We love Greece. We love that the country’s history helped to shape the world and that its ancient mythology has inspired generations of writers and artists to continue the story. We love the coastline - white pebble coves, glorious stretches of sandy shore, crystal-waters and the family-run tavernas that lie along the watersedge. We love the atmospheric, crumbling villages of the interior where time appears to have stood still, the fascinating cities of Athens, Thessaloniki, Kalamata, Chania, Corfu Town and the colourful fishing villages attracting visitors from around the world. Most of all, it is the warm welcome that we receive from those who live and work there that has truly captured our hearts.

In ‘The Greek islands with Julia Bradbury’, a six-part series on ITV, we follow the presenter as she re-discovers her Greek heritage as she hops around some of the most popular islands Greece has to offer, along with some of the hidden gems amongst the archipelagos. With a hint on her upcoming destinations we have put together our own guide on each of the locations for you to explore what’s off the beaten track.

Corfu

Corfu is the most northern and second largest island in the Ionian. It’s landscape is synonymous of the region; lush hillsides, mountain peaks and olive groves, adjoined by bay-after-bay of sand and pebble/shingle; it’s one with immense appeal, that intoxicates visitors all year round.

Even though Corfu attracts millions of travellers each year, it is still possible to find a peace of sanctuary and to place yourself amongst the locals.

Insider tip: Take each day in your stride, especially when visiting Corfu Town. Put down your map and guidebook, ignore the reviews on sites such as Tripadvisor and instead follow the lead of the locals (ask them for their recommendations, they’ll gladly share) and let your senses be your guide. This is how you will find those diamonds amongst the rough, those back alley restaurants serving mouth watering dishes whose recipes passed from generation to generation, those artisan shops housing unique artefacts and souvenirs, and the perfect vantage points, where you remain undisturbed by the crowds.

If a true adventure is what you’re after, hire a car and take to the central hills to explore what’s hidden amongst the olive and cypress trees or venture north to tame the rocky, twisting coastline of cliffs and ravines, curling round the great mountain called Pantokrator, ‘Lord of Creation’.

Corfu, Greece Corfu, Greece

Crete

The largest of the Greek islands with 650 miles of spectacular, varied coastline and beaches, Crete is a staple for Greek travel. Sunvil has chosen to feature the less-developed and less-explored north, west and south-western corners of the isle, but can offer stays towards the east as part of our tailor-made programme. Our handpicked resorts - Almirida, Kalives, Paleochora - have gained a loyal following over the years, with many of our guests choosing to return year-after-year to sample the Cretan delights.

Due to the sheer size of the island, and its mountainous interior, the best way to explore Crete is by car; although a tour on foot through Europe’s largest gorge must be a close second. As Julia Bradbury discovered, it is off-the-beaten-track that the real Crete and, in our opinion, the jewels of the land come to life: rural villages where age-old traditions are kept alive, panoramas that stretch for miles around, historical ways where once the Minoans walked, and local tavernas serving the freshest of produce.

Insider tip: The Cretans are a proud and independent people, with such an authentic spirit. Our local representatives, Chrissy, Linda and Lesley, will help to introduce you to the locals, highlight island festivities to attend and suggest tavernas where you can find the most authentic, famed ‘Cretan Diet’, away from the masses. Cooking courses can be arranged locally. Visit in April and May when the countryside is at its most colourful and aromatic.

Crete, Greece Crete, Greece

Santorini

Santorini is what most would say is the textbook definition of a Greek island. White washed buildings with blue highlights overlooking the sea with jaw-dropping sunsets to be had each evening. Though this blog is about escaping the tourist traps of each of these destinations, when it comes to Santorini, it would almost be impossible. The best way to get away from the honeypots of the island is to rent a car to take to the inland to visit the traditional villages that dot the landscape that still have that look and feel of mainstream Santorini but a lot quieter.

Insider tip: No matter how popular Santorini may be, you can still find a piece of paradise all to yourself. For those that like to walk, there is a coastal path that leads all the way from the main city of Thera to the town of Oia on the northern tip of the island which offers an amazing view over the ports of Santorini and Thirasia - especially beautiful at sunset.

Santorini, Greece Santorini, Greece

Symi

Accessible by ferry, tourism on Symi is in its infancy keeping much of its beauty and local culture untouched. It is an island filled with a vibrant local life and a buzz that captures your imagination, calling you to stay longer. A trip to its impressive port (featured on our 2020 brochure front cover) is a reason to visit all on its own; a horse-shoe of colourful facades is what many of the locals call home, even mansions clad its steep hills making for a tranquil setting for the wealthy sea captains of the Dodecanese and Aegean.

Insider tip: To get the best experience here, stay overnight. After the day trippers have left the port, head up the hill into town to mingle with the locals and watch the taverna owners spring into action. You’ll be one of the few visitors and will be welcomed with open arms.

Symi, Greece Symi, Greece

Thirasia

A stunning volcanic location that used to be connected to Santorini. There are five villages on this island and in 2011 there were recorded to only be 319 people living here. If you want to explore this island, it comes highly recommended to bring a bike with you from Santorini, otherwise getting to the must see locations becomes extremely difficult. An example of this island's seclusion is its lack of internet and the fact that the petrol station on the island, sometimes doesn’t have petrol.

Insider tip: Visit the island! Some will see Thirasia’s seclusion as a reason to avoid, however for us it is its seclusion rewards visitors with an authenticity and the chance to experience real Greek island life, albeit for a short time. This island forces you to slow down and to immerse yourself in your surroundings.

We would also recommend arriving on the island at Riva, the “New Port”, instead of Korfos, the “Old Port” where the day trip boats go. The reasons are two-fold: avoid other travellers and save money - it is significantly cheaper (c.€3 in total) to travel to Riva.

Thirasia, Greece Thirasia, Greece

Skopelos

Skopelos is a rewarding find and very much underrated, except by the Sunvil team and our guests, of course. The island is still a working one, with tourism supplementing the island’s fishing and agricultural industries, and as a result has a lot more of a ‘Greek’ flavour than its glamorous neighbour Skiathos, and a slower pace of life.

With limited development, the island has protected its lush, green landscape - forests of pine and oak hide away secret coves and beaches along the west coast, and, thanks to strict building and preservation orders, Skopelos Town is one of the most characterful island ports in all of Greece; colourful, clean and neat with narrow, climbing streets, chapels (over a hundred) and houses linked by bridges in the special architecture of the Sporades.

Insider tip: Skopelos is the perfect choice for those that love to stay active whilst on holiday. Walking is a great past-time here, and mountain biking and sea kayaking are available. As part of the Sporades island group, day trips to Skiathos and Alonissos as well as twin-centre and three-centre holidays can be arranged.

Skopelos, Greece Skopelos, Greece

Chios

Chios is an island which you can say is truly under the tourist radar. It is however an island of great historical importance that has energised empires with its mastic drops; a brittle resin byproduct of the mastic tree that releases a refreshing pine and cedar flavour when chewed.

There is much more to the island than its mastic products; split between east and west by a central spine of hills and mountains this island makes for a great hikers get away. Or if sampling the local culture and exploring the landmarks of this archaic island is more your style, the Nea Moni is a must see UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located on the Provateio Oros mountain in the island’s interior, about 15 km from Chios town, the Nea Moni monastery is well known for its mosaics, which together with those at Daphni and Hosios Loukas are amongst the finest examples of “Macedonian Renaissance” art in Greece.

Sunvil features 57 Greek islands and with 45 years’ experience we believe that our depth of knowledge is unrivalled. Put us to the test!

Chios, Greece Chios, Greece
Dudley Der Parthog

By Dudley Der Parthog

16th January 2020



Talk to our Elafonissos expert

Dudley Der Parthog
Dudley Der Parthog

Having been at university and unsure as to what to do following some temporary jobs, Dudley joined the family firm as a brochure packer in 1979. In those days distribution was from the office premises and Sunvil was just beginning to grow again, following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the company’s major destination, in 1974. He was then made responsible for travel agency sales. In due course he took over the running and brochure writing for the Sunvil Greece programme and the contracting of accommodation. He is now a director of the company and is the most knowledgeable and experienced member of the Greek team. He mixes work in administering the programme with taking reservations and he particularly enjoys tackling complicated and well nigh impossible itineraries.

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We promise that a member of our specialist reservation teams will reply personally to your holiday enquiry before 5.30pm if received before 12.00pm (Monday to Friday). Enquiries received after 12.00pm will be replied to within 24-hours (excluding Sundays).

If your enquiry is of an urgent nature, please telephone our dedicated reservation teams on the numbers listed below.

Our lines are open from 9.00am to 5.30pm Monday-Friday and from 9.30am to 4.30pm Saturday.

  • Greece: 020 8758 4758
  • Cyprus: 020 8758 4759
  • Portugal, the Azores, Spain, Italy, Sicily and Scandinavia: 020 8758 4722
  • Latin America: 020 8758 4774
  • Marketing: 020 8758 4731

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