The Northern Aegean Islands Feature

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The Northern Aegean's Best Beaches

Have beach, will travel? If sun and fun are at the top of your agenda, this region is blessed with a surfeit of beaches. And not just any beaches. The sun-savvy set likes to think these are Greece's best, and they may well be right.

With their beautiful shores and endless strands, the beaches of the Northern Aegean are Grecian wet dreams.

The skinny on taking a dip? These are some of the cleanest waters in Greece, period.

And swimmers find themselves in a water world framed by verdant hills and rocky landscapes.

For complete immersion, there's lots of waterskiing, windsurfing, and canoeing—and the winds of the Northern Aegean are considered tops for sailing.

Nature lovers can have the chance to hand-feed terrapins or visit the unique Petrified Forest, one of the world's best natural landmarks, while those keen on archaeology can seek out some ruins—“sand castles" of a different sort.

License to Chill

Most beaches have handy facilities, with sun beds and umbrellas for hire, while beach bars and tavernas cater to swimmers who need fuel during those hot summer days. Road conditions are generally good, although access to some remotely located beaches may present some difficulties.

Lesbos: Skala Eressos

With its 3 km (2 mi) of unspoilt sands, Skala Eressos is a marvelous beach with crystal clear waters and a motor-free promenade.

Apart from swimming, sunbathing, and sea sports, a grand highlight is the freshwater river that runs into a natural pool halfway along the beach, becoming home to hundreds of terrapins, which can be hand-fed by swimmers; needless to say, this is a major attraction for the kids.

Must-sees: the idyllic sunset, the ancient acropolis ruins close to the beach, and the unique Petrified Forest—one of the world's most important natural landmarks, also located in the vicinity. Too bad there's no handy parking available.

Chios: Elina Beach

Located 27 km (16 mi) west from Chios town, Elinda (or Elinta), near the village of Anavatos, is a nicely sheltered cove with thick sand, pretty pebbles, and deep, cool, crystalline waters.

The secluded beach is ideal for nature lovers who enjoy spending the entire day quietly swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing; and the trees that line it offer shady respite from the sun during the hottest hours.

There is a wreck of a Roman ship not far from the shore, where children often gather to play.

The name Elinda or Alinda derives from the ancient Greek word "alios" meaning marine.

Bring some packed lunch and water along if you intend to spend the day as there is not even a canteen here.

Lesbos: Eftalou Beach

Around 20 minutes walk (around 3 km [2 mi]) from Molyvos town, Eftalou beach is so peaceful it is called a "healing spot" by locals.

Arriving you'll find a municipal building housing Ottoman-era baths—why not enjoy a soak under the impressive domed roof?

As the sunlight streams to reflect upon the steaming water, the very accommodating staff offers towels and bottled water.

They also instruct visitors about the careful "ritual" required to enjoy the bath (for a bargain price of €3), which can be a scorcher at 100-plus degrees.

Half an hour of healing can be followed by a massage or a stroll along the full length of the sand and pebble beach, whose clear, clean waters attract a go-with-the-flow crowd.

You can also have a spot of lunch at the Eftalou restaurant, set on a raised veranda.

Updated: 2014-01-14

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