Guide to Greek islands: which ones to choose for your vacation, how to get around and where to stay

By Tetiana PavlichenkoSep 28, 2023 17:51 PMGreece
Share:
Guide to Greek islands: which ones to choose for your vacation, how to get around and where to stay
The islands of Greece make up several large archipelagos, each with its own atmosphere. Source: Image Russell_Yan/Pixabay

Many travelers, planning a Greek island vacation, do not quite understand their specifics, peculiarities of location, do not know anything about the ways of travel between them, the availability of tourist infrastructure. Understanding how to plan a trip to Greece on your own can be overwhelming when it comes to navigation and some other details, especially when it comes to visiting several islands.

In total, there are about 200 inhabited islands in Greece, and the total number of islands reaches 6 thousand. Each of them has its own attractive sides, character, attractions and peculiarities. All islands are divided into 6 main groups and the island of Crete. It is easier to plan a Greek vacationwithin one archipelago rather than moving between groups. To make it easier, use this travel guide for Greek islands. It contains brief descriptions of the best islands to visit and some travel tips for travelers: how to get to the island and mainland, what sights to see and interesting places to stay while traveling in the Greek islands.

How to get to the Greek islands?

Many of the Greek islands are large enough to have their own airports. But, of course, not all of them are international. Some of the islands are served by domestic flights for traveling between islands or from the capital.

Traveling between islands is convenient by ferry, especially within the same group. If you are flying into Athens, the best way to plan a trip to Greece is to rent a car in the capital and drive it across the mainland to the ferry and from there by sea to your archipelago. You can also rent a car on the islands if you have an international driver's license.

When is the best time to go to the Greek islands?

The optimal time to visit with good weather and no crowds is May, June and September. From mid-June to mid-October is the high season. During this time, the number of ferry routes and flight options, open beach bars and restaurants increase. But there are many more tourists and prices increase.

The weather also varies slightly from island to island. For example, Crete attracts warm weather all year round, so you can go here in late fall or winter. On Santorini from November to March - off-season, there are very few vacationers, but Hydra welcomes tourists all year round. Knowing the main characteristics of the island, it will be easier for you to make a Greece tour plan.

Cyclades Islands

Guide to Greek islands: which ones to choose for your vacation, how to get around and where to stay
Santorini is full of posh resorts. Source: Image Mikele Designer/Pixabay

This archipelago includes some of the major tourist destinations in the Greek islands, Santorini and Mykonos. It consists of 220 islands in total, but only 24 are inhabited. Their white churches with blue domes and shaded secluded lanes lined with bougainvillea vines reflect a typical Greek picture.

Mykonos attracts tourists with its vibrant nightlife, iconic nightclubs and gorgeous beaches. But no less interesting place can be seen in the center of the island. Here is a charming village with winding streets that centuries ago were designed to deter pirates, and old windmills. Santorini is suggested by almost every Greek islands travel guide as one of the best honeymoon destinations. The atmosphere here is steeped in romance, luxury and excellent wine - there are famous wineries Santo, Venetsanos and others.

Besides the main islands there are many other islands that are no less interesting. Milos is famous for Kleftiko caves and beaches with mystical vibe, on Tinos you should see the famous church of Virgin Mary, and the islands of Koufonissia, Schinoussa, Donoussa and Iraklia, which are part of the Small Cyclades group, are a great destination for a camping vacation. You can organize a great Greece holiday plan for both large islands and tiny islands like Sikinos with minimal tourists.

How to get there

The tourist season here runs from mid-April to mid-October with a peak in the summer months. Santorini and Mykonos have airports that receive international and domestic flights. The islands are connected to Athens, the port of Piraeus by a fast ferry.

Where to stay

In Santorini, the Greece trip planner suggests hotels in the midst of the famous blue and white cliff houses, such as the Andronis Luxury Suites or Santorini Sky in the old town of Pyrgos. For a honeymoon, consider the luxurious and romantic Grace Hotel, Auberge Resorts Collection or Andronis Concept Wellness Resort. In Mykonos, stay at the luxurious boutique The Wild Hotel by Interni with a private beach or take a suite with a private landscaped pool for your honeymoon at Kalesma Mykonos. On the other Cyclades islands, look out for luxurious atmospheric boutique hotels or family suites and villas.

Crete

The largest among the Greek islands, many travelers mistake Crete as a separate country due to its authentic customs, cuisine and climate. The 160-mile-long island is about halfway between Europe and Africa and is a complete vacation destination. There are enough exciting adventures and interesting places to plan a complete holiday in Greece. It will be much more convenient than diluting your energy to travel to other islands.

There are many unique activities that you won't find on other Greek islands. Explore the amazing beaches - Elafonisi with its pink sand or Elounda with its famous 5-star nightclubs. Hike for a few hours through the Samaria Gorge or explore the wildflower-strewn trails of mountain villages. Visit the ruins of Knossos Palace, famous for the mythical Minotaur monster, and taste Cretan wines at the Boutaris winery.

How to get there

The island has two airports, so you can fly in from Athens or other countries. Since it is large (the drive from one end to the other will take 6 hours), it is more convenient to rent a car to get around the island.

Where to stay

Settle on the Elounda Peninsula, referred to as the Cretan "French Riviera". Local luxury resorts like Relais & Chateaux Elounda Mare or Cayo Exclusive Resort & Spa are surrounded by olive groves and sandy beaches.

Outside Heraklion, consider the Venetian town of Rethymno with historic boutiques such as Casa Delfino, housed in a restored 17th-century mansion.

Saronic Gulf Islands

When thinking about how to plan a Greece trip without traveling too far from Athens, consider the closest group of islands to the capital. It includes some real gems - the most picturesque islands, known only to European tourists and unfamiliar to travelers from other continents.

The island of Spetses attracts tourists with pine forests and harbors with yachts parked in them. For a family vacation, head to Poros with its large, charming town centered on a clock tower and shaded beaches that gather sailing enthusiasts. The island of Aegina, closest to Athens, surprises tourists with its own ruins, the temple of Athena Aphaia and four sandy beaches. Hydra is one of the small islands with unique architecture, free of cars, which equates to monuments of national importance.

How to get there

From Athens, the islands of the Saronic Gulf can be reached from the port of Piraeus by numerous hydrofoil boats.

Where to stay

On Idra and Spetses there are interesting converted captain's houses into hotels, such as Cotommatae and Orloff Resort. On Poros, it's worth staying in a traditional island villa such as Sto Roloi or the more luxurious Sirene Blue Resort. On Aegina, it's best to rent a cabin for the weekend. The most luxurious accommodation can be found on the shores of Spetses harbor at the Poseidonion Grand Hotel.

Ionian Islands

The next group in our guide to Greek islands is also known as the Seven Islands or Eptanisia. The most famous among them is Corfu, whose Old Town is protected by UNESCO. But the others are also popular with tourists for their authentic culture, art, architecture and cuisine.

Tiny Paxos covered in olive trees attracts three pretty bays, while its companion Antipaxos is famous for its crystal clear waters. Put the largest island of the group, Kefalonia, into your Greece travel plans to see wild horses strolling around Mount Enos. Zakynthos' famous shipwreck beach is accessible only by sea. It is also home to the picturesque blue caves. Lefkada can be reached by a bridge connecting the island to the mainland. Here are some of the best beaches in Greece, and in the center of the island are forest villages. Kifera is more similar in appearance to the Cyclades Islands, while Ithaca, despite its fame thanks to The Odyssey, is still little explored.

How to get there

When planning a trip to Greece to the Ionian Islands, look for flights to the airports of Corfu, Zakynthos, Kifara and Kefalonia. They accept domestic routes from Athens, international airlines and charters.

Where to stay

Corfu has a good choice of accommodation, from luxury resorts such as the Grecotel Corfu Imperial to historic Tuscan-style estates such as Pelecas Country Club. On Kefalonia, you can stay outside the town at the picturesque Arte Hotel Emelisse. In the north of Zakynthos, the quiet Nobelos Hotel near the blue caves is worth a family vacation, while for more lively leisure activities, choose the chic, lively oasis of Porto Zante Villas & Spa on the east coast.

Sporades Islands

Guide to Greek islands: which ones to choose for your vacation, how to get around and where to stay
Greek islands like Skiathos are known for their gorgeous beaches. Source: Image Dimitris Vetsikas/Pixabay

If you are planning a trip to Greece in 2023 with activities, look out for Sporades Islands. This group of 24 islands is located off the northeastern coast of Greece. Only 4 of them are inhabited: covered in dark green pine forests, with sandy beaches and white churches. Local tourism here offers many interesting outdoor activities: sailing, swimming, sea kayaking, hiking and biking, beach activities and scuba diving.

The best Greek travel guide can't ignore Skiathos, known for its golden sandy beaches and nightlife. The more tranquil Skopelos offers white pebble coves, traditional villages surrounded by oak forests and many interesting diving opportunities thanks to the shipwrecks off the coast of the National Marine Park. Alonissos offers excellent fishing spots and sightings of various birds and the Mediterranean monk seal. On Skyros, it's worth exploring the local handicrafts and ceramics, touring the churches and the mountaintop capital of Chora with its Venetian castle.

How to get there

There are direct flights to Skiros from Athens, as there are to Skiathos. There is also a ferry from Thessaloniki to the latter. In summer, all four islands can be reached from the mainland port of Agios Konstantinos by hydrofoil. The islands are connected to each other by ferry or boat.

Where to stay

A popular option for accommodation on all the islands is private villas. For example, on Alonisos, Poikilma Villas on Alonisos has accommodation with private pools. There are also full hotels with a wide range of facilities, such as the family-friendly Atrium on Skiathos or the beachfront Adrina Resort on Skopelos.

The northeastern islands in the Aegean Sea

Organize your own Greece vacation with historical and natural attractions on a group of 13 islands closest to the coast of Turkey. The most famous of these are Ikaria, Lemnos, Chios, Samos and Lesbos.

On Lesbos you can see a petrified forest and a magnificent castle at the top, on Lemnos - sand dunes, volcanic rocks and the ancient city of Ifestia. On Ikaria, tourists are attracted by the wonderful thermal springs, on Samos by the archaeological sites of the Temple of Hera and the acropolis on Thassos. A Greece vacation planning guide can't miss the beach activities on these islands. For swimming, it's hard to find anything better than the bays of Seitani on Samos, the white sandy coasts of Ikaria and the beaches of Kipos on Samothrace and Vatera on Lesvos. Lemnos and its Kerom beach are favored by water sports enthusiasts as it is one of the best places in Europe for wind and kite surfing.

How to get there

Lemnos, Samos and Lesbos have international airports, while Chios and Ikaria are served by domestic flights. The islands can also be reached by ferries from the port of Piraeus in Athens.

Where to stay

On Chios, you can travel back in time by staying at the Argentikon Luxury Suites Hotel in a 16th-century manor house. There are stunning sea views at hotels on Samos such as Armonia Bay, beach villas on Ikaria such as Toxotis or safari tents at the Surf Club on Limnos.

Dodecanese Islands

Guide to Greek islands: which ones to choose for your vacation, how to get around and where to stay
Visit the ancient ruins on the island of Lindos. Source: Image user32212/Pixabay

Dodeka from Greek means 12, so it is immediately clear that this archipelago consists of 12 main islands, as well as a scattering of smaller ones. The main tourist spots included in every Greek islands  travel guide are on the two largest, Rhodes and Kos. The rest of the dozen are quiet and not as popular for traveling.

Rhodes retains its appeal to tourists because of its well-preserved fortress city. An ancient synagogue and Crusader castles can be seen here, while in the town of Lindos you can visit an ancient Greek acropolis and a medieval village. There is also interesting architecture on the islands of Kasos, Kastelorizo and Astypalea. Karpathos has excellent hiking and windsurfing opportunities. Head to Leros for some underwater diving: off its coast you can see shipwrecks from World War II.

How to get there

There are international airports on Rhodes and Kos. Domestic flights are available to Karpathos, Kalymnos and Astypalea. Ferries to all 12 islands run from the port of Piraeus.

Where to stay

Many interesting historical buildings on the Greek islands serve as a haven for tourists to plan vacations to Greece. In Rhodes, for example, the Melenos Lindos Hotel in a 17th century building under a mosaic roof offers excellent sea views.

Top Articles
Mysterious Gjirokastra: where to go, where to stay and delicious food in the "city of a thousand steps"

Mysterious Gjirokastra: where to go, where to stay and delicious food in the "city of a thousand steps"

Feb 28, 2024 08:50 AM
Top 8 hotels in Belfast: a cozy vacation in the United Kingdom

Top 8 hotels in Belfast: a cozy vacation in the United Kingdom

Feb 27, 2024 21:50 PM

8 stunning hotel pools around the world, from a tropical oasis in the middle of a metropolis to endlessly landscaped jungle pools.

Feb 27, 2024 18:28 PM

Top 10 inexpensive hotels in Paris to see the Eiffel Tower on a tight budget

Feb 27, 2024 08:50 AM
More News
The strangest situations when people were detained at the airport: from snakes in pants to disguising as a grandfather

The strangest situations when people were detained at the airport: from snakes in pants to disguising as a grandfather

Feb 28, 2024 09:07 AM
Gray asphalt road during daytime

Route 66 Embarks on an Electric Evolution

Feb 28, 2024 08:29 AM

Woman slips past airport security and flies 2,858 km without a ticket

Feb 28, 2024 08:20 AM

Jet2 is recognized as the best airline in the UK: what other companies are in the top

Feb 28, 2024 08:01 AM
Person placing a brown leather wallet with credit cards into the pocket of a dark coat

Emirates Skywards and Visa: Elevating Travel Experiences Together

Feb 28, 2024 07:30 AM
Tasty meals on the plane: what food should not be taken in the cabin and what you need to know before ordering

Tasty meals on the plane: what food should not be taken in the cabin and what you need to know before ordering

Feb 28, 2024 07:05 AM
It's not just about the price: what passengers will pay attention to when booking tickets this year

It's not just about the price: what passengers will pay attention to when booking tickets this year

Feb 28, 2024 06:32 AM
A group of people waiting in line at an airport

Multiple Factors Drive Rising Baggage Fees

Feb 28, 2024 06:27 AM
19 flights from Bucharest

19 flights from Bucharest from €29 to €60 round trip: where you can fly

Feb 28, 2024 06:02 AM

Expected day of challenges and obstacles: Chinese horoscope for February 28

Feb 28, 2024 05:30 AM

Norwegian Cruise Line Sees Surge in Caribbean Bookings Amid Global Challenges

Feb 28, 2024 05:26 AM
The French have identified the most hospitable city in the country, and it's not Paris or Nice

The French have identified the most hospitable city in the country, and it's not Paris or Nice

Feb 28, 2024 05:05 AM
China Southern Boeing 787-9 is in final approach to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport on an autumn afternoon

US-China Flight Services: A Step Towards Recovery

Feb 28, 2024 04:25 AM
Close-up view of the tail fin of a Qatar Airways aircraft displaying the company logo

Qatar Airways Enhances Goa Connectivity with Move to New Manohar International Airport

Feb 28, 2024 03:30 AM
These zodiac signs will have good success in their studies this week

These zodiac signs will have good success in their studies this week

Feb 28, 2024 03:28 AM

UK Airport Delays: A Comprehensive Overview

Feb 28, 2024 02:23 AM

Viña del Mar Festival: A Melodic Finale with Argentine Flair

Feb 28, 2024 01:34 AM
Representatives of three zodiac signs should focus on building strong relationships and being brave: Horoscope for February 28

Representatives of three zodiac signs should focus on building strong relationships and being brave: Horoscope for February 28

Feb 28, 2024 01:30 AM
Two white and red baggage trucks

Airline Baggage Fees Hit Record High, Surpassing $33 Billion in 2023

Feb 28, 2024 00:21 AM
How to save money on vacation: tips from the insurance company

How to save money on vacation: tips from the insurance company

Feb 27, 2024 23:56 PM
In the Amazon jungle, a new species of giant snake has been found

In the Amazon jungle, a new species of giant snake has been found

Feb 27, 2024 23:45 PM
Three exquisite cocktails

Elevating Bengaluru's Cocktail Scene: Millie Tang Takes Over Copitas at Four Seasons

Feb 27, 2024 23:35 PM

Egypt and the UAE are joining forces to create a luxury resort near the Mediterranean Sea

Feb 27, 2024 23:30 PM

Spring vacation in Venice: the charm of the city on water in March

Feb 27, 2024 23:20 PM
The Eiffel Tower reopened after a 6-day strike

The Eiffel Tower reopened after a 6-day strike

Feb 27, 2024 23:09 PM
How to travel safely with your pets: expert tips

How to travel safely with your pets: expert tips

Feb 27, 2024 22:58 PM