In this post, you’ll learn all the secrets of the best islands in Greece from a well-travelled local herself!
The Greek islands need no special introduction. They’re renowned all across the globe for being the perfect destination for a summer vacation. But, what makes the islands in Greece so special? I’m from Greece and have travelled to all of these islands and can tell you that each one is unique.
Apart from the gorgeous beaches, the Greek islands are great for a romantic honeymoon, a holiday with friends, or a family vacation with kids.
As an adventure seeker or a party-goer, you’ll also find an island in Greece that suits your vibe. There are so many fantastic places to see in Greece, with the islands having a little something for everyone.
The Greek islands are among the most exciting destinations to visit in the world for their unique ambience, beautiful architecture, excellent weather, and authentic way of life.
Best Greek Islands to Visit
I’m Greek and I have lived all my life in Greece. Ever since I was a kid, my family’s go-to summer destination was one of the islands.
As a grown-up and avid traveller, no matter the wonders of the world I’ve seen, the beautiful Greek islands will always have a special place in my heart.
Greece has more than 200 inhabited islands! Here I’ll list the 20 best Greek islands for tourists looking for the perfect vacation.
1. Santorini: most romantic island in Greece
Perhaps the most famous island in Greece, Santorini is the most photogenic one as well.
Santorini is an island of stunning architecture, gorgeous views, incredible sunsets, and unique landscapes. However, the island’s extraordinary beauty is also why it can get really crowded, especially during summer.
The island is also one of the most romantic destinations in the world and it certainly offers the perfect backdrop for unforgettable photos with your significant other.
Last but not least, Santorini has some culinary delights on offer. Don’t leave the island without trying mashed fava beans and any tomato-based dish.
Getting to Santorini
Flights from many European cities to Santorini International Airport are quite frequent, especially in the summer. Alternatively, you can get to Santorini by ferry from Piraeus Port near Athens. Search for ferry times, routes and prices here.
Things To Do in Santorini
There are numerous fun things to do on the island, here are the top 5.
1. Visit Oia At Sunset
Oia is the most picturesque town in Santorini and it looks fantastic any time of day — but it’s absolutely dreamy at sunset.
2. Join a Winery Tour
Santorini is one of the most important wine regions in Greece. The best way to try some of the island’s varieties and learn the secrets of local winemaking is by joining a wine tour at one of the island’s wineries.
3. Find Out The Secrets of Ancient Akrotiri
Ancient Akrotiri is a very well-preserved ancient town which was buried under tons of volcanic ash thousands of years ago. A visit to Akrotiri reveals exciting facts about life in this prosperous ancient city and it’s definitely among the best things to do in Santorini.
4. Hike an Active Volcano
While vacationing in Santorini, you have the unique opportunity to visit an active volcano. Its crater is situated in Nea Kameni, a volcanic islet just off Santorini’s coast. A 30-minute hike will take you to the smoking crater and the very heart of the most surreal setting you could ever imagine.
5. Dance The Night Away in Fira
Even if you’re not an avid party-goer, a night out in Santorini is really worth experiencing at least once. Fira Town is home to historic nightclubs which have been around for many decades and never seem to disappoint.
You can find Santorini on the map, here. Don’t miss our post on the 15 Best Things To Do in Santorini.
2. Crete: best all-around Greek island
Crete is the largest island in Greece. Historically, the island was the centre of Europe’s first advanced civilisation, the famous Minoan Civilisation.
Crete is an incredibly diverse destination. A land blessed with an exceptional natural landscape and rich cultural heritage, the island is perfect for everyone — from couples and families to groups of friends and solo travellers.
Although a very popular island, Crete is so big that there are both crowded and peaceful places to go, even during peak seasons.
Similarly, Crete is a remarkably authentic destination, especially in terms of food. Cretan cuisine is synonymous with one of the healthiest and most delicious diets in the world.
☞ See our complete travel guide to the island of Crete.
Getting to Crete
There are two international airports in Crete: one in Chania and one in Heraklion. There are many direct flights from Europe, and 1 stop flights from North America.
Alternatively, you can get to Crete by ferry from Piraeus, and many other destinations in Greece. Click here to find a ferry to Crete.
Things To Do in Crete
There are numerous things to see and do in Crete, these are the top 5.
1. Wander Around The Palace of Knossos
As the centre of the renowned Minoan Civilisation, the Palace of Knossos is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Greece you definitely don’t want to miss.
2. Swim in The Exotic Waters of Balos Lagoon
Balos Lagoon is the most exotic beach in Greece. It’s, in essence, a shallow pool of turquoise waters surrounded by steep cliffs and its beauty is out of this world. This is definitely one of the top beaches in Greece.
3. Take in The Beauty of The Venetian Port in Chania
Walking along the gorgeous promenade of the Venetian Port in Chania is among the best things to do in Crete as well as the optimal way to see and be seen on the island.
4. Visit Arkadi Monastery
Beautiful Arkadi Monastery near Rethymno was the site of one of the darkest but also most heroic instances in Cretan history.
During an Ottoman siege, the people who had found refuge within the walls of the monastery decided to take their own lives rather than surrender.
5. Hike Samaria Gorge
The National Park of Samaria Gorge offers a unique opportunity for a 15km hike like no other. Although quite strenuous in some parts, this hike is an experience you won’t want to miss.
Find Crete on the map, here. Don’t miss our full post on the Best Things To See and Do in Crete and our Complete Guide to Elounda, Crete.
3. Mykonos: best party island
Ever since the 60s, Mykonos has been known for its vibrant nightlife and for being the ultimate LGBT-friendly destination.
Yet its gorgeous beaches and stunning traditional architecture are equally valid reasons to plan an unforgettable trip to this stunning Greek island.
Although touristy and party-oriented, Mykonos also has an authentic side which is most striking once you leave behind the busy Chora (town) and head to the island’s splendid countryside.
Getting to Mykonos
There is an international airport on the island but you can also get to Mykonos by ferry from the ports of Piraeus and Rafina near Athens. Find ferries to Mykonos here.
Things To Do in Mykonos
There are numerous fun things to see and do in Mykonos, here are the top 5.
1. Watch The Sunset At Little Venice
Little Venice is the ultimate symbol of Mykonos and the most gorgeous place on the island to enjoy an incredible sunset.
2. Get Lost in The Narrow Alleys of Chora
Mykonos Town or Chora boasts a dreamlike maze of whitewashed narrow streets. A stroll around Chora is the best way to marvel at the island’s exquisite traditional architecture.
3. Visit The Most Pristine Beaches
Mykonos is famous for its beachfront bars where the party never stops. However, the island is also home to quite a large number of unspoilt beaches with crystal-clear waters and fantastic scenery.
4. Admire Armenistis Lighthouse
Just 6km north of Chora, one of the most beautiful lighthouses in Greece awaits. Armenistis Lighthouse looks really imposing as it dominates the low hill on which it is built, especially at sunset.
5. Take a Day Trip To Delos Island
Delos Island, just off the coast of Mykonos, is the site of one of the most important archaeological treasures in Greece. The best way to learn all of the ancient sanctuary’s secrets is by joining a guided tour from Mykonos.
You can find Mykonos on the map, here. Don’t miss our article on the 15 Best Things to Do in Mykonos.
4. Naxos: one of the best Greek islands for families
The largest of the Cyclades, Naxos is a laid-back island that has been famous since ancient times for its quarries.
Unlike other Greek islands, Naxos never feels busy. The island is quite big with long sandy beaches, making it one of the best Greek islands for families and groups of friends alike.
Apart from its stunning beaches, Naxos also boasts some beautiful mountain villages and is also known for its cheese-making. Speaking of which, don’t miss the chance to try the exquisite Arseniko, the island’s signature cheese.
Find the best villa, apartment or accommodation option in our list of the best Naxos Airbnbs.
Getting to Naxos
You can get to Naxos by plane from Athens. There are also charter flights from other European cities during the summer. Alternatively, you can get to Naxos by ferry from either Piraeus or Rafina, and many other destinations. Find a ferry to Naxos here.
Things To Do in Naxos
There are numerous fun things to see and do in Naxos, here are the top 5.
1. Walk To Portara At Sunset
The ultimate symbol of Naxos is Portara, the gate (or what’s left of it) to an unfinished ancient temple. Nowadays, Portara welcomes ferries as they enter the island’s port, and it’s the best place to be during sunset.
2. Soak Up The Sun at Agios Prokopios Beach
Agios Prokopios Beach is the best place to just sit, relax and enjoy doing nothing under the splendid Greek sun. This long sandy beach is hands down the best beach in Naxos.
3. Have a Glass of Citron Liquor
Naxos has been producing Kitron (citron liquor) since 1896. Kitron comes in three varieties (green, yellow and clear) while bars in Naxos get creative by serving Kitron-based cocktails as well.
4. Explore The Ancient Quarries
Home to marble and emery quarries since ancient times, Naxos is where you can see unfinished statues right on the spot where they were sculpted: the quarries.
5. Wander Around Naxos Old Town
Naxos Old Town is an enchanting maze of winding alleys and secret passages, all under the shade of the island’s imposing Castle.
You can find Naxos on the map, here. Have a look at our full post on the Best Things to See and Do in Naxos, and our guide to Where to Stay in Naxos, which includes the best areas of the island and accommodations.
5. Paros: best island in Greece for a short stay
Located in the Cyclades, cosmopolitan Paros has been supplying the rest of the country with top-quality marble since ancient times. Many statues and monuments in Greece are made of the famous Parian marble.
Although it mostly attracts young crowds, Paros is a fantastic island for either families or couples as well. Paros boasts pristine beaches and some of the most beautiful traditional settlements in the Aegean Sea.
Getting to Paros
You can get to Paros by either plane or ferry from Athens. Paros is the first stop for many ferries transporting passengers to the Cyclades islands of Mykonos, Naxos, Ios and Santorini. Find a ferry to Paros here.
Things To Do in Paros
There are numerous things to do and places to visit in Paros, here are the top 5.
1. Visit Lefkes Village
Lefkes is one of the prettiest villages not only in Paros but in the entire Cyclades Islands.
There is a laid-back feeling about it which, combined with gorgeous architecture and colourful bougainvillaeas, renders Lefkes Town irresistible.
2. Enjoy a Cocktail At Naoussa Port
Naoussa is a small fishing village that is cosmopolitan with an authentic touch, which is the perfect combination if you ask me.
The best time to take in the beauty of Naoussa is at dusk, the ideal time to have a cocktail or two at the picturesque port.
3. Go To The Venetian Castle in Parikia
Parikia is the main port of Paros and the island’s largest settlement. It has its fair share of whitewashed buildings and streets but it also features a Venetian Castle with jaw-dropping views of the Aegean Sea.
4. Swim At Kolimbithres Beach
Impressive granite formations and incredibly crystal clear waters are the reasons why Kolimbithres is the most spectacular beach in Paros.
5. Spend a Day At Nearby Antiparos Island
Antiparos Island is situated a stone’s throw from Paros as you can get there in less than 10 minutes by ferry. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Paros for a few hours, then a day trip to quaint Antiparos is exactly what you need. Have a look at this fun day trip on a private boat.
Find Paros on the map, here and don’t miss our post on the Best Things To Do in Paros.
6. Folegandros: for romance and quiet
Folegandros is a small island in the southern part of the Cyclades and one of the least-known islands in Greece — the island’s beauty and romantic feel are second only to Santorini’s.
Few islands in Greece can beat the authentic and slow vibe of Folegandros while the island’s romantic ambience is ideal for couples of all ages.
Getting to Folegandros
You can get to Folegandros by ferry from Athens. Search for ferries here.
Things To Do in Folegandros
Here are the top 5 things to see and do in Folegandros.
1. Eat Matsata
The typical dish of Folegandros is Matsata, a handmade fresh pasta dish that is exquisite in its simplicity. The fresh pasta is made daily in the island’s restaurants and then served with grated local cheese and red sauce.
2. Wander Around Gorgeous Chora
I’ve been to many Greek islands but I can wholeheartedly say that the Chora (town) in Folegandros is the prettiest of them all. I can’t find the right words to describe its beauty. You just have to go and see it with your own eyes.
3. Swim At Katergo Beach
Getting to the best beach in Folegandros is not easy. You can only go to Katergo Beach by boat (10 minutes) or on foot via a hiking path (30 minutes). Swimming in the beach’s deep blue waters is absolutely rewarding.
4. Watch The Sunset From The Church of Panagia
The Church of Panagia is perched on a hill overlooking Chora. Make sure you’re there right in time for sunset at least once as the spectacle is nothing quite like you’ve ever seen.
5. Visit The Folklore Museum
Housed in a traditional residential building in Ano Meria Village, the Folegandros Folklore Museum offers its guests a fascinating journey into the island way of life of centuries past.
📍 Find Folegandros on the map, here.
7. Rhodes: best Greek island for history buffs
The largest of the Dodecanese Islands, Rhodes is a popular and important historical island. It’s also one of the most special among the Greek Islands.
With an Old Town that resembles more Italy than Greece and with an average of 300 days of sunshine per year, Rhodes is the ultimate summer destination for everyone.
Getting to Rhodes
Rhodes International Airport connects the island to many European cities. Alternatively, you can get to Rhodes by ferry from Athens, and other islands in Greece. Search for ferries to Rhodes here.
Things To Do in Rhodes
Here are the top 5 things to do in Rhodes:
1. Walk Around The Medieval Old Town
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988, the Medieval City of Rhodes is utterly enchanting and definitely one of its kind in Greece. Stroll around the Old Town and check out wonders such as the Palace of the Grand Masters and the Street of the Knights.
2. Visit Lindos
Quaint Lindos can keep you busy for an entire day with its whitewashed alleys, gorgeous beach and historical Acropolis.
3. Water Sports in Prassonisi
At the southernmost tip of Rhodes, Prassonisi is an exotic beach and the absolute heaven on earth for surfers and kite surfers alike.
4. Discover Anthony Quinn Beach
When Anthony Quinn filmed The Guns of Navarone in Rhodes back in the 60s, he fell in love with this place — for good reason. Take the trip to Anthony Quinn Bay and get ready to swim in the most emerald waters you could ever dream of. Check out this private boat tour with snorkelling, or this popular catamaran day cruise.
5. Relax At Kallithea Thermal Springs
The therapeutic properties of the hot springs in Kallithea were known since antiquity. Yet it was during the Italian Occupation that the Kallithea Springs became a site of unsurpassed architectural beauty as well. Nowadays, spending a relaxing day at the renovated hot springs is an absolute must.
Find Rhodes on the map, here and click here to check out our full travel guide to Rhodes, Greece.
8. Kefalonia: for scenic drives and beaches
The largest of the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia is a fascinating blend of many cultures due to the island’s long history under the rule of various nations before it was finally united with Greece in 1864.
An island of fantastic beaches and quaint countryside, Kefalonia is one of the best islands in Greece for anyone who enjoys a scenic road trip and a bit of exploration.
Plus, the island’s large size renders Kefalonia a relaxing destination that never feels busy, even during peak season.
Getting to Kefalonia
There are frequent flights from Athens to Kefalonia, while, in the summer, there are charter flights from other European cities too.
From Athens, you can also get to Kefalonia by a combination of public bus and ferry. The latter departs from Kyllini Port which is located 290km west of the Greek capital.
Things To Do in Kefalonia
Here are the top 5 things to do in Kefalonia:
1. Visit Melissani Cave
Melissani Cave is a natural site of unique charm. The only way to explore the cave is by rowboat. Make sure you visit on a sunny day so that you enjoy the magic of the sun rays entering from an opening on the cave’s ceiling as they reflect on the underground lake’s blue waters. This private day trip takes in the Melissani Cave.
2. Spend an Evening in Assos Village
Assos is the most charming village in Kefalonia. It is particularly beautiful in the evening when people stroll along its narrow waterfront and the setting sun dyes the sea in the most magnificent colours. We absolutely loved this quaint village!
3. Explore Agios Georgios Castle
A former Venetian stronghold, the Castle of Agios Georgios is one of the best places to visit in Kefalonia both for its historical significance and its breathtaking views.
4. Swim At Myrtos Beach
Myrtos is frequently listed as one of the best beaches in Greece, and I can see why! Being Greek, I’ve been to more spectacular beaches than I can count. Yet Myrtos is truly unique. Its dazzlingly white pebbles and turquoise waters make swimming in Myrtos an unforgettable experience. Enjoy this day trip which takes in Myrtos Beach.
5. Take a Day Trip To Ithaca
Ithaca is yet another of the best Greek Islands that could keep you busy for more than just one day. That said, if you’re short on time, don’t miss the chance to plan at least a day trip from Kefalonia to Ithaca, one of the greenest and most laid-back islands in Greece.
You can find Kefalonia on the map, here. Have a look at our full guide to visiting Kefalonia – truly one of my favourite Greek Islands!
9. Andros: top Greek island for hiking
Unlike the rest of the Cyclades Islands which are dry with no or little vegetation, Andros boasts lush greenery and 10 (!) rivers with a continuous flow all year long.
I may be partial to Andros as it has become some kind of a second home to me in the last couple of years. But do believe me when I say that Andros is a really special and totally unspoilt island that feels like no other.
The countryside in Andros is scenic while the towns and villages retain their authentic ambience to the fullest. Also, the island is home to the best beaches in the Aegean Sea.
Getting to Andros
You can get to Andros in just 2 hours by ferry from Rafina Port. Search for ferries here.
Things To Do in Andros
Here are the top 5 things to do in Andros:
1. Wander Around Chora
Chora is the enchanting main town of Andros, adorned as it is with countless neoclassical mansions. Strolling around Chora’s quiet streets will make you feel as if you’ve stepped into the island’s past when Andros was the most prominent maritime power in Greece.
2. Go Hiking
Andros is home to a wide network of ancient paths that once were the only way for locals to get from one village to the next. Nowadays, Andros is a true hikers’ heaven with fantastic signposted routes which boast international awards and certifications.
3. Enjoy The Most Secluded Beaches
Apart from the island’s easily accessible beaches, Andros also boasts some pristine beaches that are quite remote and absolutely unspoilt. Vitali and Zorkos are among the very best, to name a few.
4. Eat Fourtalia
The typical dish of Andros is an omelette with potatoes, local sausage and fresh Greek herbs. It may not sound much but you’ll change your mind once you taste it!
5. Visit The Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Andros houses a superb permanent collection while it also hosts a temporary exhibition dedicated to a different artist every summer.
📍 Find Andros on the map, here.
10. Corfu: multicultural, cosmopolitan Greek island
For centuries on end, Corfu has been the go-to summer destination for royalty and celebrities. However, since the early 20th century, Corfu has become a very popular island for everyone else as well.
Corfu is an island of lush greenery, superb architecture and rich history. It is one of the best Greek Islands for its remarkable diversity which is also the reason why Corfu is the ideal destination for all kinds of travellers.
Getting to Corfu
Corfu has an International Airport. Alternatively, you can go there by ferry from Igoumenitsa Port in Greece, from a couple of ports in Italy and from the port of Saranda in Albania. Search for ferries to Corfu here.
☞ See our guide on where to stay in Corfu, including the best areas of the island for travellers, and the top accommodations.
Things To Do in Corfu
While there are many things to do in Corfu, here are the top 5:
1. Walk Around Corfu Old Town
The Old Town of Corfu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007. Walking along its picturesque streets will make you feel as if you’re wandering around an Italian city due to the enormous Venetian influence on the island’s architecture.
2. Visit The Achilleion
Commissioned as the summer residence of Empress Elizabeth of Austria in 1888, this neoclassical palace invites visitors to stroll around its splendid gardens and marvel at the grandeur of its interior.
3. Go To Vlacherna Monastery
Vlacherna Monastery is the ultimate symbol of Corfu and visiting this picturesque islet is a must. Keep in mind that this very spot is also the optimal place from where to watch exciting plane landings at the nearby airport.
4. Take a Boat To Pontikonisi
Just off the coast of Vlacherna Monastery, you can also visit Pontikonisi (meaning Mouse Island in Greek). This islet is home to a 12-century monastery built in the midst of a thick forest.
5. Find Love At Canal d’Amour Beach
Canal d’Amour owes its name to a tiny tunnel at the bottom of the rock, through which you can swim when it’s not windy. The story goes that if 2 people swim through together, they will fall in love. Whether you feel bold enough to do so or not, the beach is worth a visit anyway for its unique rock formations.
Find Corfu on the map, here. Don’t miss our guide on Where to Stay in Corfu, and our list of the 15 Best Things To Do in Corfu.
11. Astypalea: most underrated island in Greece
The Butterfly of the Aegean Sea, as Astypalea is nicknamed, may belong to the Dodecanese Islands but it looks a lot more like the neighbouring Cyclades Islands.
With its whitewashed villages, imposing castle and pristine beaches, Astypalea is one of the most underrated islands in Greece.
A laid-back island with an irresistibly authentic ambience and the kindest locals is sure to satisfy even the most demanding traveller.
Getting to Astypalea
You can get to Astypalea from Athens by either plane or ferry.
Things To Do in Astypalea
There are many things to do in Astypalea, here are 5:
1. Take in The Views From Astypalea Castle
The Venetian Castle of Astypalea is among the most scenic ones in Greece. Not much is left of the castle itself but the walk (climb, to be more accurate) leading there and the views once at the top are to die for.
2. Mingle With Locals At The Windmills
When the night falls, the iconic windmills in Chora become the ultimate meeting point for visitors and locals alike. People of all ages flock to the windmills before and/or after dinner to catch up with others and the place feels like a casual open-air party of sorts.
3. Relax At Livadia Village
Livadia is the most popular beach in Astypalea. Still, it never feels cramped. Livadia Village is very laid-back and the ideal place for a relaxing holiday by the sea.
4. Join a Boat Tour To The Most Remote Beaches
Although there are many beautiful beaches with easy access on the island, you shouldn’t miss the chance to explore some of its most secluded beaches and a couple of uninhabited islets around Astypalea on a fantastic boat tour as well.
5. Visit Vathi Beach
Vathi is a lagoon of crystal clear blue waters that is absolutely worth exploring.
📍 Find Astypalea on the map, here.
12. Thassos: for a relaxing holiday
Thassos is the northernmost island in Greece. What’s fascinating about it is that, unlike the vast majority of the Greek Islands, Thassos has remained untouched by mass tourism to this day.
An island of wild natural beauty that ranges from high mountain peaks to superb beaches, Thassos mostly attracts families with kids and nature lovers.
Getting to Thassos
You can get to Thassos by ferry from Kavala Port in Northern Greece.
Things To Do in Thassos
Here are the top 5 things to do in Thassos:
1. Discover Giola
Giola is a circular natural swimming pool of unbelievably crystal clear waters surrounded by dramatic rocks. Getting to Giola involves both driving on a dirt road and walking but the scenery that awaits is totally worth the extra effort.
2. Go snorkelling
Thassos is home to an impressive seabed and diving centres scattered across the island will help you make the most of your snorkelling experience.
3. Visit The Olive Oil Museum in Panagia
Panagia is a quaint mountain village in Thassos. Among its other charms, the village is home to a traditional olive mill which has been turned into an informative museum and olive oil products shop.
4. Laze At Paradise Beach
Paradise Beach is the ideal place to spend a relaxing day by the sea. With comfortable sunbeds and shallow waters, this beach is not so much for the adventurous as for those who want to soak up the sun in an exotic setting.
5. Explore Theologos Village
If you want to get a glimpse at how Thassos looked like in the past, then you should set off on a trip to explore the magic of Theologos Village — a traditional settlement with gorgeous local architecture and quaint cobblestone streets.
📍 Find Thassos on the map, here.
13. Hydra: for a Greek island near Athens
Picture-perfect Hydra is an island that played a major part in the 1821 Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Occupation.
Nowadays, time seems to have stood still on this quaint island near Athens where no motor vehicles are allowed. Instead, people get around by foot, boat or donkey!
Hydra’s close proximity to Athens and the Peloponnese coast makes it the ideal destination for weekend escapes, especially for young couples who are looking for a romantic haven close to home.
Getting to Hydra
You can get to Hydra by high-speed vessel from Piraeus.
Things To Do in Hydra
There are many things to do in Hydra. Here are 5:
1. Marvel At The Architecture in Hydra Town
A former maritime superpower, Hydra Town is dotted with splendid captains’ houses. This architecture is unique to the island.
2. Walk From Hydra Town To Kamini
Kamini is a tiny quaint district situated just 1km from Hydra Town. The seaside path that connects the two is absolutely picturesque with gorgeous views of the sea.
3. Dive in The Deep Waters of Spilia Beach
There is no actual beach in Spilia, only a rocky area from where you can dive in the water. Then you get to climb back up by way of metal pool-like steps. The sea is deep and refreshing, which is exactly what you’ll need on a hot day in Hydra.
4. Visit Lazaros Koundouriotis Historical Mansion
Lazaros Koundouriotis was a key figure in the 1821 Greek War of Independence. Nowadays, his house in Hydra operates as a history museum and is really worth a visit.
5. Step Inside Rafalias Pharmacy
It may seem strange, but this pharmacy is one of the prettiest ones in Greece and, perhaps, the world. Its interior decoration hasn’t changed throughout the centuries. Enjoy a cultural experience while buying beauty products produced on-site.
📍 Find Hydra on the map, here.
14. Zakynthos: beautiful beaches and nightlife
The Venetians, who ruled the island for more than 300 years, named Zakynthos The Flower of the Levant. Zakynthos or “Zante” is home to some gorgeous beaches, scenic drives, and welcoming locals.
The island is also famous for its vibrant nightlife which attracts, mostly, young crowds.
Getting to Zakynthos
There is an International Airport in Zakynthos. Alternatively, you can get to Zakynthos by ferry from Kyllini Port in Western Greece.
Things To Do in Zakynthos
There are many things to see and do in Zakynthos, here are the top 5:
1. Take a Boat Trip To The Blue Caves
Access to these beautiful sea caves is by water only. This cluster of limestone rocks in the north of the island create the most mesmerising natural setting you definitely won’t want to miss.
2. Swim At Navagio Beach
Navagio Beach is the indisputable landmark of Zakynthos. The beach itself is incredibly pristine and inviting yet it owes its worldwide fame to the rusting shipwreck that has adorned its white sand since the 80s. Reserve your boat trip here.
3. Enjoy The Views At Keri Lighthouse
In the south of Zakynthos, in the town of Keri, Keri Lighthouse stands atop a 300m cliff and offers the best views to the sea beyond.
4. Experience The Nightlife
Many of the island’s visitors choose to spend a summer holiday in Zakynthos for its vibrant nightlife which is renowned all across the globe.
5. Visit Anafonitria Monastery
Leave the hustle and bustle of the island by stepping inside the magic of a centuries-old monastery with marvellous frescoes and heavenly gardens.
Find Zakynthos on the map, here. We have many articles on Zakynthos on this website – it’s one of our favourite Greek Islands. In fact, we spent 10 days there and could have stayed longer. Check out our guide to visiting here, the best beaches in Zakynthos, and the 15 Best Things To Do in Zakynthos.
15. Syros: best islands in Greece for architecture
Syros is nicknamed the Lady of the Cyclades and, once you step foot on this special island, you realise that there couldn’t be a more accurate name for it.
Contrary to the touristy vibes that you come across at most of the best Greek Islands, Syros is the place to experience real island life instead.
The authentic atmosphere of Syros appeals to all sorts of travellers, be it families with kids, groups of friends or couples. Syros represents a unique blend of cultures and religions with Catholics and Orthodox Christians living together in total harmony for centuries.
Getting to Syros
You can reach Syros from Athens both by plane and ferry.
Things To Do in Syros
There are many things to see in Syros, here are a few top picks.
1. Be Enchanted By Ano Syros
Built by the Venetians in the 13th century, the medieval settlement of Ano Syros is an enchanting maze of narrow streets and colourful shutters. The imposing Catholic Cathedral of St George at the top of the hill casts its shadow on the entire district and offers unique views to the nearby islands.
2. Explore Ermoupolis
Ermoupolis, the administrative capital of the entire Cyclades Islands group, was built in the 1820s. This is why it is adorned with exquisite neoclassical mansions, typical of the architectural trends of that time.
3. Try Loukoumi
Perhaps the word loukoumi doesn’t ring a bell. But what if I told you that loukoumi is the Greek word for Turkish delight? Syros has a very long tradition of loukoumi making and this little treat tastes better in Syros than anywhere else in Greece. Or Turkey.
4. Marvel At The Apollon Theatre
A building of great historical significance, Apollon Theatre opened its doors to the public back in 1864. Throughout the centuries, it has suffered from war, damage and neglect. These days, it stands restored to its former glory while it hosts plays and other events and festivals.
5. Discover The Island’s Churches
Syros is a rare case of Catholic and Orthodox populations co-existing within the same community. This is why it’s worth exploring the island’s churches and observing the differences but also the similarities between the two religions and cultures.
📍 Find Syros on the map, here.
16. Milos: best Greek island for couples
Milos is a laid-back island and the birthplace of Venus de Milo, the exquisite marble statue depicting Aphrodite, which is on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
The fact that Milos is a volcanic island is responsible for the often otherworldly natural scenery you come across there. An island of pristine beaches and authentic vibes, Milos has become the go-to destination for couples during the past few decades.
Getting to Milos
From Athens, you can get to Milos by plane or by ferry from the port of Piraeus. See the latest prices and timetable here.
Things To Do in Milos
Here are the top 5 things to do in Milos:
1. Visit Sarakiniko
Although it’s been many years now, I still remember how I felt when I stepped foot on the white rocks of Sarakiniko beach for the first time. I had this inescapable feeling that I was somehow walking on the moon. Sarakiniko is indeed an alien-like landscape like no other.
2. Take in The Beauty of Klima Village
Klima Village is picturesque and absolutely unique. The village’s main characteristic is the line of fishermen’s houses which border the seafront. Nowadays, most of them are converted into comfortable and cool apartments but they still retain their traditional look.
3. Admire The Catacombs
Milos is home to a mystic underground network of tombs that dates back to the 1st century AD and is definitely worth a visit.
4. Catch a Boat To Sykia Cave
Sykia’s collapsed ceiling allows for the light to hit the water surface in such a way that it creates unique light shows.
5. Watch The Sunset From Plaka Castle
Almost nothing is left of the 13th-century Venetian Castle that once stood in Plaka, but the site is the best place to enjoy a breathtaking sunset you won’t forget.
📍 Find Milos on the map, here.
17. Lefkada: the “Caribbean of Greece”
Lefkada is one of the Ionian Islands and is actually connected to mainland Greece by a road.
The island’s exotic turquoise beaches would be reason enough to visit Lefkada, which is one of the many reasons why Lefkada makes it on every list of the best Greek Islands.
But, there are many other amazing things to do in Lefkada. This is an island of exceptional natural beauty and elegant ambience.
Getting to Lefkada
Lefkada is the only island in Greece connected to the mainland by a bridge. You can get there by either car or public bus.
Things To Do in Lefkada
There are many things to do in Lefkada, here are the top 5:
1. Swim At The Most Exotic Beaches
Lefkada is home to quite a few exotic beaches with turquoise waters and dazzlingly white sand. Among them, Porto Katsiki, Egremni and Kathisma are the most impressive ones.
2. Join a Boat Tour of The Nearby Islets
From cosmopolitan Scorpios to historical Madouri, there are many islets around Lefkada you can visit on a single full-day boat tour.
3. Visit Agios Nikitas Village
Agios Nikitas is my personal favourite town in Lefkada. It’s a picturesque traditional settlement with slow vibes, a beautiful beach and quite a few quaint shops and restaurants.
4. Hike To The Waterfalls in Nydri
Nydri is where the heart of Lefkada beats and it can get really crowded, especially in August. However, not everyone makes the trip to the nearby scenic waterfalls which, apart from being a site of natural charm, also offer the opportunity for relaxation and peace and quiet.
5. Explore Lefkada Town
Lefkada Town differs from what you may expect of a Greek Island. There are no small white buildings or narrow whitewashed alleys. Lefkada Town is dotted with grand mansions, spacious squares and pedestrianised promenades instead.
📍 Find Lefkada on the map, here.
18. Ios: best island in Greece for a younger crowd
Yet another picturesque island in the Cyclades Islands is Ios. If it hadn’t been for its emerging party scene, Ios would still be one of the most easy-going islands in the Aegean Sea.
But, even if you’re not into partying, there are still numerous things to see and do.
Similar to the other Cyclades Islands, Ios features whitewashed towns, gorgeous beaches and, as an added bonus, delicious local cheese you must definitely try.
Getting to Ios
You can get to Ios by ferry from Piraeus. Find the latest prices and timetable here.
Things To Do in Ios
Here are a few of my top picks for activities in Ios.
1. Wander Around Ios Old Town
The dazzlingly white Chora of Ios and its dreamy maze of narrow alleys and passageways await.
2. Take a Boat Trip To The Best Ios Beaches
A boat trip is the best way to discover the most pristine hidden coves and bays on Ios Island. This is a highly-rated boat trip around Ios.
3. Visit Homer’s Tomb
Legend has it that the famous epic poet Homer passed away in Ios. There’s no historical proof that Homer is indeed buried on the island but the walk to his hilltop tomb is fantastic and shouldn’t be missed in any case.
4. Enjoy The Sunset At Ios Club
People have been flocking to Ios Club to watch the most breathtaking sunset since the 60s. Watching the sun set with classical music playing in the background is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
5. Get a Taste of The Island’s Nightlife
Ios Town is strangely quiet during the daytime, but the gorgeous Chora in Ios comes alive late at night when holiday-goers and locals alike flock to the island’s bars and clubs.
📍 Find Ios on the map, here and don’t miss our guide on the Best Things To Do in Ios, Greece.
19. Kos: easy-going island in Greece
Kos was united with Greece quite recently, in 1947, alongside the rest of the Dodecanese Islands. Similar to its neighbour Rhodes in architecture, Kos feels a lot more easy-going and authentic.
The island is a major tourist destination in Greece, primarily for its long sandy beaches. With quite a few important archaeological and more recent historical sites to visit, Kos is the ideal destination if you want to combine a beach holiday with a bit of sightseeing on the side.
Getting to Kos
There is an International Airport in Kos and you can also get to the island by ferry from Piraeus. Search for ferries here.
Things To Do in Kos
There are numerous things to do in Kos, here are the top 5:
1. Visit The Asklepion
Built on a hill above the Kos plain, the sanctuary of Asclepius, the ancient god of medicine, is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Greece.
2. Explore Zia Village
Zia is a traditional village built on the highest point of Kos Island. Strolling around its cobblestone streets and tasting authentic local dishes at its quaint restaurants are the best ways to appreciate the charms of this mountain village.
3. Go Cycling in Kos Town
Kos has always been one of the most bike-friendly destinations in Greece. Spending an afternoon cycling along the town’s splendid promenade which is lined with tall palm trees is among the best things to do in Kos.
4. Play In The Waves At Cavo Paradiso Beach
Cavo Paradiso is one of the most secluded and beautiful beaches in Kos. Swimming isn’t always safe there as it can get really windy. But, when it does, there’s nothing quite like walking along the gorgeous shoreline and playing in the waves.
5. Escape The Heat in Plaka Forest
Kos can get really hot in the summer. So hot that even the beach may feel unbearable at times. When that happens, Plaka Forest is the place to be!
📍 Find Kos on the map, here.
20. Skiathos: best Greek island for nature
Skiathos is a very popular destination partly because it co-starred, alongside neighbouring Skopelos Island, in the 2008 Mamma Mia film adaptation.
An island of lush greenery and superb beaches (over 60 of them!), Skiathos mostly attracts younger crowds from Northern Greece and abroad, as well as a fair share of families with kids.
Getting to Skiathos
There is an International Airport in Skiathos. Alternatively, you can get to Skiathos by ferry from the cities of Volos, Agios Konstantinos and Thessaloniki.
Things To Do in Skiathos
Here’s a list of the top 5 things to do in Skiathos:
1. Swim At Lalaria Beach
Lalaria is a very long beach of unique beauty. This white pebbled beach is among the most exotic ones in Greece and it is only accessible by boat.
2. Visit Papadiamantis House
Skiathos was the birthplace of Alexandros Papadiamantis, one of the most renowned Greek writers. Following his death in 1911, his house was turned into a museum showcasing his life and work.
3. Walk Around Skiathos Old Town
A quaint seafront, a maze of picturesque alleys, a fortress and an open-air cinema are sure to keep you busy for quite a few hours in the Old Town of Skiathos.
4. Go SCUBA Diving
With reefs, caves and shipwrecks, Skiathos is a diver’s dream. There are also night dives available.
5. Watch a Fascinating Plane Landing
Plane spotters of the world this is the perfect island for you! A pristine beach is conveniently located right next to the airport’s runway, making it easy for people to witness the most impressive landings and take-offs. That said, please always make sure you keep a safe distance as some landings can be incredibly low.
📍 Find Skiathos on the map, here.
Best Greek Islands for Couples
I can’t help but think that most, if not all, of the Greek Islands are perfect for a romantic getaway in the company of your better half. Yet there are some islands that are more couple-oriented than others.
Milos is the ultimate Greek destination for couples. So much so that it’s borderline painful to visit the island solo.
Lovely Astypalea is home to an utterly romantic Chora while the island’s laid-back beaches are ideal for intimate moments among lovers. That’s pretty much all that it takes for Astypalea to rightfully earn its title as one of the best Greek Islands for couples.
If Folegandros with its quaint Chora, breathtaking views and spectacular sunsets doesn’t deserve a place among the best Greek Islands for couples, I don’t know what does.
Best Greek Islands for Beaches
It goes without saying that whichever island in Greece you choose for your summer holidays, its beaches won’t disappoint. That said, there are some islands which feature more spectacular beaches than others.
This Ionian Island is home to countless beaches, most of which are sandy and remarkably long. Therefore, even during peak season, you will most certainly find that many beaches never feel crowded. Another point to keep in mind is that the sea in Kefalonia is so pleasantly warm to swim in, even in the evening.
The reason why I’ve included Andros in my list of best Greek Islands for beaches is that there is great diversity when it comes to the island’s beaches. You’ll find sandy beaches where you can party or do water sports, plus there are also remote pieces of heaven with exotic waters, dramatic rocks and white pebbles.
Thassos is among the best Greek Islands for beaches because it’s the ultimate destination for a relaxing holiday by the sea. Most beaches in Thassos are long and sandy with crystal clear waters and full services.
With more than 25 gorgeous beaches to choose from and a nickname of the “Caribbean of Greece”, it’s no surprise that Lefkada is one of the best Greek islands if you’re looking for a beach holiday.
With more than 60 beaches for you to laze on, many of which have white sand and pine trees as a backdrop, Skiathos is a great choice when looking for a Greek island with the best beaches.
Best Greek Islands For Families
When travelling as a family with small kids there are many factors at play that shouldn’t be overlooked. Although all Greek Islands are equally and indisputably safe to visit with kids, some of them may be more suitable for families than others.
When it comes to the best Greek Islands for families, I can think of nothing better than Naxos. This island has at least three amazing sandy beaches with shallow waters (Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, Plaka) which feature seafront hotels making it super easy to spend endless hours on the beach with the little ones.
For families that feel a bit more adventurous, Crete is the best option. The island is ideal for families who love a good road trip while it offers a variety of accommodation options, from 5-star resorts to laid-back camping sites, to satisfy the needs of all budgets and travelling styles.
Last but not least, I consider Lefkada one of the best Greek Islands for families because you can get there in the comfort of your own car or campervan thus saving on money (and energy) if travelling with small kids.
Best Greek Islands for a Honeymoon
The destination you choose for your honeymoon must be absolutely special and unique. Luckily, there are some amazing Greek islands to choose from for your romantic getaway.
Speaking of special and unique, nothing beats Santorini. This is the place to spend an unforgettable honeymoon in the most romantic setting. For an experience you’ll never forget, make sure you choose a cave hotel with uninterrupted views to the best sunset in the world.
If you’re looking for an island that mixes romance with adventure, Rhodes is one of the best Greek Islands for a honeymoon because it combines the romantic medieval Old Town with the opportunity to go about exploring its stunning countryside and traditional villages.
Cosmopolitan Hydra is among the best Greek Islands for a honeymoon if you’re city lovers and you’d rather spend a short romantic getaway near the vibrant Greek capital rather than plan a multi-day trip to a remote island. Hydra is a very romantic island and it can be remarkably quiet, especially in the evening.
Best Greek Islands to Party
Here’s a list of the best Greek Islands to party during your summer vacation.
Mykonos is the ultimate party destination in Greece. With a legendary nightlife that goes back many decades and an equal amount of buzzing beachfront bars, partying in Mykonos goes strong all day long.
If you stroll around quaint Ios Town during the day, you’ll find it hard to believe that this peaceful settlement transforms into a wild party scene in the evening. With bars and clubs staying up until the early morning hours, and with an affordable price tag, it’s no wonder that Ios attracts younger, party-going crowds.
In the Ionian Sea, Zakynthos is hands down the best Greek Island to party. For many young people from Europe and the USA, the island’s nightlife has become a valid reason in itself to visit Zakynthos. There are frequent DJ gigs, drinks are cheap and dancing in the nightclubs goes on until after the sun has come up.
Where To Stay on the Greek Islands
These days, there are many accommodation options across the islands. Whether you’re looking for a hotel, guesthouse, villa or apartment, you’ll find it. There are properties available for all budgets.
Booking.com is a popular booking site for the islands in Greece. Search to find unique stays in gorgeous properties — either shared or private, it’s up to you. I recommend looking for a guesthouse to have a more local experience. Click here to search for an accommodation option on the Greek Islands.
Greece’s Islands: FAQ’s
Here are answers to some commonly asked questions.
Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Lefkada and Skiathos are the best islands in Greece for beaches.
The larger islands of Crete and Rhodes are cheaper islands to visit in Greece. Because they’re larger and offer more accommodation and restaurant options, there’s more competition which drives down the price. The more off-track island of Chios is also one of the cheapest Greek islands to visit. Travelling to Greece in the off-season saves money no matter which island you visit.
The islands of Milos, Paros, Naxos, Mykonos, Ios, Kythnos and Andros (to name a few) in the Cyclades are most like Santorini due to their beautiful whitewashed buildings and architectural style. What makes Santorini unique is its caldera and buildings clinging to the cliffside.
Chios, Lesvos, Karpathos and Donousa are a few of the islands that aren’t as touristy. There are many islands to visit in Greece and some of the more popular ones are popular for good reason! But, if you’re looking for a quiet holiday, consider one of the offtrack islands.
Kefalonia island has the bluest water. Don’t miss Myrtos Beach which has the most vibrant blue water we’ve ever seen. The water around Navagio Beach in Zakynthos is quite blue and impressive as well.
Enjoy the Greek Islands
As you can tell, there really is an island in Greece for every type of traveller!
It’s important to note that you won’t want to try and see all of these islands in one trip. And actually, you should try to keep to one “group” of islands as well.
For example, I don’t recommend visiting Kefalonia (an Ionion Island) and then Kos (a Dodecanese island). Otherwise, you’ll end up spending much of your holiday on transport — ferries, planes, and buses. Keep it simple and stick to one group of islands to have a more relaxing holiday.
You can find the latest prices, routes and timetables for various ferries on Ferry Hopper.
For more on Greece, make sure to have a look at our Complete Travel Guide to Greece. This informative post includes information on the cost of travel, where to stay, the culture and history, foods to try, how to get there, and much more.
And, if you’re looking for other destinations and islands in Greece that weren’t on this list, have a look at our articles about Chios, Lesvos, Thessaloniki, Meteora Monasteries, Vikos Gorge and Pindos National Park, and Athens.