The Greek Islands have a magical air to them – which is why British travellers are drawn to the isles summer after summer.
From the white-washed houses, blue-domed churches, the turquoise Aegean Sea and delicious gyros, it’s no wonder British nationals make around three million visits to Greece each year.
Yet, while the mainland holds the Acropolis and evidence of an ancient civilisation, it’s the islands that really draw us in.
A week or even a few days spent on a Greek island is a fantastic way to rewind, relax and refresh. Below are our pick of the most stunning Greek islands.
There’s a reason why Santorini is the most revered Greek Island – and it’s largely due to the iconic pink-hued sunset. But Santorini is also home to the famous red beach, black sand beach and Akrotiri – a prehistoric village.
Oia is the most aesthetically pleasing part of the island, with its blue-domed churches and white-washed cliff-perched houses. While there, make sure you rent a quad bike to make zipping around the island easy, and go cliff diving just under the cliffs of Oia.
The largest of the Greek islands, Crete is known for its varied terrain which can range from rocky beaches to fine sand beaches and the Samariá Gorge which lies in the Samariá National Park.
At 11.1 miles long, the gorge is the longest in Europe and well worth the hike – even to see a Cretan badger or a spiny mouse. While in Crete, make sure you visit Elafonissi – a paradise of lush beaches and hidden coves.
With a buzzing food scene, gorgeous hotels and stunning villages – along with some great swimming spots – Sifnos is the little-heard-of Greek paradise you’ve been searching for.
The island has 366 churches which are found on all corners of the isle. If you’re into hiking, swimming and good food – this is the island for you.
Mykonos and Ios have long been dubbed the ‘party islands’ and for good reason. Their party scene reaches its peak in the summer months so if you’re into a quieter holiday, visiting Mykonos in the shoulder months will still allow you to experience its beauty without many a drunkard stumbling across the cobbled pavements come nightfall.
Mykonos is famous for its windmills that line the banks of the main town – the perfect spot to sit with a gyros and watch the sunset.
Ios is part of the Cyclades group in the Aegean Sea. Another island that can become ‘party central’ during the warmer months, Ios is hilly with cliffs forming the edge of most of the island.
Most of the beaches on Ios are fine sand beaches meaning days lying by the sea are a must. While there, make sure you also check out Sharkos Hill which is home to the island’s largest Bronze Age excavation site, to learn about the ancient lifestyle.
Paros is another sizeable island and is best known for its beaches and traditional Greek villages. This is another island where quad bike hire is a must so you can spend a day exploring all corners of the island – often finding private beaches you’ll have all to yourself.
Paros is also home to the Panagia Ekatontapiliani, a landmark Byzantine church built around 300 AD.
You know that Greek beach all the Instagram travel influencers love to post pictures of? Yep, that’s Navagio beach in Zakynthos. Navagio beach is the site of a 1980 shipwreck and is surrounded by tall cliffs – only accessible by boat.
Other than this beach, Zakynthos is home to some of the bluest water in Greece so whatever beach you visit, you will be guaranteed some stunning scenery.
Located in the Ionian Sea, this is the largest of the Ionian Islands and just west of mainland Greece. It is made up of limestone cliffs and white sand beaches – many of which are only accessible by foot.
Myrtos beach located on the northwestern coast is a must-visit and is considered one of the best beaches in the world.
If you’re an avid fan of Mamma Mia (the film) you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that Skopelos is where you’ll find the church where the wedding is held and which acts as the backdrop to Meryl Streep’s dramatic (and excellent) rendition of ABBA’s ‘The Winner Takes It All’.
Other than fawning over movie sites, Skopelos is home to a number of tavernas serving fresh seafood and traditional offerings like moussaka and souvlaki.
Skiathos is part of the Sporades archipelago and is best known for its gorgeous beaches and buzzing nightlife. Yet, unlike Ios and Mykonos, Skiathos’ nightlife is less touristy but just as ‘happening’.
If clubbing isn’t your scene, there are a number of sea caves to be explored and beaches to spend a lazy day reading a good book.