The beaches are world-class, the food is beyond delicious, the history is rich and the people are warm. And yet, recommending a Greek island—let alone an itinerary—can be difficult. It is highly subjective. Some people love the beach; Others prefer mountains. You may want to fill your days visiting museums while your partner is already thinking about it. There are night owls and there are morning people… you get the picture. Which Greek island is right for you?
The key to finding the perfect Greek island is knowing what you love and where you can find it. Then it’s a matter of booking your trip.
Naxos: If you’re looking for adventure
Naxos is the largest island within the Cyclades – and it also has the windiest wind! Thanks to a strong north wind (known as a Meltemi), the island becomes a playground for kitesurfers and windsurfers in the summer months. The most popular beach to get your adrenaline pumping is Mikra Vigla in the southwest of the island, but areas such as Laguna, Agios Georgios, Agios Prokopios, and Plaka offer lessons and equipment to rent.
Santorini: If you’re looking for the perfect sunset
You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it and the two million tourists who travel there every year have heard it: Santorini has the best sunsets. And while it may be tempting to bypass Santorini for the less touristy, don’t. This is a bucket list item that deserves a rush. The most popular (and arguably best) place to experience the sunset is in Oia, on the northern tip of the island.
If you go here you want to arrive an hour or two early and be prepared for many tourists and many selfie-sticks. My favorite place to visit is in the capital of Fira – Santorini. The caldera here has equally impressive scenery and slightly fewer people.
Mykonos: If you want to party
Like Santorini, Mykonos isn’t exactly a mystery. And for good reason: the food is incredible, the beaches are pristine and it’s shamelessly party island. However, you love to party—lounging at a beach bar, enjoying drinks with a view, or dancing at a table at 3 a.m.—you’ll find it in Mykonos. The options are endless but for first-timers, I would suggest Scorpios for an incredible beach bar, Scandinavian Bar for a mix of bar and nightclub, and Scarpa for incredible cocktails.
Syros: If you love architecture
The Cyclades Islands are known for quintessential Greek architecture – think white walls, blue domes, and windmills. And Syros, the capital of the Cyclades, has all this and more. The Syros is such a treat for lovers of architecture, with a mix of styles on offer: Cycladic, medieval and neo-classical. If this sounds up your alley, don’t miss out on the city’s Town Hall, which is located near the port of Hermopolis in Miauli Square. Be prepared to spend the whole day here. Not only is the building one of the most impressive town halls in Greece, but it is also home to the Archaeological Museum of Syros.
Kefalonia: If you want to relax on the best beach on earth
I’m always a little wary of these recommendations. In one person’s ‘best beach’ another will ask “Where are the day beds?”. But I go ahead with one recommendation nonetheless: Myrtos Beach in Kefalonia. For me, what makes Myrtos special is the dramatic scenery around it; It is a small cove situated at the foot of two mountains. My advice is to go early to avoid the afternoon rush and take some nice beach shoes – like many beaches in Greece, what appears to be white sand is actually white pebbles.
Sifnos: If you’re into food
Sifnos is famous for having some of the best food in Greece. The sleepy streets are filled with the scent of freshly baked pastries, local restaurants lovingly prepare traditional slow-cooked stews, and in the fishing villages, you’ll find some of the freshest fish you’ve ever tasted. For a range of local bakeries and traditional restaurants, head to the main towns of Castro, Artemonas, or Apollonia. You can’t be wrong.
Folegandros: If crowds fill you with dread
I start out by saying, if large crowds raise your heart rate, you may want to avoid any of the Greek islands in the summer months. But even if you travel in peak season, it is possible to find pockets of peace. I recommend Folegandros – a small island that, being a bit out of the way, makes for a quieter option. Take some time out and get lost wandering the streets of Chora; There are no cars or motorcycles in this small town, which makes it perfect for exploring.
Corfu’s: If you want to take a step back in time
Greece has no shortage of incredible history, which makes it difficult to suggest just one island. So I’ve gone with two. First up is Corfu, thanks to its UNESCO-listed Old Town. Begin your journey at the Old Fort and then immerse yourself in the rich history by exploring the beautiful streets of the old city.
Santorini also finds mention because it is home to Akrotiri, a prehistoric settlement that was covered in ash after a volcanic eruption. Walking around the archaeological site is breathtaking and a must for history buffs. And really anyone.
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