Best for island hopping: Paxos

From high-level trekking in Morocco's Atlas Mountains to rubbing shoulders with A-listers on Hollywood Boulevard, and from rural retreats off Tuscany's beaten track to jet-set hang outs for Moscow's super-rich, our writers have been to the ends of the earth to find a world of inspiration

The one piece of baggage you really don't want to take on holiday is your partner's mid-life crisis. When I told Harry that I'd found the perfect destination for a family holiday he immediately rejected the Greek island on the grounds that he'd been there before with an old girlfriend. Gently, I talked him round, and a mere two weeks later we were making the ferry crossing from Corfu to Paxos, where a hire car, a house with a pool, and a legion of romantic ghosts awaited.

"I don't remember this harbour," was Harry's first reaction, as our hydrofoil docked under the gaze of some curious goats. Nor, as became obvious over the following week, did he remember much about Paxos at all; those files had apparently been completely overwritten in the 30 years since his first visit. So instead of wrestling with poignant memories, Harry was free to experience the place afresh as the exhausted, middle-aged father of two young children. This would be our first foreign holiday as a family of four, and our requirements were simple – guaranteed sunshine (in May), a non-touristy atmosphere, some decent beaches, and a house with a pool. Paxos promised to meet them all.

Lying to the west of mainland Greece, in the Ionian Sea, the island has no airport, so has avoided the kind of mass tourism that has blighted neighbouring Corfu. No nightlife, no high-rise developments and no resorts: perfect for a back-to-basics family holiday.

The old-fashioned charm of Paxos was immediately apparent when we found our rental car had been left at the harbour with keys in the ignition, ready for us to drive away. 'They're not big on paperwork here," as our rep, Sam, explained. Our villa, a recently and tastefully modernised farmhouse, was in the centre of the island, near Magazia, a 20-minute drive away. Standing among olive groves, it had ocean views from its pool-side terrace, and a walk-cum-scramble down an overgrown track took us to the edge of the epic Erimitis cliffs.

It's very relaxing, being on holiday somewhere there isn't much to do. Our beach of choice was Mongonissi, a small, sandy strip that offered shade and a couple of good tavernas. Among the many facts about Paxos that Harry had forgotten is that the island's beaches aren't sandy (Mongonissi is man-made). They're mainly composed of flat, white stones, which look stunning, and give the ocean that azure clarity you normally only see in brochures, but can be hard going for small feet.

The fantasy Greek island beach – of virgin white sand stretching down to aquamarine water – did lie within reach, however; on the tiny island of Anti Paxos, a short boat trip away. Screwing up our courage, we rented a motor-boat in Loggos. We moored at a jetty at the first beach we came to, Vrika. Here was the dream – the white sand beach, the turquoise water so clear you could practically snorkel without a mask, and the Taverna Vrika, where we feasted on barbecued rockfish.

The Greek way of life is only child-friendly if you don't adopt a rigid, Gina Ford-style approach to scheduling. In Gaios, the main town, whose harbour-side square is lined with cafés and tavernas, we pitched up expectantly for supper at 6.30. Then we realised that the group sipping coffee at the next table were only just finishing lunch. By 8pm, with the children drooping, we were still the only people in town who seemed to be eating, though the first families had started to emerge for a pre-dinner stroll.

It was at a taverna in Gaios, eating lamb kebabs and feta salad for the fifth meal in succession, that Harry had his first flashback to his earlier visit. "Oh God – I think this is where I asked for a Turkish coffee!" he groaned. He spent the rest of the meal with his head in his hands. Some memories are just too painful to revisit.

Villa Kastanida is available for hire through Sunisle (sunisle.co.uk; 08000 911 601)

Island dreams

* Stay at Marlin Lodge on Benguerua Island, off the coast of Mozambique. Posh chalets set on pristine sands come with linen sheets and private patios overlooking a coral reef ripe for diving. Doubles from £335 per night, all-inclusive. 0131-661 6000; marlinlodge.co.za

* Seven century-old cottages have been given a sleek makeover at Capofaro Malvasia, a volcanic island retreat on Salina, 40km off the Sicilian coast. The estate's wines are among Sicily's best. Double rooms start at £175, including breakfast. 00 39 090 984 4330; capofaro.it

* The "Jurassic Park" of the Caribbean, Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic) has little development. It does have a towering volcanic interior thick with rainforest, home to parrots and orchids. Trips Worldwide (0117-311 4400; tripsworldwide.co.uk). Six nights from £1,665 pp

* A raft of new tours on offer from the Arctic specialist Discover the World this year include Iceland Through The Lens: a unique Northern Lights trip, led by the legendary wilderness photographer Ragnar TH Sigurdsson. Four nights from £1,195 pp. 01737 218800; discover-the-world.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker