10 Best Greek Islands

Which One is For You?

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    Over 6,000 Greek islands and islets lie in the Ionian and Aegean Seas, and they boast some of the most beautiful beaches, natural wonders, and historical sites in Europe. Some islands become party destinations during summer, but with tolerable temperatures year-round and activities ranging from caving to turtle spotting, there’s always a Greek island worth visiting regardless of the season.

    Whether you’re searching for nudist beaches, ancient cities, mezze dining, or water sports, the Greek islands having something special for you. Here’s our handpicked list of the best Greek islands to help you plan your next adventure.

    1

    Mykonos

    The party island of the Cyclades

    Mykonos enjoys a reputation for being the ultimate ‘party island’ of the Cyclades during peak season, but its whitewashed churches, 16th-century windmills, and long stretches of white sand give this island a unique charm.

    Enjoy traditional Greek mezze dining and seafood delights by the waterfront, or soak up the local culture by visiting the shops and taverns that line the narrow winding streets of Mykonos Town. If you want to sip cocktails until dawn, head over to Paradise Beach, where world-renowned DJs take over award-winning nightclubs during summer. There are also plenty of secluded and nudist-friendly beaches where you can unwind and catch your all-over tan.

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    2

    Corfu

    Tour Venetian-style ruins and peaceful vineyards

    Corfu, united with Greece in 1864, is home to architecture and culture reflecting years spent under British, French, and Venetian rule. Rugged mountains and greenery add to the natural splendour of its shores and secluded bays, and the vineyards that surround Corfu’s oldest village, Old Perithia, offer serene retreats and wine-tasting tours.

    History buffs can tour the Venetian fortresses of Corfu Town and the 13th-century monastery in Palaiokastritsa. If you’re more of an adventurer, head to Sidari for cliff jumping, snorkelling, and water parks. If you think you have it in you, hike to the summit of Mount Pantokrator to enjoy panoramic views of the island.

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    3

    Milos

    The unspoilt Island of Colours

    Milos is a volcanic island in the Cyclades that has earned the nickname ‘the Island of Colours’ thanks to its unspoilt natural landscapes. Although the locals have adored the rocky hills that meet turquoise waters for years, this quiet island still attracts relatively few international tourists.

    The island is perhaps most famous for its coastal views and otherworldly geology. Head to Sarakiniko to sunbathe in a bay that’s surrounded by bone-white volcanic rocks. In Kleftiko, you can explore caves and the arena of outcrops that are only accessible by water. During your stay, walk through the ancient underground Catacombs of Milos, which date back over 2,000 years.

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    4

    Crete

    Home to Europe’s oldest city

    Crete is popular with international tourists thanks to its scores of beaches, hidden hillside taverns, and summer party atmosphere, but the Palace of Knossos – a city that dates back to 7,000 BC – attracts history buffs in their masses. Minoan palaces and Bronze Age archaeological sites may make Crete unique, but its mountain ranges, gorges, and stunning beaches offer peaceful retreats away from jostling crowds.

    Eat like a local by tasting a plate of fried, steamed, or grilled snails. Top up your tan at Elafonisi Beach, which is often cited as one of the best in the world. After drinking a few local beverages in a traditional taverna, head to Malia to party until sunrise.

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    5

    Naxos

    Greece’s answer to Hawaii

    With nearly 100 km of sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, Naxos is widely known as the ‘Hawaii of Greece.’ Besides its natural beauty, Naxos is draped in history – it’s home to medieval Venetian mansions, ancient Greek ruins, a 13th-century hilltop castle, and plenty of museums.

    Head to the west coast to enjoy watersports, snorkelling, and sunbathing. Stock up on local goods and takeaway bites by meandering the narrow streets of Old Town. When you’ve had your fill of beaches, history, and adventure, grab a table in a traditional bar by the waterfront and drink a few glasses of Kitron, a citrusy liqueur that’s native to Naxos.

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    6

    Santorini

    A volcanic island in the Cyclades

    Santorini is a sensory overload for adventurers and sightseers, thanks to its multi-coloured cliffs, black and red beaches, rural vineyards, and huge volcanic crater. This Greek island may not have as many white sandy beaches as its neighbours, but it is home to historical hotspots, dramatic scenery, and charming hillside towns filled with whitewashed houses and churches.

    Embark on some of the world’s best hiking tours to view quaint villages, ancient ruins, cliffs, and beautiful landscapes. Find a hidden tavern to enjoy local bites and beverages in the calderas (clifftop towns). You can also unwind by going on a boat tour or taking a dip in the island’s hot springs.

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    7

    Alonissos

    The largest marine park in Europe

    Alonissos is home to unspoilt pebble beaches, natural caves, and the largest marine park in Europe. Chora, the oldest town on Alonissos, is located on a hilltop that offers panoramic views of the island. Thanks to the efforts of conservationists and volunteers, Alonissos has become a top destination for eco-tourists.

    Scuba diving tours provide you with the chance to view a vast array of marine creatures, including the endangered monk seal. Dozens of walking trails take hikers to quaint villages, rocky terrains, and ravines. If you’re a nature lover, look out for olive groves, maple trees, and pines that dominate the bucolic landscapes of the south.

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    8

    Patmos

    A tranquil island that’s home to UNESCO caves

    Patmos is a small but strikingly beautiful island in the Aegean Sea. As well as being an important Christian pilgrimage site, Patmos attracts thrill seekers and naturists with its impressive UNESCO-listed caves and a vast array of almost completely secluded beaches.

    Must-visit landmarks include the Cave of Apocalypse (where tradition states the Book of Revelation was written), a charming folklore museum, 16th-century mansions, and dozens of whitewashed monasteries. The island's most famous attraction is the Monastery of Saint John, which dates back to the 11th century and dominates the skyline of Patmos Old Town.

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    9

    Rhodes

    Home to a UNESCO World Heritage City

    Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese islands, bursts into life over summer when dynamic nightclubs attract partygoers from across the globe. Medieval castles, ancient ruins, picturesque villages, and sandy beaches also make Rhodes a popular tourist destination year-round.

    The island’s largest and oldest city, also called Rhodes, is a UNESCO World Heritage City thanks to its rich cultural heritage and medieval charms. Besides its museums, archaeological sites, and sandy beaches, Rhodes boasts natural wonders including hot springs, densely vegetated landscapes, and the unmissable Butterfly Valley.

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    10

    Zakynthos

    Postcard-perfect beaches, turtles and water sports

    Mountains dominate Zakynthos to the north and west, with some of Greece’s most photographed beaches dotted along the eastern shore. White limestone cliffs, golden stretches of sand, and turquoise waters that illuminate the ceilings of sea caves make this island undeniably beautiful. It’s also home to plenty of nightclubs that awaken the party atmosphere over summer.

    Zakynthos is surrounded by picturesque islets, including Laganas Bay (also called Turtle Island), where you can embark on glass-bottom boat tours. Get your fill of history by visiting the islands numerous monasteries and museums, or head to one of the dozens of beaches to top up your tan and enjoy adrenaline-fueled water sport activities.

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    Joshua Saunders |Raksta autors ir uzņēmuma „Hotels.com” darbinieks

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