A year can be a long time – just because you’re working or volunteering abroad doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to a vacation. In a new feature, Gap Year Gaps will explore the best ways to break up your gap year with some extracurricular travel.
Gap years are all about cramming in as many once-in-a-lifetime experiences as you can into a twelve-month period. So whether you’re working in an orphanage in Romania or learning Italian in Milan, you’ve still plenty of time to get out there and explore the wider world. To that end, we’re taking a look at exploring the vast archipelago that constitutes the Greek islands this week.
Whether package holidays are your thing, or you prefer just to hop on a plane and fend for yourself once you reach your destination, the Greek islands cater to travellers of all tastes. While certain islands have gained an undeserved reputation for partying and excess in recent years, the Greek islands as a whole have way more to offer than just cheap booze and musty clubs. Here are a couple of reputation-defying vacation ideas:
History buffs looking at holidays to Greek islands inevitably hit upon Rhodes as a destination, given its wealth of ancient ruins and artefact-laden museums. The fabled Colossus of Rhodes might be long gone (though talk persists of it being rebuilt), but there are plenty of incredible historical sites to visit – such as the acropolis of Lindos, an ancient coastal citadel dating from 300 BC that changed hands between the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Ottoman Empire. Beyond the World Heritage delights of Rhodes City, intrepid hikers will find that the island is filled with unspoilt terrain, with rugged ravines and hidden beaches that demand exploration.
The volcanic island of Santorini is about as far away as you can get from the clubs and general hubbub of cities like Faliraki and Malia. The island’s several villages are all built around the caldera of a volcano, yielding incredible views, while the rest of the island is relatively untouched, so you don’t have to travel far to find spots of unspoilt Mediterranean beauty – such as the island’s black, white and red beaches. If you’re interested in avoiding the tourists, avoid the villages of Fira and Ia during the summer, as cruise liners dock here daily and offload their cargo. However, once the sun sets (or peak season ends) and the tourists depart, Fira and Io remain charming hillside towns with excellent local food and a laid-back attitude.
Crete Package HolidaysThe largest of the Greek islands, Crete is easily the most diverse, both in terms of landscape and in terms of attractions. Outside of the big cities, Crete is a walker’s paradise, with highlights such as Samaria Gorge (Europe’s largest), the ruins of ancient Knossos, and Europe’s only palm tree forest on the east coast of the island. Given the island’s popularity, coupled in with substantial transport infrastructure for an island of its size, last-minute cheap Crete holidays are fairly easy to find all year round. Though be warned: Crete is host to around 25 per cent of Greece’s entire tourist trade, so avoid the north coast of the island and its monolithic hotels and cocktail hours if you prefer the pastoral and historical.