Put Your Feet Up and Relax on This Greek Isle
Want to be a lazy tourist just passing the time by absorbing the Aegean Sea air, feasting on grilled octopus, riding a mule or just plain relaxing? This island may be your perfect paradise. Just a short one-hour fast ferry ride from Piraeus Port in Athens,Greece, there’s a destination where time passes differently than in the big city. Hydra, where vehicles are outlawed, is a picturesque, idyllic island inhabited by 3000 residents. Transportation is provided via boat, donkey back, or by walking.
Because the population of the island is concentrated in one area, the rest of the island is popular for its hiking trails. You have the option to explore the island via boats that leave the harbor and head along the shore around the island. You can also hop off at one of the rocky beaches. Best of all, Hydra is affordable. The #1 rated bed and breakfast on TripAdvisor is $118 per night in late June and there were many other accommodations from just $30/night during the same time frame.
A fast ferry from Athens runs about 28 Euros each way; slower ferries are available. Since Hydra is a very popular day trip from Athens during the summer, it might be good to visit the island on the shoulder seasons.
Mackinac Island, Michigan – Somewhere in Time
I am quite partial to this part of the world where I grew up. Our annual school picnics were held on this enchanting vehicle-free island. The movie “Somewhere in Time” was filmed there and you’ll certainly feel you’ve arrived in a different era as soon as you step off the ferry. A horse and buggy will escort you to your lodging but you’ll want a bicycle to travel further. The historic Grand Hotel hosts a high tea that generates emotions you won’t feel at the Burj al Arab and a nice carriage tour will give you the lay of the land while you transition from city life to slower life on the island. The Mackinac State Park encompasses about 75% of the island and is perfect for hiking – the other 25% is for relaxing and having fun.
I recently stayed as a guest near Fort Mackinac and went on their evening tour. Exploring the fort is a must for learning about its place in history as an 18th/19th century outpost for British and American soldiers. The entire island is truly a history buff’s delight. The nearest commercial airport to Mackinac Island is Pellston, MI (PLN) or you can fly into Traverse City, MI (TVC). You can stay in Mackinaw City or St. Ignace where there are IHG properties that can be booked using points. Ferries to the island depart from these towns for easy day trips or you can stay on the island for the ultimate experience.
Le Mont Saint-Michel
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Mont Saint-Michel in northwest France, I highly recommend it. The medieval UNESCO World Heritage Site is visually awe-inspiring and a unique experience. Complete with a drawbridge, fortified walls and century’s-old cobblestone streets, its core is a majestic Romanesque Cathedral built on the granite base of the island. Hike to the top and take the tour that allows you to meander downward through the abbey to the base of the island. Staying on the island is a desirable experience of course but you should be prepared to splurge.
An alternative is to stay on the mainland with a wonderful view of the island. The Hotel Mecure for example, is just 2 kilometers from Mont St Michel and offers a nice relaxing respite from the daily crowds on the island. The shuttle stop is near the hotel and there is a grocery store nearby. Shuttles transport you to/from the island via a causeway that was built in recent years. It is possible to take a day tour from Paris to visit Mont St. Michel which is what we did. I’ve written previously of our day trip to Mont St. Michel.
Are you ready to experience a car-free island vacation? For an index of car-free-zone destinations, Wikipedia has a great list that includes more island suggestions and also cities of the world that are vehicle-free or have vehicle-free areas.
Disclosure: I was hosted for the night near Fort Mackinac complimentary and for high tea at the Grand Hotel although not specifically related to this article.