Looking for the best islands in Greece for an unspoiled beach vacation? From Thira to Crete, Hydra to Corfu, here’s your guide to the exotic locales from the diverse group of Greek islands
Hey Ecophiles, my boyfriend and I planning our first trip to Greece. But there are so many incredible islands to choose from – which are the best islands in Greece to visit?
– Hannah Pressley
Ahhh, Greece. Get ready to experience ‘Eudaimonia’, the Greek expression for “human flourishing”; a contented state of being happy, healthy and prosperous. It’s an undeniable feeling you’ll have when visiting the country, especially when exploring the islands.
There are close to 227 inhabited islands throughout the Aegean Sea that visitors can travel to and about six main sets of islands that tourists like to frequent: the Ionian, Cyclades, Aegean, Dodecanese, Sarconic, and Crete. Each of the islands offers something different depending on your travel style, budget, and interests – here are handy tips to consider for best islands in Greece.
Hands down Thíra, or as it’s more commonly known, Santorini is the most picturesque island in the Cyclades. The views of the caldera, the pink sunsets, the blue-domed houses… they are iconic for a reason.
While Santorini has a reputation for being the “honeymoon island” – and it certainly is romantic – solo travelers can get a lot out of their visit too. One can enjoy the great nightlife, wineries, and memorable beaches with or without a partner during their visit. It’s also easy jumping off point for visiting neighboring party town, Mykonos. If you want a quieter stay in the Cyclades, try Andros or Paros.
Corfu is often overlooked, which is a real shame since it’s absolutely gorgeous! The verdant Ionian island is very family-friendly and offers plenty of outdoor adventures from hiking to sailing.
The destination also caters to history buffs! Corfu is home to the Achilleion, former Empress Elizabeth ‘Sisi’ of Austria’s home away from the Hapsburg mansion, and an ancient fortress, which you may recognize from the James Bond franchise. Interested in the obscure and intriguing? Visit the crypt of the famous Catholic Patron Saint, Saint Spyridon.
Time stands still in the charming Argo-Saronic island of Hydra. This eco-friendly spot has banned all motor transportation and has strict rules on new construction, keeping the integrity of old-world Greece intact. It’s easy to get (willingly) lost walking around the winding hills and side streets of Hyrda. The island is a short ferry ride away from Athens making it a perfect day trip for those using the city as a base.
Rhodes is like the older cousin of the Greek islands. It’s got an intriguing past and is effortlessly cool. From an ancient Medieval castle to a lively nightlife scene, Rhodes blends the old world with the new. The old-town or Platía Aríonos is a great area to go bar hopping and clubbing.
Foodies, head to Crete! All the traditional Greek dishes like spanikopita, dolmades, tzatziki, and fassolatha can be enjoyed in Crete. Or if you have more adventurous tastes try the chochlios boubouristi, which are snails fried in vinegar, rosemary, and wine. Crete is also famous for their cheeses and extra virgin olive oil. Grab a Raki, a traditional brandy drink- and drink with the locals. After all, Crete is where the Greeks go to hang out during the high tourist season. Chania, the second largest city on the island is a popular getaway spot for locals known for its mixture of Venitian and Turkish influences.
Bonus: Navagio beach on the island of Zakynthos is the famous “shipwreck beach” you may have heard of. Go during off-season when it’s not so crowded. Hope you enjoy your first trip to the best islands in Greece!
– Misty Foster, Travel expert
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