Category: Travel Tips and Ideas
Buenos Aires is a city that brilliantly combines the old and the new, the nostalgic and the contemporary, all against a backdrop of stunning architecture, modern culture and amazing cuisine. Becoming a true porteno (resident of Buenos Aires) does not mean having to tango or milonga like a local, but it does mean embracing the true spirit of this fascinating, cosmopolitan, sexy capital, and never having dinner before 10 pm.
Buenos Aires’ European architecture and heritage attract many tourists and expats, but it is also a truly Latin city, with all the passion and problems that implies. After the economic crash of 2001, it became an attractive, affordable, A-list city for Americans and Europeans looking to make their dollars and euros go farther. Now after a two-year period of furious growth, the economy may be slowing slightly, but is still on pace for a 9% expansion in 2011.
Fear not: the Malbecs and steaks are still affordable, and the fashion and nightlife scene remain one of the best in South America, or anywhere in the world. And if its food and fun are better enjoyed with the favourable exchange rate, its culture is recession-proof. The glorious architecture here ranges from Modernist masterpieces to Art Nouveau and Art Deco showpieces, and the various barrios (neighbourhoods) — from the markets and streetlife of San Telmo to the historical and cultural landmarks of Recoleta — have their own special flavour.
Where do you want to live?
Buenos Aires has 48 separate barrios along the Rio de la Plata. The most popular locations are in the east near the river and close to the centre, such as Retiro, Barrio Norte, Puerto Madero and Recoleta. Barrio Norte, which includes parts of Recoleta, Palermo Soho, Palermo Hollywood and Retiro, is attractive to families. Recoleta, because of its central location and attractions like the Recoleta Cemetery, is one of the more expensive downtown neighbourhoods. Puerto Madero has great restaurants, nightlife and shopping.
People are now also looking at moving into industrial neighbourhoods like Barracas in the southeast, where factories have been turned into expensive urban lofts. Young expats from Spain and Italy, large numbers of whom have emigrated to Buenos Aires because of their countries’ current economic crises, are living in the barrios of Belgrano, San Telmo, Palermo Soho and Hollywood.
Outside the city there are many estancias (countryside ranches) for city dwellers to live the gaucho (cowboy) life, or just enjoy country life in the pampas, the grasslands outside Buenos Aires. San Carlos de Bariloche, the gateway to Patagonia and just a short flight away, is where portenos go to ski in winter or hike and trek in summer. Other summer getaways include the exclusive and cool beach town of Jose Ignacio, or glamourous Punta del Este in neighbouring Uruguay.
Flights from Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires to New York take 11 hours, and it is eight and a half hours to fly to Miami. Within South America, there are frequent flights to Brazil and Colombia.
Property in Argentina is bought in cash, usually in US dollars. There are no mortgages, although a few property developers offer some financing. Property prices have gone up 15%since last year, but they have not yet reached the pre-crash levels of a decade ago.
In posh Recoleta properties sell for between $350 and $550 per square foot, while in Palermo they cost about $280 to $370 per square foot — compared to $1,215 per square foot in Manhattan. Barracas properties cost about half of what they do in Palermo. Most expat buyers are from the US and Europe, with some Russian, Colombian and Chilean buyers moving in as well.
The recent currency controls put in place by the government have made it harder for Argentines to procure American dollars to buy property, but foreign buyers should find no problems. Expats who move here have to wade through a lot of bureaucracy and red tape (such as transaction fees and obtaining tax ID numbers), but the welcoming nature of the residents and the possibilities to be had in this exuberant city are well worth it.
Although more than a million tourists flock to its beaches, boutique hotels, trendy restaurants and clubs each summer, Bodrum (ancient Halicarnassus) never seems to lose its cool. More than any other Turkish seaside getaway, it has an enigmatic elegance that pervades it, from the town’s crowning castle and glittering marina to its flower-filled cafes and white-plastered backstreets. Even in the most hectic days of high summer, you can still find little corners of serenity in the town.
Urban planners have sought to preserve Bodrum’s essential Aegean character, which was influenced by the Cretans who moved here during the population exchange of the 1920s. Today, laws restrict buildings’ heights, and the whitewashed houses with bright-blue trim evoke a lost era. The evocative castle and the ancient ruins around town also help keep Bodrum a discerning step above the rest.
Sights in Bodrum
There are splendid views from the battlements of Bodrum’s magnificent castle, built by the Knights Hospitaller in the early 15th century and dedicated to St Peter. Today it houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology (Sualtı Arkeoloji Müzesi), arguably the most important museum of its type in the world and a veritable lesson in how to bring ancient exhibits to life. Items are creatively displayed and well lit, and information panels, maps, models, drawings, murals, dioramas and videos all help to animate them.
Based on Rhodes, the Knights Hospitaller built the castle during Tamerlane’s Mongol invasion of Anatolia in 1402, which weakened the Ottomans and gave the order an opportunity to establish a foothold here. They used marble and stones from Mausolus’ famed Mausoleum, which had collapsed in an earthquake, and changed the city’s name from Halicarnassus to Petronium, recalling St Peter. By 1437 they had finished building, although they added new defensive features (moats, walls, cisterns etc) right up until 1522, when Süleyman the Magnificent captured Rhodes. The Knights were forced to cede the castle, and the victorious Muslim sultan promptly turned the chapel into a mosque, complete with new minaret. For centuries, the castle was never tested, but French shelling in WWI toppled the minaret (re-erected in 1997).
Spread around the castle, the attractively lit and informative museum has reconstructions and multimedia displays to complement the antiquities, and takes about two hours to see. It gets very busy and claustrophobic in the museum’s small rooms, so try to arrive early. Look to the ground for green/red mosaic arrows indicating a short/long tour route. You’ll see peacocks strolling, strutting and calling to prospective mates throughout the castle grounds.
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum was the greatest achievement of Carian King Mausolus (r 376–353 BC), who moved his capital from Mylasa (today’s Milas) to Halicarnassus. The only ancient elements to survive are the pre-Mausolean stairways and tomb chambers, the narrow entry to Mausolus’ tomb chamber and a huge green stone that blocked it, the Mausolean drainage system, precinct wall bits and some large fluted marble column drums.
Before his death, the king planned his own tomb, to be designed by Pytheos, the architect of Priene’s Temple of Athena. When he died, his wife (and sister), Artemisia, oversaw the completion of the enormous, white-marble colonnaded tomb topped by a 24-step pyramid and a quadriga, a four-horse chariot carrying Mausolus. In the late 15th century the Knights Hospitaller found the Mausoleum in ruins, perhaps destroyed by an earthquake, and between 1494 and 1522, almost all of it was reused as building blocks for the castle or burned for the lime content to strengthen the walls. Luckily, the more impressive ancient friezes were incorporated into the castle walls, while original statues of Mausolus and Artemisia were sent to the British Museum.
The site has relaxing gardens, with excavations to the west and a covered arcade to the east – the latter contains a copy of the famous frieze now in the British Museum. Four original fragments displayed were discovered more recently. Models, drawings and documents indicate the grand dimensions of the original Mausoleum. A scale model of Mausolus’ Halicarnassus is also on display.
Bodrum Maritime Museum
This small but well-formed museum spread over two floors examines Bodrum’s maritime past through finely crafted scale models of boats and an excellent video on traditional ‘Bodrum-type’ boat building. Much is made of Bodrum’s role as a sponge-diving centre and local writer Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı – the much-loved ’Fisherman of Halicarnassus’.
Conchologists of whatever hue will be in seventh heaven here. A private collection of some 6000 shells representing one third of all mollusc families is on shimmering display upstairs.
The restored Ottoman shipyard stands just above the marina. In 1770 Russia destroyed the entire Ottoman fleet at Çeşme; rebuilding it took place in boatyards such as this one. It was fortified against pirate attacks in the 18th and 19th centuries with a watchtower; today it occasionally hosts art exhibitions. Old tombstones, dating from the period when the Latin alphabet was replacing Arabic-based eski yazı (old-style writing) are kept above. Excellent views.
These are the restored remains of the only surviving gate from what were originally 7km-long walls probably built by King Mausolus in the 4th century BC. In front of the twin-towered gate are the remains of a moat in which many of Alexander the Great’s soldiers drowned in 334 BC.
On the main road to Turgutreis, ancient Halicarnassus’ theatre was built in the hillside rock in the 4th century BC to seat 5000 spectators but that capacity was increased to 13,000 for gladiatorial contests in the 3rd century AD. It hosts concerts and other events in summer.
China is an ancient, mysterious land w which extends up to an area of 9,596,960 sq km. This country, with its rich culture and ancient traditions, is abundant in its resources and minerals and has served people for generations. The splendid Chinese culture, with its distinctive customs, is credited with four great inventions viz., gun powder, paper, printing and compass.
This keenness of the Chinese culture can also be seen in the uniqueness displayed in their arts and crafts, calligraphy, embroidery, operas, painting and silk. Martial art, a fairly recent concept in the rest of the world, has been a part of the Chinese culture for centuries.
Chinese literature has also contributed a lot towards shaping the rich heritage of this culture. The delectable and vibrant Chinese cuisine is also amazing and has travelled to most of parts of the globe to turn into a universal cuisine. For more amazing and interesting facts about Chinese culture, scroll further!
— Chinese civilization is considered to be the longest and the most continuous civilization of the world.
— In ancient times, it was believed that China was situated in the center of the world and hence the name ‘China’ or ‘Zhong Guo’, which means ‘Central Nation’ or ‘Middle Kingdom’.
— The first human skull, which is estimated to be about 67,000 years old, was found in Liujiang, southern part of China.
— Considered to be one of the most prominent introductions to the Chinese culture, Buddhism carved a new beginning to religion and philosophy in China, in the second century B.C. During this period, innovative ideas led to new designs, temple layouts, new styles of figure painting, sculptures, furnishings etc.
— Chinese is the most widely spoken language with about 850 million speakers across China.
— In the present day Chinese culture, the Chinese Government has incorporated several elements of Chinese tradition. Various forms of Chinese literature, art, music, fashion, film and architecture have been revived vigorously with the rise of Chinese nationalism.
— Opportunities for social advancement of the Chinese are purely based on their performance in the prominent imperial examinations which have been in place since 605 A.D. This helped the Emperor select skillful bureaucrats and also refined the perception of culture in China.
— Calligraphy, a decorative practice of hand writing, was developed as an art form in China, over 2,000 years ago. Nowadays, this art form is done with special pens and ink rather than the brushes used in the olden days.
— Previously, sculpting and painting weren’t significant in Chinese art forms but with the iconography of Buddhism, they reached a different level altogether during the fifth and the sixth centuries. During the Middle Ages, the art styles which were prominent were the Tibetan, Mughal and Mongolian styles.
— There are about 300 different forms of opera in China with a rich history of more than 800 years. Chinese Opera has been popular for generations and uses string instruments along with high-pitched vocal stylings.
— During the Chinese Spring Festival, about 230 million people go back to their hometowns to welcome the arrival of the Chinese New Year. This is the time of the year when public transports get congested with a sea of people and subsequently, ticket fares skyrocket. China observes a 15 day holiday throughout the nation which is the reason for this mass migration.
— Shanghai, in China, is considered the biggest city of the world with a population of 16 million.
— Being a multi-racial country, China is home to 56 ethnic groups.
— In the Sichuan province of China, the population is more than the total inhabitants of Canada, Australia, Austria, Guatemala, Holland, New Zealand, Malaysia, Portugal, and Greece taken together.
— Unless you have a close relation or association with the person you meet, you should not address a Chinese with the first name. Official or professional titles such as “Mayor Wang” or “Engineer Li” can also be used for the address.
— During ‘Great Leap Forward’, Mao Zedong’s unsuccessful experiment, which was a step towards making China, a modern economy, about 20-30 million people died of starvation.
— Chopsticks, the wooden cutlery items, are a specialty of the Chinese and are used for the longer reach. It is not considered good manners to play unnecessarily with them. Chinese prefer to dine with their families and use the traditional, hygienic and well-designed utensils.
— Ginseng is considered the most important herb of Chinese diet and has special significance in their folklore and tradition as well. For about five thousand years, special herbs were compulsorily included in Chinese diet charts, for a long and problem free life.
— Chinese follow very specific traditions with respect to their outfits. They wear dark colors for special ceremonies whereas light colors for casual outings.
— One of the wider known and followed customs of Chinese culture is giving a hard-boiled egg, dyed red, in order to make birth announcements.
— According to the Chinese culture, dragon is considered to be the most powerful and is the luckiest symbol for them among all the other twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.
— One of the major attractions of China is ‘Great Wall of China’ that is more than 21000 km long. Another attraction here is the 46-ton of the ‘Great Bell temple’ situated in Haidian District of Beijing.
Inaccessible or easily missed on the ground, ancient Maya ruins are increasingly spotted with the help of satellite imagery – but the process isn’t always fool-proof.
Some of the most magnificent Maya murals ever found – dating to 100BC – were discovered deep in the jungle of San Bartolo, Guatemala back in 2001.
It was obvious that San Bartolo had more to offer – but the jungle was thick. “It’s really dangerous walking through the jungle to find sites – it’s really humid, there are snakes,” explains Diane Davies, Honorary Research Associate at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, who worked in the same area in the mid 2000’s.
“Honestly, you can be literally seven or eight metres away from a pyramid and in the jungle you can’t see it because [the vegetation is] so thick,” says Davies. However, through the analysis of satellite imagery, previously hidden archaeological sites can be found.
Davies recalls the assistance of Nasa scientist Thomas Sever who was later able to identify all sorts of fascinating features – including a lost Maya pyramid – from satellite images. Because many Maya buildings were constructed with limestone, the chemical composition around ruins has been altered over time – this shows up in some imagery.
When scanning areas for archaeological remains, different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum can be used to reveal patterns on the ground, says Geoffrey Braswell, at the University of California San Diego.
Light detection and ranging (Lidar), which uses lasers, may also be deployed to measure the topography.
“If you are flying over a canopy most of those beams going down get reflected off leaves and other things and don’t reach the ground – but some of them do,” says Braswell. “That allows us to see unique features on the ground.”
But Lidar is expensive and, for many years, was an inaccessible technology only used by the military. Braswell would love to use it to scan entire regions of Central America to see what sites archaeologists may have missed, but so far that just hasn’t been feasible.
There are other issues too. Most Maya scholars agree that sites detected by remote sensing should definitely be confirmed by expeditions on the ground.
This is because a lot of apparent discoveries often turn out to be nothing of interest – a field rather than the outline or a building, or something manmade much more recently than an ancient ruin.
“In the northern part of the Maya area in Yucatan [remote sensing] gives about 70% false positives,” says Braswell.
However, most agree that the benefits such technologies have made to archaeology are stunning. Some fabulous sites have been uncovered that could otherwise have gone unnoticed – and in some cases years have potentially been shaved off the effort to explore dense forest regions.
Once a small village in the 12th century, Moscow today boasts its position amongst the largest cities of Europe and -of course- its 850-year-long history. Contrary to common belief, it is neither rather misty and foggy nor cold and bleak. Illuminated structures, avenues with luxury stores and buildings reminiscent of dreamlands are the very proof of this.
“If I invaded Kiev, it means I have conquered Russia’s feet. If I invade St. Petersburg, it means I conquered Russia’s head. However, a Moscow invasion means that I have conquered Russia’s heart.” This quote from Napoleon Bonaparte, revels secrets about Moscow.
Ranking amongst the 10 largest cities of the world, NMoscow enjoys its favorable position between Oka and Volga rivers. With the number of millionaries markedly higher than other cities, Moscow has granted the fame: The city of millionaries.
With a future as bright as its past, Reykjavik should be at the top of your cities-I-must-visit list. Follow Time Out’s tips for the perfect break in the Icelandic capital.
Reykjavik’s origins can be traced back to AD 870, when it is believed to have been Iceland’s first permanent Nordic settlement. There are monuments to its past as a seat of the Vikings all over the city, and also to its role as the birthplace of the Althing, the world’s first parliament.
Despite all its history, modern Reykjavik holds its past and future in even balance. Its modernism is striking – from the clean lines of its buildings to its experimental music scene to its status as one of the cleanest, most environmentally conscious cities in the world. So whatever it is that draws you to Reykjavik, there’s plenty to explore when you get here.
Reykjavik’s compact size (it has only 120,000 inhabitants, over a third of Iceland’s entire population) makes it the perfect place to get round on foot. If you want to get your bearings, start by taking a trip in the elevator to the top of Hallgrimskirkja; Iceland’s largest church resembles the vast helm of a Viking ship – or an iceberg – stretching from the ground. From the top, 73 metres up in the air, you’ll get a panoramic view of Reykjavik’s colourful rooftops.
A trip to the city must take in its incredible cultural centre, Harpa. An architectural stunner, its southern façade was designed by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. It’s free to enter and definitely worth a visit even if just to wonder at the modernist magnificence of the building’s interior – but as home to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra it also puts on an impressive selection of shows in its concert hall.
Art and culture lovers are well catered for. Learn about Icelandic history at the National Museum of Iceland, or get a sense of cutting-edge Icelandic contemporary art at the Reykjavik Art Museum’s Hafnarhús location (the museum is split over three venues) a converted warehouse a herring bone’s throw from the harbour. Then there’s the excellent sculpture garden at Einar Jónsson Museum. If you prefer your art a little more transient, the city’s streets are full of vibrant street art, too.
Those looking to get to grips with nature also have a lot of options – from whale watching at the harbour to hiking along the rugged coastline (which is also perfect for navigating by bicycle). Then there are the city’s famous hot pools. A handy by-product of Iceland’s natural volcanic action, you’ll find them all over the city – though the historical Sundhöllin Public Baths (Iceland’s oldest public swimming pool) are a popular bet.
Take a tour through one of the Italian capital’s oldest and most thriving cultural districts.
The history of Jews in Rome follows all the drastic twists and horrifying turns that have shaped the experience of the Jewish diaspora across the world. There has been a Jewish quarter inside the city ever since the Roman Republic began to engage in trade with the Levant in the couple of centuries before Jesus Christ. The subsequent millennia have seen massacres, apostasies and truces; bouts of intense persecution have been succeeded by periods of tolerance by, and even alliance with, the state. So if the story of the Roman Jews is relatively little told, it’s not for want of incident.
One reason may be their relatively small population – 13,000 Jews live in Rome today, compared with London’s 170,000 or New York’s 1.75 million – and, consequently, Italy’s fairly minor involvement in the defining event of recent Jewish history: the Holocaust. And yet, if nothing on the scale of what happened in Germany or Poland, Rome witnessed some horrors. The Nazis invaded Italy in September 1943 after the capitulation of Mussolini’s regime, and within a month they had smashed inside Rome’s Jewish quarter and started rounding up its inhabitants. By the war’s end, the city’s Jewish community had been literally decimated, having lost one in ten of its members to the concentration camps.
Calm in the chaos
A smattering of memorial plaques for the dead interrupt the peace in the otherwise placid Jewish quarter of today. Situated just across from the Tiber Island on the east bank of the river, the area is a haven of tranquillity in the traffic maelstrom that is Rome. Residential courtyards branch off from the slender alleys that tie the neighbourhood’s bustling marketplaces to its dainty piazzas. Like other historically Jewish districts in Europe’s capitals, such as London’s East End and Paris’ Marais, it has shed its cramped ghetto layout and gone the way of gentrification – losing many of its Jewish inhabitants in the process.
Inside Kiryat Sefer (‘The City of Books’) [no website], a bookstore specialising in Jewish culture, a tome on display compares the plan of the ghetto circa 1850 with a map of the area as it is today. The difference is striking. After Italy was unified in 1870, the new monarchy annulled the requirement for Jews to live in the ghetto, and set about razing the area.
The wall surrounding the ghetto was torn down and the cramped labyrinth of cul-de-sacs and tenement houses was replaced by four simple blocks of thoroughfares and squares. Where once the city’s poorest lived in abominable conditions, today a one-bedroom apartment sells for half a million euros. Streets that formerly belonged to drapers and fishermen now attract the likes of Jamie Oliver and Mark Zuckerberg (who, after dining at the neighbourhood’s renowned Nonna Betta restaurant, famously left no tip).
Many Jews may have sold up and moved out, but enough locals remain for the area to retain a distinctive character. Strolling down its flagstoned lanes, you’re just as likely to overhear snatches of Giudeo-romanesco, an antiquated local dialect that borrows liberally from Hebrew, as you are a conversation in Italian. A visit to the famous Boccione [no website], self-styled ‘bakery of the ghetto’, yields myriad delights of Hebraic provenance: unleavened tarts, marzipan cakes studded with fruit, and the three wonderfully taciturn sisters who run the place. Even the local sushi joint, Daruma, eschews all fish without spines in accordance with kosher tradition. If you’re pining for prawn, move on.
And then there’s the Great Synagogue of Rome [no website], another product of the late 19th-century government’s regeneration project. The squat domed edifice sits astride the riverbank, its striking appearance boldly proclaiming the Jews’ freedom to build as they see fit. Sadly, its symbolic importance has turned it into a flashpoint for anti-Semitic violence: in 1982, a gang of Palestinian militants marched up to the entrance and sprayed the congregation with grenades and submachine fire, killing one and wounding dozens. One legacy of the attack is a network of security guards who keep watch over the area from their discreet booths. Their presence is a dismaying reminder of the tensions with which the Jews of Rome continue to live, even in their most peaceful time.
For an area that abounds in beautiful architecture and tourist hotspots, the Jewish quarter is often neglected by visitors who come to Rome for its classical landmarks. Which is inexcusable, given that you can cover the neighbourhood’s cultural gems in a matter of hours – from the famous (and frankly kitsch) Turtle Fountain to the surreal ruins of the Porticus Octaviae. It’s well worth getting to know this unjustly overlooked patch of Italy.
Greece’s tourism product is being reborn, offering a new window of opportunity to travelers of every type.
After featuring prominently in the world news for all the wrong reasons, for a while it seemed that Greece was all washed up. Just when everyone thought it was down and out, the country rose from its own dusty ruins to turn a tarnished reputation to its advantage. In what is nothing short of a success story, post-crisis Greece has enhanced the traditional charm of sugar-cubed houses atop cliff-tops, sun-kissed Aegean beaches, voyages to antiquity and Mediterranean cuisine.
As if Greece couldn’t be more alluring anyway, there are 10 more reasons to visit the country right now.
1. Greece for All Seasons
There’s more to Greece than the sun and sea, which is why the government has unveiled a new tourism policy that pledges to “prolong the tourism season” and make Greece one of the five most popular destinations in the world.
For your average traveler, this means greater access to thematic tourism all year round. Now, families can take advantage of the special family discounts at winter resorts, enjoy off-season rates at the Athens Half Marathon or partake in kick-ass rock-climbing fiestas on the jagged slopes of Kalymnos island.
Greece is now the happening place, with lots to do and see in every season, from the fledgling Tweed Run on picturesque Spetses in the spring to the Red Bull freerunning competition on Santorini in the autumn and then some.
2. Fly Direct, No Hassle
In the wake of terror attacks and health epidemics, more travelers have chosen Greece. Increased demand means more direct flights to destinations around the country. Euromonitor travel analyst Wouter Gerts explains that as the whole Middle East is “associated with insecurity in the mind of the western tourist,” Greece has emerged as a comparable alternative thanks to its similar weather, cheap prices and security.
German tour operator TUI recently confirmed that tourists are turning to Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy in increasing numbers for their upcoming spring and summer holidays. At the same time, bookings to Turkey dropped by 40 percent.
Greek civil aviation data shows that there was an 11.5 percent-spike in Greek airport traffic in January alone. Some 1.8 million passengers travelled on 19,890 flights, enjoying the advantages of direct flights at budget rates.
3. Disover Virgin Territory
Yes, it looks set to happen in 2016. Obscure backwaters are being opened to the public for the first time thanks to a fast-track law that speeds up procedures for public-private investments. This means that the seaplanes projects at four Greek destinations – Skyros, Alonissos, Paxi and Agia Marina at Grammatiko – can move to the next stage of completion.
“The aim of the ministry is to create a waterways network by next summer, which will bring substantial benefits to the economy, create jobs and contribute to the interconnection of small and isolated islands as well as the development of local communities,” said Energy Minister Panos Skourletis.
With bated breath, the Hellenic Seaplanes company can literally taste the start of operations in 2016 after three years in the planning, with some 50 waterways already mapped out. The goal is to connect the country through seaports to allow for the exploration of virgin territory before it is changed forevermore by the influx of crowds.
4. More Reasons to Sail the Seas
Greece – a country carved by the sea with a whopping 13,676-km coastline – is, was and will always be a seafarer’s paradise. Though local mariners know as much, National Geographic recently identified the large island of Evia as one of the top ten international sailing destinations. And it comes as little surprise that Athens and the Greek islands ranked among the top ten most-searched cruise destinations on Yahoo in 2015.
Top-ranking three-time Olympic sailor Armando Ortolano, one of the founders of the Greek Isles Yachting company, says that Athens is a unique yachting destination. Its docks are exceptionally close to the Saronic islands and city sights, an advantage that has kept interest stable despite adversity that has kept investments at bay.
“We’re doing our best to keep business afloat with 20 percent cheaper charter rates since before the economic crisis began,” he says. “This means that a yacht with a capacity to carry six people can now be leased for 1,500 euros per week, meaning 200 euros per person for seven days, and with a skipper to boot!” Best yet, 2016 is the year of innovation for his company, which is planning to offer a “lifetime memories in a day” package, offering tailor-made options for day trips such as fishing and scuba diving.
5. All Roads Lead to Athens
Athens moved up a notch to second place in the prestigious European Best Destinations 2016, the Brussels-based electronic pool seeking the best of European culture and tourism. Elpida Rekka, of the City of Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau, points to the iconic Acropolis as just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the beauty of the city. A myriad of other offerings include affordable museums and archaeological sites, a high rate of Michelin-starred restaurants, a brilliant city-sea combination with a 55km of scenic coastal road stretch dubbed the Athens Riviera.
Now just behind Zadar in Croatia in the European Best Destinations rankings, Athens is eyeing gold in 2017.
6. Hospitality is in the Blood
The ancient Greek Stoics regarded hospitality as a gods-given right for foreigners, sanctioned by Zeus himself. Refusing to abide by this was hubris. The notion is so deeply engrained in the Grecian psyche that – despite cash flow problems – there’s usually a local entry near the top of the awards in any hospitality industry ranking.
Accolades keep coming with Achtis Hotel, in Halkidiki in northern Greece, and Canaves Oia Hotel, on Santorini, ranked 5th and 12th, respectively, in TripAdvisor’s top 25 hotels worldwide listing for 2016. Meanwhile, Amathus Beach Hotel in Rhodes and Grace Santorini Hotel rated highly in the 6th European Hospitality Awards. Another four Greek hotels took titles at the coveted Historic Hotels of Europe (HHE) awards in 2016: Allegory Boutique Hotel on Rhodes, Marpessa Smart Luxury Hotel in Agrinio (three awards), Aigialos Hotel in Santorini and Villa Galini in Halkidiki.
7. Less Money, More Innovation
The financial crisis may have made life difficult for the locals, but it has also made them far more inventive when it comes to tourism. Sites like dopios.gr and initiatives such as This is My Athens have paved the way for a new brand of tailor-made tourism that is ripe for the picking. These sites connect travelers with a community of local storytellers offering the real spirit of post-crisis Greece to the world.
Always hospitable, tech-savvy Greeks have now gone digital to showcase their cities to foreign visitors with treks to graffiti-laden anarchist quarter of Exarchia in Athens or a dinner invitation to where else but yiayia’s kitchen, where granny’s home-cooked meal rivals that of any Michelin-starred chef.
Not authentic enough for you? George Arapoglou, head of the Athens Invisible Paths tours organized by Schedia, a magazine sold by homeless street vendors, says that he’s been amazed by the reception. “Our tour guides are homeless or have been homeless people at some point in their lives. Sharing their journey to soup kitchens, sleeping areas, detox centers and other pitstops helps them feel less socially excluded while also breaking down barriers,” he says of the tours, which are available in Greek, English, German, Spanish and Italian.
is renowned for its world-famous clubs that host the globe’s top DJ’s throughout the summer, but the beautiful Spanish island also makes for a wonderful autumn/winter break out of season.
With a coastline dotted with secluded coves, unspoilt bays, iconic whie sandy beaches and sunset spots, and interiors home to pretty whitewashed towns and villages, the White Isle offers the dolce vita all year round. We take a look at Ibiza’s lesser-known beaches off the beaten track that are perfect for some R&R.
An old timber jetty sits in the middle of this peaceful, almost deserted strip of coast. The crescent-shaped beach offers crystal blue water and tranquillity that couldn’t be further from the madness of Bora Bora. Although it’s a pretty isolated area, its natural beauty makes it well worth the journey.
Where: From Sant Josep, follow the road south to Es Cubells. From here, wind your way down the road to the coast whilst enjoying the lush views. A footpath will take you to the beach from there.
Before you leave: Stop off for a drink at Es Cubells, a small village nestled among lemon, orange and olive groves. Bar Llumbi is a family-owned bar and restaurant that offers unspoilt views of the coast as well as a traditional Spanish menu.
The calm, clear waters of this untouched cove mean you won’t be able to resist an immediate dip. Make a day of it and enjoy the beautiful views out to sea; however you may be sharing this hidden gem with locals.
Where: On the east coast of Ibiza, past the gated community of Roca Llisa.x
Before you leave: There isn’t much in the way of bars and restaurants nearby, so bring a little picnic.
This secluded beach is perfect for snorkelling and cliff jumping (if you’re brave enough). For the explorers among you, hike to Ses Fontanelles to catch a glimpse of the famous Bronze Age cave drawings.
Where: A short drive from San Antonio.
Before you leave: Visit one of the local beach shacks for a fresh lime mojito and head to the secluded sister beach Salada for a dip.
Another beach favoured by locals. Feel at one with nature as you breathe in the scent of the pine trees and admire the scenery. Be sure to wear flip flops as the sand is quite rocky, although the seabed itself is beautifully soft.
Where: Situated on the south coast, between Es Torrent and Cala Jondal.
Before you leave: Take a short detour to Es Xarco (one bay away) for a delicious seafood lunch and a bottle of wine.
Not exactly a “secret” beach, but it’s well worth checking out. This small but picturesque bay boasts crystal clear water perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
Where: On the island’s north-west coast, just past San Miguel.
Before you leave: Enjoy the gorgeous Ibiza sunset, which is often accompanied by drummers who arrive on the beach to “drum down the sunset”.