Home Greek islands Heathrow and Gatwick: “I visited the beautiful island 4 hours from London which has amazing beaches and hidden coves to explore” – Martin Elvery

Heathrow and Gatwick: “I visited the beautiful island 4 hours from London which has amazing beaches and hidden coves to explore” – Martin Elvery

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When it comes to treating yourself to a slice of summer holiday paradise, you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to the Greek islands. But it can be difficult to find the right balance. Some islands are real party spots where you’ll be rocking the nightclubs until the wee hours of the morning, and others are tiny, secluded places with lots of scenery – which are great for explorers, but less accessible if you want a family vacation with the kids.

An easily accessible island ticks both boxes. Thassos has enough secluded beaches, coves and mountain tracks to be of interest to those seeking unspoilt seclusion, but it also has decent resorts and accommodation, though some are a bit dated.

Thassos is in the North Aegean group of islands and is much greener and lusher than most other islands. Large parts of it are covered with pines, plane trees and oaks. It’s an easy four-hour flight from London Gatwick to the former military airport in the city of Kavala, a short bus ride to the coastal pot of Keramoti, then a ferry ride from half an hour to the island. It’s a great way to get there, because after the flight you can stand on the ferry deck and watch the seagulls fly by and the mountainous island approach from across the sea. Azure.

READ MORE: The stunning European seaside town 3 hours flight from London Gatwick



Thassos’ main town, Limenas is a bustling center with plenty to explore (Getty Images)

You dock at the bustling port of Thassos or Limenas town which, as usual with the Greek islands, is punctuated by the sound of scooters going up and down the main streets. The harbor has a collection of small shops and restaurants, and it’s a laid-back affair. But there’s a lot more here than meets the eye and it’s worth taking the time out of your visit to explore it properly.

Along the colorful mountain-backed wharf, where many fishing boats still dock, numerous water taxis will take you on excursions to the island’s beaches. Just around the corner is the charming old port, with a small quay lined with small restaurants. It’s a wonderful place to sit and have a coffee or some calamari and a Greek salad.



The old market is 2,500 years old (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

A short but strenuous walk up the hill from here, and you can get an incredible view of the sea through the pine trees, and you can walk to a reconstructed Greek theater where they sometimes still play plays in the summer. Further up the hill, you can walk around the walls of the ancient fortress (Acropolis) that once dominated the port city. Be careful, it is quite tiring in the summer heat.

Then, hidden in the lanes behind the selection of low-key bars and restaurants, are the littered remains of an ancient market (Agora) where more than 2,400 years ago traders are believed to have sold their wares. Nearby is a lovely archaeological museum displaying some of the artifacts that have been excavated from the island’s many ancient sites, including coins, vases and statues.



Metalia Beach (Photo by Athanasios Gioumpasis/Getty Images)

There are many decent beaches on the island, but the best is probably Golden Beach on the east coast. It’s a short bus ride up the mountain road from the main town and it’s a 2km strip of golden sand surrounded by laid back tavernas, shops and apartments and surrounded by mountains. Above in the hills are several much more traditional villages with their own shady village squares, small fountains and traditional houses.

A great way to get around the island is to rent a small car or moped. It’s a good way to explore the small coves that dot the island’s coastline. Further down the east coast is the small village of Alyki, which has older ruins and a lovely secluded beach backed by traditional tavernas.



Theologos village is the oldest on the island (Getty Images)

At the foot of the island is another pleasant resort of Limenaria which has a few shops and restaurants and a pretty little beach. Watch out for sea urchins here, which cling to the rocks almost to the shore. Here you can also visit the marble mines that once made Thassos famous. From here a road leads into the interior of the island and you can visit the very traditional village of Theologos where life has remained much the same for centuries. It’s the oldest village on the island and – with its traditional chapels and flint roofs – it will take you back to a time before tourists first arrived here.

The western mantle of the island is where most of the larger and busier tourist resorts are, and it’s less spectacular than the beautiful eastern side, but there are still plenty of pleasant beaches. While you are here you can take a day trip to the mainland port of Kavala where there is a very interesting history dating back to when the Ottoman Turks occupied the city. It has old mosques and is dominated by a fortress above it. Back in port, you can sample excellent locally caught seafood.



Kavala is both charming and interesting (Photo by Frédéric Soltan/Corbis via Getty Images)

If you are looking for a real adventure, you can return to the mainland and take a bus to the port of Aleaxdroupolis and then another ferry to the much less touristy island of Samothraki. I’ve never been this far, but it’s mountainous and isolated with a huge mountain peak in its center and forests of plane and oak trees. The jewel in its crown is an ancient site called the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, which was a shrine to the gods who ruled Greece long before the times of Zeus and Hera.

Overall, Thassos has a lot to offer and offers a great mix of modern and authentic. This is a place where you can get a traditional slice of Greece without having to go completely into the bush.



Samothrace is wilder and less touristy than Thassos (Getty Images)

How to get there:

There is no airport in Thassos, so you have to go to Kavala, a former military airport. The easiest way to get there directly is to book an organized trip with a company such as TUI or Olympic Holidays, as they will offer direct flights from Gatwick.

If you wish to travel independently, you can fly to Athens or Thessaloniki from London Gatwick or Heathrow and take a bus to the port of Keramoti to catch the ferry to Thassos, but this is a much longer route.

As of this writing, charter airlines are the only services offering direct flights to Kavala.

To visit Samothraki directly, you will need to fly to Athens or Thessaloniki from a London airport (many airlines offer these routes) and take an internal flight or bus to the port of Alexandroupolis before taking a ferry to Samothraki .

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