Will it be Crete or Rhodes, where endless sandy beaches rub shoulders with incredible antiquities? Or will it be verdant and dramatic Corfu, a dip in the aquamarine coves of Mykonos, or Santorini’s famous shores? Pack your swimsuit and explore the finest beaches on each island.
With ancient ruins, epic hikes and world-famous beaches, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to activities in Crete. Whatever your agenda, put Elafonissi Beach top of your list. With its flamingo-pink sands and turquoise waters, not to mention the calm tides, sun loungers and amenities, it’s a big hit with everyone. Staying at Aptera Beach Hotel near Chania, you’re close to the jagged canyon cove of Seitan Limania and less than an hour from the lily-white sands and vivid aquamarine hues of Balos on the Gramvousa peninsula. It’s fairly remote, so pack a picnic, but don’t expect to have it to yourself. For something quieter, head south and enjoy the thirty-minute hike to Glyka Nera Beach – popular with local families (and local goats that frequent the shore!). Preveli is another lesser-visited gem, reached via a steep descent that leads you to a sheltered bay, with a sandy shore backed by a verdant palm forest and just one small beach bar.
Corfu is known for its emerald interior and aquamarine coastline. It ranks highly for a lot of things – including food, culture and epic hikes – but especially for stunning beaches. Stay at the Mareblue Beach Resort for easy driving access to the dramatic northern coast, featuring Cape Drastis, Apotripiti Beach and prime proposal spot Kanali tou Erota (the Channel of Love). The locals try to keep the northeast corner their secret, with gems like Avlaki and Arias, where the forest tumbles down to the water and the sea is crystalline. On the west coast, Agios Georgios, Agios Stefanos and Arillas are all sandy delights, while hikers on the Porto Timoni peninsula are rewarded with secluded rocky coves boasting phenomenal swimming. In the southwest, get adventurous on Issos Beach, backed by rolling dunes and popular with windsurfers and watersports enthusiasts. The more sheltered southern side of the island is home to Kavos, known for its beachfront bars and vibrant nightlife.
Santorini is most famous for its sunsets and the blue-and-white towns, like Oria, clinging to the cliffs. When you’re not sipping local wine against the backdrop of a peachy sky or following cobbled streets to petite churches, the beaches are equally charming. On the south coast, Vlichada Beach is a popular spot for couples, backed by dramatic cliffs and with great sunsets. Check out Eros, Almyra and the aptly named Red Beach for similarly stunning geology. In the southeast, Afroditi Venus Beach Hotel & Spa in Kamari is a great base from which to visit Ancient Thera. Finish the day at Perissa and Perivolos – two ends of one long, sandy expanse with fantastic swimming, plenty of restaurants and a lively evening scene. For something a little different, head down from Oia to Ammoudi Bay. It’s not a beach, but rather a popular spot to swim off the rocks in the crystal-clear ocean – you’re also handily close to a quaint harbour for dinner afterwards.
You’ll come to Mykonos for its photogenic windmills and the glittering harbour with a bustling nightlife, but it might just be the beaches that persuade you to stay. Every corner of the island boasts dreamy swimming, whether you’re dipping in at Paralia Choras in the main town, exploring the white-sand expanse of Kalo Livadi, or going off the beaten track in the island’s quieter northeast. Any beach on the north coast is a hit, but particular gems include Fokos, rugged and paradisical Agios Sostis Beach and, of course, Lover’s Beach, reached via a romantic sandy path. Escape the crowds at Vathia Lagkada and Paralia Lia – great for snorkelling – or join them at Agia Anna and Paradise Beach to enjoy a relaxing day on a sunbed, with glorious sea and plenty of amenities and food nearby. Mykonos Blu Grecotel Boutique is close to the south coast’s gems like Paradise and Super Paradise Beach, and it also boasts direct access to its own sandy cove, Psarou Beach.
With fantastic nightlife, fascinating antiquities, stunning scenery and watersports to boot, is there anything Rhodes doesn’t have? It certainly doesn’t want for beautiful beaches. Starting in Rhodes Town, Elli is the main tourist beach, but those seeking privacy might be tempted round to the secluded coves at Kato Petres. On the east coast, those staying at Lido Star Faliraki can enjoy a giant, sandy paradise steps from their balcony, and a bit further down the coast, Anthony Quinn Beach is a sheltered cove with a luxurious vibe and aquamarine waters – perfect for snorkelling. Tsambika Beach is a great day out, especially in combination with a hike to the hilltop monastery first to appreciate the view. In the south, Agios Georgios is a seemingly endless, unspoilt haven with a sandy shore. At Prasonisi, meanwhile, a sand bar connects the almost-island to the mainland and is popular with kite surfers thanks to its fantastic wind conditions.