Teeming with ancient history and set against stunning backdrops, the Greek islands are unlike any other place on Earth.
Backpackers have flocked to these islands for years for their cheap hostels, friendly locals and sandy beaches.
Having lived, studied and vacationed in Greece, I’ve had the opportunity to visit a few Greek Islands, which only scratches the surface; there are thousands of Greek Islands.
Hopping to a handful of islands you’ll quickly learn that every island has its own unique personality— below is a short personality profile of the 7 Greek Islands that I was so lucky to visit:
This quirky Greek island is the only of its kind that outlaws vehicles. In the past Hydra drew acclaim for being an artist/writer’s colony, but these days it’s more frequented by Athenian city-dwellers on weekend getaways.
The large majority of Hydra’s population lives in the center of town where all of the tavernas and restaurants can be found. Come to this Greek island expecting a quiet retreat and stunning Venetian architecture.
Tip: Do not rely on Hydra to be a beach escape, as they are found sparingly and are extremely rocky.
Aegina is only a quick 30-minute hydrofoil ride from the main port of Pireaus making it an easy choice for tourists who are seeing Athens sights but don’t have the time to island-hop. The beaches on this Greek Island are rather lackluster, but the center is filled with cute café’s perfect for escaping the summer heat.
Tip: Aegina is famous for its production of pistachios, be sure to pick up a bag from one of the many shops located near the port.
Don’t expect anything remotely resembling mass-tourism from Evia, the second-largest island in Greece and past home of Aristotle. Evia is composed of several quaint villages, fishing towns and coastal resorts and offers a truly authentic slice of Grecian life.
Tip: Chilaro beach in the village of Vitalo is hands-down the most serene, beautiful beach I’ve seen in all of my travels. Ask locals how to find it.
4. Santorini (Thira)
Undoubtedly one of the most famous of Greece’s islands, Thira (as it’s known to the Greeks) balances jaw-dropping beauty and intriguing ancient history with a lively party scene and is truly the island that offers something for everyone.
Oia is the town of all the typical Grecian images of white churches with blue domes. It is a bit isolated at the northern tip of the island, and is a great place for older couples and families to stay. Take in the popular Santorini sites with this full day tour followed by a beautiful sunset in Oia at the end of the day.
Tip: Seeing the sunset in Oia is an absolute must!
Fira, the main town, and Perissa, where the black sand beach is located are the best places to go out. Akrotiri, site of the red sand beach and ancient Minoan ruins makes for a great day-trip.
For more ideas about things to do on that road trip, planning information, beautiful photos, and practical maps to help you plan your travels, check out ZigZag On Earth’s eBook: Explore and Photograph Santorini
Ios has a hedonistic reputation, but is surprisingly relaxing (without losing its sense of fun) outside of high-season. If you want to avoid the crowds, head to the beaches furthest from Chora for a truly tranquil experience.
Tip: Pack a picnic and hike to the churches on the top of the hill in the old town’s (Chora) center for a 360 panoramic view of Ios in time to catch the sunset.
The playground of elite jet-setters in years past, Mykonos has retained its glamour while still charming in every way.
The center is a maze of narrow cobble-stoned streets that buzz with energy deep into the night when the bars and clubs open and are bustling during the day with shoppers. The famous windmills and little Venice (pictured) are a must-see as they are just as beautiful in-person as by photo.
Get to know the local side of Mykonos away from the tourists with a guided tour to small villages, farms and secret beaches! Click here to grab your tickets.
Tip: The meltemi winds that surface in high-season are fiercest in Mykonos, which offers little natural shelter so bring a sweater even if you’re coming in August.
Agricultural at its core, Naxos offers some of the best beaches on the Aegean (and dare I say, the Mediterranean) and a lively beach promenade and town center. It hasn’t lost its charm, likely because it isn’t reliant upon tourism like so many of the other Greek islands are.
Since it’s located in the heart of the popular Cycladic chain of islands, Naxos makes an excellent base for island hopping in Greece.
Make sure to see the ruins of Apollo’s Gate near the port (pictured above.)
Consider a full day tour of the island which includes highlights of visiting the oldest distillery, ancient greek temples, wandering through the famous marble village of Apiranthos and much more! Get your tickets here.
Tip: Naxos is big and therefore, the ideal place to rent a moped and explore its more isolated beaches and countryside.
Looking for a secret hidden destination in Greece?
- Check out this coastal region that made this list on destinations in Europe on a budget!
- 20 Awesome Things to do in Crete
- Scuba Diving in Zaykynthos Island, Greece
Plan Your Trip to Greece
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BIO: Christine Medina is the writer behind Christine in Spain. She has been traveling since she first fell in love with Europe in 2008, and now calls Spain her home away from home. Follow her on Twitter