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23 Best Greek Islands to Visit For The First Time

23 Best Greek Islands to Visit For The First Time

If you are planning a holiday in Greece but are unsure where to go, this article will help you to decide. The list of Greek islands includes party favourites like Mykonos and Corfu and off-the-beaten-track islands like Paros and Folegandros. It also includes places to stay, sightseeing attractions, and how to get around the islands.

Greek islands are voted one of the best places to holiday in Europe year after year, and for a good reason.

The picture-perfect islands in Greece have beautiful sand beaches, crystal clear waters, friendly locals and rich historical sites to discover.

Meanwhile, traditional Greek tavernas serve the freshest seafood, from ocean to plate, washed down with chilled local wines to replenish you after a day of exploring these fabulous islands.

Ferry crossings are plentiful from mainland Greece to the islands, making island hopping in Greece pretty easy, so the last thing to know is which island will suit you best.

With recommendations from fellow travel bloggers, I have compiled a list of which Greek islands to visit so you can choose which one to book for your next holiday to Greece.

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Frequently Asked Questions the Greek Islands

Getting to the Greek Islands

If you have time and the budget for a Greek islands cruise, there is no better way to experience several islands during your holiday.

Direct flights from the UK, Europe and Internationally fly into Athens and many larger Greek island airports. An onward ferry journey is needed to reach the islands.

When to Visit the Greek Islands

The Greek islands are the perfect summer destination for family holidays, couples, or solo travellers. Still, with the hot weather, the crowds arrive, and those idyllic photos of deserted beaches no longer exist.

The off-peak season is the best time to travel to the holiday islands in Greece, from May to June and September to October. The islands will be quieter, and the temperatures will be pleasant.

How to Get Around the Greek Islands

Public transport is always available, although it may be sporadic. On larger Greek islands like Corfu or Crete, a good idea is to rent a car. Quad bike, moped or cycle hire is another way of navigating narrow streets and mountain paths.

You can use local ferries to do Greek island hopping or splash out and charter a Greek island sailboat to take you sightseeing in style.

Another option is to book a tour with a local company to show you some hidden Greek gems you might otherwise miss.

Which Greek Islands should I visit?

This is tricky because each Greek island offers the visitor something unique and special.

The best Greek islands to visit for couples include the romantic Greek islands of Santorini and Ios.

In contrast, certain areas of Corfu, Zakynthos and Mykonos are the best Greek islands for nightlife.

Whether you are looking for a relaxing beach holiday, a lively island with vibrant nightlife or a secluded island to return to nature and bear all, you will find an island in Greece that will be perfect for you.

boats lining a harbour wall in one of the greek islands with a bench on the shore looking out towards them.

The Greek islands are scattered off the mainland and comprise two large islands, Crete and Evia and six main island groups:

  • The Cyclades Islands
  • The Ionian Islands
  • The Saronic Islands
  • The Dodecanese Islands
  • The Sporades Islands
  • The Eastern Aegean Islands

Best Islands to Visit in Greece

Island of Crete

Recommended by Gabi from thetinybook.com, who lives on Crete and is an expert on the island!

Crete is Greece’s largest island, on the southern portion of the Mediterranean, with its southern coast facing the Libyan Sea. This location makes the island a warm destination almost all year round, a plus for travellers like me who hate winter.

Often described as a universe on an island, this can easily give you an idea of the many reasons I found to make it my go-to destination for any short trip or extended vacation.

There are high peaks, impressive gorges to hike, endless kilometres of pristine shores, and not one but four big cities to seek out tons of fun.

Discover endless activities on Crete

Are you looking for adventurous outdoor activities? You have it! Do you want buzzing nightlife, clubbing, and dancing on the beach? You’ll find that, too! However, the island also has so many hidden spots still to be discovered that it can even be the perfect Greek destination for an off-the-beaten-track holiday. 

If paradisiac beaches are what you’re after, Crete won’t disappoint. Balos, Elafonisi, and Matala have made it onto countless lists of the best beaches in the world.

But remember, you need to rent a car, the island is huge and, although possible, travelling around by public transport will be a waste of precious time you could otherwise devote to exploring Crete.

June and September are the best months to visit Crete if you like hot weather but want to avoid the summer crowds that flock to the island looking for excellent food, history, and quality time on the beach.

Picturesque old towns by the sea, such as Chania and Rethymnon, add a romantic, bohemian touch to your visit.

On Crete, you can enjoy authentic Greek wine tourism, as the island is home to 13 unique indigenous grape varieties producing top-quality wines.

You can also learn about the beginnings of Western civilization in the four different Minoan palaces scattered along Crete. The most important one, Knossos, near the capital, Heraklion, is a must-see in Crete.

If you want a place to stay in Heraklion, check out the Galaxy Iraklio Hotel.

Insider Top Tip: 

Try the local Vidiano wine; this grape is a star on the island!

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Crete

Sea view from a taverna on the Greek Island of Crete
Knossos palace on Crete
The Palace of Knossos

Cyclades Islands

Some of the best Grecian islands are in the Cyclades, located in the Aegean sea off the southeast coast of mainland Greece.

Visitors can find important archaeological Greek ruins on the uninhabited island of Delos, the birthplace of Apollo. Still, it is the sunny Greek Cyclades islands with their white-washed hillside villages and sensational beaches that attract visitors from around the globe.

Ios

Ios is a small island in the Cyclades, Greece. We had a wonderfully relaxing break there and discovered deserted beaches, great beach clubs, a gorgeous boutique hotel, fantastic food and possibly the best sunset bar in the Cyclades.

A party island from mid-June to mid-August, Ios reverts to being laid-back and chilled for the rest of the year.  

We visited in early June, and the weather was warm but not too hot. The small island is easy to get around by car, and there’s enough to see and do and still have plenty of time to chill. 

There are loads of cool things to do in Ios.

Exploring the alleyways and tiny white churches in the atmospheric old town was a favourite thing for us to do. We visited Skarkos, a pre-historic settlement, hiked to Homer’s Tomb and soaked up the sun on Mylopotas Beach, the most famous beach on the island.

We took a boat trip to discover hidden coves and beach-hopped from one beautiful bay to another.  

Sunsets in Ios

A wonderful evening was spent watching the sunset over the bay at the iconic Ios Club, where sunsets have been soaked up since the sixties. Think great food, cocktails and laid-back lounge vibes.

There’s a range of accommodation from hostels, B&Bs and small hotels. If your budget stretches to it, I recommend Liostasi Hotel & Suites. This boutique design hotel is stunning, with a fabulous restaurant and superb views over the ocean.  

You’ll need to take a ferry to Ios from Athens or Santorini. Ios is a good option if you’re looking for a two-centre holiday or are island hopping. 

Insider Top Tip:

Our favourite meal was at Drakos Tavern, where we ate the freshest seafood overlooking the clearest, bluest water. You’ll find Drakos at the far end of Mylopotas Beach – don’t miss it. 

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Ios

view of whitewashed mountain village on hill in the greek island of iOS
photo credit – The Travel Bunny

Mykonos

Filled with history, culture, and fantastic food, Greece has always been on our family travel bucket list.

We decided that the best way to see this incredible country was through an organised island-hopping tour, and this is how we fell in love with Mykonos!

Mykonos is a small island located in the Aegean Sea. Although it only spans 33 square miles and has just over 10,000 permanent residents, it regularly sees upward of 2 million visitors annually!

Mykonos lies between Naxos, Paros, Syros, and Tinos. However, our cruise took us from Santorini to Mykonos and then to Milos, meaning we only had a partial day to spend on the island.

As for the weather, Mykonos is known as the ‘Island of the Winds’, with the Meltemi winds bringing a welcome relief during the hot summer days. It was already pretty hot when we travelled to the island in June. Since Mykonos sees more than 300 sunny days yearly, you can’t go wrong whatever time of year you go.

Of all the Greek islands, Mykonos is known for its nightlife. With over 100 bars and clubs – two making it on a list of the top 20 nightclubs in the world – the party-like atmosphere is incredible.

Exploring Mykonos in One Day

However, we spent our day on a guided walking tour of Mykonos Town.

We saw the iconic seven windmills, went shopping along Matogianni Street, home to the best boutiques on the island, visited two famous churches (Panagia Paraportiani and Agios Nikolaos) and had coffee in LaLaLa, a tiny café draped in bougainvillaea.

We found Mykonos Town to be quite walkable, but if you want to see other parts of the island, your best bet is to take a cab or rent a moped, especially if you plan to visit one of Mykonos’ famous golden sand beaches.

And of course, as it is one of the best Greek islands for beaches, there is a beach for every type of traveller.

If you want to party, then Paradise Beach or Super Paradise Beach are perfect choices or head to Kalo Livadi, Elia, Ornos, and Lia if you prefer a family-friendly beach. 

For more sightseeing, visit Little Venice, with its colourful houses built on the sea’s edge.

And if you are interested in art, head to the Rarity Gallery or the Dio Horia Gallery.

And, of course, a cruise around some of the nicest beaches in Mykonos is a must.

And one thing you definitely can’t miss is watching one of Mykonos’ famous sunsets!

People will start claiming their spots along the water over an hour before sunset or hop aboard one of Mykonos’s legendary sunset cruises.

There are so many incredible things to do on Mykonos and such a choice of fabulous places to stay in Mykonos that it is a must-visit in Greece.

Insider Top Tip: 

Head to the Armenistis Lighthouse for one of the best sunset spots in Mykonos.

Not only is it gorgeous, but it’s also free, compared to the tavernas that charge extra for a sunset-viewing table!

five windmills on the Greek Islands of Mykonos shon behind the low rise restaurants along the seafront
photo credit – Pasta Pretzels and Passports

Paros

When searching for the best Greek island to visit for our year-long trip, we looked for a quiet, low budget and beautiful romantic island. After much research, we chose the Cycladic island of Paros, which did not disappoint! 

Paros is known as the “more authentic” Santorini, and let me tell you, it’s not wrong. The island offers similar features to Santorini but for a lower price and fewer tourists. It was truly romantic, from dreamy beaches and authentic white-painted towns to unbelievable sunsets. 

The island is in the mid-size range with two central towns, Parikia and Naoussa. We stayed at Anna Parikia’s Studio in Parikia, just a few minutes from the beach and port, which was terrific. 

Best activities on Paros

Although there are many beautiful beaches in Paros to explore, one of our favourite activities was renting an ATV to explore more of the island. 

Another highlight of our trip was watching the sunset from the windmill in Parikia. It was not nearly as busy as Santorini and just as beautiful.

We got around the island, mainly using the public transportation system, except when we rented the ATV for the day. The bus system was cheap and efficient; it was relaxing being driven around and not thinking about driving! It helped a lot with our budget too! 

Insider Top Tip:

One of the best meals we had on Paros was very cheap and came from Kargas, a traditional gyros restaurant in Naoussa.  

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Paros

Antiparos

I chose to visit Antiparos because I was looking for a destination off the typical tourist track with all the characteristics of a dreamy island in Greece.

Antiparos met these criteria with its white-washed houses, quiet streets, sunset views, and beautiful Greek beaches.

I travelled to Antiparos at the end of July. Although it’s the hottest month of the year, it wasn’t unbearably hot, and the temperature hovered around 25 degrees Celsius during the day.

Being only 45 km², Antiparos is smaller than the more famous Greek islands. Despite its compact size, Antiparos offers a variety of hotels and excellent restaurants serving authentic Greek cuisine.

Beach time on Antiparos

The most memorable experience I had from my Antiparos trip was snorkelling at the beautiful Camping Beach. With its fine sand, incredible views and turquoise waters teeming with fish, it is one of the best beaches on Antiparos and a place you shouldn’t miss when visiting the island.

Besides lounging on the golden beaches, you can also visit the nearby Despotiko island to see the ruins of an ancient sanctuary or explore the Antiparos Cave with its millions of years old stalagmites and stalactites.

I travelled to Antiparos during my Cyclades Greek islands trip, where I first visited Milos, then Naxos, and finished by catching a ferry to Antiparos. I used public ferries to hop between the islands.

To get around Antiparos, I used the municipal bus, which was cheap and convenient. Alternatively, you could rent a bicycle, a quad or a car.

Insider Top Tip:

While visiting Antiparos, make sure to have dinner at one of the restaurants at Sifneiko Beach during the sunset. It’s an incredibly romantic experience and the views are absolutely breathtaking.

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Antiparos

view of turquoise sea in Antiparos Greece
photo credit – The Smooth Escape

Folegandros

The Greek island of Folegandros is a charming island in the Cyclades that is often overlooked in favour of the famous Greek holiday destinations of Santorini and Mykonos.

A sucker for off-the-beaten-track places, that’s what immediately attracted me to Folegandros. That and the fact that it was cheaper and quieter than the other heavyweights – but just as beautiful. 

Folegandros was also a practical choice for me as I travelled by ferry from Piraeus, Athens, and Folegandros was only a few hours from that point and my first island, Sifnos. This meant I didn’t have to spend my precious holiday on long ferry journeys. 

For a small Greek island, what Folegandros lacks in size, it makes up for in dramatic scenery. 

Giant rocky cliff faces jut out of the water like they’ve been yanked from the seabed, while squat white settlements are scattered across the landscape, with the capital, Chora, sitting perilously on a cliff edge. You’ll also find Kastro, a medieval fortress used to ward off invaders. 

Beach hopping on Folegandros

My favourite activity on Folegandros was beach hopping, and I recommend hiring a scooter to give you more flexibility to explore the island.

The beaches are more sheltered, and the best ones are only accessible within a short walk. The height of the island can make it windy and cool, even in early June when I visited. 

I stayed in Camares, a cheerful and budget-friendly villa complex five minutes from Chora. It had a kitchenette and a pretty courtyard.

Best of all, it was near the path up to the Church of Panagia on the hill above, which, on my second evening, I followed and was greeted by a spectacular sunset over the sea. 

Insider Top Tip:

For lovely views of the Church of Panagia, head to Merkouri wine bar in Chora to sample wines from the local vineyard.

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Folegandros

whitewashed houses and a church on top of the hill on the Greek island of  Folegandros
photo credit – Little Lost Travel

Sifnos

Although Sifnos has become one of the popular islands in Greece in recent years, it retains its authenticity and easy-going vibes, drawing us to the island in the first place.

We visited Sifnos in early July, probably the best time to visit if you want to enjoy the island’s gorgeous beaches and all the other perks of summer but without the inevitable crowds that the August peak season brings.

Even though Sifnos is a small island, several fantastic accommodations and dining options dot its picturesque villages and towns.

While in Sifnos, we stayed at one of our favourite hotels to date. Verina Astra is a boutique hotel built on a scenic slope overlooking the Aegean Sea for as far as the eye can see.

Apart from incredibly pristine beaches, Sifnos boasts one of the best local cuisines in Greece. Moreover, you can go hiking, visit traditional pottery workshops and explore a handful of picture-perfect villages untouched by mass tourism.

Yet, our all-time favourite activity in Sifnos is to stroll around the maze-like alleys of Kastro, the island’s oldest town.

Greek Island Hopping in Sifnos

Sifnos enjoys a prime location, making it ideal for an island-hopping adventure across the Western Cyclades.

Serifos is less than an hour’s ferry ride from Sifnos, while it takes about two hours by ferry to get to Milos from Sifnos.

Sifnos is an accessible island to get around. Since we like walking a lot, we visited many places on foot. However, driving took us to even the remotest beaches and villages on the island, which is probably the best way to explore Sifnos.

Insider Top Tip:

When you visit Sifnos, there are two things you can’t miss.

First of all, you must try revithada, a hearty chickpea stew that’s slowly cooked overnight. Secondly, don’t forget to enjoy a drink or three at Cavo Sunrise, the island’s most legendary bar.

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Sifnos

view of hillside village overlooking sea in Sifnos, Greece
photo credit – It’s All Trip to Me

Syros

Syros is very close to Athens, only two hours by boat, so it was easy for me to organise a visit in June as part of an island-hopping trip that included Paros, Antiparos, Naxos, Ios and Santorini.

June and September are the best months to visit the Greek islands as there are fewer people and it is not usually too hot. Syros is not a big island; you can easily explore it in 3-4 days.

Although renting a car in Syros is recommended, there is also an extensive network of buses going to the popular places around the island; however, we decided to rent a car and enjoy the freedom and flexibility.

There are plenty of things to do in Syros apart from spending time on the beach.

Ermoupolis is the principal city where the port is located and where we chose to stay.

I recommend two hotels for your stay on Syros:

Hotel Diogenis

and

Hotel Ploes.

Also, the restaurant Arhontariki Tis Maritsa has fantastic food.

There are a couple of museums in Ermoupolis and bars, restaurants, and shops. Around the island, some other settlements like Galissas, Kini, Posidonia, and Finikas have tourist facilities.

Historic sites in Syros

In Ermoupolis, you will find the Industrial Museum and the Apollo Theatre worth seeing.

Also, several magnificent churches, including the Dormition of the Virgin, where you will find one of the earliest works of El Greco. In Ano Syros, you will find the museum of Vamvakaris.

Ermoupolis and Ano Syros have incredible alleyways to walk around and marvel at the astonishing architecture. For me, that was the highlight of our trip.

Another exciting activity is hiking in Syros. The island has ten official hiking trails considered “Routes of high cultural interest” and many unofficial ones that locals will be happy to show you.

Finally, a couple of boat trips leave mainly from the small port in Kini, taking you to undiscovered beaches.

Insider Top Tip:

Visit Ano Syros just before sunset; that is when the village comes alive.

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Syros

A view of the hillside houses from the water in the Greek island of Syros
photo credit – Greece Travel Ideas

Donoussa

Donousa is one of the islands in the Lesser Cyclades, small enough that most tourists in Greece miss it.

Overshadowed by Naxos, the largest island in the archipelago and its first neighbour, Donousa remains a secret of those who do not want to see mass tourism destroying this Greek island paradise.

With rare ferry connections, Donousa has been celebrated since the Middle Ages (well, pirates loved it!) and is still a pot of gold that only the most avid Greek visitors can mark with an ‘x’ on the map.

People have lived on Donousa for five millennia, but the last census counts only 167 inhabitants. With rare vehicles and one lonely taxi, Donousa can sometimes resemble a desert island, barely 14 square kilometres only for you to hike and explore! 

Discover Nude Beaches on Donousa

Being away from civilisation is the island’s best asset, which is why I chose to visit this Greek island.

Donousa is a favourite destination for free campers who spend days and nights on its pristine sandy beaches. 

Livadi and Kedros are the most popular beaches for celebrating the freedom of living, so it is not unusual that they arrived at the top of the list of the best nude beaches in Greece.

For those who seek more convenient accommodation than a tent on the beach, the port of Stavros offers several guesthouses from which to choose.

I stayed at cosy Ammos Studios, a few steps away from the town’s beach, the only one where you should keep your clothes on!

If you prefer to leave the tourist trail and find out how exhilarating switching off can be, there is no doubt you will fall in love with Donousa.

Insider Top Tip:

There is an excellent bakery in the village and several taverns. I was a regular at Ampelaki, selling my soul for mama’s cheese pies with honey!

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Donousa

view of the beach in the greek island of Donousa
photo credit – Pipeaway

Naxos

We chose to visit the Greek island of Naxos as it was one of the largest islands in the Cyclades, and we wanted to get a feel for a “working” island, not just a tourist one. 

We travelled to Naxos in September, and the weather was perfect – long, hot days, with relatively few other travellers compared to July and August. A lovely time to visit!

As part of our Greek island-hopping route to Turkey, we took the ferry to Naxos from Athens and then continued to Mykonos.

We used scooters to get around; however, the island is big enough to justify hiring a car, and there are many things to see in Naxos.

There are a few little towns, each with a few tavernas and shops. Naxos Town is the island’s largest and capital, with over 7,000 people living there.

Explore the ancient ruins on Naxos

Naxos Town is worth exploring, with cobblestoned streets, interesting shops and traditional white-washed buildings. The Portara, near the harbour, is a mystical marble doorway leading to nowhere, all that remains of an ancient temple of Apollo.

There are other ancient sites on the island, and seeing the kouroi of Naxos, ancient statues of young men, is a highlight. The Kouros of Apollonas is an unfinished marble statue almost 11 metres tall; it’s a very impressive sight! 

Agios Prokopios is the most popular beach on Naxos and can get busy during summer. If you’re after something a bit more secluded, Kastraki Beach in the island’s south is beautiful with pristine waters. 

We stayed in Agios Prokopios at Katerina Hotel, which was very close to the beach. It had lovely rooms, lots of light, a nice pool and a delicious breakfast.

We were so relaxed during our stay that the biggest dilemma was whether to swim in the pool or at the beach!

Insider Top Tip:

If you’re staying on the island for a few days, the day tour from Naxos to Delos is also well worth doing and was one of the high points of our trip.

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Naxos

view from the water of the white washed houses on the Greek Island of Naxos
photo credit – Faraway Worlds

Milos

Milos, part of the Cycladic group of Islands, was my favourite spot while island-hopping in the Aegean Sea.

Other Greek islands like Santorini and Mykonos get a lot of attention, but I wanted to try an island that is less known and more authentic. Milos was the place! 

Making my way by ferry from Naxos, I decided to stay in the port town of Adamas. Amongst the best places to stay in Milos are Adamas, Pollonia and the capital of Plaka.

Renting a scooter was easy and the perfect way to explore this island, which takes roughly 30-40 minutes to cross, with several small towns to see along the way. 

Visiting Milos in the Autumn

I visited in October, so the mornings were a little chillier (I needed a sweater), but the days were bright blue, sunny and warm, with a high of 22°C (72°F).

Do note that Milos experiences the Meltemi winds, a strong northerly wind that can make going to the beach a bit tough. But visiting Milos highlights make up for a bit of wind.

Exploring Sarakiniko Beach, an otherworldly landscape dropping into the azure Aegean waters, wandering along the shoreline of colourful Klima, or sailing to Kleftiko are all magical experiences to discover in Milos.

If you are staying in the port town of Adamas, I’d recommend staying at the tastefully decorated Athina Milos Suites with views of Milos Bay.

Due to its central Adamas location, you can enjoy all the town restaurants on foot. I particularly enjoyed the traditional Greek breakfast at Milors in Adamas.

Insider Top Tip:

While not famous like Tsigrado or Fyriplaka Beach, I enjoyed the quiet at Paleochori Beach. 

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Milos

white-washed houses with multicoloured roofs and doors built into the rocks beside the sea in the greek island of Milos
photo credit – Haley Blackall

Ionian Islands

On the western side of mainland Greece sit the Ionian islands, famous for their lush green countryside and some of the best Greek beaches.

Zakynthos, Corfu, Kefalonia and Lefkada are some of the top Greek islands here, while smaller islands like Paxos and Ithaca offer secluded beaches, a slower pace and fewer visitors.

Some of the best Greek islands for photography are also the Ionian islands.

Who hasn’t fallen in love with captures of Santorini’s white-washed, blue-domed cliff-top church? Or the equally stunning turquoise waters and white sandy Navagio beach in Zakynthos.

Kefalonia

After having a brilliant trip to Santorini, my fiancé and I fell in love with Greece. Keen to discover more beautiful Greek isles, Kefalonia became our next target.

As the biggest Ionian island, there are many things to do in Kefalonia and a fantastic selection of beaches that enticed us to book. 

We visited in September, and the weather was still beautiful. To make the most of our trip, we hired a Fiat 500 convertible to discover the island in style.

When we didn’t go beach hopping, we spent time at the infamous Melissani Lake, a famous cenote-style cave requiring a rowing boat.

Our favourite activity, though, was paragliding from the clifftops of Myrtos Beach. Another memorable moment was seeing wild sea turtles swim up to fishing boats in the capital’s harbour, Argostoli. 

As we had a car, we did everything self-sufficiently. However, next time, I would also consider hiring a self-drive boat. There are so many beaches that each has distinct charm and variety, so this would make a great addition to the itinerary. 

We stayed in Lassi. It is a popular district due to its proximity to the capital and the selection of bars and restaurants available without being too busy or chaotic.

We stayed at the Thalassa Boutique Hotel; however, I wouldn’t particularly recommend it unless you’re planning to spend a lot of time by the pool. 

Insider Top Tip:

While you’re in Kefalonia, make sure you try the Saganaki, which is like halloumi but often cooked with honey or other sweet flavours.

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Kefalonia

View across the mountains and down to the sea on the Greek Island of Kefalonia
photo credit – Vegg Travel

Zakynthos

When planning my Greek holiday, I fell in love with all the fantastic pictures of Navagio Beach, so without hesitation, I booked my flight to Zakynthos.

At that time, I didn’t know much about the island. In particular, it is one of the best Greek islands for nightlife, especially in Laganas, where I found my accommodation without knowing I would be staying in a party hotel.

Atlantis Hotel is just a 15-minute walk from Laganas Beach.

Its convenient location allows you to explore this vibrant town on foot. If you want to see one of the best attractions in Zante, such as Cameo Island, you can easily walk there.

Visit this beautiful Greek island during summer to experience the busy life of Laganas and enjoy swimming in the turquoise waters of Zakynthos. You will enjoy great weather with an average temperature of 31 °C.

Best Activities in Zakynthos

Zakynthos is the Ionian Sea’s third biggest island, so I recommend staying there for at least one week.

There are plenty of things to see in Zakynthos, like the Blue Caves, Callinico Winery, Xigia Beach and Porto Vromi.

You can also book a one-day trip to Marathonisi island of Kefalonia.

The best way to get around the island is to rent a quad bike and see some stunning beaches, such as Tsilivi Beach or Mavratzi Beach.

At Gerakas Beach or Cameo Island, you might also see beautiful Caretta Caretta loggerhead turtles.

Tasting delicious food in Zante is another excellent thing to do on the island. There are plenty of traditional restaurants to try Greek salad or moussaka.

After a great meal, visit the oldest monastery in Zakynthos – Anafonitria.

Insider Top Tip:

If you are looking for a great restaurant head to Michaelos in Kalamaki. It’s an “old school” Greek taverna offering high quality at low prices.

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Zakynthos

Navajo beach in Zakynthos
photo credit – UK Every Day

Corfu

Corfu is one of the top Greek islands to visit and was at the forefront of Greek island tourism. It is called the ‘Green Island’ due to the rain it gets each year. Luckily, we only had one wet day when we were there in April.

We stayed in Agios Gordios, one of Corfu’s most popular tourist resorts at Kairaba Sandy Villas.

Agios Gordios has many restaurants offering delicious Greek dishes, from moussaka and dolmades to fresh olives from the numerous olive groves on Corfu.

When it’s time to hit the beaches, there are six to visit. Paleokastritsa beach on the island’s west coast was our favourite. We loved its crystal clear waters, sheltered bay, and views of the mountain-top monastery.

Historic sites in Corfu

We loved that Corfu had so many historical sights to visit, and because we had hired a car, we were free to explore them at leisure.

One of Corfu island’s important historic landmarks is Mon Repos Palace, the birthplace of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Beautiful gardens filled with cypress trees and mythical statues lead to Mon Repos Palace and outstanding views across the sea. 

Achillion Palace, once the home of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, was another great place to visit. It was even used as a location spot in a James Bond film!

Without a doubt, the heart of this Greek island is in the Unesco-listed Old Town of Corfu, where you will find souvenir shops, pastry shops, and restaurants juxtaposed with the old and new fortresses dating back centuries.

Visitors can book walking and food-tasting tours to help discover the hidden gems in Corfu’s old town. That said, the vast sandy beach in Corfu Old Town is not so secret and attracts the crowds with its stunning views across the sea to Albania. And guess what – rather than just look at Albania from afar, you can hop on the hydrofoil and enjoy a day trip from Corfu to Albania.

Insider Top Tip:

Book a local boat trip to the sea caves in Paleokastritsa, one of the most famous attractions on Corfu. Nausica cave was named after the daughter of the King of the Phaeacians.

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Corfu

beach in corfu with anchored fishing boat and views to a green mountain rising from the sea

Lefkada

Before heading there, I didn’t know much about the island of Lefkada, but I received many excellent recommendations.

I found out it was one of the greenest Greek islands, with amazing turquoise beaches and magnificent sunsets, and that’s no lie; it’s a top Greek island with all these qualities.

At the beginning of the summer, I was there doing volunteer work from June to July. The weather was sweltering, and the temperature rose to 40 degrees Celsius on some days. The locals said they hadn’t felt that much heat in Lefkada in their lifetimes.

It’s a pretty big Greek island, and it can be reached by car over the bridge because it’s close to the mainland. There are a couple of towns and villages, and among them, the most notable places are Lefkada Town, Nydri, Vasiliki, Agios Nikitas, and Egklouvi. 

Watersports on Lefkada

Lefkada is mainly known for different kinds of watersports. It’s one of the best Greek islands for wind and kitesurfers because of the moderate winds around the island.

Taking a Greek island yacht cruise or kayak tour is also a popular tourist activity to see more of the picturesque Greek island of Lefkada.  

I rented a car with friends to explore Lefkada. An alternative is scooters, and there are plenty of rental companies for both vehicles. 

There are a lot of amazing beaches in Lefkada with white sand and turquoise water, but my favourite was Kathisma Beach, with its chilled vibe and good facilities. 

Insider Top Tip:

For the most magnificent sunset, I recommend visiting the Rachi restaurant. It’s in a small village up on the hill, but it gets busy right before the sunset. So keep in mind to book a table in advance.

Check availability and pricing forthe best places to stay in Lefkada

view of blue seas with white fishing boats in the greek island of Lefkada
photo credit – Genem Travels

Saronic Islands

Located off the tip of northern Greece sit the Saronic islands. The beauty of these islands is that they are a destination that can be reached on a day trip from Athens.

Within 90 minutes by ferry, visitors can swim in the crystal-clear blue waters of the Saronic islands.

Watersports are a favourite pastime in the Saronic Islands, with Poros being a Greek island famous for sailing.

Hydra is probably the most popular Saronic island, with its non-motorised town retaining the charm of times gone by.

Aegina

Aegina is one of the gorgeous Greek islands in the Saronic Gulf of the Aegean Sea.

It is so close to Athens that you can visit it on a day trip from Piraeus. I accidentally discovered this tiny gem while visiting a friend living in Aegina to surprise him on his 50th birthday.

That end of January was perfect, with sunny, warm weather during the day, unbelievably starry skies at night, and without tourist crowds.

After that trip, I was in awe of this Greek island. A few months later, I returned to Aegina for a proper exploration and stayed at the Danae Hotel, near Aegina Town.

Aegina is a small island of volcanic origin, a rocky hill surrounded by several towns and villages. It is famous for its pistachios, considered among the best in the world.

The main things to do on Aegina include visits to the ancient Temple of Aphaia, the Agios Nektarios Monastery, the Archaeological Site of Kolona, and boat trips to Moni Agistri, Poros, or other neighbouring islands. 

Sightseeing on the Greek island of Aegina

You can book a boat tour from Athens, rent a car on the island, and follow along the main roads to Aegina.

Car rental offices on Aegina take cash and don’t require any credit card or deposit.

I hired a small car for one day in Aegina Town. I went to Souvala, Agia Marina, Temple of Aphaia, and Agios Nektarios, then to Perdika, where I also had a fantastic lunch, and then to Marathonas, for some beach time.

One of the highlights of my vacation on Aegina was a boat trip around the island, with several stops for swimming and snorkelling. The captain took us to see the Avantis III shipwreck near Dorousa Island. Snorkelling among fish just above this massive wreck is such a memorable experience!

Insider Top Tip:

The taverna behind the fish market in Aegina Town has incredible seafood and fish at excellent prices.

You won’t have the sunset view of the waterfront restaurants, but you’ll enjoy great food in a welcoming, friendly atmosphere in the company of locals.

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Aegina

a fishing boat leaves the harbour on the greek island of Aegina with the Harbourside building and church in view
photo credit – Offbeat Greece

Hydra

One of the nicest Greek islands to visit is the island of Hydra, known for its picturesque port and white-washed sugar-cube houses. What makes Hydra unique within the Greek islands is that it is car-free, which means you have to walk everywhere or take a boat to hidden coves and beaches. 

I travelled from Piraeus in Athens to Hydra by ferry in June, and the weather was very comfortable. It can get quite warm in June, with an average temperature of 72°F (or 22°C). 

Hydra is a tiny island with less than 2,000 residents and only one town, Hydra Port. That said, this small Greek town has many restaurants and charming shops.

Besides that, you can walk to some other small villages on the island for picture-postcard views or take a water taxi to Kamini Beach, where you can swim in the crystal clear waters.

Besides spending time on the beach, you can see several historical sights.

I visited the bastions of Hydra at the port entrance, where soldiers used to defend the island from the Ottomans. There are also several monasteries and churches on the island to visit, including the beautiful Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

Insider Top Tip: 

A great restaurant is the Sunset Restaurant, often awarded for having one of the best restaurant views in the world!

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Hydra

photo credit – Dymabroad

Dodecanese Islands

The name “Dodecanese”, meaning “The Twelve Islands”, is a group of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, comprising fifteen significant islands and 93 smaller ones. They are located between the Cyclades and the coast of Turkey.

Rhodes

When we chose to visit the Greek island of Rhodes last year, it was for the simple reason that it was easy to reach from our closest airport in France. Still, once I learned more about this fascinating Greek Island, I was excited to discover the beaches, historical sites, and natural attractions. 

We travelled in early July, and the weather was terrific. It was hot, without being stiflingly so, with very little wind. Apart from the stunning beaches on Rhodes, where we spent a lot of time swimming & snorkelling, there is plenty to see and do in Rhodes.

Rhodes is a relatively large island, with several towns and resorts lining the coast and several charming villages further inland.

Family activities in Rhodes

Rhodes is one of the best Greek islands for families, and while the old town could have easily kept us occupied for days, we also enjoyed exploring the smaller areas away from the main city.

My son enjoyed the Butterfly Valley, and we both thought our boat trip to Symi was a highlight of our trip! 

For maximum flexibility, we rented a car to get around the island easily and to travel to & from our accommodation and the airport.

We stayed in the small village of Charaki, which was perfect and had a very relaxed, friendly, easy-going vibe. It’s also very affordable, and our little one-bedroom apartment on the beachfront was ideal for us to share. 

Insider Top Tip:

Visit the “secret” beaches of Stegna (Grande Bleu) and Kopria – both are more frequented by locals than visitors (especially the latter), and both have low-key, friendly restaurants for a bite between beachcombing.

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Rhodes

photo credit – Le Long Weekend

Kos

Kos is the third largest of the Dodecanese islands and offers holidaymakers beautiful sandy beaches, azure waters, charming fishing villages and buzzing nightlife for those who want it.

It has long been a favourite Greek island for travellers and still remains so despite not being the picture-postcard beauty of some of its neighbours. What it lacks in beauty, it makes up for with the wealth of ancient Greek and Roman landmarks scattered around the island.

Head to the harbour and visit the tree-lined avenues of Kos Town. Here, you can shop, book boat trips, or people-watch from one of the many bars along the harbour.

And outside Kos Town is the ancient site Asklepion, the centre of ancient medicine built in the 3rd century. It is one of the most popular attractions in Kos and can be reached by local bus or on a day tour of Kos.

To visit a traditional and charming Greek village, head to Antimachia and visit the beautiful old chapel.

For history culture vultures, the Tree of Hippocrates must be visited. Located in Kos Town, local folktales say the tree is 2500 years old and planted by Hippocrates (the father of medicine), who sat beneath it to teach his students.

Nearby to the tree are the ruins of the Castle of the Knights of St John (Nerantzia castle).

Insider Top Tip:

Head to Mastichari beach for the most beautiful Kos sunsets.

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Kos

colourful fishing boats in the harbour on the Greek Island of Kos

Patmos

Patmos is such a beautiful island in Greece that it was one of our most enjoyable island stays. We went to Patmos because it was not a popular Greek island among tourists, and we wanted a more local experience.

It was also perfect on our Greek 2-week itinerary route between Rhodes and Athens with the boat. When looking into it, we realised Patmos is a beautiful place to visit, with empty beaches, and local boutiques and perfect for relaxation. 

We travelled there in October when there were fewer tourists. The weather was still gorgeous, too.

During the day it was hot, so we needed only T-shirts, shorts and sun cream. It’s also still warm enough by the evening to enjoy dinner outside at a local restaurant (with local dishes being mostly fresh-caught fish). 

Christianity in Patmos

As well as the beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters that Greece is famous for, my partner wanted to visit Patmos due to its link with Christianity. Patmos is believed to be where the Book of Revelations was written by John the Theologian.

This religious artefact has ties to the must-see Cave of The Apocalypse, which can be visited by heading up the hill from Patmos town.

The island is not that big, and it is easily explorable by renting a small car for the stay. We saw most of the island within one full day by car. You can also easily walk and get around by taxi.

Many hotels and B&Bs in Chora are along the water’s edge, where lovely Greek restaurants can be found.

We recommend staying at the Captain’s House in Patmos – beautiful and peaceful, and we loved the private swimming pool! 

Insider Top Tip:

Head to Jimmy’s Balcony Restaurant for the freshest Greek salad and inredible views of the stunning Patmos coastline

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Patmos

whitewashed houses leading up to the castle on top of the hill in the Greek island of Patmos
The Monastery of Saint John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse – credit Together in Transit

Sporades Islands

The Sporades lie in the Aegean Sea off Greece’s east coast and consist of twenty-four islands, with only four inhabited – Skopelos, Skyros, Skiathos and Alonnisos.

Scuba diving and snorkelling are popular around the Sporades as the water is clear.

The islands of Skopelos and Skiathos were considered the best islands in Greece by the Mamma Mia location scouts, who used the two islands to film their blockbuster films.

Skopelos

Another of the best Greek islands to visit is Skopelos, an island of the Northern Sporades group.

Compared to many other Greek islands, Skopelos is still rather untouristy, even though many places were used as filming locations for the movie Mamma Mia. That’s one of the main reasons I chose Skopelos as a Greek holiday destination since it’s one of my all-time favourite movies!

Mamma Mia fan or not, the 96 km² big island lures visitors with its untouched nature, pristine beaches and lively nightlife in the capital city. 

The famous Amarandos Cove, a rocky cape in the south of the island, has become a true symbol of Skopelos, and because of its clear turquoise water, it’s a popular place for snorkelling.  

Another iconic spot on the island is the chapel of Agios Ioannis, located on an imposing rock overlooking the vast ocean. Visitors can reach the small church by climbing more than 200 narrow steps, but the challenging climb is well worth it! 

Mamma Mia on Skopelos

I highly recommend renting a car or booking the Mamma Mia island tour to get around the island. Organised local transport is available, mainly connecting the most famous beaches and villages. With a car, you can explore Skopelos’ hidden gems where no bus goes. 

Sun Hotel is an excellent and affordable place to stay. It’s a casual hotel with a pool just a short walk from the centre of Skopelos Town. 

Insider Top Tip:

If you’re looking for some authentic Greek food, check out Taverna Apolafsi in Skopelos Town. This family-run taverna offers mouth-watering food and an incredible authentic Greek experience!

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Skopelos

view out to white rock in the ocean on the greek island of Skopelos
photo credit – World of Lina

Eastern Aegean Islands

These gorgeous islands in the eastern Aegean Sea may not be developed for tourism to the extent of their neighbours, but what they do offer is a traditional and family-orientated vibe.

With breathtaking beaches, medieval villages and a slower pace of life, this is where you must visit if you are looking for a complete break away from everything.

Chios

Chios, an easy and fun visit, is Greece’s fifth-largest island, but that doesn’t make it huge.

It’s easy to get around in summer and fall for a day or two. We took a ferry to Chios from Turkey, and as soon as we got off, we went to the first rental agency for a car, although you could rent motor scooters as well. It was super simple.

Another reason for spending one day in Chios is to visit a UNESCO World Heritage monastery called Nea Moni.

Infamously known as a site of a massacre, today it is a beautiful place to visit, and it has gallantly kept the story alive, honouring the victims.

Landmarks to Discover in Chios

Other places to visit in Chios include two medieval towns decorated with geometric patterns, the villages of Mesta and Pyrgi, and seeking out the island’s cutest museums.

There’s a citrus museum and one that tells you all about a natural substance called mastic from which the local liqueur, called Mastika, is produced and famous on the island.

There’s also a castle, some great little boutiques, and many amazing Greek beaches to laze in the sun and swim in the clear water.

While there, partake of the rich Mediterranean foods such as lightly fried calamari and other fresh seafood. Another surprise is the Ariousiuous winery in the northern hills of the island. Sip a glass and enjoy the views; it’s so romantic.

No matter your interest and how you spend your time on the Greek island of Chios, you will feel so much more relaxed and rejuvenated when you leave.

Insider Top Tip:

You can swim in the sea up until the end of October, making Chios the perfect getaway in the Greek islands.

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Chios

A donkey standing by stone arches on the Greek island of Chios
photo credit – Reflections Enroute

Thasos

Thasos is a hidden gem of the Aegean and is close to the Greek mainland. It is reached by ferry from either Kavala or Keramoti, which is why I chose it as one of the best Greek islands to visit in September. By then, the weather was perfect, comfortably warm, and there were no rains.

Thasos is the greenest of the Greek islands, also called Emerald Island and is one of the best Greek islands for hiking. I was happy to follow mountain trails to caves, springs, lakes and quaint abandoned villages.

Thasos offers many historical sights, adventure opportunities and beautiful beaches.

The best one for sunbathing is Golden Beach, a 4km sand stripe with shallow waters, great for swimming.

Saliara Beach made out of marble pieces, fascinated me with its turquoise waters. A natural pool carved in rocks called Giola is another not-to-be-missed spot, especially for jumpers. 

History and Adventure in Thasos

Aside from beaches, I learnt about the history of Thasos. In Limenas, there’s an old preserved amphitheatre with beautiful harbour views.

At the ancient marble quarry of Aliki, I found out how workers collected Thasos marble more than 1,000 years ago. 

While Thasos is not Corfu or Crete, it’s still too large to walk around on foot.

To enjoy the best of Thasos, I hired a car for two days to tour the island (a little over 100 km), allowing us to stop wherever we wanted and for how long we wanted.

I also used public transport on day trips, but the schedule of the buses is not reliable enough to use them for a multi-stop day trip.

Thasos is also great for a Jeep safari; however, I do not recommend you go in a hired car.

Book an organised island jeep tour with a local guide with the right vehicle for the activity. I did the same, and it was the day with the most adrenaline of the week, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Based on my experience, Skala Prinos and Limenaria are ideal for couples, while Potos, Golden Beach and Thasos are more family-oriented, and Pefkari targets older people. 

For great dishes try Irene Tavern in Panagia or Sotiros Tavern in Limenaria. The food was really tasty and the owners were friendly and always made sure you enjoyed the time we spent in their taverns.

Check availability and pricing for the best places to stay in Thasos

aerial view of the blu waters and town of the Greek island of Thasos

Conclusion

I hope this Greek travel guide has given you helpful information about the best islands to see in Greece for your next Greek adventure!

And if you are wondering why I didn’t include Santorini on this list of Greek islands to visit, that’s because I am going on holiday to Santorini later this year and will be writing a travel guide about the best things to do in Santorini, often described as the best island in Greece.

VIEW OF WHITE AND BLUE CHURCH LOOKING OUT TO THE SEA ON THE GREEK ISLAND OF SANTORINI
Santorini

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