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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Places You Must Go This Spring: part 1

It's time to get out and smell the wildflowers! Pack your walking boots, grab your picnic basket, get on a plane, and prepare to drive through breathtaking scenery. See my previous post for the criteria for selecting these sublime spring destinations:
1) CRETE – the isolated eastern coast is dotted with tiny seaside communities of summer cottages peeling with paint and pristine sandy beaches; behind them colossal mountains cradle lush, fertile farming plateaus with quaint stone villages. In March the area is dotted with flowers, but in April there's an explosion of colour here and also on the equally isolated and mountainous western coast.
2) MAINLAND GREECE – the deep blue Prespa lakes and sleep fishing village of Psarádes
near the Macedonian and Albanian borders, Meteora with its magical mountain-top monasteries (pictured), the magnificent Pindos Mountains and Zagoria villages where traditional grey stone houses cling to the hillside, the Pelopponese with its remote Mani, fertile Arcadia and wild Sparta, the dramatic Parnonas Mountains, and because I can't resist including one island, fragrant Corfu. For more ideas, see our Greece trip journal written during a Spring 2006 research trip for Lonely Planet.
3) TURKEY - all along the Mediterranean you'll find flowers blooming everywhere, especially in the countryside surrounding the beachside villages of Olimpos, Patara and Cirali, around the tomato-growing town of Kumluova, and in the woods around the ruins of Kaya. On a Sunday you'll frequently see empty cars parked on the side of the road - their owners, families of locals can be seen picking flowers in the fields or picnicking in the forests. You'd be wise to follow their example.

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