Few countries can hold their own against the overwhelming beauty of the Greek islands, especially considering their incredible positioning in the Mediterranean and subsequently their heavenly climate. Having said that, there are so many of them that any prospective traveler will profit from keeping a Greek islands map nearby, the likes of which we’ll provide towards the end of the article.
Carefully selecting the best islands in Greece is no walk in the park, it is a daunting task that won’t do justice to all the gorgeous places you can visit, and also something that more often than not boils down to personal preferences. After you’re done traversing all the islands we’ve listed here, make sure to expand your exploratory efforts and see as much of the country as possible.
Otherwise known as Kerkyra, Corfu is an island on the west coast of Greece, in the Ionian Sea.
This island is so far up north that a part of it actually faces Albania on the other side, not Greece. Plenty of natural beauty and historical sites dot the landscape of the island, with the city of Corfu being situated on a wide peninsula at the center of the island. Its old town is a gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the entire city is classified as Kastropolis, or ‘Castle City’. If you decide to visit the old fortress and gaze on the city from above, make sure to stop by St’ George’s Church nearby.
Head up to the northernmost point of the island to see all the majesty of Cape Drastis and its unusual shape. Down south, you’ll be greeted by Arkoudilas Beach, a wonderful stretch of sand and clear waters with Arkoudilas Monastery stealthily overlooking it from the cliffs.
Discussing Ithaca without mentioning Homer’s Odyssey is simply impossible, except today, it won’t be Odysseus who’s trying to return to his homeland – it will be you, the traveler.
Ithaca is a slice of heaven and one of the most charming islands in Greece. Travel to Koni Village to experience this charm to its fullest extent by dining right next to the calm, Ionian Sea. Scattered about the island are many archeological locales, remains of civilizations long gone. The most famous one is the Acropolis of Alalkomenes which is often regarded as the castle of Odysseus.
The best way to get the lay of the land is to go on a sailing tour around the island. That way, you’ll truly experience all the beauty Ithaca has to offer.
Where to begin talking about Kefalonia? We could mention that this is the second suspect for the location of Odysseus’ island. Or, we could just point you in the direction of the most amazing beach and let you figure out the rest.
Myrtos Beach might be the perfect candidate if a beach is what you’re looking for. Locked between rolling, green hills and the Ionian Sea, it has always been a popular destination among Italian tourists that find its proximity attractive. After having your fill of the beach, check out the capital of the island, Argostoli, and explore what it has to offer.
About 5 kilometers from it, you’ll find the Castle of Agios Georgios which used to be the capital of Kefalonia during the Venetian era. Hike to nearby towns of Assos and Sami. While staying at the latter, ask around for directions to Melissani Cave – you won’t be disappointed.
Much like Mykonos, Zakynthos has also gained prominence as a party destination that few young people would pass up on.
However, there’s more to this island in the Ionian Sea than rows of endless nightclubs and bars. More than anything else, Zakynthos is known for its incredible beaches and their gorgeous sands, especially Navagio Beach. Also known as Shipwreck Cove thanks to an actual ship that washed up some time ago, it paints a realistic picture of how wonderful Zakynthos beaches are, especially Alykes and Xigia.
Besides that, the coast of this island is ripe with life, with many corals and even an endangered species of Sea Turtles calling it their home. If you plan on going boating or partaking in underwater activities, make sure you’re not damaging the fragile marine ecosystem.
Easily one of the most beautiful and magical places in Greece, Crete has a rich cultural and historical heritage.
Combine this with the fact that Crete also happens to be the largest of all islands, spanning 8,450 square kilometers, or 3,260 square miles, and what you get is a place so immense in size that you could probably spend an entire month here and still don’t get to see or do everything.
Crete is home to the remains of the first advanced civilization in Europe, the Minoans. They’re still shrouded in legend, the most famous of which revolving around King Minos and his vile creature called the Minotaur roaming the Labyrinth. The palace at Knossos, which stands to this day, albeit barely, became the center of Minoan culture at one point and is thought to be the original labyrinth due to its extensive and elaborate passageways.
Crete is riddled with such monuments and structures that simply beg the visit. Other than exploring its many ancient ruins, you can always enjoy the breathtaking landscapes of Crete and its endless stretches of towering mountains and olive plantations.
The Island of the Knights is the largest Dodecanese island and the former site of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Colossus of Rhodes stood 33 meters (108 feet) tall until a disastrous earthquake brought it down to its knees, and quite literally. Some of the remains were preserved, others scavenged and melted down for reuse, making the original location of the wonder unknown to humankind. If you ask us, this calls for adventure and discovery, hiking across this lovely island and imagining where the Colossus could have stood.
When you get tired of trying to locate a missing giant, there’s plenty of experience to be had from wandering landmarks that still stand to this day. Palace of the Grand Master stands out among these structures, letting you sneak a peek into the times of Ancient Greeks and observing their lives and history through sculptures, art, and mosaics. Modern Greek Art Museum will let you take that exact same peek, but only at works of contemporary Greek artists.
Some other excellent places you could visit are Acropolis of Lindos and Monastery of Tsambika. Day trips to the island of Symi are also a popular pastime.
Kos is one of the most popular holiday islands these days, whether it’s because of Agios Stefanos beach or the lovely dancers of Lyceum of Kardamena is difficult to say.
Regardless of the reasons that bring you to Kos, you’ll most certainly have a wonderful time. Antimachia Castle is a window into the past of Kos and harrowing battles against the Ottomans. If you enjoy visiting castles and otherwise medieval locales, head out to Mt. Dikeos where you’ll find the remains of Palio Pyli.
Other than spectacular views of sunsets and medieval walls, Kos nurtures traditional values such as locally manufactured clothing items and horse races. There really is a bit of everything for everyone here.
Grouped with 165 other Dodecanese islands of the southeastern Aegean Sea, Kalymnos is most famous for its intense rock climbing locations!
With over 2,000 climbing routes, most of which require a certain level of expertise, Kalymnos has earned the title of one the best such locations in Europe. If you’re a beginner, make sure you’re equipped with proper knowledge first by taking a couple of lessons in Kalymnos.
While most people come to Kalymnos for the dangerous sport of rock climbing, there are other things and pastimes to be found here, namely seeing Chora and Chrysocheria Castles, Agio Sabbas Monastery and the picturesque capital of Pothia.
There’s no wonder Samos has been seeing so much traffic over the years considering how many great people it spawned. However, we wouldn’t do it justice if we were to avoid mentioning all the spectacular sights of this island in the Aegean Sea.
Birthplace of great Pythagoras, Greek philosopher and mathematician, and Aristarchus who was the first man (to our knowledge) to come up with the idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun and not vice versa. Philosopher Epicurus also lived in Samos in an age past, all of them contributing greatly to causes beyond them.
If you need a reason to come other than this, we’ll let you know that Samian wine is to die for. Exploring Samos must also include a visit to Monastery of Panagia Spiliani, the town of Samos and of course Heraion, or Temple to Hera.
Taking a boat to the nearby island of Delos, one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece that is also featured on UNESCO’s list is quite possible, but not the thing that Mykonos is best known for.
While it has its fair share of history and culture, such as the famous Chora Windmills, Mykonos is best known for its vibrant and lively nightlife and amazing dining options. If you’re keen on visiting the aforementioned windmills instead, you’ll find them in the city of Mykonos. ‘Chora’ is quite a common way of naming places in Greek, usually when the name of the principal town matches that of the island.
When they’re not partying, younger tourists enjoy hiking across Mykonos or renting bicycles to cover more ground faster. Beaches here are as gorgeous as anywhere else in Greece, so you’ll have where to go to wrestle that hangover.
Naxos is the largest of all Cyclades islands and the cultural center of a civilization that thrived in this area of the Aegean Sea during the Bronze Age.
The town of Naxos is yet another example of a Chora – that is, a principal city bearing the same name as the island itself. This Chora is just magical – windy, narrow streets of white houses lead down to the port past numerous cafes and shops. The surrounding area of Naxos is rather mountainous, so come prepared if you want to explore.
For a more leisurely approach to enjoying your visit to Naxos, head out to the Agios Prokopios beach. Crystal-clear waters and sandy beaches might sound ubiquitous and overrated as every town in Greece claims to have these, but they really do!
Having discussed Homer and his world-renowned Odyssey, guessing whether his home is in Ithaca or Kefalonia, now is the time to pay our respects to his supposed place of eternal rest.
It is said that Homer returned to his mother’s home island of Ios to spend the final days of his life. Besides paying homage to Homer, you can visit the ruins of Skarkos, a Bronze Age settlement near the port of Ios.
There’s also something for visitor feeling less solemn. Manganari Beach is quite possibly the best one on the entire island. Other than that, hiking is a great activity to be had on Ios.
Named after what’s left of the great volcanic caldera, Santorini is the largest island of a small archipelago about 100 kilometers north from Crete.
Obviously, the most interesting thing for many visitors to Santorini is hiking to the top of Nea Kameni, the volcanic island at the heart of the archipelago. Following a gravel path, you’ll reach the 130 meters high top of the crater and you’ll be able to circumnavigate the entire volcano from there. Other than paying your respects to the mighty volcano that almost singlehandedly decimated the Minon civilization, you can try the local white wine called Assyrtiko made from grapes indigenous to Santorini.
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Also, check out the Akrotiri archaeological site to get a better look at how life was organized before the great eruption. Santorini has long been featured on many lists as one of the best islands in the world to visit, and you’ll surely understand why.
Start your visit to Folegandros in Chora, as the number of things to do on this island is really staggering.
If you’d like to know more about the heritage of this Greek island, go ahead and make your first stop at the Ecological and Folklore Museum of Folegandros. Church of Panagia is a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and situated above Chora. It was built on the ruins of a temple dedicated to Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt.
You can always go snorkeling or hiking if you’d like to discover Folegandros on your own – you won’t be disappointed either way.
Milos has its fair share of cultural goods such as the ancient theater or the archaeological museum.
However, the reason why most people come here is not to see archaeological sites or monasteries that most every other island has. No, Milos has something special, something otherworldly – it has got unbelievable natural features that make it worth the visit on their own. Among these, Sarikiniko stands out as the most impressive sight of all – a place truly of some other world, maybe Moon, as its surface is pure white, with only the blue sea in the background. It’s as if you’re looking at the flag of Greece!
White cliffs of Kleftiko are just as astonishing. Below them are caves only accessible by boat.
Welcome to Serifos, the island where Perseus brought the head of Gorgon Medusa and used its powers to turn the tyrant king and his retinue to stone.
Today, you will find neither heroes nor detached heads in here, but instead, you’ll be greeted by rocky, barren hills and valleys. While this seems empty and unattractive, it is simply a part of Serifos’ charm. Atop one of the hills just beyond the port, you’ll find Chora overlooking the island. You might think this is an excellent vantage point, but wait until you get to the Cape Kyklopas.
Serifos has more than a single legend tied to its name, as it was believed that Cyclops sat on his throne at the aptly named Cape Kyklopas. His throne remains there to this day!
With only 1,966 inhabitants, Hydra is certainly not that densely populated which means that there’s a good chance any person you’re meeting there is a tourist. Most tourists are Greeks themselves, especially from Athens.
Hydra is a special place for many reasons. Located between Argolic Gulf and Saronic Gulf, it is most commonly accessed by catamarans from Piraeus, bringing in Athenians. Don’t worry though, if this form of transport is not your cup of tea, you’ll be able to find a ferry to get you across.
An interesting fact about Hydra is that car and motorcycles are not allowed. Instead, you can either walk around the island or get a horse or a donkey to do the walking for you.
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Strewn about the Hydra Port are many monasteries, often visited by travelers looking to get acquainted with Orthodox Christianity, such as Monastery of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
Equally gorgeous as all the other islands that preceded it on our list, Skiathos is yet another slice of heaven in the Aegean Sea. It is among the most popular holiday destinations for those making their way to Greece.
Skiathos has gained so much traction as a tourist destination mostly as a place of stunning beaches and turquoise waters. While there are monuments and monasteries to behold, spending a day at Lalaria, Troulos, Xanemos, Kastro, Mandraki, Banana Beach and others, is far more enthralling for an average visitor. Most tourists will come to Skiathos for its beaches, so why not provide you with some of the best in class.
If you insist on seeing something else, head out the Bourzi Fortress way to find the place where so many pirates have been sent to the bottom of the sea by brave Greek defenders.
Lesbos is the third-largest island in Greece and one of the most beautiful places in the eastern part of Aegean Sea, so far east in fact, that it borders Turkey.
First of all, you should visit the capital of Lesbos, Mitilini. This incredible, rustic town features narrow streets and old, picturesque buildings that represent a mixture of influences and styles. These buildings host food stores, antique shops and all kinds of nifty places that accentuate the loving nature of Lesbos. Beaches and beach bars decorate the coastline and invite visitors to spend the day enjoying the view.
One of the most attractive places of Lesbos is the petrified forest that can be found in the western part of the island, close to the village of Sigri. It’s part of Lesbos Geopark and a must-see for any tour to the island.
Unlike most other islands on this list, Thassos doesn’t boast endless archaeological excavation sites nor does it expose nightclubs or other partygoer destinations.
No, Thassos is a great place to go if you’re traveling with a family. You won’t miss out on anything other islands have to offer if you’d like to visit beautiful beaches or marvel at the religious architecture. Panagia is the most picturesque place you can imagine, probably the best one to stay at. Not too far from it is the Golden Beach where you’ll be able to relax and take in the beauty and tranquility of Thassos.
To the southeast, you’ll find the magnificent Monastery of Archangel Michael, the largest structure of its kind on the island. If you prefer spending time in nature, Thassos won’t disappoint as it’s covered in lovely green hills and olive plantations as far as the eye can see.
Map of Greek Islands
Here’s the Greek islands map showing all of the aforementioned islands.
List of Islands in Greece
Islands in Greece are counted by the thousands, with many different estimates due to the lack of agreement on what should be counted as an island and what shouldn’t. Some of the most generous proposals claim that there are up to 6,000 islands! Considering we can’t really put all of them on our list, we’ll focus only on those whose area is greater than 45 square miles.