This morning we are catching the Blue Star Delos to Santorini. Another favourite ship and one of the largest in the Blue Star fleet. It is busy and the boarding is chaotic. I repeat our mantra “Stick together and show no mercy” to the GA’s. “Don’t worry Grandma” says Macy. “I’ll just get out my helicopter arms if I need to!” That’s my girl!
Before we board we have a little bit of entertainment right in front of our eyes. A driver that has just disembarked is cutting across the boarding passengers. One of the port police stops him and reads him the riot act. The driver tries to ignore him and continues to push his way through and this sends the policeman crazy. He bangs his hand down on the car bonnet and orders the driver to go around the crowd. This back and forth shouting match is very heated and eventually the driver does as he is told. Maddox observes “This country is run by angry men!” We board.
I leave Naxos with mixed emotions. Yes my stay has been tinged with a bit of disappointment. I came prepared for it to be busy in the Cyclades. I know from my day job working for a tour operator that hotels were getting booked up quite early in the season. That’s fine. Naxos is a big island and usually it’s quite easy to get away from the crowds. As people weary of close neighbour Mykonos, or can no longer afford the exorbitant prices, it was only natural that people would begin to explore Naxos as an alternative – a mere 35 minute boat ride away.
It is fair to say that some parts of Naxos has succumbed to some of the Mykonosation such as the tiered priced sunbeds – a form of elitism I loathe to see. The new development along the coastline and even in the mountain villages I fear will be to the detriment of the island’s special charms – we will wait and see. However, where I think it all began to fall apart was the bus service – once an exemplar in the Cyclades and now woefully unfit for purpose.
The bus system it appeared, just couldn’t keep up with the demand. Not only this, every time we passed through Naxos town there would always be at least a dozen buses laying idle in the bus station. The bus driver’s that we experienced were clearly under pressure. On several occasions we saw them grumpy and shouting at people if they had too much sand on their feet or they tried to bring too much luggage on the bus. The conclusion that I draw from this (from observation only) is that like a lot of places, there is a shortage of drivers, just as there is a shortage of people working in the hospitality industry. This has become a real problem not only in our own country.
As I write this my colleague who lives on the island of Paros tells me that some of the hotels are closing early this year. They’ve had enough. And who can blame them. It has been an exceptionally busy year which you would imagine may have been welcomed coming out of a pandemic. However, the reality is that it may have left some people with a negative experience.
I wouldn’t say that my experience of Naxos has been negative. The bus journey up to Koronos was certainly stressful but this is not the fault of the island. The island is still one of the most beautiful in the Cyclades. The mountain villages are unique and full of charm and the beaches – which I always maintain are the jewel in the island’s crown ARE some of the best you will experience in Greece. Let’s just hope that there are enough local people who will fight to maintain the integrity of the island and not let its natural beauty be destroyed by over-tourism and development.
Did the GA’s love it? Yes they did. They loved the buzz and the busyness of the island and God knows those hundreds of people lying toe to toe on Agios Prokopios Beach must have loved it too. I guess we all look for different things in our holiday and it is well documented that I prefer to be slightly off the beaten track. Will I be back? The honest answer is that I don’t know. Certainly not in peak season again – but never say never. For now, Farewell Naxos!
To keep things as stress free as possible I’ve arranged for a transfer to our hotel. This time we are staying in Messaria at Villa Kavallaris and Apartments. We find our van quite easily. The driver tells us that he also is picking up an Alice. There is no sign of Alice. We even shout in unison “Alice!” There is no Alice here so off we go.
This hotel was a last minute booking. I’d needed to make some changes to our itinerary and had left this until the end. There wasn’t a lot of choice left but Villa Kavallaris seemed really well located for both the port and the airport. We are here for 2 nights before flying home. The only thing that we have planned is a Volcano and Sunset boat trip on the Aphrodite the following day so access to the port is important. We also have a pool here which is just perfect!
We receive a lovely welcome from Konstantinos. The GA’s have their own room on the ground floor and we have ours on the next floor up. The room and bathroom are spacious and clean and have views over the pool and surrounding cave houses. I don’t ask for anything else.
We all head to the pool for the rest of the afternoon.
There is a sense of quiet and tranquillity in and around Villa Kavallaris. We can see how close the airport is as planes take off and land yet we can’t hear them. We head out for something to eat. The main road is busy. However, we find a taverna a short walk away that gets very good reviews online. It is also quite empty which is quite a relief after our experience in Fira almost two weeks ago. Taverna Paradosiako doesn’t disappoint. The food is absolutely top notch!
We have an early night. Tomorrow we are doing the Volcano and Sunset trip on the boat Aphrodite.
We loved this boat trip when we did it 7 years ago and I hope that the GA’s do. I think it will be the perfect end to our holiday. Some of the volcano boat tours culminate in an on-shore sunset view. With the Aphrodite you will be able to watch the sunset from the boat away from the crowds. You can book your trip here:
Later this morning we will be picked up by a bus outside Cafe Antama across the road from Taverna Paradosiako. A bakery breakfast is had.
The bus is a little behind schedule but we get to Athinios Port where there is already a queue waiting to board. The good thing about boarding here is that you have more of a chance getting a seat and table on the upper deck. The five of us squeeze onto a table and we also invite a middle aged couple to join us who boarded just a bit too late to get a table on the deck.
Eventually we lift anchor and sale along the coast to the old port. The old port is massively busy but thankfully not everyone is boarding our boat. There are several other tour boats picking up passengers and we all take turns in mooring up and boarding new passengers. The majority of the crowd is made up of people waiting for their water taxi back to their cruise ship. Pheeew!
Once underway the boat heads straight to Nea Kameni, part of the volcanic archipelago made up of the black lava rock. Peter and the GA’s go whilst I stay in the shade of my trusty parasol on the deck of the Aphrodite. Just 5€ per person to walk on the hot coals.
Once back on board the boat sets sail to the thermal waters of Palea Kameni. Here you can swim in the volcanic waters. I’d pre-warned the GA’s to wear old or dark swimwear as the minerals in the water will stain clothing. Just two takers for this activity – Ebonee and Maddox go for it!
The next stop on the agenda is Thirassia where we weigh anchor just off it’s coast. Time for another optional swim and refreshments including a light buffet meal and drinks.
I’m intrigued by Thirassia and it’s a shame the we don’t get chance to step foot onto the island. Maybe one day.
Once everyone has had their fill we now head out towards Oia for the sunset. The music begins, starting with the tune most people know as Zorba the Greek and a few people get up to fling their arms and legs around to the tune. This is followed by a rather eclectic (yet not very original) mix of tunes from the Macarena to Abba’s Mama Mia! It can’t be picked up on the camera very well but up on the cliffs there are hoards of people gathering in this famous spot to watch the sunset. I think I know where I’d rather be!
Back at the new port we are ushered to our waiting bus where we are dropped off where we began – outside Antama Café. Time for waffles – the perfect end to a fantastic day! And also the end of the holiday. Where did the time go?
After a good flight home we arrive back at Manchester Airport. My eldest son meets us at the airport to take us all home. Hiding in the back of the car is one of the Grandadults-to-be. There is nothing better than going away and nothing better than coming home to family.