greece

Discover the islands of Greece

Greece has over 2,500 islands, of which about 170 are inhabited. The Greek islands are scattered over the Greek seas, the Aegean, the Cretan and the Ionian seas. Large and small, inhabited and uninhabited, desolate and cosmopolitan, verdant and arid, known and unknown, lost in the foaming waves of the sea. 5,000 years of myth and history have passed.

Their remains can be seen, attesting to the culture, continuity and cohesion of the Hellenism of the islands, a vital, highly important part of Greece. There are countless examples like, the sacred island of Delos, Akrotiri on Santorini, Lindos on Rhodes, Knossos, Phaistos and Malia on Crete, the temple of Aphaia on Egina, the sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothraki and so many others.

Across such a great distance comes an incredible diversity of holiday options. On mountainous islands such as Crete you can be in chilly highland pine forests and then swimming in the sea less than an hour later. On other islands you might leave behind a busy beach resort and within minutes be hiking on an old Byzantine footpath. On others still you might learn to windsurf while your partner tries their hand at making the super-sweet baklava.

While major sites such as Delos or the buried city of Akrotiri on Santorini attract large tour groups from the visiting cruise ships, visit many other sites on the Greek islands and you’ll have the entire site to yourself.

For those who like their holidays on the more active side the Greek islands offer many great options. Sea kayaking and sailing lessons are available around many of the islands, while diving and snorkelling is extremely popular in the clear warm waters of the Aegean.

Islands such as Naxos are crossed by many miles of walking trails with horse riding also an option in many places. Choose your level of preferred activity and there will be an active holiday to suit you.

Food is guaranteed to be a highlight of a holiday on the Greek islands. With an emphasis on simple dishes made from the freshest ingredients, even the most nervous eater will find reassuring familiarity on offer within the average Greek menu.

Look out for the meze, a selection of many dishes that come without end to your table, allowing you to sample many examples of Greek cuisine over a leisurely evening. Dips made with aubergine, cucumber, chickpeas and garlic can be found across the Greek islands, but each region will also have its own specialities, linked to their islands’ traditional harvests. Olive oil is everywhere; hardly surprising given that Greece is the world’s third largest producer of olives.

And when you’re done with eating, don’t be surprised when the waiter offers you a glass of the local tipple – it might be raki or ouzo (both anise-flavoured drink, although the latter is generally more agreeable to the unseasoned drinker); it might be Kitron, a citrus-based drink popular in the Cyclades; these drinks are complementary and an example of the typically warm hospitality found around these parts. Whether it’s unspoilt deserted beaches you are looking for, or action-packed resorts lined with plenty of lively taverns and bars, no holiday is complete without spending time on the hundreds of quality beaches in the Greek Islands, many of which have been awarded the EU Blue Flag for cleanliness and excellence.

Almost every year the Greek islands are at the top of the world preference according to one of the largest travel magazines in the world. 2017 was another extremely successful year for the Greek tourism, in the markets of Great Britain and Ireland, Greece was honoured with significant distinctions, in two competitive processes, organised by renowned industry magazines in London, it is emphasised in an announcement of Greek National Tourism Organisation. In particular, the readers of the travel magazine (Conde Nast Traveler) vote the Greek islands as the top destination in the world.
At the same time, they voted Greece, as the second best country in the world for holidays with Italy at the first place.
Finally, Greece and the Greek islands was also named the second Best Destination after Spain for Family Holidays at the awards of the British travel agents and tourism professionals Star Awards 2017, which organises for more than 20 years the travel trade magazine Travel Bulletin.

A unique feature of Greece is its many beautiful islands. The Greek islands have created a culture where ferry travel is common, taking a weekend trip to an island is a favored event, and where Greeks prefer vacationing on their own islands to traveling to other countries.

Greece has a total of 227 inhabited islands, of which 164 are located in the Aegean Sea. Yet, only 78 islands have more than 100 inhabitants. To attest to the popularity of visiting the islands of Greece instead of the mainland, over 60 percent of the whole country’s hotels are concentrated on Greek islands.

There are seven island groups in Greece


The Ionian Islands

Sometimes called the Eptanese, are located on the far west of Greece and include such popular islands as Corfu and Zakynthos and quieter islands such as Captain Corelli’s Kefallonia and Homer’s Ithaca.

The North Eastern Aegean Islands

, are, as the name implies, in the north east part of the Aegean Sea running along the coast of Turkey. They include the much-traveled islands of Lesvos and Hios.

The Sporades Islands

are a small group of islands in the northwest Aegean Sea near the coast of Evia. The popular destination of Skiathos and the quiet island of Alonnisos are located here.

The Saronic Islands

The small group of islands in the Saronic Gulf to the south west of Athens. They are close enough to be popular day trip locations and include destinations such as Hydra, Aegina, and Spetses.

The Cyclades Islands

Perhaps the most famous of the Greek island groups. They are located south and east of Athens, in the middle of the Aegean Sea. Santorini and Mykonos are the most well known of the Cyclades Islands and are the most popular islands in Greece.

Amorgos
Amorgos has about 1,900 inhabitants and is located in the arms of the Aegean Sea, southeast of Naxos. Although a small island, it has nothing to envy from the other islands of the Cyclades.

The wild, mountainous scenery of the island, the crystal clear waters and the very friendly inhabitants attract many visitors who are enchanted by the peaceful atmosphere that prevails and become loyal fans of Amorgos every year.

Anafi

South of Amorgos we meet Anafi, an island that is offered for quiet vacations and rest. Clear sandy beaches with clear blue waters and rocky beaches adorn the island, which is an ideal destination for walkers, since the only road that passes by car is the one that connects the country with the port.

Donoussa

The northernmost island of the Small Cyclades, a favorite of freelancers. Its whitewashed houses form five picturesque settlements: Donoussa or Stavros, the port and capital of the island, Kalotaritissa, Troulos, Messaria (Haravgi) and Mersini.

Folegandros

Stony, full of shrubs and thyme, Folegandros is ideal for those who want to be close to nature, away from the suffocating tourist traffic. Built on the edge of a rock above the sea, Chora retains its medieval color and charm

Iraklia

The westernmost island of the Small Cyclades complex is synonymous with quiet low-key holidays. It has only two settlements, Agios Georgios, the port, and Panagia or Pano Mera. If you come here, it is worth visiting the Castle in Livadi,

Kimolos

If you like quiet holidays, choose Kimolos. It is only 86 nautical miles from Piraeus. The Castle in Chora, the churches, the windmills and the deserted beaches impress the visitor.

Kythnos

Kythnos is one of the islands with the most sandy beaches of the Cyclades which you can reach either on foot, by car or by boat. Choose your own beach and enjoy it.

Koufonissi

Today, the Koufonissi of the barren line may not be as unknown as then, but they retain this simple and unpretentious beauty and are introduced in their own way to more and more visitors who are looking for summer carefree

Mykonos

Undoubtedly the most cosmopolitan island in the Aegean, Mykonos is the first preference of many celebrities, who come here every year to spend their holidays. Although the tourist development of the island is huge, it has deprived it of its Cycladic beauty, while it has beaches of incomparable beauty with clear seas.

Milos

Gifted with natural beauties, thermal baths but also museums, impressive churches, monasteries and the 13th century Castle in the capital Plaka, Milos is an attraction for many vacationers. Do not miss the opportunity to go around the island by boat.


Naxos

The largest island of the Cyclades. Full of fertile valleys with vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees. In Naxos you will find important archeological monuments, Byzantine churches and monasteries, while there are many beautiful beaches with golden beaches.


Paros

An island that retains its picturesqueness and traditional color, since here the tourist traffic is not as suffocating as in other Aegean islands. Thanks to the active volcano, the island has thermal baths, enriched with sulfur substances. Visit it if you are looking for rest and a quiet vacation.

Santorini

The incomparable natural beauty of the wild volcanic landscape makes the island a pole of attraction and gives it a special charm and personality. A cosmopolitan island with a vibrant nightlife in the summer, Santorini is one of the best options for summer and not only holidays.

Schinoussa

Apart from the port, you will find two more settlements, Chora (or Schinoussa), built on a hill with a wonderful view, and the small Messaria to the north. The road network is substandard and most beaches have only a dirt road, but this is probably another element of picturesqueness. The many beaches are the great asset of Schinoussa

 

Serifos

Another enchanting island of the Cyclades. The rich natural beauty, the extensive golden beaches, the enchanting landscapes and caves, the traditional Cycladic architecture and the restored windmills, make Serifos the ideal island for unforgettable holidays.


Syros

Unmatched nobility and charm characterize the island of Syros. Rich in natural beauties, beaches with clear waters, accessible by car or by boat, enchants the visitor from the first moment.

Sikinos

Sikinos is one of the smallest islands of the Cyclades. But this in no way reduces the interest of the island and above all its unique picturesqueness.

Sifnos

Sifnos has many natural beauties that attract many vacationers every summer. Important attractions of the island are the monasteries and the beautiful churches, as well as the windmills.

Tinos

Also known as the island of Megalohari, due to the existence of the church of Panagia that gathers thousands of believers every August 15, the blessed Tinos has a mild climate, many natural beauties and elaborate architecture in its picturesque houses.

 

 

The Dodecanese Islands

A group of islands located in the far south east of the Aegean Sea near the coast of Turkey. The most famous island in this group is Rhodes

Crete

A single island but is also considered an island group because of its massive size. Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and one of the most southerly.

Island hopping

Island hopping is a favorite summer past time of Greeks and tourists alike. Island hopping is possible and relatively simple through Greece’s immense ferry system. The ferry system connects islands within and between the island groups mentioned above. When planning an island hopping adventure, remember that ferry routes are set once each year and the only variable that changes over the year is the frequency of each journey.

Major routes connect different island groups but ferry routes are most complete within each individual island group. Therefore it is easier to get from one Cycladic island to another than to get from the Cyclades Islands to the Dodecanese Islands.

The Greek islands have a culture that is different from mainland Greece. Due to their relatively small size, most islands usually have only one main town, and sometimes other smaller towns. The official name of the main town will almost always be the same as that of the island. Yet regardless of the town’s official name, it will be called “Hora” (Greek for “town”) by the locals. Therefore, nearly every island in Greece has a town called Hora.

The small size of the islands and the tiny towns on those islands means most people tend to know each other. In many cases, this has led to the frustrating habit of not labeling streets or having street names. For a tourist, this can be close to maddening if you’re trying to find a specific hotel, restaurant, or museum. But if you have less specific plans, forget about maps and just wander the streets until you find something that grabs your fancy.

Surrounded by water and dependent on ferries for mail, transportation, food, and sometimes even water, life on an island can be glorious in the summer and grueling in the winter. In fact, due to the cold weather and lack of tourists, most tourist facilities on small islands are closed from the end of October until Orthodox Easter in April or May.

In summer, the hot sunny weather combined with the unlimited access to the clear, blue seas make a Greek island the ultimate destination for a vacation or holiday. Both Greeks and international tourists have become aware of this secret, so the islands become extremely busy during the summer months. August is the busiest month to visit a Greek island and it is also the time when the party and nightclub culture is in full swing.

Though most Greek islands are relatively small, each is unique in its geological features and beauty. The Greek islands range from green and mountainous (such as Lefkada and Skopelos) to dry and barren (such as Mykonos and Hydra). Yet, every island is guaranteed to have some beautiful beaches.

No matter what you’re looking for as an explorer of these beautiful gems, Greece most likely has just what you’re searching for in its many Greek islands.

 

Things to do and see in the Greek islands

Sports

As well as a haven for relaxation, the beaches in the Greek Islands offer plenty of sports and activities. From banana boat and jet ski rides, to wind surfing, water skiing, fishing, parasailing, surfing and kayaking, there’s something for everyone. Away from the beach, other activities to enjoy in the Greek Islands include mountain biking, horse riding, tennis and golf.

Sailing

One of the most popular ways to explore Greece is by sailboat, and there are ample opportunities for cruising the many islands whilst on holiday. The warm weather, clear blue seas and strong winds offer ideal conditions for sailing, and the islands offer plenty of sheltered bays, picturesque harbours and welcoming tavernas along the way.

Walking and Hiking

Discover the Greek islands whilst walking or hiking off the beaten track. With an abundance of natural beauty, many of the less developed islands are a haven for exploring on foot in the off-peak season, whether ii

The weather in the Greek Islands

Beautiful beach holiday weather from May through to October. Summers are hot and dry. Expect long days of uninterrupted sunshine and temperatures of at least 30º. July and August may see several days with temperatures in the mid-to-high 30’s. Romantically warm summer evenings see everyone eating and drinking outside.

When to Go

Holidays to the Greek Islands in early and late season will find very quiet beaches and a blissfully relaxed atmosphere. Spring is the perfect time to explore scenic islands like Kefalonia and Crete. You can expect lots of warm sunshine when the season begins in earnest in May. Town resorts on Corfu and Crete are rewarding in the low-season.

For the liveliest nightlife you should travel in July or August. June is a lovely optimistic time to arrive. September and October are exceptionally laid-back. If you hope to do some walking and touring we recommend avoiding the heat of peak summer.

Spring weather is ideal for holidays combining beach relaxation with walking and excursions. Temperatures are in the low 20’s as early as April. Sea temperatures remain beautifully warm into early autumn. Sunbathing weather typically continues into October. Winter sees plenty of sunshine but it can be chilly out of the sun and cold at night.

Cyclades islands