Few destinations are as iconic as the Greek islands. Blue-domed churches, white beaches, crystal clear water, and striking rock formations welcome travelers wanting tranquility or adventure.
Greece has more than 200 inhabited islands, so it can be overwhelming to decide which ones to visit, which is where this guide comes in. These are the Greek islands that should be at the top of your island bucket list!
Here are the best Greek islands to visit!
Santorini is the most famous and popular Greek island, and it’s not overhyped. This island won’t disappoint you! The stunning towns built into the caldera, pebbly beaches below the cliffs, ancient ruins, and some of the best wineries in the country await you on Santorini.
The best times to visit Santorini are in late April, May, or September. Temperatures will still be warm enough to be in swimsuits, ferries will be running regularly, and you’ll avoid the peak crowds and prices.
Must-do activities when you’re here are a cruise around the island, a food tour, and seeing the sunset in Oia. Here’s my full list of Must-Do Things On Santorini.
During the shoulder and peak seasons, flights and ferries arrive and depart the island continuously. So you shouldn’t have a problem getting to and from the island, but I recommend booking your transportation early to save money.
Milos is known for its unique white rock formations and white-gold sandy beaches. The famous Venus de Milo sculpture – on display in the Louvre and considered one of the greatest works of ancient Greek sculptures – was discovered here.
When you’re here, you need to visit Sarakiniko, the most iconic beach on the island. In this former hiding place for pirates, you’ll find striking white rock formations set against crystal clear water.
Other must-do activities are: Take a boat to Kleftiko on the southwest corner of the island to sail into caves and through rock arches, explore the Catacombs of Milos, see the Ancient Theatre of Milos (which is also a fantastic viewpoint), and hike to the ruins of Plaka Castle for panoramic views of the whole island.
From April – September, ferries arrive from and depart for the ports of Piraeus, Cyclades, and Heraklion every day. During these same peak and shoulder months, there are also daily direct flights to and from Athens and some of the other islands.
Crete is the largest Greek island, and it’s the fifth-largest in the Mediterranean. The island is known for its varied geography. Here, you’ll have glorious coastlines and beaches, impressive mountains, fertile valleys, and steep gorges to explore. Crete is probably on every list of best Greek islands to visit, and it’s undoubtedly deserving of this honor!
This is the birthplace of the Minoan Civilization, the oldest civilization in Europe. And in Greek Mythology, Zeus was born on Crete in the Odeon Cave (which you can visit) on Mt. Ida.
You’ll want to visit the city of Chania and hike in the nearby White Mountains National Park. Other activities to do when you’re here are: Explore the ruins of Knossos, marvel at Elafonisi Beach, hike the Samaria Gorge, see the Arkadi Monastery, and enjoy the views at Balos Lagoon.
Crete has six main ports with ferries continually arriving and departing every day to and from many other islands during the peak and shoulder seasons from April to September. Crete also has a large international airport (the second largest in the country).
During the peak and shoulder seasons, there are daily flights to and from Athens, Thessaloniki, Dodecanese, Santorini, and Mykonos. Plus, you can get flights to and from other countries such as Cyprus, France, Great Britain, Switzerland, and Germany.
Skiathos is in the northwest Aegean Sea, as opposed to the other islands so far on this list that have been in the south towards the Mediterranean. This island is known for its lush landscape, nightlife, and golden beaches.
Because Skiathos is so close to the mainland, you could visit the island as a day trip from Larissa, but I recommend staying at least a couple of nights here if you can.
A highlight of the island is Lalaria Beach, home of the iconic rock formations the island is famous for (pictured above). You can only get to Lalaria by boat from Skiathos Town, and where you’re here, don’t miss the nearby Blue and Dark Caves.
Other top activities do on Skiathos are: explore Skiathos Town, take a day trip to Skopelos Island, and hike to the ruins of Kastro. There are also fantastic dive spots near the island, and Skiathos Diving Center and Octopus Diving Center can take you out.
From April – September, there are daily ferries to and from the mainland ports of Volos and Agios Konstantinos. There’s also an airport on Skiathos with daily flights during these same months to Athens, Thessaloniki, Santorini, Mykonos, Cyprus, and some cities in Italy, the U.K., Germany, and Austria.
Mykonos is probably the second most famous and popular Greek island behind Santorini. It’s known as a “party island,” but I think that description is a bit deceptive because you can party non-stop here, or you don’t have to party at all. The party “scene” doesn’t overwhelm everything else the island has to offer.
You’ll want to visit Mykonos Town to see the windmills, Little Venice, the Paraportiani Church, the Old Harbor, and to wander through the winding streets. Budget Tip: if you want to save money, don’t stay in Mykonos Town. Accommodation prices here are double what they are on the rest of the island.
Other activities to do on the island are sailing to the archaeological site of Delos and hiking to the Armenistis Lighthouse.
You’ll also want to have a beach day (or two or three!) The main party beaches are Paradise and Super Paradise Beaches. But if you want quieter and more tranquil beaches, check out Kapari, Agia Anna, Elia, Fokos, Agrari, or Lia.
During the peak and shoulder months (April – September), there are multiple flights and ferries every day to Mykonos from Athens, other Greek islands, and some international locations like France, Italy, and Cyprus.
Hydra is just a two-hour ferry ride from Athens, and it’s one of the Best Day Trips from Athens. So if you don’t have time to stay here overnight, Hydra could easily be incorporated into an Athens Itinerary.
Hydra probably isn’t featured on many lists of the best Greek islands to visit, but I think it should be!
There are no cars on Hydra, so you have a real sense of an old-world island village when you’re here. The island is known for its incredible hikes and fantastic beaches. You’ll take water taxis to get to different beaches and towns on the island.
Hydra is only accessible by ferries, and this helps the island stay relatively less-crowded than many of its counterparts, especially in the shoulder months of April, May, and September.
Zakynthos is the most famous of the Ionian islands off the eastern shore of the Peloponnese Peninsula. This island is home to the famous Navagio beach. This beach is the site of a 1980 shipwreck in an exposed cove, sometimes referred to as “Smugglers Cove.”
This island is very crowded and expensive in the peak summer months, so I recommend visiting here in May or September. It’ll be warm enough for the beaches and swimming, but you’ll avoid the peak crowds and prices.
You can see shipwreck cove in two ways. You can drive or catch a bus to Navagio Beach View to see the cove, beach, and shipwreck from above. This vantage point gives you the iconic view pictured above. Or, you can take a water taxi from one of the island’s cities to lounge on the beach and swim in the cove.
Must-do activities when you’re here are: visit Kalamaki Beach in the pristine Greek National Marine Park, take a trip to the Blue Caves, hike to the Panagia Skopiotissa Monastery, tour the Keri Caves, walk across the wooden bridge to Cameo Island, and visit Turtle Island.
From April – September, ferries arrive and depart Zakynthos daily for the ports of Killini and Kefalonia. Zakynthos has an airport, and almost all flights arrive via Athens.
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