Travel

The Most Flat-Out Gorgeous Beaches in Greece

Let the island-hopping begin!

Matteo Colombo/Moment/Getty Images
Matteo Colombo/Moment/Getty Images
Matteo Colombo/Moment/Getty Images

Greece: land of legends, history, philosophy, art, eros. But it’s kind of too hot for all of that most of the time, so how about lazing around on a gorgeous beach instead?

With their warm azure seas and brilliant sunshine, the Greek islands are among those rare excessively-hyped dream destinations that really do look the same in person as they do in all the postcards and calendars and Pinterest posts. The little white houses with blue shutters; the fishing boats tied up to the docks; the seaside restaurants where you’ll post up at a table in the sand for a sort of continuous day-long meal. Yeah, it might just be bliss itself-plus, it’s exactly the kind of vibe we’re all chasing now that Greece counts itself among the countries that have reopened to vaccinated travelers.

Given that Greece has something like 8,000 miles of coastline and a correspondingly ridiculous number of beaches, you could sail around for years and never see it all. But if we absolutely had to pick, we’d consider these-featuring Hollywood superstars and shipwreck stunners-the definitive very best beaches in all of Greece.

How to visit Greece and what’s open

To enter Greece, you’ll need to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure, proof of recovery from Covid-19 within the last 30-180 days, or proof of complete vaccination at least 14 days prior to travel. You’ll also need to fill out a Passenger Location Form at least a day before departure. More info here.

As of July 2021, most things have reopened with minor restrictions, including bars, restaurants, cafes, shops, museums, and archaeological sites like the Acropolis and the Parthenon. Although nationwide restrictions have mostly been lifted, islands like Mykonos have reimposed a curfew from 1 am to 6 am as Covid-19 cases have spiked-meaning it’s still important to keep an eye out for changes.

Right now, you can grab a flight from major US cities like New York and Los Angeles to Athens for around $600-700. Once you’ve touched down, all inter-island ferries are operating as usual, so feel free to island-hop to your heart’s content.

Pawel Kazmierczak/Shutterstock
Pawel Kazmierczak/Shutterstock
Pawel Kazmierczak/Shutterstock

Kolymbithres, Paros

The island of Paros is in the very same Cyclades group as the big boys like Santorini and Mykonos, minus the cruise ships and budget airlines, so you’ll get more of it to yourself. Of all the beaches here, the cream of the crop is at Kolymbithres, a relatively popular spot where you’ll find a series of secluded coves sandwiched by dramatic, light gray granite rocks, marked by ultra-fine sand and relatively shallow water ideal for a casual dip. Rent a sunbed and order a cocktail straight to your chair, or head inland for a bite at one of the family-run tavernas all over the island; right off Kolymbithres, you’ll find beachside restaurants like Taverna Kolymbithres or Anemos Taverna cooking up the catch of the day.

Lucian BOLCA/Shutterstock
Lucian BOLCA/Shutterstock
Lucian BOLCA/Shutterstock

Myrtos, Kefalonia

This is the beach from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin-you know, the one where Nic Cage somehow persuades Penelope Cruz to make out with him. Anyway, despite the B-list celebrity name drop, trust that this is an A-list strip of shore: a broad, beautifully undeveloped, laundry-commercial white stretch of sand flanked by colossal forested mountains to one side and the turquoise Ionian Sea to the other. Spend some time marveling at what feels like a secret cove detached from time, then explore the area’s other highlights: Myrtos Cave, a small grotto you can swim through and back out to the beach, and either of the Myrtos Viewpoints, headland perches from which you can catch amazing views across the sea.

Zakhar Mar/Shutterstock
Zakhar Mar/Shutterstock
Zakhar Mar/Shutterstock

Elafonisi, Crete

Pink sand? In Greece? Yep, Elafonisi has tons of the shimmering, ground-up corally stuff. Just a half-mile around, the tiny islet is a protected nature reserve attached to mainland Crete by a thin strip of sand, meaning you can walk or wade across, depending on the tide. A handy side effect is that the beach acts as a barrier to the open sea, creating a lagoon of warm, turquoise water. If you’re ready to deviate from merely splashing around, you can take a kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or windsurf from Aquaholics or SurfIsland for a spin.

Josef Skacel/Shutterstock
Josef Skacel/Shutterstock
Josef Skacel/Shutterstock

Sarakiniko, Milos

Have you ever wanted to go to the beach and to space at the same time? Well, believe it or not, you can-and we ain’t talkin’ about water on Mars. On the north shore of Milos, you’ll find Sarakiniko Beach, whose remarkable lunar landscape makes the already impressive waters of the Aegean Sea just that much better. Over the years, wind and waves sculpted the volcanic rock into the stellar moonscape we see today. At first glance, you may think the little cove looks far too small for more than a dozen or so spread-out towels. But worry not: the beauty of Sarakiniko (apart from the actual, stark-white beauty) is that the banks of smooth rocks are just as good for sprawling on and leaping off as the beach itself. A heads up: you’re gonna want to rent a scooter, ATV, or a car in nearby Adamas or Plaka to get to this one.

Nick Pavlakis/Shutterstock
Nick Pavlakis/Shutterstock
Nick Pavlakis/Shutterstock

Voidokilia, Peloponnese

Shaped like the letter omega (that’s Ω, if you aren’t Greek or a frat bro), history buffs can geek out on the mythical past of this beach: it’s where Nestor and Telemachus met in Homer’s Odyssey, and also where Hermes hid the 50 oxen he stole from Apollo (presumably so he could start his premium leather handbag business). Hit up the ruins of a Mycenaean vaulted tomb or the 13th-century Old Navarino Castle, windsurf in the bay, or hike around the Gialova Lagoon, a 6,000-acre wildlife reserve where you can spot over 270 species of birds and the rare African chameleon. Or…just pick a spot to flop down by the beautiful blue water. That works just fine, too.

mdanek/shutterstock
mdanek/shutterstock
mdanek/shutterstock

Simos, Elafonisos

What’s better than a white-sand beach lapped by the aquamarine Aegean? Two white-sand beaches lapped by the aquamarine Aegean, of course. Megalos Simos and Mikros Simos are joined by this slender strip, forming the kind of curly “X” shape you last saw in algebra class. The island is just off the index finger of the Peloponnese, so it’s hard to get to, but well worth the effort. And although camping isn’t exactly what you think of when you dream up a Greek beach vacation, that’s exactly what’s on the menu here: after chowing down on fresh fruit and even fresher fish at Cervi, head a little further north and park it for the night at a Simos Camping site to experience a more unique side of paradise.

Laura Apostoli/Moment Open/Getty Images
Laura Apostoli/Moment Open/Getty Images
Laura Apostoli/Moment Open/Getty Images

Kapari, Mykonos

Don’t get us wrong, there are a lot of nice beaches on Mykonos. But if you’re not careful, you might just end up on one where a cocktail costs a day’s budget and people judge you based on how much you spent on your swimming trunks, and also, you spot Lindsay Lohan in the wild. So forget the see-and-be-seen scene of spots like Psarou, and head to Kapari instead. It’s conveniently close to Mykonos town and has sparkling calm water, but it’s mainly a locals’ hangout that remains refreshingly untouristed. After a blissful, non-pretentious afternoon, one of the many, many seaside restaurants that line the shore should top off your day nicely. For Greek sunsets and seafood, try Vasilikos or Kostantis, or dig into more than two dozen varieties of hot, gooey pizza at Bellissimo.

Michail Makarov/Shutterstock
Michail Makarov/Shutterstock
Michail Makarov/Shutterstock

Navagio Bay, Zakynthos

If you’re going to run aground, you’d want it to be somewhere like Navagio Bay. That’s exactly what happened to a cigarette smuggling ship 30-odd years ago; presumably, the crew consoled themselves by lighting up on the spot. The rusty hull still lies on the sands (hence the name, which translates to “Shipwreck Bay”), giving the beach its unique, brochure-ready look. You can only get there by boat (there are plenty of options in Zakynthos town), but don’t expect to be the only one who makes the effort-this is a superstar beach, and everyone knows it. Even if you’re just there to catch the iconic view of the beach from above, it’ll still take some heavy lifting: the cliffs are, as you can see, way too steep to climb, and the bird’s-eye viewpoint is about an hour by car from Zakynthos.

FRANCU Constantin/shutterstock
FRANCU Constantin/shutterstock
FRANCU Constantin/shutterstock

Kamari, Santorini

You don’t go to Santorini for the beaches: you go to look out over the awe-inspiring caldera and feel cool as hell. Still, all that volcanic history gives Santorini’s shores a special appeal of their own: black sand. Kamari is a strip of the stuff long enough that it won’t feel too crowded, despite the island’s undying popularity. Just grab a straw-topped parasol and settle down for a day of naps, dips in the sea, and (of course) trips to the bar. Plus, along with a very cool open-air cinema and cocktail bar, it’s also worth visiting the Temple of Poseidon, whose remaining arch earned this beach its name, and the ancient ruins of Thira, both of which sit at the end of the beach at the base of the Mesa Vouno mountain.

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Jonathan Melmoth is a writer based in Brooklyn, New York. Find him on Instagram.

Tiana Attride contributed to the reporting of this story.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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