Did you know that Greece has about 6000 islands? Yes indeed. But from those islands only around 200 are inhabited! I get questioned a lot of times about which Greek island one should visit, which honestly isn’t a question that is answered easily, because not all of them are the same and not all people have the same tastes!
In this post I *tried* as hard as I could to put on a mini guide on which island would suit you better depending on your preferences.
If you like beautiful scenery: Santorini, Milos, Hydra
Photos of Santorini and more specifically from Oia and Fira are blasted all over the internet. It’s a really beautiful island and that volcano blast thousands years ago made it even more unique! But, it’s not the only picturesque one in Greece. Milos can easily rival Santorini’s sunsets and has the most unique beaches among the Cyclades islands. I’m pretty sure you’ve seen photos of Sarakiniko; a narrow beach surrounded by white rocks. And then comes Hydra with its cosmopolitan air. Of course those islands are just an indication, since you’ll find whitewashed houses and cobblestone streets in almost all islands in the Cyclades archipelago.
Related: the essential guide to Santorini
If you love to party: Mykonos
Mykonos is the Greek version of Ibiza. It has a handful of clubs, with Cavo Paradiso being the most famous one. It opens in the afterhours and hosts many internationally acclaimed DJs. Now, Mykonos isn’t the only island with a significant nightlife though, but it has the wildest.
Related: the essential guide to Mykonos
You’ll find bars and smaller caliber clubs in almost all Greek islands. If you read the news, Faliraki in Rhodes is full of clubs, but I’ll give you a tip: it’s not where locals party!
If you’re after Beautiful Beaches: Milos, Lefkada, Elafonisos Lakonias, Elafonisi and Balos in Crete, Antipaxoi, Koufonisi
Here the list can be endless, because there are so many islands which do have beautiful beaches, so here is my attempt to present to you the crème de la crème of the Greek beaches (tough call). As I mentioned before Milos has unique beaches like Sarakiniko and Kleftiko. The latter is only accessible via sea, so you HAVE to take a boat that sails around the island. It’s something I totally recommend.
Lefkada in the Ionian Sea has a couple of killer beaches too. Porto Katsiki is the most famous one. You’ve probably seen it on Pinterest! Egkremnoi, Kathisma and Agios Nikitas also worth a mention!
Related: The essential guide to Lefkada
Elafonisos (Lakonias) is a small island off the coast of Peloponnisos in the Lakonia region. It has a couple of beautiful and accessible beaches with Simos being the most famous one. There’s also a smaller one next to it called small Simos and they’re divided with just a small piece of land. The water is turquoise and crystal clear. The sand is white. To me this is paradise.
The top spot for me though, holds Elafonisi in Crete. If you notice it shares a similar name with Elafonisos, which is the case actually. Both mean Deer Island. And I have to tell you, those deer, they chose the best beaches. Elafonisi can easily rival the Bahamas. It even has some pink sand mixed up with the white one. Another beautiful beach in Crete is Balos, which is far northern than Elafonisi, but still in the same region (Chania) of western Crete. You might have seen Balos on Pinterest too. It is on my “wishlist”!
Last but not least, a small island south of Corfu called Antipaxoi. Antipaxoi have a beautiful beach with the whitest sand you have ever seen!
Related: 10 Greek Beaches you shouldn’t miss
If you’re after laid back vacations: Sifnos, Serifos, Kythnos, Mikres Cyclades, Sikinos, Folegandros
Looking for a relaxing holiday? Then you’re in a good place as there are many (I mean come on we have 6000) islands that will provide you with what you need. You’ll still find nice beaches, picturesque villages, delicious food and of course some sort of nightlife (it’s everywhere, don’t try to avoid it), but these islands are for more relaxed holidays!
If you’re a History buff: Crete, Naxos, Santorini
Our ancestors were pretty busy inhabiting every island in the Aegean and establishing a network of ports for commerce. Smart people! If you’re into history, your best bet is Crete and especially the region of Heraklion. Here you’ll find King Minos palace in Knosos, which was home to the mythical Minotaur and was destroyed by the explosion of Santorini’s volcano. Apart from Knosos, you can also visit the palace of Faistos towards the south and even Gortyna, which was once the capital of Crete.
Speaking of Santorini, apart from the lovely sunsets and the beautiful architecture that I mentioned earlier, you’ll also find the archaeological site of Akrotiri. It’s one of the best preserved sites in Greece. It features a whole town which was of course destroyed by the volcano explosion.
Naxos is also a place that you will find a couple of archaeological sites, which feature gigantic male statues also known as Kouroi. Naxos emblem is a marble door that was part of a temple dedicated to Apollo which was never completed.
If you want to try the Best Food: Leros, Crete, Lefkada, Paros, Naxos
I have to be honest here that those are very personal recommendations, because you can and will find delicious food in every single island. Leros tops this list, because my main takeaway from this island was the food. If you want specifics I’ll give you two names: Milos and Esperides restaurants.
Crete is second on my list because thanks to my husband who is from Crete I’ve had the opportunity to delve deeper in the Cretan cuisine. I even eat snails (when I don’t eat feta) for example. But as a contemporary being, I like Cretan cuisine with a twist, so that’s why Parasties in Heraklion and Avli in Rethymno are on top of my list! If you happen to visit Chania then Mesogeiako and Tamam should be on your list!
If you visit Lefkada, make sure to stop by Thymari in the town. Sandy has done a wonderful write up about this place!
Soso in Naoussa, Paros should be on your list if you visit the island.
As for Naxos, oh where do I begin! Maro’s tavern in the city of Naxos (Ioannou Paparigopoulou street) is a nice place for dinner, as well as Typographio near the castle. And since you’re in Naxos, you must not miss Waffle house both in the city center and in Plaka beach. Here you’ll find delicious ice cream in unique flavors. You can have it on a waffle or in a bowl (I propose the waffle)!
If you want an island with lots to do: Crete
Crete is Greece’s largest island so of course it has a little bit for everyone; beautiful beaches, archaeological sites, picturesque towns, luxurious hotels and delicious food. Oh yes and forest full of palm trees in Vai in the northeastern tip of the island.
Related: Exploring Chania
If you’re looking for family friendly vacations: Crete, Corfu, Rhodes
Looking for kid friendly beaches, hotels and activities? Then these 3 islands are your best bet! All of them have all-inclusive hotels, but if those are not your thing, then aqua parks (which all 3 islands have) is your best bet. Add a little bit of sightseeing to the mix (Corfu and Rhodes have beautiful castles) and you’re good to go!
If you want to experience Greek Islands off the beaten path: Samothraki, Lesvos, Limnos, Chios, Samos, Ikaria, Dodekanisa (Tilos, Simi, Nisiros, Leros, Kalymnos)
Basically I challenge you do the following: open a map of Greece in Google maps, find the islands that are parallel to the coast of Turkey. There you have it! If you want to experience islands that are off the beaten path, these are your best bets!
The only one I’ve visited from the ones I recommend is Leros, but I have many friends who have visited the rest of them, so don’t worry, I’ve made my background checks!
Ikaria might ring a bell for you, because it made the news, for being the island “where people forget to die” If you read the article it mentions the relationship of the inhabitants to time at some point. I have friends who visited and the first thing they did was take their watch off. Don’t expect to have lunch at 12 or dinner at 5 in this place. You just let go, have fun and take part in one of the many summer cultural gatherings (aka glentia in Greek) that you’ll come across. Have to visit this place one day!
I hope that you enjoyed my post/attempt to propose a Greek Island that would be ideal to your needs/type of vacation you’re after! You will find all my posts about the Greek Islands right here! And if you do plan a trip to Greece this summer you can always shoot me an email at anna[at]aspectsofstyle.com
Have you visited any of these islands? Or even better, do you have a Greek vacation lined up? Let me know!