Everything you need from a guide to the Greek islands.
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Table of Contents – Guide to Best Greek Islands
What Complex of Greek Islands To Pick or How To Combine Them
The Cyclades are famous for their distinctive architecture, the whitewashed cube shaped houses that are built close to each other usually at a high point for protection against intruders and the windmills which once were used to mill grains but now are mostly a tourist attraction.
4. NORTHERN AEGEAN
7. CRETE AND EUBOEA
Best Greek Islands To Visit In Winter
Cyclades: Mykonos, Santorini
Saronic: Hydra, Poros, Aegina, Salamina
Other: Crete, Euboea
That is because you are more likely to find restaurants and attractions open, there is a lower chance to be stuck on the island due to rough seas
- Tip: The best Greek islands then to visit in winter would be the one’s that have an airport, are considerably big and that have a steady amount of permanent residents throughout the year.
Dodecanese: Rhodes, Kos, Karpathos, Patmos, Kalymnos
Cyclades: Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, Naxos, Tinos, Milos, Syros, Sifnos, Folegandros
- Tip: The dates for Orthodox Easter change slightly every year so plan ahead if you want to combine your trip with some cultural experiences.
Best Greek Islands To Visit In September or October
Saronic: All of them
Cyclades: Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, Naxos, Syros
Eptanisa: Corfu, Cephalonia
Best Greek Islands To Visit Close To Athens
Saronic: All of them
Cyclades: Mykonos, Santorini
Euboea, the second largest island that you can reach by car, is only one hour from Athens and has incredible beaches, fantastic fish taverns and a rich history. Due to its size it may not feel like an island but you should dedicate at least 3 days to exploring this area.
Best Greek Islands To Visit For Nature Lovers
Dodecanese: Nisyros, Rhodes, Kalymnos
Eptanisa: Corfu, Cephalonia, Lefkada, Kithyra
Cyclades: Andros, Sifnos, Tilos, Milos
Other: Euboea, Crete
Sporades: Skyros, Allonisos
Northern Aegean: Samothraki, Chios
11 Smallest Greek Islands To Visit
Eptanisa: Paxos Antipaxos
Cyclades: Koufonisia, Anafi, Folegandros
Northern Aegean: Fournoi, Psara
Visiting some of the smaller islands has both advantages and disadvantages. Almost all of the smaller islands lack airports and as such you will need to travel to a bigger island and then catch a ferry or else take a longer journey on the ferry from Piraeus. Some may take more than 15hours but they almost always travel over night and you can book a cabin. However, once you get there, smaller islands will reward you with their lack of tourists and authentic representation of life. You may be able to witness customs and traditions that you wouldn’t be exposed to elsewhere and taste local flavours that are truly homemade.
11 Biggest Greek Islands To Visit
Eptanisa: Zakynthos, Cephalonia, Corfu
Other: Crete, Euboea
Northern Aegean: Lesvos, Chios, Lemnos, Samos
The biggest island by far is Crete island. It is twice as big as the second largest island Euboia. Most of the other big islands can be found in the Ionian Sea. If you want to travel to one of the bigger islands of Greece you will be rewarded with more options for accomodation and activities and most of the times a smoother and more comprehensive infastructure for tourism compared to the tiny Greek islands. Most of the islands with a static population all-year-around will have a medical centre, but if you have specific health problems, it pays to inquire ahead of time.
Cyclades: Mykonos, Santorini, Milos
Eptanisa: Zakynthos, Corfu
What suits one traveller will not suit another, so don’t rely only on the Greek islands that first come to mind. While undoubtedly beautiful and amazing destinations that we would always recommend, the most famous islands of Greece tend to get a bit overcrowded. If your heart is set on one of these islands and you are not a fan of crowds try to plan for late spring or early autumn. Your wallet will also thank you. The sweet-smelling Mykonian nights through cobblestoned labyrinths and stupendous sunsets of Santorini, will be there waiting for you!
♥ READ MORE ABOUT POPULAR GREEK ISLANDS ♥
Cyclades: Mykonos, Santorini, Milos, Paros, Naxos, Syros[
Sporades: Skyros, Skiathos
Eptanisa: Zakynthos, Corfu, Cephalonia, Kythira
All of the “biggest islands” you can find in the above section have airports. The bigger islands will also have more frequent routes, especially during the off season, and you can often find good deals. In comparison, the smaller and less popular islands have charter flights that may only operate during the busiest months and even then come with a hefty price tag. There is always one airport per complex of islands, however, with the exception of the Saronic Gulf islands. These islands are served by Athens International Airport and Piraeus port, from which they are only a couple of hours or less away.
- Disclaimer: Due to tourism and changes in the economy of Greece, information in this section may change. If you have information regarding an airport in the Greek islands or have spotted a mistake please contact us so we can make the necessary amendments.
🥳 Best Greek Islands For Party Lovers 🥳
Cyclades: Mykonos, Ios, Paros
Some of the Greek islands feature prominently on the radar of party lovers! Mykonos and Crete in particular have long been favourites for people that prefer to sleep during the day and party all night. Every island attracts a different crowd as though people organically started to favour one over the other and a niche market was created. In Crete you will find all-inclusive resorts that are a favourite package holiday for Brits in the summer. Mykonos was once called the Ibiza of the Aegean but now has achieved a spot of its own on the throne of nightlife entertainment and is LGBTQ+ friendly. Skiathos and Paros is where a lot of Greek students have their first away from home adventures.
- Tip: Even the above mentioned “party-islands” have a lot to offer for people that do not enjoy all-night outings. Try to stay away from the “Chora” or main village of the island or visit during the off season.
👪 Best Greek Islands For Families 👪
Dodecanese: Symi, Kos, Rhodes
Other: Crete, Euboia
Eptanisa: All of them
For family friendly Greek island destinations location might be the biggest determining factor depending on how many kids or families are travelling, their ages and for how long. The biggest islands on the list like Rhodes, Crete, Cephalonia, Corfu and Lefkada (in the Eptanisa) have more options for family resorts and are better connected with flights. If you don’t want to spend more than a couple of hours in a ferry to reach an island and would rather fly, then the list above is a very good starting point. The complex of Eptanisa is another ideal choice, with lots of green and shade, adequate size to offer options for all and great accomodation options and well connected to the rest of Greece.
- Tip: Kythira island is technically part of the Eptanisa complex but you will find it under the Peloponnese peninsula away from the Ionian Sea. You can read more about family travel in Kythira here.
👪 Best Greek Islands For Couples & Romantic Holidays 👪
Dodecanese: Symi, Astypalaia
Saronic: Aegina,Hydra, Spetses
Eptanisa: Paxos Antipaxos, Corfu
Most destinations can become romantic if you visit them with the person that makes your heart flutter! Even so, some places seem to have a bit of extra magic in the air. The way the dark purple light hits the sea and the colour palette of the architecture join together to create a veil of romance that is hard to resist. Santorini is undoubtedly one of these places; a unique destination that is ideal for couples. If you are a fan of the sugar cube houses and colourful bougainvilleas then the Cyclades are a great option. Mykonos, Santorini, Naxos and Paros will be the busiest during peak summer season so if that is something you wish to avoid Folegandros and Amorgos or Astypalaia in the Dodecanese are exceptionally beautiful spots.
- Tip: Folegandros and Amorgos are great options if you also want to see Santorini for a few days. Ferry tickets are frequent during summer and only last 1 to 3 hours depending on the vessel.
💰💰 Most Expensive Greek Islands 💰💰
Eptanisa: Cephalonia, Zakynthos, Corfu
It is hard to answer this question without knowing the travel style of each visitor. But since people tend to ask for the “most expensive Greek islands” we will try our best to answer it. The most popular and biggest islands tend to also be the most expensive. Santorini and Mykonos are definitely at the top of the list. The demand is high, supplies, food are brought in from the mainland and drinking water from the tap is not possible. One exception in regards to size are the islands of the North Aegean that see far fewer international visitors than the Cyclades or the Ionian islands.
- Tip: Popular islands may have higher costs in accomodation but are easier and cheaper to reach than others. Smaller far away islands may have no airport and require more than 12hours in a ferry to reach. You should pick whatever sounds best for you!
💰 The Inexpensive Greek Islands 💰
Dodecanese: Nisyros, Symi, Karpathos
Northern Aegean: Ikaria, Thassos, Lemnos, Lesvos, Samothrace
Other: Euboea, Aegina
Greece is in general a very affordable destination for international visitors. Mykonos and Santorini can still be visited on a budget but if you want the most bang for your buck and are not after fine dining or luxury accomodation there are a lot of options for you. One general advice is to look at the “Greek Islands With Airports” list above, and remove them from your list. Smaller, harder to reach islands will be more traditional, authentic and representative of the pace and lifestyle of Greek people. Reaching these islands, however, may require more planning especially if you want to island-hop.
- Tip: In the most popular islands, locals that work in tourism work long hours from the start of the season in April till late October. If you want to meet and chat to locals try visiting smaller islands that are not dependant on tourism or come during the off-season.
Best Greek Islands For History Lovers
Dodecanese: Patmos, Kos, Rhodes
Northern Aegean: Lemnos, Chios
Eptanisa: Kythira, Corfu
For history lovers, Greece, in general, is full of traces of its ancient past. While most people know of the Parthenon in Athens and maybe the ancient theatre of Epidaurus, some of the Greek islands are home to imposing castles, ancient ruins and impressive monuments from different periods. Rhodes is home to the second most visited ancient site after the Acropolis in Athens. In Santorini, you can see the excavations that have been taking place at the Akrotiri peninsula that date back to the Minoan period. While in Crete, you will find the grand palace of Knossos that could very well be one of the earliest European cities.
- Tip: Delos is an island that has been uninhabited since the 7th century AD. To explore this archaeological place you need to travel from one of the neighborhing islands, like Mykonos, Naxos, Paros or Tinos.
Best Greek Islands To Visit If You Love Watersports
Dodecanese: Karpathos, Rhodes[
Northern Aegean: Lemnos
Naxos is arguably the most well known destination in Greece for windsurfing and kitesurfing. If you want to get amongst the action, the nearby Paros and Antiparos also offer ideal wind conditions and organized clubs whether you are an expert or a new fan that requires a few lessons. In the Northern Aegean, the vast Keros Beach in Lemnos is a favourite for locals and visitors. The beach is on the east coast of the island and is always windy, so if you are not planning to kite or surf, this might not be for you.
- Tip: If you want to experience the verdant landscape of the Ionian islands you should consider Lefkada. In addition to having some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Greece, Lefkada’s sandy Vassiliki Beach on the south coast, is the perfect spot for windsurfing enthusiasts.
Best Greek Islands To Visit If You Don’t Have a Car
Cyclades: Santorini, Anafi, Naxos, Koufonisia
Saronic: Hydra, Spetses
There are two reasons why you travel somewhere without a car. The first is that cars are strictly not allowed on the island, just like in the case of Hydra and Spetses. Alternatively you may wish to spend your holidays free of cars because you have no drivers licence or would rather skip the cost of hiring a car. If that sounds like you, the smallest islands of the list like Koufonisia, Anafi or bigger islands like Naxos that has good public transport is ideal.
- Tip: Driving in Santorini is a good option for those that want the flexibility of exploring the whole island and are not scared to share the narrow alleyways with big tour buses. By not renting a vehicle you may need to stay around certain locations like Oia or Fira, or spend a bit extra on taxis and skip the hassle of finding a parking spot.
Most Insta-Worthy Greek Islands To Visit
Cyclades: Santorini, Mykonos, Milos
Eptanisa: Cephalonia, Zakynthos
All of the Greek islands are incredibly beautiful! But it would hard to deny that some of them feature more prominently on Instagram feeds. As a result, there are certain images that have become iconic of these islands. In Mykonos, you think of the colourful houses of Little Venice getting bashed by the waves and that “alleyway” shot with the crisp white walls and Pinterest worthy cushions that look out to sea. Try to search for Santorini and we will be surprised if you don’t instantly spot a sea of blue church domes looking out at sunset light. And as far as Milos goes, the moon like reflections of the rocks around Sarakiniko beach are front and centre every time.
- Tip: One of the most famous beaches in Crete is Elafonisi with its unique pink-hued sand. The up and coming competitor is Seitan Limania. A small beach that until recently was inaccessible, now is there to reward visitors that brave the steep and windy ride.
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Rania grew up in Thessaloniki and spent most of her adult life in her adopted country of New Zealand. When she’s not studying to complete her masters degree she’s either reading, writing or exploring the outdoors.
She loves going on mini adventures, whether it is an impromptu road trip or multi-day hikes. She is interested in photography and languages and strongly believes that feta should be consumed with every meal.
She also thinks Greece is the best holiday destination and invites anyone that thinks otherwise to prove her wrong.