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The best Greek islands to visit

Published on February 01, 2024

‘The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece, eternal summer gilds them yet…’


Lord Byron was on to something when he waxed lyrical about the Greek islands. But with more than 200 inhabited to choose from, which ones are the very best Greek islands? Here regular isle-hopper Rachel Howard reveals the ones to get in a speedboat for in 2024, with where to stay recommendations chosen by the editors of Condé Nast Traveller.

Here, we’ve also ranked the best Greek islands, from 1-29. While we love and highly recommend every island on this list – and advocate visiting all of them throughout your lifetime, if you can – we’ve also edited the list in order so if it’s your first time planning a visit to this magical corner of the world, or you just want to branch out from your usual summer isle trip, we can help you choose where to go next. The order below reflects our well-travelled team’s personal opinions, the landscapes, food, beaches, hotels and more.

Colourful port of Mandraki on the island of Milos Cyclades Greece

1. Milos
Best for: A photogenic and dramatic coastline

Everyone knows the Venus de Milo (which has stood in the Louvre since the 19th century). Until recently, very few had heard of Milos, the volcanic island where Aphrodite’s graceful likeness was discovered. Those in the know jealously guard their treasured island, and especially its 70 (or more) beaches — surely the most diverse and dramatic coastline of all the Greek Islands.

Little by little, though, Milos is being discovered. Instagram is saturated with no-filter shots of the undulating white cliffs at Sarakiniko, the bottle-green swimming hole at Papafragas, and colourful, rickety syrmata, tiny boat houses wedged between rock and sea. (You’ll find the best photo opportunities at Klima and Mandrakia). This painterly landscape was shaped by the minerals that have long been a source of wealth – obsidian, alum, barite and sulphur, which still bubbles up in the island’s many hot springs. As the 11,000-year-old mining industry is gradually giving way to tourism, several chic hotels have made an appearance. Go now, before the trickle of visitors turns into a tide.

Where to stay on Milos:

For romance: Milos Cove or Domes White Coast Milos
For families: Captain Zeppos
For an eco-retreat: Skinopi Lodge
For an authentic stay: Achinos By The Sea

Hydra Greek Islands

2. Hydra
Best for: A long weekend with the art crowd

You know when Dakis Joannou, Greece’s foremost art collector, is on Hydra. His yacht, Guilty, is painted in gaudy ‘camouflage’ by Jeff Koons. Every summer, Joannou invites big hitters such as Matthew Barney and David Shrigley to create site-specific installations in the Greek island’s old slaughterhouse. Even the school is commandeered for exhibitions in the summer holidays. Car-free and protected by a preservation order, Hydra has always been the artists’ muse of the Greek Islands. Leonard Cohen set the scene in the 60s; now Brice Marden, Sadie Coles and Juergen Teller have homes here. Athenian artists take up residence at the School of Fine Arts, one of the vast, grey, stone mansions overlooking the horseshoe harbour. Musicians of all stripes rehearse and record at the Old Carpet Factory, an 18th-century residence whose double-height ceilings and underground cistern have incredible acoustics.

Less than two hours from Athens, Hydra fills up with chic Greeks at weekends. They come to disconnect and slow down, but also to see and be seen. Wily cats and weary donkeys patrol the back alleys, but all the action happens along the waterfront. Oh look! There’s Olivia Palermo at The Pirate Bar and Chloë Sevigny shaking her tail feather at Hydronetta beach bar. Who cares if there are barely any beaches? You can always find a slab of sun-baked rock from which to leap rock from which to dive into the clearest water in the world. See our full guide to Hydra, Greece.

Where to stay in Hydra:

For a boutique stay: Orloff Boutique Hotel
For a beachfront stay: Onos Residence
For a group: Mirkella sleeps 12 people

Chapel on Sifnos island Greece

3. Sifnos
Best for: Big, fat Greek feasts

Sifnos owes its foodie reputation to its most famous descendant, Nicholas Tselementes, who wrote the first Greek cookbook in 1910. Forget souvlaki and moussaka: here, chickpea croquettes and stewed capers are taverna staples. The island is peppered with potteries that produce the earthenware casseroles used for revitháda (baked chickpeas) and mastelo (lamb with red wine and dill). Traditional dishes are slow-roasted in a wood-fired oven at To Meraki tou Manoli, a local institution on sheltered Vathy bay. (While you’re there, invest in some timeless tableware from Atsonios Ceramics, in business since 1870.) In postcard-pretty Artemonas, all roads lead to Theodorou, purveyors of nougat wafers and almond sweets since 1933. You can eat in your bikini at Omega3, where locally foraged and fished ingredients are given an exotic twist: baby-calamari tempura, smoked eel in chilled melon soup with wasabi, and chickpea sorbet with wild apricot jam and pine nuts. In 2021, Omega3’s previous energetic head chef Giorgos Samoilis opened Cantina, an equally experimental restaurant in Seralia, a pretty little bay below the beautiful medieval village of Kastro. Lobsters are plucked straight from the sea at Heronissos, then served with spaghetti on the jetty. It’s just the right balance of low-key luxury and unspoiled authenticity. Rather like Sifnos itself.

Where to stay in Sifnos:

For romance: NÓS
For a boutique stay: Verina Astra
For families: Verina Terra
For a laidback stay: Sifnos House

Oia Santorini Greek Islands

4. Santorini
Best for: Honeymooners and first-timers

Cooing American and Chinese honeymooners line up to take selfies as the sun sinks behind Santorini’s caldera, the flooded volcanic crater. That view may be a romantic cliché, but it still takes your breath away. A volcanic explosion blew out Santorini’s heart 3,500 years ago, leaving black-sand beaches, vertiginous cliffs in psychedelic hues, and swirling rumours about Atlantis in its wake. The eruption also preserved the ancient city of Akrotiri under layers of ash, and created fertile ground for exceptional Assyrtiko grapes and Vinsanto wines. (Sample them at Domaine Sigalas and Vassaltis wineries, paired with delicate dishes that let the grapes sing.)

Apart from a boat trip to the smouldering crater of Nea Kameni and hot springs at Palia Kameni, there’s not much to do but gaze at the mesmerising views from your suite, dangling on the edge of the caldera. Most places to stay are concentrated in Oia and Imerovigli, but the inland village of Pyrgos is up-and-coming. Go for a twilight Bellini at Franco’s Cafe and visit Emporio, with its smattering of old-school coffee shops and Airbnbs. For a glimpse of Santorini before the onslaught of cruise ships and Instagrammers, explore the quieter south (but keep your discoveries to yourself).

Where to stay in Santorini:

For laidback luxury: Perivolas
For glamour: Nobu Hotel
For romance: Andronis Boutique Hotel
For the wine: The Vasilicos
For groups: Elilia Superior Villa sleeps 8 people

Syros Greece

5. Syros
Best Greek island for: Culture and off-season cachet

On Syros, capital of the Cyclades, you won’t find sugar-cube villages and whitewashed lanes. The colourful 19th-century city of Ermoupoli is built on twin peaks – one Orthodox, the other Catholic, the heritage of a long Venetian occupation. There’s still a strong Italian flavour in Ermoupoli’s marble piazzas, princely mansions, and miniature replica of La Scala, the showpiece of a year-round cultural scene. Syros hosts festivals of animation, dance, digital art, film, classical music, jazz and rembetiko, the Greek blues popularised by local musician Markos Vamvakaris. A few rembetiko joints have survived in the upper town, Ano Syros.

Once Greece’s ship-building centre, Syros’ industry centres around the yard in Neorio. But the most splendid legacy of the shipping industry are the manor houses in Vaporia and Poseidonia. The beaches are slightly less splendid — with the exception of Delfini, Varvarousa, and Aetos in the wild north. But fabulous seaside tavernas abound: Iliovassilemar on Galissas beach for samphire and sea-urchin salad and rockfish soup; Allou Yialou in the pretty seaside village of Kini for lobster with orzo. In Ermoupoli, the finest places to eat and drink are around Androu Street: Ousyra, where the chef plates up Greek-ified pasta and beautifully balanced salads, and Django Gelato, where the pistachio gelato reigns supreme, and the fig sorbet made in August can sell out in less than half an hour. Perhaps the prettiest restaurant of all is Mazi, a vine-covered courtyard festooned with bougainvillaea. Before you leave, stock up on loukoumi (rose-tinted Turkish delight) and San Michali cheese from Prekas delicatessen, and visit Zeyelo for hand-made wooden sunglasses. For more recommendations, see our insider guide to Syros.

Where to stay on Syros:

For a boutique stay: Xenon Apollonos
For glamour: Hotel Ploes
For romance: Aristide Hotel
For groups: Villa Syros sleeps 12 people

Folegrandos in Greece

6. Folegandros
Best Greek island for: Authenticity with a bohemian buzz

The village square should be your first port of call on any Greek island: settle into your favourite café, pick up local gossip, and adjust to the languid pace of life. On Folegandros, this presents a challenge: the cliff-hanger capital, Hora, has not one but three squares, each brimming with a jumble of cafés, tavernas and dinky raki bars. We recommend Pounta, where the Danish owner makes and sells the lopsided cups and bowls in which your coffee and Greek yogurt are served. From Hora, zigzagging steps lead up, up and away to the only real landmark, Panagia church; make the pilgrimage at sunrise (perhaps after an all-nighter at dimunitive Astarti bar).

Folegandros – which means ‘iron hard’ in ancient Greek – is as barren as its name suggests. Fruit trees are protected from fierce winds by rings of stones. You won’t find sandy beaches lined with sunbeds; only limpid, pebbly coves, such as Katergo, Ambeli and Livadaki. Set in the rocks above Agios Nikolaos bay, Papalagi serves big fat prawns and whole grilled octopus on a wooden deck aligned with the horizon. Water taxis service some beaches in high season; otherwise you’ll have to scramble down rocky footpaths to cool off. On your way home, stop at Mimis or Synantisi in Ano Meria for the island speciality of matsata (goat or rabbit stew with hand-made pasta).

Where to stay on Folegandros:

For views: Anemomilos
For families: Anemi
For beach access: Blue Sand hotel
For a private stay: Maistros


Best for Antiquities active adventures and sunshine all year round Greece's largest island the birthplace of...

7. Crete
Best for: Antiquities, active adventures and sunshine all year round

Greece’s largest island, the birthplace of Zeus, Crete has ancient ruins, snow-capped peaks and beaches galore. Sunshine is pretty much guaranteed year round, but spring is especially lovely for rambling and sightseeing. The Minoan palace of Knossos is glorious, despite the steady stream of coach parties (go early: it opens at 8am); but there are stunning ancient sites, such as Aptera and Malia, peppered all over the island. The 16km-long Samaria Gorge also teems with pilgrims, but there are hundreds more canyons to explore, often with only the elusive kri-kri (wild goats) for company. One of the most staggeringly beautiful hikes is through the Aradena Gorge in the wild and rugged Sfakia region, ending at Marmara, a translucent cove on the Libyan Sea, for a cooling dip and lunch at one of Crete’s finest tavernas, Dialiskari.

With the exception of Elounda – a pocket of bling popular with oligarchs – the north-east coast is scarred by over-development. Head west to the Amari valley or Apokoronas for authentic villages surrounded by olive and orange groves. Or go south, where you’ll find the best beaches in Crete – try Ligres, Sougia, or Kedrodasos. Alternatively, take a back-to-nature break at Milia Mountain Retreat, a 16th-century hamlet powered entirely by solar energy. Everything on the mostly organic menu is grown, caught or reared locally. In fact, it’s almost impossible not to eat well on Crete, which produces superb cheese, honey and olive oil, as well as delicious goat, rabbit and smoked-pork dishes. Time slows almost to a standstill in the mountain villages, where locals with formidable whiskers welcome you with shots of raki (Cretan grappa) for breakfast and celebrate saints’ days with a volley of gunshots. Even the road signs are peppered with bullet holes.

Where to stay in Crete:

For families: The Royal Senses Resort & Spa and Cretan Malia Park
For romance: Acro Wellness Suites
For a great location: Blue Palace Resort & Spa
For a village stay: Kapsaliana Village
For a private stay: Azure Awe
For a group: Cien sleeps 16 people

A jetty in Corfu Greece

8. Corfu
Best of the Greek islands for: character and lush landscapes

Corfu is the It Girl of the Ionian islands. The cosmopolitan capital is a charming clash of Venetian, British and French colonial influences. Evenings kick off with cocktails on the Liston (a colonnade modelled on Paris’s Rue de Rivoli), followed by dinner at Salto, an unpretentious wine bar and bistro on the edge of the Old Town.

With its pastel villages, rolling olive groves and grand manor houses, the rest of the island recalls Tuscany – but with some of the best beaches in Europe. The smart set stay on Corfu’s north-east coast (nicknamed Kensington-on-Sea) where the Rothschilds like to unwind. It’s wall-to-wall Sloanes and speedboats at Agni, a tiny fishing village with three rival tavernas (Toula’s is the best). From here, you can rent a boat and putter to your own cove: perhaps Nissaki, Agios Stefanos or Kerasia. These idyllic bays still resemble the ‘delectable landscape’ that Lawrence Durrell fell for in the 1930s – now back in vogue thanks to the ITV series, The Durrells. Or venture inland to Ambelonas, an enchanting winery, restaurant and cooking school that specialises in unusual local dishes, such as roast pork with quince and crème brûlée with Corfiot kumquats. Steer clear of the south, especially Kavos – unless you happen to like wet T-shirt contests.

Where to stay in Corfu:

For a standout spa: Angsana Corfu Resort & Spa
For all-inclusive: Ikos Dassia
For romance: Domes Miramare
For families: Domes of Corfu
For groups: Emerald Oasis sleeps 10 people


Naxos old town Greek Islands

9. Naxos
Best for: Endless sandy beaches

Naxiots once made considerable fortunes exporting potatoes, cheese, marble and emery. Locals bequeathed undesirable seaside plots – useless for farming – to their laziest offspring. When tourists cottoned on to the island’s scores of fabulous beaches, these wastrels found themselves sitting on gold mines. The west coast of Naxos is fringed with mile upon mile of powdery sands. Agios Prokopios and Agia Anna delight toddlers and teenagers alike with their shallow waters and beach bars. As you head south, the beaches get wilder: Plaka, where you can gallop across the dunes on horseback, Mikri Vigla for windsurfing and kitesurfing, and crystal-clear Kastraki.

Should you tire of frolicking on the shore, three supersized kouros statues are hidden in the hills and there are dozens of drowsy villages to explore. Try kitron, the local citron liqueur, at the Vallindras distillery in Halki or sample homemade wine and arseniko cheese under the plane trees in Ano Potamia village. No wonder Herodotus described Naxos as “the happiest of islands.”

Where to stay in Naxos:

For romance: Naxian on the Beach
For laidback luxury: Kavos
For a private stay: Eye of Naxos Sky
For families: Hidden Hill



Cephalonia Greek Islands

10. Cephalonia / Kefalonia
Best Greek island for: Laidback family holidays

Casting Penélope Cruz as a Greek peasant is improbable. Shooting a World War II film on an island flattened by an earthquake in 1953 sounds even crazier. And yet Captain Corelli’s Mandolin put under-the-radar Kefalonia (Cephalonia) in the spotlight in 2001. The dramatic scenery still lives up to the hype: milky-white Myrtos beach, the island’s pin-up; pine-fringed Horgota beach; and the giddying heights of Mount Ainos, a national park where wild horses roam. Outdoor Kefalonia organises four-wheel-drive safaris, if you can’t face the hairpin bends. Surprisingly, the two prettiest seaside villages – Assos and Fiskardo – didn’t make the cut. But the yachting set has discovered their photogenic charm. Everyone from John Galliano to Jon Bon Jovi has jumped ashore to taste the seafood pasta at Tassia Restaurant in Fiskardo, washed down with local Robola and Muscat wines. (We recommend the organic muscat from the 19th century Haritatos Vineyard in Lixouri, also an enchanting setting for wine tasting.) The rocky coastline around Fiskardo is deliciously pristine: go snorkelling at tiny Dafnoudi or Emblisi, flanked by slabs of limestone that turn the water electric blue.

Where to stay in Kefalonia:

For an adult-only retreat: F Zeen
For families: Emelisse Nature Resort
For groups: Odyssea sleeps 12 people
For a private stay: Wilderness Whisperings house
For something unique: This sky high villa


Chora of Andros island early in the morning.

11. Andros
Best Greek island for: Walking trails and wild beaches

Divided by four mountain ranges, Andros is like several islands in one. Lush valleys, rushing streams, handsome villages, and wild, windswept beaches are connected by a well-maintained network of hiking trails, making this an excellent off-season destination. Many of Greece’s powerful shipping dynasties hail from Andros; they have bequeathed the island with grand estates, splendid museums, and an elegant neoclassical capital. The marble-paved streets of Chora are full of unexpected treasures: a tiny, open-air cinema showing black-and-white classics, great pizzas and cocktails in a converted slaughterhouse, sublime sundresses and sandals at Waikiki boutique. Inland, there are fortified monasteries, ice-cold waterfalls, and fantastic farm-to-table tavernas like Kosses in Ano Fellos, Fofo’s in Livadia, and Tou Josef in Pitrofos to explore. And then there are the mind-blowing beaches: from the spectacular sandy bays of Zorkos, Vitali, and Vori on the north coast to the mellow beach bars at Apothikes and Chryssi Ammos, or the sunset views and old-school fish taverna at Agia Marina, there are options for whichever way the wind or your mood is blowing. You could spend weeks on Andros and still have more to discover.

Where to stay on Andros:

For a guesthouse stay: Melisses
For privacy: Onar
For a village stay: Touchstone House
For groups: Five Star Greece

Best Greek island for Naturists and purists The sleeper hit of the Cyclades Serifos is the summer retreat of interior...

12. Serifos
Best Greek island for: Naturists and purists

The sleeper hit of the Cyclades, Serifos is the summer retreat of interior designers and architects who prefer to keep the sandy beaches to themselves. (One French home-owner is so protective of her hideaway that she tells all her friends she summers on nearby Sifnos.) Even in August, you’ll find coves where you can skinny dip in blissful solitude. That’s because the best beaches (such as Kalo Ambeli and Skala) are only accessible via bone-rattling dirt roads or donkey tracks. Better still, rent a motor boat from the laidback harbour, Livada. Make sure to moor outside Anna’s taverna on Sikamia beach for freshly caught fish and garden-grown salads.

In the cascading hilltop Hora, there’s barely any nightlife, no smart boutiques or fancy hotels. But who cares when you can kick back with fennel pie and raki at Stou Stratou, pick up Natassa Kalogeropoulou’s minimalist ceramics at Kerameio, and listen to Greek folk in the open-air amphitheatre? And all less than three hours from Athens.

Where to stay on Serifos:

For a boutique stay: Verina Astra
For romance: Chill & Co.
For groups: Lenia sleeps 12 people

The port in Mykonos Greek Islands

13. Mykonos
Best of the Greek islands for: Decadent parties and five-star hotels

Mykonos had LGBTQ+ clubs and sunrise parties long before rave culture was even invented. Its bohemian allure hasn’t faded since the 1960s, although the once naked beaches now have nail bars, personal trainers and house music pumping out all hours. The influx of supermodels and superyachts has inspired hot new hotels and restaurants. The hippest place to show off your abs is Scorpios, a louche beach bar that puts Ibiza’s finest in the shade (book a cabana to watch the sunset). After hours, it’s always Astra, where you might find Keith Richards chatting up Karolina Kurkova. The LGBTQ+ crowd has dwindled, but drag queens and oiled bodybuilders make a splash at Jackie O’, overlooking Super Paradise beach.

If the glitzy excess gets too much, escape to Fokos taverna for superfood salads and lamb chops, or Kiki’s, an off-grid grill-shack overlooking Agios Sostis bay, where even Naomi Campbell has to queue for a table. Or cruise over to the tiny island of Delos, an archaeological sanctuary that once thronged with 30,000 sun worshippers (the temple is dedicated to Apollo, the Greek god of light).

Where to stay in Mykonos:

For romance: Cali Mykonos
For the party scene: Soho Roc House
For a laidback stay: Once in Mykonos
For families: Santa Marina resort
For groups: Bluewave XL sleeps 36 people

Zakynthos Greek Islands

14. Zakynthos / Zante
The best Greek Island for: seaside holidays with toddlers or teens

Zakynthos, or Zante, has shrugged off its reputation as a destination for lads on tour (as long as you avoid Lagana and the built-up south coast) by rebranding itself as one of Greece’s greenest islands. It’s not just the emerald hills sliding into the electric blue Ionian: much of the south coast is a nature reserve where endangered loggerhead turtles hatch in the sand. The turtle beaches are off limits, but there are countless coves in every hue of green and blue. Favourites are tiny Xigia, with its bubbling underwater springs, and craggy Porto Limnionas, with sunbeds wedged between the rocks and palm-frond umbrellas positioned between the pine trees. Skinari is the starting point for boat trips to the most famous landmarks, the Blue Caves and Shipwreck Beach, where a rusting liner leans into the chalky cliffs. From Keri, you can cast away for Marathonisi island, another turtle sanctuary.

The mountainous interior, all sleepy stone villages poking out of pine forests, is great for hikes and bikes. (Eco Zante can arrange outdoor activities guided by insiders.) Askos Stone Park is a wildlife sanctuary inhabited by deer, chinchilla, and dozens of other species. After exploring the Venetian castle high above the harbour, treat the kids to thin-crust pizzas (with grown-up toppings like bresaola, aubergine, and gorgonzola) at Alesta on cute St Mark’s Square.

Where to stay in Zante:

For families: Porto Zante
For romance: Zante Maris Suites and Olea All Suite Hotel
For a private stay: Halcyon Seas
For a group: Ble Kyma sleeps 12 people


Best for Deepblue seas and wideopen spaces Its not easy to get tonbspAmorgos. In high winds the fast ferries stay...

15. Amorgos
Best for: Deep-blue seas and wide-open spaces

It’s not easy to get to Amorgos. In high winds, the fast ferries stay grounded and the slow boat takes upwards of eight hours from Athens. When you disembark at Katapola, a sleepy harbour lined with great little fish tavernas (our favourites are Prekas and Mouragio), a sign announces: ‘Welcome to Amorgos. Nobody will find you here.’

That’s just the point. This craggy Cycladic island has always attracted loners, hikers, divers and pilgrims, who shuffle up the cliff face to the Monastery of Hozoviotissa, a sliver of white dangling 300 metres above the sea. The water here is a million shades of blue and so startlingly clear you can see every sea urchin lurking on the rocky shore. Even the sage-scented hiking trails are called Blue Paths, because the sea and sky are visible in all directions.

With a population of under 2,000, the locals are outnumbered by shaggy goats that blend in perfectly with the burnished landscape and hippie vibe. But you don’t have to be a recluse to fall for Amorgos. There are plenty of all-day spots and a few late-night bars where Amorgos groupies meet, summer after summer: Jazzmin, in Hora, for backgammon and cocktails; Pergalidi in Langada for herbal infusions and jazzy tunes; Seladi in Tholaria, with giddying views and a telescope for stargazing.

Where to stay on Amorgos: There are very few hotels on Amorgos, beyond basic rooms to let. Vorina Ktismata is the exception, with seven smart apartments looking out across Hora’s white-washed rooftops.


The harbour in Paxos Greece

16. Paxos
Best for: The perfect balance of seclusion and sophistication

One of the tiniest Ionian islands, Paxos packs a big punch. Not for its five-star hotels (there are hardly any) or its sandy beaches (practically none), but for its electric blue sea and three dinky harbour towns, each one so pretty it’s impossible to pick a favourite. In laid-back Loggos, on the northeast coast, star-spangled evenings are spent on the waterfront terrace of Taxidi bar, where the owner, Spiros, often jams with local musicians. You could while away days in the waterfront cafés of Lakka, watching lissom sailors hop on and off their yachts. Protected from the wind but with a lively social scene, the main port of Gaios is characterised by Venetian architecture and a high quota of stylish Italians, who own pale stone villas hidden in the wooded interior or on the crest of the limestone cliffs along the western shoreline. For the many British Paxos aficionados, all roads lead to Ben’s Bar, a happy-go-lucky hangout on Monodendri beach, where you can laze under the olive trees with French toast and Piña Coladas. Make sure to rent a motor boat to putter along the coast to pebble coves such as Marmari and Kipiadi, or across to Antipaxos, an even smaller island that’s a hit with the yachting set. Paths through vineyards and orchards trickle down to bays with sea so clear it looks retouched.

Where to Stay in Paxos:

For an authentic stay: Paxos Villa
For a great location: Oneiro
For groups: Panayia View sleeps 14 people

A beach on Lefkada Greek Islands

17. Lefkada
Best for: Sailors, surfers, and superstar beaches

Lefkada is something of an anomaly. Unlike the other Ionian islands, it’s accessible from the mainland via a causeway on the northern tip. It’s also easily reached from the UK, with direct flights to Preveza, a 40-minute drive. Lefkada’s main town, flattened by an earthquake in the 1950s, certainly won’t take your breath away, but those famous cliff-backed beaches, Egremni and Porto Katsiki, sure will. You’ll find sheltered beaches no matter which way the wind is blowing; but if you’re here for the swell, the south coast is fantastic for windsurfing (head to Vassiliki or Sivota, home to the world windsurfing championships) and Agios Ioannis bay billows with kite-surfers. At Nidri, ignore the unlovely bars and watersports centres, and hop on a boat to explore the little isles nearby. You can swim through sea caves near Kalamos; eat seared tuna with tarama at Errikos taverna on Meganisi, a favourite of reclusive billionaires; and watch the sunset with a basil-infused Mastiha and tonic at Mylos bar, a converted windmill on Kastos.

Want to cool down or escape the summer crowds? Drive through forests of chestnut and pine into Lefkada’s mountainous interior to the somnolent villages of Karya (home to an enchanting textile museum), Eglouvi (to play backgammon under plane trees) and Exanthia (to watch the setting sun from up in the clouds at Rachi restaurant). You might even see paragliders leaping off the mountain.

Where to Stay in Lefkada:

For romance: Ibid
For views: New Morning villa


Ithaca Greece

18. Ithaca
Best Greek island for: A mythical retreat for lovers and loners

Despite its legendary stature, the homeland of Homer’s hero, Odysseus, remains surprisingly under the radar. Ithaca’s turquoise and emerald coves are popular with the sailing set, but few visitors venture into the forested hills. So you might be the only person exploring the eighth-century BC ruins of Odysseus’ palace, or making the heady trek to the church of Anogi, covered in Byzantine frescoes (ask for the key at the village coffee shop, where the owner will cook you a set menu of whatever is available – maybe a tomato salad, some local cheese and braised goat – straight from her garden or neighbours’ fields).

From Anogi, it’s an exhilarating two-hire hike down to Kioni, a miniature port where you’ll find Spavento, the perfect pier-side café-bar. Go any time of day or night for ice-cream sundaes, excellent cocktails, and a soundtrack to make your heart sing. The waterside tavernas at the drowsy fishing port of Frikes are unfailingly delightful, especially Ageri. The deep, sheltered harbour town of Vathy is barely livelier, but the mood can be deliciously mischievous at Mylos bar. Beaches are mostly small and pebbly, but the sea is as clear and refreshing as gin. Authentic, unspoiled and infuriatingly (or gratifyingly) hard to reach, rugged little Ithaca is somewhere you can still disappear.

Where to stay on Ithaca:

For a private stay: Ithaca Airbnb house
For families: Levendis Estate

Best for Traditional villages and knockout tavernas Tinos has more than 50 villages each vying to be fairest of them...

19. Tinos
Best for: Traditional villages and knockout tavernas

Tinos has more than 50 villages, each vying to be fairest of them all. In Pyrgos, famous for its marble craftsmen, sculpted birds and flowers decorate every doorway. In Volax, basket weavers squat outside cottages surrounded by giant boulders, seemingly flung from the heavens by Zeus in a fit of pique. There’s even a village called ‘love’, Agapi, where you can tuck into wild-fennel fritters at the only taverna. Tinos takes its food culture seriously: there are artichoke, caper and honey festivals. Marathia launched the island’s farm- (or fishing-boat-) to-table scene, elevating local ingredients into complex modern dishes. For a perfect meal in perfect surroundings, go for cuttlefish risotto and octopus caramelised in grape must at Thalassaki, served on the jetty in Isternia bay, then watch dusk bleed into the horizon from Exomeria bar.

Tinos is only 20 minutes from Mykonos, so it’s a wonder it isn’t overrun with tourists. The harbour is swarmed on 15 August, however, when Orthodox pilgrims flock here to kiss the Virgin Mary at the Monastery of Panagia Evangelistria, one of the holiest sites in Greece. Otherwise, the island is miraculously untouched. Solitary chapels and whimsical dovecotes stud thyme-scented hills, dropping to sandy bays whipped by the meltemi wind. There’s a nascent surfer scene on Kolibithra bay, where a VW camper van has been converted into a cute beach bar.

Where to stay in Tinos:

For a guest house stay: Xinara House
For a private stay: The Detailor

Best for Stark mystique and showstopping villas Patmos has an indefinablenbspje ne sais quoi an otherworldly quality...

20. Patmos
Best for: Stark mystique and show-stopping villas

Patmos has an indefinable je ne sais quoi – an otherworldly quality that radiates from its crowning glory, the medieval Monastery of St John. This turreted fortress, bursting with Byzantine relics, is named after John the Divine, who conjured up his apocalyptic revelations in a cave nearby. Pure-white Hora, a World Heritage Site, is where A-listers and fashion editors stay. High walls and heavy doors conceal magnificent mansions dating back to the 16th century. The almighty church has kept nightlife in check. If you must see and be seen, head to quietly glamorous Astivi or Stoa Theo’s bar, on miniature Agia Lesbia, in Hora. Beach life is generally languid and low-key; Psili Ammos and Livadi Geranou are our favourite hideouts. Dinner reservations are essential at Benetos, for Med-Asian fusion on an organic farm, and Lambi for grilled fish on a purple pebble beach.

Joining the Patmos in-crowd requires commitment. There’s no airport and it’s a nine-hour ferry journey from Athens, which keeps the hoi polloi at bay. Seriously reclusive types hop on a fishing boat from Patmos to Marathi and play castaway at Pantelis, a divine taverna with modest rooms to let. Read our full guide to Patmos, the spiritual Greek island.

Where to stay in Patmos:

For a guest house stay: Pagostas
For a private stay: Patmos 360
For a village stay: Eirini

Rhodes windmills and lighthouse fort Greek Islands

21. Rhodes
Best for: Travelling back in time

When the writer Lawrence Durrell arrived in Rhodes after World War II, he found an island devastated by centuries of crusaders and invaders. Like the fallen Colossus, it was ‘a Rhodes dispersed into a million fragments, waiting to be built up again.’ Since then, Rhodes has reinvented itself as one of Greece’s top travel destinations. The big draw is the medieval citadel in Rhodes Old Town: stroll along the battlements and you’ll spy Byzantine churches, Roman ruins, synagogues and minarets. In the maze of alleys, seek out Marco Polo Mansion, a 15th-century guest-house decorated like a pasha’s harem, with an enchanting restaurant in the garden.

Upmarket hotels are clustered around Lindos, its magnificent acropolis surrounded by slate cliffs and emerald coves. Go for the views – and the sublime octopus ragout at Mavrikos restaurant.

As you head south, high-rise resorts give way to stretches of golden sand, such as Glystra, Tsambika, and Fourni. Inland, you’ll find alpine forests (Mount Attavyros), hilltop castles (Monolithos), faded frescoes (Saint Nikolaos Fountoukli) and ancient ruins (Kamiros). Marooned on the southern tip, Prasonisi is a powdery peninsula where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean. One side is calm, the other choppy – a metaphor for this island of two halves.

Where to stay in Rhodes:

For romance: Casa Cook
For history: Kókkini Porta Rossa
For a boutique stay: Melenos Art Boutique Hotel

Symi Greek Islands

22. Symi
Best for: Castaway coves and a picture-perfect port

Little Symi has the prettiest port in Greece. As you round the headland, neoclassical mansions in every shade of apricot and peach rise like a mirage from the sea. Built by 19th-century sponge and spice merchants, the whole town is now a national monument. You need strong legs to explore – it’s about 500 steps up to the crumbling acropolis – but you won’t need a car. The only proper road peters out at Panormitis monastery, a major pilgrimage site. Ravishing beaches such as Agios Giorgos Dysalona (backed by monumental cliffs) and Marathounda (where goats will try to filch your picnic) are only accessible by boat or on foot. In the rugged hinterland, more than 100 monasteries are hidden among the pine and cypress forests.

With its laid-back glamour, luminous sea and almost tropical microclimate, Symi is a hit with French and Italian yachties. You’ll find them eating flash-fried baby shrimp, a local specialty, at Tholos, a sensational taverna where the harbour views almost steal the show.

Where to stay in Symi:

For a hotel stay: The Old Markets
For a private stay: On The Rocks


Chora village Astypalea Greek Islands

23. Astypalea
Best for: Escaping the crowds

A throwback to a gentler, slower, more elemental way of life, Astypalea is surprisingly easy to get to (daily one-hour flights from Athens). Every gap in the burnished hills frames a different view of Hora, cascading from the Venetian castle to seaside Skala. The scent of saffron biscuits wafts through the whitewashed lanes. Tucked beneath the battlements, Castro bar has a magical terrace that seems to float above the archipelago.

The nearest beach is Livadi, a sort-of-resort surrounded by citrus orchards. The rest of the island is stark and wild. Treacherous tracks hurtle down to shingle bays such as Vatses, with a rocking beach bar, and Kaminakia, where Linda’s farm-to-table taverna serves the best roast goat in the Dodecanese. If you really want to be alone, rent a motorboat from Maltezana, an old-time fishing village, and putter to Koutsomiti and Kounoupes, tiny islands connected by a double-sided beach. At Vathy, a lagoon where erotic graffiti was etched into the rocks 2,500 years ago, the only taverna is called Galini (Peace). Which sums up Astypalea perfectly.

Where to stay in Astypalea: Saluti da Stampalia Suites, with seven subdued but very stylish sea-view rooms, has upped the ante on an island where most accommodation is uninspired.


Elia beach Skiathos in Greece

24. Skiathos
Best Greek island for: Flopping onto a sandy beach with a good book

Skiathos may be the smallest of the Sporades islands, which counts among its number sleepy Alonissos and the pretty Mamma Mia! location of Skopelos, but it’s by far the most popular, especially with families, who come for the baby powder-soft sandy beaches and laid-back vibe. The island has some of the finest beaches in Greece, with the tree-lined, turquoise-watered Koukounaries in the south the most celebrated and the busiest (forget about getting a sun lounger here in peak season). Those in the north of the island, which can only be accessed by a steep, winding drive through pine groves, are more rugged and windswept but no less idyllic – emerging onto Elia beach on the west coast, with its crystal-clear sea and rickety wooden taverna, is like stepping into a little slice of paradise.

As dusk falls the town starts to liven up, with most of the action centred around Papadiamantis Street, the main shopping drag. Stroll down it on the way to dinner and browse smart boutiques selling handcrafted jewellery and knick-knacks, or pick up local delicacies from the upmarket Ergon deli (reopens in May), which also has outposts in Athens, Thessaloniki and Mayfair. The buzziest restaurants are clustered around the harbour, with Bourtzi, perched atop a tiny rocky island, the best spot for sundowner cocktails and The Windmill a favourite for elegant suppers. For the most charming setting, head to Sklithri and book one of the taverna’s tables right on the beach. Order an ice-cold Mythos beer, baked feta and a platter of perfectly-chargrilled and out-of-this-world delicious vegetables then watch the sun set over the Aegean, with your toes in the sand.

Where to stay in Skiathos:

For a hotels stay: Elivi Skiathos
For a private stay: Villa Azalea


Boats in the port of Aegina island Greece

25. Aegina
Best for: Low-key authenticity all year round

Unusually for Greece, Aegina is truly an island for all seasons. Only about an hour’s ferry ride from Piraeus, the unpretentious port (briefly the first capital of modern Greece) has a lived-in charm. Athenian weekenders come for the excellent seaside ouzeris; Skotadis, on the harbourfront is the standout. Classicists come to explore the portside antiquities of Kolona, the hilltop temple of Aphaia (allegedly the template for the Parthenon) and the ghostly Byzantine chapels at Paleochora. Canny ex-pats have snapped up properties in Pachia Rachi, a stone village with sensational views across the straits to the Peloponnese. The Dumas family, heirs to the Hermès fortune, have been discreetly spending their summers here for decades. With its soft light and gentle landscapes, Aegina has always been a muse for Greek artists and writers, including the prolific painter Nikos Nikolaou, whose former home and atelier is now an enchanting guesthouse and museum (open on Saturdays by appointment). Thanks to a tight-knit community of locals, Athenian escapees, and cosmopolitan emigrés, there’s always something interesting afoot: live music at Proka bar or Il Posto, a cosy Italian restaurant in Kypseli village, an exhibition in the 17th century Markellos Tower, or a travel writing and ceramics retreat at Oikia Karapanou, one of many stately homes in various states of ruin and repair that dot this incredibly diverse island. The only thing Aegina doesn’t have is great beaches — perhaps that’s what has spared this accessible island from over-development. This is an island that doesn’t depend on foreign tourists and is all the better for it.

Where to stay on Aegina:

For a hotel stay: Nikolaou Residence
For a group: Villa Calypso sleeps 11 people


Best of the Greek islands fornbspCastaway dreams and swimming through caves Michael Anastassiades Lynda Benglis Savvas...

26. Kastellorizo
Best of the Greek islands for: Castaway dreams and swimming through caves

Michael Anastassiades, Lynda Benglis, Savvas Laz, Silvia and Nicoletta Fiorucci… the number of artists, designers and their patrons who summer on tiny Kastellorizo is remarkable. Covering less than 5 square miles, with fewer than 500 inhabitants, this sun-blistered fleck lies just over one nautical mile from Turkey’s Anatolian coast. You can sail across to the town of Kaş for kofte and a trawl though the flea market and be back in time for a sundowner at Faros, a day-to-night hangout in the old lighthouse beside the mosque. A confluence of Levantine influences draws a culturally curious crowd to this remote Aegean outpost. Once a thriving maritime economy, Kastellorizo was bombed during World War II and then virtually abandoned. Gradually, the handsome sponge and spice merchants’ houses in vibrant shades of turquoise and terracotta are being revived as artists’ residences (such as Fiorucci’s 4Rooms), or enchanting guesthouses like Mediterraneo. You can dive straight from Mediterraneo’s sundeck into the port, where sea turtles bob alongside colourful fishing boats. There’s not much action beyond the waterfront strip known as the kordoni, or shoelace: a little snorkelling, cave swimming, or boat-watching, a ramble along goat tracks, a slow supper of stuffed onions under the fairy-lit plane trees at Ta Platania, or perhaps some yoga in the wild on the even tinier islet of Ro. This is a pure and simple Greece.

Where to stay on Kastellorizo:

For a boutique stay: Casa Mediterraneo
For romance: Mediterraneo
For groups: The Admiral’s House

Antiparos Church Cyclades Greece

27. Antiparos
Best for: Relaxed cool

This tiny island packs a surprisingly hip scene into its low-slung hills and shallow coves. Most of the action centres around the dinky port, where life drifts by in the waterfront cafés and the lively strip that leads to the square. Every season, more upmarket restaurants (Yam, Lollo’s) and boutiques (More than This, Zali) spring up alongside classic dive bars like Doors and Lucky Luke. At dusk, all roads predictably lead to Sunset bar for a spritz; after hours, everyone stumbles to cult disco La Luna, where both the décor and music are stuck in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

By day, the scene is way more mellow: brunch at Margarita’s in town or Time Marine on Psaralyki, one of a string of shallow, narrow beaches along the southern coastline. Beyond the modest, boxy houses of the harbour town are dozens of sensational villas designed by in-demand architects. The fanciest properties are scattered around Soros and Agios Georgios bays, where you’ll also find two of the island’s best tavernas, Peramataki and Captain Pipinos. The latter is a short boat or kayak ride from Despotiko island, where goats roam around the semi-excavated sanctuary of Apollo. The beauty of Antiparos is that nothing is more than ten minutes away, and after a couple of days, you’ll feel like a regular, bumping into the same good-looking faces wherever you go. If you get cabin fever, you can hop on the 7-minute ferry to Paros for kite surfing, windsurfing, fine dining, or village hopping.

Where to stay on Antiparos:

For a hotel stay: The Rooster
For a private stay: Antiparos Escape Villas and Oliaros


28. Leros
Best of the Greek islands for: Distinctive architecture and good vibes

Long overlooked because of its chequered history – this Dodecanese Island was an Italian naval base from 1912-1943, and later became the site of a notorious insane asylum — Leros is all the better for flying under the radar. The vast natural harbour of Lakki (an excellent marina for sailboats) still bears the surreal hallmarks of Fascist rationalism, an Art Deco mirage that’s like a faded version of Miami on the Med. The colourful neoclassical houses of Agia Marina and Platanos have a more lived-in feel, peppered with appealing patisseries, antique shops, and B&Bs. Italian cognoscenti and Turkish yachties have discovered Leros for one very good reason: Mylos by the Sea, arguably the best seafood restaurant in Greece, with a hopelessly romantic setting overlooking a windmill jutting out to sea. Sunset watchers converge on Harris Bar, another windmill poised between the medieval castle of Panagia and Panteli’s pebbly beach. Most beaches on Leros may be small and scrappy, but the water is luminous and there are just enough low-key beach bars like Zephyros and Lime. Since restaurants cater mainly to Greeks, the food scene is authentic and affordable: Thea Artemis taverna on gentle Blefouti bay, Lychnari in Lakki, and the cult souvlaki joint Yparxo in Platanos are local favourites. Although there’s a tiny domestic airport, there are no international flights or big, branded resorts on Leros. Instead, there are family-run guesthouses brimming with character, where you feel more like a friend than a room number.

Where to stay on Leros:

For glamour: Villa Clara
For (vegan) romance: Archondiko Angelou
For a private stay: Lakki Old Farmhouse



29. Spetses
Best of the Greek islands for: Family holidays with the smart society set

If it weren’t for Sotirios Anargyros, Spetses might be as barren as its more bohemian neighbour, Hydra. In the early 20th century, after making a killing in tobacco, Anargyros bought up huge swathes of the island and planted thousands of pine trees. Anargyos also founded the famous boarding school (whose grounds are a lovely spot for an evening stroll) that inspired a certain English teacher to write ‘The Magus’, and built the Poseidonion, a grand harbourfront hotel that has been gloriously restored (there’s no finer place for an aperitivo). From the heirloom-filled mansions built on shipping fortunes to the horse-drawn carriages and tasteful yachts, the whole place reeks of old money. But there’s plenty of new-fangled fun too: late-night bars (Bikini or retro-cool Bar Spetsa), two open-air cinemas, stylish boutiques (The Closet, whose resident cats are an attraction) and expensive restaurants (Patralis and Tarsanas vie for the best fish soup). In the summer, Spetses is a sociable place to see and be seen. But it’s also lovely off-season, when you can hike the gentle green hills or cycle the coastal road that circles the island (there’s even a Tweed Run in October). Compact, well-kept, and easily accessible from Athens (2-3 hours by catamaran), Spetses is a people-pleaser for all ages and seasons.

Where to stay on Spetses:

For glamour: Poseidonion Grand Hotel
For families: Orloff Resort
For a private stay: Magus House

Contact us

Drakos House
67, Agias Fylaxeos, 3025
P.O.Box 52444,
Limassol, Cyprus

Email: info@drakosdmc.com
Tel: +357 25324800
Fax: +357 25324921

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