There are 3,000 islands and islets in Greece, and only 227 of them have inhabitants, so we’re presenting 5 of the best Greek islands. Each of the Greek Islands has its own character, beautiful natural beauty and stunning beaches and coastal waters. Our island travel guide tells you all you need to know!
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 are large enough to spend your entire holiday there, while others are ideal for a day trip or short getaway. Once you’ve discovered the magic of 5 of the best Greek Islands, you’ll return time and again to discover more. Or head on this 9 day package tour from Rhodes to explore all they have to offer.
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. We offer a guide on how to get to Corfu from Athens.
Corfu Town is charming and protected by two Venetian fortresses. It has narrow cobbled alleyways and attractive Venetian architecture. Stroll along the French-built Liston Promenade and order a Frappé (iced coffee) in one of its coffee shops. Or 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 with forests surrounding them. 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 famous for its great food and seasonal specialties that you can enjoy in elegant restaurants or cozy tavernas. 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. It’s home to a Venetian harbor, bustling seafront and colorful market. 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. Here you can 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 sits just south of the capital town, Heraklion. This fascinating archaeological site covers 14,000 square meters. It was excavated and restored in the early 20th century by the British archaeologist, Arthur Evans. Our tour of Knossos palace leaves from Chania and gives you an insider experience.
Pull on your walking boots and trek the Samaria Gorge in the White Mountains on the south-west of the island. The gorge itself is 12.8 kilometers in length while the gorge rises to 1,230 meters. At the foot of the gorge, walk to Ayia Roumeli for 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. It 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. There are cobbled streets to wander along and the Palace of the Grand Master admire. Stroll around the marina of Mandraki, admiring the yachts and statues of two Rhodian deer and the 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. Try fun water sports like kite surfing and windsurfing for all levels. Or trek up to the delightful acropolis of Lindos. 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! We also have hiking tour of Profitis Ilias, and a hiking tour of Akramitis. 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. It’s 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, standing in honor of 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 unpretentious and delicious . They serve fish that they catch off the coast and cook to perfection over charcoal . Enjoy it alongside delicious slabs of Moussaka or Yemista (stuffed vegetables). Many travelers overlook Symi, 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.
The Islands of Greece
With so many options to choose from, there’s something for everyone. Each island has its own unique character and gives something extra to the experience. While the mainland has its own charm, the islands are truly something else.