Mystic, mesmerizing, magnificent Greece. Seductive, too, with vast azure waters and alluring shorelines. “There are certain select areas around the world where the sands of time exist in a state of juxtaposition,” begins author Chrysanthos Panas in the gorgeous new book, Greek Islands ($95; produced by Assouline Publishing, which focuses on style and luxury). “On the one hand, the grains of sand flow constantly with the tides, and, on the other, time stands perfectly still, as if in perpetual bliss under the sun,” he continues. “The scatter of islands on the Aegean Sea is one such region. Though small in stature, [Greece] boasts a history of such illustrious significance that it transcends time.” After all, this is the cradle of Western civilization, the birthplace of democracy, the heart of ancient philosophy and literature. With evocative photography by Katerina Katopis-Lykiardopulo, this substantial (10 by 13 inch) coffee-table book, with 312 thick glossy pages, is an inspiration for on-the-go adventurers and armchair travelers alike. Curl up with this elegant escapist read, perhaps while raising a glass of Greek ouzo, retsina or espresso Freddo — and imagine yourself transported.
To jumpstart their research, dear friends Panas and Katopis-Lykiardopulo embarked via their favorite Greek sailboat, Aetos, to “capture the wonders and the magic” of the Aegean Sea’s jewels, enthuses Panas. “Every trip to the Aegean Islands is like a journey unto truth.” Featured are more than a score of islands — often off-the-beaten-path gems — among them Amorgos, Astypalaia, Chios, Folegandros, Hydra, Kastellorizo, Milos, Naxos, Paros, Patmos, Santorini, Sifnos, Sounio, Spetses, Syros and Tinos. This is not a facts-dense guidebook; it is a stimulating, uplifting ode to wanderlust. The sea-faring duo documented details about ambience, architecture, creativity, food, glamour, history, hospitality, landscape, passions, serenity and spirited quests. People are the essence of this land, so throughout the tapestry of this tome they also wove descriptions and pictures of artisans, artists, chefs, cheesemongers, dancers, families, farmers, fishermen, lovers, musicians, orthodox priests, sailors and shopkeepers. Eye venerable temples, enticing beaches (some with cashmere-soft sand; others with smooth-under-foot pebbles), olive groves, surfboards, vineyards, windmills and yachts. Mentions are unfurled about black volcanic coasts that nurture special varieties of Greek wines; caves covered with stalagmites and stalactites; archeological museums; youthful party oases, such as on Ios; stellar hotels, such as the new One&Only Resort on Kea; and seafood-scrumptious restaurants, such as Omega 3 on Sifnos. Delectable meze is photographed: platters of grilled octopus, melon, feta cheese and more. An engaging romp, Greek Islands is paced nimbly and gently, like waves lapping against the hull of a sleek ship on a welcoming sea. Layouts are sprinkled with bold-font quotes (several shown below) that incorporate other notable voices.
In the inviting foreword by Eugenia Chandris, “Myths swirl around these islands like the Aegean winds,” she writes, “The Aegean Sea sprawls for 214,000 square kilometers [approximately 83,000 square miles], bathing the shores of hundreds of islands. The protagonists loom colossally on travel bucket lists, but there are less visited corners of this blue expanse that offer visual thrills and unparalleled tranquility.” Each showcased destination exudes distinctive vibes and pleasures. Included in Greek Islands are also splashes of work by other photographers, who frame individuals relishing Greece: bikini-wearing models, warm and chic gatherings, famous faces of today and yesteryear. Look at Diane von Fürstenberg on Sifnos and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis on Spetses. Read about Sophia Loren, Henry Miller and Leonard Cohen on Hydra; as well as Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, who vacation annually on the isle of Antiparos, where they own a home. “The Aegean is universal, embracing all — truly a crossroads of the world,” opines Panas. Here, enjoy a sampling of Greek Islands’ plentiful locations.
“The islands make all your senses come alive: the beauty you see, the tastes, smells, sounds and everything you feel. It is in their simplicity that they create such perfect memories.” — Princess Tatiana of Greece and Denmark
“Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean Sea.” — Nikos Kazantzakis, writer
“Silver shimmering on sapphire-colored seas, opal-colored sunsets which never get old. Bougainvillea vines flowing on white houses. Walking in the street and catching the scent of a fig tree. All of this and a sense of freedom and peace. Can you ask for anything else?” — Eugenie Niarchos, designer
“Of course, there are differences between the way we live today and the lives of our ancestors. But the common thread is the Greekness that unites us. It is living in one place, the same place as the ancients, bathing in the same waters that they used to bathe in, swimming in the same seas as they did. It’s sharing the same daily moments, such as looking out over the same mountains and observing the sun rise over Cavo D’Oro (which the Venetians named the ‘Golden Cape’), just like they used to. When I’m on the boat returning from Kea and I view the sun — in all its orange, pink and golden glory — as it seemingly rises directly out of the sea, I am very aware that this is a vision that my ancestors were familiar with.” — Alekos Fassianos, painter
“It has a huge terrace with a view of a dramatic mountain and shining white houses…. I live on a hill and life has been going on here exactly the same for hundreds of years. All through the day, you hear the calls of the street vendors and they are really rather musical.” — Leonard Cohen, singer-songwriter
“If you have never seen…the Greek islands, no one can realize what our homeland, the real Greece, is. For the islands that surround the country are a treasure that first saves and protects the soul, the roots, the beauty of a visible human existence, but at the same time secret and fragile in their history. The islands will always remain to witness…eternity!” — Nana Mouskouri, singer
For even more travel info and insight, go to Visit Greece.