Although the temperatures have not risen to the summer highs, spring time can often be beautifully warm. Crete, being far south offers early sun and would be a great place to spend the Easter week. In autumn 2010 we visited Crete and were particularly impressed by what Crete has to offer in terms of value. Fiercely independent Crete, Europe's first advanced civilization and Greece's largest island, is steeped in Homeric culture with a richness of history that would take a life-time to explore.[gallery ids="390,391,392,393,394,395"] We based ourselves in the region of Chania for the majority of our stay and also visited the fortified town of Rethymnon. Stunning architecture bearing the influence of the various civilizations that have occupied the island abound. Exquisite Venetian, Ottoman and Egyptian buildings, ornate fountains and shady courtyards, winding back streets juxtaposed against immense Ancient and Byzantine walls and colourful markets with a Levantine flavour characterize these historical port cities. The food on Crete is exceptional and we ate dishes that are unique to the island. Snails and special cheeses, stews flavoured with honey, delicious bread and of course Crete's famous olive oil. We ate in picturesque tavernas and swilled down the delicious dishes with home-made wine and 'Tsikoudia' (Crete's Raki) The coastline of Crete is a beach paradise offering mile upon mile of white and golden sand. Inland, rich fertile plains provide a perfect environment for the cultivation of fruit and olive trees and the heart of the island is mountainous and richly verdant, with age-old villages untouched by time that are steeped in folklore. This mountainous island has been the home of many a family vendetta and even today, strange feuding occurs in the more remote villages on the island. We didn't see any evidence of this outlaw behavior other than the odd road signpost that had been used for target practice. On the contrary, our Cretan hosts couldn't have been more generous and hospitable. We returned to the Peloponnese feeling that we had visited a very special and unique part of Greece.
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Pretty Interesting - Greek Wine for a self catering villa holiday
This month our focus is on the beautiful island of Spetses in the Saronic group of islands.Â Easily accessible by hydrofoil from the Athens port of Pireaus, Spetses exudes charm and a certain exclusivity. There is a ban on cars on the island which is a true blessing, especially in high season.Â Horse-drawn carriages are the main form of transport and the Neo Classical architecture of the town just adds to its natural beauty.Â The ambiance of wealth and sophistication begins from its long maritime history, and it has become a favourite island among ship owners and well to do Athenians.Â Spestses is an island where mega yachts rub moorings with local â€˜caiqueâ€™ fishing boats, and jet setters mingle with locals in waterfront tavernas watching the world go by.Â There are two sides to life on Spetses for the visitor - one can dine at the traditional Greek taverna, or choose from one of the chic upscale restaurants serving European and Modern Greek cuisine where you might even be seated next to a film star or other famous personality. For daytime venturing, water taxis are used as the primary transportation along the island so even getting to the beach is enjoyable. Pine covered hillsides give way to crystal clear waters and secluded sandy coves.Â A hired motor boat is a great way to explore the coastline and find your own secluded little bay for the day. Spetses is also a great jumping off point for exploring the other Saronic islands as well as the Peloponnese. Hydra and Aegina are reachable by hydrofoil and the Peloponnese is just 5 minutes across the bay by water taxi.Â Then, within an easy drive are the significant archeological sites of Epidavros and Mycenae.Â The lovely town of Nafplion with its rich history and medieval castle perched above the town is well worth a visit too. We can help to arrange car hire or a guided tour for you. [gallery ids="412,410,408,411,405,404,406,407,409"] For those travelling to Spetses, or any Saronic island â€“ Pretty Greek Villas can help to organize your transportation from airport to port for your boat departure.Â Keep in mind that there is a second way to travel to Spetses from the Peloponnese, just in case your flight and boat schedules do not match ideally.Â A drive of approx. 2 hours takes you to the southern Peloponnese and a short water taxi ride lands you squarely at your destination.
Pretty Interesting - Greek Wine for a self catering villa holiday
Wine has been pretty interesting to many people throughout the ages and should be one of the main ingredients in a successful self catering holiday, but where do you start in a country which exports very little of this wonderful nectar so the wineries and grape varieties are little know to foreigners traveling in Greece. A year ago, I was stopped by a gentleman in Kefalonia who asked my advice regarding choosing a nice bottle of Greek wine to accompany the food his wife had prepared, he said that I looked like I knew what I was buying, though I am not quite sure what he meant by that! Normally, he would have known which variety and year were the ones to go for but in this little winery just outside Fiskardo, the man was lost. It is not so surprising since there are over 300 indigenous grape varieties in Greece although only 24 of them are of any great significance, producing wines for an international market. The remaining varieties end up being served in the little metal jugs that we find in the majority of tavernas throughout Greece that we foreigners collectively refer to as Retsina. This is a mistake of ours since Retsina is a wine that has been treated with pine tree resin which gives it a sappy and turpentine like flavour but the truth is that it all tastes pretty much the same. The main point of this editorial is to focus more on the international quality wines than the ones that are served in metal jugs and Greece has its fair share of really excellent wine. Moscofilero, Assyrtiko, Vilana, Xynisteri, Robola and Rhoditis grape varieties produce the majority of the good white wines of Greece while Xinomavro, Agiorgitiko, Mandelaria, Limnio, Mavro and Ophthalmo are the names of the red grape varieties. Wine makers often blend these juices with more familiar grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay which are also all grown in Greece. So where does the average holiday maker start? There are several labels that are well worth looking out for. Here are some of them below. [caption id="attachment_378" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Some of the most famous wines of Greece[/caption] The Peloponnese grows about a quarter of the grapes used in the production of Greek wine and is predominantly red wine country. Nemea uses the Agioritiko grape to produce a spicy, well structured red while the highly prized Mavro Daphne of Patras offers a dark, oily fortified wine. The Mantinea region produces a fruity white wine using the Moscofilero grape, which is a particular favourite of mine. The best wine makers can be found in Macedonia, the most famous being the Boutari winemakers who sells its wine both nationally and abroad under the label John Boutari & Sons. Yannis Boutari himself makes high quality red wine in deliberately small quantities and markets them under the label Kir Yianni. Constantin Lazaridi created a very modern estate in 1992 which aims to produce wine of international class. Laziridi winery is located in the Drama region. Markovitis estate focuses on organic methods and the Gerovassiliou winery develop French wine culture and aims to produce the same very high quality wine. Many of the islands offer really good wines, the most famous being Kefalonia, Santorini, Paros, Samos and Crete. It is believed that the first Mediterranean vineyards were found on Crete and the practice of wine making was taken by the Minoans to the islands of Santorini and Paros. Due to the strong winds that blow up in the Aegean, the grapes are not grown high on trelaces but low, on the ground, in basket like shapes. The volcanic rocks of Santorini collect moisture from the sea at night and release it gradually throughout the day to the vines. This unique micro climate is responsible for the production of the best white wines of the Assyrtiko grape variety. One of the grapes most frequently grown in the Attika region is the white wine grape Savatiano and it is from this grape that some of the best white wines in Greece are produced. The grape produces distinctly robust and full of character wines that are relatively low in alcoholic content. Hatzimichalis, Fragou, Vassiliou, Strofilia, Semeli and Megapanos are the names of the more renowned estates in the Attika region.
One and a half hours from Athens airport and forty minutes East of Patras, Achaia in the North of the Peloponnese attracted the Ancients for good reason. The area is immensely fertile with bands of citrus plantations situated on the silt plains next to the sea. Above, lie olive groves punctuated by vineyards and surrounded by Mediterranean pine forest. 1000 metres above sea-level, cows graze on alpine meadows surrounded by spruce forests, littered with mushrooms and populated by wild boar. Goat herders drive their flocks to these highland areas in summertime when the heat below becomes unbearable. Above the 1800 metre zone when the spruce trees start to become sparser, the peaks of the mountains that reach up to 2500 metres are snow- capped and it is possible to ski until the end of April if the winter remains cold. [gallery link="file"] There are three mountains in Achaia whose concave formation plunge dramatically into the Gulf of Corinth below. Each mountain is separated by Alpine valleys and gorges where the scenery is spectacular. The seaside towns of Kiato, Derveni, Akrata, Egion and finally Patras are nothing out of the ordinary but the sheer beauty of the mountainous scenery is simply breathtaking. This region abounds with charming mountain villages and with many archaeological and historical sites to discover such as Ancient Egira and Ancient Corinth. It is also within easy reach of other major sites such as Delphi, Mycenae, Epidavros, Olympia and Athens. Spring and autumn are fabulous times to visit this beautiful area. The mountains provide a walkerâ€™s paradise and the many well-marked paths offer unique opportunities to the fell walker or rambler. Although these foot paths are well marked, they are deserted and you can spend the whole day with out meeting a soul. In spring the mountains become ablaze with wild flowers which open out in sequence. First the poppies arrive turning the mountains blood red, next yellow becomes the dominant colour, then the dainty anemones or â€˜wind flowersâ€™ and finally, the Judas trees with their dense pink buds. Wild greens, asparagus and artichoke can all be collected through these blissfully warm months under clear skies. In autumn comes a second flowering with warm weather bathed in a golden light. The mushroom season starts and the forest are littered with all types of species: Oyster, morel, chanterelle, boletus and field mushrooms can all be found up in the alpine forests of Achaia. The mountain villages of this area lie untouched completely by tourism. Here you will probably find a square, the local church and usually a spring with cold, mountain water. Even the smallest and remotest of villages usually have a Kafeneion where the men drink coffee, discuss and play â€˜tavliâ€™ around the fireplace. The mountain tavernas abound with delicious food â€“ creamy feta cheeses, home-baked bread, dishes of wild rabbit, boar or cockerel, and sometimes even trout from the nearby river.
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