The Mediterranean is known for being able to offer wonderful Summer holidays by the sea with plenty of sun, which is exactly what Summer is all about. Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Greece boast Mediterranean shores full of sandy beaches, cosmopolitan rivieras, seaside tavernas and bistros that are worth discovering one at a time.
However, the Mediterranean is generally not associated with turquoise or azure waters, like the kind you will find in Indonesia or the Caribbean. If you agree, then you are in for a surprise. Focusing on Greece alone, there are two destinations that could easily be considered the Greek Tropics. Are you wondering what they are?
One is the cluster of Ionian islands or else known as the Heptanese, including the likes of Corfu, Paxos and Antipaxos islands as well as Kefalonia and Zante, while the other is not even an island. It’s a peninsula in the North of Greece called Halkidiki.
The Ionian Islands
The first set of the Greek tropics is definitely the Ionian island cluster. Situated on the eastern side of Greece, amidst the gorgeous Ionian sea, the islands of Corfu, Zante, Kefalonia and the smaller islands of Paxos and Antipaxos are surrounded by the most cyan sea you could ever imagine existing within the Mediterranean basin. Swimming in those waters you will easily get confused and believe that you are in fact in a pool rather in the sea.
The unofficial capital of the Ionian islands is the ‘emerald lady’, Corfu. The reason why the island is referred to as such is predominantly because it is extremely verdant with ample vegetation growing on some pretty striking cliffs that pour into the sea. Such is the cliff at Agios Gordios where the Mayor La Grotta Verde Resort is located offering striking sea views of an emerald shore. Corfu is an incredibly diverse island with a strong cultural side especially if you do a stop over to explore its gorgeous old Town.
South of Corfu are the smaller Paxos and Antipaxos islands, that are true Ionian gems. Best explored by sailing excursions, they can provide a great day adventure from Corfu. Further down is Kefalonia known for its magnificent Myrtos beach and glorified by the novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
Zante is another popular Ionian island, probably mostly famous for its shipwreck site which is a true stunner. The popular areas of Zante has been overrun by foreign mentality due to their visitor profiling, so places like Faliraki do not offer tourists a genuine, local Zante experience. It is full of pubs like bars so those seeking a more authentic Greek island vibe during their holiday should look to stay on one of the nearby islands, and perhaps arrange to visit the island for a day.
The Halkidiki Peninsula
The second Greek tropics destination is the aforementioned Halkidiki. Located next to Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki, the peninsula of Halkidiki has the advantage of having three legs as they are called: Kassandra, Sithonia and Mount Athos. These three ‘legs’ create an enormous coastline and in many ways they are reminiscent of islands. They are blessed with all the great attributes of the islands due to this huge shore surface area that is created, resulting in many sandy beaches and sheltered coves that are caressed by some truly spectacular turquoise waters. Since they are quite popular with the local Greeks themselves, you know that you will be getting a great holiday experience. In fact, the locals say that ‘like Halkidiki, there is no other place’.
The first leg especially, Kassandra, which is the most developed peninsula with ample nightlife options too, is home to some wonderful beaches, including that of Paliouri. Beautiful azure waters grace the shore of a luxury thermal spa hotel in Halkidiki, on Kassandra’s southernmost tip. This region is also a source of natural springs that the spa hotel has integrated in its various treatments and therapies that are undertaken at it’s thermal spa in Halkidiki. If you are looking to combine tropic scenic views with a wellness holiday in Greece, then Halkidiki should be at the top of your list.
From there you can choose to visit the other two peninsulas of Sithonia and Mount Athos by a sailing day trip, however, the latter is a place of unique spirituality, home to 20 or so monasteries and can only be observed from a distance at sea. You will not be allowed to disembark as it is considered to be a monastic state and is referred to as a Holy Mountain. Most of the monasteries are operational and this is why the region is protected so that the day to day schedule of the monks is not interrupted.