Thursday, 14 May 2009

How to do the Med like a local

Nobody knows the Mediterranean better than the locals. In this blog we find out where the Greeks go for their summer holidays, what they eat and where they stay. .

Cycladic Islands

For the Greeks, different islands are fashionable each year but the Cyclades, headed up by the hyper-favourite Mykonos, tend to be where most Athenians flock in the high summer, not least because they are close to the mainland. Avoid the well-known islands, such as Paros, Santorini and Ios and instead head to the lesser-known outposts - Kea and Sifnos are particularly undiscovered by the British market, and it's possible to spend a whole week on one of these islands without hearing another British voice.

Both islands are scattered with holiday homes, meaning that much of the accommodation tends to be self-catering cottages rather than hotels. On Sifnos, there are stone cottages to rent near the stunning beach of Platy Yialos, and on Kea there are traditional houses next to the pretty, horseshoe-shaped beach at Otzias as well as two excellent hotels in the main port of Korissia.

One of the best things about holidaying on a lesser-known Greek island is the food; tavernas in mainstream destinations tend to offer a pale imitation of real Greek cooking. Sifnos is renowned for having some of the best restaurants in the whole of Greece; try Manolis in Vathy - if you're lucky they may be roasting a whole lamb - or Kambourakis in Kamares, renowned for its fish. On Kea, Anna's in Otzias Bay is a firm favourite; crisp vegetable fritters, melt-in-the-mouth lamb and a cheese and ham pie to die for. On these islands, it's also possible to find traditional ouzerias, the Greek answer to a tapas bar, where small plates of fried shrimp, squid, cheeses and salads accompany glasses of ouzo.

Unlike many of their Mediterranean counterparts, the Greeks love a day on the beach - but to become a Greek beach bum, you can't pack light. Bring windbreaks, large amounts of food, several packets of cigarettes, bat and ball, umbrellas and beach mats. Few self-respecting Greek beachgoers will pay for a sun lounger when there is free sand. Retire to the beachfront cafe for sundowners, but avoid alcohol - iced coffee is this summer's drink of choice.

If you are interested in discovering new places or just want to take a break, go to!

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