greece

Explore the most popular islands of Greece

GREEK ISLANDS | CYCLADES | DODECANESE | IONIAN | SARONIC ISLANDS | SPORADES | EAST AEGEAN

greek-sunset

The Greek islands are well known as a great place to enjoy a classic holiday in the sun, long sandy beaches, clear water and days of near-guaranteed warm sunshine are reason enough for millions to fly out to some of the thousands of islands scattered around the edge of the Greek mainland.
Yet there is much more to draw visitors here beyond the chance of lazing the day away in beautiful surroundings. The Greek islands offer fabulous opportunities for adventure sports, nature spotting, learning about Greek cuisine and exploring the unparalleled wealth of ancient Greek history.
The Greek islands are spread over a wide expanse of the Mediterranean. Corfu in the north west is within sight of Albania and only 60 miles from Italy; Crete in the south is less than 200 miles from North African coast; while less than 5 miles separate Kos and Samos in the east from the Turkey and the mainland of Asia.

Beaches in Greece

Whether it’s unspoilt deserted beaches you are looking for, or action-packed resorts lined with plenty of lively tavernas 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.

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 real Greece 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 it’s along stunning coastlines, through rural villages or past meadows full of colourful spring flowers.

Ancient Sites

Greece is of course awash with ancient sites and it’s no surprise that the country has more archaeological museums than anywhere else in the world.

From the Palace of Knossos in Crete to the important sanctuary of Delos and the spectacular acropolis on Rhodes, wherever you turn you are not far from a reminder that this was once the centre of a thriving civilisation.Steeped in history and tradition, this fascinating area is rich in ancient sites, from preserved Minoan cities and centuries-old archaeological sites, to Roman ruins and remains, and museums full of art and artefacts.

Island Hopping

With over 200 inhabited islands, the region offers a huge and diverse range of places to see and experience. One way to really experience the Greek Islands is to “island hop”, using the local ferry system, which is a cheap and convenient way to travel around the islands.

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.

 

GREEK ISLANDS

Greece has over 2,500 islands, of which about 165 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.

Three years ago the Greek islands were 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.

CYCLADES ISLANDS

CYCLADES ISLANDS

More than any other region of Greece, the Cyclades are one of the most popular holiday destinations. The trademark is the bare rocks and the contrast of the white of the houses and the endless blue of the Aegean. But apart from the picturesque white countries and the beautiful beaches, each Cycladic island offers its own package of experiences, from the cosmopolitan life of Mykonos to the relaxed, sophisticated rhythms of the inland of Tinos and from the gastronomic pleasures of Sifnos to the romantic dream of Santorini.

In general, the Cyclades are identified with cosmopolitan vacations, romantic getaways for two, casual outings and trips on the barren line. However, most Cycladic islands, especially the larger ones, are not limited to a single holiday profile and offer different proposals depending on your style and budget. Some of the larger islands, such as Syros, are alive all year round and are an ideal destination for weekends, while the smaller and more remote ones, such as Amorgos or Anafi, are aimed mainly at lovers of the alternative and have a short season, which limited mainly to the summer months.

mykonos

MYKONOS

DODECANESE

One of the largest groups of islands in Greece, the Dodecanese offer the traveler a special view of the Greek summer. From the atmospheric town of Patmos and that of Astypalea to the rising neoclassical states of Symi, Halki and Kastelorizo ​​and from the vast beaches and archeological sites of Rhodes and Kos to the unspoiled landscapes of Karpathos and Nisyros, every trip can find the type of vacation that suits him.

Fans of the beach, lovers of luxury and nightlife and families usually choose the largest and most developed tourist islands, such as Rhodes. Couples, sophists and youth groups looking for the different have made Symi, Tilos and Nisyros their hangout. Archaeologists will find interesting monuments that testify to the rich history of the islands: citadels of antiquity, medieval cities and interwar monuments-legacies of the Italian occupation.

The hotel infrastructure follows the style of the holidays of each island: luxury resorts, spas and family hotels in Rhodes and Kos, atmospheric hostels in old houses in Kastelorizo, Symi or Astypalea. Although the connections between them are not ideal for island hopping, there are many who choose to share their vacation on two or three different islands, usually combining one of the big ones with some smaller satellites like Rhodes with Halki , Symi or Kastelorizo ​​and Kos with Nisyros or Tilos.

LEROS ISLAND GREECE

LEROS ISLAND DODECANESE

SARONIC ISLANDS

Near to Athens, the islands of the Saronic Gulf serve as a stress reliever for the Athenians and are a timeless and favorite destination for weekends and last minute getaways, especially in spring and autumn but also at other times of the year.
Aegina, the closest island to Athens and a classic solution for day trips and summer vacations is constantly renewed in recent years: the neoclassicals of the port have been refreshed, Paleochora is being restored a few, but remarkable new investments add points to its travel profile.

Hydra, the most picturesque island of the Saronic Gulf, with atmospheric boutique hotels in restored mansions, stylish restaurants and vibrant nightlife, is ideal for romantic and secular breaks. Equally picturesque Spetses, two steps by dolphin from Piraeus and βήμα half a step by sea taxi from the port of Costa to Argolida (connected 24 hours a day), are a favorite choice of the laity for a stylish getaway, timeless preference of couples and a classic youth date for summer fun, which culminates during the September weekend of the Armata celebration.
More low profile, with the picturesque Old Town, the proximity to the Peloponnese and the selected accommodation proposals, Poros has its own fanatical friends.

AEGINA-ISLAND

AEGINA SARONIC GULF ISLANDS

EAST AEGEAN ISLANDS

An ideal destination for fans of on the road, without of course excluding complete relaxation, the islands of the Eastern Aegean have maintained a relatively low growth profile. Recently, breaking away from the fashion of the barren islands, they are attracting more and more travelers for value for money holidays with authentic color.

The traditional villages, the green paths and the lunar landscapes in the hinterland, the vast beaches, the sightseeing in the fossil forests, the picturesque fishing villages and the variety of local flavors are some of the highlights of the holidays on this side of the Aegean. Mostly large islands with many different faces require you to spend several days enjoying them without getting tired, while the means of transport is usually necessary. Uncomplicated and without a secular profile, they are offered for nature-loving but also for family vacations, for lovers of tradition and local color, for low budget and gourmet travelers.

Mytilene and Chios are the largest and most special islands, with intense architectural interest and gastronomic surprises. Samos wakes up the nature lovers and the fans of the sea and the flavors without falling behind in youthful life, Ikaria is famous for the beaches, the festivals and the inimitable relaxed philosophy of its inhabitants, while Lemnos, with its strong papers the beaches, the nice routes and good food, gathers more low profile travelers and lovers of the original.

IONIAN ISLANDS

Turquoise waters are the first image that comes to mind when we think of the rich Ionian beaches. You will enjoy them, depending on the style of vacation you choose, either on the big islands with the manorial tradition, the abundant sightseeing, the cosmopolitan life and the luxury hotels or in the smaller and quieter ones, with a more nature-loving and sophisticated development profile, the which has become fashionable in recent years.

If you choose one of the first, you will definitely need several days to turn it, while even in the smallest the car is necessary. Corfu is the island richest in images, with a wonderful Old Town, intense archaeological interest, dozens of villages to explore and, of course, very worthwhile suggestions for accommodation, taste and nightlife. Zakynthos, Kefalonia and Lefkada, with some of the most “postcard” beaches in Greece, are offered for every type of vacation: relaxation and exploration, family and youth.

Paxos and Ithaca, with a contrast of green-blue and beautiful villages, are constantly rising on the tourist map, while Kythira, although geographically far from the other islands, does not lag behind in local colour, beaches and an interesting hinterland for motorhomes. Finally, the Ionian Islands are a sailing paradise. If you are traveling by boat or vacationing in Corfu, steal a few days to visit the unknown to most Diapontia Islands (Othonoi, Ereikoussa, Mathraki), three small islands of the barren line just a few nautical miles northwest of Corfu, forgotten by the large deserted sandy beaches, ruins of Venetian castles, small settlements and a sense of absolute peace.

SPORADES ISLANDS

Wonderful pine-covered beaches, the lively settlements that combine the local color with the intense life, the sea park with the mediterranean monk seals for the lovers of eco-tourism and the exuberant flavors with the relaxed, unadulterated summer atmosphere. Favorite choice for nature lovers and for those who prefer a quiet vacation, without missing the secular and sophisticated proposals.

Boat or inflatable rides, all-day fun on the beaches, fresh fish, but also nightlife in picturesque settlements compose the profile of the holidays in the Sporades. There are many who are not limited to one of the islands, but indulge in island hopping between Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos, since the connection between them is regular.

Skiathos is the most cosmopolitan of the Sporades, with a lively city, good hotels and famous beaches. Green, ideal for nature lovers Skopelos, with low profile development, very nice beaches, picturesque town and routes in the pines. You will prefer Alonissos for its beautiful beaches, its atmospheric Chora, which was developed relatively recently, but maintaining its character intact, and the proximity to the seal park of the Monk-Monk seal. More isolated and different from the rest of the Sporades, Skyros turns a blind eye to the Cyclades and gathers sought-after visitors who are fascinated by its wild beauty and low-key development.

SKYROS GREECE

 

READ OUR GUIDES OF ALL THE GREEK ISLANDS

Amorgos Anafi Andros Antiparos Donoussa Folegandros Ios Iraklia Kea Kimolos Kythnos Koufonissi 
Milos Mykonos Naxos Paros Santorini Schinoussa Serifos Sifnos Sikinos Syros Tinos 
Agathonisi Astypalea Kalymnos Karpathos Kassos Kastellorizo Kos Leros Lipsi Nissyros Patmos Rhodes Symi Tilos 
Cephalonia Corfu Ithaca Lefkas Paxi Zakynthos 
Chios Ikaria Lesvos Samos Limnos Thassos 
Aegina Hydra Poros Spetses 
Alonissos Skopelos Skiathos Skyros Crete Evia