The Ultimate Greek Islands Travel Guide

Greek islands travel guide.

Wrapped with crystal turquoise waters and sprinkled with sun-bleached ruins, the Greek islands will fill your imagination with rich histroy, your belly with local flavours and your soul with tranquility. The Greek islands are a magical place and one of my favourite places to travel around. If you’ve visited before, you could probably attest to their beauty, but if not, here’s your ultimate Greek islands travel guide.

Background

Before we begin this Greek islands travel guide, there’s a bit of background information you should know.

The islands are the main characteristic of Greece’s morphology and an integral part of the country’s culture and tradition. Greek sovereign land includes 6,000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, of which only 227 islands are inhabited.

Naxos

Things to Know

Currency: Euro

Emergency services: Dial 166 (ambulance), 199 (urban fire brigade/forest fires) or 100 (police)

Largest island: Crete

High season: July and August, although for discounted room rates and still a fair bit of crowds, late June is also a good time to travel.

Mikró ýpno (siesta, 3pm-5pm) is a legally mandated quiet time. Most businesses will close for these times.

Local driving habits leave much to be desired – beware especially of people emerging from side roads without stopping, opposing traffic straddling the median line, and of reckless overtaking.

Getting there

If you’re planning on how long you’re staying in the Greek islands, remember to take into account travel time. Some islands can take up to 10 hours to arrive.

The most common way to travel between the islands is by ferry boat, and I highly recommend Blue Star. It’s reckoned the best domestic shipping line. There’s also Hellenic Seaways which is less expensive but slower than Blue Star.

Blue Star Ferry

Not all the islands have airports, but the main ones do including Mykonos, Santorini, Naxos, Paros, Crete, Rhodes, Lesvos, Corfu, Skiathos, Chios, Samos, and Kos. If you are staying that first night in Athens it’s still easier to take the ferry from Pireaus (Athens port) the next morning, than to go all the way back to the airport to fly to the island.

You might also want to consider doing a sail or Contiki tour if you’re with friends. The Yacht Week Greece is a fun blend of parties, culture, relaxation and adventure.

Quick Guides

Best for Romance: Santorini

Santorini
Oia, Santorini

If you think of the Greek islands, chances are the first place you think of is Santorini. There’s plenty of restaurants, beaches, adventure, shopping and sunsets like you’ve never seen before. Because of it’s romantic atmosphere, a lot of the crowd consists of honeymooners. Most will stay in Oia because it’s a little quieter and has the best views of the sunset, volcanoes and Adriatic sea. However, you could also choose to stay in Fira. It’s much more affordable and in the hub of nightlife.

Related: 7 reasons you need to visit Santorini

Best for Spring Break: Ios

Sunset in Ios
Sunset in Ios

Ios has been dubbed as “the new Mykonos,” which in other words means, the new island for party-goers which I couldn’t leave out of this Greek islands travel guide. However, I find Ios and Mykonos to be different in almost every day. The very young crowds tend to go to Ios to party because it is significantly cheaper to visit. It’s college orientated, so you won’t really find anyone over the age of 30, with the most popular age group 18-25. The island is really quite small. Stay at either Markos Village which is right in the hub of all the nightlife, or Far Out Beach Club (the more popular) which is where you’ll find all the beach parties.

Best for Party: Mykonos

Mykonos - Greece
Mykonos Town

Mykonos is the great glamour island of Greece. The high-season mix of hedonistic holidaymakers, cruise-ship crowds (which can reach 15,000 a day) and posturing fashionistas throngs Mykonos Town (aka Hora), a traditional whitewashed Cycladic maze, delighting in its authentic cubist charms and its chichi cafe-bar-boutique scene. It has some of the best nightlife in Greece, and Cavo Paradiso, which is one of the best clubs in the world. Mykonos is a very expensive island and draws an older crowd as a result. There’s people of many different ages, with the most popular being 25-35.

Best for beauty and culture: Crete

Port of Sitia - Crete, Greece
Port of Sitia – Crete, Greece

Crete is a patchword of splendid landscape, ancient treasures and rich history. Crete’s spirited people and time-honoured traditions remain a dynamic part of the island’s soul. The island boasts many natural beauties from the sun-drenched beaches in the north (there’s even a pink sand one!) to the rugged canyons spilling out at the cove-carved and cliff-lined southern coast. Choose to trek through Europe’s longest gorge, hike to the cave where Zeus was born or cycle among orchards on the Lasithi Plateau. Leave time to plant your footprints on a sandy beach, and boat, kayak or snorkel in the crystalline waters. Crete feels big in it’s heart and landscape.

Best for tranquility: Hydra

Hydra via oliviapalermo.com
Hydra via oliviapalermo.com

Hydra is a little gem of the Saronic Gulf and stands alone among Greek islands as the one free of wheeled vehicles. No cars. No scooters. Just tiny marble-cobbled lanes, donkeys, rocks and sea. There’s monastery’s to visit, including Moni Profiti Ilia (with incredible views), swimming rocks, pebble beaches and a beautifully restored 19th century stone bridge.

Best for an eternal summer: Rhodes

Rhodes via mooringclub.com
Rhodes via mooringclub.com

Rhodes abounds in beaches, wooded valleys and ancient history. Whether you arrive in search of buzzing nightlife, languid sun worshipping, or diving in crystal-clear waters, or embark on a culture-vulture journey through past civilisations, it’s all here. There’s a charming Old Town with a maze of cobbled streets, as well as a picturesque town of Lindos, with sugar-cube houses spilling down to a turquoise bay.

Best for outdoor enthusiasts: Náxos

Naxos via experiencemap.com
Naxos via experiencemap.com

Náxos is the greenest island in Cyclades with a web of steep cobbled alleys, filled with the hubbub of tourism and shopping. Yet you needn’t travel far to find isolated beaches, atmospheric villages and ancient sites. The island draws outdoor enthusiasts, with kiteboarding off the sandy southern beaches, and traditional footpaths to follow between villages, churches, a 13th century medieval castle and other sights. Although, it is also home to some of the most beautiful stretches of beach.

Budget

Your budget can vary greatly in Greece. You can find accommodation in hostels for as little as 10 euro a night, and the longer you stay in some places, the cheaper they’ll give it to you. You can eat from street vendors, mostly gyros or souvlakis which are around 2 euro, and if you skip the cocktails in places like Mykonos and Santorini, Greece can be very affordable.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for luxury travel, you can end up spending thousands a night for spectacular views along the coast lines and dine in rather expensive restaurants.

Keep in mind when you’re traveling in peak season (July – August) prices will double, and some will triple.

Do you have any tips to share? What’s your favourite Greek island?

  • I am desperate for a trip to Greece! Santorini is my dream spot.

    Rachel | http://www.currentlyrachel.com

    • It is really the most beautiful place!

  • I LOVE the Greek islands, and have been to several! My favourite must be Zakynthos, and I would add it to your list under “Best for friends” – it was a perfect mix of quiet nights drinking local wine with my best friends, and going out dancing whenever we felt like it!

    The island also has lots to see, and Smuggler’s Wreck is one of the most photographed sights in Greece!

    — LisaLDN.com

    • I’ve yet to travel to Zakynthos, but possibly in the new year! I’ve heard many things about it & it sounds amazing!

  • I went to mainland Greece when I was a little girl. I have always wanted to go back as I remember it being such a beautiful place, I’d love to visit all of the islands too!

    Darcy Victoria

    xxx

    • Hopefully you get to one day! The islands are magical.

  • I visited Crete….wonderful island!

    • Crete is just gorgeous!

  • This is a brilliant guide! So many people seemed to be in Greece this year for their summer holidays and I found myself having serious holiday envy. Santorini is probably at the top of my list, but I really want to visit Mykonos and my cousin recently went to Rhodes (Lindos in particular) and loved it :) x

    Charlotte’s Road

    • Thankyou Charlotte! I agree, Greece is an extremely popular holiday destination! You definitely cannot miss Santorini :)

  • I’ve always wanted to go to Greece for holiday, and now I just want to visit all those places you mentioned above! Those places look really beautiful.

    • They truly are! I hope you get to visit one day soon :)

  • Lovely photos ♥

    Have a nice day xx Love from Slovakia ~

    ♡ Bio cosmetics with rose water + christmas gift tips ♡

    • Thankyou Gabrielle. Have a lovely day also!

  • I hadn’t heard of Hydra but it looks lovely! this post was so helpful, thank you!

    http://www.kelseymarie.co

    • Hydra is so beautiful. So glad you found it helpful Kelsey!

  • As a greek, I have to give you congratulations for this great travel guide you put together Angela! It’s definitely credible and helpful for anyone who wants to visit a greek island, without excess information! <3

    Still haven't been in Santorini, Ios and Naxos!

    Diana P. | Cups & Roses

    • Thanks so much Diana! Oh you MUST visit Santorini as soon as you can! So magical.

  • Zara

    My favourite Greek island is Corfu. Most people overlook it but Paleokastritsa is stunning!

  • Donna Yana

    My favourites are Lesbos & Naxos!