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Grab your skis, it’s time to hit the slopes > part 2 February 2, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Mainland.
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Kalavryta, just 203 kilometers from the heart of Athens > Located on the northwest side of the Helmos mountain range in the Peloponnese, just 203 kilometers from Athens, the Kalavryta ski center is by no means the largest of Greece’s resorts but has become a mecca for serious skiers and snowboarders in recent years.

The season got off to a great start regarding the white stuff, with Kalavryta opening its lifts on December 16 – this author being one of many snowboard enthusiasts battling to be the first on the slopes to make fresh tracks.

In operation since 1988, there are 12 trails with a range of difficulty from beginner to the very difficult Stiga 1 and 2 trails from the 2,340-meter-high summit – where on a clear day skiers are treated to a sea view – as well as excellent off-piste skiing and snowboarding among clusters of pine trees.

Kalavryta also offers free lifts for beginners as well as student discounts, while the always lively chalet at the base of the mountain often hosts memorable parties in the evening.

The town of Kalavryta itself – just 14 kilometers from the ski center – has its place assured in the hearts of Greeks for its association with the struggle against Turkish occupation in 1821 and the Nazi massacre of over a thousand villagers for resistance activities during WWII. An old schoolhouse has been converted into a museum dedicated to the memory of those killed and is also well worth a visit.

Equipment can be rented on the mountain but there are several rental outlets in and around the town where prices are more reasonable. A range of accommodation can be found via the website www.Kalavryta-ski.gr, while those seeking a more luxurious option can look to the recently opened Castle Resort perched just above the town www.castleresort.gr.

Parnassos, the largest ski center in the country > The largest ski center in Greece is located 180 kilometers from Athens at Parnassos. The official website’s claim that the ski center is “the best organized in the country” is a valid one with 13 lifts and 18 trials covering 22 kilometers in total stretching down from the 2,200-meter summit in two sections. While much of the mountain features wide open pistes with plenty of easy and intermediate runs, for the more adventurous, the mountain also boasts 12 off-piste trails, such as the challenging Sahara trail on the Fterolakka section of the mountain. The nearby town of Arachova just 17 kilometers away is a hub of activity during the ski season, with many visitors choosing to use it as their base rather than stay in the many smaller and more cozy chalets and hotels on the route toward the ski center. While the claim that Arachova is the Myconos of winter is a little far-fetched, what is an attractive winter resort town in a spectacular setting at an altitude of 960 meters draws many Athenians at weekends. This makes it the winter resort to be seen in and ensures a lively atmosphere. Useful websites > http://www.parnassos-ski.gr, http://www.arachova.gr.

Vasilitsa’s superb off-piste trails > What has been in recent years arguably one of the country’s most underrated winter sports resorts, Vasilitsa now rightly stakes its claim as one of northern Greece’s star attractions.

Situated in the prefecture of Grevena, the resort is 250 kilometers from Thessaloniki in the heart of the Pindos mountains in the northwest. Due to the quality and quantity of snowfall, Vasilitsa boasts some superb off-piste trails deep among clutches of towering pine trees, hugely popular with snowboarders.

Boasting majestic views from several vantage points around the mountain – the summit of which is approximately 2,700 meters – Vasilitsa boasts three chalets, seven lifts and 16 trails in total, offering a wide range of difficulty from beginner to advanced.

The two most difficult trails can be found at the 2,113-meter summit of the Alexander the Great lift.

The first lift (Elimeia) was built in 1975, however, the resort has since undergone two major expansions, one in 1993 and the second in 2000, both of which have contributed to making it one of the best ski resorts in Greece.

As well as the three chalets close to the mountain – of which Distrato offers cosy accommodation with magical views of the slopes – there is plenty of accommodation available in the small picturesque village of Smixi nearby, which also boasts wonderfully traditional tavernas and restaurants to while away the evenings beside roaring fires after a hard day on the slopes. At 417 kilometers from Athens, it may be a tough ask for capital dwellers to make the trip but it is a journey definitely worth taking. Useful websites > www.vasilitsa.com, www.snow-vasilitsa.gr/modules.php?name=Chalet_Distrato.

Mt Pelion’s small but beautiful resort is ideal for the family > Well known all over Greece for its spectacular natural beauty, the Pelion region is also home to one of the country’s smaller yet beautiful ski resorts.

Located in the prefecture of Magnesia on Agriolefkes, the Pelion peninsula’s highest peak, the resort’s setting among dense beech trees is as stunning as would be expected. The resort has six pistes tailing down from the 1,471-meter summit which caters mainly to beginner and intermediate levels, making Pelion an ideal option for families.

There are plenty of accommodation options in the charming village of Hania just 2 kilometers away, and further down the mountain at Potaria (12 km).

Pelion’s proximity to the city of Volos (27 km) makes in obviously popular with residents of the city as well as day-trippers from the surrounding area during the peak season. Weather permitting, the center also offers the unique experience of night skiing on Saturdays.

Being at a lower altitude than most ski resorts in Greece, Pelion can tend to suffer from a lack of snow on occasion so check the snow reports carefully well in advance of any trip. Pelion is a year-round tourist attraction, however, so there are plenty of other options, including hiking trails, walks and over 20 villages dotted around the mountain all retaining traditional Pelian architecture to explore. Useful websites > http://-www.skipilio.gr/home.htm, http://www.pelion.gr.

Kaimaktsalan: Up in the clouds > Greece’s highest ski resort, Kaimaktsalan, is known as the “Arachova of the north” due to its stunning setting, organization and charming village abodes. If that’s not enough, its location between 2,040 and 2,524 meters means it has the best snow in the country.

Perched on top of Greece’s third-highest peak – the other two being Olympus and Smolikas – Kaimaktsalan also features a quaint chapel, Prophitis Ilias, at the summit. The resort features wide open pistes and some challenging off-trail opportunities, making it an ideal place to test and improve your technique. The previously abandoned settlement of Aghios Athanassios has been transformed into one of northern Greece’s most picturesque mountain villages boasting beautiful, cozy hotels, spectacular villas and quaint boutiques. There are plenty of equipment rental options available on the mountain as well as some luxurious accommodation in the chalet with suites on offer featuring jacuzzi’s and the all-important fireplace.

Appealing attractions nearby are the hot springs of Pozar, also known as Loutra Loutrakiou to southern Greeks, where tourists and locals visit during the winter months. The town of Kerasia, featuring traditional houses, a park and cherry trees, is also well worth a trip. Useful website > http://www.kaimaktsalan.gr.

Seli’s stunning panoramic views, a skiers’ paradise > Having installed the very first ski lift in the country back in 1934, Seli is Greece’s oldest resort. Located in the Vermion Mountains in the north of the country, Seli is to Thessaloniki residents what Parnassos and Kalavryta are to Athenians.

Just 95 kilometers away from Thessaloniki, Seli draws many visitors from the city as well as many more from neighboring Balkan countries. It is a skiers’ paradise with mainly downhill runs catering to all levels.

Stunning panoramic views of Mount Olympus – Greece’s tallest peak – and Mount Athos are also possible from the summit of the Efkleia lift on a clear day.

In total, there are 11 lifts and 19 trails, a spacious parking area and plenty of accommodation options at the two mountain shelters as well as in the nearby towns of Naoussa and Veria, which are 20 kilometers and 24 kilometers away respectively.

There is also a small village at the base of the ski center with several cafes, bars, tavernas and ski schools. Useful websites > http://www.seli-ski.gr, www.meteo.gr, www.snowreport.gr, www.snow-forecast.gr.

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Grab your skis, it’s time to hit the slopes > part 1 February 2, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Mainland.
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Fresh snowfall perfect for skiers > Greece’s ski resorts are likely to benefit this weekend from the recent cold snap around the country. Let’s take a look at what facilities are on offer for skiers, snowboarders or those just want a closer glimpse of the white stuff.

Greece isn’t just for sun and sea; here are six of the country’s best winter sports resorts, from Kaimaktsalan in the north to Kalavryta in the south.

02-02-08_vasilitsa.jpg  A child learns the basics of skiing at Vasilitsa, in the prefecture of Grevena. More than 20 ski resorts operate all over the country, snow and weather conditions permitting, of course.

So it’s deep into midwinter and the resolutions you foolishly thought you’d be able to keep in 2008 have already been broken. So what next? It’s time to hit the slopes.

It’s the time of year that many of us will be maniacally flicking and clicking our way through winter holiday brochures and websites trying to decide where to go for a week of winter fun. No doubt France, Switzerland, Austria and neighboring Bulgaria – a burgeoning winter holiday destination in recent years – will make it on to many a short list. But hold that thought. If it hadn’t crossed your mind before, your best winter break ever could be right here on your doorstep.

Greece is one Europe’s most mountainous lands, yet the fact that few people realize that this also makes the country a great winter sports destination is baffling to say the least. Such is the popularity of summer tourism that a winter break in Greece barely registers on the radar of the average winter sports enthusiast. Enter the world of what is perhaps one of the country’s best-kept secrets.

During the December-to-April ski season – snow permitting, of course – more than 20 resorts operate all over the country. And while they cannot match the apres ski glamour of their richer and more modern European counterparts, the beautiful settings, reasonable prices and ambience of picture-postcard mountain villages more than make up for it.

There are some fantastic places to hit the slopes and kick back and relax in equal measure. Here are six of the best. Read Part 2 >

Government and tourism professionals targeting higher-quality arrivals from the UK November 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Tourism.
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The Tourism Development Ministry wants to attract quality tourism from the British market, sharing this goal with the Greek private tourism industry, Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos said yesterday.

Spiliotopoulos is currently in London, heading the Greek delegation to World Travel Market Show, along with Hellenic Association of Tourism and Travel Agencies (HATTA) President Yiannis Evangelou. In 2005, Greece received 2.7 million British tourists, a figure that dropped to 2.6 million in 2006, while the decline is projected to continue this year.

The target of the private tourism industry is to attract high-income visitors. Evangelou said that the UK tourism market is a leader in Europe not only in terms of production but also in competitive tricks and other novel ideas. “The trick, for instance, that says, ‘Come to the airport and we will send you for a week’s vacation in Greece; we’ll tell you where only at the very last minute, for just 49.90 pounds,’ addresses the lower end of the market.”

According to Evangelou the UK has a tourism clientele with other interests and preferences, too, which Greece has not yet targeted in any methodical, systematic fashion. These people do not go to places that sell out through offers for cheap vacation. This clientele is interested in cruises, group or corporate trips, conferences, cultural visits, travel in less popular months, and certainly generates more revenue per head.

He added that in the UK, as in the rest of Europe, priority is now being given to the protection of the environment and the use of destinations renowned for their natural beauty as well as the environmental regulations that protect them from catastrophes of various types.

“It is obvious that now, more than ever, the new minister and all of us tourism professionals must proceed with a specific plan, redefining our targets in the UK market, by moving from cheap packages to specialized and quality ones,” said Evangelou.

Spiliotopoulos also met yesterday with officials from low-cost airline Ryanair who expressed their interest in Greece. “We are in a phase where this process is maturing, discussions continue, although we are not so interested in the numbers of visitors but in their quality; what they leave behind and how they go; whether they leave as ambassadors of Greece, that is what has the greatest value for us,” said the Minister.

Greece offers new experience for the creative class in tourism November 13, 2007

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Tourism Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos yesterday inaugurated the Greek National Tourism Organization’s pavilion in London’s World Trade Market.

He said Greece is targeting in particular the so-called creative class, that is the 10 percent of tourists who seek new, genuine experiences, and aims to become established among the top destinations worldwide. This year’s promotion campaign is titled ‘Greece, the New Experience.’

Separately, the Panhellenic Hoteliers’ Association said it is promoting the conversion of hundreds of small hotels into luxury boutique units.

Related Links > www.visitgreece.gr

EU nations endorse expansion of the borderless travel zone November 9, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Living, Tourism.
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Citizens from nine new EU member nations, most in Eastern Europe, will be able to travel passport-free to most other countries in the bloc as of December 21, after EU Justice and Interior Ministers yesterday endorsed landmark plans to lift border checks.

The decision follows through on a longstanding commitment to the nine EU countries that joined in 2004 that their citizens be allowed to take up full EU rights of free movement across the European Union without having to show identity papers at national borders.

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaueble said the decision also fulfills the dream of establishing a united Europe after the 1989 fall of the Iron Curtain. “It is of great importance to the new member states that the Iron Curtain is gone and that controls are abolished,” Schaueble said before the EU Ministers talks.

EU officials said the opening of the borders with the nine countries, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic and Malta, will be marked with ceremonies at various old border crossings one minute after midnight on December 21. The so-called Schengen borderless travel zone is one of the most popular EU policies, directly benefiting Europeans by allowing them to travel without having to stop at national borders.

Preparations have been under way for years for each of the nine nations that joined the bloc in 2004, to ensure their customs and border checks with non-European Union countries are in line with EU standards. The EU Ministers agreed that all nine applicants had met all EU conditions to join the zone. Border checks at airports would be dropped in March.

Several older members, including Austria, had insisted on keeping checks along its border with an area that extends from the Czech Republic in the north to Slovenia in the south, fearing the zone’s new eastern frontier will not meet EU standards in time. Joining the borderless travel area is important to the new EU members, most of them former communist nations, which see the freedom of movement within the Union as one of the basic liberties stemming from EU membership.

Cyprus, the 10th nation to join the EU, in 2004, has opted to keep some border checks and will stay out of the zone, along with the island nations of Britain and Ireland.

To expand the passport-free zone, the EU has had to revamp its border security system, which is run through a common EU computer database that allows participating states to share passport data on non-EU citizens who enter the Schengen zone.

The current Schengen countries are EU-members Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden and non-EU members Iceland and Norway. Switzerland, which remains outside the EU bloc, is also set to join Schengen next year.

Cyprus airport traffic up in October November 7, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in News Flights.
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Hermes Airports Ltd recorded another strong month in October for passenger traffic at Larnaka and Pafos International Airports.

Nearly 776,000 passengers travelled through the two airports in October 2007, a 3.94% increase on October 2006. At Larnaka International Airport, passenger traffic increased by 5.27% on October 2006, with over 565,000 passengers. At Pafos International Airport, passenger traffic increased by 0.54%, with over 210,000 passengers. Passenger traffic for the year to date is also up 3.59% on 2006 levels.

Jenni Fernando, Marketing Manager for Hermes Airports Ltd, said “October was another good month for passenger traffic at both airports as we approach the end of the summer season.”

A heaven on earth > Mycenae in Greece November 3, 2007

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This post has been moved to our NEW dedicated Travel blog > http://travel.homeboy.gr

Read the original article at > http://travel.homeboy.gr/?p=128