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