Want to explore the Greek islands? Here’s a list of the best islands in Greece and a brief introduction to each island along with photos.
- Best Greek Island for Honeymoon: Santorini
- Best Greek Island to Party: Mykonos, Zakynthos, Ios
- Best Greek Island for Couples: Santorini, Paros, Crete, Folegandros
- Best Greek Island for First Time visitors: Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, Naxos
- Best Greek Island for Beaches: Koufonisia, Mykonos, Ios, Crete, Naxos, Lefkada
- Best Greek Island for Families: Naxos, Corfu, Crete
- Best Greek Island for History: Crete, Rhodes, Santorini, Delos
- Best Greek Island for Hiking: Crete, Folegandros, Santorini, Naxos, Sifnos
- Best Greek Island for Biking: Kos
- Best Greek Island for Luxury: Santorini, Mykonos
- Best Greek Island for Festivals: Skyros, Tinos, Amorgos
- Best Greek Island for Quietness: Antiparos, Folegandros, Ikaria, Karpathos
Paros is located in the Cyclades and it’s known for its beaches and traditional towns, including the picturesque fishing village, Naoussa. It’s a lovely destination that can be easily combined with nearby Mykonos and Santorini, or Naxos.
I recommend staying in Naoussa, where you can book traditional Cycladic houses and stroll around the old harbor and narrow alleys that are lined with shops and cozy restaurants. Don’t miss to make a day trip to Lefkes village, which is very picturesque and charming.
Paros can be reached by ferry from Piraeus (Athens) as well as Mykonos, Santorini and other nearby islands. There are also regular flights from Athens International Airport.
Skiathos is a long-time favorite for travelers who come back to Greece year after year. It’s located in the Sporades, north of Athens and the island is especially famed for its sandy beaches and being the filming location of Mamma Mia.
There are more than 60 beaches in Skiathos, including the iconic Lalaria Beach and Koukounaries, which has been named as one of the best beaches in Greece. Moreover, it’s a lush island with beautiful walks that offer dramatic settings and views.
Skiathos Town is the place to be for food and nightlife. There are direct flights to Skiathos from Italy, Germany, Austria, and the UK as well as from Athens. Ferries are also operating between Volos and Skiathos by Hellenic Seaways and the Aegean Flying Dolphins.
Skopelos is the neighboring island of Skiathos, which became famous after the success of the Mamma Mia movies. Most of the outdoor scenes were filmed on Skopelos and it represents “Kalokairi” in the film. This is also where you can find the beautiful church of Agios Ioannis, which stands on top of the rock that can be reached via steps.
With that said, Skopelos is well-worth visiting on its own and it’s a lovely little island in the Sporades. Skopelos Town is very charming and picturesque, just like the village of Glossa. Despite an increase in tourism, the island has kept its authenticity.
There is no airport on Skopelos, and it can only be reached by boat. Another option is to take a bus from Athens to Agios Konstantinos where you can take a direct ferry or catamaran to Skopelos.
Ikaria is one of the most interesting islands in Greece, not because of whitewashed houses with blue doors and windows, but due to the local lifestyle. The island is part of what is known as a Blue Zone, which means that the average lifespan is significantly longer than in most places on Earth.
There are only five places in the world that are recognized as Blue Zones where there are more centenarians than elsewhere. A local saying is that Ikarians forget to die, and the secret to their longevity is said to be the following factors: Minimal use of medicine, Mediterranean diet, midday rest, good physical condition, sexual activity, strong family and social ties as well as a relaxed pace of daily life.
Ikarians are happier and less stressed than others in general and visiting the island of Ikaria might give you some inspiration to live a healthier life. And while you’re at it, you can enjoy the beautiful beaches of Ikaria and just enjoy Greek hospitality.
Zakynthos used to be known as a party destination for young Brits, but in recent years, the island has rebranded itself. While Lagana still has several bars open and a lively nightlife, there is much more to Zante.
The Shipwreck beach is perhaps the most famous beach in Zakynthos, known for its dramatic cliffs and gorgeous views. The island is also known for its population of Loggerhead turtles that you can occasionally swim with when going on a boat trip.
I discovered Sifnos recently myself, and it’s a Cycladic island that deserves more attention. It’s simply gorgeous with beautiful walks, picturesque old towns, and one of the best boutique hotels in Greece, Verina Astra.
The island of Sifnos is also known for its food, and there are several local recipes and renowned restaurants that shouldn’t be missed. To Meraki tou Manoli, Kelari, Absinthe, and Drimoni are some of the best restaurants on Sifnos.
Sifnos can only be reached by ferry since there is no airport on the island. There are daily ferries from Piraeus (Athens) as well as nearby islands in the Cyclades. Don’t miss to visit the old town of Kastro, the old fishing village of Heronissos and the main town Apollonia.
Milos is another beautiful island in the Cyclades, filled with history, picturesque seaside towns, and dramatic landscapes. In recent years, the island and especially Sarakiniko beach has been featured by some of the best travel Instagrammers countless times, which has led to an increase of tourists coming here for the photogenic places.
Mandrakia, Firopotamos, Klima, and Plaka are some of the most charming towns that you should visit. Furthermore, Milos has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Cyclades. Don’t miss Sarakiniko, Agia Kyriaki, Firiplaka, and Tsigrado beach.
There are no international flights to Milos, but there are daily departures from Athens. The airport is located just a short ride from the harbor town of Adamas. Another option is to take a ferry from Piraeus (Athens) or one of the other nearby islands.
Santorini is often named as the most romantic Greek island, and for a good reason. Luxury hotels that are perfect for honeymooners are everywhere around the island.
Furthermore, watching the sunset with the caldera view is probably one of the best sunset spots in the world. Santorini has quickly become the go-to-spot for weddings and honeymoons in Greece, but the island also attracts celebrities and jetsetters from all over the world.
I love Santorini, and I’m the first to agree that it’s certainly touristy and gets ridiculously crowded in July and August. Nonetheless, it’s one of the most beautiful islands in Greece and I think that everyone should visit Santorini at least once.
Try to come here in May or September/October when there are fewer tourists and lower prices on accommodation. If you’re splurging on a luxurious hotel experience in Europe, this is the place to spend your savings and treat yourself.
Mykonos is one of the most famous islands in Greece, well-known for its nightlife and posh lifestyle. There are countless luxury hotels around the island and this is where the elite and celebrities come to enjoy themselves during the summer months.
Platys Gialos, Psarou, Paradise Beach, and of course the Super Paradise Beach. Mykonos Town is the main hotspot for restaurants, clubs, and bars. It is also here that you can stroll around in Little Venice and walk up to the iconic windmills.
Skyros is one of my favorite islands in Greece, and while international tourism has yet to find this gem, the Greeks themselves come here during the summer months to relax and eat some of the best food in the country.
There are no international flights to Skyros, but there are several weekly departures from Athens and Thessaloniki. Don’t miss the Chora of Skyros, which is full of charming old houses and narrow alleys that leads up to the monastery at the top.
Folegandros is a great choice for those who’re looking for a relaxing getaway with beautiful landscapes, traditional villages and quiet vibes with plenty of charming restaurants. Don’t miss to walk up the zigzagging steps from Chora, which leads to the beautiful Panagia church at the top.
Lefkada is located in the Ionian Sea but can be reached from the mainland by car. Preveza is the closest airport and from there it’s just a 40-minute drive to the island. Lefkada is well-known for its spectacular beaches such as Porto Katsiki and Egremni.
The island of Lefkada is sometimes referred to as the Caribbean of Greece and it’s a true paradise for beach lovers and those who enjoy scenic landscapes. Moreover, visitors can also enjoy charming seaside villages such as Agios Nikitas and Nidri Lefkada.
Corfu is often nicknamed the emerald island of Greece due to its greenery and lush landscapes. There’s also a lot of historical places to discover, and in fact, Corfu is the only Greek island that wasn’t conquered by the Turks.
It’s part of the Ionian Islands in the north and also serves as the gateway to Albania with daily ferries between Corfu and Saranda. One of my favorite places on Corfu is the remote beaches of Porto Timoni, as seen in the photo below.
Other points of interest include Lefkimi and Corfu Town, also known as Kerkyra. It features a 16th-century fortress and has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. There are regular flights from various destinations around Europe.
Kefalonia is one of the most beautiful islands in Greece, known for its laidback vibes and stunning Myrtos beach along with natural beauty. Melissani Cave is another popular spot on the island of Kefalonia, known for its crystal clear water and magical scenery.
Some of the most charming towns on the island are Assos, Fiscardo, Argostoli, and Poros. The easiest way to reach Kefalonia is by plane from various destinations in Europe, including the UK, Sweden, and Germany.
There are also daily flights from Athens as well as frequent ferries operating various routes to and from Kefalonia. While visiting, make sure to make a day trip to nearby Ithaca, or even better stay overnight and explore the island of Odysseus.
Tilos might be a small island in the Dodecanese group of islands, but what it lacks in size, it has even more so in terms of charm and authenticity. The beaches are unorganized and mostly empty with unspoiled nature and crystal clear waters.
It offers a secluded destination and is a great alternative Greek island to visit if you long for tranquil vibes and traditional food from Greece. Tilos is easy to reach from Rhodes or from Kos by ferry.
Syros is the capital of the Cyclades, known for its colorful city of Ermoupoli with lavish old houses from the 19th century and beautiful churches. The island comes with Italian vibes where you can stroll around marble piazzas and admire beautiful mansions.
Syros is particularly known for its art and music scene with several cultural festivals throughout the year. Travel here for a cultural experience rather than beaches, although there are some beaches of higher quality in the north.
Most international tourists go to Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, and Naxos in the Cyclades, but I would recommend visiting Syros as well, especially for food and culture. The island can be reached by plane from Athens as well as the ferry from Piraeus and other nearby islands.
Rhodes is one of the best Greek islands for history buffs due to its medieval heritage and historic buildings. Of course, there are many reasons to choose Rhodes for your vacation, and the island has a lot to offer its visitors.
Golden sand beaches such as Tsambika and Faliraki makes it a great beach destination, and charming old towns such as Lindos make it a romantic getaway in the Dodecanese Islands.
Rhodes old town has even been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and it features one of the best-preserved medieval settlements in Europe. Some of the main attractions include The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes and the Old city walls.
Additionally, there are numerous landmarks from the Ancient Greeks such as temples and old theaters. It was also on Rhodes where one of the old wonders of the world stood, the Colossus of Rhodes.
Symi is a small and charming island north of Rhodes in the Dodecanese that can be described as the “Cinque Terre of Greece” with colorful houses and eight different walks.
It’s truly one of the hidden gems in Greece, and while some might label it as a day-tripper island, visitors who choose to stay overnight will be rewarded by its slow pace and relaxed vibe.
The only way to reach Symi is by boat or ferry from Rhodes and Kos in Greece or from Bodrum in Turkey.
Kalymnos is one of the best Greek islands to visit for outdoor adventures, including hiking and climbing. It’s located in the Dodecanese, north of Kos and south of Leros.
In addition to rock climbing and hiking, the island of Kalymnos is also known for sponge diving. For a long time, sponge diving was the main source of income for many locals.
Kalymnos is characterized by its blue waters and dramatic mountains with lush olive groves and valleys in between the rocky landscape. There are also numerous caves to explore with scenic views and impressive stalactites and stalagmites.
You can reach the island by flight from Athens, Kos, and Rhodes. Another option is to take the ferry from Piraeus to Kalymnos, which is operated by Blue Star Ferries, 5 times per week.
Ithaca is one of the less-visited islands, despite being the homeland of Odysseus. The island is located in the Ionian Sea, northeast of Kefalonia. Visitors can enjoy dramatic hiking trails with gorgeous views and paths to historic churches with beautiful frescoes.
It’s a small island with a rich history and a slow pace of life. If you’re sailing around the Greek Islands, make sure to stop by the world’s largest natural harbor in Vathy, the capital of Ithaca.
Hydra is one of the best Greek islands to visit near Athens, and it can be reached by ferry from Piraeus in just 1 hour and 30 minutes. Due to its proximity, this is where many Athenians themselves go on a relaxing weekend trip.
Additionally, it is a long-time favorite among artists who come here for the picturesque sceneries and the slow pace of life. Moreover, it’s a car-free island and there are no motor vehicles at all, which is quite unique in today’s society.
Hydra has several quaint little towns with beautiful architecture and gorgeous views. What it lacks in terms of beaches, it makes up for with great atmosphere and an easy-to-reach weekend destination.
Chios is the fifth-largest island in Greece, known as “the Mastic island” and famed for its 11th-century Monastery of Nea Moni as well as historic buildings.
The island is located in the North Aegean and is very interesting from a historical point of view, with several landmarks from various eras. One of the most notable persons from Chios is the famous poet Homer who lived in the 8th century BC.
International visitors who come here can enjoy the tranquility and authenticity as well as lush landscapes with charming little beaches and picturesque beaches. What’s more, is that not many tourists make their way here, so you can easily beat the crowds and get that traditional Greek island experience.
Naxos is known for its endless beaches and being one of the most family-friendly islands in Greece. It’s located in the Cyclades, next to Paros and Koufonisia. Agios Prokopios and Agia Anna are two of the most popular beaches in Naxos for families as they feature shallow water and all amenities needed.
As you travel further south on the island, the beaches get emptier and wilder, giving rise to some prime spots for wind- and kitesurfers. Don’t forget to try the local liqueur called Kitron, which is made from a lemon-tree like citrus fruit.
Patmos is one of the less-visited Greek islands on this list, but nonetheless interesting with the medieval monastery of St. John being one of the main attractions. The journey to Patmos can be quite long though but it’s definitely worth it, although it takes nine hours by ferry from Athens.
This is also a great pilgrimage site since it is said that it was here in Patmos that the Book of Revelation in the New Testament was written. Moreover, the small island is also known for its decadent mansions from the 16th century.
Last but not least, Crete, one of the most famous islands in Greece, full of history, charming towns, and gorgeous beaches. While it may sound clichée, the island of Crete has something for everyone.
Chania and Rethymno are two of the most famous towns along with the picturesque Agios Nikolaos. Crete is home to numerous historic landmarks, including the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Venetian fortress, and the Spinalonga fortress.
Crete is also well-renowned for its many beaches, and especially for its pink sand beach of Elafonissi and the magnificent Balos Lagoon.
The best time to visit the Greek islands
I’ve been traveling to Greece for several years and visited during various times of the year. I have even lived on Rhodes for nearly 2 years, so my experience is all-year-round.
In general, the best time to visit the islands in Greece is in May/June and September when there are fewer tourists and not as hot as it can get in July and August. This is especially true for the most popular Greek islands, which usually gets very crowded during high-season.
April and October are typically low-season, but can still offer great weather in addition to low prices. However, most smaller islands will be very quiet during the low-season and some hotels and restaurants will even be closed.
If you have the possibility of exploring the Greek islands in June or September, that’s definitely the best time to go. Everything will still be open during these two months but you’ll get a more relaxed and enjoyable trip.
More about the islands in Greece
One of the first things that you should know about the Greek islands is that each one is unique. While there is certainly something that could be described as “Greek islands vibes” or Greek hospitality in general, what it actually means will differ from island to island.
The pace is also slower and more relaxed compared to mainland Greece. Some Greek islands haven’t changed much for decades and the same old houses are still standing and traditions have been carried down from older generations.
It’s definitely something special to travel to lesser-known islands compared to the most popular islands in Greece. So far I haven’t been to a Greek island that wasn’t worth visiting.
As a first-time visitor, I recommend visiting at least 1 of the main islands such as Santorini, Crete, Mykonos, or Rhodes. They are popular destinations for a good reason and they are truly some of the most beautiful islands in Greece.
However, if you’re staying for a couple of days, I recommend that you also plan to visit 1-2 smaller islands that are nearby. It’s easy to travel between the Greek islands, especially within the same island group.
How many islands are there in Greece?
There are approximately 6,000 islands and islets in Greece, whereof 227 islands are inhabited.
What is the most traditional Greek island?
Most of the islands in Greece have kept their traditional charm and vibes. Touristy islands like Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, and Crete are less traditional in tourist areas, but they still have historical places, authentic restaurants, old villages, and classic Greek architecture.
Non-touristy islands can be seen as “more” traditional and authentic, but no Greek island is the same, and you’ll get a unique experience on every island in Greece.
Which are the largest islands in Greece?
Crete is the largest island in Greece by area as well as the most populated island with a total of 632,674 residents. Other large Greek islands include Evia, Lesbos, Rhodes, and Chios.
|Area (km2)||Island group|
|3||Lesbos||630||1,633||North Aegean Islands|
|5||Chíos||325||842.3||North Aegean Islands|
|8||Lemnos||184||477.6||North Aegean Islands|
|9||Samos||184||477.4||North Aegean Islands|
|12||Thassos||147||380.1||North Aegean Islands|
|18||Icaria||99||255||North Aegean Islands|
|22||Samothrace||69||178||North Aegean Islands|
Island groups in Greece
- Aegean Islands
- Dodecanese Islands
- Ionian Islands
- Saronic Islands
Greek island cruises
There are several cruise companies that sell Greek island cruises, such as the Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises. However, as an avid traveler, I want to urge you to explore the Greek islands on your own by island-hopping via local ferries.
Unless the cruise experience itself is the main highlight of your trip, you’ll get a much better experience in Greece if you travel on your own. Moreover, if you want to make day trips to other islands, there are plenty of local travel agents that offer better packages.
Island hopping in Greece is simple, fun, and adventurous. There are daily ferries to and from most islands during the summer months, and you can book your ferry tickets online or as you arrive.
If you book a Greek island cruise, you’ll get to see several islands, but will only be staying over the day. In this way, you’ll miss a lot of the Greek charm and the time given is simply not enough. At least 2-3 days per island is recommended.
How to book ferries to the Greek Islands
You can book most ferries in Greece online via each company’s website. There are also comparison sites such as Directferries and ferries.gr where you can see and book departures from various ferry companies.
It’s easier to check available routes and time schedules via the comparison sites, but it can sometimes be cheaper to book directly via the ferry companies directly.
There will also be ticket offices in the harbor on each island where you can book tickets upon arrival or before departing. Some ferry companies also require you to pick up tickets in their local ticket office before boarding.
Having the possibility to check-in online is becoming more common though, which is convenient since you won’t have to stand in lines to receive your tickets before boarding.
Depending on which islands you plan to visit, there will be various ferry companies operating. Most routes are trafficked throughout the summer months with frequent departures. During the winter months, departures will be less frequent and they will be canceled if the weather gets bad.
Ferry Companies in Greece
|Aegean Speed Lines||Anek Lines||Blue Star Ferries|
|Dodekanisos Seaways||European Seaways||Fast Ferries|
|Golden Star Ferries||Hellenic Seaways||Kefalonian Lines|
|Levante Ferries||Maritime Company of Lesvos||Minoan Flying Dolphins|
|Minoan Lines||Seajets||Superfast Ferries|
|Thessaloniki Waterbus||Ventouris Ferries||Zante Ferries|
Greek Islands Map
Below is a map of the islands of Greece, marked in orange color.
Greek islands close to Athens
List of main islands of Greece
What islands in Greece would you like to visit? Leave a comment below!