MY FIRST NIGHT in Mykonos a few weeks ago the whitewashed windmills overlooking the harbor stood still, but I had all the fresh air I needed just being on the island. I was sitting on the stone steps of a seaside bar sipping the sunset with a friend who had just arrived from New York. I felt dizzy, despite the occasional doubt about giving up more than a year of deep-rooted safety precautions.
After 15 months of successive confinements in France, where I live, I considered a few weeks of strolling on the beaches of Greece as a sure remedy for my thwarted desire to travel. As soon as the country reopened to foreign tourists in mid-May, I was ready to pounce. I was not the only one who wanted to spend a Greek holiday: the country welcomed 383,000 foreign visitors in May, and double that number is expected in June. Before booking my ticket, however, I wanted to be sure that I didn’t rush into the decision. Was it safe and responsible to visit Greece at a time when the pandemic is easing in Europe and the United States – as more and more people are getting vaccinated – but is decidedly not over yet?
Before booking my trip, I did a little research: as of June 1, 34% of Greece’s population of 10.5 million had received a dose of the vaccine. (As of early July, about 38% of the population had been fully immunized, compared to about 48% of the U.S. population.) In addition to the elderly, the government’s immunization program has prioritized residents of the country’s islands. to help revive stalled tourism in the country. industry. Foreign tourists must either be vaccinated or show proof of a negative Covid test within 72 hours and, in all cases, are subjected to random testing at airports and ferry terminals. (The CDC lists Greece as a Level 3 ‘high’ risk destination in terms of Covid, and urges all travelers to get vaccinated before traveling.) The new protocols aren’t foolproof, but they’ve got me offered enough insurance to book a nine-day stay. trip in June. Although fully vaccinated, however, I wasn’t quite ready to face hordes of travelers – frankly, I never am, and especially not this year – so I designed an island trip in island that would allow me to discover a handful of new hotels. far from tourist trails. A few were too expensive for my budget, so instead of booking a room, I toured the properties and dined in their restaurants.
Before the pandemic, the number of tourists to Greece had steadily increased. In 2019, the country had a record 34 million arrivals. Dozens of new hotels were in the works to meet growing demand, many of which opened just before the Covid hit or the mid-pandemic. I focused on four new properties dotted around the Cyclades archipelago and one in Athens. At a comfortable distance from popular tourist spots, they all seemed to be ideal places for hesitant travelers like me to tiptoe around the world. Aside from a few hiccups along the way, each has kept their promises.
A sweet Mykonos
I have traveled to Greece several times from my home in Paris, but had never been to Mykonos, considering it to be an island better suited to party people. Although the party was still a lot smaller than usual, I got a taste of the friendly and contagious vibe on the first night as my friend and I sat at a waterfront bar in the neighborhood of Little Venice of Mykonos Town. About thirty other clients, speaking at least ten different languages, surrounded us. When a big wave hit the bar’s cobbled terrace, the Aegean knocked over more than 30 pairs of expensive-looking shoes and sandals. Recording their suddenly soaked feet, the crowd laughed together – a signal, it seemed, to order another round of drinks.