More than 3000 islands and islets are scattered off the coast of Greece. It can be challenging to decide on one of them. We introduce you to the five most beautiful islands of Greece.
The whitewashed houses with their blue dome roofs and small terraces high above the Aegean Sea are characteristic of the Santorini archipelago in the south of the Cyclades. The volcanic archipelago was formed by a huge tidal wave that washed around the rocks after a volcanic eruption in 1525 BC. What remained was the caldera, a massive cone of black stone.
The main town of Thira lies directly on the edge of a 300-metre high cliff that drops steeply into the sea. But probably the most beautiful place on Santorini is Oia in the north. There you find a fantastic vantage point, right next to the pretty network of stone alleys: the ruins of the Venetian fort Argyri. Especially in the evening hours, tourists like to gather here to watch how the sun sets and bathes the archipelago in soft light.
Santorini is not exactly the cheapest island in Greece, but those who travel outside the high season might benefit from some reasonable offers. A good time to go to Santorini is, for example, October, when the Sea still reaches pleasant 22 degrees and the island is less crowded.
Zakynthos, wasn’t that the island with the famous shipwreck? Yes, exactly! The southernmost of the larger Ionian Islands is best known for the stranded wreck in the Bay of Navagio.
But Zakynthos has much more to offer. The island is very fertile, and the hinterland is very green. Beside olives and wine, the local farmers also cultivate cereals and various citrus fruits. The beaches at the southern tip are also home to the last and most important breeding sites of the loggerhead turtle. From the beginning of June, the female turtles come ashore to lay their eggs.
The life of Zakynthos takes place on the beaches and rocky coastlines, where snorkelers can discover cave systems and reefs. Among the most popular beaches on the island are Agios Nikolaos, Alykanas and Tsilivi. They offer excellent opportunities for swimming and water sports. The cultural centre of Zakynthos is the main town of the same name.
Most Incredible Navagio Beach or Shipwreck Beach. Zakynthos, Greece.
Corfu is the second largest of the Ionian Islands and lies directly off the Albanian coast. Corfu has the towering Pantokrator mountain range to the north and rolling hills lined with pine groves, olive trees and cypresses to the south. In addition to the lush vegetation and the mild climate, you can also discover a beautiful mix of quiet corners and lively places.
While most hotels are located on the north and east coasts, it is much quieter in the west. Here where the coast is rather steep, are only a few villages. But you will find numerous small, hidden beaches between the jagged rocks.
The architecture of Corfu is another highlight: In Corfu City, you can visit monuments from the Byzantine era. Also, the small harbour town Paleokastritsa and the villages Afionas, Liapades or Agios Georgios are worth a visit.
Mykonos is one of the most popular Greek islands in the Aegean, which can lead to crowded beaches and accommodation, especially in the high season between May and September. If you can visit Mykonos in the low season, then you can explore the famous white windmills that shape the image of Mykonos without stress. These windmills are located directly at the coast and run by the north wind.
Mykonos has been a popular tourist destination since the 1960s, and many famous people have spent their vacation on the island. Even today, it’s still a place where Hollywood stars meet professional football players and the hippest DJs.
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands, with an area of 8261 square kilometres. Along the 1066 kilometres of coastline with bizarre rock formations, you can discover numerous lovely bays and charming villages.
The Cretan flora is very species-rich. Just on Crete, there are about 170 endemic plant species. The Askifou plateau has particularly abundant wildlife. Located in the western part of the island it is Crete’s largest hiking area. However, the most famous hiking spot is a canyon called Samaria. It stretches from the centre of the island on almost 17 kilometres through the southwest to the Libyan Sea.
Ancient monasteries, fortresses, and temples bear witness to the cultural wealth of the island. Those who do not have time for all cultural highlights of Crete should at least visit the palace of Knossos. It is one of the largest Minoan palaces in Greece and has been awarded the European Heritage Seal.
If you want to travel to Lefkada, you can do this comfortably by car since a swimming bridge connects the island in the Ionian Sea with the close mainland. Lefkada, also called Lefkas, is a popular destination among the Greeks themselves. Year after year they select the beaches of Lefkada as being the most beautiful in the country. Kathisma, Egremni, and Porto Katsiki are the most famous bays.
On Lefkada, you will also find the best conditions for water sports. For example, the bay around Vassiliki is considered one of the best surfing spots in Europe. Sailors benefit from the well-developed marina in Lefkada City, from where they stey start trips into the South Ionian Sea.
The largest of the Ionian Islands is located west of mainland Greece and has a rich flora and fauna. The highest elevation of the mountainous island is the peak Enos with just over 1600 meters.
The coastal areas offer shelter to rare animal species like the Mediterranean monk seals and the loggerhead sea turtle.
If you want to go to the beach, you often have to walk or take exciting serpentine roads. However, you will be rewarded with deserted, beautiful beaches. The pebble beach Myrtos in the northwest of Kefalonia is exceptionally beautiful. Also, a trip to the caves Melissani and Drogarati near the village Sami is highly recommended.
Active volcanoes once formed Milos and still shape the appearance of this Cyclades island. Long extinct cones and craters are spread across the 160 square kilometre of the island. Hot springs and so-called fumaroles are vital signs of underground magmatic activities.
Visitors will find a unique landscape on Milos, such as the colourful, shimmering rocks surrounding Paliochori Beach. Here, hot springs provide pleasant water temperatures throughout the year. At the bay of Sarakiniko, you will find bright, smooth cliffs resembling a lunar landscape. Milos has a total of 70 beaches. The month of April and May are uniquely beautiful because of the flowering, which creates a colour explosion.
The boomerang-shaped island Karpathos is another popular destination for active travellers. The bays in the south of the island are considered the best surfing areas in the Mediterranean. A steady wind between May and October provides the best wave and kite conditions.
Deep gorges and high mountains run through the interior of the island. Pine trees and thousands of wild herbs provide a spicy scent that accompanies hikers on their routes. Powdery and pebbly beaches alternate along the mostly rocky coasts.
Karpathos is particularly beautiful in spring when the island lights up in all its colours: Daffodils, orchids, anemones, and thyme are then in full bloom. The second largest of the Dodecanese islands is quiet compared to the largest, Rhodes. Even in the main town, only about 3500 people are living in winding alleys that all end in a small picturesque harbour.
The largest of the Greek Dodecanese islands is ideal if you like both exploring Greek’s rich history and spending time on the beach or on the water. For example, at Prasonisi Beach, you can go windsurfing and kitesurfing. Snorkellers and divers will find the best conditions around Anthony Quinn Beach.
Witnesses of the history are spread all over the island, whose interior is marked by striking mountain peaks like the Attavyros. The castle ruins such as Monolithos or Kastello are spectacularly situated on the west coast and are worth a walk. A medieval knight’s street runs through the old town of Rhodes City, reminiscent of the time of the Crusades. And the fortress-like Grand Master’s Palace which today houses a historical museum is particularly eye-catching.