How to Decide Which Greek Islands to Visit
We are officially in the heart of summer but some are still looking for a place to go on vacation this year, you know, in this post-lockdown era when everyone is trying to recover from the first half of 2020 that took the whole world by storm. Thankfully, the Greek islands are one of the safest destinations in the world right now, something that is ideal for those hot summer days you’ve pictured yourself spending with a refreshing drink in your hand, sunbathing by the beach. However, with about 6,000 islands and islets scattered across the Aegean and Ionian seas, of which 227 are inhabited, deciding which Greek island to visit is more difficult than one would expect. Not all people are looking for the same things when traveling to the Greek islands, and matters of preference are always subjective. Regardless, here I will put together a guide on how to decide which Greek island(s) to visit, so you have a point of reference when trying to book those dream Greek island vacations you so desperately need and want. It comes as no surprise whatsoever that Greece counts around 30 million international visitors annually, most of which choose the magnificent Greek islands for their holidays. As you probably already know, the most popular Greek islands include Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu, Zakynthos –or Zante- and Crete.
But where should you go? Here’s a list of the Greek islands you should visit divided geographically, depending on your taste and the type of vacations you want to experience.
Greek island complexes
If time matters, choose the Saronic Islands
If the clock is ticking and the days you have to spend in Greece are limited, choosing an island near Athens is the wisest choice you can make. That’s when the Saronic islands come out to play. Famous for being within an hour –or a couple- from the Athens , Aegina, Poros, Hydra, and Spetses are beautiful and convenient, a winning combo if I’ve ever seen one! And if that wasn’t enough, the islands of Hydra and Spetses are extremely picturesque, with cobbled alleys and old stone houses dominating the setting, and don’t require a car you can go everywhere on foot or by taking a local taxi! Of course, the rest of the islands are not inferior in any way. Aegina is a personal favorite, with its authentic Greek island ambiance fooling everyone into thinking they’re way more than an hour away from the Greek capital.Additionally, tiny Agkistri offers a lusciously vegetated landscape and an incredibly long beach, while Poros is known for its magnificent lemon forest that blooms during spring and smells incredible.
If partying is all that’s on your mind, choose the Cyclades
If you want to experience the famous Greek island nightlife while also having your eyes feast upon the trademark whitewashed houses with deep blue elements you’ve seen on postcards around the world, then the island complex of the Cyclades is for you!The islands of Mykonos and Ios, in particular, offer the wildest partying scene, with countless beach bars and night clubs carrying long parties that most often last until 9-10 am! A little tamer but just as vibrant is Paros, with its cobbled streets, local boutiques, and delicious restaurants making the island a top destination to tourists for all the right reasons. Of course, one cannot talk about the Cyclades and leave out the one and only Santorini. The most luxurious destination in Greece along with Mykonos, Santorini stands out due to its unique geography and the active volcano that attracts curious crowds worldwide.
If you want to experience the best of Greece’s cuisine, choose Crete
Deserving a whole section on its own, no one can deny that Crete is in fact superior to any Greek island in regard to its local cuisine. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the island lacks in amazing landscapes and stunning beaches. On the contrary, the beach of Falassarna is hands down my favorite beach in all of Greece. What’s more, Crete is one of the most historically rich regions of our country, and therefore its archaeological sites are the perfect attraction to all history buffs out there. All in all, the birthplace of Zeus, which also happens to be the largest Greek island, is a people pleaser; visit it and you’ll never look back!
If you’re an architecture fanatic, chose the Ionian Islands
After serving the foodies and history buff of you lot, it’s time to cater to the lovers of architecture. The beautiful Ionian Islands consist of Zakynthos, Ithaca, Corfu, Kefalonia, Lefkada, Paxoi, Kythira, Antikythera, Antipaxoi, Erikousa, Mathraki, Othoni, Meganisi, and Strofades. Clearly influenced by the Venetians, French, and British conquerors that have passed by its grounds, Corfu is a true architectural masterpiece combining the best elements of all past civilizations it has hosted. Its unmatched aesthetic is also evident in its town that is painted in warm, sunset colors and exudes an old-time charm and a nostalgic vibe you cannot shake off. My all-time favorite island though is the magical island of Kefalonia, which combines luscious mountainous regions with incredible beaches, crystal-clear waters, and traditional Greek island elements that make it endearing to anyone who visits. The scenic village of Assos and the beautifully wild beach of Myrtos are, in my opinion, two of the island’s highlights you should certainly visit if given the chance.
If you’re all about long, sandy beaches, choose the Dodecanese Islands
The least-known complex of islands in Greece happens to be one of the most beautiful one, with its islands retaining an authentic Greek island character that is increasingly more difficult to come across during recent years. The Dodecanese islands consist of Kos, Patmos, Agathonisi, Astypalaia, Chalki, Kalymnos, Karpathos, Kasos, Leipsoi, Leros, Nisyros, Symi, Tilos, Kastellorizo, Alimia, Arkoi, Chalki, Farmakonisi, Gyali, Kinaros, Levitha, Marathos, Nimos, Pserimos, Saria, Strongyli, Syrna and Telendos, of which the first two are the most popular. Legend has it, that Hippocrates himself, born on the island of Kos, used to take advantage of the healing properties of the thermal baths at Agios Fokas beach. The ultimate destination for experiencing an alternative side of the Greek islands, the Dodecanese are known for their long, sandy, and particularly quiet beaches that make everyone’s troubles magically disappear, and hide some of the most authentic and unknown Greek islands. If peace and tranquillity are what you crave from your vacations, look no further!
Are you ready to have the time of your life and spend your days with sun on your skin, salt on your hair, happiness in your heart, and freedom on your mind?