Greece is home to around 6000 islands, only 227 of which are inhabited. Each has its own unique charm, with some geared to the jet-setting crowds, others being the very definition of family-friendly, and still others being ideal for the solo adventurer. Despite their differences, there are a few things they all have in common – bleached white sand beaches, crystalline aquamarine waters, and glorious weather. If you’re planning a Grecian adventure, these are the 10 Greek islands every traveler should visit once.
Located just off the west coast of Greece is the island of Zakynthos. Lapped by turquoise waters, its rocky coastline is sublime. Its most famous beach is Navagio, or Shipwreck Beach, as it’s sometimes called. Accessible only by boat, the beach ranks as one of the most photographed in the world. With its rusty shipwreck, dramatic sun-bleached rocky beach, and startlingly blue sea, it’s little wonder. Asides from pristine beaches, the island is also home to natural wonders like Blue Caves and Keri Caves, not to mention the incredibly rare loggerhead sea turtle and the monk seal. Come evening, the resort of Laganas is the place to head for a night on the tiles.
As theworldpursuit.com notes, Mykonos is a party island, with nightlife by the gallon and thousands of 20 somethings enjoying the high life. Loved by the young, the trendy, and the jet setting, this is the place to go for drinking, clubbing, and all-out hedonism. Expect plenty of boutiques, gourmet restaurants, water sports, and regular celeb sightings. But there’s another side to the island that’s much more low-key, with peaceful vineyards, quiet beaches, and traditional family tavernas. Whether you’re looking for parties or tranquility, Mykonos has a little something for everyone.
Conde Nast Traveller once named Sifnos “the most delicious Greek Island.” They weren’t wrong. The food scene is sizzling, with an amazing range of restaurants peppered around its shores. Even if you’re not a huge foodie, there’s still a lot to love about this idyllic Greek island, from the relaxing delights of its whitewashed villages to the old-world charm of Apollonia and Kastro. There’s not a great deal to do by way of sightseeing, but the unspoiled beaches and laid-back vibes more than make up for it.
Even for a country so blessed in the beauty stakes as Greece, the island of Santorini stands out. Formed as the result of a huge volcanic eruption some 3600 years ago, its craggy cliffs and rugged charms are little short of spellbinding. Whitewashed cubist dwellings and churches dot the landscape, but it’s the natural beauty of the island that’s the star attraction. Be sure to check out the hot springs, which are said to offer a myriad of therapeutic benefits. History buffs should also plan on visiting the Akrotiri archeological site, which offers an intriguing window into the Minoan civilization.
Rhodes has long been one of the most famous Greek islands, and for very good reason. Peppered with ancient structures and age-old architecture, it’s ideal for tourists looking to escape the 21st century and take a trip into the past. The medieval citadel with its battlements and twisting alleyways is an absolute must-visit. Not that it’s stuck in a time warp, though – with a score of excellent restaurants, plenty of high-end boutiques, and dozens of bars and clubs, there are enough modern-day distractions to cater to all tastes.
Beach-bums shouldn’t miss a visit to Milos, an island that boasts one of the most dramatic coastlines in Greece. Over 70 beaches line its shores, all pristine, all picture-perfect, and all calling out to be explored. Fortunately, the island has so far managed to evade turning into a major tourist trap, making it an ideal destination for visitors who want to experience an authentic slice of Greek culture.
If you want to take a deep dive into Greece’s intriguing past, Crete is the island for you. Its main attraction is Knossos, the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and, by all accounts, the oldest city in Europe. As per Wikipedia, historians believe it was settled as early as the Neolithic period. Its palace eventually became the political and ceremonial center of the Minoan civilization. Its ruins have since been restored, offering visitors the chance to explore one of the most significant landmarks in Greece.
The largest island in the Cycladic island chain is, understandably, also one of its most popular. Naxos is a bright, lively place, with tons of tempting food, great nightlife, and oodles of fun activities to get involved in. It’s also got a quiet side, with dozens of secluded beaches and peaceful nature trails. Whether you prefer 24/7 entertainment or the more laid-back approach, the island has a little something for everyone.
As thetravel.com says, some of the most exciting wonders to discover are on the lesser-known Greek Islands. That’s certainly true for Paros. The island may lack the notoriety of some of Greece’s bigger islands like Mykonos and Crete, but discerning travelers who don’t mind venturing off the beaten path will be well rewarded for their efforts. Along with its gloriously peaceful beaches, the island also boasts numerous historic landmarks. The most notable is the spectacular Panagia Ekatontapiliani, or Church with a Hundred Doors. Considered one of the most sacred sites in Greece, it’s unmissable. Only 99 doors have so far been found – according to legend, the 100th will remain concealed until the ancient city of Constantinople (or Istanbul, as we know it now) is once again ruled by the Greeks.
As davidsbeenhere.com writes, Hydra is a small and charming island that’s long been a favorite weekend escape for Athenians. It’s easy to see why. Despite its location just an hour by fast ferry from the capital’s main port of Piraeus, it feels a world away from the noise and the crowds of the city. Cars are prohibited, with the result that people get around by donkey instead. Most residents have their own, but visitors can rent a ride from one of the many donkey-for-hire establishments scattered around the island. As you’d expect, the pace of life is deliciously slow, even in its pretty main port.