3 Islands of the Cyclades

A Lovely View
A Lovely View

We had 2 weeks holiday in Greece and I think this shot sums it up. Chilling out in beautiful sunshine, looking across the beautiful blue Aegean Sea at whitewashed houses with blue woodwork. What most peoples idea of Greece is.

We flew from Bristol to Mykonos, then took the ferry to the small island of Koufonisi where we stayed for a week. We then sailed by ferry to Naxos for the second week, before catching the ferry back to Mykonos to catch the flight home.

Pano Koufonisi

Pano Koufonisi is a very small island, only 5.5 sq.km. and a population of under 500 people. Almost all the population live in the village next to the port. The shot above shows two girls sitting on the quayside of the port, looking towards the village, known as the Chora. It has a sister Island called Kato Koufonisi which is bigger but almost uninhabited. Like so many Greek Islands the ferries are a lifeline, bringing not only the tourists but all provisions needed.

You can see in this shot, people collecting items from the regular service of Express Skopelitis. It is like the postman calling each day. We had many hours just sitting and watching tourists coming and going, but also locals meeting the boat to get their parcels as you can see in this shot, and a little smile from the girl as she leaves the ferry.

She's been Nowhere
She’s been Nowhere

There are ferries arriving at different times of the day and night. Unlike in the UK where passengers huddle in terminals it is so much more relaxed. If you drop off to sleep there is always somebody who will wake you when your ferry arrives.

Waiting for the Ferry
Waiting for the Ferry

The port is almost silent for most of the day, but as the ferry arrival time approaches the courtesy buses and cars for the accommodation on the island begin to arrive to drop of their customers that are leaving and await the arrival of the next batch.

As I wandered amongst the people on the port I noticed this guy who was sketching something, but I didn’t get to see what it was, so can only assume he was recording the scene, as I was, but on paper instead of a memory card.

The Artist
The Artist

There’s always the odd person that you see and think I’ll get a shot of him, so you manoeuvre yourself and he sees you as you take the shot, but instead of the frown or the questioning look, they give you a big smile. That’s what this guy did, and also said “You didn’t expect to see a hippy here did you!”

Stuck in the 60's
Stuck in the 60’s

For those of you who check out my Flickr Photostream, you will have seen a shot of the man below in colour, waving his arm at me. I wanted to keep it in colour to show the Cycladic Blue & White. Here he is after the waving and onto the ignoring.

Chillin' on the Porch
Chillin’ on the Porch

You may wonder why nearly all the houses in the Cycladic Islands are the iconic Blue & White. As I understand it, the houses were painted in these two colours after a government decision in 1937: the Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas ordered that the houses in Cyclades were painted in white and blue so that they match with the blue Greek sky and the white foam of the waves.

Now after that bit of information I have a shot here of the man that paints them all. The white paint gets delivered in a tanker and he gets a tin of blue paint once a week at his local B&Q!

The Painter
The Painter

Naxos

Naxos is the largest of the Cycladic islands, but is also dependant on the ferries, and it is one of the hubs. It does have an airport but only for internal flights, not international. Stepping off the ferry (Express Skopolitis), what a difference. Cars everywhere, with traffic officers blowing whistles and lots of shouting going on, in Greek of course. Also the accommodation agents. Don’t worry about not having accommodation for your stay, as soon as you get off the ferry there are tens of people offering places to stay, and they’ll drive you straight there. We stayed around there watching the activity. Such a contrast to the chilled out atmosphere of Koufonisi.

Saying that above, once out of the town itself, you are back to the normal laid back greece that you know and love. We hired a car for the week and were able to travel wherever we wanted on the island. A few of the mountain villages were recommended to us, as they are to everybody, but it wasn’t overrun with tourists there though. It was whilst at those villages that I got the next two shots.

This first one was on the main street of Halki, and is such a familiar scene in Greece, a Priest chatting to a group of local men.

Talking to the Congregation
Talking to the Congregation

The second shot was taken on the main street in Filoti. We had stopped for lunch there and I noticed the Priest walk towards the Kiosk. As I picked up the camera he stopped beside the kiosk and the woman stood behind the cover to talk to him. I think it was just to stay cool though.

She hadn't noticed me, Honest
She hadn’t noticed me, Honest

I still smile when I see this shot, because when I saw the guy painting the white between the cracks of the crazy paving, I couldn’t help thinking if he was just using up the left over paint after painting his house. It did look good mind, and very cleam, which is how we found all the islands, without exception.

Filling in the Cracks
Filling in the Cracks

We visited Naxos Town a few times, and watching the activity of the floods of people coming and going to the ferries. It is a very active waterfront, with restaurants and coffee shops all welcoming you. Also along the streets behind where you can find shops selling all the touristy things, but also the everyday items. The town is not just for tourists, and the following shot shows one of the locals wondering what I was doing. The barber shop seemed almost black with the bright sunlight outside.

At The Barbers
At The Barbers

We took a walk up to the Chora (Old Town). The streets are so narrow and there are no cars there, and it is only as you start to walk down that you start to see motorbikes and scooters. The following shot shows what the streets are like, often with the houses being built over the walkways.

Through the Narrow Streets
Through the Narrow Streets

Needles to say it was very hot and climbing the way up there we were pleased to find a coffee shop in an old convent school. We walked through and, WOW! as we walked onto a terrace that overlooked the town and and the surrounding beaches. It was a sight to behold and I will post those shots in the future. We sat there looking out over the town and drinking our Frappe’s, and smiling as we watched everyone who walked onto the terrace say “WOW!” I think my mind must have wandered away from the view at one point.

I don't know what attracted my attention
I don’t know what attracted my attention

Seriously though, I do like shots taken from behind. I don’t feel the need to see someone’s face in every shot, and wrote a Blog Post on this over a year ago, was it that long ago?

These next two shots are for Tina, especially the first one. That girl loves her food. She would have adored walking along the seafront, with all the food available.

A Greek Lunch
A Greek Lunch

This man though serves my favourite, Gyros. I almost lived on them. They are the fast food of Greece. How McDonalds or any of the others can open their franchises there amazes me. This was one of the last shots I took as we set off for the ferry back to Mykonos.

The Gyros Chef
The Gyros Chef

Mykonos

The sailing to Mykonos was aboard the Sea Jet 2, which is a catamaran, and boy does it fly. When we arrived we sat down on the port for a few minutes and I smiled and wondered why this woman had a coat on. It was in the high 30’s C.

The documents are in order
The documents are in order

As everyone knows, Greece is having a very bad time financially, but they don’t bother you with their troubles. If you ask they will explain the situation they are in and the fact that they put austerity measures in places and followed the advice they were given, but are now in even bigger sh*t now than before. We knew that the banks were closed and the local Greeks were only allowed to draw €50 a day from ATM’s. However there was not always money in the ATM’s, and we also heard stories of ATM’s only having €20 notes in them, so when withdrawing money, they could only draw €40 a day. However this didn’t apply to tourists as their banks are outside Greece and there were no restrictions, but obviously if tourists are taking big amounts out, then it will empty the ATM’s quicker. We were very aware of this and paid all our bills in cash to help the businesses cash flow. The people below were lucky as there was no issue with the Bureau de Change.

Somewhere that has money
Somewhere that has money

All along Mykonos seafront are cafe’s and restaurants. However we found they were so expensive compared to Naxos and Koufonisi, as were all the other shops in the streets behind. This probably has a lot to do with Mykonos being a lot more well known, having an International Airport, and also the Cruise Ships docking, unloading thousands of well healed tourists. When we arrived from Naxos there were two of these floating hotels just outside the bay. They were enormous, and throughout the town there were groups of people following guides with banners.

I tried finding somewhere away from the hoardes, and when I did got this shot of people enjoying their ice creams in the shade.

Enjoying the refreshments
Enjoying the refreshments

As I walked along I noticed this girl sitting in the cafe and what attracted my eye was the tattoo on her arm, as it seemed to match the butterfly motif on her T-shirt.

Matching
Matching

We weren’t in Mykonos for long as we had to catch the flight home, but I took the opportunity to walk through the back streets of the town. They are a maze of narrow streets, filled with shops, cafes and restaurants, and teaming with tourists. I think this girl had the best idea, sit on a wall and let people pass.

In the backstreets of Mykonos
In the backstreets of Mykonos

Koufonisi is so quiet and we really enjoyed the relaxation. Naxos, although busy in the Town is such a big island that there are so many places to visit. Mykonos, although we were only there as a hub to travel from, did not appeal to either of us. It was too busy, as trying to get to the airport in the taxi, with everybody cutting each other up and in a rush to get somewhere, proved. The prices on the island were also a big negative, but as this is where the airport is then this is a cross we have to bear.

This was a great trip, and we are thinking of Island Hopping to more Islands next year.


I would like to give a shout out to the hotels we stayed in. Firstly the Myrto Hotel on Koufonisi, and also the Dolphin Studios and Apartments in Kastraki on Naxos.

They are totally different to each other. The Myrto overlooks the town beach and port, whereas the Dolphin is in a very quiet part of Naxos, a short walk from the beautiful almost deserted Glyfada Beach, which runs for miles. Both are well recommended and any information needed please contact me.

4 thoughts on “3 Islands of the Cyclades

  1. In “She’s Been Nowhere”, look at what finger she’s using. :p Sorry, I couldn’t resist. It reminded me of a Seinfeld episode.

    In “Stuck in the 60’s” it looks like the “hippy” is going to flash you the peace sign.

    The poor priest must be roasting in those long sleeved robes.

    “Through the Narrow Streets” is really cool because it must be interesting to have people be able to walk right underneath your house.

    Thank you for the food shots! You’re right. I would have loved walking anywhere that offered food. 😛 I love gyros, too. When I was in college I would always get a gyro at least once a day from one of the food carts in front of the school. I love the meat that they cut off that big hunk on the skewer. It’s the most flavorful meat I’ve ever tasted.

    I really, really enjoyed this post. I like your longer posts, especially when we get to hear your thoughts about your experiences. I see traveling to a beautiful country was exactly what you needed.

  2. Thank you Tina, it certainly was a long post in coming, but when I eventually set to it, it all flowed.

    The Hippy was. 🙂

    Nah, it is just the way the girl is holding the phone.

    Not only walking underneath houses, in places you find you are standing on people roofs.

    Yes the it was certainly a nice relaxing break. I need another one now. I think I’ll go to Rome! 🙂

  3. I read it at least 3 times, it was so cool to travel through this article.
    I really feel like if I was in Greece for two weeks !
    The blue color of the sea is fantastic in the first shot.
    Nowhere : no, she is just reajusting her sunglasses with her finger 😉
    It must be such an inspiration for an artist, yours is very concentrated, i like it.
    And the painters have a lot to do here !
    I can’t choose between all your pictures, I love them all as they illustrate so well this travel. The silhouettes of the two girls “Through the Narrow Streets” reminds me of Bethesda Fountain in Central park. I love it.
    Greece was finally an excellent place to be, they need tourists and I like the way you describe not only your trip but also the economic problems they have.
    I imagine how quiet it was to sit and watch people, locals and tourists.
    Thanks for that nice reading moment.

  4. That blue is everywhere Esther. It is so clear as you get to shore.

    I’m glad you pointed out the finger Esther. I think Tina has been in New York for too long. 🙂

    The artist I felt is a good shot but Irene was behind him and got a shot of the book as well.

    I am glad you enjoyed reading it Esther and that shows I portrayed the relaxed feeling.

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