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Best Islands to Visit in Greece

One of the world’s most desirable travel destinations, the Greek Islands are made up of over 6,000 islands and islets, making it no surprise that this archipelago offers something for everyone. There are charming towns with cobbled lanes, whitewashed buildings, and blue-domed churches, along with idyllic beaches and breathtaking sea views. History buffs can often find ancient ruins to explore, and no matter where you go, there’s plenty of mouthwatering cuisine and fine wine to complement it. The only problem is, where do you go? When you’re planning your trip it can feel overwhelming with so many options to choose from, but these are some of the very best islands to visit in Greece, making it easier to decide.

Milos Blog Section Image

Milos

Milos is renowned for its surreal beauty and offers a tranquil, authentic atmosphere. The southernmost island in the Cyclades, its spectacular shoreline includes over 75 beaches such as world-famous Sarakiniko with smooth, chalk-white rock formations giving it a lunar-like appearance. Contrasted against a brilliant aquamarine sea, it’s visually stunning. There are many others, ideally explored on a sailing excursion that includes time to soak in natural hot springs. Visitors can also discover rich history like the site where the Venus de Milo was discovered and the ruins of an ancient Roman theater. Be sure to stroll charming Plaka, with magnificent gulf views from its hilltop setting and an archaeological museum with intriguing items from the late Neolithic to the Byzantine period.

Paros Blog Section Image

Paros

Nestled in the heart of the Cyclades, Paros is a diverse island with breathtaking natural beauty that includes lush valleys, rolling hills, and postcard-perfect beaches framed by clear turquoise water. The beaches are the star attraction with secluded stretches for tranquil sunbathing and livelier spots popular for water sports like windsurfing, including photogenic Golden Beach with water sports centers for rentals and lessons. Marcello is one of the most beautiful, a white crescent of sand edging water that looks like a big swimming pool. Paros also has a 5,000-year-old winemaking tradition to explore while the town of Parikia boasts typical Cycladic architecture and the famous 4th-century Byzantine Church of Ekatontapiliani, or the Church with the Hundred Doors.

Santorini

Santorini

Santorini is one of the most popular islands to visit in Greece. When you travel here by ferry, you’ll immediately be met by the stunning caldera cliff and its nearly thousand-foot walls. After making your way to the top you’ll find many other impressive sites like the famous hilltop village of Oia with its blue-domed churches and whitewashed buildings spilling down the ancient caldera. This is where many gather to marvel at the island’s legendary sunsets at the end of the day. Other highlights include colorful beaches like Red Beach and prehistoric Akrotiri. Similar to Pompeii, the settlement was buried beneath 200 feet of ash after the 1646 BC volcanic eruption, preserving life as it was nearly 3,700 years ago.

Mykonos at sunset with famous windmills

Mykonos

Mykonos is famous for its glitz and glamour, attracting many with its upscale shopping, world-class dining, buzzing nightlife, and luxury resorts. Beach parties are popular in the summer too, with some of the most exquisite sands in Greece found on this island. But there’s a lot more to do here, including authentic experiences like cooking classes hosted in a family home. If you like outdoor adventures, everything from sailing, swimming, and sea kayaking to hiking, biking, and 4X4 excursions can be enjoyed. On a Jeep tour, you can discover some of the most untamed spots, like secluded coves for swimming and ancient ruins. Don’t miss the iconic Mykonos windmills overlooking Little Venice, with a magnificent view of the harbor, sea, and Chora.

Hydra

Hydra

Hydra is like stepping back in time. This virtually car-free island in the Saronic Gulf is ideal for a tranquil Greece vacation with people getting around on foot, by donkey, or boat. Growth has been limited as new buildings aren’t allowed, only the restoration of old ones. The narrow cobbled streets house lavish mansions that were built by Italian artisans for some of Hydra’s most important families, revealing its wealthy past. Today, many are now home to museums. It’s fun just to wander, gazing at the pretty churches, exploring shops and cafes, and viewing statues of Hydra’s most renowned heroes, with the sounds of hooves clip-clopping along rather than noisy vehicles. The island is also popular for hiking, diving, and snorkeling.

Naxos

Naxos

Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades and while an increasing number of tourists have been discovering it, it’s much less busy than Mykonos and Santorini. Some of the most beautiful beaches can be found here, including often empty stretches of soft white sands with swimming pool-like calm, translucent blue water. A variety of water sports can be enjoyed too, including sea kayaking and stand up paddleboarding, while rugged mountains like Mount Zeus are popular for hiking. In Naxos Town, you’ll find winding, marble-paved streets with whitewashed architecture draped in bougainvillea leading to a Venetian castle at the top. The island is also renowned for its farm- and sea-to-table cuisine, featured in an episode of the late Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown.”

Crete Lagoon

Crete

At 3,200 square miles, Crete is the largest Greek island. It’s also quite diverse with landscapes that include everything from beaches framing crystal-clear blue waters, some of which even have pink sands, to towering rugged mountains and canyons for hiking. There’s plenty of historical landmarks to explore as well, including ancient ruins like Knossos Palace, built by the Minoan civilization from 1700 to 1400 BC. Learn more about Crete’s past at museums like the Heraklion Archaeological Museum with artifacts spanning five thousand years of history. One can also discover caves, wander through charming traditional villages, and delve into an outstanding foodie scene. With fertile soil and numerous microclimates, fruits and vegetables flourish. Restaurants often serve farm-to-table dishes and fresh-caught seafood.

Rhodes Anthony Quinn Bay

Rhodes

Rhodes boasts an ideal mix of spectacular landscapes and rich history. There are many picturesque beaches like Pefkos with some of the island’s finest sands and shallow aquamarine waters that are perfect for swimming. With more wind, Ialyssos beach is a popular spot for sailing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing. Hiking is another popular activity, including treks on Rhodes’ highest mountain, Mount Attavyros. The Petaloudes area hosts the famed Valley of the Butterflies, with meandering paths leading to waterfalls and tranquil streams while offering encounters with countless butterflies. Medieval Rhodes Town is a great destination for discovering the island’s history, with grand Venetian buildings and the castle-like Palace of the Grand Masters which now serves as a history museum.

Patmos

Patmos

Patmos is a small island shaped like a seahorse, nestled between Ikaria, Fourni, and Leros in the Dodecanese island group. It may best be known as the sacred island where Saint John wrote the Book of Revelations, the closing pages of the New Testament, in the Cave of the Apocalypse where the creator of the world is said to have appeared in all religions. Patmos offers beautiful landscapes with its shoreline dotted with idyllic beaches, some in hidden coves with clear cobalt water for swimming. The mountains offer lush landscapes with forests drawing nature lovers to hike. Along the narrow streets of the hilltop Chora, the main town, you’ll find traditional whitewashed homes, majestic mansions, and medieval churches.

Corfu beach and nature

Corfu

Located just west of the Greek mainland, Corfu is the most popular and greenest of the Ionian islands. A nature enthusiasts’ paradise, it’s home to emerald-hued mountains, cascading waterfalls, turquoise lagoons, and some of the best sandy beaches in the Mediterranean. Not only can visitors enjoy a wealth of water sports but scenic hikes with much of the landscape mountainous. The cities impress too, including Corfu Town which has a particularly notable Italian feel with significant influence by the Venetians, French, and British. You’ll notice it in the architecture and restaurant menus. The Venetians built its fortresses, including the Old Fortress of Corfu on a peninsula linked to the mainland by bridge offering a picturesque view of the town and the sea.

Amorgos windmills

Amorgos

Amorgos is a hidden gem practically untouched by tourism. The easternmost island in the Cyclades, one can often enjoy its secluded beaches with no one else around while outdoor adventures abound. Enjoy everything from swimming, snorkeling, diving, paddle boarding, and kayaking in clear blue-green waters to hiking and rock climbing. There’s lots of traditional character that can still be found in photogenic villages and Old Towns, including Amorgos Town with its whitewashed alleyways, traditional Cycladic homes, and vibrant bougainvillea. There are also ancient relics, historic churches, a 13th-century castle, and a monastery. One of the most impressive in Greece, Hozoviotissa was built into a cliff face a thousand years ago as the second oldest in the country and overlooks the sea.

Ios

Ios

Ios isn’t a jet setter’s island like some of its neighbors in the Cyclades, but it offers similar views without the crowds. Just a short ferry ride from Santorini, Ios Town is just as impressive. The clifftop village has winding cobbled streets with whitewashed buildings with the center inaccessible to cars. There’s lots of history to explore with the island inhabited since the Cycladic period, including the famous tomb of Homer, Byzantine ruins, and nearly 20 churches with elaborate frescoes. The Archaeological Museum of Ios hosts many of the incredible finds from the Hellenistic periods. There are plenty of gorgeous beaches with golden sands and clear azure water for swimming and water sports too.

Kefalonia

Kefalonia

Kefalonia has remained surprisingly unspoiled despite its stunning natural beauty. Discover soft white sands along brilliant aquamarine waters ideal for swimming and snorkeling, surrounded by forests of aromatic pines. Some of the best snorkeling can be enjoyed along the rocky coast at Fiskardo, the most-well-preserved village in Kefalonia with seaside tavernas renowned for their fresh-caught fish. Myrtos Beach, tucked between two mountains, is often named the country’s most beautiful with the brilliant blue water here practically glowing when the sun hits the marble sediment churned up in the water. In Mount Ainos National Park, a top spot for hiking, wild horses and deer roam. The “Blue Cave” is another top attraction with an underground lake that can be visited on a boat tour.

Folegandros

Folegandros

Tiny Folegandros may not be as well known as its popular neighbor Santorini, but this mostly untouched gem is ideal for a tranquil retreat with striking natural beauty, quintessential Cycladic architecture, and mouthwatering cuisine. There are no massive cruise ships here, providing a peaceful retreat where one can contemplate the meaning of life on pebble beaches lapped by azure waves, watch historic windmills spin in the breeze, and goats scurry up the hills. In the largest settlement of Chora, no motor vehicles are permitted, making it a joy to stroll the cobbled streets with well-preserved homes as old as a thousand years. In the lovely squares, enjoy people-watching while sipping a glass of wine, dine at traditional eateries, and browse interesting shops.

Lefkada Beach

Lefkada

Last but not least of the best islands to visit in Greece, lush Lefkada is linked to the mainland by a floating bridge yet it’s surprisingly uncrowded. Surrounded by the crystal-clear turquoise Ionian Sea south of Corfu, some say it’s one of the best-kept secrets in Greece. The landscapes are spectacular with idyllic beaches and secluded bays popular for everything from sea kayaking and swimming to paragliding, sailing, and diving. Vassiliki and Ndyri are known for their consistent winds, making them popular with windsurfers and kitesurfers. In the mountains, there are scenic trails for mountain biking and hiking too. In Lefkada Town, one can experience traditional village life with a large, shady square bordered by cafes buzzing day and night.

 

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