Are you planning holidays in Greece? This Mediterranean country has a rich history, a bounty of natural beauty, fascinating culture and… hundreds of islands. Literally: hundreds, there’s actually over a thousand of them. The Greek islands have a lot of commons: all of them are magical, sunny and captivating. Yet, even though in many ways similar, the islands also vary, there’s something special about each one of them. In case you have doubts which one to choose as your holiday destination, here’s a list of top 10 Greek islands to help you out.
The largest Greek Island, Crete has some gems for all kinds of travelers. No matter what’s your style and preferences, you’ll most likely find something for yourself, be it unspoiled nature, five-star luxurious resorts, wild mountains, gorgeous beaches, traditional, sleepy villages or enchanting towns with historic monuments. Locals are charming and always eager to share their traditions. Visit the legendary palace of Knossos in Heraklion, ask a Cretan to teach you a few steps of the traditional dance, go hiking, explore the hillside villages, be lazy on the beach and spoiled in a fanciful hotel. In the meantime, enjoy the heavenly cuisine. Crete’s a foodie’s paradise; the Cretan delights are simply addictive.
What’s special about it: There’s nearly everything one can dream of to have on holidays. The biggest and most diverse of all top 10 Greek islands, Crete has it all.
The best for: Foodies, nature-lovers, luxury seekers, history fans, Yacht charter
The island of poets, artists and philosophers, Lesvos’ cultural legacy reaches back to the ancient times. Epicurus and Aristotle lived and taught there for a while in 4th century BC and so did many great minds in the following ages. The beautiful landscapes surely played a role in their thought and artistry. Green mountains, gulf and hot springs, volcanic rocks and lush vegetation, Lesvos is full of nature wonders. The Lesvos’ earth is fertile, thus covered with pine and olive trees. Food is incredibly yummy, mostly because of the abundance of fresh agricultural products.
What’s special about it: Sappho, one of most famous ancient Greek poets, was from Lesvos. She is known for the sensual, romantic poetry in which she expressed affection for women. Her birthplace, the village Eresos in the north of the island and its surroundings, are now popular among gay travelers.
The best for: foodies, readers, those interested in Greek literature and authentic culture.
Santorini is simply gorgeous with its dramatic cliffs, crystal waters and striking sunsets. Even though all of them are marvelous, Santorini is probably the most picturesque of all top 10 Greek islands. As if a white-sandy beach wasn’t wonderful enough, Santorini has also black and red sand. As if cliffs weren’t scenic enough, Santorini has a multi-colored collection of them and they stand next to the waters so intensely blue it’s hard to believe such a color exists. Add lively, bewitching towns full of pretty Cycladic houses and what you get is a perfect destination. Santorini attracts various travelers, including numerous honeymooners and energetic backpackers.
What’s special about it: Unearthly landscapes, traditional villages and enchanting towns.
The best for: couples, families, backpackers, basically everyone.
Beaches in the eastern and southern part of the island are sandy and peaceful, while the west is windy and north mountainous. Karpathos has scenic nature and thus offers lots of activities for nature-lovers. Walks are fabulous, so is kite surfing. The last one is especially popular, so much that Karpathos hosts an international kite surfing competition. Besides of boosting up your adrenaline levels on the sea, you can also enjoy the mellow atmosphere of villages.
What’s special about it: Karpathos is authentic and traditional, especially its little, isolated villages. Locals preserve their traditions and it’s particularly visible during various festivals and celebrations.
The best for: adrenaline junkies, water-sport enthusiasts, peace-seekers.
The largest of the Cyclades Islands, Naxos offers wondrous nature, lovely beaches and ancient sites. It’s the place where, according to Greek mythology, little Zeus was raised. He lived in a cave on Mt. Zas, the island’s highest point. Another legend claims that after the princess Ariadne helped Theseus kill the Minotaur and escape from the Labyrinth, he abandoned her on Naxos. The princess didn’t stay forgotten for a long time and soon aroused the love of Dionysus, the god of wine and festivities who was Naxos’ protector. Wine produced in Naxos is indeed delightful, till now has been mending broken hearts and hurt feelings. During your stay in Naxos, don’t forget to take a look at Portara, an iconic marble gate dating back to 6th century BC. For those who enjoy sports, Naxos offers tons of attractions. Kite boarding, hiking, walking, snorkeling and diving are great.
What’s special about it: Naxos, even though rather small and not as touristy as many other Greek islands, offers a variety of activities. There are just enough of tourist amenities to make you comfortable, it’s not entirely wild and secluded, but even though the towns are bustling, right outside of them you can find a natural paradise.
The best for: wine lovers, outdoor enthusiasts.
Even though it might sound a bit pompously, Zakynthos really looks like a piece of heaven on Earth. Dramatic coastlines, golden sand and turquoise waters compose into wondrous landscapes. The beaches of Zakynthos are truly stunning. Keep in mind though that on some of them the golden sand is mostly covered by sunbeds, blankets and sunbathing tourists. It’s the east and south of the island that is so crowded, but you can easily avoid the busy corners if you head to the west.
What’s special about it: It’s mainly about beaches, but what beaches! Zakynthos is the best place to choose if your primal goal is to get a tan and relax. Turtle spotting is a popular activity too, since Zakynthos beaches are nesting spots for those adorable, gentle creatures.
The best for: stress relief, tired people who simply want to rest in a beautiful scenery, nature-lovers.
The island of colors, as Milos is often called, is surrounded by sapphire waters. Both the coastline and the towns of Milos are colorful, first because of the surreal rock formations, second because of the gorgeous houses painted in pastel shades. Milos is known for the “Venus de Milo”, a statue of Aphrodite that is placed in Louvre. Yet even though this piece of art is now abroad, there are still lots of beauty to be found in Milos. Rocky, sandy, slightly crowded, quiet and pristine, beaches vary in many ways. The nature is charming, but there’s even more to Milos: the quaint villages, friendly locals and plenty possibilities for yachting, windsurfing and scuba diving.
What’s special about it: Captivating views and an incredible variety of colors.
The best for: Water sport enthusiasts, travelers who enjoy spending time in rural areas and discovering quirky villages.
Glamour, that’s the one word describing Mykonos most precisely. The summer version of glamour, to specify a bit; stylish holidaymakers, attractive honeymooners, fashionistas, celebrities and wannabes sunbath on the golden beaches, drink coffees in fancy cafés and buy sparkling things in dazzling boutiques. Famous for the vibrant nightlife, Mykonos offers lots of clubs, bars and discos. Dress up, go dancing, flirt around, chat, shine and drink your money away, that’s a plan for a night out.
What’s special about it: The sizzling night-life of Mykonos is world-famous. Like no other among the top 10 Greek islands, Mykonos is designed for those who want their vacation to be glamorous.
The best for: Luxury seekers, party-animals, honeymooners.
Clear waters surrounding it, pretty rocky shore (there aren’t many sandy beaches, but these rocky areas are just as cozy), well-preserved stone buildings and picturesque harbor, these are the reasons why Hydra has such a unique atmosphere. A favorite place of many artists, musicians and backpackers, the island draws a lot of travelers. Because of its proximity to Athens, Hydra is often a destination for day-trips, but it’s perfect for a longer vacation too.
What’s special about it: Hydra’s architecture is so valuable it’s protected by strict development policy. Hydra is the only Greek island free of wheeled vehicles. No cars or motorbikes can be seen on the cobbled streets, there are only mules, donkeys and pedestrians.
The best for: History and architecture lovers.
Skyros equals wilderness. Even during the top season, when population suddenly grows from 3000 to 8000, it still feels private and secluded. According to Greek mythology, that’s the place where young Achilles was being hidden. If Skyros was as mysterious centuries ago as it’s now, then no wonder it was chosen as the mythological hideaway. There are some bays and farms on the north of the island, whilst the south is all about rocky shore and dry hills. As for tourism, the island has two holistic health resorts, one of them in the town of Skyros and the other at Atista Bay.
What’s special about it: Skyros is the most remote of Sporades Islands, wild and astonishing. It’s also a hotspot for holistic holidays with the resorts offering vacations designed for artists and writers, yoga lessons, sailing, painting, dancing and a variety of activities for the mind, body and spirit.
The best for: those who seek seclusion and spiritual practice, artists, nature-lovers.
It’s a hard choice, isn’t it? Let us know which one of the islands appeals to you the most!