7 Greek Islands you don’t want to miss

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:

1. Hydra

Hydra Greek Islands

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.

2. Aegina

Aegina Greek Islands

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.

3. Evia

Evia Greek Islands

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)

Santorini Greek Islands

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

5. Ios

Ios Greek Islands

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.

6. Mykonos

Mykonos Greek Islands

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.

7. Naxos

Naxos Greek Islands

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?

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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

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30 thoughts on “7 Greek Islands you don’t want to miss”

  1. I like Ios a lot. It was the week after most of the bars closed, so it was nice and relaxed. Santorini was my favorite of the Cyclades that we went to.

  2. We had the opportunity to visit Greece during the 2004 Olympics and had an amazing time. We visited several of the Islands – Santorini, Hydra, Aegina – after the games closed and were absolutely stunned by how gorgeous the islands are. I think it says a lot when an island (Santorini to be specific) can almost out shadow Athens during the freakin’ Olympics!

    It was very clear to us – standing on the rim of the Caldera and looking out over the hazy Aegean – why a civilization would create such a rich religion. The fantastic mythology that we learn about in history class almost seems likely when surrounded by what Greece and the islands have to offer.

    1. I just sat here for 5 minutes contemplating the fact that the Olympics in Greece as in 2004- where the hell has all that time gone? :0 The islands are so magnificent. I went in ’97 and again in ’98. The first time I did not make Santorini as I got lost in the bars of Ios for 12 days. When you are 21 that is just too much fun to pass up.

  3. I went on a Greek island hopping trip a few weeks ago, although I vitied different islands. Except Mykonos and Naxos and it is very nice to read the impressions of another Greek island lover.

    1. Thank you! They are all digital shots. Some are taken from when I lived and studied there in 2008, others are from traveling there in 2009 and 2010.

  4. Love this! I’ve been wanting to go to the Greek islands for such a long time. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to visit it and see its ancient architecture in my future RTW.

  5. Thank you for sharing these posts! These are nice shots and well written. I wnat to Hydra, the picture feels like the town Capri from Italy (beautiful coastal view). It doesn’t look like they have a beach too, but the view is enough for me to take lots of picture and relax ;P I wonder if their seafood r great? I love seafood restaurant.

  6. I love Greek Islands. Last year I had the great opportunity to see Santorini (amazing sunset indeed), Mykonos, and Crete. Crete is my personal favourite, maybe I’m biased because I was there for several weeks. The sunset and beach, the archaeological ruins and museum, the food, the music…. I hope one day Ryan and I could visit and relax in that Island again.

  7. I recently had a chance to see Corfu, although I was slightly blinded my the hot pink reputation of the Pink Palace Backpackers Hostel, my ATVing adventure of the islands lent me some beautiful views and experiences.

    I can’t wait to live what I’ve seen in this post and others! It’s great to get an insider’s perspective on what the different islands have to offer! Great post Chirstine!

  8. I’ve never known much about the Greek islands but wow, those are gorgeous. My list of destinations to travel to just got longer, thanks a lot!! haha

  9. We were in Greece twice in the recent years for holidays and we really excited both the incredible beauty of the islands, and the local hospitality of its inhabitants. Last year we were in Mykonos for a week with our whole family (us and our 2 kids) and had a great time. The beautiful beaches, the turquoise waters and the intense daily and night life, during the summer period are incredible.
    We stayed in a beautiful Mykonos villa from the many that can be found in Mykonos and we experienced magical nights in the luxury and relaxation. A basic goodness in Mykonos, is that the island is offered both for a vibrant nightlife, and for rest and relaxation.
    The food was great! We tried incredible local delicacies, mainly fish! It was dreamy flavors! The idea to rent a Villa was very good. Now we understand why many celebrities are buying villas in Mykonos for their permanent vacation!

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