Thousands of islands are scattered around the the Aegean Sea, a unique setup of superb beaches, beautiful villages, warm people and great food. If I had to tag the Aegean with one word that would blue. These photos were taken over the last years in some of my many visits to the islands. In fact, I can’t recall any summer since my teen years that I did not not spend some time here.
Blue is the dominant color in the Aegean islands. The sea, the sky, the color of the buildings, even the Greek flag add to this color monarchy.
To protect populations against pirate attacks, fortifications were built on the Aegean islands. The main village, usually called Chora, was built inside and around these castles. Astypalaia is a remote island, that belongs to Dodekanissa (Twelve Islands) but is located closer to the Cyclades, therefore displaying a fusion of the two architectural styles. Here the blue of the sky contrasts the orange glow of the sunset.
All These Churches
The archetypal picture of a Greek island includes a white church against the blue blackdrop of the sea and the sky. Greeks are still very religious for European standards and thousands of smaller and larger churches are scattered around the islands. This one is in Chora of Serifos, overlooking the port.
The Aegean sea is always windy and windmills are found in abundance on all of the aegean islands. More than 600 of them were at some point operational. This one is one of the six restored windmills found in Leros, on the Kastro Panagias (Castle of Holly Mary), overviewing the village of Panteli.
The Aegean islands became popular to the jet-set and backpackers alike, in the early 50s. Many of the islands became the favorite destination for the flower-power minded youth of the 60s and 70s. Christian is a living fossil from these times, an integral part of the island of Anafi. You can find him in Maritsa's tavern, drinking ouzo or taking a nap and you can ask him to share stories from the old days. Anafi is a small island east of Santorini, which is quite popular among backpacers and is clearly off the beaten island path.
Sunsets and Sunrises
The Aegean Sea offers innumerable oportunities to enjoy majestic golden hours. This picture is from the top of Kalamos, a monolith in Anafi, second in size, in the Mediterranean, only to the Gibraltar rock. It takes almost two hours to climb the difficult trek to the top and you have to start at 5am to catch the rays of the rising sun at the top.
The main village of an island in Cyclades is almost always called Chora and is dominated by white houses. Contrary to the general belief the buildings of the Aegean used to have many colors. The white color was introduced after an administrative order in 1938 to paint the buildings with asbestus to protect against a cholera epidemic. In the 50s the Greek tourism bureau launched a successful international campaign, featuring Mykonian houses painted white with blue frames and ever since the white and blue color dominated the Aegean islands. This is Chora of Anafi, a small island, east of Santorini.
The Donkey Kingdom
The fauna and flora on these water starving islands is rather limited and specialized. There is a saying that the highest tree in the Aegean is the kermes oak, a bush rarely growing above 1m. Donkeys and mules are tough animals that can survive easier under the summer sun with temperatues often exceed 40 C.
Despite the popularity of the Aegean Islands, even today one can enjoy unspoled beaches on his own. This picture of Kalamos beach in the island of Ios, was taken during the peak tourist season, in July 2009.
Elinda beach in Chios, another solitary gem, photographed during the peak tourist season in August 2011.
The Aegean sea takes different shades of blue, from dark blue to emerald. This swimming-pool-blue spot is in Polyaegos, the largset inhabited island in the Aegean Sea, at close proximity to the island of Kimolos. The island revives once a year, during the annual festival in honor of Panagia (the Holly Mary), when the island gets flooded by the people of neighboring Kimolos.
People in the Aegean islands are particularly warm and hospital to vistors. This lady was happy to pose for me at the entrance of her house, inside Kastro (castle) right in the upper part of Chorio, the capital village on Kimolos island.
The Aegean offers some unique landscapes with unobstracted panoramic views of the neighbouring islands. This one is form Kalamos, the monolith of Anafi.
The Rare Green
If you want to see some green, you have to visit in spring time when the low vegetation gets some rain drops. Tzia (Kea) is one of the Cyclades islands, colsest to Athens and easily visited in a weekend trip.
There are as many taverns as churches on the Aegean islands, offering the opportunity to savour fine mediterranean food. Eat slowly while sipping ouzo or wine. This one is in Kaminia, on the island of Hydra.
Ouzo and Salad
Mediterranean food at its best. Tomato, onions, olives, capres, dressed with olive oil and accompanied with ouzo and some fried cheese. All you need to survive under the mediterranean sun.
Geological Wonders meet Cosmopolitan Atmosphere
The island of Santorini (Thira) might be the most beautiful island on earth. At least it used to be some twenty years ago, before the tourist wave overwhelmed it. A dozen of mega cruisers unload thousands of visitors every summer day and the club scene is rivalded only by Mykonos. The giant caldera was formed by the explosion of a super volcano that gave the island its croissant shape. The still active crater is the small island at the center of the picture.