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BEST GREEK ISLANDS TO VISIT WITH A QUICK TRAVEL GUIDE ON HOW TO PLAN YOUR TRIP

Travelling to Greece and visiting the Greek Islands is a must do experience for any traveller. This quick guide will help you pick the best Greek island for you , when to visit and how to get there

Thousands of islands exist in Greece and yet only 227 of them are actually inhabited. That still leaves a huge diversity to choose from, right?! So this post will help you to quickly understand the main Greece islands groupings and the highlights in each one of them with the the top things to do in Santorini, Mykonos and Crete just to name a few of the bestGreek islands you should visit.

In this map, you can see the 3 main Greece island groups: Ionian islands on your left (Corfu and Zakynthos as examples), then the Cylades islands in the midddle (Santorini and Mykonos flagged here) as well as the Aegean islands (Crete) and finally the Dodecanese islands on the right (represented by Rhodes and Kos). And there are 2 less touristic groups – one close to Athens and one near central Greece.

WHEN TO GO TO GREECE ISLANDS

The best time to go to any of the Greek islands is during European Summertime. In June and then mid August to September is normally less hot and cheaper than during the school holidays high season from July to mid August. Temperatures will be in the low 20s degrees celsius (even below on windy nights) but will reach 30s and more during the day, especially in early August it will be on the 40s degrees celsius zone. Expect no rain during these months.

Best time to swim in Greece islands is from mid May to October as sea temperatures will be ranging from 23 degrees by mid May to 28 degrees in high Summer in August. Some currents might change this slightly, especially in windy areas.

Winter can be a good alternative for a quiet holiday with many sunny days and mild temperatures (low 10s to mid 20s), but most places will be closed and it is not advisable to swim.

HOW TO GO THERE

The best way to get to the Greek islands is by plane. From June onwards, you can fly directly from most European cities with charter flights done by holidays companies or low cost companies such as Ryanair, Wizz Air, Condor, TUI, Transavia, Eurowings and several others. Also bigger companies like Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France/KLM increase their flight offer during this season. The local company Aegean Airlines and its subsidiary Olympic Air provide great service but always need to connect via Athens to all islands flights.

The best way then to connect between the Greek islands is then by boat / ferry rather than flying- its cheaper, quicker (as you don’t need to fly to Athens and back) and with no airport security hassle. Ferry services run all Summer long , starting in June and ending in September. Some companies with the biggest ferries start in April/May but its much more difficult to plan island hopping as service is spaced.

Each group of Greece islands has its own ferry companies, some operate between groups of islands but the ferry trips will be longer and are not so frequent. So if you plan to be in the Cyclades islands or Dodecanese islands , you should do island hopping in that area or you will be taking a lot of time travelling on a ferry. The biggest ferry companies have services to and from Athens. My favourite and recommended ferry companies on the Greek islands are:

HOW TO GET AROUND

Each island has its own transportation system but its not always easy to rely on public buses as schedules and even frequency isn’t ideal in Summertime. Still bus is a cheap way and if you have time its fine, as they have always A/C.

Taxis are only useful when you don’t have a hotel shuttle transfer or a rental car. They tend to be expensive so only use them to get from the airport to the hotel and back if you can. Most importantly only use the official taxis standing on a line near the airport. Never go to a taxi driver at the arrivals , offering you a cheap transfer. Also beware of luxury transfers kiosks inside the airports that will ask you 2x the price that you would pay for a normal taxi. of course if you want privacy and some more comfort, then don’t hesitate to book them.

Depending on the island , you can either choose to rent a car for the whole stay or just for a few days directly at the hotel. In Summer season many cars will be booked out but you should find some availability at local agencies or at your hotel. EXpect to pay 50€ a day during high season with some insurance. Alternative to that are scooters and quads but only if you are a couple/ single travellers as with bigger families it would be more expensive and of course you can’t really take much. Road conditions are mostly average across the islands, some pothole and gravel roads can be expected but mostly beware of the Greek aggresive driving style – I was fine with that but you must be aware that they really drive like there’s no tomorrow.

If you can sail or have a boat driving license this could be a good option for day trips to more secluded beaches or just explore the stunning coastline of the islands. There are also smaller motorboats if you don’t have a license that are perfectly safe.

I only advise you to make tour excursions if you prefer to have no worries with transportation, want to party/ connect with others or simply have limited time.

TOP GREEK ISLANDS

Like stated above, its not easy to choose a top 10 Greek islands out of 227 and even if you limit that to the 4 biggest groups, its not an easy choice. At the end it depends if you want to spend your time in a more quiet island and enjoy its beauty or if you prefer to be doing more exploration or actually just to have a great party. M

My knowledge and experience has taken me to explore and choose these islands and it might be that in the future I will need to do a larger list, but depending on your interests these are the best islands you can choose from:

  • Zakynthos
  • Corfu
  • Santorini
  • Paros
  • Naxos
  • Antiparos
  • Kefalonia
  • Crete
  • Rhodes
  • Mykonos

So let’s get it started !!

If I am a poet, the air of Greece has made me one

Lord Byron , English poet, 19th century

ZAKYNTHOS, THE SCENIC ISLAND

  • Great for: Couples, Solo Travellers, Families with older kids
  • Beach variety: Good
  • Day trips: Very Good
  • Culture trips: Low
  • Party factor: Average to High
  • Best beaches: Navagio, Laganas & Banana beach
  • Best day trips: Navagio, Turtle island & Zakynthos Town

There’s no more spectacular beach view than the Navagio/ Shipwreck Beach in the whole Greek islands. The beach itself can only be accessed by boat, what makes it even more incredible.

Zakynthos then offers its best beaches in the South (Vasilikos, Gerakas, Banana Beach) and has a party zone in Laganas bay that also has a nice beach. From Laganas, you can actually explore by boat the incredible southwestern coast of Zakynthos with sea arches, caves and the turtle island with nice snorkeling spots.

Zakynthos town has great vibes from the evening onwards as is the place to have a great promenade walk before going to dinner. In 5 to 7 days you can experience it all and still have time to relax at the beach long enough, even spotting some turtles nesting if you come in the right season.

CORFU, THE ISLAND OF MANY BAYS

  • Great for: Couples, Solo Travellers, Families with kids
  • Beach variety: Very Good
  • Day trips: Excellent
  • Culture trips: Good
  • Party factor: Average
  • Best beaches: Stelari, Glyfada & Myrtiotissa
  • Best day trips: Canal d’Amour, Paleokastritsa & Corfu Town

Corfu is a surprising diverse island that offers a contrast of wide golden sand beaches, secluded bays, mountain ranges and incredible limestone cliffs in a fairly small island with a huge cultural heritage. To the west it offers its best nature scenery with incredible beach locations such as Glyfada, Myrtiotissa and Agios Gordios that are great for families. Then the more secluded bays near Paleokastritsa, many of them only accessible by boat, are ideal for couples wanting to have a day off in unique coastline including the stunning Stelari paradise beach. Finally in the Northwest amazing yellow sandstone cliffs formations contrasts with a Caribbean blue sea where you can plunge or just go to the nice cafés in canal d’Amour to chill out. Add to that Venetian old town and 2 fortresses, Roman and Greek ruins, Imperial villas from Sissi and Wilhelm, to create a fusion island like no other. Definitely worth staying here at least 7 days!

SANTORINI, THE MOST ROMANTIC ISLAND

  • Great for: Couples, Solo Travellers
  • Beach variety: Average
  • Day trips: Excellent
  • Culture trips: Excellent
  • Party factor: High
  • Best beaches: White beach, Red Beach & Kamari
  • Best day trips: Oia, Imerovigli & Pyrgos

Santorini is not a typical Greek beach holiday island like many in Greece but its the most incredible nature wonder of them all as it lays its foundations on a thousands years old huge volcano crater that makes it so unique and special.

With white housing and blue domes perching on the cliffs of its western coast, sunsets here are magical and any of these places are simply surreal as they seem to bledn in with the blue sea: Oia, Fira Town and Imerovigli are the postcard perfect places for those special pictures that could feature on any social media like Instagram or Pinterest. Adding to that the more quiet but also charming villages of Megalochori, Pyrgos and the incredible Keri lighthouse and you have touched the ultimate Greek experience in terms of absolute beauty in Greece.

For beach lovers, not all is lost as in the South the colourful trio of the Red Beach, White beach and Kamari Black beach offer you teh chance for a perfect swim with a great backdtop and a great meal by the beach. Speaking of meals, the romantic atmosphere in Fira under the sunset lights and then the illuminated streets do make the food experience go to the next level. If you can splurge a little and get a place to stay with a pool (no matter if in a cave hotel or not), you won’t regret it! Then the nightlife in town in the narrow streets populated with bars & pubs will make any night stunning.

And do’t forget to get that windmill picture in Oia’s eastern side!

PAROS, AN ENCHANTED HOLLYWOOD ISLAND

  • Great for: Couples, Solo Travellers, Families with older kids
  • Beach variety: Good
  • Day trips: Very good
  • Culture trips: Very good
  • Party factor: Average
  • Best beaches: Kolymbithres & Monastiri
  • Best day trips: Naoussa & Lefkes

Paros has not the larger dimension of other Greek islands but the abundance of sights here is impressive with an allure that brings even Hollywood starts to their knees to marry, spend their holidays and soak in its beauty, together with the smaller sister island of Antiparos.

To start with it has the most photogenic places in whole Greece with its capital Parikia and the villages of Naoussa (by the sea) and Lefkes (in the mountains). All of them seem to have been built like a maze from which you wouldn’t mind to get lost and don’t find the thread back. What makes them more special is the fact that they aren’t as touristic as Santorini or Mykonos , so you can really explore them without rushing to crowded photo spots.

The beaches in Paros are also quite incredible with Monastiri (with a beautiful blude dome church nearby) and Kolymbithres (known as mini Seychelles because of the large boulders) in the North of the island or then Marcelo beach near Parikia on the Western coast. The Eastern coast is a great spot for windsurfers given its windy conditions.

And if you want some nightlife then either stay in Parikia town or take the 15 minutes ferry to Antiparos, where some great clubs are located. But for that you need to read about Antiparos further below.

NAXOS, GREECE’S MAGICAL ISLAND

  • Great for: Couples, Solo Travellers, Families
  • Beach variety: Excellent
  • Day trips: Very good
  • Culture trips: Very Good
  • Party factor: Good
  • Best beaches: Agios Prokopio, Hawaii/Alyko & Mikri Vigla
  • Best day trips: Chalki, Apiranthos, Rotonda & Portara sunsets

Naxos was an island that I wanted to do a small stopover between Santorini and Mykonos island hopping, but I ended up staying here 6 days! Its all so spectacular here in terms of beaches, mountains and villages that it seems that this is a magical Greek island transferred from Hawaii to Europe.

Let’s start with the beaches in Naxos: every beach seems to be better than the previous one, that it makes hard to choose the best one – fine white sand beaches, turquoise clear waters and great beach bars. Most importantly they are all located on the West Coast, so definitely stay overnight in this part of Naxos. My top 3 beaches were Hawaii/Alyko Beach, Mikri Vigla and Agios Prokopios so you should get at least one day at each. Agios Prokopios also had the best beach bar called Macao where you can have great food and cocktails.

Then the main town of Chora is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in the Greek islands, with a high castle hill, a never ending maze with colourful doors and balconies and a harbour that has an excellent nightlife. Add to that the Portara temple located just a couple of minutes away in a half island where you can see the whole Chora town and the most amazing sunset just near the temple “door” , a unique place!

If that isn’t enough, you still have some lovely places to explore in the interior of Naxos such as the charming villages of Chalki, Apiranthos, Filotis and for me one of thje most incredible sunset loocations in greece – the Rotonda windmill, right up the mountain road in the direction of Apiranthos.

ANTIPAROS, THE HIDDEN GEM ISLAND

  • Great for: Couples, Solo Travellers
  • Beach variety: Good
  • Day trips: Very good
  • Culture trips: Very good
  • Party factor: Good
  • Best beaches: Agios Giorgios (Saint George) & Fanomerani
  • Best day trips: Antiparos cave, Despotiko island & anywhere South

Antiparos is the ultimate non-touristy island that actually has plenty to offer to those who take time to explore it. Being close to Paros and Naxos, might make it a side trip but even if you just want to spend there a couple of days, it will be worth it. most importantly, ylou will be away from the crowds from the other islands.

Firstly , its capital Antiparos town is one of the most charming you will find across all Greek islands, sitting in a relatively flat plain, offering a hidden castle, colorful streets and a beautiful sea promenade.

Secondly, it has one of the most unique beaches in the Greek islands that seems teh last isolated place in the Greek islands called Fanomerani beach. Its also a place in the southwest that only a few people go to after some miles in a gravel road- simply the beach, the sea and you. On the way there you will see the lovely Sostis beach and the almost alien made Ubini rocks, that look like some alien carved waves on the rocks themselves but its actually nature made. If you prefer a more serviced beach, then Saint George is the place, with the privately owned Despotiko island just in front and a view to die for.

Thirdly, it has the biggest and deepest cave in the Cyclades islands , whose entry is located on a high mountain top with stunning views from most of the island. The Antiparos is also the only vertical cave in all of Europe with a depth of approximately 85 meters, so prepare yourself for the 411 steps. Moreover, the Cave is divided into the ‘Antechamber’ and three additional halls. The huge stalagmite found at the entrance is 45 million years old, the most ancient in Europe, and is called ‘The Huge Central Column’.

And if you are into party, there’s also some to this Hollywood darling where several starts spend their holidays away from it all, hopping from the nearby Paros. Paros itself is only 15 minutes by ferry away, that depart every 30 minutes until 2am from the little port of Pounta in Paros, accessible by bus from Parikia . You can check the schedules here at Antiparos ferries. Even if a week might look long , 2 to 3 days here will make you feel like you are in a different place.

KEFALONIA, THE ADVENTURE GREEN ISLAND

  • Great for: Couples, Solo Travellers, Families with older kids
  • Beach variety: Very good
  • Day trips: Excellent
  • Culture trips: Good
  • Party factor: Average
  • Best beaches: Myrtos, Petani & Antisamos
  • Best day trips: Assos, Fiskardo & Melissani Cave

Kefalonia is Greece ‘s perfect answer to those seeking an island to explore, still not touristy and with incredible nature wonders that can only be found here. Its also one of the greenest islands in whole Greece, so it makes the contrasts of forest, beach and sea even more stunning.

Kefalonia doesn’t have that many beaches but the top 3 ones could rank in any best beaches collection of Greece. Against the backdrop of white cliffs and green forests, the white sand and caribbean blue waters of Myrtos, Petani and Antisamos are sights to see. All serviced with sun lounges and accessible by car, they aren’t as crowded as you might imagine but be prepared to share.

Then the incredible caves of Melissani and Dragorati make your trip to the subterranean world here a great getaway from the hot weather outside. ESpecially Melissani is an amazing, if not the most amazing cave in Europe, with its “open roof” due to an earthquake that made the cave ceiling fall and the blue azure subterranean lake that you can appreciate with a 15 minutes paddle boat ride through the lake. Despite the inviting colors, the water temperature is 15 degrees or less, so swimming is forbidden , also to protect it. Dragorati might not have a lake but has a deep path down to a giant hall where concerts are held.

And this wouldn’t be complete with the charming and colorful villages of Assos and Fiskardo, whose architecture, engulfing bays and boats make you want to have that café, meal or just a drink for a long time! Assos also have a large Venetian castle that can be visited, but on a hot Summer day, it can be tough to hike all the way up. Its mostly in ruins but the views are interesting.

CRETE, THE HOLIDAY ISLAND

  • Great for: Everyone
  • Beach variety: Good
  • Day trips: Good
  • Culture trips: Very good
  • Party factor: Very good
  • Best beaches: Elafonissi, Preveli
  • Best day trips: Cnossos temple, Samaria Gorge & Rhetimno

Crete is the largest of all Greek islands, offering a great variety of activities for all tastes, from perfect beaches to old palaces, from gorges to lovely sea front cities. And its fairly close to Santorini by ferry , so if you don’t want to stay in Santorini, its a great trip.

Crete was the birth of one of the oldest European civilizations called the Minoan Kingdom, so any trip to Crete should include Cnossos palace with its thousands year old paintings. Even for non- history fans, its a visual striking collection of monuments that were preserved and restored to give a more realistic vision.

The beach quantity ist quite large and all beaches are mostly nice, but there are a couple of them that stand out and make a beach trip worthwhile. From those the pink white sand from Elafonisi island and lagoon is out of this World, whilst Preveli hike downhill is rewarded with one of the most beautiful beach sceneries as the river flows into the ocean from a gorge.

If you are into hiking or at least stay off the beach for a while, then the hike in the Samaria Gorge just offers you a perfect mix of nature, stunning scenery and the chance to walk one of the longest gorges in Europe.

And of course the lovely sea coast, punctuated by the still well preserved Venetian cities of Rhetimno, Chania and Heraklion, full of colourful streets and wonderful sea promenades.

RHODES, THE FORTRESS ISLAND

  • Great for: Everyone
  • Beach variety: Very Good
  • Day trips: Good
  • Culture trips: Very good
  • Party factor: Very good
  • Best beaches: Lindos, Agia Tsambika, Golden Beach
  • Best day trips: Rhodes Town, Lindos fortress & Prasonisi

Rhodes might not be as large as Crete but it also shows a huge selection of activities from historical locations, secluded bays, castles and great beaches.

The biggest highlight is the magnificent citadel of Lindos, sitting above a hilltop of a white village and a dream beach at its feet, with many good restaurants and bars. Its no surprise that its a UNESCO World Heritage site!

Then you have the lovely east coast with Tsambika and Agathi Golden beach that are the best beaches in Rhodes, alongside Lindos , just wider and longer. If you are in Tsambika then take the 300 steps challenge and reward yourself with great views too from the Agia Tsambika monastery. If you go upper north on the coast, the area of Faliraki and others are becoming more stony and with darker sand with the exception being the charming scenic Anthony Quinn Bay. Prassonissi to the south is one of the most beautiful ones too, with 2 sandy beaches in one but usually windy. So if you are into windsurf or kitesurf, then its a great option . If not, its still a beautiful place to visit.

A visit to Rhodes wouldn’t be complete without visiting some Knights templar fortresses, with the highlight being the fortress of Rhodes Town. Its wall protect one of the most beautiful nmdeieval topwns in Eurtope, mixing Roman, byzanntine, Ottoman and Greek styles in one. The Grand master’s palace of the knights looks like frozen in time with its granfdeur and cobbled streets just like 600 years ago. Add to that the beautiful harbour, where once the Colossus of Rhodes oncee stood and the lovely beach area near the casino and its the perfect day trip.

MYKONOS, THE PARADISE ISLAND

  • Great for: Couples, Single travellers, Families with adult kids
  • Beach variety: Excellent
  • Day trips: Good
  • Culture trips: Average
  • Party factor: Very High
  • Best beaches: Platis Gialos, Paradis , Super Paradise Beach & Psarrou
  • Best day trips: Mykonos Town, Scorpio club

Mykonos is not only a party island, its also before the party as it offers some of the most beautiful beaches in the Greek islands along its Southwest coast and a stunning capital topwn full of lair and never ending maze of narrow streets,.

First the beaches are simply world class with fine sandy beaches whose beach bars and restaurants make them even more cool. My absolkute favorite was Platios Gialos, with its half moon bay, but the nearby smaller Psarou is also incredible. If you venture more to the South, then Paradies beach and Super Paradise offer a great beach vibe before the clubbing starts. All can be accessed by bus from Mykonos Town.

Speaking of clubs, if there’ s one that is a must do its Scorpios club with its private bewach, sunset views and trendy grounds full of bars, Plenty of DJs and even a shop to pick up the right clothing. Do reserve it well in advance as its often booked out. Cavos Mykonos at Super paradise beach is a great option too, as well as Panangka beach where you can find the Kalua bar. Finally the Paradise beach club and its bars on Paradise Beach are also really cool and fulll of great Summer feeling

Finally you have the crown jewel called Mykonos Town- among the windmills hill, Little Venice. beautiful streets, an inner sea harbour and the nightlife to keep you entertained at night as an alternative to just clubbing. Do come at sunset to the windmills area, before going to LIttle Venice for dinner & cocktails. Its an unforgettable experience even if Mykonos is more expensive than other islands,

So which island of greece would fit you? Where would you like to go? If you have any questions please drop me a comment or send a message.

Stay also tuned for more posts for each the Greece islands above- have a look to the posts already published and subscribe my travel blog to get updates,

THE BEST TRAVEL GUIDE TO EXPLORE ZAKYNTHOS IN STYLE

Zakynthos is much more than Shipwreck beach, explore the basics of this great travel guide namely how to get there and how to discover this Greek island in the Ionian Sea

theinsidetraveller View All

My name is Renato Azambujo. I live currently in Hamburg, but was born and raised in sunny capital of Portugal, Lisbon. I also lived in Switzerland for some years, before settling in Germany for the last years.

I am huge passionate about travel, photographer and a global explorer, always looking to the next destination.

I have so far visited over 70 countries across the 5 continents, because I really love knowing about new places, interact with different cultures and get to know myself better after each journey.

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