Year after year, the beautiful Greek islands are voted as one of the best places to holiday in Europe, 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 put together a list of which Greek islands to visit so that you can choose which one to book for your next holiday to Greece.
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How To Get to the Greek Islands
If you have time and the budget for a Greek islands cruise, there is no better way to get a taste of several of the 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
For family holidays, couples, or solo travellers, the Greek islands make the perfect destination in summer. 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 – May – June and September – 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.
If you are heading to Greece to do some Greek island hopping, you can use local ferries. Or you could splash out and charter a greek island sailboat to take you sightseeing in style.
Another option is to book a tour with a local tour company to show you some Greek hidden gems that 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 will include the romantic Greek islands of Santorini and Ios, whereas the best Greek islands for nightlife will be certain areas of Corfu, Zakynthos and Mykonos.
Whether you are looking for a relaxing beach holiday, a lively island with vibrant nightlife or a secluded island to get back to nature and bear all, you will find an island in Greece that will be perfect for you.
The Greek islands are scattered off the mainland and comprise of 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
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, which is 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 a buzzing nightlife, clubbing, and dancing on the beach? You’ll find that too! But also, the island 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, well, 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 it is possible, travelling around by public transport will be nothing but a waste of precious time that you can otherwise devote to exploring Crete.
June and September are the best months to visit Crete if you like hot weather but want to stay away from 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 even enjoy authentic Greek wine tourism, as the island is home to 13 unique indigenous grape varieties producing some top quality wines. But 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 place to see when in Crete.
Looking for a place to stay in Heraklion? Do check the premises of Galaxy Iraklio Hotel.
Insider Top Tip:
Try the local Vidiano wine; this grape is a star on the island!
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.
Recommended by Suzanne from thetravelbunny.com
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 while the weather was beautifully 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 when we watched the sun setting 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 get 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.
Recommended by Marianne from pastapretzelsandpassports.com
Filled with history, culture, and of course, 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 per year!
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. We travelled to the island in June, and it was already pretty hot. Since Mykonos sees more than 300 sunny days per year, you really 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 chose to spend 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 are looking to see other parts of the island, your best bet is to take a cab or rent a moped, especially if you are planning 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 would prefer a family-friendly beach.
For a little more sightseeing, be sure to visit Little Venice, with its colourful houses built on the edge of the sea. And if you are interested in art, head over to either the Rarity Gallery or the Dio Horia gallery. And, of course, a cruise around some of the nicest beaches in Mykonos is a must.
There are so many incredible things to do on Mykonos, and one thing you definitely can’t miss is watching one of Mykonos’ famous sunsets! You will see people start to claim their spots along the water over an hour prior or hop aboard one of Mykonos’s legendary sunset cruises.
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 totally free, as compared to the tavernas that charge extra for a sunset-viewing table!
Recommended by Mary from brbymary.com
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 a lot of research, we chose the Cycladic island of Paros, and it did not disappoint!
Paros is known as the “more authentic” Santorini, and let me tell you, it’s not wrong. The island offers very similar features as 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 called Parikia and Naoussa. We stayed at the Anna Parikia’s Studio in Parikia, just a couple of 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.
Recommended by Marjut from thesmoothescape.com
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. With its white-washed houses, quiet streets, sunset views and beautiful Greek beaches, Antiparos met these criteria.
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 in size, Antiparos is very small compared to the more famous Greek islands. Despite its compact size, Antiparos offers a variety of hotels and excellent restaurants serving up 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.
Recommended by Francesca from littlelosttravel.com
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. There, you’ll also find Kastro, a medieval fortress used to ward off invaders.
Beach hopping on Folegandros
My favourite thing to do 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 with 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 located 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.
Recommended by Maria from itsalltriptome.com
Although Sifnos has become one of the popular islands in Greece in recent years, it retains its authenticity and easy-going vibes, which is what drew 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, totally 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 which makes 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, and this 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.
Recommended by Chrysoula from greecetravelideas.com
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.
I find June and September 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, and 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 main city where the port is located and where we chose to stay. I recommend the elegant Hotel Diogenis and Hotel Ploes for your stay on Syros and the restaurant Arhontariki Tis Maritsa for fantastic food.
There are a couple of museums in Ermoupolis and bars, restaurants, and shops. Around the island, there are some other settlements like Galissas, Kini, Posidonia, and Finikas that have facilities for tourists.
Historic sites in Syros
In Ermoupolis, you will find the industrial museum and the Apollo theatre that are 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.
Recommended by Ivan from pipeaway.com
Donousa is one of the islands in 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 ‘x’ on the map.
People have lived on Donousa for five millennia now, 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 and why I chose to visit this particular Greek island. Donousa is a favourite destination for free campers who decide to 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, literally 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!
Recommended by Roxanne from farawayworlds.com
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 definitely 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 handful of tavernas and a few shops, with Naxos Town being the largest and the capital of the island, with over 7,000 people living there.
Explore the ancient ruins on Naxos
Naxos Town is definitely 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 at the height of 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. During our stay, we were so relaxed 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.
Recommended by Haley from haleyblackall.com
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 a little 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 is 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 of the restaurants in town 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.
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 in the Ionian islands. Who hasn’t fallen in love with captures of the white-washed, blue-domed cliff-top church in Santorini? Or the equally stunning turquoise waters and white sandy Navagio beach in Zakynthos.
Recommended by Kerry from veggtravel.com
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 weren’t beach hopping, we spent time at the infamous Melissani lake, a famous cenote style cave that requires a rowing boat to venture. Our favourite activity, though, was paragliding from the clifftops of Myrtos Beach. Another memorable moment was when we saw wild sea turtles swim up to fishing boats in the capital’s harbour, Argostoli.
As we had our own car, we did everything self-sufficiently. However, next time I would also consider hiring a self-drive boat. There are so many beaches, and they each have district charm and variety, so this would make a great addition to the itinerary.
We stayed in Lassi, 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.
Recommended by Paulina from ukeveryday.com
When I was 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 that I would be staying in a party hotel.
Atlantis Hotel is just 15 minutes 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 or 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.
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 plenty of 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. With its crystal clear waters, sheltered bay and views up to the mountain-top monastery, we loved it.
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, who sadly departed from this world in 2021. 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 once 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 old town. That said, the vast sandy beach in Corfu old town attracts the crowds, with its stunning views across the sea 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.
Recommended by Erki from Genem Travels
I didn’t know much about the island of Lefkada, but before heading there, 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 some days, the temperature rose to 40 degrees celsius. 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 islands yacht cruise or kayak tours are also popular tourist activities 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.
Located off the tip of northern Greece sit the Saronic islands. The beauty of these islands is that a day trip by ferry from Athens is easy to do. Within 90 minutes, visitors can be swimming 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 popular for sailing. Hydra is probably the most popular Saronic island, with its non-motorised town retaining the charm of times gone by.
Recommended by Violeta from offbeatgreece.com
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 on Aegina to surprise him on his 50th birthday. That end of January was just perfect, with sunny, warm weather during the day, with unbelievably starry skies by night, and without tourist crowds.
After that trip, I was in awe of this Greek island. I returned to Aegina for a proper exploration a few months later and stayed at 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 or rent a car on the island and follow along the main roads to visit 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.
Recommended by Dymphe from dymabroad.com
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 Pireus 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 2000 people living on it and only one town, Hydra Port. That said, this small Greek town has lots of 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 spend time swimming 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!
The name “Dodecanese” meaning “The Twelve Islands”, is a group of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, comprising fifteen major islands and 93 smaller ones. They are located between the Cyclades and the coast of Turkey.
Recommended by Nadine from lelongweekend.com
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 on offer.
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 right 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.
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 continues to be 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 simply 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 on Kos and can be reached by local bus, or on a day tour of Kos. For a visit to a traditional and charming Greek village head to Antimachia and visit the beautiful old chapel.
For history culture vultures the Tree of Hippocrates is a must to visit. Located by 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 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.
Recommended by Zoe from togetherintransit.nl
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, so we wanted to get 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, local boutiques and perfect for relaxation.
We travelled there in October when there were fewer tourists. The weather was still gorgeous too. For day time it was hot, needing 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, easily explorable by renting a small car for the stay. We saw most of the island within one full day by car. Else you can also easily walk and get around by taxi.
There are many hotels and B&Bs along the water’s edge in Chora, where you can also find lovely Greek restaurants. We recommend staying at the Captain’s House in Patmos – beautiful, 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
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 thought to be the best islands in Greece by the Mamma Mia location scouts who used the two islands to film their blockbuster films.
Recommended by Alina from worldoflina.com
Another one 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
To get around the island, I highly recommend renting a car or booking the Mamma Mia island tour. Organised local transport is available, mainly connecting the most famous beaches and villages. With a car, you’ll be able to explore Skopelos’ hidden gems where no bus goes.
An excellent and affordable place to stay is Sun Hotel, 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!
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 need to be if you are looking for a complete break away from everything.
Recommended by Corrine from reflectionsenroute.com
Chios, an easy and fun to visit, is the fifth-largest island in Greece, but that doesn’t make it huge. It’s pretty easy to get around, even for just a day or two in summer and fall. 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, as well as 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.
Recommended by Raluca from travelwithaspin.com
Thasos is a hidden gem of the Aegean and 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 for a one week holiday. By that time, 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, as with most Greek islands, Thasos has many beautiful beaches. The best one for sun-bathing 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 views of the harbour and, at the ancient marble quarry of Aliki, I found out how workers collected Thasos marble more than 1000 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)and allow 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 jeep safari. However, I do not recommend you go in a hired car, but on an organised island jeep tour with a local guide who has 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.
As a base, from 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.
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 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, as well as the best places to stay in Santorini.
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