WEEKEND ISLAND HOPPING
City breaks are all well and good but if you want to just take a short break to chill out then heading to popular destinations such as Paris, Porto or Berlin might leave you needing another holiday after you’ve returned from all of that tourist spotting.
The alternative is easy; a mini cruise, and for guaranteed sunshine head to the Greek islands of the Aegean. Nestled between the mainland and Turkey; a 3 hour flight from the U.K. to Athens can see you from the Greek capital to onboard in less than an hour and a half.
The beauty of this is not only do you get to check out five destinations over three and a half days but you also get a glimpse of a place that could be ideal for a future extended visit.
Not as big as some of the giant sailing hotels on the seas our 1,200 capacity ship, the Celestyal Crystal, is small enough to get in to lesser visited-by-sea destinations. Celestyal Cruises’ Idylic Aegean package takes in chi-chi Mykonos, lush tree lined Samos, historical Kusadasi and volcanic Milos, as well as the mainland visit to historical Athens before going on to stunning Santorini.
Stop 1 – Get lost around the tiny streets of Mykonos
The fashionable hangout sees independent and more well known fashion stores neighbouring with traditional loom-made shawl makers and tavernas sharing street space with up-market restaurants and bars that are in abundance.
For authenticity Mykonos has a series of strict policies to keep the island looking beautiful; no neon lights are allowed so at night you are treated to the setting sun being replaced by the twinkle of tiny sparkling lights against the buildings.
All the buildings on Mykonos are white washed with many having either a blue or red painted roof so for snapshots it’s you get a lovely background from anywhere on the island.
Check out the outdoor cinema and take in some art at Cine Manto.
Take a browse around Contemporary art space Rarity Gallery.
Get lost around the streets of Little Venice next to the old harbour.
Take pictures of the too many cute cats lounging in the sunshine.
Head over to Ornos Beach where contemporary styled restaurants line the front and luxe padded loungers and beds stretch across the sand.
Combine beats with eats at the vibrant KUZINA restaurant in Ornos.
Stop 2 – Take in ancient history at Kusadasi, Turkey
A short ride out of the harbour at Kusadasi is the Ancient Kingdom of Ephesus in Izmir. Stand in awe and just try to transport your mind back to what it must have been like in the Ancient Greek city while walking among the ruins of the Odeon, the Temple of Hadrian, the Celsius Library, Agora and Ancient Theatre.
Head to the small covered Bazaar of Kusadasi before heading back to the ship to do some haggling with the locals.
Stop 3 – See the home of Pythagorus in Samos
The 8th largest Greek island Samos is also our quietest and most peaceful. Arriving during the afternoon it appears everyone is on a siesta.
Try and work out how on earth the cup designed by Pythagorus works.
Take a relaxing stroll around pretty Kokkari and pick up souvenirs.
Buy a coffee and delicious icecream at Two Spoons just off the beach front. A refreshingly different offer to the sea front restaurants with their similar offerings of calamari and Greek Salads. At Two Spoons it is all about well-crafted coffees and AMAZING tasting desserts!
Stop 4 – Take a sailing boat around Milos
We may have been traveling on the water but what better way to see an island than by sailing boat? Charter a crew and let them do the work while showing you pirate bays, volcanic rock formations and caves.
Jump in to the bluest water in a shallow bay and watch the fish swim around your feet.
Go to the caves of Kleftika and see geology at its most beautiful
Traditional Greek meze at Gilos in the village of Polonia.
Stop 5 – Climb the hill to see over 4,000 years of history in Athens.
Through the sprawling megatropolis that is Athens the Acropolis is by far one of the most amazing ways to see the city.
Go with a guide who will tell you about the ancient ruins, the beginnings of democracy and tell you stories of Greek Mythology.
Go there early (8am) to at least avoid some of the crowds.
See the Acropolis from below with a stunning view from Zonar’s restaurant.
Onboard Celestyal Crystal
Easy to navigate, Celestyal Crystal is a small ship with casual Buffet and al la carte restaurant style dining. We stayed in a outside stateroom.
We traveled with Celestyal Cruises (+30 210 4583400) on an Idyllic Aegean 3 day cruise to 3 Greek islands and Ephesus onboard the Celestyal Crystal. Prices are from £238 pp full board (departures run July and August each year, FYI iconic itineraries on the Olympia run from May to October). Drinks and shore ex packages are available from £18 a day. Return flights from Heathrow to Athens are from £239.69 with Aegean Airways.