To attempt to describe all of the Greek islands in a paragraph is an impossible task – there is just so much variety and beauty. Most people pick an island chain and hop between them.. which is a great way to see a mix of islands with different characteristics. Some islands are quiet and others more touristic, yet it is still easy to find a quieter beach and place to stay. One theme tends to remain the same ; the friendliness of locals and good food are what Greece is famous for…and the main reasons why this part of the world is so well loved.
With arguably the tastiest and healthiest diet in the World, the islands are a paradise for foodies. Visit a taverna and eat fresh fish caught the same day, or go food shopping at street markets for local fruit and vegetables. Restaurant prices in the main tourist areas can be high, so watch the locals to find the good value dining cafes. On the busier islands, fast food is widespread too, so there is no problem finding a cheaper meal…. but stick to the less popular islands for good quality food at good prices.
Hostels on the islands are few and far between – mostly available in the nightlife resorts. Shared apartments are becoming more commonplace and can be had from €10 per person per night in some places, although the main tourist areas will cost more. A good way to save is to camp ; many campsites are next to the sea and have wifi for visitors.
Ferries link nearby islands and the standard is generally good… spending a few hours sailing on the Mediterranean Sea is a great way to travel. Most boats have a bar to get food, with ample toilet facilities too. If travelling between a few islands, there’s no need to use a tour company when booking transport – ferries can be booked in person at the port or directly online before you arrive. Inland, local buses link most inhabited areas, so it’s easy to head to a quiet or busier place.
MAIN ISLAND CHAINS
One of the most visited areas as the islands are easily accessed from Athens and have a good mix of things to do. Ios and Mykonos are great for nightlife, drinking and recovering. Paros and Naxos have superb beaches and a more laid back and lazy atmosphere. Santorini is very touristic but beautiful… while Crete has a mixture of just about everything – nightlife resorts, smaller beaches, history and lush mountains.
Corfu and Zante are nice, picturesque islands with lots to do but are very popular with families and package holidays. Kefalonia and in particular Lefkada, are less touristic and have great beaches and better prices. The Ionian islands were never part of the Ottoman Empire, and because of that, the main cities have more of an Italian style.
Rhodes and Kos are very popular and beautiful islands – again, in the peak of summer they tend to be filled with families, tourists and drinking groups. If it’s partying you are looking for, then both of the islands have nightlife based resorts. Elsewhere, Patmos has a ton of biblical history and is more relaxed and peaceful, so makes a good choice to escape for a day or two. Tilos is even quieter – you can camp on the beach with no aggravation and there are many walks and abundant wildlife to watch.
Visit the Eastern Aegean – The islands that hug the coast of Turkey are less touristic than some of the other island chains. Ikaria has mountains, small villages, great beaches and some of the oldest living people in the world. Samos is the main ferry hub and one of the larger islands, with plenty to see and do. It’s location makes it a popular way to arrive or leave via Turkey.
Explore Skyros – Part of the Sporades group, Skyros is a traditional island, famous for the ponies which roam the mountains. A good place for active people ; go diving and swimming to explore the caves around the coast.
Go simple – If you want to really go back to basics, visit Gavdos. It’s the southernmost island in Europe and situated just off the coast of Crete. There is very little tourist infrastructure ; a couple of shops and a few tavernas. People mostly camp on the beach. More information here.
GREECE DESTINATION GUIDES :
RECENT BALKAN BLOGS
It was the first unplanned country on our route. After some days in Ukraine, Romania seemed a good idea to continue our travels…
DN67C road, in Romania, mostly known as Transalpina, connects Sebes in the north to Novaci in the south. It is 146 km long, crosses the Carpathian…