The Mediterranean & Greece
- Symi Island, Greece1 of 10
- Istanbul, Turkey2 of 10
- Larnaca, Cyprus3 of 10
- Gozo, Malta4 of 10
- Athens, Greece5 of 10
- Nice, France6 of 10
- Cannes, France7 of 10
- Capri, Italy8 of 10
- Dubrovnik, Croatia9 of 10
- Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, Italy10 of 10
The Mediterranean & Greece
There can be no more a romantic way to explore the splendors of the Mediterranean than from the prow of a boat. Travelling in this sun soaked section of Europe is like stepping back in time; a time which revels in culture, adores food and the art of feasting, is loaded with history, and has almost a surfeit of art, and more importantly of wine. Vacationing in Europe is as much about learning the art of excess, of decadence and of indulgence as it is about learning the rich and varied histories of the countries which make up this most cosmopolitan part of the world. Travelers have been drawn to shores of the Mediterranean for centuries, and they still come in their hundreds and thousands, but luckily there is a Europe for everyone, whatever your passion or whatever it is you choose to indulge in.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to the Mediterranean and Greece, especially with the largely excellent summer weather making it a popular destination for vacationers from all over the continent. Southern France is a great spot to get to know the area, as well as for a little taste of luxury and glamor as you rub shoulders with the glitterati in Nice, Cannes and St Tropez. Famous for its beaches and relaxed sense of luxury, the French Riviera has been made even more famous by its many famous former and present residents, from the original luxury lovers F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, to the docked yachts of P.Diddy and Rihanna. Be sure to pop into Le Club 55, a delightfully retro hangout which will transport you back to the heady days of Brigitte Bardot when she spent time in the area and at this particular bar whilst filming And God Created Women during the 1950s. Cannes, of course, is famous for its film festival but is a treat for travelers throughout the year; shop on La Croisette, visit the Palais de Festivals or tour the sweet smelling Molinard perfumerie founded in 1849. Away from the crowds, but still maintaining that typically French flair are seaside towns such as Sanary-sur-Mer in the South East of the country, where you can explore the area in relative peace and quiet, whilst lapping up the sun and the atmosphere at your leisure.
Dreams of Italy are probably what bring most travelers to the Mediterranean, fulfilling as it does the quintessential vision of the region. Long, sunny days punctuated by a sleepy siesta, gelato eaten after a delectable dinner, whilst indulging in the typical passegiata around the town square or along the seafront… Henry James and E.M. Forster knew what they were talking about when they wrote about the British and American obsession with visiting Italy at the turn of the 20th century and the country has lost none of its allure in the interim. Naples is a must for any die hard Pizza lover, being the birthplace of one of the world’s most favorite dishes, but not far from that busy, bustling metropolis are the havens of Sorrento, Capri and Ischia. Sorrento lies on the cliffs above the Mediterranean, an ice-cream colored dream of a seaside town from which you can visit the ruins of volcano-destroyed Pompeii. Capri and Ischia are vacationing idylls, set like jewels in the Mediterranean, offering themselves up as island playgrounds for their summer visitors. Capri is the more famous of the two, but Ischia’s profile has been growing in recent years as visitors try to find some relief from the crowds on the ever popular Capri. Italy has no shortage of picturesque seaside towns and villages, from Portofino nestled up near Genoa in the North West of the country, to the less well known towns to the South and on the Eastern coast. Bari and the area surrounding it in the South form a popular spot due to the Summer heat and stunning medieval architecture of the town. You can also take a tour to the town of Alberobello, famous for the trulli houses which have been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. Amalfi and Brindisi are also packed with medieval, Mediterranean architectural delights. Up in the North East, sat on the Adriatic Sea, Ravenna will delight and charm you with the 1,400 year old church, the Basilica di San Vitale which provides one of the finest examples of Roman architecture and art in the country. And no trip to Italy and the Mediterranean would be complete without a visit to Venice, where you can swap the cruise ship for a gondola and indulge in a gelato whilst strolling through the stunning Piazza di San Marco.
An increasingly popular destination, and described as the ‘pearl of the Adriatic’ is the coast of Croatia and in particular the town of Dubrovnik. Here you can walk the 1.2 miles of city walls which encase the seaside city and provide simply stunning views of the sea. Further to the north of the pristine Renaissance city is the Roman settlement of Split which has one of the best preserved Roman palaces in the world in the form of the UNESCO world heritage site the Diocletian Palace. Not too far off the coast of Split lie the idyllic islands of Hvar and Korcula, both of which are stylish and popular spots for yachters, as well as European vacationers. They may have lost something of their ‘secret destination’ appeal, but they are nonetheless as beautiful and charming as ever. Fresh seafood abounds as you would expect from the former fishing towns which now cater more to tourists than fishermen. With azure, crystal clear waters the beaches of these two islands are like something out of a dream, and it’s worth noting that it’s possible to take water taxis to less crowded, more secretive coves and beaches on some of the surrounding smaller islands off the coast of both Hvar and Korcula.
Turkey is nothing short of a feast for the senses. The country is a meeting point and melting pot of West and East and nowhere is this more obvious than in the city on the Bosphorus; Istanbul. Istanbul is like nowhere on Earth, literally bridging as it does the land masses of Europe and Asia, it is possible to lose yourself in the culture and the past of a city which has been the site of so much change and history. You might literally lose yourself in the Bazaars, where you can barter for spices, rugs, jewelry and leather goods. Visiting the Hagia Sophia is a must in Istanbul, as is viewing it from afar, so as to properly appreciate the architecture of this stunning building which has had as many past lives as a Church and as a Mosque as the city of Istanbul itself has had. If there’s time, a trip to the Prince’s Islands in the Bosphorus is a real treat especially for anyone made tired by the sheer bustle and busyness of the city. Marmaris is also a popular vacationing spot in Turkey, and will provide some much needed rest and relaxation either after the hustle and bustle of Istanbul’s bazaars, or in order to prepare you for it. Settle down with a book and a cocktail on the beach, wander the narrow streets of the Greek Revival Old Quarter in town, or set off on a super scuba diving trip. The island of Antalya will awe you with its dense forest, and just as dense and vibrant history. Like the rest of Turkey, the town has a surfeit of history and both regional and national history can be explored at the excellent Antalya Archeological Museum.
Greece is well known as the home of democracy, as well as of souvlaki, doldades, ouzo, and Kalamata olives; it’s up to you to decide which is the most important to you when vacationing in this fascinating country! Athens, of course is the obvious place to start a tour of this ancient country, with tours of the Acropolis and the National Archeological Museum a must-do for all visitors. There’s shopping and sightseeing a-plenty in this cosmopolitan city, and you may want some peace and quiet after such an invigorating metropolitan experience, in which case the islands of Greece surely will not disappoint. Mykonos has long been a favorite of island hoppers and tourists, the famously whitewashed walls of the city shimmer in the sun as you wander through the streets, and accordingly the beach beckons for a day of sunbathing and refreshing dips in the water, interspersed by the delicious local cuisine for lunch and dinner. Santorini keeps visitors coming back year after year, its heady location and stunning weather matched only by the winning local architecture of white buildings topped by blue domed roofs, making the view of the town one of the most iconic vistas in all of Europe. The island of Rhodes has its very own acropolis as well as some of the most stunning Ancient Greek architecture you are likely to come across, including the Castle of Monolithis dating back to 1480 as well as the very grandly named the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes from the 14th century. The more rugged Skopelos, which means ‘cliff’ in Greek is also a wonderful spot to get to know the Grecian way of life. With beautiful white sand beaches, beach front bars and tavernas, and an abundance of natural beauty, Skopelos has something for everyone.
To describe the city of Larnaca in Cyprus as ancient would be something of an understatement. Even the main city streets date back to the 17th century, and there are ruins from as far back as the ancient Greek settlement of the town in the 14th century. Many of the ruins of the ancient city of Kitium close by to Larnaca are from the 13th century; this is a town with history around every corner and where every street and wall tells a story. Close to the center of the town is the stunning Orthodox Church of Lazarus, said to be built over the tomb of Lazarus and with breathtaking marble walls within which you can perhaps find some relief from the heat, as well as revel in the beauty of the building. One of the biggest draws to the area, especially for divers, is the mysterious case of the wreck of the Zenobia, a Swiss ferry which sank off the coast of Larnaca with no apparent cause. The port city of Limassol is also rife with ancient ruins and an absolute dream for history buffs and architecture aficionados. The Paphos Archeaological Site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with beautifully well preserved mosaics and subterranean colonnades in the Houses of Dionysus and Orpheus. The Byzantine Castle is also well worth a visit as it comprises of the castle itself, where Richard the Lionheart is said to have wed, as well as an educational and fascinating museum. In addition to these two treasures are the Greco-Roman ruins at Kourion and Amathus, which includes an ancient theater, Roman baths, the House of the Gladiators and the Temple of Aphrodite. In Paphos you are able to combine all the charm of the Cyprus seaside with a beautiful day at the beach followed with a tour of several historically significant archeological ruins including the Tombs of the King and the Paphos Odeon. Paphos is also mythically significant by way of being the birthplace of Goddess Aphrodite.
For an island adventure with a distinctly Mediterranean feel, Malta is the place for you. With its ancient history teeming with fascinating tit bits, its hot pot of cultural influences, from North African, to Arabian, Sicilian and Spanish there is so much more to this small island than you would initially think. Awaiting discovery are such gems as the capital city of Valletta which, tiny as it is, is one of the best historically preserved cities in all of the Mediterranean, if not Europe. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was declaimed as one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world, meaning that it is easily, and best, explored on foot, and can be seen and fully appreciated in a day or two. The center of the concentrated city is a baroque masterpiece, with St John’s Cathedral a serving as a particularly fine example, but be sure not to pass over Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra, which are some of the oldest free standing structures in Europe, dating as far back as 3,000 B.C. From Valletta it is possible to explore the tranquil and awesomely beautiful Blue Grotto, a series of sea caves, which when caught in the right light of morning (until about 1pm) reflect the turquoise blue of the clear waters, creating a calming and not to say stunning visual trick. Gozo Island forms part of the Maltese archipelago and is home to as many ancient and natural wonders as its larger sister island. From the oldest known religious structure in the world, the Ggantija Temples which were built circa 3,500 B.C. to honor a mythical giantess, to the azure blue waters and serenity of Comino Beach, Gozo Island and Malta, much like the rest of the Mediterranean, has something for everyone, whether you’re a history buff or a dedicated sun-worshipper.
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