Winning tip: Walking on Sifnos, Greece
Sifnos, in the Cyclades, provides a mix of beautiful beaches with a few cafes, restaurants and bars. There are great hiking trails that will lead you to remote, quiet beaches; and delightful hilltop villages with independent boutiques and tavernas. The hiking trails of over 100km are well signposted and maintained by the authorities with a website that provides details of each trail (difficulty level, point of interest, distance and more) and detailed, downloadable GPS maps. We particularly liked trail 4, a loop that offers great panoramic views, solitude, and two beaches to ourselves at Fikyada. For a sundowner and dinner, head to Apollonia and don’t miss the bakeries that offer traditional Greek pastries and baked goods. Melopita, a cheese pie with honey, is a must. I stayed at Villa Antoniadis (from €50 a night) at Platis Gialos: it’s a B&B five minutes’ walk inland from the beach. It has a large pool and friendly owners, who serve delicious and indulging breakfasts.
This butterfly-shaped island in the Dodecanese is the true arthropod of the Mediterranean. Three minutes away from Livadi beach is Kalderimi “hotel” – actually a group of traditionally built houses (doubles from £50 a night B&B) with a clear view of 13th-century Guerini Castle’s Venetian splendour. While staying on this isolated island, we felt truly at peace with the world. Among the island’s attractions are its caves, with fantastic formations of stalactities and stalagmites. Caves have always been a part of Greek mythology and Astypalaia has some glorious examples.
On the trail of Leonard Cohen, Hydra, Greece
See if you can capture the spirit of Leonard Cohen on Hydra – with some ingenuity and just a little local help we managed to find the house he bought back in the 1960s. Later that day the mature lady sitting at the table next to ours at a taverna told us that she had known Cohen – but in what capacity we never quite found out! Hydra, which is just off the Peloponnese, is a one-hour trip from Piraeus by Hellenic Seaways Flying Dolphin (from about €50 return). It has no motorised vehicles and a harbourside to die for. Boat trips will take you to idyllic beaches.