Lonely Planet's Greek
The Lonely Planet guide to the Greek Islands is a thorough
and helpful guide to all the Greek island groups, with Athens included for good measure.
There is a tendency to disparage guidebook writing as being informative but dull, though of course it depends on the writer. I opened this book at the entry for Symi, an island I've been to many times, and was delighted by this little description of its main harbour:
"The first sight of the harbour of the island capital Gialos, framed against an amphitheatre of biscuit- and wine-coloured houses rising on all sides, is unforgettable."
It's absolutely true and the description of the colours is original and perfect.
Continuing with Symi, here's a typical island entry. It
begins with the name in English and Greek, and a note of the population. There's
an introductory overview (from which the above quote is taken) and then a
paragraph of history.
Next comes the nuts and bolts, the practical info. The
Getting There and Away section is particularly detailed. It not only tells you
all the islands that connect with Symi, it gives the frequency of the ferries,
the length of the journey and the cost. Obviously you have to allow for the
fact that prices change, as do timetables, but if you're planning some
island-hopping this guide will be very useful indeed.
The Harbour on Symi
The next section is Getting Around on the island itself. Is there a bus service? Can you hire a car? What are the taxis like, or can you also get about by boat. Again, the thoroughness is impressive, with prices being given for boat and taxi journeys. Why anyone would want to rent a car on Symi, which only has two or three roads, I don't know, but if they want to then there's a car rental place listed.
A detailed map of Symi shows roads, tracks, hills with their heights, beaches, bays, settlements and ferry routes, complete with distances, so you know it's only 20km (12 miles) to Rhodes.
Next comes a guide to the main town, and around the rest of the island. The main sights are listed, followed by listings for accommodation, eating places, drinking and nightlife. It's a few years since I was last on Symi so I was pleased to see that the wonderful Giorgio's is still going strong. And things have definitely changed since I first went to Symi – there were no boutique hotels or gourmet restaurants back in the day!
Here you can see a typical spread, the first page of the
Cyclades section, which shows how useful and practical the book is. You get an
island-by-island index, reasons to go, a weather summary and some of the best
places to stay and to eat. The following spread gives you a map with ferry
routes marked on it, some of the Cyclades highlights, advice on island hopping
in the Cyclades and a history of this island group. (These spreads are actually
from the previous edition of the book, as they were easier to download, but the
current edition looks very similar.)
Greek Islands Guide Intro
Having seen a typical island guide and the intro to an
island group, what else does the Lonely Planet's Greek Islands guide give you?
Well, it begins with some trip planning advice and some special features, such
as the Top 16 Greek Islands experiences, including Santorini Sunsets, Cretan
Cuisine and the Samaria Gorge. No arguments there!
There's a special section for people making their first visit to the Greek islands, a month-by-month guide to major island festivals and events, and another spread on which islands to consider if you're interested in walking, live music, art, museums or cuisine.
An Itineraries section makes some suggestions depending on how much time you have available. Ten days? How about Athens and touring the Cyclades? Two weeks? You could do Crete and the Dodecanese, flying into Iraklion and back home from Athens. There's another section devoted to cruising in the Greek islands, and several pages with advice on planning an island-hopping trip.
Athens and the Greek Islands
If you're planning to spend some time in Athens as your gateway to the islands then about 70 of the book's almost 600 pages are given over to the city. They include a neat double-page spread showing the Acropolis in 3-D, which shows you what all the different buildings are. There's even a city map of Athens which folds out from inside the back cover.
There are several pages of very useful advice on the ports of Athens. Piraeus is the main one, of course, with a helpful map which you'll need for this busy and sometimes confusing place. Two other nearby ports are also covered, these being Rafina, which serves mainly the Cyclades and Evia, and Lavrio, which also has ferries to the Cyclades.
Lonely Planet's Greek Islands
In short, this is a very thorough and useful book for anyone planning to visit any of the Greek islands. It's highly recommended, whether you're planning to visit only one island or several.
Other Greece book pages
The very thorough A-Z Guide to Santorini by Tony Oswin is now in its 15th edition, a sure sign that the guidebook is both popular and kept up-to-date.
Heaven on Earth is a collection of 19 travel pieces about Greece by Mike Gerrard.
If planning a trip to Greece, what are the best books about Greece to read before you go, or to take with you, to give you a sense of place?
A Thing of Beauty by Peter Fiennes describes ‘Travels in Mythical and Modern Greece’ and places the Greek Gods in the context of modern-day Greece.
Greece Book Reviews on the Greece Travel Secrets website with reviews of the best guidebooks to Greece, the Greek Islands, Athens, Crete and elsewhere.
Taverna by the Sea is an account by Jennifer Barclay of her summer spent working in a taverna on Karpathos and a welcome new book of Greek travel writing.
Wild Abandon by Jennifer Barclay and published by Bradt Guides is A Journey to Deserted Places of the Dodecanese islands in Greece, including Rhodes and Kos.
The Summer of My Greek Taverna by Tom Stone is a memoir of his time on the Greek island of Patmos in the Dodecanese, running a restaurant.
The Bradt Guide to Northern Greece is a detailed guide to Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Macedonia, Thrace, The Pelion, The Sporades and the rest of Northern Greece.
Greece Travel Secrets reviews the photography book Monemvasia with extracts from works by Yiannis Ritsos and Nikos Kazantzakis.
Mermaid Singing by Charmian Clift is a fine example of 1950s travel writing about the Greek island of Kalymnos in the Dodecanese.
Margarita’s Olive Press is a modern gem of a book of Greek travel writing, in which the author falls in love with and renovates a property on Zakynthos.
The latest edition of the Lonely Planet travel guide to Greece is a comprehensive 750-page guidebook to the whole country.
Lonely Planet Crete is an excellent and thorough guide of almost 300 pages to the largest of the Greek islands.
Ikaria by Meni Valle, brings together the best and healthiest Greek recipes with an evocative travelogue about Ikaria, one of the world’s Blue Zone places.
Peel Me a Lotus by Charmian Clift is a Hydra travel writing classic, describing her family’s life on this tiny Greek island near Athens in the 1950s.
There are many great Greek poets, with two authors winning the Nobel Prize for Literature and names include Sappho, Cavafy, George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis.
Fire on the Island is a romantic thriller novel by Timothy Jay Smith set on a fictionalised version of the town of Molyvos on the island of Lesbos.
Eurydice Street, A Place in Athens by Sofka Zinovieff is an honest account of what it’s like to move to Athens and live as a foreigner, learning Greek customs.
Greece Travel Secrets reviews the book Culture Trails by Lonely Planet, which has a section on Artistic Athens and 51 other perfect weekends for culture lovers.
The Bradt Guide to the Peloponnese is the best book on the Greek region which includes attractions like Mycenae, Epidavros, Olympia, Monemvasia and Nafplion.
The 2022 edition of the A-Z Travel Guide to Kos is the 15th edition of the best and most comprehensive guidebook to Kos in the Dodecanese islands of Greece.
A Rope of Vines by Brenda Chamberlain is an evocative memoir of the author’s time living on the Greek island of Hydra in the early 1960s.
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