If you think you know the Greek islands, think again. More than two hundred of the country’s staggering 6,000 islands and islets are inhabited and ripe for exploring. These are twelve of the best Greek islands to visit this year.
Even the most-seasoned travellers, Greek or otherwise, probably can’t claim to have explored all of the country’s islands. But where to start? Well-known destinations such as Mykonos and Santorini are still worth spending time on; alongside the crowds they offer lesser-known places to seek out astonishing beauty – they became popular for a reason, after all. But it’s also worth expanding your Hellenic reach with places a little further off the tourist-radar.
Here, find some of the best islands in Greece for 2023: expect a truly diverse mix of history, culture, views, food, experiences and more. The one thing they all have in common is brilliant beaches.
With an understated and relaxed vibe, Sifnos is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the summer crowds found on many other islands. This island maintains the hushed and quintessential Greek-island idyll with whitewashed streets, an abundance of churches and a series of beach coves stretching out towards clear waters. In recent years Sifnos has been hailed as a foodie hotspot, a founded claim thanks to the many exciting restaurants popping up to rival any Greek taverna. Some of our favourites include Cantina, Bostani, and Loggia Wine Bar. The main town, Apollonia, is lined with a carefully-curated array of chichi boutiques and cafés where you can find handmade mementos and a glass or two of ouzo.
The Best Greek Island For: Foodies
Where To Stay: Sifnos House, a small boutique hotel and spa
While many of the Greek islands all but shut down over winter, Syros – the capital of the Cyclades – is a year-round destination. As a result, it pays less attention to attracting tourists than its neighbours, and in this lies its charm. The capital, Ermoupoli, surrounds a large harbour and is a vibrant mix of stores, cafés, restaurants and bars. Look out for Turkish Delight (Loukoumi in Greek): during the 1922 Greco – Turkish war, Syros welcomed refugees from Smyrna (now Turkish Izmir) and some families brought recipes for the sweet with them, so this is the real deal. Elsewhere head to the quaint hillside town of Ano Syros to shop boutique stores and dine with a bird’s eye view of the island; head to one of the beaches; or make like the locals and visit Asteria – a small concrete platform with steps into the sea and views back towards the surrounding Venetian-inspired architecture.
The Best Greek Island For: Year-round exploration
Where To Stay: Aristide Hotel
Perhaps one of the most varied Greek islands, here you’ll find small quaint villages to explore, local-design stores, elevated dining and plenty of lush greenery. Oh, and there’s also plenty of picturesque beaches too – one of which, Myrtos, is consistently voted in the world’s best. To get to Myrtos you’ll need to have a car – and nerves of steel – as you navigate the island’s unique mountainous landscapes with twists, turns and tight corners. The view from above is worth a pit-stop for photos of the cove, and once on the beach be sure to head to the very left to swim through a small cave. In the north, visit the small harbour town of Fiskardo for boutique stores and elevated seafood dining, or spend a day on the Asos peninsula to soak up the sun on small beaches and at seaside dining spots with serious views. Argostoli, the capital, is worth an evening stroll too – stop for dinner at Captain’s Table and order the honey-drizzled baked feta. You won’t regret it. For an offbeat activity, and one where you’ll probably learn a thing or two as well, stop by the family home of Thanassis and Eleni for an introduction to beekeeping.
The Best Greek Island For: Rugged beauty
For years Paros was an island known mainly by Greeks – but the secret is out and it’s fast becoming a hotspot for tourists from around the world. Some might even call it the next Mykonos. Time will tell. Visit to find a good mix of lively restaurants, upbeat bars and relaxed beaches; this is a place with plenty to do, but also plenty of opportunity for downtime. The main town, Naousa, boasts endless bright-pink bougainvillea, whitewashed buildings and an array of boutique shops stocking brands such as Juliet Dunn and Hermina Athens. Start your day at the beach (our favourites include Faragas and Monastiri). The central square comes alive when the sun begins to set: grab a cocktail at one of the many buzzing bars before settling down to eat supper at a harbour-side fish taverna – Barbarossa or Sigi Ikthios are both good options – before ending the night with some chilled jazz and people watching at Sante Cocktail Bar.
The Best Greek Island For: All round Greek glamour
Where To Stay: Cosme Hotel Paros
The first thing you need to know about Crete is that it is big. It’s the largest of all the Greek islands, in fact, and as such offers a true bounty of culture, landscapes, experiences and cuisine. Here, you’ll find miles upon miles of beautiful beaches to settle into, as well as mountain roads to cruise, Byzantine churches to peer into, traditional towns and villages to explore, ruins to wander – the list goes on. The Bronze Age Minoan Civilisation called Crete home, and one of the island’s most impressive sites – the 17th century BC Palace of Knossos – is located just inland from is capital, Heraklion. Add to this a plethora of high-end hotels and plenty of unique Cretan dishes to try and this becomes the most diverse of all the Greek islands. You’ll likely find you can’t cover everything in just one trip.
The Best Greek Island For: Variety
Where To Stay: Elounda Peninsula All Suites Hotel
In recent years, Milos has become one of the most-coveted Greek islands to visit. One look at the beaches and picturesque villages and you’ll see why. Take a hike to Sarakiniko beach for moon-like cliffs and coves or wander the Instagram-worthy village of Mandrakia boasting pastel-coloured houses and whitewashed chapels. Here, stop at Medusa for a fresh-fish lunch accompanied by rows of octopi hanging out to dry. Rent a boat with a local skipper to discover caves and coves only accessible by sea, before sailing over to the nearby island of Kimolos for a glass of local wine. By evening head to Plaka to watch the sun set over the Mediterranean sea: Mosaic arguably hosts the best sunset spot (and margarita) in town – arrive early to grab the best seat. Finish your night with a post-dinner aperitif at Verina Cocktail Bar where the cool-set go and the music flows. Try the local tipple of aged rum, fresh pineapple juice and aromatic bitters.
The Best Greek Island For: Beaches
You can’t go much further east than Kastelorizo without leaving Europe. More easterly than even Istanbul, this tiny Greek island sits just two miles beneath the Antalya region of Turkey and is a well-guarded secret amongst in-the-know Greeks. At just 10 square kilometres and with only one village to speak of, you’d be forgiven for thinking a trip here might prove somewhat dull. But you’ll be proved wrong. Take a boat trip to one of the biggest underwater caves in Greece; admire the pastel-coloured neoclassical houses and island Minaret; soak up the sun before descending a ladder into the sparkling waters; visit the ancient Acropolis and castle; and hike the 400 steps of Kastelorizo Mountain to the Monastery of St. George, taking in views of the nearby Turkish coastline as you go.
The Best Greek Island For: A remote yet sophisticated escape
Where To Stay: Mediterraneo Kastelorizo
Folegandros – a short ferry ride from Santorini – feels like a breath of fresh air. It’s intimate and understated, and the rugged, unspoiled cliffs offer endless hikes, each with breathtaking views of the island. The main town is an endless labyrinth of stylish squares adorned with chic boutiques, charming cafés and authentic tavernas hidden between pink bougainvillea. Once the sun sets the town comes alive as locals gather in groups to play games of cards and backgammon, wine glasses to hand. Before sitting down for dinner visit one of the many bars; Beez Cocktail Bar, Tuk Tuk and Piatsa offer some of the best tipples in town. Book dinner at To Goupi or Belegra Aegean Tastes for traditional Greek mezze, or To Zimaraki for homemade pasta.
The Best Greek Island For: Escaping the crowds
Corfu boasts a balance of hills, verdant landscapes and rows upon rows of olive trees – alongside endless beaches, some accessible only by boat. Its old town pays homage to Venetian, English and French influences, seen throughout the striking architecture and cobbled streets. Here, enjoy a fresh juice at Bizou Vegan Café (which also features an impressive collection of antiques), head to the old fortress, or visit one of the many small museums showcasing music, art, history and even banknotes. But Corfu is all about the water. Hire a boat and pootle around the small coves in the north: start off at Agios Stefanos before making your way to Kerasia and Kouloura. Stop for lunch at Agni Bay before hopping back on your boat to explore more of the coast, jump into the inviting waters and enjoy the more-than-stunning scenery. Come evening, if you’re searching for an elevated meal, The White House Restaurant at Kalami is not to be missed. Overlooking a bay it serves a refined menu of Greek classics. The best part is their homemade lemon pie with ginger cream and almond biscuit.
The Best Greek Island For: Families
Where To Stay: MarBella
The dramatic Santorini cliffs, bursting with white houses and blue-domed chapels, epitomise the allure of Greece. The main (and most famous) towns of Oia and Fira are the places to join the crowds of people snapping social media photos. The crowds are worth it but hike up to Oia early to secure the best spot. If you fancy a challenge, take the long walk from Fira to Oia, stopping for fuel at Pink Sophia Maria – order the Greek salad, spinach pie and yoghurt with sweet morello cherries. Escape the crowds in Pyrgos, a small village on a hill in the centre of the island: home to authentic tavernas, visit Penelopes for small plates of dolmades, meatballs and tzatziki, or Cava Alta for exciting flavours and reinvented Greek classics. A trip to a local winery should not be missed and Santo Wines near Pyrgos hosts Santorini-grown wine tasting sessions, paired with some of the finest food on the island.
The Best Greek Island For: Romance and sunset views
Where To Stay: Nōus Santorini
No guide to the Greek islands would be complete without Mykonos, the undefeated holiday and party Queen of the Cyclades. It’s true, the town centre sees more guests than it can realistically handle but, if you can keep your patience as you wander amongst the crowds, you’ll soon discover why. Whitewashed streets with overflowing bougainvillaea in all shades of pink and red lead the way to the island’s most famous site: Little Venice. The views of Mykonos’ ever-so-Instagrammed windmills from here really are worth the hype. Take a seat at one of the many restaurants and bars overlooking them – we love Cocco by Belvedere Hotel – order a cocktail, and soak it all in. For a beach day filled with music and dancing at some of the most-coveted island spots head to Scorpios, Nammos or Kalua. For a less-lively tanning day visit any of the beachside restaurants at Platios Gialos, or the untouched stretch of coastline (yes they do still exist in Mykonos) of Agios Sotros – but be sure to bring everything you’ll need for the day including snacks, water, beach towels and sun hats.
The Best Greek Island For: Partying and living the high-life
Staying in Athens and short on time? Hop on a ferry from Piraeus Port in the southern Athens suburbs and in under an hour you’ll find a slice of the good life. Aegina is well-known amongst Athenians as a quick weekend getaway, yet it retains its island charm. You’ll find less beaches here than on other islands (Marathonas and Klima are two of the best), but this is more than made up for by ancient sites to visit: don’t miss the Temple of Athena Aphaia and the abandoned town of Paleochora. There are also small, authentic Greek villages to explore: in Perdika wander the beachside streets to watch as the catch of the day is brought to land on small boats before making its way to your plate. Nontas Fish Restaurant is a great place to settle for the evening to dine on a dinner of fresh calamari, muscles and octopus. Many of the dishes are pistachio-infused thanks to the surrounding pistachio fields: this island is known to produce the best pistachios in Greece, some may even say in Europe or the world.
The Best Greek Island For: An authentic way of life (and plenty of pistachios)
Where To Stay: The Amber Houses
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