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A vacation on Altis - or - To Limnos and back again.

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Hey guys!

This summer I spent part of my vacation on Limnos - a greek island in the northern Agean sea. I'm guessing you know this already, but the reason I went there in particular is that this island was used as a basis for the fictional island of Altis in Arma III - a game I've spent a lot of time playing ( and most probably, so did you ). As you will see, the developers did a great job recreating the environment, and having spent all those hours on the virtual island, visiting the real one I felt I could recognize almost every location. Here's a bunch of pics and some screenshots!



Packing up very early in the morning from my hometown of Sozopol, Bulgaria. This guy was staring at me while I was finishing packing my bags.


Kavala is the port city on the mainland, where one of the ferry lines to Limnos goes. It is a very beautiful place, especially the old town. The capitol of the island of Altis in Arma III is named after this town, but do not confuse them. The actual capitol of Limnos, the real life Altis, is named Mirina.


It kind of reminds me of northern Italy. A lot.


I spent a night camping in Kalamitsi, which is on the Halkidiki peninsula.


View on Kavala from the fortress tower above the old town.


The narrow streets of the old town in Kavala are one way only, and even then its hard for cars to pass through some places.


The ferry will depart early at dawn.


Arriving to Limnos, first thing I notice is the barenness of the island. It looks exactly as I hoped it would - just like in Arma. We aproach the port and see the castle on the hill above the capitol.


I start exploring the island and immediately bump into familiar places. The roads look and feel familiar, the flora looks familiar, and I am very excited.


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Some of the places are more recognizable and true to life then others, and most of the landmarks make me feel like I know that place, even though I have never been there. Now and then, I have a memory of some ingame event triggered, like "Hey, I remember, when there was a tank on that hilltop over there, and we had to crawl all the way around to disable it", or something like that. The whole place, the whole experience is exciting! I have been here, and I recognize it, even though I have never set foot on the actual island. Its awesome.


In a parallel reality.


I got a bunch of tourst maps of the island to give away as souveniers to friends that play.


The nice lady that gave me the maps also marked some cool locations for me to explore.


More recognizable landmarks.


Funny thing is, because of the way I have played, I recognize the locations, but dont know where they are in the general scheme of things. I know the immediate surroundings of a place, but not the where it is located on the island. Because the way that ARMA goes, you play around a certain area, then move on to another one via transport, and thus in my head the places were separate experiences. Now I feel those places, those many small maps are connected in my head in a single big one.


Airport! Even the tower is the same. The military hangars are very similar, but I try very hard not to point my camera at anything that even looks slightly military ( for obvious reasons ). Except for the truck patrols.



The reeds are the same! I honestly did not expect that. Most of the time, they even are in more or less similar locations ingame.



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Sunsets are amazing here. Im used to have land in the west, so sun setting in the water is always impressive.


The silhuette of the holy mount Athos in the distance.


Exploring the island. Wasnt sure where I took this pic exactly, but it wasnt that hard to find its ingame equivalent.



In the northwest tip of the island, there are some sand dunes. Thats east of the large castle location in the game. I spent a lot of time looking for that castle - turns out it does not exist IRL, but there are the camo painted wind turbines, right where they're supposed to be.


The stone walls are indeed scattered throughout the island.


And so are the narrow houses and shacks.


Funny looking orange moss - check.



Small spiky brown-ish round-ish bushes - check.


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Exceptionaly beautiful rocks are real life assets only. This place is close to the sand dunes, takes a lot of dirt roads to get there. Take my advice and dont take a cruiser motorcycle, if you go.


Looks like bone, but its rock.


Another landmark are the rocks, shaped by water close to the dunes in the north north-west.




See? Looks the same. And seeing it there is so exciting, its surprising. Good job, BI.


Spotted several creative scarecrows. Not as crazy as Japan, but still awesome.


Standing in shallow water, salt lake. Unfortunately it was not as dry as in the game, as I have hoped. It was mostly flooded.


I wanted to get a cool shot of the bike in the actual lake, since the water was really shallow, but it was also really dangerous - easy to skid and drop it, and I was alone and could not risk it.



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Following fellow travellers from Italy I just met to a beach in the NE.


Following a local - Thanasis - who spoke good english and is guiding me to the dirt road, climbing all the way up to the radio tower hill. Hoping to get some good shots from up there, but I feel so tired fighting with the dirt roads everywhere I go. I feel most of the roads going to the really cool places are actually off-roads.



I stayed in a small villa, a really cool place near the beach. Its almost visible from here - but in any case, that is one of my favourite places on the island.




Im not cosplaying as a pilot, this is my actual gear. The camel back with the extra water was essential for exploring the island - it was incredibly hot.


One of those places I could instantly recognize.



My girlfiend gave me these binocs for my birthday, just a week ago. Man, the clarity, the awesomeness, wow! Amazing thing, I used them more than I did the DSLR. Very zen.


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There are tons of military on the island. Tons. Bases everywhere you look, its hard not to film them. Most of them are in the same places they are in ARMA III, but there are MORE bases IRL, than in Arma.




Uptop the hill with the radio towers, theres a handy fig tree. I fas afraid this place is military too, and I approached very carefully ( roaring motorcycle not very suitable for recon, not recommended ), but the military guardposts were abandoned. It looked like it is used by some communication company, and I guess they were used to tourists, since no one minded me.


Damn, I've set so many explosives to towers of this kind, feels strange not to want to blow it up.


The view on the capitol of Mirina.


Notice the difference? Almost none. Good job, BI.



On the ferry I met this awesome romanian couple and we stuck together for the short vacation on Limnos. After my recon mission during the day, I decided it would be awesome to watch the sunset from the same hilltop. This time we took their car. The road is hell.


Thats water I'm holding. We climbed on top of a roof on one of the tallest hilltops on the island. The view was magnifiscent!


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Athos is extremely impressive, even more so up close.


The capitol of the island, Mirina, after the sun has set.


My sis made these, and I was carying them with, to give to cool people I meet.



I spent quite a while trying to get this shot, driving behind several military vehicles on different occasions. Their back window is blurry, and I had to just keep out of view of their rear view mirrors, which meant trying to drive the bike with one hand, while handling the heavy DSLR with the other.




A Vespa I saw by the beach and took a shot of. The thing just belongs there.


Exploring the SE of the island.


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Many of those scattered around the island. And I mean MANY.


One of the coolest places on Limnos - Thanos.





The large salt lake.


Returning to base on my last day on Altis. I mean Limnos.


The sunsets here were like... WOW. Also don't drive and shoot at the same time.


But the best place on the entire island was the small rock church of Pangaia Kakaviotitza. I went there against the advice of the locals right after the sun has set, I had a flashlight with me, and I was not scared of the dark ( I thought ). There were no tourists, just the steep path winding through the rocks. Those are the most beautiful sights ever, that I could have not shoot with the camera, since it was too dark. And the place itself - the small cave the church is in - that amazing. The whole place is AMAZING, and being there alone, after sunset - I couldnt recommend that more. Be careful though! Very rocky, difficult, dangerous. Cant do it without having a good light source handy.


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Very early in the morning, I leave Altis for the mainland. I mean Limnos. What an amazing place. Take my word for it, you dont have to be an ARMA III fan to enjoy it.




And that's that. It was great. Go there.



When you do go there, make sure you are very careful NOT to photograph military instalations. We tend to be enthusiastic about it, because we are gamers, but those are actual military, not ingame ones, and we should approach that with respect - cause there can be actual repercussions to that.

We all remember what happened to the guys from BI - that was very unfortunate and nothing is going to give them back that time that they lost. Because of what happened to them, I was very paranoid and did not even POINT my camera in a direction where a base is located. This is not an easy task, since there are many military installations around the island. I made sure not to have any photos of anything even slightly military, since usually I was climbing the barren hills on foot to get a nice shot and probably stuck out like a sore thumb ( I did try not to skyline of course, but trying to be inconspicuous sometimes can be more conspicuous than actually sticking out like a sore thumb and being the typical tourist - which I was ).

I remember one time, I was standing on a hilltop and photographing a small town that will remain undisclosed, when I overheard a nearby sheepherder ( accoustics on the island are amazing, you can hear everything from 300m away ) call somebody on a mobile. I recognized "photographia" several times from all the greek words he spoke, so I guessed it was related to me - he was also looking straight at me, as he spoke. Just a minute later I stumbled upon what was a meter and a half square hole in the ground with a camo painted concrete border, covered with a net. Metal stairs were going down several meters, then a concrete corridor with stairs, going deeper into the ground and ending into a metal door. If that's not a secret entrance/exit, I dont know what is. I was out of there in a flash.

Some major differences ot the real life and ingame island I spotted:

-In real life the visible horizon is much further. Of corse, that depends on your settings ( duh ), but IRL it is very far - you can see from one end of the island to the other, in certain places.

- There are no biodomes near the airport IRL ( But maybe they will build them in the future, who knows, right? Same goes for the other points. )

- There are no Large solar stations or large solar towers IRL

- The size of the roads IRL is... well, a car could barely go through most of the village steets - not all of them - they are that narrow. Naturally, they had to make them wide enough for the MRAPS ingame.

-Houses are not located in the exact same spots, neither are they the same as shape, but that would simply be an impossible task to complete - plus you cant make the roads twice wider and keep the houses absolutely the same.

-There is no large castle in the north-northwest. Probably no village south near the castle as well, since that part is dirt roads and hard to get to.

-I think there were no wind turbines on the west of the southeastern tip, just in the west, and there were just a couple there.

-Overall there are MORE points of interest in Altis, than in the large barren areas of Limnos. BI made sure to fill the empty space with some stuff here and there, to make running for miles in the digital version more interesting.

One more thing. Stratis is also there, its called Agios Efstratios. I think theres pretty much nothing there, although there is a ferry to it from Myrina ( the ingame Kavala, not the real Kavala ). I did not manage to get there, cause I running out of vacation and was alone, and that would be way too boring. But if you are with friends, I guess that too would be a cool place to visit and spend time exploring.

For me the entire time on the island was a fantastic experience. It really is an amazing place to visit, I could not recommend it enough!

Edited by kostaatanasov
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Nice to see how much contrast there is in real life :) Very beautiful and thanks for these!

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Thanks for a tour! Those SUNSETS...

Also shows how FUBAR the color balance is in Arma:confused_o:

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Nice pics and you certainly reminded us what a great job BI did with bringing the island to our PC.

You did several things to make me jealous with these pics...got to wander around this island in RL and even better ride it ;) (I'm a proud owner of a 2005 HD Softail Deuce myself :) )

Glad your gaming instincts didn't kick in and you didn't try to retake the airport ....lol

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Haha, yes. I was trying to keep a low profile:) Your bike is one more that does not belong on those dirt roads! Next time Im going, I am so renting a quad. It only occured to me to do that on the last day I think, and that would make for some cool "screenshots".

Thank you guys very much!!!:) Im very happy you like the photos!

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Very nice, tnx for beautifoul pictures mate,i would love to visit Lemnos(Altis) mybe in a year or two,as for comparison Pictures,BI did a great job. Mybe Martin and Ivan can post their "recon" pictures? :D

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Beautiful pictures.

BIS did a really good job copying the island.

That town at night...really wish we had that ingame. Could have bullraces! =)

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Another ArmA fan who realised being neighbors with the greeks has finally payed off! I was planning on going to Lemnos next summer, you definitely got me even more excited! I'll take your tip to rent that quad too :D.

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Haha, yes. I was trying to keep a low profile:) Your bike is one more that does not belong on those dirt roads! Next time Im going, I am so renting a quad. It only occured to me to do that on the last day I think, and that would make for some cool "screenshots".

Every motorcycle should have a little dirt....lol

Did the residents know the island had been included in a video game?

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