With over 200 Greek Islands to visit which would you choose?
Greece is one of my favourite countries to visit, and not simply due to my heritage. Though I’ve often spent many holidays in Athens with family, I have travelled to a handful of amazing Greek Islands over the years and always dream about exploring more.
Greece has 227 habitable Greek Islands – but 6,000 islands make up the wider Greek Archipelago across both the Aegean and Ionian Seas. Each island has a uniquely beautiful culture and breathtaking views, but it would take a lifetime to visit them all.
I’ve collated my favourite islands, and have also asked other amazing and talented travel bloggers which islands they would deem as unmissable. We’ve built a truly incredible list of islands to add to your bucket lists.
This list covers the various regions of the Greek Islands, including Saronic, Ionian, Cyclades, Aegean and Mediterranean.
The first time I visited Hydra was in 1999 and it was one of the islands we visited that stood out the most to me from that trip – no electric vehicles and this wonderful port area to explore. The second time was in 2014 and I had arrived by sailboat, instead of a ferry, and really got to enjoy the island at a more leisurely pace – we watched the sunset from a bar with the perfect view, had dinner in a windmill, and drinks by the port.
It was such a beautifully surreal experience on the island – donkeys carried goods for local businesses and no cars could be found on the island. I caught myself walking in the middle of a road and kept glancing over my shoulder, expecting to need to step aside for a car or moped, but none came. It is one of the most unspoiled of the Greek islands but also one of the most popular with tourists.
The island has some fantastic locations for walkers and hiking – check out the coastal path to Vlyhos for an easy and beautiful walk.
How to get to Hydra: Hydra is in the Saronic Gulf with direct ferry access (about 2 hours) straight to Piraeus, the port just outside of Athens. The island is too small for an airport and the closest airport is in Athens.
TIP: Watch the sunset from either Sunset Restaurant or Kodylenias for spectacular views.
Submitted by Nina from Lemons and Luggage
Corfu is one of the Greek islands that you absolutely can’t miss. But with thousands of Greek islands what is it that makes Corfu stand out?
For one, Corfu has a strong Venetian influence. The Ionian island was a possession of the Republic of Venice between 1401 and 1797. Venice has had an enormous influence on Corfu’s architecture, and strolling through the old town you feel like you’re in Italy. Colourful houses and window shutters and narrow alleys give the island capital its unique atmosphere.
Corfu is also a lot greener than most Greek islands. While there isn’t much vegetation in the popular Cycladic islands, Corfu is a lush green paradise that sometimes has you feeling you’re in Thailand. On top of that, Corfu’s old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and well worth visiting.
The island offers tons of stunningly beautiful beaches – from the more busy ones to quiet and narrow spots where you won’t find many other people. But there are more things to see and do when you visit Corfu. One location you shouldn’t miss on the island is the Achilleion. This palace was built for Empress Elisabeth of Austria after her son’s death. It’s a mere 10km from the capital of the island and offers stunning views of Corfu.
Because Corfu has its own airport with international connections there’s no reason to miss out on this gorgeous Ionian island. Just keep in mind that the island’s Greek name is Kerkyra so you don’t get confused.
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Submitted by Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple
Why Visit Mykonos:
Also known as “Queen of the Cyclades” and “The island of the winds”, Mykonos is one of the picturesque and must-visit islands in Greece. Mykonos is 85 sq km in size and home to 15000 residents. However, in the summer months, this photogenic island receives as many as 250,000 visitors every year! Most people visualise Mykonos to the famous windmills, but truly Mykonos is more than that. There are 40 beaches and hidden bays and as many as 600 churches and small chapels scattered across the island. Not to forget the amazing nightlife the island offers.
Places to see in Mykonos:
Walk the myriad whitewashed streets, photograph the famous Mykonos windmills, eat in one of the restaurants in Little Venice (Alefkandra), while the waves sprinkle the salty water on your face! Located north of Little Venice is the insta worthy Church of Panagia Paraportiani. For an alternate offbeat attraction, visit the 16th century Ana Mera Monastery. Your holiday is not complete if you can’t soak into the azure waters of Mykonos. When it comes to the beach, you are spoilt with choices – Some of the top beaches include Paradise and Super Paradise Beach, Elia Beach (longest beach in Mykonos), Psarou Beach, Agrari beach (if you want no crowds), or the famous Kalafatis beach.
How to get here:
While Mykonos does have flight connections, the cheapest and best option is to take a ferry from Athens. The overall ferry journey is usually 5 hours, and the ferry ticket costs roughly 40 euros.
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When you think of Greek Islands the first that often comes to mind is Santorini. Renowned for its natural beauty, breathtaking cliffs, and colourful beaches, it has become one of the top destinations in Greece to travel to.
During the Minoan times, a large eruption was recorded and this is what broke the larger island into smaller parts and collapsed the caldera. The breathtaking cliffs on Santorini are the result of this eruption, and it formed Santorini as we have come to know and love it today. The volcanic rock is what makes the beaches so special with unique colours – visit Kamari or Perissa Beach to see black sand, Red Sand or Akrotiri Beach for red sand, or White Beach for white sand.
Any travel blogger will tell you to visit Oia to watch the sunset – for good reason, but the view from Firostefani is nearly as good and it is without any of the overwhelming crowds that flood to Oia at sunset. Oia is still amazing, but I’d recommend visiting during the day and escaping before sunset.
What else can you see or do? Stroll through Oia or Fira to enjoy the views, hike to the top of the volcano, swim in the volcanic hot springs, or take a boat tour around the caldera. Try a local Santorini wine, or for a local beer check out Crazy Donkey.
How to get to Santorini? Santorini has its own airport and it’s the easiest way to get there. The ferries from Piraeus/Athens are long, and high winds can cause complications.
TIP: Avoid Fira when the cruise ships are in town, the port city becomes overcrowded and unbearable. Instead, consider heading to a hard to reach the beach and enjoy a bit of peace.
Submitted by Sharon from MyFreeRangeFamily.com
Paros is great for families or couples wanting a place to base themselves for a few days. The atmosphere is laid back and in return requires this type of traveller. The best thing is that it steps slightly back from the tourist trail and crowds. Find a self-catering Airbnb, get yourself into island time and live like a local for a week.
Getting to and from this island is relatively easy. Arrive by ferry from Mykonos, Santorini and several other islands that also link to Paros. Or fly in directly from Athens.
This little gem of an island might be small but there is plenty to explore. And the best tip for Paros… rent a car so that you can see it all. There are beautiful beaches on every corner of the island and having a car will make it easier for you to find the one that suits you best.
Circumnavigate the island in a day taking in the sights and sounds of the villages and laid back but trendy culture of Paros.
The highlights –
- Wander the streets of Naoussa, a funky little fishing village turned cute shopping district. Plenty of opportunities for photos and some great places to eat while taking in the energy of this little place. If you like good quality healthy food try Sousouro.
- In Parikia visit the Frankish Kastro for some history and culture… while the wall was built in AD 1260 some of the carved stones used in this wall date back to 500 BC. Also visit the Panagia Elaktontapyliania, light a candle and capture the grandeur of this large church.
- Take a ferry to Antiparos as a pedestrian, or with your car to explore the island further.
- Head to Lefkes for the best homemade style chocolate cake and orange cake of all time at Καφενείο. Devour them right in front of the tiny café, under pine trees in the small central village courtyard. This picturesque hilltop community is the perfect place to take an afternoon walk among the white washed walls and narrow stoned streets.
Put aside a few days to stay in Paros, you’ll be glad you did!
Submitted by Laureen from MyFabFiftiesLife.com
Antiparos (Anti-pear-osh) is a tiny island about 35 square kilometers, a five-minute ferry ride from the island of Paros, and part of the Cyclades Island in the South Aegean.
You can easily get to Paros and Antiparos via ferry from the larger regional islands of Santorini and Mykonos. If you’ve experienced the larger and way more touristy islands, it’s time to kick back and relax in authentic Antiparos.
Though tourism is a major part of this tiny island’s economy, the island is the closest thing I’ve found to what Greece used to be. It’s so diametrically opposed to overcrowded Santorini it doesn’t even feel like the same country. Fishing is still a major industry and the tiny population (about 1200 year-round residents) all know each other. By the way, Tom Hanks owns a home here.
For such a small island there is plenty to do. Of course, there are beaches…so many and a wide variety from sandy to rocky along the 57 kilometers of stunning coastline. There are many places to hike and walk in the rolling hills of the island. There is a very interesting stalagmite cave and the historic 15th century remains of Kastro Castle in the one and only village.
Although many of the restaurants close during the offseason, the selection of fresh fish, octopus, cheese, produce and Greek baked goods is astonishing.
Day trips are easy to several other islands in the area, including the island of Dispotiko, an island of immense historical archeological significance.
I love Anitparos and I can’t wait to go back!
Submitted by Amber from Thessaloniki Local
Lesvos is an extraordinary island in the North Aegean, rich in culture and character. Lesvos is now well-known internationally because of the many hundreds of thousands of refugees that have come ashore on the island. We were there in 2016, and of all the things on the island that impressed us, what stood out the most was the grace and humanity of the people of Lesvos – this island truly captures the timeless values and virtues of Greek culture. Frequent travelers know that a destination is really all about the character of the people. By this measure, Lesvos ranks very high.
But it also ranks high in every other respect – natural beauty, culture, cuisine, and not least ouzo – a culture of its own. Mytilene, the capital, is one of the most glamorous island cities of Greece, with a beautiful harbor and lots of Belle Epoque elegance. The many olive oil merchants built in the styles of the day, in a broad range of fairy-talesque European styles. The Cathedral church of Agios Therapontos is a neo-baroque marvel, and the medieval Gatalusi fortress is extensive, beautifully preserved, overlooking the town.
What else to see on Lesvos:
Another charming town is Molyvos with its fishing port, winding streets, traditional homes, and climbing wisteria. This is an excellent place for a harbor-side table of meze.
The villages high in the hills are completely enchanting. We loved Asomatos and Agiassos especially, where traditional craftsmen make instruments and the cheeses at the “kafeneio” are made by the proprietor’s mother. And Skala Kallonis is the ideal fishing village, complete with a boat maker.
And the beaches? Oh my – they’re excellent, especially Skala Eressos, with its dedication to the ancient poet Sappho. But many come to Lesvos without setting a toe on the beaches – these are the international community of avid birders! The island hosts over 300 species of birds at some point in the year as they make their migrations.
Lastly, this – together with Chios – is the source of ouzo culture. There are 17 distilleries on the island, accounting for about half of the ouzo production of Greece. And ouzo truly is a culture – always accompanied by meze and lively, light-hearted conversation. But never, for locals, is ouzo combined with ice – they dilute it to taste with chilled water and sip it from elegant tall glasses.
How to get here: Lesvos has an airport and there are frequent flights from Athens. It’s port is connected with ferries from the surrounding islands and Kavala on the mainland.
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Submitted by Chrysoula from TravelPassionate
The beautiful island of Naxos is the largest in the Cyclades chain of islands and is an excellent destination for a fun-filled Greek getaway. The island centers around Naxos Town, the main ‘chora’ where the ferries arrive, which features an unmissable ancient marble gate which serves as a window to the island. The main town also boasts a Venetian Castle, winding cobblestone streets, charming boutiques and a plethora of port-side bars and restaurants in which to enjoy al fresco drinks and dining.
The town is flanked by stretches of warm golden sands where visitors can relax by the water’s edge, and further inland lie, even more, wonders to discover. With quaint traditional villages, meandering mountain roads, old Byzantine churches, and even an archaeological site with ancient Kouros statues, Naxos really does have it all.
As it’s such a large island, visitors will need a car to get around (or there is a public bus service) but it does mean there is so much to see and do that you could easily stay for a week or more without getting bored.
Naxos can be accessed by ferry from many of the nearby islands, as well as from Piraeus, or can be reached by plane with domestic flights arriving daily from Athens throughout the summer months.
Submitted by Anda from Travel for a while
Thassos is one of the most diverse Greek islands. The northernmost island in the Aegean Sea is easy to reach from the mainland from either Kavala or Keramoti on a short ferry ride.
What I love about Thassos island is that you can find anything you want for your summer holiday. Whether you enjoy popular beaches or discovering secluded bays away from the crowds, you’ll find them on Thassos. If you like more active holidays, you can find rental centers on organized beaches like Golden Beach or Skala Rachoni Beach. Try kayaking or windsurfing or even rent a small boat to get to some of the inaccessible beaches.
Also, if you want to see more of Thassos, you can bike around the island or go hiking on the trails inland. Don’t miss a visit to Theologos, a traditional village about 10km inland from Potos. The village is beautiful but another reason to visit is the famous roasted lamb you can try at the taverns here.
While we’re talking about food, you should also taste the honey they make in Thassos.
If you’re a history fan, you should stop to visit the archaeological site in Aliki or the ancient theater in Limenas.
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Submitted by Sara Grube Cerny of Cernys’ Journeys
Kefalonia is the largest Greek island in the Ionian Sea and the 6th largest Greek island. When most people think of an island you immediately think beach, which there are so many spectacular beaches on Kefalonia, but there is so much more to this exotic island to explore.
What makes Kefalonia unique from the other Greek Islands is that the island has a network of caves!
My favorite is the Drogarati Cave located in the Sami region on the east side of the island.
Imagine taking a staircase 200 feet into the earth to enter a cave thousands of years in the making. Once you reach the entrance you are immediately surrounded by 360 degrees of stalactites and stalagmites. There is a path that will take you around the circumference of the cave where you can take some amazing pictures up close to these beautiful formations.
While you are there test the acoustics of the cave as they are amazing. The cave has hosted opera singers, orchestras and rock concerts since it opened to the public in 1963!
Tip: I would recommend having shoes with soles as the stairs can be challenging, as well as the ground may be slippery.
The best way to get there is by hired car or taxi as it is 25 minutes/35 kilometers from the island capital of Argostoli.
Cost: 4 Euros
Self-guided tours take approximately 60 minutes.
Submitted by Nikki from Attractions of America
Are you a little skeptical about visiting the Lefkada island of Greece? Do not be; we will tell you why. The turquoise Ionic sea, the friendly locals, the majestic scenic beauty, the mighty hospitality of the Greek people, and everything else you can only imagine make this island so unique for tourists. This place has both lush green forested mountains and pristine beaches.
How to reach:
There is no airport in the Lefkada island, but a bridge connects the island to the mainland. You can always take the bus or take a car to reach the island from the mainland. Also, there are ferries available from Kefalonia, Meganisi, and Ithaki. But, there are no direct ferries to this beautiful island from Athens. So, there are both public and private transport to reach the beautiful place.
Things to do:
This place offers excellent opportunities for kite surfing and windsurfing during the summers due to strong winds. The countryside of Lefkada is ideal for hiking and mountain biking as it has mountains. You can also go surfing on the beaches of Agios Ioannis and Vassiliki. You will also find water sports and games on the beach of Nyadri.
While you are in Lefkada, try the local cuisines and fresh fishes. To get the real taste of the island, you can try out traditional taverns in the villages. If you want to go to clubs and pubs, you can go to Nyadri or the port of Lefkada. So, for your next vacation, visit Lefkada island of Greece.
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Submitted by Paulina from PaulinaOnTheRoad
Folegandros island is among the top 20 unmissable fascinating Greek islands that you must plan to visit someday. It’s indeed a real paradise because of its charming natural beauty and relaxing atmosphere. The island is especially famous for its wine culture, mountainous and rocky surroundings, green fields, and an extraordinary attractive landscape.
There are several things to do in Folegandros island that you must not miss anyhow. It includes enjoying the underwater world through scuba diving in the excellent clean green beaches, like Katergo, Agali, Ambeli, and more. Additionally, explore the Pounta Square, Church of Panagia, Ecological and Folklore Museum, and Chryssospilia Cave. Further, hike at Ano Meria, try boating, rent an ATV, besides going shopping. Alongside this, taste the local cheese or pasta at Pounta restaurant, but don’t miss out on traditional local dishes, like Matsada at Karavostasi.
However, there is no airport in Folegandros island. So, to get to the island, you can either fly to Santorini island or the island of Milos, which are two of the closest airports from Folegandros. Yet, prefer to travel to Santorini, instead of Milos as it has far more flights per day. Otherwise, booking a ferry is more convenient as there is a regular ferry connection, linking Folegandros and Piraeus port in Athens. This trip generally lasts from 6-8 hours, depending on whether you’re travelling by a usual or high-speed ferry. Moreover, the best time to visit the island is mainly during the summer or springtime to experience the most comfortable weather.
Submitted by Gabi Ancarola from The Tiny Book
Gavdos is an almost unknown Greek island that belongs to the better-known and much bigger island of Crete.
Gavdos is the southernmost place you can visit in the whole of Europe! It’s actually closer to Africa than to the capital of Greece, Athens.
The small island is about 50 km from the southern coast of the Cretan region of Chania, and a visit to Gavdos can be a great addition to any Crete itinerary. The island is heaven if you want to experience a truly natural environment.
On Gavdos there is no electricity and water supplies are scarce. To get there you can travel on the regular boat service that departs from the nearest town of Chora Sfakion, on Crete.
The little island is a place that people choose to go tor real relax and to authentically disconnect from the rest of the world. Naturists adore the unique, lonely beaches facing the pristine waters of the Libyan sea.
Gavdos is only 9 km long and 4.5 km wide, and the best way to explore the surroundings is by hiking the paths that take you to stunning hidden shores along the coast. The best-known beaches are Potamos, Sarakiniko, and the isolated Korfos Beach.
The most famous place to see on the island is Tripiti, a natural arch with three imposing holes located on the southeastern coast.
Another must-see is the small but beautiful lighthouse of Gavdos built back in the 1800s. It has visibility up to 42-miles which makes it the second lighted sea distance in the world after the lighthouse in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
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Submitted by Derek and Mike from Robe Trotting
One of the best destinations in Greece is Sifnos island – a gem in the Cyclades island chain. Sifnos has a laid back vibe that you’ll notice as soon as you arrive. It’s full of golden beaches, whitewashed buildings, and just enough nightlife to keep you entertained.
One of the best beaches to visit is Vathy Beach, a quiet cove dotted with tavernas and waterfront restaurants. The main beach has sun chairs for rent and refreshments and the turquoise waters will amaze you. Kamares Beach is located near the main ferry terminal, but still retains privacy and idyllic charm. It’s a great place to stay and to base your exploration of the island. Locals love to visit Faros Beach because it’s more remote and located in a small fishing village.
In the evenings, make your way to the hillside city of Apollonia, the largest city in Sifnos. That’s where you’ll find rooftop bars, cozy pubs, and restaurants serving all sorts of cuisines. Before dinner, you can shop in the local boutiques. For an after-dinner stroll, you can get lost in the winding alleys and even discover an ice cream shop.
Another reason to love the island is Sifnos Trails. It’s a network of hiking trails that trace 100 km around the volcanic island. As you hike it delivers sweeping coastline views and sites like Chrisopigi Monastery and the medieval town of Kastros.
Crete is one of the largest of the Greek Islands and was once home to the Minoan civilization. The Palace of Knossos is a must-visit site on the island and is a beautiful gem of archaeological importance that was left to us by the Minoans. Greek Mythology is also a prominent feature of this island as well; it is where Zeus was brought up and where many of the myths took place. For a time the island was also under Venetian control, and the influences can be seen throughout the island but especially in the port of Chania.
There are several beautiful towns to stay in on the island – from the sprawling Heraklion, to the quaint Rethymno, and the charming Chania. There is something different for each type of traveller but one consistent – the food is incredible, the sea is stunningly blue, and the hospitality unmatched.
The island has so much to offer and there really is something for everyone. It’s also relatively easy to get around, despite its size, so you can have a base in Chania and still enjoy seeing the Palace of Knossos on the other side of the island.
How to get to Crete: The island has 2 airports in Heraklion (eastern Crete) and Chania (western Crete), and ferries can be caught from a variety of places in Greece (this would be a lengthy journey).
TIP: Western Crete is incredibly charming and has a lovely authenticity, stay in Chania or Rethymnon, not Heraklion when visiting.
Submitted by Lucile from LucileHR
Kalymnos is a very off-the-beaten-path Greek Island located along the Turkish coast. It is the perfect destination if you are looking to get away from everything and relax while keeping active as the island has a lot to offer.
To go there, there are flights from Athens, but a lot of people choose to travel from nearby Kos and take a ferry, as there are more flights to Kos. You will need to rent a scooter to move around the island.
Kalymnos is the perfect balance between activity and relaxation as the island has a lot of opportunities to stay active. It is a well-known spot for rock-climbing and you should do it with an experienced guide. You can also go spelunking and explore the caves. It is also a perfect spot for those who enjoy water sports such as sailing and diving, as the island has a history of sponge diving and fishing.
You will probably want to relax after all this activity. Kalymnos is also a perfect place for wellness lovers as it has a lot of secluded villas to rent (sometimes even with a private beach) that are perfect to unroll your yoga mat and practice with a wonderful view of the sea!
Spetses is where the Greeks go on holiday, according to my local cousins, and I instantly could see why. It’s located among the Saronic Islands outside of Athens and a relatively short ferry ride. The island is small, intimate, and very welcoming; it’s small enough to cycle around or hire a moped to explore at your leisure.
The atmosphere of the island provides a delightful charm – whether you’re enjoying one of the many beaches, an authentic meal, or strolling through the small and quaint port.
What not to miss: Bekira’s Cave, with a short hike from the local beach (Paralia Agii Anargiri) you can swim through to this gorgeous deep blue water cave. Verlos Beach is close to the main port and is a picturesque and charming local beach. And for food? Dine on the beach at Akrogialia, on the outskirts of the main port.
Given that Spetses is a weekend destination for the Greeks I would recommend visiting during the week – this should give you a bit more breathing room on the island and an easier time finding accommodation.
How to get to Spetses: The island is only accessible via private boat or Ferry. The ferry is available from Piraeus to Spetses, tickets are around €80 round trip and take about 2.5 hours.
TIP: Hire a 4×4 or Moped and complete a loop of the ring road on the island, stopping off at Bekira’s Cave and Verlos Beach.
Aegina is a Saronic Island located south of Athens and an easy ferry ride away from Piraeus, the port city adjacent to Athens. It’s a good-sized island with several towns that can be visited.
This charming island has a variety of sites to visit and enjoy and is located close to Athens and easily reached. Between the historical sites, cultured museums, gorgeous beaches and charming villages, Aegina really does have something to offer to all types of visitors.
It is most well known for the Temple of Aphaea – a Greek goddess whose only known sanctuary is located on the island of Aegina. She was considered to be the goddess of fertility and agriculture cycle. The Temple of Aphaea is a key place to visit while on Aegina and showcases a lot of the history of the island. It forms the “holy triangle” of antiquity along with the Temple of Poseidon in Sounion and the Acropolis in Athens, and is the key attraction to see on Aegina, but not the only draw.
What to see: The island offers several towns to enjoy and charming villages, such as Kypseli, and larger towns, such as Aegina town. There are several good museums on the island as well to visit – the Archaeological Museum, Historical and Folklore Museum, and Temple of Aphaea, and Saint Nektarios Monastery.
How to get there: Ferry from Piraeus, or from other neighbouring islands (Hydra, Agistri, Poros or Spetses).
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