My Island-Hopping Heaven

Article excerpt

Byline: Glenys Roberts

S VANGELIS the boatman ferried me towards the tiny Greek island of Kimolos, I knew I'd found unspoilt Greece, where you can still walk with the ancients.

AMy ten days of island-hopping had given me a new perspective on this beleaguered but beautiful country.

My first stop was the much-visited Mykonos, which is something of an Aegean St Tropez. Hire a quad bike and you can find deserted beaches, but that's not really the point.

Better to succumb to its fabulous shopping and glamorous, yet intimate, hotels, such as the Grace, where I was made to feel like family, and beachside bars in the pretty quarter of Little Venice, where the buildings overhang the water in keeping with its namesake.

Then I piled onto the ferry to the next island alongside locals, backpackers and elderly archaeologists, with that glorious Greek lack of organisation.

Off we sailed past Delos, where the sun god Apollo was born, and Naxos, where Theseus ditched his lover Ariadne, until we arrived at a vast, natural harbour created 3,000 years ago by a volcanic explosion and tidal wave.

This catastrophe left only a ring of dramatic 1,000ft cliffs now known as Santorini.

Up and up we zig-zagged by car to the town of Thira -- and then down and down, on foot this time, to another exquisite Grace hotel perched above the still live volcano set in its blue lagoon.

Though Santorini's thousands of the elderly and children, I saw game British grandmothers herding four-year-olds up and down 60 degree cobbled slopes, buoyed by the natural electricity that lurks in the air.

All too quickly I was taking the ferry to my next stop, Crete. I stood on the deck watching the sun fade into Homer's wine-dark sea as a Verdi opera played over the intercom.

At the port of Heraklion, Crete's capital, I took a taxi to Chania, 80 miles west, with its photogenic Turkish quarter -- intact despite the ravages of World War II.

My hotel, the Alcanea, built in the 17th century by Venetians, was once the office of the Greek hero Venizelos, who in 1897 kicked the Turks out of the island and united it with Greece -- Athens airport is named after him.

My favourite island, Kimolos, was yet to come. Less than four hours by boat from Athens, you get there via the better known Milos, where Vangelis was waiting for me with his water taxi.

Twenty minutes later, we were chugging into the tiny port of Psathi. Kimolos, just 22 square miles with 500 inhabitants, 74 churches and a few bars, has an intriguing history of piracy, medicinal hot springs and chalk white beaches -- 'Kimolos' comes from the Greek word for chalk.

My destination was the tiny, white-washed Windmill hotel -- five rooms of sheer heaven with a 360-degree view. …