Have Bag, Will Travel
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Tag Archives: serifos
I like almost everything about Greece so I suppose I should mention the beaches. After Spain (511), Greece (387) has the second most Blue Flag Beaches, but to put that into perspective it does have almost three times as much coastline so has only one award winning beach every thirty-five kilometres compared with Spain at approximately ten (Portugal, by the way, is the best with a blue flag beach every six and a half kilometres). Personally I don’t think Greek beaches are anywhere near the best so lucky for me then that I am not really a beach person.
Psili Ammos, Serifos
The plan was to walk out of Livadi and visit Psili Ammos beach just a short way out of town, which in Serifos they claim to be one of the top twenty beaches in the Mediterranean. Our guidebook said allow an hour and don’t do it in the middle of the day but we paid no attention to that and set off anyway even without a map.
This turned out to be a really mad thing to do especially because there was a perfectly good beach right next to the hotel and if we waited an hour or so there was a bus that went there anyway. It turned out to be much further than we estimated and a couple of wrong turns didn’t help. There was no proper road, just a rough unmade track that meant that hiking boots would have been more appropriate than our sandals and when we came to a sign for Agios Sostis beach we abandoned the attempt to reach Psili Ammos and settled for the alternative instead.
It was pleasant enough, a rough sandy beach and a sheltered rocky cove but it wouldn’t have made the top one hundred let alone the top twenty beaches but there were only a few people there and crucially there were some trees for shade. Kim collapsed from exhaustion almost immediately and being restless I went for a snorkel where I came across a seabed littered with dead fish which was a bit off-putting and then went for a walk along the shoreline and came across some monstrous washed up jelly fish struggling to return to the sea. They were a beautiful translucent blue but I didn’t fancy swimming with them so that was the last time I went in the sea this morning.
Myrtos Beach, Kefalonia
The road took us towards the narrow northern peninsula and as it did so began to rise up and down and twist first one way and then the other as it clung to the side of a mountain that tumbled precipitously into the sea whilst looking down on beautiful beaches and azure blue sea.
Eventually we arrived at Myrtos, which is the most famous of these beaches, a major tourist attraction and an automatic inclusion in any top ten beaches of Greece list. I don’t know about that but it has won several awards including ‘Best beach in Greece’ for several years running and third ‘Best beach in Mediterranean’. Myrtos is the beach all the brochures boast about and the island’s postcard pinup and from the roadside high above the scene was nothing short of breathtaking. A seductive crescent of delicious white pebble beach, gentle surf and brilliant blue water and nothing was going to stop us making a perilous descent down an incredibly steep road to the long ribbon of gleaming stones backed by pale yellow, vertical cliffs.
Although it was hot it was very pleasant this morning but in the high season there can be days of crippling heat as the bleached west facing stones, pale cliffs and turquoise sea combine to turn the entire beach into something resembling a slow roast oven. Actually once at the bottom it didn’t feel as special as it should have when compared with the view from the top. The pebble beach dropped very sharply into the sea, the stones were rough and there was a lot of tar about. We walked along the length of the beach to the naturist end in search of amusement but there was nothing remarkable to see so we returned to the car and made the tortuous return journey back up the stupendously steep hill.
Valmas Beach, Ios
And this is my favourite beach in the Greek Islands:
Valmas doesn’t look very much it has to be said, just a small quiet bay with a shingle beach and a sea bed littered with rocks that makes access to the sea quite difficult. As I have said, I am not much of a beach person but this is very nice indeed, not a tourist beach at all and most of the other people there were local people and those who clearly just happened to know about it. I know about it now as well so that is why we go back every year.
Lying on the rocks about a hundred metres away were three naked women all enjoying the sun on their bodies and manoeuvring themselves into precarious positions to maximise the tanning effects of the solar rays. Having what I consider to be a healthy interest in naked ladies this naturally intrigued me a great deal and on a sort of Jacques Cousteau pretence of snorkelling and looking for rare species of fish and other marine life I swam closer and closer until I could achieve a better view. Now, let this be a lesson to all men with deteriorating vision, because believe me on closer examination this was not a pretty sight at all and in the quest for a voyeuristic opportunity I have to confess a hugely bitter disappointment. On closer inspection this was really not worth all of the effort and it left me lamenting once again that super models never seem to be the ones who go naked sunbathing.
The ferry arrived at eleven o’clock and we were surprised to find the port of Livadi unusually quiet and without the normal reception committee of dozens of noisy apartment owners trying to find a customer. It was all very lethargic as we left the windy ferry port and set about locating our hotel.
This didn’t take long and we found the Hotel Naias one street back from the main port road and it turned out to be a traditional little place, basic and clean but without any frills and a nice balcony with a good view over the port and its crescent shaped beach with caramel brown sand the colour of a lion’s mane and fringed with cafés and tavernas.
Outside it seemed to be getting windier and shutters were rattling, furniture was being rearranged and the taverna umbrellas were flapping madly as though going through some pre take-off routine. We left our bags, closed the room and went immediately to the harbour to get acquainted with the place.
Whilst these string of Cycladic islands are all the same they are all completely different at the same time and Livadi had a unique quality that set it aside from other places we have visited. Serifos is not a popular holiday destination for overseas visitors and a bit like Amorgos (in my opinion) a place that the Greek people have sensibly kept back for themselves because close to Athens it is convenient to reach and it doesn’t suffer from the excesses of, say, Santorini or Mykonos.
Later we were planning to visit the Hora about five kilometres and a twenty minute bus ride away and by the time we pitched up for the local bus the wind had dropped, there were no more clouds rushing in and the sky was an uninterrupted blue. The little green Mercedes bus was at least thirty years old (probably more) and the driver took the fares, blew his horn to indicate departure and set off on the only bus route on the island.
So we travelled to the top of the mountain through several hairpin turns and going back and forth across the face of the mountain until we came to a spot where the bus was able to turn around and leave the passengers at the entrance to the lower square of the village. There was an alternative way of reaching the Hora but that involved an arduous climb along a mule path which interlaced several times with the road but it looked like severely hard work and so definitely worth the €1.40 fare on the bus to ride in relative comfort to the top.
After visiting the redundant windmills, now being converted into holiday accommodation, we followed the signs to the Kastro and passed through pretty streets where the walls of the buildings squeezed in close to the narrow lanes and tracks but then opened out into the delightful main square of St. Athanasios about halfway to the top that was a complete contrast to the agoraphobic streets that led to it from all directions.
Here was the immaculately whitewashed church, the neoclassical town hall, which was in need of a bit of attention, a traditional taverna called Zorba’s with blue doors and windows and Café Stou Stratou a trendy ouzerie across the square selling coffee and traditional Greek snacks to a handful of customers. We passed through without stopping and continued towards the top and the little church of Church of Agios Konstantinos from where there was a terrific view in all directions and especially down and over the port of Livadi stretched out below as the island dozed in the midday sun.
The Hora of Serifos is one of the most spectacular and attractive in the Cyclades, it is how I imagine Ios might have been if it hadn’t been discovered and turned into a Euro pleasure zone because here there are no bars or nightclubs and best of all no shops either. On the way back down we passed by renovated houses which shared the streets with various abandoned properties where a glance inside revealed the truth of a hard life without utilities from only a relatively short time ago. In the spaces between the buildings there were great views over the barren rust coloured land and the now calm blue sea in the bay of the harbour that looked like a giant inkwell full of Quink.
It was pleasant to sit at the top completely undisturbed and enjoy the spectacular view and to the south we could see the island of Sifnos and we looked forward to travelling there on the next day. We dawdled about the lanes and enjoyed getting lost now and again before we emerged back in the attractive main square where we stopped for a while before going back to the bus stop and the return to Livadi.
When we arrived back the place seemed practically deserted and it was too hot for almost any activity. The sea was still and the boats were relaxing on water that had no energy at all even to break into a tiny ripple and the reflections of the gaily coloured boats remained almost completely undisturbed. Even the normally raucous donkey in the field next to the hotel was silenced this afternoon. I walked down to the harbour to check the ferry times for the next day but there was nothing going on, the booking office was closed and just a sign in Greek that I couldn’t read but wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it said ‘Serifos is closed for the afternoon, do not disturb’.
Once on board we made our way to the open top deck and made ourselves comfortable in the sun. We knew all about the Agios Georgios because we had used it last year so we knew the best place to sit. After the commotion of leaving the harbour the ferry settled down on course for neighbouring Sifnos and it was quite perfect. There was a calm blue sea, electric yellow sunshine and a cloudless sky, with a mythos in hand I could have stayed there on the top deck for a fortnight but it was only a short forty-five minute journey and as we watched Serifos disappear behind us in haze of heat we quickly approached Sifnos where we had stayed last year but needed more time to see the things we missed.
There was more blue sky, no wind and already by ten o’clock we could sense that it was going to be a very hot day. Our plan today was to walk out of Livadi and visit Psili Ammos beach just a short way out of town, which in Serifos they claim to be one of the top twenty beaches in the Mediterranean. Last night at the top of the Hora we could see clearly the road that led there but back down at sea level this was not nearly so easy. Our guidebook said allow an hour and don’t do it in the middle of the day but we paid no attention to that and set off anyway even without a map.
The next morning the anticipated spectacular sunrise just didn’t happen because although the sun arrived as regularly as it ever does its first appearance was obscured by a hill on the other side of the bay and then by an inappropriately placed building opposite the hotel. This meant that we would have to wait until we would be in Folegandros in a few days time where we knew we could rely on the early morning solar experience. It was a bit windy still and while we had breakfast on the balcony, consisting of pastry, fruit and an excellent cup of tea we could see the boats in the harbour moving about restlessly at their moorings in response to the swell of the sea.
It was a windy day and the high winds whipped up the sea into little white meringue peaks on top of the pitching waves. Although we had an allocated seat on board we preferred to stay outside for the entire journey and watch the islands slipping by as we made our progress towards Serifos.