Home to beautiful white sand beaches, crystal clear waters ranging from turquoise and aquamarine to cobalt blue, romantic sunsets, and dazzling panoramas, the Greek Islands are no doubt the perfect backdrop for an ideal summer holiday. There are over 2,000 Greek Islands, with each of them having their own unique taste and flavor.
Listed below are 8 Greek Islands to visit this summer, and what these islands have in store for you!
1. Zakynthos – the island of landscape diversity
Also frequently known as Zante, Zakynthos is famous for its beautiful beaches featuring clear blue waters and perfect golden sand. This island offers great landscape diversity. Towards the south-eastern part of this island, its famous for its sandy beaches in secluded coves where tranquil waters are deep blue. On the other hand, the western parts are where you will find the beautifully rugged cliffs and interesting underwater world.
Leave your mark at Shipwreck Beach
You’ve probably seen this picture before. Shipwreck Beach (Navagio Beach / Smugglers Cove) is arguably the most photographed beach in Greece, and images of it have been used for many commercials and travel brochures. The star of this beach is the shipwreck, which rests in the middle of the beach. It is said to have been washed ashore in 1980 when people were caught smuggling contraband cigarettes by the navy and they ditched the boat to make an escape.
Shipwreck Beach is only accessible by boat since it’s surrounded by tall sheer cliffs. While you’re at it, don’t forget to leave your mark by doodling on the walls of the shipwreck! And if you’re quite the daredevil, do try out base jumping! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and you’re bound to regret it if you don’t have a go!
Get a taste of traditional Venetian style while you explore Zakynthos (Zante) Town
Zakynthos (Zante) Town is the capital and commercial center of the island. The buildings were rebuilt in a traditional Venetian style after the 1953 quake that almost completely destroyed Zakynthos. There’s an endless amount of things to do; you may find yourself easily spending the whole day just exploring this town! Located nearby is Stranis Hill, where you can enjoy a magnificent view across Zakynthos as well as its beautiful sunset.
Zakynthos is famous for its cultural lifestyle, so if you happen to be visiting during the festive month (August), you’re in luck as you can find many beautiful and cheap finds from the local arts scene. At night, you can relax in one of the many bars with Greek music and a good glass of alcohol.
Visit the survivor of the 1953 quake: Roma Mansion
Roma Mansion is one of the few buildings that survived the 1953 quake. It was owned by the Roma family in the 1880s. Stepping into Roma Mansion will take you back to the old days, and you’ll get to see the old antique furniture that is surprisingly still intact. You can also admire the extensive collection of family portraits and expensive paintings. It also houses a library, which has an astonishing collection of 10,000 rare books! It makes you wonder what life could have been like living within an aristocratic family. Click here for more things to do in Zakynthos!
2. Kefalonia – the island with green-blue harmony
The largest of the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia’s beauty is of lush mountains, green meadows, and secret coves lapped by clear blue water, giving off an overall impression of somewhere magical. This beautiful island features excellent unique cuisine (think Kefalonian meat pies piled onto your plate), and was chosen as the backdrop for the romantic war film, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
Be bewitched by Fiskardo’s beauty
Fiskardo is a village in Kefalonia, and it was left virtually untouched during the disastrous 1953 earthquake that left most of Kefalonia in ruins. This picturesque village boasts an array of Italian-style houses full of colors and charm. With a harbor and traditional fishing boats on the dock, you could easily be fooled into thinking you’re in Italy.
You can buy freshly caught fish if you’re early enough … if you snooze, you lose! And, if you really happen to snooze, you can take a simple stroll around the harbor and admire some of the most luxurious yachts.
At night, Fiskardo takes on an entirely different perspective. A combination of the dazzling lights, old buildings, bars, and restaurants really make the area come to life, providing you with a truly unique Mediterranean atmosphere.
Get charmed by Assos
Assos is a small and charming village in Kefalonia. It has about 100 inhabitants and is considered to be one of the most charming spots on the island. You’ll feel very welcomed and comfortable in this village. Its traditional pastel colored houses and superlative views contribute to its overall peaceful atmosphere.
Assos is surrounded by hilly terrain, which makes it a good place to hike around. It makes a perfect day trip for those who just like to unwind and be around nature. For those who don’t fancy hiking, you can simply stroll around the lovely paths and old churches and just enjoy living in the moment.
Near this tranquil village is the beautiful, picture-perfect Myrtos Beach, which was used as a film site for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Myrtos Beach has gained a worldwide reputation for being on of the best beaches in Greece. This semi-circular beach is surrounded by impressive white rocky cliffs and a lush green area on top of them, creating stunning scenery. You can also enjoy one of the most spectacular sunsets at the western coast of Myrtos Beach, so don’t head back too early!
Transcend to a magical place in Melissani Cave
Melissani Cave is a must-visit for anyone who wants to truly take in nature at its best. The existence of this cave itself is a unique geological phenomenon. It was created by the dissolution of rocks, whereby which water eroded the rocks and created hollows. It’s just simply amazing how nature can create something so magical! Myths mention that Melissani (a nymph) committed suicide at the lake because of her unrequited love for Pan (the Greek god of shepherds, mountain nature, and the wilds, as well as a friend of the nymphs).
Visitors reach the lake by an underground tunnel and will explore it with a boat and guide. With the boat moving slowly and the surroundings quiet, you can peacefully admire this unique natural work of sculpture. There’s an overall mysterious glow to this place, with the reflection of the tough rocks in the crystal clear green-blue waters making it look like somewhere you would only see in fairy tales. Click here for more things to do in Kefalonia!
3. Syros – the blend of traditional and modern
Part of the Cyclades, Syros houses more medieval buildings. It is a beautiful island that boasts Greek traditions and western influences that come together to form a harmonious marriage. Aside from traditional whitewashed houses facing crystal clear blue waters, this island also features gorgeous sandy beaches and neo-classical buildings that give this island its unique flavor.
Ermoupolis is the largest city in the Cyclades. Its neo-classical architecture was influenced heavily by German and Italian architects. One of the most popular sights, the famous Town Hall of Ermoupolis is nestled in the grand Miaouli Square. The Town Hall is an eye-catching, impressive building that stands out in its surroundings. Don’t forget to snap some really pretty shots here!
Seated on top of Vrodado Hill is the Church of the Resurrection (Anastaseos Church). It easily dominates the hill of Ermoupolis due to its neo-classical elements and impressive, pretty bell towers. When you get to the top, you can enjoy terrific views of the neighboring islands of Tinos and Mykonos. The church also frequently organizes various events for both children and adults, do so keep a look out for those if you’re traveling with your family! Click here for more things to do in Syros!
4. Mykonos – the relentless party town
Tantalising delicacies, great party spots, breathtaking panoramic views, Glamorous Mykonos has it all. If you’d enjoy a non stop part atmosphere, sand-side bars blaring thumping music, or simply enjoying the view over a seaside dinner, Mykonos is the obvious winner. Beneath the glam and glitter, however, Mykonos offers a more subdued local lifestyle, featuring the occasional pelican wandering the empty streets, and blaring club music replaced by cheery Greek melodies.
Party till dawn at Paradise Beach
Paradise Beach is one of the most iconic beaches in the world and is well-reputed globally to host the world’s best parties featuring iconic DJs and celebrities. If you enjoy a dynamic nightlife, you definitely won’t want to give Paradise Beach a miss! There are lots of restaurants and bars blaring thumping beats that contribute to the party atmosphere that Paradise Beach exudes. You’ll definitely feel like you’re in Paradise! However, do note that it’s packed with tourists, so you may want to give this a miss if you’re not into banging music and rowdy nightlife. After all, there are many other places to go if you prefer sipping a cup of tea!
Wander around Mykonos Town
When you’re in Mykonos, you definitely have to visit Mykonos Town. Featuring classic white-washed buildings that line the streets, this town is photo-ready from any angle. Matoyianni Street is particularly charming. Its iconic 16-century windmills stand victorious at the top of the hills.
It’s really easy to wander around in Mykonos Town because of the way the houses are laid out. Allow yourself a few hours to explore the endless small streets, shops, and terraces and you might find yourself some gems along the way. After all, not all who wander are lost!
When you reach the harbor, do indulge in a drink or some Greek cuisine, and simply enjoy the beautiful landscapes and people (or ferry) watch.
Enjoy a short stay at Little Venice
Little Venice is one of the most romantic places in Mykonos. There’s a special magnetic appeal about this town that draws you to it. You’ll find elegant and gorgeous old houses situated precariously on the edge of the sea. The sunset views from Little Venice are amazing, and it’s fully geared to cater to all sorts of travelers, whether you’re a party animal or prefer admiring wonderful paintings at art galleries.
To truly immerse yourself in this little town, you can stay in one of the quaint houses just for the experience and pleasure of it. Right along the picturesque shoreline are cafes and bars that used to be the houses of sailors in the past. Watch these bars, still intact with their old school charm, come alive at night while you sit down and chat with your folks over your favorite liquor. Click here for more things to do in Mykonos!
5. Milos – a landscape of rocky formations
Volcanic Milos has a special charm, and offers a dramatic landscape of beautiful white rocky formations and clear turquoise waters. Aside its ravishing coastlines, it also features a series of picturesque villages with cobblestoned narrow alleys, and gives off a unique relaxing atmosphere. Popular among couples searching for a romantic getaway and families looking for a fun filled place for exploration, Milos is indeed one of a kind.
Sea kayak around weird but beautiful rocks
Milos has a unique and spectacular coastline, which makes it an ideal place for sea kayaking. There are dozens of beautiful caves to explore, with each rock formation similar yet somewhat different. Just imagine paddling the clear, blue Mediterranean waters, exploring sea caves and uninhabited islands. If you’re a discerning traveler looking for an adventure, you should try out a day tour of sea kayaking!
For enjoying the stunning scenery and incredible variety of rock formations, sea kayaking is definitely the best way to see the spectacular coasts of Milos.
Walk through the creepy catacombs of Milos
Although visiting catacombs may appear kind of creepy, you may want to visit the Catacombs of Milos when you feel the need for a break from the beach. It tops the list of catacombs discovered worldwide, and it’s a well-preserved site. It’s said that there’s a possibility the Catacombs of Milos are older than the ones of Rome. The Catacombs of Milos were used by the early Christians first as a burial site, and later as a place of worship and a refuge after persecution by the Romans became widespread. It’s considered to be the most important early Christian monument of worship in all of Greece.
Do note that the Catacombs of Milos are not really ideal for those with mobility difficulties though; there are a lot of stairs and there is no wheelchair access.
6. Santorini – the picture-perfect village
The crescent-shaped island of Santorini is arguably one of the top destinations in Greece. Featuring beautiful white-washed cubic houses with its signature dome in a shade of exquisite blue, multi-colored beaches, and romantic island sunsets, Santorini is one of the most beautiful aftermaths of Mother Nature’s disastrous works. This island is simply picture-perfect from any angle and has so much to offer other than its dazzling panoramas and fine-dining experiences.
Cliff jumping at Amoudi Bay
Amoudi Bay is one of the places where you can get the best views of the caldera. Surrounded by steep cliffs, this little fishing area features several quaint tavernas serving up the catch of the day. This is also a nice spot to enjoy the sun and some swimming, though the beach is rocky so you should bring appropriate footwear. You can also catch the Santorini sunset from Amoudi Bay. If you like an adrenaline rush, you may want to try cliff jumping as well. Ten out of ten for pleasure! Just imagine the thrill of being in the air and splashing in the clear turquoise waters of the bay as you land. Scary, but you only live once!
You can get to Amoudi Bay by both foot or car, however, go by foot because the hike is well worth it!
Get some fun in the sun at Perissa Beach
Yes, the beach with the black sand. Perissa Beach, is indeed unique. Not only is it easily accessible, unlike other beaches that require a boat, it features crystalline waters and beach facilities. Feeling the soft gray-black sand between your toes, you might be tempted to spend the whole day at the beach. But do take a short walk around the village; there’s an abundance of great restaurants nearby and a few good retail outlets in the vicinity. The area is modern and developed but retains its strong traditional character.
You can also ride a donkey while exploring the area nearby, which is highly-recommended because, who wouldn’t love a donkey ride?!
Looking for something different? Another hidden gem on Santorini is Thirassia!
Hike From Fira to Oia
If there’s any way to get the most out of Santorini’s beautiful panoramas, it would be by walking. You can hike from Oia to Fira, and it would surely be an enriching experience. By hiking, you’ll be able to capture the most gorgeous and scenic images of this beautiful island. You can catch one of the best sunsets at Oia, so keep going and don’t look back! It’s going to be worth the walk!
The distance between Oia and Fire is about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) and the walk takes about 3 - 4 hours. It’s best to hike from March to early June, and from September to October, as the weather is perfect. For more things to do in Santorini, check out:
7. Rhodes – the medieval old town
The king of the Dodecanese Islands, this charming island features a blend of medieval architecture, turquoise bays, and magnificent beaches. Taking a wander through the strong-walled neo-classical buildings feels as if you’re taking a walk through antiquity. Rhodes’ Old Town is usually packed with tourists, but you can always find yourself a secluded area amongst the maze of cobblestone pathways. With so many variations and things to do, it’s just impossible not to fall in love with this town.
Catch the best panoramic views at the Acropolis of Lindos
A visit to Lindos wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Acropolis of Lindos. Perched on top the cliff, it easily dominates the skyline. The stunning sun-bleached building is an alluring mix of Byzantine architecture on the outside and insulating 2nd-century Doric architecture inside. The view is spectacular from the 116-meter-high (380.6-foot-high) hilltop; you’ll be able to get stunning views of Lindos Beach and St Paul’s Beach. Though it’s quite a climb up, it’s definitely well-worth the climb for the stunning views that you’ll get a glimpse of. Not forgetting, every place around it is picture-perfect so get your camera and selfie game ready!
You can also take a donkey up, which costs 5 EUR (5.70 USD) one way. Admission fees costs 12 EUR (13.60 USD) each, and entitle you to a well-explained history of the place and stunning views.
Explore around the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes
The 14-century magnificent Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, also referred to as the Kastello, is a “must-visit” when you’re in Rhodes. It’s a reconstruction of the old palace that was severely damaged by the Turkish siege and then destroyed by an explosion in the mid-1800s. While its old mighty exterior remains, its interior was reconstructed. Out of 158 rooms, only 24 are left for the public to explore. Still, you can easily spend hours just admiring the interiors and learning more about the palace’s history from the early years.
The entrance fee is 6 EUR (6.80 USD), but you can get a tour of the battlements and walls with an additional 2 EUR (2.30). Do go early though, as the tour ends at 3 pm.
Be transported to another world when you enter the Old Town
When you step into the Old Town, it’s like you’ve been transported to another world. The Old Town is a living and vibrant community with lots of tourist shops, restaurants, and museums, and it is more like a Turkish bazaar than any other Greek city.
A stroll through Rhodes’ Old Town is like strolling through layers of history. The best way to explore Rhodes is to get lost. Yes, get lost in those cobbled alleyways. Enclosed within impressive tall stone walls, a wander through the Old Town will awe you and leave you overwhelmed. You’ll come across many museums, medieval mansions, and narrow passageways that open on to leafy squares. Most museums require an admission fee though.
Also be sure to check out the Street of the Knights. It’s the most important street of the medieval town and is preserved beautifully. Click here for more things to do in Rhodes!
8. Crete – the birthplace of Zeus
Being the largest Greek island, Crete is not only rich in history, but also rich in what it has to offer. It encompasses numerous beaches filled with fine soft sand, ravishing coastlines, ancient architectural buildings, and a glittering harbor along the Mediterranean. While you’re exploring this intriguing city, don’t forget to stop to devour some kaltsounia (Cretan cheese pies) along with some Cretan wine. With friendly locals and a generous spirit, dreamy villages, and the magnificent Samaria Gorge, you’re definitely in for a one-of-a-kind experience.
Take in the beauty of Samaria Gorge
Samaria Gorge is one of the main sights of Crete. It is the longest gorge in Europe, with a length of 16 kilometers (9.9 miles). It starts from Xyloskalo on the Omalos Plateau and runs down to the seaside village of Agia Roumeli. There’s an undeniable raw beauty about this gorge, definitely a must-go for all nature-lovers. Just imagine being surrounded by lush greenery and tall rocky formations, while breathing in some of the freshest air. You’ll be accompanied by many other visitors, especially in the summer. If you want to avoid the crowds, try to set out early in the morning.
Samaria Gorge is not a walk in the park, but anyone can go down the gorge, just make sure to have proper footwear and prepare yourself for sore legs the next day. It takes around 4 - 8 hours, depending on your pace and how often you stop to take pictures.
Enjoy the wilderness at Elafonissi Beach
Elafonisi is a beauty. With its beautiful sandy beaches fringed with pink coral sand and clear, shallow turquoise water, it’s hard not to fall in love with it. Featuring a beautiful panoramic landscape, it’s simply a tropical paradise! It is isolated, located in a remote corner of Crete, so you’ll get a sense of being in the wilderness with being away from everything. However, if you happen to visit during the peak season, it will be flooded with day-trippers, disrupting the tranquility and spoiling the idyllic scene.
Try Cretan cuisine at the beautiful waterfront towns in Chania
Set against a spectacular backdrop of majestic mountains and aquamarine seas, Chania is one of the island’s most appealing cities. The first thing you’ll hear about Chania is about its Venetian harbour, with the old port light house, narrow shopping streets, and waterfront restaurants, but that’s understandable. You’ve heard it many times it sounds so cliché, but when you get there, it does live up to its reputation. Its beautiful panoramic view will take your breath away, and you will find yourself taking many pictures of its spectacular backdrop that has a touch of Florence and Venice, combined with the culture and character of Cretan people and traditions.The area is lined with many bars and restaurants, all selling fresh seafood and local Greek specialities. Cretan cuisine is actually really interesting. Be sure get out of your comfort zone (or taste) and try the unusual dishes! Click here for more things to do in Crete!
Summertime happiness in Greece
Whether you’re the rowdy party animal, the adventurer who loves nature, or the YOLO daredevil who would do anything for the sheer thrill down your spine, the Greek Islands have it all. With summertime coming, there couldn’t possibly be a better time to explore the Greek Islands. Put Greece on your summertime travel list!
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.