A soul-stirring island-hopping voyage around Greece from past to present, capital to coast: this month’s dose of travel inspiration offers sunsets over awe-inspiring relics, picturesque beaches and turquoise seawater. Our edifying Greek mini-epic takes you from an age-old capital to peaceful Crete, with a selection of Smith-style sun spots along the way…
Before fleeing the crowds, steal a day and night of city thrills. In Athens, ancient and modern wrestle for dominance; a half-mile wander transfers you from the Acropolis and classical ideals in stone, to chic, boutiquey Kolonaki. Ride the funicular to the summit of Lycabettu, where you can gaze back over the centuries you’ve crossed, then return to the right-now at minimalist, cheap-chic Fresh Hotel in the gritty downtown. From its groovy rooftop bar, you can savor the Greek capital all over again…
Let Riviera-rivalling beaches, mysterious caves and hospitable locals lure you to the island of Crete: fly into Heraklion, and drive to the lavish Domes of Elounda in pindrop-peaceful Mirabello Bay. Fans of succulent seafood should dine at Topos 1910, manned by Michelin-starred chef Lefteris Lazarou. Reserve the most romantic table on the decked promontory leading out to sea. Drive an hour to Ierapetra and hop on a boat to Chrissi Island. Hunt for fossils on the northern coast, dip in the shimmering jade waters, and stretch out on the white sand. Take a deep breath, and exhale.
The birthplace of Minoan civilisation was bound to be beautiful, cultured and rich in history. In ancient times, worshippers trekked to the stalagmite-studded Dikteon Cave – according to legend, Zeus’ birthplace. Today, people come to explore the subterranean chambers, and admire the spectacular views of Lasithi plateau and the surrounding mountains. Getting there is tricky – a 45-minute drive to the plateau and a 20-minute walk (or donkey ride) to the cave – but it’s more than worth it.
WAY TO GO International flights arrive at Athens International Airport (Eleftherios Venizelos); Olympic and Delta fly non-stop from New York.
WHEN TO GO Athens is warm March through November; Crete sizzles in June and July – so avoid these months if you’re no sun worshipper and come in April, May or September instead.
Glamorous island hideaways are our forte: if you’d like to take a high-speed boat from Crete across the wine-dark sea to another sexy stop-off, talk to us to tailor your trip to your taste, pace, budget and dates. Pause at Ionian beauties Kefalonia and Ithaca, or rugged Aegean gem Santorini, the southernmost of the Cyclades. Or let its sophisticated sociable spirit tempt you to Mykonos…
ISLAND-HOPPING ADDRESS BOOK: WHERE TO STAY
Fresh Hotel Athens
Style Breath of fresh flair
Setting Minutes from Omonia
From the neon pink Perspex front desk to the bright white balconied bedrooms, this boutique hotel in the hectic heart of downtown Athens encapsulates modern minimalism, but it’s the sweeping cityscape views from the rooftop bar that truly set it apart.
Doubles from US$98. More details
Kapsaliana Village Hotel Crete
Style Verdant village
Setting Amid the olive groves
The hotel’s history-steeped settlement, set in the island’s largest olive grove, has an 18th-century olive press and its own museum. The original press and pitharia (clay storage vessels) can still be admired and there’s a homely restaurant and a flower-flanked outdoor pool. Rooms are soothingly simple: stone interiors and arches.
Doubles from US$182. More details
Domes of Elounda Crete
Style Perfectly rounded resort
Setting Peaceful Mirabello Bay
This luxe and lavish retreat where guests bathe in the decadence of the surroundings: secluded suites, a glittering spa and shrubbery-studded grounds. There’s also a choice of three restaurants, smooth-edged architecture and the hotel’s own patch of beach. The simple lines are given an exotic touch from the Moorish additions – fretwork screens, silver basins and mirrored furniture.
Doubles from US$182. More details
Paradise Island Villas Crete
Style Set-apart, secluded villas
Setting Cretan paradise found
Scattered between the mountains and Mediterranean on Crete, Greece’s mythological master. Find your own Arcadia among the peace and seclusion; terracotta tiles and bougainvillea-clad walls lead the way to the earthy interiors of ivory-hued, minimalist design. Outside, private gardens have their own pools, dining areas and Jacuzzi jets.
Doubles from US$553. More details