,250pp, full-board (

Learn ancient Greek
ACE Cultural Tours is the commercial wing of the ACE Foundation, a significant sponsor of archaeological research. It follows, then, that its 11-day tour of Athens, Delphi and the Peloponnese is pretty rigorous. It’s led by Carolyn Perry, a former lecturer in ancient history and mythology at Queen Mary College and education officer at the British Museum. Days are spent visiting sites including the Acropolis, the Temple of Apollo in Corinth, the Lion Gate at Mycenae and ancient Olympia, and nights listening to talks about the Panhellenic Games, the heroes of the Greeks and exactly why Athens never got on with Sparta. Prices start at £2,450pp, half-board, departing on May 14 (

Ionian water park with rooms
When I was a child, the dream holiday was a hotel with a pool. Then everyone wanted a waterslide. Now it’s getting out of hand, and the proof is at the Grecotel Olympia Riviera, in the Peloponnese town of Loutra Killinis, home to the biggest hotel water park in Europe. Five acres of aqua attractions include a Looping Rocket, a Space Hole, multi-lane Water Coasters and a splash zone for toddlers. What are the rooms like? Is the beach nice? Does it matter? A week in a family room starts at £306pp, B&B, based on four sharing ( Fly to Athens with Wizz Air.

Prime spot: Balos Bay Villa has private moorings and direct access to the beach
Prime spot: Balos Bay Villa has private moorings and direct access to the beach

Villa on Meganisi
You know when you’re on holiday, lounging on a boat or driving along a coast road, and you see the villa you wish you’d booked? Balos Bay Villa is it: a four-bedroom place on the little-known Ionian island of Meganisi, with a pool, magnificent views of the bay, private moorings, a waterside sun terrace and direct access to what’s pretty much a private beach. The fishing village of Vathy, home to the Boom Boom cocktail lounge and a handful of decent tavernas, is a 20-minute walk down the track. Obviously, you’ll need a boat: from £45 a day at A week in the villa starts at £1,065pp, based on eight sharing and including car hire (

Family fun in Halkidiki
It’s a 90-minute drive through olive groves from Thessaloniki airport to Eagles Palace, a long-established family-friendly resort on a private beach on the Athos Peninsula, but it’s worth the schlep. The 170-room resort assumes responsibility for a carefree holiday with the calm professionalism of a Norland nanny, offering big family rooms, kids’ clubs for children aged four months to 13 years (in a hip beach shack) and watersports programmes for teens. It has four restaurants, two bars, two pools with Pentair Intelliflo noiseless pumps, a spa and Jeeves-like service from the unflappable staff. A week in the summer half-term starts at £1,503pp, B&B, for a family of four (

Suspended animation: sail the Ionian on a luxury yacht
Suspended animation: sail the Ionian on a luxury yacht

Painting in Crete
You need to get off the roads to appreciate the beauty, grandeur and selfless hospitality of western Crete. Long before the tarmac came, the island’s thoroughfares were the kalderimi — paved mule tracks that crisscrossed the island. Those that remain offer fabulous walking into a hinterland of secret waterfalls, ancient villages and staggering views. On this seven-night holiday, keen hiker Iakovos Triantafillou will be your guide for five leisurely morning walks lasting no more than four hours. That leaves the afternoons free for painting workshops with the English artist Camille Marquand, working in whatever medium you favour. Accommodation is at the friendly Cormoranos Hotel Apartments, 50yd from Nopigia Beach, and prices start at £1,208pp, B&B (

Sailing for beginners
Flotilla sailing means an armada of self-crewed yachts following the lead of a flagship under the command of an experienced skipper. It’s the perfect combination of independence and security — while you’re the master of your own ship, there’s always someone close by who actually knows what they’re doing. A trip around the Ionian Islands is the perfect way for beginners to fall in love with life under sail, cruising by day and dropping anchor by night in a succession of whitewashed Greek harbours. On this new one-week sail out of Ithaca, you’ll explore the island’s bays, as well as the little-known islands of Kastos and Kalamos, at the helm of a six-berth Beneteau 361. Prices start at £495pp, self-catering (

Drink in the views from Sofia’s Cottage
Drink in the views from Sofia’s Cottage

Seafront cottage on Cephalonia
The sea at Assos is like an emerald pool, sheltered by pine-forested mountains, guarded by a Venetian fortress and backed by the most charming village on the island. Sofia’s Cottage, a whitewashed two-bedroom place, is front and centre, with just a low stone wall between the terrace and the beach. A hire car comes with the booking, but, once in Assos, you won’t use it. The Nefeli-Anait taverna is next door and the O Molos Restaurant, where the fishing boats come every day to sell their catch, is just along the harbour. It’s a popular property, but end-of-season weeks are still available; from £702pp, self-catering (

Unless stated, prices include flights from London

Your Greece favourites
Win a stay with Pride of Britain Hotels by sharing your tales and tips from holidays in Greece. Email See Letters for more details

Related Posts