20 stunning Greek Islands you need to visit

The Greek Islands have a magical air to them – which is why British travellers are drawn to the isles summer after summer.

From the whitewashed houses, blue-domed churches, the turquoise Aegean Sea and delicious gyros, it’s no wonder British nationals make around three million visits to Greece each year.

Yet, while the mainland holds the Acropolis and evidence of an ancient civilisation, it’s the islands that really draw us in.

A week or even a few days spent on a Greek island is a fantastic way to rewind, relax and refresh. Below are our pick of the most stunning Greek islands.

Ultimate Greek islands you need to visit



Known for its long stretches of powdery-white beaches flaked by the kind of unbelievably blue water Greece is known for, Naxos is a sun-worshipper’s paradise. The largest of the Cyclades, Naxos is a mix of cobbled alleyways and stunning waterfront scenes in the capital of Chora and boasts a vast countryside filled with mountain villages, idyllic beaches and historic sites.



A typical Cycladic island, you’ll find white villages spread across Serifos but without the usual tourist hubbub of nearby Ios and Santorini. With quiet harbours, golden beaches and a stunning landscape, the island is rugged and best explored by car.



In the sunniest corner of Greece, you’ll find the group of islands collectively called the Dodecanese. Found in the south-eastern Aegean Sea, closer to the Turkish mainland than the Greek, these lesser-known islands are the ultimate antidote to the tourist-heavy Cyclades. For the spiritual, the island of Patmos is best visited at Easter when the locals hold a number of religious festivals to celebrate Holy Week.



To the west of Naxos and Ios, you’ll find the fellow Cycladic island of Amorgos. The long and narrow island is mountainous with steep cliffs, narrow inlets and enchanting towns. An active holiday-lover’s dream, Amorgos is the ideal island to visit if you like hiking, diving and rock climbing.



Also spelt as Astypalaia, this butterfly-shaped island is where the Dodecanese meets the Cyclades. The hilltops here are covered with historic whitewashed villages and you’ll find sun-drenched beaches all around the island. The deep blue sea surrounding Astypalea accentuates the beauty of the island colours and the capital of Chora is one of the most picturesque towns in the Aegean, with a castle and blue domed church towering over the town.



A mainstay summer destination for British travellers, Corfu is one of the more urban islands. Corfu city offers a cosmopolitan element you won’t find on many other Greek islands, with a UNESCO world heritage Old Town, intertwined with historic monuments, stunning beaches and glorious natural landscape – it’s easy to see why this is a family favourite.



Located just off the coast of Turkey, Symi is part of the Dodecanese group and the foreign influence is prevalent. Instead of the whitewashed villages synonymous with the Greek Islands, Symi’s main town of Ano Symi is filled with colourful buildings that descend the hill slopes to the water’s edge. The neoclassical architecture was introduced by the Italians, who ruled the island until almost a century ago. Expect secluded beaches, blue coves and crystal-clear water. Combine your trip to Symi with a trip to Turkey’s Bodrum as the twice-weekly ferry is just an hour and 45 minutes.



There’s a reason why Santorini is the most revered Greek Island – and it’s largely due to the iconic pink-hued sunset. But Santorini is also home to the famous red beach, black sand beach and Akrotiri – a prehistoric village. Oia is the most aesthetically pleasing part of the island, with its blue-domed churches and white-washed cliff-perched houses. While there, make sure you rent a quad bike to make zipping around the island easy, and go cliff diving just under the cliffs of Oia.



The largest of the Greek islands, Crete is known for its varied terrain which can range from rocky beaches to fine sand beaches and the Samariá Gorge which lies in the Samariá National Park. At 11.1 miles long, the gorge is the longest in Europe and well worth the hike – even to see a Cretan badger or a spiny mouse. While in Crete, make sure you visit Elafonissi – a paradise of lush beaches and hidden coves.



With a buzzing food scene, gorgeous hotels and stunning villages – along with some great swimming spots – Sifnos is the little-heard-of Greek paradise you’ve been searching for. The island has 366 churches which are found on all corners of the isle. If you’re into hiking, swimming and good food – this is the island for you.



Mykonos and Ios have long been dubbed the ‘party islands’ and for good reason. Their party scene reaches its peak in the summer months so if you’re into a quieter holiday, visiting Mykonos in the shoulder months will still allow you to experience its beauty without many a drunkard stumbling across the cobbled pavements come nightfall. Mykonos is famous for its windmills that line the banks of the main town – the perfect spot to sit with a gyros and watch the sunset.



Ios is part of the Cyclades group in the Aegean Sea. Another island that can become ‘party central’ during the warmer months, Ios is hilly with cliffs forming the edge of most of the island. Most of the beaches on Ios are fine sand beaches meaning days lying by the sea are a must. While there, make sure you also check out Sharkos Hill which is home to the island’s largest Bronze Age excavation site, to learn about the ancient lifestyle.



Paros is another sizeable island and is best known for its beaches and traditional Greek villages. This is another island where quad bike hire is a must so you can spend a day exploring all corners of the island – often finding private beaches you’ll have all to yourself. Paros is also home to the Panagia Ekatontapiliani, a landmark Byzantine church built around 300 AD.



You know that Greek beach all the Instagram travel influencers love to post pictures of? Yep, that’s Navagio beach in Zakynthos. Navagio beach is the site of a 1980 shipwreck and is surrounded by tall cliffs – only accessible by boat. Other than this beach, Zakynthos is home to some of the bluest water in Greece so whatever beach you visit, you will be guaranteed some stunning scenery.



Located in the Ionian Sea, this is the largest of the Ionian Islands and just west of mainland Greece. It is made up of limestone cliffs and white sand beaches – many of which are only accessible by foot. Myrtos beach located on the northwestern coast is a must-visit and is considered one of the best beaches in the world.



Just west of Santorini you’ll find the oft-forgotten Cycladic island of Milos. The rocky landscape contrasts with emerald waters to create a stunning juxtaposition. While there, make sure you visit the ancient city of Fylakopi which was among the most significant Aegean cities in prehistoric Greek times.



Lefkada is connected to the Greek mainland by a causeway – yet remains one of the more idyllic Greek Islands. Here you will find a number of traditional villages, sheer cliffs and, of course, turquoise waters.



If you’re an avid fan of Mamma Mia (the film) you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that Skopelos is where you’ll find the church where the wedding is held and which acts as the backdrop to Meryl Streep’s dramatic (and excellent) rendition of ABBA’s ‘The Winner Takes It All’. Other than fawning over movie sites, Skopelos is home to a number of tavernas serving fresh seafood and traditional offerings like moussaka and souvlaki.



The northernmost island of the Greek Cyclades archipelago, Andros is home to a number of eateries, stunning beaches and … a Museum of Contemporary Art. MOCA, as it is known, has earned a reputation in the art work for its summer exhibitions of famous artists like Picasso and Matisse – definitely worth a visit while you’re there.



Skiathos is part of the Sporades archipelago and is best known for its gorgeous beaches and buzzing nightlife. Yet, unlike Ios and Mykonos, Skiathos’ nightlife is less touristy but just as ‘happening’. If clubbing isn’t your scene, there are a number of sea caves to be explored and beaches to spend a lazy day reading a good book.


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