With over 6,000 (well, 227 inhabited) Greek Islands to choose from, why not take the road less traveled? Most first-time visitors to Greece head to Santorini, an island famous for its sunsets and luxury honeymoon hotels, or Mykonos, a prime spot for partying. The call to these islands is understandable — most visions of Greece are Santorini’s whitewashed, blue-domed buildings overlooking the sea.
But there are downsides. Santorini is one of the most expensive spots in Greece to visit, and you can admire those whitewashed buildings and epic sunsets from hundreds of other islands at a much more affordable price without the crowds. Mykonos often gets so busy in the summer months that traffic on the island’s main roads comes to a dead stop.
So for that next (or first) trip to Greece, consider visiting one of the other incredible islands Greece has to offer. You’ll encounter fewer tourists, spend less and get a feel for the real Greece. Here are some of the top Winetraveler picks for some of Greece’s more underrated islands. You can also track and book the itinerary below on the Winetraveler App.
A volcanic island part of the Cyclades, Milos has a budding culinary scene. Some family-owned restaurants such as Sirocco on Paleochori Beach use the volcanic landscape to their advantage. Chefs bury food in clay pots in the soil which is then heated by the underground geothermic springs. After a naturally-cooked meal, enjoy the sand and pebbles of Paleochori beach, backed by rocky cliffs marbled with volcanic amber colors. And don’t forget about the popular Sarakiniko beach, famous for its sleek white rock formations jutting out over the sea. Find hotels in Milos here.
The third-largest Greek island (it’s part of the Dodecanese group) has over 20 gorgeous, sandy beaches. It also has a number of Greek and Roman ruins to visit. The island is known as the Cycling Island and is best explored by bike. If you need a shady escape from the hot sun, head inland to the Plaka Forest for a nature walk. Make sure to check out the peacocks (and cats) that wander the area. Browse hotels in Kos here.
RELATED: Which Greek Island is Right For You?
One of the quieter Greek islands, Thasos has a little bit of everything. With long, tranquil beaches, mountain villages and pine-covered hills, visitors are spoiled with choices on what to do and where to explore. A good plan is to sample the local honey and olives, spend a Saturday afternoon meandering through the Kavala market and swim in the clear waters of the Giola Lagoon. Discover accommodation options in Thasos.
This is the second-largest Greek island, separated by the mainland only by a narrow strait and easily reachable from Athens. Ironically, Evia’s proximity to the mainland ensures its beaches, villages and dramatic natural landscapes have stayed remote and relatively tourist-free, as most visitors want a more far-flung Greek island escape. Make sure to visit the rushing Drimona waterfall in the north, explore the Dragon House (over 20 megalithic rock structures), hike the verdant Dimosari Gorge and soak in the thermal Edipsos hot springs with the locals. Evia has a number of beautiful hotels worth staying at.
The largest of the Ionian islands, Kefalonia has some of the whitest sand in Greece (make sure to visit Myrtos Beach). It’s the ideal island for those wanting to beach by day and drink wine at night. Kefalonia has one famous native wine variety: Robola. Since Kefalonia has limestone soil, the wine is highly acidic, often with citric undertones. Sample and learn more about this unique variety at the Robola Cooperative Winery and stay at one of these hotels nearby.
Koufonisia is part of the Cyclades islands between Naxos and Amorgos. This ‘island’ is actually made up of two islands: Ano Koufonissi and Kato Koufonissi. Stay on Ano, which has quaint home rentals, mom and pop restaurants and serene sands. Boat over to Koufonisia’s other half, Kato, which is uninhabited for a day trip. Here, you can explore the pristine waters and exotic rocky sands of this near-deserted Greek paradise.
An excellent alternative to Mykonos, Skiathos (part of the Sporades) has emerald green waters and a happening nightlife. With over 60 beaches, the island has plenty of sand and sun to go around for visitors and locals alike. If its gorgeous shores and dense pine forests look familiar, it’s probably because the famous movie Mamma Mia was filmed there. Party animals should plan to drink and dance at some of the outdoor clubs near the airport. Here are some recommended places to stay on Skiathos.
While you may have heard of Paros, Antiparos still manages to fly under-the-radar. The island is small, but its main village, Chora, has those typical whitewashed buildings and blue-domed churches overlooking the glittering sea. This is the ideal island if you’d prefer not to rent a car, as you can walk or cycle to many of the island’s best beaches from Chora. Some hotel options can be found here, and for those on a budget, families or outdoor enthusiasts can camp on the island too.
Small Ionian island Ithaca boasts quiet beaches, beautiful hiking/biking trails and calm waters for scuba diving. After you’ve spent some time enjoying the natural wonders, make sure to wine and olive oil taste around the island. Although Ithaca has several native grape varieties, vines and production are often minimal, so winemakers create blends to maximize their harvests. Here are 10 of the top accommodation options on Ithaca.
If you want to discover traditional Greek villages, head to Tinos, an island in the Cyclades. Combine a visit to Tinos with a trip Mykonos if you really want to visit a more well-known island too. Pyrgos is the most popular white village and don’t miss Volax, a small village flanked by giant boulders. If you visit during August, expect crowds and plan ahead to get the best accommodation. Many Greeks head to Tinos as part of a pilgrimage to visit the sacred Panagia Megalochari church.