|Subject: Greek islands of Symi, Tilos & Nissyros|
Hi All -
Our trip to Greece was really dreamy. To say it was idyllic is an understatement!
Let me start by saying that we love Greece, the Greeks and, of course, the food. May is a perfect time to travel there. It is hot (70's & low 80's) and it's usually clear with blue skies and little if no wind. The colors of the flowers against the colors of the Aegean and the blue, blue sky will take your breath away! Nights are cool so a light jacket is necessary. These particular islands are very small, quiet and there is not too much "action" so that they might not appeal to people who are looking for a lot of night life. They are, however, very beautiful and not too touristy as of yet.
Help in theDodecanese: We have used, extensively, Haroula Makris, a cousin of a colleague and friend of ours who happens to live on Rhodes. Her husband owns two travel agencies - one on Rhodes and one on the island of Karpathos. We have had dealings with both agencies (on Karpathos - their help was complete and worthwhile and although we didn't take their island tours because we always rent a car, we were in there every other day or so with questions. On Rhodes, we called Haroula, and her emails, help with ferries, boats and weather, etc was just the best. I have included the information here if anyone will be going to this area. Mention my name to Haroula if you go. I have never met her or her husband, Andreas, but I think Haroula is tops and her help was invaluable. This is not an advertisement - they're just nice people who speak English and I can assure you that they will be a big help.
On Rhodes: Panorama Travels, 37 Ventokleon St, Rhodes 85 100 - Tel: 2241 020131 or 2, Fax: 2241 0 34097 - email is the same for both locations: pan-aok@ otenet.gr (close space after @)
On Karpathos: Panorama Travels, Pigadia - Karpathos (this is one of the two main ports - the livelier one - on the island). Tel: 2245 0 22916 or 7, Fax: 2245 0 22511 or 22929.
Both offices are in the name of Andreas Makris (Haroula's husband) We flew into Rhodes where we caught the fast boat from Mandraki Harbor to Symi. Rhodes and all of the islands we visited are in the Dodecanese off coast of Turkey. We travel without reservations in case our plans change because the weather turns ugly or because we decide to push on. On this trip (almost 3 weeks) we had perfect weather except for one cloudy partly rainy day - We were very lucky!
Symi is a very dry island (in fact they have to bring in water in huge tankers). Their main port of Yialos is very busy (for a small island), and its architecture is unlike most Greek islands. It is very neo- classical with facades in pastel colors so it looks more like the Italian Riviera - not a Greek island! (It has been zoned so that the new buildings and renovations will retain this neo-classical look) It is an island of mainly day-trippers from Rhodes so the nights are not busy and everyone hangs out. People come over to see the huge, well-maintained Monastery of Panormitis.
We spent 5 days hiking down to beaches and discovering wonderful places to relax. If you decide to go, there are fast boats, and the frequent, bigger ferries that take longer. I believe that they all leave from Rhodes. There are wonderful beaches - but some take some walking to see them. Pedi Beach (not the harbor of Pedi Beach) is wonderful with beach umbrellas, plenty of shade from the Tamarisk trees, chaises and a taverna. From the port of Pedi Beach you have to walk around the peninsula about 20 min - but the path is easy to follow. I would suggest something other than flip-flops, though as there are rocks and it's steep going down the rocks at the end. (It isn't difficult though)
If you go: HOTELS - Initial help upon arrival in Yialos: At the Visitor Center on the port you can pick up a copy of 'The Symi Visitor' which gives good information. Nick (Greek but he was brought up in Australia) - seems to know everyone and everything on the island and he is a tremendous help. His girlfriend, Wendy, is British, but has lived on the island for years - She is also a big help and she rents houses - all of which are quite nice, very private - and well equipped. (You can reach them for information, pictures and for email at http://www.symivisitor.com At this visitor center, try to pick up the only good map on the island which comes with detailed descriptions of the hikes- It was made by Lance Chilton, 1999 in England (ISBN 1 900802 597). They had run out of these), so we managed to borrow Nick's and we found somewhere to have it photocopied - Then we rewrote anything that was missing. This is a MUST if you want to do any of the wonderful walks or find some of the chapels, etc.
We stayed in Horio above Yialos at the Fiona (Nick's parents tiny hotel) -- http://www.symivisitor.com Tel: 2246 072088 - This is a simple, very clean hotel - double room ensuite w/ air-conditioning and breakfast - cost: 27Euros w/ breakfast. Both internet site are correct (the same one) Nick and Wendy also work or manage or own the Visitor Center. We couldn't figure out exactly what their connection was - but the above is correct information
We also stayed on the harbor (quiet side) in a lovely Italian Manor House called the Hotel Aaikh (pronounced Aliki) - restored beautifully - We had (only 2 other couples staying there... ) a lovely room and balcony ensuite w/ air conditioning. Buffet breakfast was yummy and plentiful and we ate on the quay beside the hotel. It was superb and the Italian couple who own it is charming!!!
CAR RENTAL - N.KATSARAS - This is walking distance from the boat landing and we rented a tiny car that was terrific - You can also rent motorbikes on most of the islands. tel and fax:22460 72203 or 71417 - They have a rental office at Pedi Beach also, if you decide that you want to stay on the beach. Only one gas station on the island - just outside Yialos - check hours of operation.
RESTAURANTS - Our favorites were Manos Fish Restaurant http://www.symitop5.gr in Yialos right on the waterfront. Manos owns 3 restaurants (His fish and typical Greek restaurant are next door to one another and the 3rd is an Italian restaurant off the water.) Manos is a real charmer and we really enjoyed spending time with him. tel - 22460 72420. Our other favorite was in Horio - called Yiorgios - It has, like most tavernas and restaurants, an outside patio. You go into the kitchen and choose whatever looks good. Fish is also great, but we like what comes from the garden!!!
LEAVING SYMI - All of the travel agency/boat help is very near where you landed on Symi. To get a larger boat further up the Dodecanese chain, you need to walk in a few blocks from the water in Yialos - about 10 min to Sunny Land LTD - General Tourist and Travel Agency and Shipping Agency - Andrea - is from England and she will help guide you. tel: 2241 71320.
We went from Symi to Tilos planning to stay for a few days but ended up staying for about a week. We called ahead and made a hotel reservation as our boat was going to arrive at about 11:30 pm and we didn't want to look for a room at that hour (impossible). If you have a hotel reservation, someone from the hotel always meets you at your boat - ferry, catamaran or fast boat - or maybe airport - but we have never had that. (very preferable at that hour!) This is a good thing!
TILOS This is a wonderful, undiscovered, slow island. It is northwest of Symi but is off most of the ferry or fast boat routes and it's hard to get to; hence, there are never any crowds except at the very height of the season. There is a small verdant growing area, but, otherwise, tourism is the main economy. Tilos has one main town/port - Livadia. There are a few small outposts, but this is really it. It is an arid island also, but has some very green parts and the bougainvillea and broom were remarkable - and all over the island. On all of these islands, the people are very friendly and helpful and English is spoken enough so that communication is easy. Also, on the first two islands we visited, there were quite a few British people visiting and living there. This is a walking island - and although we rented a car again (so that we can get to trailheads and really hike the island - and not spend our time getting to a starting point), we had wonderful hikes every day - We even hired guides for a long all-day lovely trip around the island from the Monastery up and down to one of the beaches - a spectacular walk! (guides and their email is listed below)
If you go: There are no ATM's or banks on Tilos - so think ahead. Tilos Travel will cash small amounts for you, but at a price.
HOTEL - Eleni Beach Hotel - http://www.elenihoteltilos.gr - tel: 22460 44063 - email: elenihtl@ otenet.gr (close space after@) -- dbl room w/ air- conditioning ensuite w/ balcony overlooking the beach - 37 Euros w/ breakfast. The hotel was very clean and modern. We were glad that we had someone meet us upon our late arrival!! It was a wonderful location - a walk into town to the bakery and market and all of the restaurants in that area.
BEACHES - There are pebble beaches all over the island - the biggest being Eristos in the valley - It's a bit big for us. However, Lethera and Ag Sergios are sandy and lovely - Plaka is really lovely and there is a little park there (It is enclosed, but open) where you will, surprisingly, find the most beautiful, huge Peacocks!!! - A wonderful treat! There are many hikes (some strenuous) to beautiful secluded beaches - just ask!
VILLAGES - The village of Megalo Horia is nothing special, but the walk up hill (1/2 hr - wear boots as there are pebbles and prikers from plants) is amazing if you get a good day - - There is an old ruin of a knight's castle, wonderful flowers and the view to Turkey and other islands are spectacular. Ag Andonis is a tiny fishing village in that area with charm and a good taverna both on the port and one just before you turn down the road to the port called Elpida - (great butter beans in tomatoes and onions!)
CAR RENTAL & TRAVEL AGENCY - Tilos Travel - Lynda, David and Manos (although we never met Manos) - tel: 0030 22460 44294, tax 0030 22460 44184, mobile ph 0030 6946 559697, http://www.tilostravel.co.uk -- email: office@ tilostravel.co.uk (close space after @) Their agency is at the port and we rented our car from them. I can't say enough about Lynda and David as they were very helpful about everything and had wonderful printed information about their island that cues one in on folklore, local flora and fauna. Their advice about everything we needed was on the mark. We even had dinner with them one night. (car rental about 25 Euros a day) -- There is also only one gas station with somewhat erratic hours - so be forewarned!
WALKING AND HIKING GUIDES - Iain and Lyn Fulton. These are wonderful guides and wonderful people who have lived here for quite awhile. They are English speaking so we had no difficulty. We wanted to go with them again on another hike but we didn't have the time. tel: 0030 22460 44128, mobile ph: 0030 6946054593, email: fulton@ otenet.gr (close space after@) (Price - 20 Euros/person/day) If anyone wants to go to any of these islands and wishes me to really give them hikes in detail, please email me privately as there were too many hikes to write up and I know it's boring to people who don't like hiking.
RESTAURANTS- The restaurants that I would recommend are To Armenon on the beach - great Greek salad and everything was very tasty and fresh; the Oasis (that Lynda and David took us to) just off the beach - with roasted chicken or goat or meats on the spit and specialties - excellent grilled food - Next to the bakery is Joanna's Cafe/Cocktail bar with honey ice cream and good food. - There are very typical Greek bars all over where you can sit under a tree, have a beer and let the world go by. This is a very easy, relaxed island!!! We loved it.
MAPS- We bought a Tilos map for "walkers" -- Everyone knows it as it's light blue. It is pretty accurate and people in the villages will always guide you to trailheads if need be.
NISSYROS - Nissyros does have one bank but no ATM's and the bank charges accordingly to exchange money. We took the fast boat from Tilos to Nissyros - called the "Sea Star" which was built a few years ago to go between these few islands for day trippers to see the sights and return late in the day to their original home. It's very modern and quick. We didn't't have any reservations on Nissyros as we arrived early enough in the day to rent a car and find accommodation.
Nissyros is known for it's extinct volcano that blew it's top the last time in l933 -- It's a very green island, with gorgeous wild flowers all over, oleander of pink and white and lovely scenery. Everyone walks! After staying at the "best" hotel for one night (The Porfyris)- we changed gear. The hotel needed updating and it was not near water... we rented a car and drove to a teeny fishing village of Pali - and got help from two lovely women in the taverna where we ended up eating almost every night. We found a wonderful 'studio' just outside of the port. Our studio was quite large and immaculate with a small fridge, hot plate and bath/shower and with a balcony - all for 20 Euros/night. We loved it. This port is not too busy, mostly with a few tourists who rented boats to sail the Aegean and a few fisherman. It was quiet and very colorful with the flavor of Greece! It is a real working island - different from the other two. Two outer islands quarry pumice and there is a tiny one-or two-street shopping area for people to buy what they need to live there. There are the day people who come at 10 am to see the volcano and then leave in the afternoon - and then it's quiet and beautiful.
STUDIO RENTAL - from Stefanos and Popi (you can find them from the Aphrodite Taverna on the port in Pali -- this is a tiny fishing village - don't worry.) tel 22460 31079 -- It's best to go and not call as Popi speaks some English - She is helpful and nice. Ask for a studio facing the water. I believe most have balconies. All islands use solar power for hot water. If the weather is bad and the water is cool, ask Popi - she will flip the switch to give you hot water within 1/2 hr.
RESTAURANTS - Our very favorite of the whole trip was the Aphrodite in Pali. Tsambika (Mom) and her daughter, Christina are wonderful, warm and lovely women who were most helpful and generous. Tsambika and her husband spent years in Australia and Christina was born there. Their English was wonderful and we obviously had no problem. Their food (veggies in garlic sauce or tomato and onion sauce or beans of any kind or grilled fish - especially calamari steaks -- were fabulous!!!) We would always ask what was just picked from the garden and we ate whatever - It was never a disappointment!! For dessert, Christina would insist that we finish - an unordered - sweet - which was also yummy!
In Mandraki (the main port town and in the main area on the water, is a restaurant called Mike's Restaurant. Stella, Mike's wife, spent many years in Australia and her Tzatziki and salads and some kind of chick pea balls were wonderful. She is terrific. Reservations are never needed anywhere at this time of year!
MAPS - The only map available (it's free) is the Beate and Jurgen Frank's map which is GPS drown and very accurate. Our car rental man, Elias gave us one and we were glad to have it.
PLACES TO VISIT - Beside the volcano, drive to Nikeia on top of the island - It's really a tiny village with a wonderful mosaic square and one taverna which we liked called Nikeia - also. There are hikes from the village and its pretty to hike up to where they are building a new chapel above the village and look around. The Paleokastro is a wonderful ruin - it has a wall and entrance that date back from the 7th C BC - It's access is still unrestricted, but from the signs near the entrance, we can tell change is coming. It's remarkable!!! It is a walk on the outskirts of Mandraki. Also, if you like hikes, hike to Profitis Ilias (name for the highest point on every island) and look inside the tiny chapel. The views are fantastic to Kos, to Turkey, to Tilos and all over. It's a wonderful walk.
CAR RENTAL - We rented our car from Elias at Diakomihalis Travel. Elias is very, very helpful and warm. He even made reservations for us at the Sofitel at the airport in Athens as we had an early flight to return home. This was not as easy as it sounds as he had to fax a friend on Rhodes - have him make the reservation, and then tell us when it was set. tel: 22420 31459 or 48094 - fax: 22420 31527, Mobil ph: 6977735229, email: diakomihalis@ kos.forthnet.gr (close space after@) (about 22 Euros/day)
This kind of "wandering" travel is not for everyone, but we love it's open-ended, non-stressful way approach. We had marvelous weather with only one bad day and we met fabulous people. We adore the Greek food always and our hikes were terrific - amongst the flowers, wild pigs and goats. It was all fun and very fulfilling.
Again, I would be happy to help anyone with any hiking details if they would like.
One last thing: VERY IMPORTANT AND WONDERFUL - if you are leaving from Athens Airport: If you have an early flight and do not plan to be in Athens before you leave, I would recommend the new Sofitel. It's right at the airport. It's expensive, but for us, worthwhile. You get your luggage and walk with your cart directly across the street to the hotel where the porter will take your luggage. When leaving, the porter will put your luggage in a cart and you walk directly to your flight. It's all so civilized and easy. What a dream! I am compiling a photo album on Ofoto.com and I will tell you when it's finished.
Regards, Yasou, Susie, Newton, MA