There are approximately 6000 Greek islands and islets in the Aegean and Ionian Seas to discover (ok, some are unreachable and untouched!) and those that are indeed inhabited each have a singular style, ambiance, cuisine, architecture, culture, and history. Every single Greek isle has its own invaluable beauty and allure, but if your holiday time is limited it’s well worth considering in advance which ones best suit your needs (and dreams).
When you’re truly in love, you can be happy together almost anywhere, but why not add the perfect backdrop to suit your relationship-style? If you’re seeking the kind of rugged and tranquil island with a sense of you-and-me isolation head to Limnos, Paxoi & Anti-Paxoi, Aghia Anna in Naxos, Amorgos, Folegandros, Kythira, Southern Crete, Sifnos, the innards of Samothraki, Milos or Ithaka. If instead, you prefer glamorous dinners and shots at the bar together to party the night away, head to Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, Skopelos, and Sifnos.
There’s nothing wrong with making food your greatest priority when you travel; indeed some islands are especially known for their outstanding local cuisine and wine. Tinos, Santorini, Crete, Sifnos, Naxos, Symi, Lesvos, Kefalonia, Limnos, and Chios are all places where you’ll be more than likely to get a highly palatable hit of unique local flavours because of their famous homemade produce and exciting ways of presenting it on your plate.
Kids love the seaside, swimming pools, freedom, yummy snacks, and sunshine full stop, but there are some islands that are especially welcoming and wonderful for them – and you. Alonissos, Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, Santorini, Hydra, Naxos, and Lefkada are ideal as they have all a family needs – great beaches, outdoor play parks and activities, pockets of peace, delicious food and waterparks.
Being a beachy type is an art – it entails arriving at the beach when it’s still empty and leaving (with a wet swimsuit, because you couldn’t resist that last post-sunset swim) when it’s almost dark. Whether you like to lie on a sun-bed amongst the cosmopolitan crowd or hardly see a soul throughout the day (or go naked and natural), the best islands for water-babies are Limnos, Crete, Paros, Ios, Koufonissia, Samos, Donousa, Paxoi, Kos, Zakynthos, Lefkada, Elafonisi, Milos, Naxos and Thassos.
*Nammos in Mykonos
Yes, you want to have a dip and get a golden tan, but your priority is to see, be seen, dance and return home with plenty of legendarily entertaining memories. If you’re after raucous beach parties and all-night clubs, fancy dinners, rubbing shoulders with A-listers and/or glamorous cocktails under the stars, head to (surprise!) Mykonos, Santorini, Anti-Paros, Skiathos, Zakynthos, Corfu, and Ios.
Some islands have developed a more sophisticated cultural profile over the years, hosting annual exhibitions, events, and festivals that draw highbrow crowds ad cultural trendsetters from around the globe. If you’d like to enrich your holiday with a cultural zing head to Syros (with an endless list of events throughout the summer), Aegina, Patmos, Rhodes and for the best panigiria (festivals), Ikaria.
*Agios Ioannis Church in Patmos
A blazing sunset over a Greek horizon is probably a spiritual experience enough, but some islands have a special energy or tradition that ups their spiritual profile significantly. For the Greek Orthodox, religious type of spirituality, Patmos is no doubt the most idyllic destination (with its 450 churches and the Monastery of the Apocalypse). Tinos too is an annual destination for pilgrims who kneel their way up to the Panagia Megalochari church, while in Paros visitors come to see the Panagia Ekatopiliani. Also known both for its Greek Orthodox Churches (two of the oldest in Greece) and its new age spirituality is Amorgos.
Whether it’s surfing, kitesurfing, scuba diving, sailing, climbing, trekking, horseback riding, mountain biking or simply exploring the wilderness, there are several islands with dreamy landscapes and plenty of organisations to help you get the right equipment, training and circumstances. Paros, Tinos and Limnos are top destinations for surfers of any kind while Andros, Crete, Nysiros, Milos, Alonissos and Kefalonia are great for hiking and climbing. Scuba divers love Corfu, Kea (Tzia), Crete, Zakynthos and Chios for their interesting reefs and shipwrecks. As for sailing, well, Greek sea’s the limit!