The road from Athens airport doesn’t start off well. An arterial, concrete highway running west from the city, our flight touched down far enough from the ancient town to ensure there wasn’t so much as a fleeting view of the Acropolis. Just an oil refinery.
After around one hour we exit onto a seemingly innocuous country lane. A few twists and turns later and the view couldn’t be more different. A serene bay, the sea blue enough to make postcards turn green with envy. Pine forests stretching over foothills as far as the inland eye can see. These sights are almost as memorable as the overpowering smell of vegetation- olive, thyme, lavender, eucalyptus.
Occasionally we pass a small beach, ramshackle eatery, or cluster of holiday homes offering weekend salvation to stressed Athenians. For all intents and purposes, though, there’s not much here. Even our final destination- the picturesque whistlestop of Schinos- is barely large enough to make the map. Nevertheless, it’s worth getting yourself here.
A world away from the hustle and bustle of island resorts, or mainland cities, this hamlet asks little of you. Sit down, drink up the views, drink up your beer, and forget the world beyond. A hard life indeed.
These are the places where hours are lost gazing across azure vistas, daydreaming of a time when this might be real life, rather than a fleeting taste of paradise. Bathed in untethered Hellenic sun, the ambience is unmistakably rural Greece. A country where colours seem more vivid than anywhere on the planet, and ancient gods made their home.
Our base camp is Rokas Village, a collection of simple but charming self catering apartments set in beautifully manicured grounds, complete with outdoor pool just in case those five or six steps to the shoreline prove too challenging. Waking to the sound of waves lapping against an unspoilt, almost silent coast is always a pleasure, but perhaps even more so when such stark contrasts are just five minutes away.
Cariocas Beach Bar is, understandably, noisier. Sitting right on the water’s edge, this place was built from Swedish wood, by hand, 18 years ago, and remains under the control of the same family that hammered those first nails. Home to free Sunday parties every weekend throughout summer, House On The Beach, the booth has welcomed everyone from David Morales and Frankie Knuckles to Osunlade.
A few stones up the Mediterranean and Papa George’s is another must-visit. There has been a traditional taverna here for years, but Panos Papaeleftheriou, one of the brothers behind Cariocas, now runs the place. Quick to point out he’s new to the food trade, we’d be even quicker to add that after spending at least three meals gorging on fresh catch from the local fishermen at one of the charming tables on the terrace, this clubber-turned-restaurateur understands how to fill stomachs properly.
Those responsible for casting the nets are more than open to taking visitors out on the water, too, which we find still as a mill pond, on top of that there’s aeons of history waiting to be explored nearby. From Hera’s temple- wife of Zeus- to coves in which naval battles secured the future of Greece against foreign aggressors, millennia ago, the whole area feels steeped in a magical, mystical atmosphere, rewarding more adventurous travellers with a zeitgeist that’s near-impossible to find elsewhere.
Aegean flies Manchester to Athens daily