Downsizing on Destinations
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You don’t have to go to the South Pacific for dream islands with guaranteed sun, the Greek Cyclades are only a short haul flight away
Add on a bit of soft adventure to blend economical with ecological

FIVE WAYS TO SAVE MONEY ON A GREEK ISLAND HOLIDAY


Head for islands with no international airport, where prices are not hiked up for tourists. Check out cheap charter flights such as Easyjet, to ‘tourist’ destinations such as Santorini and Mykonos and island-hop by ferry from there.

• Travel by ferry – the journey’s longer but the cruise is part of the holiday experience

• Explore on foot backed by local transport or a holiday package that includes transporting you and/or your bags

• Find guides with detailed local knowledge to avoid wasting precious holiday time and money looking and getting lost while you are there

• Go to places where there’s plenty of local, seasonal produce – for bigger portions, better quality and value

It may be cheaper to stay at home, but a seaside holiday with guaranteed good weather may be one luxury you aren’t prepared to forgo.

Walking on a well-chosen Greek island offers a real sense of escape at reasonable cost. Make sure you head for an island that is not a prime tourist target: food and drink prices on the Cycladic island of Naxos, for example, are not only lower than those in Athens or on better-known islands such as Mykonos or Santorini, but you’ll also get bigger portions of better quality, locally produced food.

The cheapest way to explore is of course, on foot – but to make the most of your destination and avoid wasting money and time doing everything by remote control, local knowledge is invaluable. Whether you prefer to walk with a guided group or go self-guided, it pays to find a local tour operator to lead you along the best routes and take on all the organization of accommodation and transport. One such company is Walking Plus, the only walking tour operator based in the Cyclades, which has built up a reputation for enthusiasm and “customer care beyond the call of duty.”

The company offers self-guided walking programmes, and guided group holidays for a minimum of five people. Customers wanting to join a guided group on Naxos, Amorgos, Tinos or Paros contact Walking Plus to log their interest and preferred dates, and to check what’s available, or make up their own party of friends and family. “We’re getting more people going for the ‘soft’ adventure of self-guided walking, and some are coming back year after year to discover different islands,” explains Robin. “They discover more than they would completely on their own, but can choose who they walk with and set their own pace.”

Despite the depressing sterling/euro exchange rate, the Cameron Coopers haven’t seen a downturn in business: “Enough people believe that guaranteed good weather is essential for a real break,” they say. “But they are seeking out the best deals: our independent walking holidays are considerably cheaper than most and half the price of those at the top of the range, while matching them on quality and customer care.”

Walking Plus self-guided route directions are like having a well-informed and entertaining companion. Written by Gilly, a journalist and author, they represent the added value implied by the ‘plus’ in the company’s name. Accurate directions (courtesy Robin’s navigational skills honed in the Army) are interwoven with insights into wildflowers, history and mythological moments on route. Penny Perkins, who has explored three islands with Walking Plus, commented:  “the notes made our holiday, and we never lost our way.”

Independent walkers are greeted and briefed over a drink on arrival, and often keep in touch, or meet up with the route managers during their holiday.

The Cycladic islands, a big archipelago in the Aegean Sea south-east of Athens, which was the hub of an early civilization, are exciting new territory for walkers. The Walking Plus routes aim to show as much of the wonderfully diverse island landscapes and cultural treasures as possible, guiding you along paths that are little used – or even known ­today; some don’t even make an appearance on the official maps.

Basics

Self-guided holidays start on any date from mid-April onwards, on the islands of Naxos, the Minor Cyclades, Tinos, and (ferry schedule allowing) on Amorgos. Cost from £460 per person per week; price includes accommodation, and detailed directions, luggage transfer, and local support. Travel to the island – by ferry or domestic flight from Athens, is not included. www.walkingplus.co.uk, email info@walkingplus.co.uk; phone 020 8835 8303.