My brother Al took this great shot of us at Prokopios Beach. It’s almost impossible to believe how beautiful that water was.

Finally Naxos, the fifth and last of our Cycladic Island adventures. Naxos was an easy boat ride from Mykonos; these island-to-island ferries have been one of the great joys of our island hopping experience. Definitely more laid-back than Mykonos, Naxos was a great way to wrap up this part of our trip.

After four earlier islands, though, I’m at somewhat of a loss as to what to say. Fabulous beach, great food, some ancient Greek ruins … I’ve kind of said it all. I suppose it is worth mentioning that our hotel, Hotel Nissaki Beach, sat right on St. George Beach, though it was by no means a great beach; the fabulous beach was a couple miles away. St. George Beach did, though, have some nice restaurants ringing the beach so that was pleasant. And Prokopios Beach, a 40-minute walk or 15-minute bus ride away, was every bit as perfect as the other beaches we’ve seen in the area.

The remains of Apollo’s Temple sits just outside today’s main town on Naxos. It made a great location for early evening sight-seeing.

Otherwise, though, there may not be a lot more to add. So here are a couple pictures and then it’s off to Athens. And Rome, briefly.

And after a brief tour of the Greek ruins this was my reading spot. Not bad.

Al & Anita enjoying dinner in Naxos. As you can see, I’m not the only St. George who likes bright colors.

Mark waving goodbye from this nearly perfect beach

Al & Anita enjoying lunch overlooking Paradise Beach

I’ve fallen further behind writing here than I usually do, largely perhaps because I’ve been having more fun with family than I usually do. I guess that’s not altogether a bad thing.

Mark & I were joined on our last three stops in Greece by my brother Al and his wife Anita. Last year they joined us at Lake Como for what was supposed to be a week-long stay, but on the first day we learned my Dad had died. So that one didn’t work out so well. We were hopeful that this trip would turn out a little better and I can happily report that it did: no one died!

Sunset over the iconic windmills of Mykonos with our hotel in the foreground. Built by the Venetians in the 16th century when they controlled the island, they were used to mill grain into the 20th century.

Our first stop was the island of Mykonos. As Mykonos lies just a mile away from the ancient religious site of Delos, and as the Cyclades Islands are defined as forming a circle around Delos, we’re pretty much right in the center of the Cyclades. Mykonos has a permanent population of a bit over 10,000 but it’s famous – and sometimes notorious – as a major party destination for the well-heeled. Along with Santorini, which Mark & I have visited on two previous occasions, Mykonos is probably the most famous of the Greek isles. Mykonos is also famous for being a gay-friendly island, though I’ll admit I didn’t see any great evidence of that.

Anita took this picture of Mykonos’s narrow but colorful streets

At any rate, our four days there were pretty great. The main town on the island is a warren of gorgeous winding whitewashed streets with sprays of color everywhere. It’s a bit more crowded and touristy than I would like but we’ve had plenty of opportunities to enjoy more sedate islands, too. We rented a car so we could try out a couple beaches and that worked out really nicely. The fist beach was nice, but the second beach – the aptly named Paradise Beach – was, well, a paradise. It’s funny, on previous trips to Greece Mark and I haven’t really experienced great beaches but this time around we’re finding some of the best in the world. Nothing to complain about there!

Paradise Beach!

In addition to beach time, Al & I did a day trip to the island of Delos. Uninhabited today, in ancient times Delos – legendary birthplace of the twin gods Apollo and Artemis – was a religious site second only to Delphi for the Greeks. As its religious prominence grew all graves were removed from the island and it was decreed that neither births nor deaths were permitted to occur on the island, though one suspects that enforcement was not perfect. After the Greeks’ war with Persia in the early sixth century BC, Delos was the center of the Delian League, sort of an early NATO pact of small Greek city-states who agreed to provide joint defense against a Persian return. Eventually Athens came to dominate the Delian League and even moved the treasury from Delos to Athens but that’s a story for some other day.

Al had been to the famous Temple of Artemis in Ephesus so he wanted to see the Temple of Artemis in Delos. Here it is!

So that was our fourth island on this Greek journey, the first for Al & Anita. We have one more to go but so far these Greek islands are living up to their reputations and more.

Me and Mark in a riot of red in front of the windmills

Anita and I enjoying the Mykonos waterfront

Anita posing with a pelican who seemed to make his home in the parking lot to our hotel. In 1958 a wounded pelican was taken to Mykonos where he recovered and became an island icon. Killed by a car in 1985 he was replaced by three other pelicans who apparently wander around the town. Strange.

Paradise Beach

A reasonable approximation of how I spend my time on Greek islands

Here are a few other shots of the ruins of Delos

We’ve seen better examples of ancient theaters

And here I am atop the highest point of Delos

Finally, Al & Anita enjoying dinner at Nico’s where we had an excellent table for people watching

The stunning Mylopatas Beach, and nice 40-minute walk from our hotel

Cycladic Island number three for this trip through Greece is Ios. One of the joys for us has been the ease of traveling island-to-island on the Greek ferries. There is an almost astounding number of boats that ply the Aegean Sea moving people and vehicles and goods from one island to another. There seems to be a variety of companies and speeds and routes and types of boats, but in all it makes it easy, comfortable, and even fun to move along.

We weren’t too happy with our hotel on Folegandros; we didn’t like the location and the service just seemed to miss the mark. Here in Ios, though, we found the sweet spot. The two major settlements on the island are around the port and then up the hill in Chora, which is what all the main island villages seem to be called. Our hotel was maybe two-thirds of the way up the hill so we had reasonable access to both the port and the village. And the hotel itself was beautiful; there was a beautiful pool overlooking the sea and we had a great little balcony for watching the sunset.

Sunset from our balcony at Liostasi Hotel

Compared to Folegandros and Milos, our first two stops, Ios is much more of a party town than anything we’ve seen before. On our first day I was walking up into the village and saw a sign on a club that indicated it opens – opens – at 3:00 AM. And entrance is free if you get there that early; the cover charge only starts at 3:30 AM. Even when I was young that would have seemed crazy. Who goes out to start the night at 3:00 AM? But sure enough, when I would go out for a morning run at 6:30 or 7:00 I would see kids apparently headed home after a night (morning) of partying. Strange.

Doors Open at 3:00 AM the sign says. And it wasn’t the only club in Ios with those hours!

The village itself was beautiful, all narrow, winding streets with whitewashed buildings. Lots and lots of bars, and some good restaurants. Like all these islands Ios has some interesting history, though in this case the line between history and myth is vague. It is here, you see, that the great classic Greek poet Homer – the blind author of the Iliad and the Odyssey – is said to be buried, and you can go to the northern part of the island to see his grave. The only problem is that historians are not at all certain that a Homer ever actually lived. This school of historians think that these works were really the results of countless and nameless tinkerers in an oral tradition and that “Homer” should be seen as simply a label given to that tradition. So if he did live, his grave is here. If he didn’t live it’s just a pile of rocks.

I spent a good chunk of one afternoon sitting on the rocks at the side of the beach reading with this view

For us the real delight in Ios was discovering Mylopatas Beach. I was just kind of randomly out for a walk late one morning after a haircut and followed the road out along the coast. The road was quite a ways up a hill when suddenly I came around a corner and saw what looked like an amazing beach below. So down I go and … Wow! Mark & I proceeded to spend the better part of two days there. Spectacular water, nice sand, really comfortable beach beds, great rocks to lie on if that was your preference (and it was mine for a while), and even a nice Greek taverna perched just slightly up the hill where you could have good food with great views. We really thought it was one of the great beaches we’ve ever seen, on a par with our all-time favorites in Thailand and Sardinia. The only downside, and we’ve seen it in a variety of places, is that businesses on the beach have come to believe that a great beach experience requires loud, pounding club music all day. It’s a mystery to me why they think that is preferable to the gentle washing ashore of waves, but then maybe I’m just getting old. OK, I am getting old, but still, I’m not the only one.

It’s a tough life we have. You can see the stress I’m experiencing there.

Next stop Mykonos where my brother Al and his wife Anita are joining us for the last half of our Greek adventure.

The pool at our hotel even had a fun statue overlooking the sea

More beauty from Mylopatas Beach

Blue skies, white railings, pink flowers – Greece can be beautiful

Stuffed peppers with what looks like a glass of Kool-Aid

A great octopus dish with more of that Kool-Aid