Home to some of the finest beaches, landscapes and food in Europe, the Greek Islands are abundant in beauty, bursting with history and steeped in fascinating myth and legend. With more than 1200 islands to choose from, each with its own character and charm, your dream Greek holiday is just around the corner. Whether you want to lie on the beach all day or take secluded hikes, see ancient ruins or sample Greek cuisine, it's time to discover your perfect Greek island.
Crete is the biggest of the Greek islands, comparable in size to Corsica or Cyprus. A natural barrier between the Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea, it lies to the south of the Cyclades. It is home to epic historic sites, such as the Minoan Palace of Knossos. With so much to do it's a great choice for those on longer holidays and is a great choice for families. It's also arguably home to the best in Greek cuisine, with its local dishes of cheese pie and fried snails (trust us, this is actually better than it sounds!).
The fourth largest Greek island and the largest of the Dodecanese, Rhodes has huge historical significance as well as spades of natural beauty. Its medieval ruins are as intriguing as its ancient ones, such as the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Beyond the hotels, restaurants and historic sites are a series of rolling forested-covered hills. Its south-westerly location also makes it one of the sunniest of the Greek Islands.
The biggest island of the Ionians, Corfu receives millions of visitors a year, and for good reason. The capital is one of the most charming cities in Greece, with a UNESCO protected centre. As a well-established holiday destination, Corfu has excellent facilities for families. Today it also attracts some of the richest jetsetters and celebs in Europe. Away from the hubbub of the resorts, you'll find a lush landscape, reminiscent of Tuscany.
Ever seen a Greek travel poster with a blue-domed church, against a turquoise sea background? It was most probably taken in Santorini, also known as Thira, one of the most beautiful of the Greek islands. Located in the Cyclades, its middle was taken out by a volcanic eruption 3600 years ago, creating a dramatic caldera. Highlights include a boat trip to the volcano Nea Kamini and watching the sunset from Oia. There's a certain magic to Santorini, in fact some say it's the location of the lost city of Atlantis.
Another beauty in the Cyclades, Mykonos is famous for being the most LGBT-friendly destination in Greece and an unbeatable party zone. It’s also incredibly beautiful. Visitors enjoy miles of white sand beaches, many of which are considered the best in Greece. If you’re looking for a spot with nearby restaurants and beach bars, check out Paraga Beach. Want somewhere family-friendly? Ornos Beach is the perfect place for families. While you’re in Mykonos, be sure to visit Alefkandra, one of the most charming areas in Mykonos, fittingly nicknamed Little Venice, and the perfect spot to watch a sunset.
Zante, also known as Zakynthos, is located in the Ionian Sea, to the west of mainland Greece. This beautiful island, once a party capital, is largely split between the holiday resorts of the south, where you can find excellent amenities, and the rural north. The Italian influence of Venetian rule can be seen in the architecture of the main town. Highlights of Zante include the dramatic Smugglers Cove, as well as the blue caves of Cape Skinari, both of which are accessible only by boat.
Kos, in the Dodecanese, is famous for two things: a number of vast, sandy beaches, and Greek and Roman ruins. Top historical sites include the medieval Neratzia Castle and the Ancient ruins of Agora. It's popular with active holidaymakers, who make good use of the extensive water sports centres offering everything from jet skiing to windsurfing. Bodrum (another great holiday spot in Turkey) is just a 45-minute ferry journey from Kos - definitely worth a visit if you have time!
It might be the one of the most popular of the Sporades islands, but it's still a much quieter and more laidback affair than Rhodes, Zante or even Kos. The lush hills are the perfect backdrop to some of the whitest sand beaches in the whole Aegean. It's an island popular with tourists from the Greek mainland and full of hidden surprises from secluded churches to cobbled old towns and lesser-known walks. It's popular with those who prefer to find their own path than take a suggested one.
Also known as Ithaca or Ithaci, this small but perfectly-formed island in the Ionian group is perfect for those seeking solace, rest or respite. The home of Homer's Odysseus, Ithaki is romantic, rugged and bursting with dramatic scenery. Yet this drama is contrasted by its quiet, laidback character and slow pace of life. If you want peace, this is the spot for you.
Arguably the prettiest of the Dodecanese, Symi is a small island located close to Rhodes and a hair's breadth from Turkey. The island's crowning jewel is the row of colourful neo-Classical buildings along the harbour front of Old Symi, the main town. Beyond this lies a series of small, but secluded beaches lapped by crystal clear waters, as well as gentle hiking trails, picturesque villages and pocket-sized churches.