GREEK island holidays are among the nations’ favourites for summer holidays, but with over 200 diverse islands to choose from, which one is right for you for? From Crete to Corfu, there are many stunning options to choose from.
Whether you want ancient ruins and plenty of culture, or good food and wine and the chance to relax on a beach, the Greek islands have it all. From Crete to Corfu, these are ten of the best Greek islands.
Crete is Greece’s largest island and boasts antiquities, excellent hiking and nearly year-long sunshine.
Tourists tend to flock to the Minoan palace of Knossos. Once the capital of Minoan Crete, Knossos flourished for two thousand years before its destruction in 1350BC. The palace has been extensively reconstructed since. A visit to the archaeological museum is recommended, although be sure to arrive at the site before 10am to beat the crowds.
Head to southern Crete for miles of empty sand dunes and explore the mountain villages where time slows to almost a standstill. The 16km-long Samariá Gorge has 50 canyons to explore and is popular with pilgrims and wild goats.
Famous as the home of author and conservationist Gerald Durrell in the 1930’s, Corfu still boasts sleepy, idyllic spots, despite the rowdiness of clubbing capital Kavos in the south.
Steer clear of the coast to avoid the hordes and head inland to see the real Corfu. The cyprus-studded hills are reminiscent of Tuscany – it’s one of the greenest Greek islands.
Beautiful Santorini is famous for its pretty white-washed towns, spectacular sunsets and its caldera, a flooded volcanic crater.
The explosion took place 3,500 years ago leaving black-sand beaches and towering cliffs. The eruption also preserved the ancient city of Akrotiri under layers of ash – as well as swirling rumours about Atlantis. The island’s interior is dotted with vineyards and traditional villages.
Thira the capital and the northern town of Oia (on the caldera) are popular places to stay. It’s downside is how crowded is gets – Santorini hosts 1.5 million tourists annually.
Mykonos is best for those seeking luxury and nightlife – it has attracted glamorous hedonists since the 1960s.
Greece’s most famous cosmopolitan island, Mykonos has a lovely capital, Hóra which is great to use as a base to explore the island. Hóra has a lively waterfront, a scenic 18th century ‘Little Venice’ district and excellent examples of Cycladic architecture.
Mykonos is ideal for those keen on water sports and attracts surfers and sailors from all over the world. Divers should visit in September for best visibility and warm water.
Made famous by the book and film adaptation of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian islands.
Although flattened by an earthquake in 1953, it has great beaches, sparkling blue waters and a national park where deer and wild horses roam. Snorkelling is highly recommended along the rocky coastline around Fiskardo. Spectacular white beach Myrtos Bay is well worth a visit.
Kos is one of Greece’s Dodecanese islands – it’s known for its sandy beaches and is rich in history.
Its 180 mile long coastline has everything from hidden bays and secret coves to large golden beaches backed by bars.
Kos Town and Kardamena are dominated by package tourism but wilderness can found inland, with the rugged Dikeos mountains soaring to almost 850m near Kos Town.
An imposing fortified monastery is the main attraction of Patmos, which is considered the best Greek island for religious history.
It also has great beaches, arty boutiques and amazing views, although no big towns. Expect serene bays lined with sand and pebble beaches overlooked by heather and pine-coated hillsides.
The entire island of Delos is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is home to some of the most extensive remains from classical Greece.
Ruins have been continually unearthed ever since 1872, bringing to light numerous temples, statues, mosaics and a theatre. Visitors can only visit Delos for the day though as there is nowhere to stay on the island.
Symi boasts one of Greece’s most picturesque harbours which is teeming with pastel-coloured houses, trendy boutiques and tavernas.
There are dozens of little beaches that are only accessible by boat and there is excellent food to be eaten. The island was ruled by Italians nearly a century ago and they established the neoclassical architectural style visitors can see today.
This lush island has plentiful waterfalls and springs. There are 93 miles worth of trails by which visitors can explore – expect valleys criss-crossed with footpaths and stone bridges.
At the delightful beaches, falcons and monk seals can be seen and there aren’t too many tourists for those keen to avoid crowds.