Today: Top 10 best Greek islands to visit
Known for its plethora of archeological sites, whitewashed villages, fabulous beaches, mouth-watering cuisine and welcoming atmosphere, it is no wonder that Greece – the birthplace of democracy – ranks among the world’s premier-league travel destinations. The sun-kissed Mediterranean country is made up of a mountainous mainland and 6,000 idyllic islands and islets dotting the blue Aegean and Ionian Seas – though only 227 of them are inhabited. With so many things to do in Greece, you’ll never be left wanting. Here’s my selection of the 10 best Greek islands to help you plan your next adventure. For more recommendations, check also my round up of the 10 best luxury hotels in Greece.
There is more information (with YouTube movies) below the slideshow. Think I missed one? Share your favorite Greek island in the comments section.
Rhodes, the capital of the Dodecanese islands, is the fourth largest Greek island, after Crete, Evia and Lesvos, and a very popular Greek tourist destination. This Mediterranean gem of an island boasts a centuries-old history: a turbulent past full of unexpected turns and twists of fate. It’s a place where the strong mediaeval aspect blends with the traditional Greek one. For example, the medieval center of its capital city is a UNESCO World HEritage Site. It is also an island with great natural beauty: the lovely beaches face the pine woods on the mountainsides; the mountain villages overlook the seaside towns; and the archaeological sites, the mediaeval monuments and the cosmopolitan resorts arranged in the traditional style all conspire to make the popularity of this destination so hard to resist, even to the most demanding traveler.
Naxos is the biggest and most fertile island in Cyclades island group, located right in the center of it. It offers a wide variety of attractions of choices to visitors, such as whitewashed Chora town and Portara, Naxos’ most popular landmark (a marble gate of an unfinished ancient Greek temple dedicated to god Apollo). Chora’s landscape is marked by numerous fortified palaces, which date to the island’s Venetian Period, as Naxos was the seat of the Duchy of the Aegean. Make sure you visit the Bazaios Tower, off Sagri village, the Glezos-Crispi Tower in Chora, the Belonia Tower in Galanado and the Della Rocca-Barozzi Tower in Chora. Most visitors come to Naxos though for its sublime beaches, amazing food, a low-key vibe, and true Greek hospitality. Naxos lies about halfway between Santorini and Mykonos and makes a great respite from those jetset islands.
Spectacular beaches (including world-famous Shipwreck Beach), endangered sea turtles, a 24/7 party vibe, and family friendly hotels make the Greek island of Zakynthos – or Zante as the island is known internationally – a favorite holiday destination. The southernmost and third largest island in the Ionian Sea (after Corfu and Kefalonia), Zakynthos often touts itself as one one of Greece’s greenest islands. Zakynthos’ north and west coast is made of towering sandstone cliffs dropping in the turquoise sea, while much of the south coast is a nature reserve where endangered loggerhead turtles hatch in the sand. The east coast is where most of the island’s tourist resorts and facilities are located, including its main city, Zakynthos Town.
Amorgos, the Cyclades’ easternmost island, boasts marvelous beaches with azure waters, gorgeous caves, ideal spots for diving, scenic bays, and ancient footpaths leading through its steep rocky terrain. Untouched by mass tourism, Amorgos became a world-famous island after having been used as a filming location for the 1988 movie “The big blue”, starring Jean Reno. Parts of the island reach a considerable height above sea level, offering superb views of the sea. Inhabited since the Early Cycladic Era, as indicated by archaeological finds brought to light in the area, Amorgos has a long cultural history and tradition. Step off the beaten track and visit an island that has preserved its traditional color, where the locals welcome you with a smile on their face and make you feel at home!
With the passage of time the island of Corfu may have changed, but any traveler can still feel the spirit of a distant glorious past. Its rich multi-cultural heritage, its historic monuments, its stunning natural landscape, its crystal clear seas (with some of Europe’s best beaches), and its excellent weather all year round explain why Corfu is one of the most cosmopolitan Mediterranean destinations weaving a powerful spell on its visitors. Corfu (Kerkyra in Greek), unlike the rest of Greece, never fell under the Ottoman oppression. Due to the successive dominations of the Venetians, the French and the British over the centuries, the island has primarily become part of the Western rather the Levantine world. Their culture wielded strong influence in the island’s capital city: it was here that the first Greek University (the Ionian Academy), the first Philharmonic Orchestra and the First School of Fine Arts were founded.
Crete – the largest island in Greece and the fifth largest one in the Mediterranean Sea – is a remarkable place to visit. The island features some of the country’s most pristine beaches and is crammed with spectacular sights, from desert island atolls to far-flung traditional villages, many of them way off the beaten path. Across the ages, Minoans, Mycenaeans, Ottoman Turks, Arabs and Venetians have shaped the island’s identity. Highlights include walking through the charming seaside town of Chania, relaxing at the high-end resort of Eloudna, hiking the Samaria Gorge (one of Europe’s best trekkings), exploring the Lasithi Plateau, and visiting Knossos (one of the top historical sites in Greece). Although Crete is also not as expensive compared to its more famous siblings Santorini and Mykonos, it still has plenty of resorts where one can indulge in luxurious settings.
Kefalonia is the biggest island in the Ionian Sea and known as the filming location of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. The laid back and charming island has breathtaking beaches and crystal clear waters of greenish-blue colors which will take your breath away.I t carries a rich history in cultural tradition. It’s the biggest Ionian Island and the green of its mountains blend with the blue of the water making it truly unique and a beloved destination. Pine, cypress and olive trees cover Mt. Ainos’ peak, while at its foot you’ll come across vineyards where the popular Kefalonian Robola wine variety is produced. If you happen to love snorkeling or diving then the seabed around the island will definitely satisfy you. Kefalonia’s culinary tradition, history, traditional villages, upbeat nightlife and pristine beaches will make you fall in love with the island.
Mykonos is the second most visited island in Greece, after Santorini. Every summer, it receives millions of tourists from all over the world, while it is frequently mentioned among the top destinations to visit in the world. According to mythology, Greece’s most famous cosmopolitan island was formed from the petrified bodies of giants killed by Hercules and took its name from Apollo’s grandson, Mykonos. With its traditional whitewashed villages and iconic windmills, Mykonos is mainly known for its incredible party lifestyle, its LGBTQ+ welcoming ambience, and its many beautiful beaches. Here’s my selection of the 10 best things to see and do on Mykonos (below, you can also watch my 4K YouTube video which features the top sights on the island).
Found in the southwest part of the Cyclades, this (still relatively quiet) island has a handful of singular natural landscapes contributed by volcanic activity; mysterious rock formations, curious soil colours and numerous jaw dropping beaches. Besides having countless unique sights to see around the island, it also is the homeland of the renowned marble statue of Venus of Milo seen today in the Louvre Museum. Milos’ volcanic past is reflected on the large number of hot springs, caves and geological formations found around the island such as Kanavas, Alykis, Provatas, Pikropigis springs, Papafragas and Sikia Caves, and Kleftiko Cove. The island also has numerous significant archaeological sites such as the early christian catacombs, the Bronze Age settlement of Phylakopi, and interesting museums namely the Mining Museum showcasing Milos’ 11.000 years old mineral history.
The Greek island of Santorini is one of the most famous travel destinations on the planet. The main reasons why it’s popular are its spectacular volcanic landscape, magnificent sunsets, and scenic clifftop villages with white-washed houses and blue-domed churches. Plenty of people choose Santorini as their marriage or honeymoon destination, as its impressive vistas and photogenic villages always create a romantic setting. The island was shaped some 3,600 years ago by one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history, which left a giant water-filled crater (‘caldera’) measuring about 12 by 7 km (7.5 by 4 mi) and surrounded by 300 m (980 ft) high cliffs on all sides. Santorini is the only inhabited caldera in the world, with a population of around 15000 inhabitants, which is far less compared to the 2 million tourists that visit Santorini each year.