Greek IslandsTravel Guide

We’re certain you’ve been dreaming about the Greek Islands ever since seeing Mamma Mia, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and the countless other films, series and perfume ads made on those gorgeous shores. You can imagine strolling down cobbled streets that wind through quaint villages with their blue and white flowerpots and pops of pink Bougainvillea. Or you see yourself lazing on a powdery beach where giant rock formations tower over golden sands and turquoise waters. The laid-back island feeling of the day draws you into balmy nights, sipping ouzo and tucking into a mezze platter, rounded off with dancing till dawn on the beach. The Greek Islands span three seas: the Ionian Sea, the Aegean Sea, and the Mediterranean, and with breathtaking natural beauty around every corner, it’s no wonder they have birthed so many myths and legends: there’s a magic here that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Take a deep dive into our Greek Islands Travel Guide, where we reveal everything you need to know and more.

Explore Greek Islands

Where to stay in Greek Islands?

The islands offer a variety of accommodation, but all with that undeniable Greek aesthetic − cool indoor spaces in white or neutral tones opening onto bright patios that make the most of sea views or olive groves. Santorini is famed for its whitewashed villages with cobalt blue domes that overlook calm waters of almost the same colour. An interesting experience here is staying in the "cave houses" – these are luxurious residences carved into the mountain. The beautiful, renovated caves and sea captain houses of Old Oia Houses offer self-catering apartments with incredible views from your terrace or your private indoor plunge pool. Lesante Cape Resort & Villas on Zakynthos is a member of The Leading Hotels in the World group, so you know you are in for a treat. With a private beach, seven dining options and luxe-modern rooms with exquisite sea views, staying at this five-star resort will make you feel like a celeb. If you prefer a traditional, chats-with-your-hosts kind of guesthouse, Limeri Monolithos on Rhodes Island is for you! Off the tourist track in the village of Monolithos, this modern taverna has loads of character and offers exquisite sea and mountain views. Tuck into delicious breakfasts featuring locally sourced ingredients, and then go hiking or ‘orchid-hunting’ (these beautiful flowers grow in abundance here).

Believe us when we say, this is just the start. Book your accommodation today!

  • People swimming in clear water in the bottom of a cave
    • Pink flowers with blue domed houses in the middle in Greek Islands
    • Cobbled stone pathway leading to Greek shops
  • People swimming in clear water in the bottom of a cave
    People swimming in clear water in the bottom of a cave
    People swimming in clear water in the bottom of a cave
  • Pink flowers with blue domed houses in the middle in Greek Islands
    Pink flowers with blue domed houses in the middle in Greek Islands
    Pink flowers with blue domed houses in the middle in Greek Islands
  • Cobbled stone pathway leading to Greek shops
    Cobbled stone pathway leading to Greek shops
    Cobbled stone pathway leading to Greek shops

Things to do in Greek Islands

Wandering around picture-perfect villages, admiring sunsets over the sea, exploring ancient ruins and partying late into the night − life on the Greek Islands is all about being in the moment.
 

 

Layer upon layer of history and Greek mythology is waiting to be discovered on these islands, and if you’re an ancient civilisations geek, you’ll be in your element. Delos is a sacred island of worship said to be the birthplace of the god Apollo and the goddess Artemis. Wander around the harbour, see the temples and walk down the Avenue of Lions with its five marble lion sculptures. A popular tourist attraction on the largest of the Greek Islands, Crete, is Knossos Palace. These ruins of the largest palace of the ancient Minoan civilisation boast striking red pillars, and tales of minotaurs and kings are told on its crumbling, frescoed walls. If medieval architecture is more your thing, stop by the Grand Master’s Palace of the Knights of St John on Rhodes Island, straight out of a fairytale with its stone turrets.


Melissani Cave on the island of Kefalonia is an unusual and famous natural landmark featuring an underground lake and a tiny island in the middle. The roof of the cave collapsed thousands of years ago, allowing sunlight to shine on the turquoise waters of one of the chambers. The other chamber is reached via a narrow tunnel and is adorned with 20 000-year-old stalactites. Many ancient artefacts were discovered here. Book your spot on one of the row boats, and the boatman will take you exploring.
 


Every island has its own character and picturesque villages to explore, from the Instagrammable Santorini with its famous blue domes and whitewashed buildings to Symi with its colourful houses, the medieval streets of Rhodes to cosmopolitan Corfu, also known as a nightlife hotspot. Chat to the friendly locals with those Greek phrases you memorised and after all that sightseeing, pop into a café for some Greek coffee and baklava.


Music and dancing late into the night are woven into the Greek Islands’ DNA. You’ll find jazz, pop, rock or local music spilling onto the pavements until 7am in even its most remote corners. The biggest party islands are Ios, Paros, Rhodes, Kos, Crete, and the ringleader, Mykonos. For legendary nights to remember, island hop to Mykonos town and Paradise Beach, where celebrity DJs reign over massive parties and beach bars in the summer.


Looking for an immersive experience? Then a tour is the way to go.

Flights to Greek Islands

Greek Islands food and drink

 Picture lounging on terraces of tavernas, cafés and restaurants, a frappé or ouzo in hand, tasting your way through a delicious mezze platter. Foodie bliss can be found on all the Greek Islands, but a few spots are worth a special mention. On Naxos Island, local fare consists of garlicky meat, rich goat’s milk cheese and dense walnut cake. Citron tree leaves (citrons are similar to lemons) are distilled into the famous Kitron liqueur. Head to Giannoulis' Tavern to taste some of these delicious items. Skopelos, where Mamma Mia! was filmed, is known for its spiral-shaped, traditional cheese pie. Try this hand-rolled treat at the 32-year-old bakery called Skopelitikes Tiropites Mixalis. Limnos should also be on your foodie island hop. Seafood is a favourite here and always freshly caught. Chargrilled octopus and fried calamari are specialities, as is the island’s red wine (called Kalabaki, Kalambaki, Kalampaki or Limnio) and sesame halva, a kind of fudge. Manos restaurant is a hotspot for seafood, Greek cuisine and its beach bar. Santorini boasts some fine-dining options with Michelin-star chefs heading up restaurants overlooking the famed Santorini caldera – a submerged volcanic crater. Selene restaurant is in a beautiful old monastery and features sampling menus inspired by Greek goddesses. Some culinary creations include white aubergine tart and sea urchin, all carefully paired with wine.  

Get a real taste for the local cuisine by booking a tour.

Greek Islands through your eyes

Where to shop in Greek Islands?

 Everything from groceries and souvenirs to luxury labels can be found along the cobbled streets of the many villages but Crete, Rhodes, and Skyros are where you can find some of the best traditional Greek needlework. Souvenir shops are generally open until late in the evening. Laikes Agores or farmers’ markets pop up weekly and offer honey, fresh veggies, cheeses and handmade crafts. Look out for the boutiques that sell locally designed products, like the THETA Concept Store on Serifos Island, where you will find beautiful clothes, decor, coffee table books and jewellery made in the area. If you fancy a bit of high-end shopping, the famous, late Greek fashion designer Dimitris Parthenis’s flagship boutique can be found on Mykonos. There are also stores across the other islands. Like to hit the malls? Then Crete and Rhodes are among your best bets. Crete’s capital city, Heraklion, offers several pedestrian shopping streets, which are like open-air malls. Examples are Dikeosinis Street and Dedalou Street lined with stores like Zara, Marks and Spencer and BOSS. In Rhodes, some prime shopping destinations are Cyprus Square featuring boutiques and jewellery shops, and Le Desir, the island’s biggest shopping centre. Here you’ll find clothing, linen leather items, shoes and watches, as well as souvenirs. 

Looking for a safe and simple way to bring your money when you travel? Our Travel Money Card has you covered!

When is the best time to travel to Greek Islands?

 If your vibe is lazing on the beach and partying hard, then peak season in the summer is the time to visit Greece. June and August are the hottest and busiest months, with temperatures averaging 28°C (82°F). If you prefer slightly cooler days with fewer people, travel to the islands during the shoulder seasons of May and September with temperatures around 75°F (24°C). The Mediterranean winter coincides with the festive season, and December and January are considered low season. Temperatures tend to stay above 10°C (50°F), the crowds are gone, and rates are low, making the Greek Islands a great end-of-year vacation for sightseers, hikers, introverts and the budget-conscious.  

 

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How to get around Greek Islands

Island hops are the way to go when visiting the Greek Islands. Ferries whisk you from one to the other but be aware that this service can be limited in the low season. Getting around the Greek Islands in the villages is easy on foot, but hiring a car is also a good option, especially as you can take your vehicle on the ferries.
The wallet-friendly bus service networks, like Ktel on Santorini, have bus stops at all the ports, while routes include beaches and tourist attractions. Each island has its own network, so remember to look up the Ktel buses specific to the region. Taxis are available and easy to spot, but always check the fare first to avoid awkward situations. Note that ride-sharing services like Uber have yet to land on all the islands. Why not rent a scooter (a “papaki”), motorbike or bicycle to get around like a local? Your hotel or B&B can point you to a rental outlet. In the Greek Islands, driving is on the right-hand side of the road.

Let us help you organise your own wheels for exploring. Hire a car today.

What are the best beaches in Greek Islands?

The beaches in the Greek Islands are exceptional, and it’s not surprising that many have been given Blue Flag status. Featuring golden sands, red sands, black sands, white pebbles and turquoise waters, you are spoilt for choice.

Navagio Beach on Zakynthos is also referred to as Shipwreck Beach or Smugglers Cove. A white pebble beach in Greece on the list of the best beaches in the world, it’s also quite dramatic with towering, vertical limestone cliffs and a rusted shipwreck tilted on the sand. The only way to get to Navagio Beach is by boat.


This picturesque island is dotted with unusual volcanic beaches. The remarkable rusty-red cliffs and sand of Red Beach evoke images of a Martian landscape, while the inky black sands of Kamari Beach are equally different. Set at the foot of the Mesa Vouno Mountain, Kamari Beach is one of the most popular in Santorini.


Sarakiniko Beach is popular for swimming in the sparkling natural pools where you can see straight down to the seabed. But it’s the hollowed-out, volcanic, grey rock formations that make it unforgettable, forming bridges and caves over the blue waters and creating a kind of moonscape. On the island's south coast at Kleftico Beach, the rock formations are jagged and tower from the sea like chalky giants. Snorkelling and exploring sea caves is recommended, but this beach is also only accessible by boat.


 Crete is the biggest and southernmost of the islands and is renowned for its beaches. Elafonissi Beach on the west coast is as unusual as it is gorgeous. Over time, crushed crustacean shells have made the sands a beautiful baby pink. Complemented by turquoise waters, this is one of the most popular beaches in the Greek Islands. Balos Beach and Lagoon are all about white sand, shallow waters and a soft seabed. Only reached by boat, visitors still flock there for swimming. The Blue Flag Plakias Beach is one of the longest sandy beaches in Crete at 1.3km, and tavernas, cafés and hotels overlook the shores. Take your pick of water sports here, including kiteboarding, windsurfing and scuba diving.  


Golden Beach on the island of Paros has been named for the golden sparkle of its sand in the sunlight. A family-friendly, beautiful beach, it’s best to get there early to claim your sunbathing and swimming spots.

 


Corfu is known for the best beaches in Europe and its astounding natural beauty means you won’t get stark moonscapes here. Head to Dassia Beach for water sports and beach bars and to the gorgeous small beach cove of Canal D’Amour for holiday snaps to make your friends back home jealous. The island of Kefalonia was immortalised in the movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and who could forget the white, pebbly beaches and pastel-painted buildings? If you prefer secluded beaches to tourist resorts, then Dafnoudi Beach is the way to go. You’ll have to walk down a rocky path into a valley and through thick vegetation and trees to get there.


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