There are 3,000 islands and islets in Greece, while only 227 of them are inhabited, and we’re giving you insight on 5 of the best Greek islands. Each of the Greek Islands has its own character, beautiful natural beauty and stunning beaches and coastal waters. The islands are quintessentially Greek; warmly welcoming visitors and bewitching them with delicious local cuisine and wines, traditional handcrafts, and their colorful history and heritage. Some of the islands are large enough to spend your entire holiday there, while others are ideal for a day trip or a few magical days. One thing is for sure, once you have discovered the magic of 5 of the best Greek Islands, you will want to return time and again to discover some more…
Lush Island of Corfu
This beautiful island is one of the most northerly Greek Islands, situated in the Ionic Sea. Corfu is a heady mixture of mountains, verdant green hillsides, and ruggedly gorgeous shorelines. It has a rich heritage of French, British, and Venetian influences which can be best seen in its capital town.
Corfu Town is charming and protected by two Venetian fortresses. It has narrow cobbled alleyways and attractive Venetian architecture. It is fun to stroll along the French-built Liston Promenade and order a Frappé (iced coffee) in one of its coffee shops or to walk leisurely across the huge Spianada Square to admire the views of the port. Further afield, the main places of interest are the dramatic Cape Drastis, Vlacherna Monastery, and Canal d’Amour.
Corfu has some of the best beaches in Greece and many of them are pretty sandy coves backed by forest. Amongst the best are Dassia, Paleokastritsa, Glyfada and Kontokali. If you enjoy water sports, you will find the diving in Corfu truly excellent. Corfu is known for its great food and this can be enjoyed in elegant restaurants or cozy tavernas and includes many seasonal specialties. With so much to see, check out our Corfu travel guide to help you plan your itinerary.
So Much to See in Crete
It is easy to spend a week or two on the island of Crete. It is the largest Greek island and one of amazing contrasts with much to see and do. Chania is a delightful town, with a Venetian harbor, bustling seafront and colorful market, whilst Rethymnon is a charming old town with narrow streets, plenty of history and some delightful tavernas. Elounda, on its northern coast is another popular town to visit and there is the chance to hop on a boat to visit the island of Spinalonga which is a former leper colony.
Knossos, palace of the Minoans, dates from the Bronze Age and is situated just south of the capital town, Heraklion. This fascinating archaeological site covers 14,000 square meters and was excavated and restored in the early 20th century by the British archaeologist, Arthur Evans. Our tour of the palace leaves from Chania and gives you an insider experience.
If you are wanting to do something very different during your holiday, why not pull on your walking boots and walk down the Samaria Gorge in the White Mountains on the south-west of the island? The gorge itself is 12.8 kilometers in length and the top of the gorge is at an altitude of 1,230 meters. At the foot of the gorge, there is another two kilometers to walk to Ayia Roumeli and a cool dip in the sea!
Walk in the Crusaders’ Footsteps in Rhodes
The magnificent island of Rhodes has one of the largest medieval towns in Europe which was an administrative center for the Crusader Knights of St John after they seized the island in 1309. When you walk through the Gate of Freedom, it is like stepping into a history book as there are cobbled streets to wander along and the Palace of the Grand Master admire. It is fun to take a stroll around the marina of Mandraki, admiring all the luxury yachts and the statues of two Rhodian deer at the harbor entrance and famous windmills. There is the opportunity to take a boat trip to one of the neighboring islands such as Symi or Tilos.
Venturing further afield, there are lovely beaches to stretch out on, fun water such as kite surfing and windsurfing for all levels, and the delightful acropolis of Lindos to visit. If you enjoy walking there are numerous routes that explore the villages and the island’s highest peak – Mt Ataviros- will beckon and reward you with amazing views! The nearby village of Embonas will reward you with a glass of its excellent wine; definitely the best to be found in 5 of the best Greek islands. There is Petaloudes – the Valley of the Butterflies to enjoy and the Afandu golf course could tempt you!
Stunning Natural Splendor of Cephalonia
Ever since the movie ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ (2001) put this gorgeous Greek island on the map, it has been credited with being one of the most beautiful. Kefalonia is the largest and most diverse of the Ionian group and is a wonderful mixture of rugged green landscapes, endless vineyards growing the Robola variety of grape and with the dark blue waters of the sea. It has delightful beaches and some of them like Myrtos in the north are only accessible by boat. If you enjoy snorkeling and diving, this is the island for you and the chances of spotting a sea turtle or monk seal are good!
The island’s main town is Argostoli is situated on a hillside overlooking its harbor and is a delightful blend of shops, restaurants, coffee shops and bars. If you are lucky, you may find the local Philharmonic Orchestra playing traditional Ioanian songs in the harbor. Other towns to explore include Fiscardo and Lizouri and the most important sights are the Cave of Melissani, we offer a cruise tour to see it, and the monastery of Kipouria Mona – which is also the spot for the most amazing sunsets! If you would like to enjoy exploring this gorgeous island by boat, our excursion takes you on a wonderful cruise that stops at the harbour at Fiskardo and Sami, where you can enjoy one of its beaches, explore the fascinating Cave of Melissani or relax with a good glass of island wine!
Historic Charms in Symi
The beautiful island of Symi with its old world charm, lies just north of Rhodes. The port of Gialos is the focus of activity and is elegantly beautiful as it is overlooked by numerous candy-colored neoclassical mansions built in levels, with broad, shallow staircases leading from one to another. The harbor area is delightful for a stroll and if one of the cruise ships is arriving, it is fun to watch the frantic activity of the local residents assembling numerous trestle tables for selling their sea sponges – which like fishing, is a main occupation.
Inland, Symi is hilly and slightly mountainous with numerous tracks for hikers and very few cars. Around the coast there are numerous small secluded bays for leisurely moments and if you walk around the headland from the port you eventually come to a tiny fish taverna where the tables stand in the water and fish suck your feet as you eat! The main place to visit is the monastery of Panormitis which is dedicated to Archangel Michael, the patron saint of the island.
Symi offers the visitors the leisurely pace of island life and the chance to relax, take a stroll or enjoy a swim. The tavernas are unsophisticated but really good , serving fish that was caught earlier in the day and cooked to perfection over charcoal or delicious slabs of Moussaka or Yemista (stuffed vegetables). Symi is overlooked by many travelers to the Greek Islands, but it really is a hidden gem to discover and well-deserving of its place on our list of 5 of the best Greek islands.