It’s All Greek Islands To Meby Joy Pecknold
The first time I remember muttering “I want to go there” about the Greek islands was while watching The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. In the 2005 film, Alexis Bledel’s Lena goes to Greece and falls in love Romeo and Juliet-style with a local boy. A forbidden holiday fling would be nice, but I was more besotted with the scenery. In celebration of a sibling’s milestone birthday, I finally got there at the end of last summer. Amongst all the picturesqueness, I discovered that late season is the best season if, like me, you prefer more space and a slower pace.
MEET AND CRETE
Flying in from different destinations, my sister and I met in Crete to kick off our island hopping. After a long-haul flight, I quickly felt chuffed with my decision to start here, on the north coast, with four nights at Abaton Island Resort and Spa. The top priority was to get our heads in vacay mode. With private beaches, a waterfront pool, spa and five different restaurants to dine at, the 45,000 square-kilometer property is well set up for staying put and chilling out. We spent our days swimming in the Aegean and reordering Buddha Bar fish tacos to our poolside lounger. Every night, we ate at a different spot, the most special being Elemes, which serves up locally-sourced Cretan cuisine. That with a side of spa treatments and we’d very successfully decompressed.
PAROS WHEN IT SIZZLES
With max relaxation mode achieved, we ferried over to our next island, Paros. In this tale of three islands, if I’m Goldilocks, this is my “just right” one. A big part of what made it perfect is Parilio, a one-year-old boutique design hotel on the north end of the Island. One seemingly simple daily ritual cemented my love for the place. Mid-afternoon we’d drink mezcal margaritas by the pool—we had yet to have a great cocktail on our trip, and this was the one. In the evening, we’d sit out on our room’s spacious terrace and watch the sun tinge the sky peachy pink.
When not stationed poolside at Parilio, we strolled to Kolympḗthres Beach to see its cool rock formations—it’s just a 15-minute amble away. We also did a day trip in the other direction to Naoussa’s center. We hung out at the waterfront watching the boats come and go and the fisherman fixing their nets.
Thirsty from all the salty air, we headed up to a rooftop patio for a cold drink and a bird’s-eye view. Refreshed, we wandered up and down the skinny alleys, mostly taking pictures, but also dipping into the art, décor, clothing and jewelry shops. Not sure I could have dreamt up a more charming seaside village.
MYKONOS MY WAY
Next stop, Mykonos. While the island has a party reputation, in early October it’s more mellow, and our hotel helped further that vibe. A 10-minute drive from downtown, KENSHO Ornos is another boutique island gem. As we walked into our suite, we gasped in delight—it opens right out onto the pool and has its own private lounge area and hot tub. As I settle into a lounger by the pool to read a book, I quickly make a four-legged friend without even trying. Cat lovers will love it here—there are lots of stray cats in the Greek Islands, and on Mykonos, we saw the most.
The hotel overlooks Ornos Bay, and it’s a veritable hop, skip and a jump to its beach. We picked the beach club with the most stylish umbrellas and settled in for the day—there was just the right amount of people to make for great people watching while not being crowded.
We spent another afternoon and evening exploring Mykonos Town. We searched for the perfect leather sandals to bring home, took pictures of the famous windmills, and then perched ourselves at a waterfront bar in Little Venice to watch the sun dip behind the horizon with a glass of wine in hand. After getting a little lost in the maze, we found Avra, a traditional Greek restaurant with a concealed garden courtyard dripping in bougainvillea. Before hopping in a taxi back to the hotel, we dipped into an underground late-night bakery and picked up some baklava for the road.
As we boarded our last ferry to get us to our flight out of Athens, I felt convinced I’d be back—there are scores more islands (and cats) to see, I’d only touched the tip of the Cyclades.