Sunday Special – Mykonos, Greece


Jutting into the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, south of Albania, Macedonia (FYROM), Bulgaria, and the mainland of Greece are the striking Greek Isles. They number into the thousands though only 227 are inhabited. The Cycladean island of Mykonos is one of Greece’s most popular. Recognized as having a cosmopolitan vibe, it is renown for its widely popular nightlife and amazing beaches. High season  (July – August) brings in a bountiful number of tourists who enjoy the multitudinous clubs, restaurants, and shops. Low season (late October – April) is less crowded though some shops and attractions may be closed, weather is much cooler, and there are less frequent ferry rides. Shoulder season (May, June, September, & early October) is a blend of the other two seasons with less crowds and pleasant weather.

Although recognized as a “party” island, Mykonos does have more to offer. It has retained its Cycladic architecture of the past, something very prominent in Chóra (Mykonos Town) due to stringent regulations. I imagine the whitewashed buildings and narrow maze-like streets add a charm to Mykonos Town just as I found charm in Oia, Santorini.  The white windmills are a common sight on Mykonos, a throwback to early days when the strong winds of isle were used to power them.  Wander outside of the main town to a quaint town of Alefkántra, often referred to as Little Venice. This seaside village is lined with colourful houses and they boast an incredible sunset (a wonderful reason for me to consider visiting). As mentioned, beaches abound on Mykonos (Paradise Beach being one of the best known). And the winds make the island a great spot for water sport enthusiasts. Perhaps, if you’re lucky, you may spot the island’s adopted mascot too, Petros the Pelican (second generation).

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Streets of Mykonos, Greece – Photo credit: Bernard GagnonHouses in MykonosCC BY-SA 4.0

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Petros the Pelican, mascot of Mykonos – Photo is Public Domain

 

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Sunday Special – Iceland


One of the hottest countries to visit these days is actually rather cool. Iceland is possibly one of the most popular European destinations right about now. It certainly is on my list. After seeing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller I was awed by the scenery the film showcased about this small northern European island nation. Then seeing photos several friends had posted on social media it has quickly moved up my bucket list.

The landscape has been described as rough, rugged and barren yet holds a beauty all its own. Mountainous volcanoes, sheets of glacial ice, lava fields and geothermal waters can all be found here. And it is said the warmest of all are Iceland’s people, which I suspect is true. Along with nature one can expect great food, amazing music (Of Monsters and Men hail from Iceland!), art,  and literature. When I go here I hope to see much of the country, perhaps even by car so that I can wander about at my leisure.  Here are some ideas.

  • Route 1 – Ring Road – The main highway that links the country together spans 1,330km / 830 miles. A road trip of epic scenery. Do prepare for any road trips and plan accordingly.
  • Northern Lights – Iceland’s location on the planet makes it a fitting place to see the night skies dance with colour. September to April are the best times for viewing.
  • Geothermal Waters – Naturally heated spring waters are plentiful. Many places have created pools and spas where you can enjoy the hot waters in the crisp air. The Blue Lagoon; Myvatn Natural Baths; and Laugarvatn Fontana are a few.
  • Festivals – Every season brings festivals and events to celebrate music, art, sport, and food.
  • Creatures Big and Small – Iceland may be a small country yet there is bountiful wildlife. Arctic Foxes, Icelandic Horses (don’t call them ponies!), varied and beautiful bird populations, and of course whales swimming in the North Atlantic waters.
  • Natural Beauty – a land of volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, caves, natural springs and geysers, and a rugged coastline I suspect this is how this island country wows most everyone.
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Iceland’s southern Ring Road – Photo via rheins, Southern Ring Road of Iceland – 2013.08 – panoramio (4)CC BY 3.0

 

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Icelandic Horses – Photo is Public Domain

 

 

 

Sunday Special – Estonia


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Cliffs at Saaremaa Island, Estonia – Photo credit: Margus6Varahommik ja Panga pankCC BY-SA 3.0

This small Baltic country of Estonia has history that goes back for centuries and centuries with a Finno-Ugric language ancestry.  Throughout these times the Estonian’s faced German, Danish, Swedish and Russian control. In 1918 they became an independent nation but were forced into the Soviet Union in 1940. 1989 they demanded independence and gained it officially in 1991, with much credit going to their peaceful Singing Revolution of the 1980s. In 2004 they joined the European Union and switched to the euro in 2011. Today it is a tourism hot spot with plenty to offer. 

  • Capital city of Tallinn boasts an outstanding Old Town which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Sight
  • Experience “White Nights” from May through July when the sun barely sets
  • Take in the Suur and Väike Taevaskoda (Small and Large Heaven’s Hall) along the Ahja River for some hiking and seeing some caves
  • The Lahemaa National Park on the northern coast is filled with beautiful landscape and perhaps you will see moose, foxes and other animals
  • The south’s Soomaa National Park showcases a primeval forest and quiet nature
  • Get your adrenaline flowing with activities such as repelling, rafting, ATV rentals, go-karting and even a precarious walk along the ledge of Tallinn’s TV Tower 
  • Visit any of Estonia’s plentiful islands, many just a quick ferry ride away
  • Take in all forms of popular music at any number of clubs offering rock, jazz, alternative, electronic and more. Music festivals are popular as well.
  • Admire the architecture of old in the many lighthouses, manor houses, churches, castles, and forts throughout the country
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Katariina Passage in Tallinn’s Old Town – Photo credit: -jkb-Tallinn Katariina KäikCC BY-SA 3.0

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Panorama of Tallinn’s walled Old Town – Photo credit: Ivar LeidusTallinn Toompea Upper Old Town 2013CC BY-SA 3.0 EE

Sunday Special – Andorra


The Sunday Special will be trying out a new spin so let’s see how it goes. In the past I have done series on natural landscapes (deserts, mountains, etc). My own travels have been highlighted. And of course, bucket list worthy destinations have made it here too.  This time ’round I am going to alphabetize. Yep, I will go through the alphabet to select a place, sight, or event (and possibly even food) to showcase to you.  Let’s see the world one letter at a a time.


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Ski hills of Andorra – Photo credit:  Wikimedia Commons – Photo taken and owned by Michael Karavanov [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Snuggled high in the Pyrenees mountains of Europe lies the landlocked micro-nation of Andorra. The sixth smallest European nation is found between France and Spain, which means entry into it is via one of them. There are no airports or train stations so bus and car is the way to enter (or by helicopter is you have the funds). So how can one spend their days here? Here is what I found:

  • Hiking and walking for various skill levels. Being a mountainous country there are plenty of places to explore on foot in the summer months
  • Skiing. It’s the mountains so there is a bounty of ski resorts to choose from. Heli-skiing is also available. It’s a winter sports wonderland
  • Cycling – both mountain biking terrain and asphalt-lined paths
  • Activities such as zip-lining, mountain slide, horseback riding, archery, rope circuits high in the trees, camping and more
  • Shopping and good food
  • Museums

It seems to me that Andorra may be a micro-sized country yet has large-size itineraries. 

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View of Andorra la Vella, capital city of Andorra – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by Tiia Monto [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned By Ferran Llorens (Flickr: Vall del Madriu-Perafita-Claror 63) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons