Cruising the Greek Islands: A Study Beyond Blue and White

Bigger is not always better. In late 2012, I cruised the Greek Islands on Compagnie du Ponant’s l’Austral. With only 160 cabins and a capacity of 320 passengers, l’Austral is one of a group of smaller vessels that are able to call at harbors that can’t handle large cruise ships. For passengers, this means a more laid back, uncrowded view of the Greek islands.

We stopped at some of the classics such as Santorini and Rhodes, but we bypassed party-town Mykonos in favor of quieter islands that see so few cruise ships that l’Austral brought its own guides with it.

Overwhelmingly, the palette of the Greek Islands is blinding white and blazing blue — this is what tells you you are in the Greek islands and nowhere else on earth. But each island has its own hues and patterns, and some of them break ranks dramatically.

(For more detailed resolution, please click on the photos.)

The theme of blinding white, saturated blue, and religions runs through the Greek Islands. The lime based whitewash has antibacterial properties; the white color helps reflect the heat and keep the houses cool.

The themes of blinding white, blazing blue, and religion run through the Greek Islands.
Lime based whitewash has antibacterial properties.
The white color helps reflect the heat and keep the houses cool.

 

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Church bells on Nisyros

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Shadows of the bells

A staircase on Symi breaks the blue and white rule with abandon.

 

Paint colors on Symi flout the tradition.

Paint colors on Symi flout the traditions.

These steps on Santorini pass a traditional dolphin motif.

These steps on Santorini pass a traditional dolphin motif.

These steps in the Akrotini ruins were crushed by an earthquake in 1700 BCE.

Steps at the Akrotini ruins were crushed by an earthquake in 1700 BCE.

Blue and white on Sifnos

Blue and white on Sifnos

Oisa, in Santorini, overlooks the crater left by one of the most violent explosions in history.

Oia overlooks the Santorini caldera.

Oia seen from the Santorini Caldera

Oia seen from the Santorini Caldera

Looking down from Oia. Many of these homes have been converted to hotels and guest houses.

View from Oia.
Many of these homes have been converted to hotels and guest houses.

Priests at the Monastery of St. John on Patmos.

Priests at the Monastery of St. John on Patmos.

Women explains processing mastic in Chios.

Women explains processing mastic in Chios.

Cafe on Chios

Cafe on Chios

Bride in Rhodes

Bride in Rhodes

Cafe owner on Nisyros

Cafe owner on Nisyros

Gyspy girl busking on Rhodes

Gyspy girl busking on Rhodes

Blue door

A new take on blue and white on Sifnos

Traditional and modern meet on Nysiros

Traditional and modern meet on the volcanic island of Nisyros

Dried flowers are traditionally placed on doors in spring.

Dried flowers are traditionally placed on doors in spring. (Sifnos)

A door on Sifnos

A door on Sifnos

More color on Sifnos

More color on Sifnos

Boathouses on Santorini

Even the boathouses on Santorini have painted doors.

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Door knocker Nisyros

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Door knocker: Symi

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Door knocker: Patmos

Symi harbor is too small for large ships.

Symi harbor is too small for large ships.

Steep hills surrounding Symi make homes look stacked.

Steep hills surrounding Symi make homes look stacked.

Neighbors on Symi with different home decor aesthetics.

Neighbors on Symi with different home decor aesthetics.

 

A Church on Sifnos. Isolated settings give time and space for contemplation and prayer.

A Church on Sifnos.
Isolated settings give time and space for contemplation and prayer.

Steam vents and sulphur color the inside of this caldera on Nisyros. The island is still volcanically active, with steam vents in the caldera.

Steam vents and sulphur color the inside of this caldera on Nisyros.
The island is still volcanically active, with steam vents in the caldera.

The caldera on Nisyros is 3 kilometers long and contains active craters with fumaroles, hot springs, and steam vents. The volcano last erupted in 1888.

The caldera on Nisyros is 3 kilometers long.
The area is volcanically active with fumaroles, hot springs, and steam vents.
The volcano last erupted in 1888.

Souvenirs of Symi's multi-colored doors.

Souvenirs of Symi’s multi-colored doors.

Souvenirs: Marionette from Santorini

Souvenirs: Marionette from Santorini

Souvenirs: Canned fruit from Sifnos

Souvenirs: Canned fruit from Sifnos

Souvenirs: Sponges from Symi

Souvenirs: Sponges from Symi

Souvenirs: Shoes from Simi

Souvenirs: Shoes from Symi

St. John's Monastery in Patmos, where St, John is said to have written "Revelations" in a nearby cave.

St. John’s Monastery in Patmos.
St. John is said to have written “Revelations” in a nearby cave.

Mosaic at St. John's Monastery on Patmos

Mosaic at St. John’s Monastery on Patmos

The arches of St. John's Monastery on Patmos

The arches of St. John’s Monastery on Patmos

Arches are a theme in Byzantine church architecture. (Patmos)

Arches are a theme in Byzantine church architecture. (Patmos)

Church Bells on Patmos

Church Bells on Patmos

Byzantine frescoes fill St. John's Monastery.

Byzantine frescoes fill St. John’s Monastery.

Traditional Chios architecture decorated with geometric motifs -- and brightened by tomatoes hung for drying.

Traditional Chios architecture features geometric motifs.
In autumn, balconies are brightened by tomatoes hung for drying.

 

Woman in Chios

Woman n Chios

The villagers in Patmos were among the friendliest anywhere,

The villagers in Chios were among the friendliest anywhere,

 

A street on Nisyros

A street on Nisyros

A planter on Chios

A planter on Chios

 

L'Austral can be seen in port in Patmos.

The cruise ship L’Austral can be seen in port in Patmos.

For more on Cruising the Greek Islands, see this review.

Comments

  1. Kathlin Sickel says

    Very very nice! (The blog’s great, and wow, the pictures!!) I’ve been briefly to Patmos, Rhodes, and Mykonos, and this makes me so want to go back again; I’d like to add a few days at Santorini, as well.

  2. Barbara Radcliffe Rogers says

    What striking photos — I’ve cruised through the Greek islands and had forgotten quite how stunning the colors are. You’ve captured them beautifully.

  3. Sandra Friend says

    Your photos are stunning, Karen, and bring back a lot of memories from my rambles in years past. Can’t wait to visit Greece again.

  4. says

    Gorgeous photos, Karen. As one who loves the Greek Isles (wrote several editions of the Fodor’s Guide) I salute you for capturing the beauty of these islands. I especially love Symi and Chios, and am happy to see them featured here.

  5. Ed says

    Beautiful…we leave for Athens, Santorini, katakolon, venice, Dub. Split, Rome in two weeks. Taking Canon 7d, 10-22, 24-105, and love to catch distant stuff with 100-400! Thanks so much for sharing! Ed

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