There are about 2.5 thousand Greek islands, and only about 200 of them are inhabited. Aegean Islands, Saronic, Ionian, Dodecanese archipelago, fabulous Cyclades and Sporades… Discover the TOP 10 most beautiful Greek islands!
1. Corfu – Queen of the Ionian Islands
The island of Corfu, called the Kerkira River, is the “queen of the Ionian Islands”. It was here that the sea god Poseidon kidnapped the beautiful fairy Kerkir. Here, too, the islanders helped Odyssey end his ten-year journey by showing him the way home. This place captivated, among others, Emperor William II, Napoleon, and Empress Sissy. Over the centuries, however, this object of desire of the Romans, Goths, and French, has not lost its Greek character…
… And authenticity. Despite numerous visits from tourists, the natives still live here in the villages and lead an undisturbed and peaceful life. An integral part of the local landscape is sheep grazing in the fields or older gentlemen resting in front of taverns. However, Corfu is not just a place of sweet doing nothing. There are a number of places that recall the history not only of the island but also of the whole of Greece (archeological museum, banknote museum, mussel museum). Sun lovers will enjoy the southern part of the island with sandy beaches, mountain lovers will enjoy the steep cliffs to the north.
If you enjoy the nightlife, the town of Sidari will enchant you with its rich offer. Lovers should go for a walk to the channel of love, which according to legend guarantees them,
infinite love. The greened island of Corfu is a place with an interesting history, healthy cuisine, and beautiful landscapes. It is a place that will interest everyone.
2. Crete – the cradle of European culture
Crete is the largest Greek island and the cradle of European culture. There are many myths and legends associated with Crete, such as King Minos – the son of Zeus and Europe, Dedal, who imprisoned the Minotaur in a maze, or the fall of Icarus. In its history, as an important point on the trade route Greece – Cyclades – Cyprus – Egypt, the island literally went from hand to hand. It was conquered by Achaean, Dorian, Romans, then inside the Byzantine border, then sold in Venice, conquered by the Ottoman Turks, and only before World War I did it become Greek property. Due to the complex history of the island, we find a combination of cultures and many historic buildings.
During your visit to Crete, be sure to visit the city of Hercules, the capital of Heraklion, and the Palace of Knossos. It is worth climbing to the highest Cretan peak – Mount Idi with the Idaho Cave, where Zeus is said to have been born, to visit the tomb of the iconic “Greek Zorba” Nikos Kazantzakis or to follow the Venetian architectural path to the charming city of Rethymno. You can also stop at one of the local cafes in the southern part of the island and sip a frappe, chat with the natives known for their openness and cordiality. You can try local specialties at the local pubs. Cretan cuisine is considered the healthiest in the world – as evidenced by the fact that Cretans are the longest living nation in Europe. Olives, cheese, vegetables, fish, seafood and wine, hectoliters of excellent wine. This is the secret of the longevity of the islanders.
In addition to monuments from different periods or great cuisine, Crete attracts tourists with its sandy beaches. The phenomenal Balos beach with white sand and crystal clear turquoise water, the pink Elafonisi beach, the most photographed Balos beach, or Vai beach, where a wild palm grove grows. There are beaches both large and well maintained, small and quiet, suitable for nudists. Crete is an island of dreams where you can relax and discover the secrets of happiness and longevity.
3. Santorini – the most beautiful island in the world
Although there are more than 2,000 Greek islands, photographs of the island of Santorini have sometimes been seen by almost everyone. White-blue houses scattered on steep cliffs and in the background a blue cloudless sky and the turquoise Aegean Sea – Santorini is perhaps the most famous island in southern Europe. The volcanic island located about 100 km north of Crete is part of the Cyclades archipelago. Raw cliffs, a volcano, and black and red beaches contrast with the romantic atmosphere of the picturesque towns. UNESCO has recognized it as the most beautiful island in the world.
The town of Oia is one of the most photographed places on the island. The picturesque town built on the edge of a cliff is more popular than Fira, the island’s capital. Oia, located on the edge of a former volcano crater, is a Mecca for artists and lovers of spectacular sunsets. Looking at the sunrise, it is worth coming to one of the black beaches, such as the town of Kamari, which is characterized by a two-kilometer beach covered with volcanic sand. Perissa, a town in the south of the island, boasts not only a black beach but also the huge Mavro Vouno rock rising from the blue sea.
Other natural wonders await tourists in Akrotiri, where the sand on the beach and the surrounding rocks have an unusual color… red. A mandatory point of a trip to Santorini is also the caldera, which is a sunken volcanic crater. The peculiarities of the heart of the volcano can be discovered onboard the ferry.
4. Zakynthos – natural spa
The third-largest island in the Ionian Islands not only attracts with its amazing Mediterranean beauty and varied climate, but thanks to local historical attractions, your stay will take on a slightly different dimension. Most of you should be able to associate the island with the famous theme of postcards – with the white cliffs of Wreck Bay – the beach, which is the main attraction of the area. To this day, however, it is not known when and under what circumstances the ship sank here. Some of the beaches on the island are a kind of natural SPA – thanks to the surrounding sulfur deposits, swimming in areas such as Xigia Beach will have a positive effect on the skin and at the same time ensure a young look. Of course, provided that the smell of sulfur does not deter you.
As for Zakynthos, it is impossible not to taste local delicacies of Greek cuisine such as olives, feta cheese, tzatziki, and fresh, coarsely chopped vegetables. All seafood fans will also find something for themselves here – fresh calamari, shrimp, or squid.
5. Kefalonia – a secret Greek paradise
Kefalonia also called the “Greek best-kept secret”, is the largest of the Ionian Islands and the least crowded Greek island. It is a great destination for lovers of peace, quiet and romantic walks on empty beaches.
Life here is slow – no one is in a hurry and you can enjoy it in peace – as well as delicious Mediterranean cuisine in local taverns. Once you get satisfied, it’s best to take a nap on the beach. The most beautiful of them are Ammos and Myrtos. The first is a real challenge – up to 300 steps lead to it, but the view that awaits us from the top will make up for all the effort. Looking at the huge rocks falling into the azure sea, you can feel like in paradise. The second beach is best accessible by car, a winding road leads to it.
However, beaches are not the only attraction of Kefalonia. It is impossible not to visit the picturesque city of Fiskardo, which is popular with celebrities. It is the only city that was not destroyed during the earthquake that hit the island in 1953. Another notable attraction is the Melissani Cave – a truly magical place. According to local stories, a fairy in love threw herself into the water to end her life. If you are a fan of monuments, you should visit the temple of Gerasimos from the 16th century, hiding the remains of one of the saints.
6. Rhodes – the island of the sun god
If we are to mark one of the most characteristic places in all of Greece, Rhodes can undoubtedly be considered its symbol. And although geographically located in Asia Minor, the turbulent history of history has meant that today we can enjoy a beautiful picture of the island, which has been photographed on postcards for many years. The beautiful sunshine, which shines here more than 300 days a year, clean beaches, and mild Mediterranean climate, make Rhodes an ideal place for both sunny holidays and water sports. Cold days start in October, while from April we can look forward to a temperature of up to 25 degrees!
Not all sightseeing enthusiasts will complain here either – the old town of Rhodes with the Grand Master’s Palace, the Suleyman Mosque, or the city of Lindow are mandatory points of the trip. You should not forget the traditional Greek cuisine – seafood, moussaka or souvlaki.
7. Mykonos – the island of winds
Thanks to Alefkandra – a colorful settlement founded by local wealthy people in the 18th century, Mykon is called Little Venice. Numerous mills adorning the southern part of the capital built between the 17th and 19th centuries. justify the nickname “Island of the Winds”. And the number of tourists coming to the port of Mykonos during the year fully confirms the designation of the island as the queen of Greek resorts.
Over 300 sunny days a year and crystal clear water. In season, the island comes to life until around 4 pm with gyros and a glass of wine. Among the most entertaining parts of the island that never sleeps is the resort of Agios Ioannis overlooking the island of Delos, the beach of Psarou or Kalamopodi, known for its golden sand, which is a Mecca for sports enthusiasts. Those, who want to relax a bit from the attractions of the cosmopolitan resort, can decide to go on a trip to the picturesque village of Ano Meria, which is known for its beautiful Cycladic architecture.
8. Hydra – Greek St. Tropez
A romantic island of painters and poets – probably this is where Leonard Cohen composed most of his songs. In tourism, it is sometimes called the Greek Saint Tropez. One of the most fashionable resorts in the Saronic Islands, which owes its popularity mainly to what is forbidden on the island…. The use of motor vehicles and even bicycles are prohibited throughout the island. The few roads leading between nineteenth-century buildings can be crossed on horseback, mules, and donkeys, or on foot. This creates a truly romantic atmosphere, enhanced by stone houses dominating the landscape, designed by architects from Venice and Genoa, and pastel houses covered with red tiles.
Hydra is located near Athens – a trip by sea from the capital to the island takes about 3 hours. The entrance to the port is blocked by fortifications on the rocky shore and about a dozen cannons facing the turquoise sea. Tourists who reach the shores of this Saronic island are captivated by the amphitheater-shaped bay, on the steep slopes of which are accumulated low-rise houses, pine trees, and prickly pears.
The small size of the island – its area is less than 50 km2 – is theoretically enough for a one-day visit. However, if you want to enjoy the view of the white sailboats that lazily slop into the harbor and the taste of Greek bohemia, it is worth stopping here for a longer period, but don’t forget to book your accommodation in advance. Of all the Greek islands, Hydra is the farthest from Western civilization. There is no extensive tourist infrastructure and gigantic hotels. There are only charming guesthouses, cottage settlements, chapels, and churches, the number of which corresponds to the number of days in the year.
9. Skopelos – a treasure island
Through the labyrinth of narrow, white, and blue streets of the island of Skopelos, the lazy sounds of rebetiko – Greek street music and the smell of grilled squid, sauce, and baked feta are carried. The landscape is dominated by nature. If you believe the population’s calculations, a small part of the island is covered by more than 5 million pines and almost 60,000 olive trees. According to legend, there is – between the green contrast to the white buildings and the turquoise Aegean Sea – the mysterious treasure of Barbarossa – the admiral of the Ottoman troops and the Turkish whim – who tried to plunder Skopel at the beginning of the 15th century.
Although no one has ever found a legendary treasure, the real treasures of nature and culture are at your fingertips. Among them are the small port towns of Skopelos and Glossa, on the edge of which rises a 100-meter high rock – Agios Ioannis, a small chapel of St. John. The provincial charm of the island has been recorded in the film industry. On this green island, 70% of the scenes of the musical “Mama Mia” took place with Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, and Colin Firth in the lead roles.
10. Gavdos – an island on the edge of Europe
Although small – this island is only 10 km long and 5 km wide – it is inhabited by people with a big heart, a huge temperament, and considerable ego. No wonder! The original inhabitants of the island believe that they are the descendants of Calypso and Odysseus themselves. According to Homer’s Odyssey, a Greek nymph has been imprisoning a pilgrim for seven years on this island – who wanted to return home. Today, Gavdos – Europe’s southernmost inhabited point – delights with its landscape dominated by deep narrow gorges covered with pine forests and an atmosphere that has not changed much in the last 40 years.
Don’t send any postcards to your friends from here, because there is no mail. There are no car rentals, currency exchange offices, or hospitals. Instead, there are cedars with twisted trunks, rocky beaches, and breathtaking views. From the 300-meter-high cliff in the north of the island, you can see the peaks of the White Mountains in Crete, 50 km away. All you need is a few hours to get through Gavdos. You can reach the island by ferry from Crete – regular cruises between the islands are from April to October. The main attraction is Akrotiri Tripiti – a rock carved by wind and water, from which you can admire the vastness of the Libyan Sea.