How to Choose Which Greek Islands to Visit

how-to-choose-which-greek-islands-to-visit

How do you decide where is best for you?

With more than 2000 islands (really), it may seem almost impossible to narrow it down to fit your itinerary. There is so much variety between the islands & each boasts its own incredible characteristics. From beaches, nightlife, to history, and cuisine, today I’m going to answer one of the questions I feel like I get asked almost daily – “What Greek islands would you recommend visiting?”

It’s always a hard question for me to answer because it all depends on what you’re looking for, and everyone is looking for something different. So, in an effort to answer this question as best as I can, I’ve briefly introduced each island and what they offer. Of course there are thousands of more islands I could add to this list, but if I were to list them all, I’d probably be here for the next year. Instead, I’ve put together a collection of the most popular ones, as well as some that still remain rather undiscovered. If you’re planning a trip to Greece, I hope you find this guide helps you in some way!

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Santorini

Best for: honeymooners, romance, luxury, relaxation

Although all the Greek islands follow the same Cycladic theme, Santorini is built on the vast crater left by one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in history, which makes it a very unique island. It’s by far the most renowned Greek island which means it’s also absolutely packed with tourists during peak season. After all, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. If you’re not great with crowds, I would highly suggest visiting in shoulder season (May or September would be perfect).

It’s tourism is generally geared towards honeymooners as everything about the island exudes romance, but it is definitely not only couples that visit. There is something for everyone and it all depends a lot on where you stay. You can find people here for the nightlife, adventure, and relaxation, as well as romance.

I feel like a trip to the Greek islands would be incomplete if you weren’t to add this to your itinerary.

Related: Santorini Travel Guide

Mykonos

Best for: nightlife, beaches, relaxation

Mykonos is often described as a little cosmopolitan city by the sea. It’s a very complicated maze of narrow paved streets that was intended to confuse the pirates in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It’s known for its nightlife, beaches and “Little Venice” area. The island’s landscape is a beautiful sight to look at, with it’s iconic windmills, churches, shops, whitewashed houses, flowered balconies and endless small streets that form a remarkable labyrinth.

Although the island is small, it still caters to a lot of different crowds. It is mostly centered around it’s nightlife and beach parties, which are held every day at Tropicana and Paradise Beach. The town, also known as “Chora,” is also packed with bars, lounges and clubs. However if you’re only looking to relax and do nothing, there’s plenty of quieter beaches and little laneways for dinner and drinks.

Again, as it is a very popular island with many tourists and cruise ships stopping by, peak season is always very crowded. It is, however, the best time to go if you’re there for nightlife.

See: A weekend in Mykonos

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Paros

Best for: beaches, culture, party

Paros is a stunning small island best known for it’s beaches, partying and traditional villages. Nearly every single local in Greece has recommended Paros to me as one of their favourite islands. I’ve noticed this island grow in popularity every year and it was just recently announced that the island will soon have its own airport!

It’s a fairly laid back island, with plenty of charming streets and rural villages to escape the tourists. It has a buzzing nightlife with many bars, beach parties and nightclubs concentrated in Parikia, the capital of Paros, and a more sophisticated nightlife down the coast of Naoussa.

If you’re looking for Mykonos but without the hype and price tag, this must just be for you.

Kefalonia

Best for: family, beaches, culture

Surprisingly, Kefalonia is a fairly new Greek island on my radar this year. I’m not sure why I had not heard much about this island before but it really is quite the gem!

Also known as Cephalonia, formerly Kefallinia, it is best known for Myrtos, a beautiful strip of white sand and pebbles along the coast, and it’s capital, Argostoli. The beaches on this island are some of the best I have ever seen. The main town of Argostoli is bustling, filled with shops, cafes, bars and plenty of beaches. The island is built in mostly a Venetian style, not Cyclacdic. There are gorgeous cave lakes, and postcard worthy villages (you guys HAVE to visit Kourkoumelata) all built in with a rich culture. It’s also home to Fiscardo, the most cosmopolitan area with a port that receives luxurious yachts every year, and many wellness retreats.

If you’re looking for somewhere to relax, taste wine, lay on the beach all day, & enrich yourself into an authentic Greek culture, look no further than Kefalonia!

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Ios

Best for: party, nightlife

Ios often rivals Mykonos when it comes to the party capital of Greece, although I find them to be completely different. Ios is for the budget backpacker who is looking for a college type party atmosphere. You wont find many people younger than 18 or older than 30. The nightlife is made up of a maze of bars and clubs in town, as well as it’s huge beach parties at Far Out. It is very peaceful and quiet during the day as everyone is still sleeping / recovering from their nights, and there’s not much to do besides relaxing on the beach or at a bar.

Do keep in mind, the crazy party side to Ios only runs throughout summer, with July and August being the most intense. During the rest of the year it is a very quiet, calm Greek island mostly consisting of a few locals.

Crete

Best for: culture, cuisine, scenery

Crete is the largest Greek island and the centre of archaic Cycladic culture. It is where you’ll come across pink sand beaches, mountain-rimmed gouges, valleys, venetian villages and vibrant cities. I was told many times in Greece that it could almost be its own country. It simply has it all.

If you’re a foodie, Crete will be your paradise. Rural taverns produce the most traditional and fresh food you will ever taste, with recipes that stem back thousands of years. The culture and customs are still very much honoured traditions and a part of the islands soul. Cretens are very proud people.

Trek through Europe’s longest gorge, take it all in on a driving tour, shop, party until the early hours, walk the sandy beaches, kayak, snorkel or simply eat your way around the island! There is certainly no shortage of activities on this island.

Naxos

Best for: outdoor enthusiasts, tradition

Naxos embodies that classic Greek island ambiance with whitewashed, cube-shaped houses and medieval Venetian mansions. It spans over mountain villages, ancient ruins and long stretches of beach. Its main city of Hora is the hub of tourism and shopping, but not far away is where you’ll its isolated beaches, traditional villages and ancient sites.

Parts of this island feel like it’s stuck in time as the locals who live in its villages still wear their traditional dress and live off the land. In saying that, it’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in some authentic Greek culture! It also draws a lot of outdoor enthusiasts because of its water sports (kiteboarding in particular), sandy beaches and windy walking paths.

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Corfu

Best for: relaxation

Corfu is a very much a cosmopolitan island but still keeps its traditional and artistic roots. The northern side of the island is dotted with luxurious resort villas and beaches, while the inland is filled with lovely little villages.

Corfu is quite different to many of the other Greek islands because it’s not your typical whitewashed cube houses, it’s defined by its Venetian style, similar to Italian towns, like Venice and Florence.

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Rhodes

Best for: families

First off, lets start off by appreciating the fact Rhodes has over 300 days of sunshine per year (!!). It has the longest stretch of summer and a tourist season that begins before April! It’s most famously known for it’s romantic Old Town and incredible beach resorts. The Old Town is one of the best preserved in Europe, consisting of strong walls, an impressive castle, paved paths and elegant stone mansions. It will take you back to the days of the Byzantine Empire and beyond.

Further south is the picturesque town of Lindos. Before visiting the Greek islands for myself, Lindos is what I had imaged them all to look like. It’s a vision of sugar-cube houses pouring down to the sparkling, turquoise bay.

Zakynthos

Best for: beaches, nightlife

Zakynthos, or otherwise known as Zante, is another very popular Greek island and well-known summer resort. If you’re after those picture-perfect golden sand beaches, then you will be spoiled for choice in Zante. Along with these beaches comes extreme watersports, secluded swimming spots and wild nights of partying.

I would say partying is a big drawing point to the island, but it does have more to offer than its nightlife, it really all depends on where you stay. The busy town of Laganas is packed with many taverns, bars and clubs, and gets rowdy in peak season. But there are also quieter parts, better suited for families like Argassi.

 

Packing list

Have you ever visited any Greek islands? Which ones are on your bucket list?!

  • I was not aware there are 2000 islands, that is insane!! This is a brilliantly informative post!

    elwillmer.blogspot.co.uk
    xx

    • Isn’t it crazy! Thanks so much Ellie <3

  • Such beautiful photographs! I’ve visited Santorini, Crete and Rhodes but would love to visit Skiathos, Kefalonia, Corfu and Mykonos! Greece is the most beautiful country :) xx

    Jessie | allthingsbeautiful-x

    • Thanks so much Jessie! There are so many gems in Greece xx

  • The photos are all gorgeous! This post is so informative and I think it’ll be really useful if and when I ever visit Greece! Thanks for sharing :)

    Akino | akinokiki.blogspot.ca

    • Thank you!! Oh yayyy – hope you get to visit soon Akino :) xx

  • Ashley Christabelle

    What?! Greece has 2000 islands, wow, that’s a lot of islands, haha! I’ve gotta say, Santorini has always been on my bucket list, but it has gone so mainstream these past few years that I don’t feel like visiting anymore! I’d like to visit Corfu the most now, didn’t even know the island existed before reading your post!

    http://www.ashrealasitgets.blogspot.com

    • It’s crazy isn’t it! I know, it’s kind of sad that it’s not bombarded with tourists! But still such a beautiful island. Corfu is gorgeous! xx

  • loved this post, so useful and beautiful pics

    Mel x
    mediamarmalade.com

    • Thanks so much Mel! xx

  • Pia Hocevar Mucic

    Mykonos sounds more and more tempting! What an awesome article!
    Fash ‘n’ fudge
    Fash ‘n’ fudge

    • Mykonos is so much fun! Thanks so much! xx

  • This has been so useful, I think Mykonos is the top of my list! Everyone has been going to all the Greek islands and it’s so hard to choose one!

    http://www.whynotblog.co.uk

    • Thank you so much Megan! I know it’s almost impossible. Mykonos is a great choice – always a fun time :) xx

  • Great post! Greece is so lovely and all the islands are stunning! Santorini and Mykonos are on my travel bucket list! x

    http://www.abeautyromance.com
    http://www.abeautyromance.com

    • Thank you Millie!! They’re two of my faves :) xx

  • Making me want to go back to Greece! Love all the photos and how you described the islands!

    • Aw thanks so much Gina! xx

  • Abby Evans

    Greece is on my bucket list of places to visit! Thanks for such a great rundown; all of the islands are beautiful!

    http://www.youarebeaut.blogspot.com

    • Yayy it’s so beautiful! Thank you Abby!! :) xx

  • Greece is like my favourite country in Europe to visit! I love how each island has their own atmosphere, so it’s like you’re visiting so many different places each time you go. We’ve been to Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, Rhodes and my parents just visited Kefalonia a couple months back and said how beautiful it was!
    There’s a couple places I’ve never heard of before, but Paros and Naxos sound amazing! Definitely going to have to check those out!

    xo April | April Everyday

    • Yes!! Couldn’t agree more :) they all offer something different! Thanks so much for reading April <3

  • My favourite (and a bit odd) thing about Greece is how beautiful the colour of water is there <3

    • Oh not odd at all! The colour of the water in Greece is AMAZING. I couldn’t get over it either haha :) xx

  • I literally want to go to all of these islands! I love the buildings and I think I’ll have to start off with Paros. x

    http://www.wanderergirl.com

    • Paros is so beautiful & authentic! Definitely an island not to miss :) xx

  • Ahh I’m so obsessed with anything Greece-related, so I LOVED this post! I’ve been to MyKonos, but I would love to travel to Santorini some day!
    -Kate // http://www.classyandkate.com

    • Oh me too!! It’s my second summer there in a row, can’t get enough. Thank you so much! Santorini is a must-see!!! :) xx

  • Amber Holyoake

    Hey Angela have you ever been to Milos Island? I’ve seen it in a few blogs etc and was wondering how it stacked up to the rest of the Greek islands :)
    http://www.wethelostgirls.com

    • Hi Amber! Unfortunately not :( would love to check it out one day though!! Xx

  • Leo kool

    Karpathos……….hapiness??

  • This post makes me want to plan a return trip to Greece. I was fortune to travel to Corfu and Athens but I feel like I have more greek island’s to explore, especially KEFALONIA and PAROS!
    http://www.cupcakendreams.com

  • ti

    wow…beautiful, Want with my girlfriend go on the world together.
    http://www.baidaibeach.com/2016/09/gioi-thieu-bien-bai-dai-cam-lam.html

  • Sandy Papas

    This is a great list with beautiful photos. I’m not sure if you realise however that the photo showing for Corfu is in fact in Zakanthos?

  • Kimberly

    Thank you so much for this! I know the Mediterranean is not known for its snorkeling in general, but you do mention one snorkeling spot. I’m curious what I might see there? I’m also on a hunt for the best places in Greece to snorkel for ocean life so any suggestions are welcome from author and others. Please!
    Thank you!

  • Sheida Moheb

    Fantastic Post! I found it very helpful. I go often to Greece and I am always on a hunt for the best Islands in the Mediterranean. Great job and keep it up. If your planning a trip to Mykonos and you need a great Travel Guide blog Post check out my website as I think we both have similar taste: http://lemoni.it/?p=38
    Thanks for sharing this great post.

  • Diva

    What a beautiful post!!! I would like to organize a slow living creative retreat in Greece, do you have any specific recommendations? Either for a hotel or villa, or even just an island or town? We’ll likely be around 10-12 people, and will go in June or September to avoid the heat and tourists.. I love the simple white washed houses and stone streetsmy style is more minimal boho, with all the comforts.. Ideally it would be somewhere authentic near an old little town, but also with easy access to amazing water and swimming. Thanks so much for your time, any ideas at all are welcome :)

    • Rallou Eleftheroglou

      hi from Greece! If you want a quiet small island with amazing water you can go to Koufonisia, 2 small islands. A bigger island with both quiet and noisy places is Naxos. Santorini has breathtaking views but it is crowded and not so many beaches to choose from. Rhodes is also crowded but it is a biggish island and there are a lot of things to do and explore, an old town in the heart of the city of Rhodes, a complex of ancient temples in Lindos, nice beaches but in the East side of the island, in the western part it is always windy! Crete is a big island, the most picturesque places are the towns of Chania and Rethymno. If you like greenery the islands of Skopelos and Skiathos are great.And a final suggestion in the Northeastern part of Greece, away from it all with nice water in the sea (although with pebbles and some sandy), mountain trails and waterfalls is Samothraki.You can check out for fotos of these places on the internet.I hope I have been of help! Have fun!

  • Jelena

    Post is cool, you can see very intresting island in Greek, maybe you could puz some small island but anyvery post is great.