The Best Way to Explore the Greek Islands

 
1 May 2013

Forget bus tours. The real way to explore the hilly terrain of the Greek Isles is in the open air, on a moped or ATV.

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Nicola Brown

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The Greek Islands, with their varied landscapes, breathtaking beaches and rich history, are a magical destination for adventure lovers. Unlike many other destinations, these islands delight both the culture junky and the beach bum.

Don’t be misled by glossy brochure photos. If luxury vacation packages are your thing, there’s plenty of them. But the Greek Islands have much more to offer.

If, like me, you live in a place where the only difference in elevation is between one apartment floor and the next, it will be Greece’s majestic topography that captures your heart first.

The next thing you will realize is how difficult it is to travel such rough and hilly terrain. Buses can take you only so far, and this is usually as far as most vacationers get. What most people miss are the experiences beyond that. The parts of my trip I most treasure, and will never forget, took place on the seats of mopeds and ATVs.

moped-Greek-Islands

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I was surprised how easy it was to rent such a vehicle on the islands. Typically all you need is any sort of convincing-enough driver’s license. You don’t need a Greek license, you don’t need to be of a certain age, and you don’t need a motorcycle license for a moped. With a smile and a bit of confidence, you don’t even need to have operated one before. Just make sure you know where the brake is!

Before you set off, make sure you’ve got a map of the island’s gas stations and know how far a tank of gas will take you. And another tip I learned the hard way: don’t go swimming with the keys in your pocket.

With your own set of wheels, you have the freedom to go exploring, when and as you like. Depending on where you are, you may find yourself saving a significant amount of money by avoiding overpriced taxis and buses.

There is nothing that comes close to the exhilaration of zipping around a cliff top bend and seeing a picture-perfect view even better than the ones you’ve just passed. Discover hidden villages of joyful locals who may invite you in for olives and a dance. Follow a pathway off the main road that leads you to an almost untouched Mycenaean tomb, and later, a giant kouros statue carved of marble, abandoned by the ancient Greeks when it became too expensive to transport. In the heat of midday, ditch the marked route, drive toward the coast and clamber your way down to your own private, pristine stretch of sand and sea. It’s in these hidden experiences where you will find the heart of the Greek Islands.

Everyone knows it’s about the journey, not the destination. So make the journey something you won’t forget. When people talk about how they live to travel, this is what they’re talking about.

 

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Nicola Brown

Nicola Brown is a British-born, Toronto-based writer and editor with an incurable addiction to travel. A budget backpacker at heart, Nicola prefers immersive adventure to luxury, whether it be exploring Naxos' cliffs by moped, ziplining through the Costa Rican jungle or dogsledding across snowy Ontario. After the UK and Canada, her third home is southern France, a family summer destination since she was born. On nicolalaurenbrown.com she blogs about everything from travel to design to psychology. "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." - St. Augustine