Wondering where to go in Greece and what the best Greek islands to visit are? From quiet Greek islands to the most beautiful Greek islands, we have you covered. We’ve been traveling around Greece for years now, seeking what each of the islands in Greece has to offer and what visitors can expect.
Don’t worry – you honestly can’t go wrong with any Greek island, especially if it’s your first time in Greece. Each has amazing food, wine, and beaches, but each island also has something unique.
The Best Greek Islands to Visit
The Best Greek Island to Chill
We knew Paros was one of the quieter Cycladic islands to visit, which is always my choice over more popular, well-known islands. Now I can without a doubt say that Paros ranks up there as one of our favorite and best Greek islands to visit ever, especially in September, when we went!
Paros has everything you could want from a trip to the Greek islands. Friendly Greek locals, delicious seaside food, unique beaches, fun towns, stunning sunsets, and so much more. Wondering what to do in Paros?
Exploring the mountain town of Lefkes brings you right back into olden day Greece, rent a boat and cruise the blue lagoon for some fun in the sun, and end the day enjoying the sunset at the hip restaurants in Naousa.
The Best Greek Island to Visit for Beach Hopping
The Greek island of Milos had been on our list of places to visit in Greece for years. We had seen photos of the moonscape beaches and heard about how quiet the island was compared to others, so it was only a matter of time before we ventured to Milos ourselves.
It was everything we could have hoped for. It has gorgeous beaches, including Sarakiniko, which looks like another planet in the photo above. The towns are like something out of a movie, and there are even cliff jumps for the adventurous souls. Get here soon before it turns into another Mykonos.
The Lushest Greek Island
The northernmost of the Ionian islands differs significantly from many of the most famous Greek islands. It is much greener, lusher, and it has a strong Italian influence. Corfu is filled with dramatic green mountains that will lure any hiking fan. While at the same time, there are what feels like hundreds of stunning Corfu beaches scattered around the island.
While far from the most beautiful historic charming town in Greece, Corfu Old Town still provides visitors with plenty to ooh and ahh about.
We spent two weeks on Corfu and couldn’t even scratch the surface of what the island has to offer. From visiting The Achilleion to renting a boat and diving into the hidden bays around Paleokastritsa there is never a dull moment here.
The Best Greek Island to Visit for Families
Naxos is one of the best Greek Islands to visit. Just a short ferry ride away from Paros is the beautiful island of Naxos, which is the picturesque version of Greece. Cycladic white and blue houses, fantastic history, ancient Greek architecture, great food, beautiful European beaches, amazing sunsets, friendly Greek people? Check, Check, Check!
We loved venturing around Naxos. Whether we spent our days sitting on one of the best beaches in Europe, strolling around the small village of Halki, or seeing the island’s landmark, Portara there was always plenty to do. It’s a remarkable Greek island to visit for families as it’s quiet and not a huge party place. It’s also fairly easy to get to from Paros, so makes for a great day trip island!
The Best Greek Island for All Around Outdoor Activity
We’ve ventured back to Crete twice and seriously want to go a third and fourth time! From Stefanou Beach to the famous Pink Sand Beach, we traveled all over and were never disappointed. The Wikitravel page for Crete states that “If there were a beauty contest for Greek islands, Crete would surely be among the favorites.”
After visiting Crete, with its secluded bays, empty villages, deep valleys, and stunning beaches, we can attest that Wikitravel is right. The island is vast, stunning, rugged, and filled with friendly Cretans that may be more hospitable than their mainland counterparts.
It’s no wonder that the island is a top destination for European holiday goers. It may even win the award for the most beautiful Greek island. Crete is big though – and you’ll need at least a week or two to hit all the main highlights.
The Best Greek Island for Romance
One of the best places to visit in Greece is Santorini. Due to the beautiful white and blue buildings of Oia, a few popular movies, and then, of course, Instagram, Santorini is one of the most popular islands in the Greek isles.
Mix that in with a few cheap flight options, friendly Greeks, neverending sunshine, and delicious Mediterranean food, and you have yourself the grand slam of holidays.
Santorini has taken off in popularity over the last ten years, but for a good reason – it is stunning. Amoudi Bay is what dreams are made of, and then you have all the Greek wine, sunset cruises, and black sand beaches to enjoy. It truly is one of the best Greek islands to visit.
Best Car Free Greek Island
Hydra Island (or Ydra or Idra) is a stunning Greek island off the mainland coast. It’s small in size but packs many things to do for all visitors. It’s a popular island choice for day-trippers from Athens and is an artists’ haven.
Just strolling around the main port, the contemporary artist vibe is everywhere. What makes Hydra so unique is that it’s a completely motor-free island. There are no cars, no mopeds, and no four-wheelers. To get around, everyone must walk, take a sea taxi, or hire a donkey. Because of this it truly feels as though you are stepping back to simpler times.
The bays around Hydra are something like out of a movie scene, and the beautiful blue water surrounding the island will tease you until you take the plunge.
One of the Best Day Trip Islands In Greece (from Athens)
The island of Spetses is another popular island for Athenians as its close proximity to the Peloponnese mainland makes it easy for day trips. Spetses feels like another island that got left in time, plus it is relatively quiet.
Like Hydra, private cards are banned here, but taxis, garbage trucks, and mopeds are allowed. Still a fun way to explore the town is via horse and buggy.
A walk around Old Harbor is one of the best things to do on Spetses, while Zogeria Beach is one of the best beaches on the island to visit!
Travel Back in Time Island
You may have heard of the Greek Island, Ithaca, once or twice. It’s generally thought of to be Homer’s Ithaca. Yes, that would be the home of Odysseus, where the classical Greek tale The Odyssey, takes place.
As far as Greek Islands go, it’s far from the most popular. Heading here to explore all the best things to do in Ithaca, will undoubtedly be a different experience if you have been to some larger and busier Greek Islands on this list.
In Ithaca, you can have all the beautiful bays and beaches, scenic drives, and amazing cuisine without any of the crowds. Getting here takes a bit of work, as visitors will have to arrive via ferry, but it’s well worth the endeavor.
Some of the best things to do is soak up the sun at Afales Bay and stroll through the beautiful village of Kioni.
Greek Island with the Most Beautiful Beaches
Lefkada is a stunning Greek island in the Ionian Sea on the west coast of Greece. It is a very mountainous and lush island, like most of the other Ionian Greek Islands.
It’s a popular island to visit as it is connected to the mainland by a causeway, meaning you don’t have to hop on a ferry to get here if you don’t want to. We didn’t know what to think of Lefkada before we arrived, but after we visited we are sure that Lefkada has some of the best beaches and clear baby blue water I have ever seen in Greece. Porto Katsiki is not just one of the best beaches in Europe, but the entire world!
The Best Greek Island for Partying and Clubbing
Mykonos is one of Greece’s most well-known Aegean islands. Set in the central archipelago of the Cyclades, this island has just about everything going for it – and we mean everything. There’s nightlife by the gallon, some delicious food, charming Cycladic architecture, beaches, water sports, boutiques, and nightlife. Yeah, did we mention the hedonistic, sometimes pricey nightlife?
Mykonos is a Greek party island, best for the young holiday goers after some drinking and clubbing.
The Best Greek Island for Adventures
Samos is one of the popular East Aegean Islands and is a busy place come summer. It’s a great island to soak up the delicious Greek food, wine, and beaches. As well as your typical Greek goodness, Samos is also an exciting place to go hiking in Greece, climbing, and mountain biking.
Make sure to try the famous Muscat wine that is exported from Samos all over the globe. Samos Vin Doux is the main muscat dessert wine, and you should definitely try some before leaving!
Most beautiful natural island
Zakynthos (also called “Zante”) is the third-largest Ionian Island and a popular destination in Greece. It’s most well known for the Instafamous view of Shipwreck Beach and for being somewhat of a party island for European holiday goers. However, it’s not as party-going as Ios, Kos, or Rhodes, and there is a lot more to Zakynthos that meets the eye.
The island of Zakynthos blesses travelers with jaw-dropping coastlines, beautiful white sand beaches, and small, picturesque villages. Beyond Shipwreck Beach, there are plenty of fun things to do in Zakynthos, like hiring a boat to get to the Blue Caves or relax on Porto Limnionas Beach.
The Best Greek Island for a Day Trip from Turkey
We ventured to Chios from the Turkish Coast. That’s because the island is only one hour by ferry from Cesme. It’s one of the larger Greek islands and takes some time to explore.
Chios is famous for its mastic trees, an evergreen shrub you can only find on this island. Besides the trees, there’s plenty to do on this mountainous island. Try strolling around the Medieval villages of Olympi and Pyrgi or see one of the many monasteries.
If you don’t mind going underground, hit up the Olympi Cave, a cave gorge 60m wide and has a humidity of 95%!
The Best Greek Island for History
Rhodes is one of the most popular islands in the Greek isles due to its cheap flights from mainland Europe. Of course, it’s Greece, so it’s sure to give you sun and a great time.
Rhodes is known for being one of the most diverse Greek Isles and packed with history due to its geographical significance. For one, Old Town Rhodes has a fascinating history dating back to antiquity. While exploring, you can walk down the Street of Knights, a medieval street once the home to the famed Knights of Hospitaller who ruled over Rhodes.
When you’re done with the history and ancient ruins, head to one of the many beaches for sunbathing and kitesurfing.
The Best Greek Island for Peace and Quiet
Antiparos is the small neighboring island next to Paros. It’s not well known on the Greek island radar, but it is well worth a day trip from Paros! Only a five-minute ferry ride will bring you to the small island. Once there, you can explore the cute town of Chora, venture to the many beaches, or check out the Antiparos cave.
If you want to stay in Antiparos, the only town to do that at is Chora. The other option is to rent a car and venture to some small villas and guesthouses around the island.
Also, this island is where Tom Hanks has a holiday home. Maybe you’ll spot him and his wife, Rita Wilson if you’re there at the right time. Although he is well-loved and protected by locals, so don’t think you’ll find out where he lives.
Best Low Key Greek Island
Symi is a really great alternative to busier islands in the Dodecanese like Kos and Rhodes. We visited Symi on a Turkish gulet cruise that sailed from Turkey and Greece and fell in love with this fairy tale island.
Here you can find grand neoclassical buildings, breathtaking beaches, narrow cobbled streets, small churches, and a whole bunch of color! One of the best things to do here is venture to Panormiti Monastery and see the views.
Wondering what Symi is known for? Well, they are actually known for their unique shrimp called “Symis shrimps” which are small shrimps that are pan fried and eaten whole within the shell.
How to Get Around the Greek Islands?
There are a few main options for getting around the Greek islands. Rental Car, moped, public bus, or 4×4.
A moped is the cheapest option, but you need a motorcycle license to rent one in Greece. Many rental agencies in Greece will let you slide and rent a moped without this, depending on the company and location.
A 4×4, or quad, is the most fun option to get around the Greek islands on. However, at around €40 a day, it’s an expensive one so it may not be for you if you are concerned about Greek travel costs. You’ll need an advanced reservation during the high season to rent one of these bad boys. I prefer not to rent mopeds or 4x4s as I appreciate my shade and AC while getting around the Greek islands.
If you don’t want to drive yourself around the Greek islands, the public bus will get you to the main sites around the islands. However, you will be limited to their schedule and destinations, and it will probably require a lot of walking on your part to get to where you want to go.
The last option (and our favorite) is a rental car. To rent a car in Greece, you need a standard International driver’s license (A valid US license works). If your license is not in English or Greek, have a translation just in case. It would help if you also were prepared to hand over your passport. Also, depending on where you are trying to rent, an International Drivers Permit may be mandatory if you get pulled over.
It may be tough to find a rental agency to rent to you without an IDP, we rented with Avis, and they were great and didn’t need any additional paperwork.
We’ve rented a car in Greece without an IDP and had places in Greece require that we have an IDP. If you are from North America, Australia, or outside the EU, you should arrive in Greece with an IDP to be safe. You can get one here if you’re in a hurry. If you get in an accident or are pulled over without an IDP, you may be subject to a steep fine in the EU.
Most car rental companies in Greece will require you to be 21 and to have held a license in your home country for a year. If you are under 25, you may face additional charges.
- RentalCars.com: Provides comparisons for car rentals in Greece.
- AutoEurope: I can often find deals here for car rentals in Europe.
- Discover Car Hire: Searches rental car prices around the globe.
How to Get to Greece?
If you are arriving from outside of Europe, most visitors to the Greek islands will have to get to Athens first. There are great flight connections from around the world that fly into Athens. You can fly right to many Greek islands from Athens, which might be a quicker option than taking a ferry.
If you are coming from some of the main European hubs, you have budget flight options that go to Santorini, Crete, Mykonos, and other Greek Islands.
From Athens, the best way to travel the Greek islands is by water. There are tons of ferries and highspeed catamarans running daily to the other Greek islands. I like to check schedules on Ferry Hopper.
When is the Best Time to Visit Greece?
High season (June-September)
Like most places in Europe, Greece’s high season runs from June to mid-September. This is when you will find the best sunny weather, but also larger crowds. Days are longer, and the weather is HOT, so you’ll want to be close to a pool or ocean. Hotel and car rental prices are at their highest during the summer.
Shoulder Season (April – May or October -November)
The weather in Greece is cooler during these months. Some would consider it much more comfortable than prime summertime weather. It’s not as busy as the summertime, but you’ll still see lots of travelers lingering about. Prices on accommodation and car rentals will drop during this time. The shoulder season is typically a fantastic time to visit Greece.
Low Season (Late November – April)
The temperatures are cooler during the low season in Greece. You’ll still see plenty of sunny days and overcast days and little to no sunbathing on the Greek beaches. It’s too cold to take a dip in the water, but you can still enjoy the Greek beaches with some clothes on to keep warm in the breeze. The upside is you’ll find low prices and low numbers of tourists. See the Greece weather month by month breakdown here.
What to Pack for Greece?
Wondering what exactly to pack for a trip to Greece? We have you covered!
Greek Travel Planning Resources
- ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Greek: “Yasou” and “Efharisto”
- Currency: Euro – (EUR) – €
- Visa: Schengen visa. Which is 90 days in the European Union out of 180. Many nationalities are granted this on arrival for free. Check with your embassy to see if that is you.
- Weather: The weather in Greece is a Mediterranean climate. This means winters are mild and rainy, while summers are warm and dry with plenty of sunshine throughout the year.
- What to Pack: Warm weather clothes and a swimsuit, don’t forget a good pair of clothes to go and a jacket for cool nights. Read about what to wear in Greece.
- Budget: If you’re in the initial stages of planning check out our awesome post that breaks down how much a trip to Greece costs.
- Rent a Car: We suggest most visitors consider renting a car for the best trip possible. Try Discover Cars to compare quotes from different rental agencies. Check Price Here!
- Protect Your Trip: Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance! We always carry travel insurance to protect from injury, theft, or a canceled trip.
- Tours in Greece: Check out our list of the best tours you can enjoy in Greece!
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.