It seems ironic that travelers frequently end up in popular islands such as Santorini or Mykonos when Greece has over 6,000 (though just 227 inhabited) islands. And while those two famed islands are amazing for specific types of travelers, other Greek destinations may be a better fit for you and your travel needs. Although names like Naxos, Paros or Sifnos may not seem like familiar Greek territory, there’s so much more to this Mediterranean country than just its most popular namesakes.
While many of the islands offer incredible beaches, prime hiking trails or delectable food, we’ve narrowed it down to our top picks. Whether you’re traveling alone, on your honeymoon, just need that perfect beach or want a dose of history, there’s an island right for you, regardless of your budget, interests and travel style. Read on to discover Winetraveler Greek Island favorites.
IN THIS GUIDE:
- For Families
- For Foodies
- For Honeymoons
- For Luxury Travelers
- For History Buffs
- For Budget Travelers
- For Solo Travelers
- For Party Goers
- For Beach Lovers
- For Hikers
- …and more
Travel Logistics and Details for Visiting Greece
Fly nonstop from US hubs like New York to Athens on airlines like Delta. Once in Athens, take a ferry or short-haul flight (if available) to the islands. Some European hubs like London offer nonstop flights to islands such as Crete or Mykonos. Click here to get updates on flight deals as they arise.
Once there, car rental is an option, but stay alert, as locals tend to invent their own rules of the road. Make sure to get some Euros too, as many smaller taverns or donkey taxis might only accept cash.
Greece’s largest island offers more than just beautiful beaches (though there are plenty of those on Crete). From wandering through the Venetian harbor of Chania to exploring the ancient ruins of Palace Knossos, families have endless choices for activities. The pink sands of Elafonissi and clear, shallow waters of the Balos Lagoon are world-famous — and apt for children. Plus, lodging and dining on Crete range from budget to luxury, so you can find just the right fit for your crew.
With over 7,000 acres of vineyards, Paros is one of the best Greek Islands to wine taste on. The island has its very own PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), which is made from grapes like Monemvasia and Mandilaria. Paros’ grapevines have deep roots in the soil that grow parallel along the ground. This way, the leaves and grapes are protected from the elements like wind, rain and sun. Don’t miss a tour and tasting at Moraitis Winery.
Paros is also an underrated foodie island, featuring delicious Mizithra Greek cheese soaked in honey, fresh seafood like gouna (roasted mackerel) and other Greek delights. Visit Naousa to find some of the best restaurants on the island.
While most honeymooners head to Santorini, newlyweds should head to the island of amor— Amorgos. The island is best for couples wanting a private escape — a lesser-visited, more authentic version of Santorini. With white villages, clear azure waters and plenty of far-flung hiking paths, this spot feels like a true getaway. A hike up to the Monastery of Hozoviotissa will offer honeymooners a dose of Greek culture and history while offering a romantic view of the crashing Aegean Sea below.
We know Santorini is a fan favorite, but if you go there, prepare to spend some serious cash. Santorini is geared towards luxury travelers — think fancy, seafront dining, five-star hotels and lots of other tourists. Of course, the famous sunsets of Oia are just as incredible as you may have heard, but beware that this island, though beautiful, is chock full during high season. If you’re dying for a splurge, though, stay alongside celebrities at the Cavo Tagoo Santorini, a hotel that features private hot tubs and plunge pools inside their exclusive suites (room rates start around $800 per night).
Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese islands, has a number of ancient ruins and historical sites to visit. Make sure to check out the ancient ruins of city Kamiros, the Asklipio Castle and the Rhodes Archeological Museum. Discovering all of the old city centers of Rhodes is also a must — it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. Don’t worry though, the island also has gorgeous beaches and delicious Greek cuisine for those who need a break from sightseeing.
The greenest of the Cyclades Islands, Andros, is just a two-hour ferry from Athens. This means that travelers looking to cut costs can fly into Athens and won’t need to spend money on a second flight to an island. With affordable home rentals and B&Bs as low as $50 per night, you can enjoy the magic of the island without breaking the bank. Well-priced excursions include visits to beaches like Tis Grias to Pidima Beach, where you can admire the giant rock formation or trek to the rushing Remata Waterfall.
Greece has numerous island options for off-the-beaten-path travelers; one of them is Sifnos. The island features numerous hiking trails and over 350 churches. You’ll find traditional beaches, of course, but some of the best spots to enjoy the island’s crystal clear waters are rocky areas where you can sunbathe and dive into the refreshing water. Don’t forget to visit the hilltop white villages, such as Kastro and Artemonas or seaside spots Kamares or Faros.
While the Greek Islands in general are very safe for solo travelers, Zakynthos is one of the best. The island has plenty of action (though not quite as much as Mykonos) so that solo travelers can make friends and meet other travelers, but also has calm and quiet beaches for some alone time. The island is relatively easy to reach by ferry and offers plenty of affordable room rentals on Airbnb. Make sure to visit the famous shipwreck beach and the towering cliffs of Keri. Plenty of tour operators on the island welcome solo travelers; consider a boat trip to see the island from a new angle.
Mykonos is one of Greece’s most popular islands. All the cool kids flock to the island to enjoy the nightlife scene. The Mykonos airport can be extremely crowded and the island can see heavy traffic especially during the summer season, so if you aren’t ready to hit the club, it may be best to choose a Greek island that’s less lively. Some of the best nightlife happens in downtown Mykonos at spots like Scandanavian Bar and Cavo Paradise. Mykonos also caters to LGBTQ travelers, who can find gay-friendly beaches and nightlife around the island.
If all you want to do during your Greek getaway is relax on white sands, head to Naxos. The largest in the Cyclades island group, Naxos has numerous sandy stretches of coastline to choose from. Some of the best beaches are Agia Anna, Plaka, Ammitis, Kastraki and Agios Prokopios. Consider renting a car to get out to some of the more deserted beaches such as Sahara or Orkos.
This Ionian island features one of Greece’s best hiking trails: the Corfu Trail. Hikers and walkers can do all or just part of the 110-mile trail which laps a majority of the island. The best times to do the trail are between April and October. Make sure to wear layers and bring your appetite — the small taverns located in hidden villages along the trail feature some seriously delicious gastronomic options. And don’t forget your swimsuit either, as the trail goes past spectacular beaches like Paleokastritsa and Myrtiotissa Beach.
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