Before you read any further into this post, I must warn you that it does NOT include any information, photography or videography whatsoever on the dreamy island that is, Santorini. BUT this is not a bad thing I promise. Stick with me…
I really wanted to capture the essence of the Greek Islands (The Ionian Islands to be very specific) through photography without necessarily having to visit Santorini – the media’s new image of Greece. Sure, Santorini is undoubtedly beautiful and I am desperate to go there one day but it has struck me when researching Greece prior to my trip here, and constantly browsing social media that those postcard pictures from Santorini seem to have been attached to Greece as a country and that is not the reality.
First impressions on my journey from Corfu Airport to my destination, Kalami were positive. I always enjoy the first peak at the surrounding streets leaving the airport, they are a bit rough around the edges but that to me is also authenticity. Soon the streets get less and less close and we are driving down wide roads with mountains in the distance and the ocean following alongside in the corner of my eye. Getting closer to Kalami, I am eagerly looking out of my window both at the stunning views and also whilst wondering how much further into the mountains we will drive until we arrive. The roads in the mountains are narrow, definitely a tight squeeze for a coach and you can hear gasps from other passengers as it manouevres around corners, up and down hills and tackles the traffic. All the while, staring out of the window at the barrier-less roads can give you crazy thoughts like tumbling down into the wilderness (if you have a deep imagination like myself).
Finally arriving in Kalami, the surrounding 360 view fills me with delight. Blue skies, grand greenery, olive trees and tall fir trees line the bay. The sea here is crystal clear, I can see every pebble in the ocean (well, this one small part of the ocean in front of me of course). I start to hear the echos of Greek locals giving me a warm feeling of escape. Oh speaking of warm, it’s 34 degrees and the sun is blaring down and reflecting off the sea making everything shimmer. Villas are dotted in between the mountains and separate the greenery with their beige and peach coloured exteriors and terracotta roofs. My hotel – the only one in the bay – sits staggered amongst the green as well and my room is on the ground floor, just steps from the sea. Perfect.
More villages were close by to Kalami, some were in walking distance, some required some other form of transport. I did what I could on an overcast morning in Corfu, when it was still hot but bearable to walk in and I ventured to the next nearest bay called Kouloura. Kouloura is even smaller than Kalami and consists of just a little harbour, a couple of villas and one traditional Greek restaurant. Although it was another small destination, it’s surrounding views make it look phenomenal to me. And although I love the sun, having it not shining so brightly down weirdly gave me a different view with a different sort of clarity. It was beautiful here.
A little further on from Kouloura was a quaint place called Chouchoulio Bay. Chouchoulio. What a name. It was a small cove shaded by hanging trees and upside-down boats lined the shore. A few cars were parked up at the side and I look around at the people I saw relaxing here. All locals I thought. Perhaps this is their little weekend retreat, somewhere pretty and quiet to enjoy without a single sign of a holiday-maker. Something unique about Chouchoulio was actually the autumnal feel it had. All of the coves and beaches I’d seen so far has been pebble beaches and this may have been one of those too, however it seemed to be covered in brown leaves that had fallen from the trees. It was like a strange woodland beach – endearing!
A 10-15 minute taxi ride away is the village of Kassiopi. I have been here once before three years ago and stayed for a week and found it very beautiful but a little more adapted to tourists, particularly Brits which isn’t always an advantage. The harbour is the highlight for me. It’s just a nice spot. That may be a very simple way to describe it but that’s what it is. It has some cool cocktail bars at the edge of the harbour and some sweet little gift shops and like Kalami, it has a variety of coloured villas nestled in the hills, except maybe more here. I sipped on a Banana Colada and watched the boats come in and then took an up-hill stroll to take in the views. It was a hot day and the sea and sky was extremely blue!
I did two boat trips to Corfu Town whilst here, one in the day and one by night. My night time trip was by far my favourite to see the town lit up and also to experience having dinner in the square which many say resembles Paris. I was inclined to agree a bit with this. The square is lined with long streets of restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques nestled under arched walls with large black lanterns hanging above each arch. Further in to the busy centre of Corfu Town, the streets are small and packed together closely with tourist shops and every now and then you reach a quiet corner hidden away with cute boutiques and pretty cafes. Here the buildings are tall and very old, I walk along looking up at all of the apartments. I’ve realized over time that I tend to take a lot of photos of windows because I love the way they look in European countries. Maybe I have a thing for balconies and plant pots?
It’s important to mention that at this point in my trip, I haven’t seen a single building with white washed walls and blue domes. Instead the houses and apartments I have seen vary from white to beige, olive green to pale pink and those older buildings with their rusty brown and grey exteriors. All of them are beautiful nonetheless. So please don’t go to Greece with the perception that everywhere you go will look something similar to Santorini because it won’t. But that’s okay!
Greece is a stunning country with so much to offer from beautiful beaches and nature, delicious cuisine, history, architecture, lovely locals, boat trips, breath-taking views, Pinterest-worthy photo opportunities, grape vines, olives! Who cares if the whole of Greece doesn’t have white-washed buildings with blue domes and donkey rides?! It has ALL of the former things and they are well worth seeing. I certainly have a soft spot for the Islands, Kalami now in particular and I can’t wait to return one day.
I only hope that this post and my photos will give you an insight into the other side of the Greek Islands that isn’t necessarily just Santorini. And believe me, I’m not saying ‘don’t go there!’ because that would make me a hypocrite. All I’m saying is when you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed and drooling over those pictures of perfection in Santorini just don’t forget there’s a lot more variety to explore in Greece – equally beautiful variety.
One more reason to love Greece: Cute stray kitties in Corfu Town posing for photos! (No relevance to this post whatsoever, but c’mon I wasn’t gonna NOT share it)