Corfu is the northernmost island on the blissful Ionian. On its east bank, two mighty Venetian-era fortresses guard its UNESCO-listed eponymous capital. Here the cobbled streets reveal pastel-colours Palazzi, unique churches, old-fashioned cafes and traditional taverns serving local cuisine. Its centerpiece is Liston, an arcaded walkway overlooking the vast green Spianada, where locals play cricket on summer evenings – a custom dating from the 19th century, when Corfu was a British protectorate for a period of nearly 50 years. Beyond the city of Corfu, the coast yields translucent waters, and sand and pebble beaches. The rugged interior is planted with olive groves, many dating back more than half a millennium, from which Corfu produces some of Greece’s best olive oil. Climb the lower slopes of Mount Pantokrator, up to the village of Old Perithia, a 14th-century stone cottage, some now restored, to see what rural life once looked like.
Seven miles north of the city of Corfu lies Komeno, a lush peninsula dotted with silver-green olive groves, fragrant pines, elegant cypresses and exotic palms. Here the five-star Grecotel Corfu Imperial Offers the most opulent accommodations on the island. Expect sophisticated rooms, suites, bungalows, and waterside villas with private pools sleeping up to 12 guests. Each is unique, some built in a minimalist contemporary style, while others borrow from Corfu’s grand Venetian tradition, with pastel-colored façades, balconies with balconies and terracotta-tile roofs. Guests can explore the resort’s rocky coast, which is surrounded by secret bays and beaches, and gardens dotted with pools. On the main promenade there is a choice of bars and restaurants serving fresh seafood and local seasonal products, as well as the island’s cherished olive oil.
Rising from the Aegean, the island of Mykonos is famous for its delightful nightlife. Cosmopolitan Mykonos city is a warren of cobbled alleys, where whitewashed cubic houses, typical of the Cyclades, host cocktail bars, gourmet restaurants and chic boutiques. By day, glamorous sun-scorched guests can nap and bathe on the South Shore’s spectacular long beaches – and for the sporty types, there’s windsurfing, kite-surfing, waterskiing, and scuba diving too. After dark, many beaches hold open-air dance clubs, staging famous DJs. From the port, daily excursion boats run to the rocky islet of Delos. Considered by the ancients to be the birthplace of Apollo (god of the sun) and Artemis (goddess of the moon), today its temples and proud stone lions are UNESCO-listed.
Grecotel Mykonos Blue, overlooking the gorgeous Saro beach on the sunny south coast of Mykonos The perfect summer getaway. It has a lush spa and a sleek cave-like infinity pool built into the rocks. From here, stairs lead to the golden sand, and hotel guests get free sunbeds and beach towels. Hotels include ocean-view bungalows, suites and villas and private pools inspired by traditional Cycladic architecture. Think Aegean-cool interiors, predominantly white with discrete blue details. Wake up to a generous Greek breakfast, enjoy a light sushi lunch, and kick off the day with a romantic sunset dinner on the beach with a private waiter and personalized menu plan.
The city of Kos is known for its palm-lined walkways, large sailing marina, and the 15th-century palace of Nerantzia, which guards the entrance to the harbour. Behind the town is the hill Asclepien, a 3rd century BC sanctuary and healing temple. It was built in honor of Hippocrates, considered the father of medicine, who was born in Kos in 460BC. His famous tract, On Airs, Waters and Places, examined the relationship between health and the environment – he believed we thrive on a good diet, fresh air, rest, exercise, cleanliness and a mild climate. Hippocrates may have approved of the eight-mile cycling lane that runs along the seafloor in the city of Kos, from Salidi beach to Faros beach. Much loved by wind and kitesurfing enthusiasts, Salidi enjoys a steady shore wind, and has several windsurfing and kitesurfing schools, which offer tuition and rental equipment. On the western side of the island, the Plaka Forest is a haven of pine trees, fresh spring water, geese and dozens of peacocks – kids love it.
In a great location just outside the city of Kos, you’ll find the family-friendly Grecotel Luxe ME Kos Imperial. Situated near Salidi beach, it is set in natural grounds with exotic tropical plantings, freeform pools with cascades, turquoise lagoons and a pebble beach. Outdoor activities include yoga, pilates, tennis, beach volley, windsurfing and scuba diving. There’s also a lush spa offering a wide choice of health and beauty treatments and an indoor heated pool, and waterside bars and restaurants offering healthy Mediterranean menus and special options for kids. Accommodations range from elegant rooms and suites to bungalows and villas, all decorated to create a suitably leisurely island mood.
About 5,000 years ago, a sophisticated civilization called the Minoans lived on Crete. Their main settlement was Knossos Palace, where they enjoyed beauty and comfort – the ruins of which you can still see today.
Built around a vast central courtyard, its rooms were decorated with magnificent frescoes depicting the curious game of bull leaping as well as dolphins, blue birds and lilies. It also had storage rooms for huge double-fingered pitcher – Ceramic storage utensils – filled with olive oil and wine. The area around the site still supports lush vineyards, reviving some nearly forgotten native grape varieties.
Nearby, on the coast, Heraklion was originally the port of Knossos, and in the 15th century it was fortified by the Venetians, who also added elegant churches and fountains. At the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, you can see ancient finds from Knossos, such as frescoes, painted ceramics, and gold jewellery. Inland are dramatic mountains – the ancients believed that Zeus, the king of the gods, was born in the highest cave, Mount Ida (2,456 m).
Nestled amidst meticulously landscaping with pools, a lagoon, and delightful beaches, Grecotel Amilands is located on Crete’s north coast, 14 miles east of Heraklion. A family-friendly resort, it offers activities associated with a healthy, active lifestyle that Minoans would appreciate. On site you have yoga, aerobics, tennis and kayaking, as well as scuba diving and mountain biking nearby. Sophisticated dining options include Italian and East Asian fare, but the main attraction is the rustic Cretan cuisine, prepared with fresh local ingredients and organic products from Grecotel’s own Agreco farm. Accommodations range from rooms and suites to bungalows and villas – the best come with private gardens, infinity pools and private beach cabanas with direct access to the sand.
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