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Greek Islands for Summer Fun: Corfu and Rhodes
Greece, Hellas, Ellada - World-wide Famous for Its Beautiful Islands
Greece is famous for its numerous wonderful islands, each of them making for a (larger or smaller) paradise in itself. The beauty of the Greek islands is of world-wide renown and tourists from all over the world go back home pleased after having spent the time of their lives in Greece. Turquoise warm waters, impressive mountainous landscapes with their pine tree forests and fields of multicolored blossoming flowers, the pure whiter-than-white traditional houses, all well-tended by the lovely locals, known for their open heart, hospitality and generosity – all these, and many more, are to be found in the Greek paradise islands.
Still, Greek islands are hundreds of and maybe it might get difficult to choose at one point even for a well-acquainted traveler. One must know that Greek islands are, however, grouped on categories, each defined and defining a geographical department and each symbolizing unique cultural features that are to charm and seduce the curious visitor. Therefore, we have The Ionian Islands, The Aegean Islands, The Cyclades and The Dodecanese, apart from Crete, which is big enough and so self-imposing (both on the map and through its character and features) that can be considered as standing all by itself, as a sort of pride and glory of the Greek island universe, as the queen of them all.
But in this article I won't reveal about Crete, but about two other islands, each comprised in a different geographical and cultural category, being the proud representatives of their sister-islands as well. The first one is Corfu, comprised in the group of Ionian Islands, and the other one Rhodes, part of the Dodecanese Islands.
The Ionian Islands in A Nutshell
The Ionian Islands, also known by Greeks as Heptanesa – The Seven Ones – are a group of Islands bathing in the Ioanian Sea, part of the Mediterranean. The Ionian Islands are comprised of Corfu (or Kerkyra), Lefkada (or Lefkas), Cephalonia (or Kefallonia), Ithaka, Zante (or Zakynthos), Kythira, Paxi and Antipaxos. The Ionian islands are particularly favored by Italian visitors, due to the long-standing Venetian influence cast upon these islands throughout history, but also due to the fact that can be easily reachable by ferry.
However, the islands are also the favorite ones for visitors from other parts of Europe (such as The UK, Scandinavian countries, all other Western-European countries) and they are easily reachable by them as well, since there is always the option of booking flights and finding yourself there, in your longed-for islands, in no time.
There are particular sun and fun attractions in The Ionian islands, such as, for instance Porto Katsiki beach in Lefkada, which is always included in Top 10 Best Beaches Worldwide, or Myrtos Beach in Kefallonia, or, why not, Laganas in Zakynthos for its sands and caretta caretta turtles, or Navaggio, also in Zakynthos.
Corfu (or Kerkyra) is an island of a distinguished beauty and maybe the most exquisite of them all, standing as the pearl of the Ionian islands. Its charm lies not only in the perfect beached and luxuriant nature, but also in the elegant buildings and their sophisticated Venetian, Parisian and British design, with the cosmopolitan atmosphere that can be felt at every breath in Corfu, reminding the visitors that they find themselves in Europe, on one of its finest pieces of land par excellence.
What can be more enlightening and enriching than having your coffee in the old town center of Corfu (also known as Kastropolis due to its positioning among two historic fortresses)! Due to its distinctive rich beauty, the island has been so inspiring along the centuries that even William Shakespeare used it as the setting for its well-known play The Tempest.
But no worries – there are no tempests coming soon in Corfu! The island is shiny and a jewel from mid-spring up until mid-autumn, with its peak during the summer months, when its marvelous waters and sandy beaches can be the endless joy of those who are hosted in Corfu. There are many resorts to choose from in Corfu, but it would be useful to know what to expect: if you choose to be located in the northers side of the island, expect pebbly beaches – which have the advantage of never having sand spread on all of your belonging every time you go to the beach.
The southern part of the island is dominated mainly by sandy beaches. Some of the sandy beaches that you should know of are Sidari, Kassiopi, Glifada, Pelekas, Lifkimmi, Issos and also Chalikounas and Massonghi, which are a mix of sand and pebbles. Benitses should definitely go on your list! A former fisherman village, Benitses attracts many visitors each year due to its charms and the good food you could enjoy in the local tavernas.
Some say that the grass is greener on the other side and, if applying it to The Dodecanese compared to The Ionian Islands, one might say that the Ionian ones (positioned in the western side of the Greek archipelago) are a shade greener than The Dodecanese, placed in the eastern side of it. However, The Dodecanese are not at all arid islands and have their share of green. More than that, The Dodecanese are blesses with the absolutely perfect waters of the Aegean Sea and their own distinctive cultural character. It's in a cave in Patmos (one of The Dodecanese Islands) where Saint John wrote the Apocalypse, after all!
The Dodecanese stand for The Twelve Ones – a group of twelve marvelous islands, dominated by wonderful Byzantine churches and solitary monasteries, as well as medieval fortresses and a history dominated by rock-solid chivalry, as Rhodes was once the headquarter of the Knights of Saint John. Apart from the 12 larger islands, there are many other (more than 100) smaller islands and islets, some inhabited and some not, that are not included in the touristic circuit, but would nevertheless be worth a try for the most daring that prefer going off the beaten track. But, in order to make it to the hidden paradises, one must first have to reach the well-established ones, which are Rhodos, Kos, Patmos, Nisyros, Karpathos, Astipalea, Leros, Tilos, Kasos, Kalimnos, Symi and Kastellorizo.
As mentioned before, Rhodes – the largest of the Dodecanese islands - has been the headquarter of The Hospitaller Knights (also known as The Knightsof Saint John), before they moved to Malta in the 16th century. But before dealing with The Hospitaller Knights, I must bring to attention another remarkable detail, that dates back to The Greek Antiquity: Rhodes was the host of one of The Seven Wonders of The Ancient World! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it was right here: The Colossus of Rhodes, a remarkable giant statue bringing an homage to Tital Helios, to the Sun itself! Unfortunately, the monument once dominating the harbor was destroyed way back in time during an earthquake.
No worries, though! Rhodes is still abundant in cultural treasures, to the delight of culture-vultures and intellectuals with a deep interest in the history of Europe. The Hospitaller Knights, that got to be known also as the Knights of Rhodes due to the almost two centuries of domination over the island, left a strong and distinctive mark on the island's character and landscape. Starting with the beginning of the 14th century, the strong medieval character of Rhodes started to be built of solid rock, due to the hard work, involvement and efforts of the Hospitaller Knights. They left a marvelous cultural heritage to the island. The Palace of the Grand Master makes for an amazing experience for all those who come to visit the island.
Apart from its cultural treasures, Rhodes has much more to offer to the holiday-maker. It is considered to be one of the most exquisite summer destinations, even though one can go to Rhodes all year round. The island is just one of these places blessed with perfect climate, where one is able to enjoy the sun regardless of the time of the year. During summer, however, the sun is bright and the water is warmer than ever.
One of the best details about Rhodes is that it also benefits from a very effective infrastructure and the perfect resorts. Rhodes has no less than five ports, which counts as a significant number when it comes to an island. Many of the hotels are luxurious or above the average. inviting its visitors to spend holidays worth the treatment of kings and queens. There is nightlife in Faliraki, there is wind-surfing in Gennadi, there is snorkeling in Kalithea, there is the picturesque authentic feeling in Lardos, there is some history in Lindos, there is a bit of everything in Ialysos, and then there are the irreproachable services everywhere, no matter the resort you choose to go to on the island!
I could only wish you to have your perfect summer holidays in Greece! Have fun!