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Greece is for lovers, and everyone loves a Greek island. Having spent childhood summers in Greece, I find this to be true. Depending on what your definition of an island is, there are between 2,000 and as many as 6,000 Greek Islands – “over 3,000” is a number one hears quite a bit around Greece. However, only a little over 200 are inhabited. Ferry services connect most of the islands, making it easy to hop from one to another. Crete is the largest of the Greek Islands, Mykonos and Ios are popular islands and on the world party circuit. Santorini is perhaps the most photographed island on the planet? Zakynthos has stunning beauty. The Cylades are the most traveled island group in Greece. But with so many islands to choose from, how do you find the Greek island of your dreams?. That’s up to you. Island hopping is most popular from May through October. Some may have easier access, but feel free to get lost and explore, as many times the road less traveled can lead to quite an adventure.
Here is a quick guide to the groups of Greek islands and some added inspiration to help plan your Greek Isles Adventure.
Hydra – A weekend getaway or an easy escape from Athens and mainland Greece
Aegina – Is the closest island to Athens only 16.5 nautical miles from the port of Piraeus and very popular among Athenians
The Saronic Island group are the islands closest to Athens. Many wealthy Athenians have summer or weekend homes on the islands of Aegina, Agistri, Hydra, Poros and Spetses. Seemingly millions of miles away from fast paced Athens, but less than two hours from mainland Greece. People come to the Saronic Islands to leave the city, to relax and spend time at the beach with friends and family.
Santorini – is one of the most visited and photographed islands in the world
Mykonos Island – is famous for its all night dance parties on Paradise Beach, but also can be a relaxing island
Naxos – Home to the Temple of Apollo – From long golden sandy beaches to craggy mountainous landscapes, Byzantine churches, and fishing villages
Further south of Athens in the center of the Aegean Sea, the Cyclades are Greece’s most popular islands. The traditional post card from Greece, with its omnipresent sea of white as a back drop. Weather your up for all night partying or just looking for a quiet vacation, there is a Cycladic island to accommodate your needs. These islands are both rocky and many times require a long climb to the top. Something to think about while your partying on the beach on Ios. Islands you might visit are Amorgos, Anafi, Andros, Antiparos, Donoussa, Folegandros, Ios, Iraklia, Kea, Kimolos, Koufonisia, Kythnos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Santorini, Schinoussa, Serifos, Sifnos, Sikinos, Syros and Tinos.
Alonissos Island – The road less traveled Sporades Islands
Skiathos Island – secluded Lalaria beach and a Photo by Blueberryblack
North of Athens in the Aegean Sea lie the Sporades Islands. These islands have are deep in tradition, and characterized by their stunning landscapes and quaint villages. The beaches are some of the best in Greece. Islands to relax away from the crowds. One must discover Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos and Skyros to truly appreciate their beauty.
Patmos Island – dates back to biblical times
Rhodes – an island with a vast historical heritage, sandy beaches, and a paradise for windsurfing and sailing enthusiasts – perfect for families
Actually closer to Turkey than to the Greek mainland. Expect year round sunshine, architecture set in Medieval times, deep in set traditions. Islands one may explore are Astypalea, Halki, Kalymnos, Karpathos, Kos, Leros, Lipsi, Nisyros, Patmos, Rhodes, Simi and Tilos.
Thassos island – Saliara beach (Marble beach) Photo by fredrikholm.se
Lesvos – has breathtaking beaches along with a unique native culture.
Samos Island – is a quiet island a place to relax and experience Greek life
North Eastern Aegean Islands
These islands are less traveled but present amazing beauty. Mountainous islands with lush green land, longer beaches, and a family atmosphere. Unspoiled and deep in old traditions from ancient Greece. Come and visit the islands of Chios, Fourni, Ikaria, Lemnos, Lesvos, Samos and Thassos. Lesvos is the third largest island in Greece and offers a taste of some of some of Greece’s finest chalky anisette liquor, Ouzo.
Zakynthos – Amazing Navagio or Shipwreck Beach – Photo by Greek World
Kefalonia – Melissani Cave Lake – Photo by Hercules Milas
Corfu or Kerkyra – offers breathtaking beauty and has been one of the most traveled islands in the Mediterranean since the 1940′s
Islands located in the Ionian Sea, on the western side of the Greek mainland. The Greek port town of Patras runs service to these exotic islands. Crystal clear blue waters, azure skis. Some of the best beaches in all of Greece. You will see classic Greek, picturesque island villages. Its a pity that many travelers miss these spellbinding islands. Blue Star Ferries runs service between Bari, Italy and Corfu. For the most perfect Greek holiday visit the Ionian islands of Corfu, Ithaca, Kefalonia, Kythira, Lefkada, Mathraki, Meganisi, Paxi and Zakynthos (Zante).
Picturesque Agios Nikolaos on the island of Crete
Elounda – on the isle of Crete with tranquil turquoise waters is the perfect place for a swim
Rethymno – with its stunning Venetian port, old town, and Venetian influence is a must visit
Crete is Greece’s largest island, and the fifth largest island in the entire Mediterranean, and offers a diverse vacation. A world of it’s own. Cretes favorite son is the great Greek author and philosopher, Nikos Kazantzakis. Visit Kazantzakis’ tomb in Heraklion. On this massive island you can wind surf, kite surf, explore Gorges, hike mountains, and live a simple Greek village lifestyle. Crete is its own culture, some say its own country. Truly, unlike any part of Greece. Perhaps like Texas is to the U.S. Get a car or motorbike and discover this massive Mediterranean Greek Island. Places that you may visit are Chania, Heraklion, Lassithi, Rethymno, Samara Gorge, Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Matala.
They say that “no man is an island,” but there sure are many men (and women) wanting to visit the Greek islands.
About the Author: Nick Kontis – Travel Expert and Founder of World Travel List
Born on the one of the most beautiful Islands in the world, Santorini, Greece and raised in America’s culture capital of San Francisco. Nick Kontis started out as a world traveler at an early age traveling back and forth between California and Greece every summer. But it was a backpacking trip around the world at age 24 that proved to be a life changing experience. After traveling by car, train, plane, bike and, boat around the world, it would be this trip of a lifetime that would lead to a life as a travel entrepreneur and world traveler. Nick has been on both radio and television. Featured on Arthur Frommer’s television show, and referred by Lonely Planet writers as a leader in discount airfares. Frequently mentioned as the “father of around the world airfares.” Arthur Frommer once said, “If Jules Verne were alive today he would use Nick to go around the world in 80 days.” Nick and his various travel companies and agents have sent over 10,000 people around the world. Now, Nick promotes travel through his World Travel List and ‘Trip Rambler’ by World Travel List. Having traveled to over 80 countries Nick hopes to inspire others to travel the world. Follow Nick’s “passion for travel” on the World Travel List.