The best Greek islands to visit

From the sparkling beaches of Kefalonia to the wildflower-strewn plateaus and rugged mountains of Crete, we've compiled a list of the best Greek islands.

By Saga team

Published 16 May 2024

If you’re dreaming of idyllic Greek holidays, then you’re in the right place. With its beautiful blend of ancient history and warm weather, Greece has always been one of our most popular destinations.

Putting together a list of the best Greek islands is no easy task – in fact it’s almost impossible.

There are hundreds of inhabited islands in Greece, and everybody has their own favourite. We could write another blog tomorrow with five different choices and then keep doing that for a month without reaching a definitive verdict!

Whichever destination you love most, you will surely agree there is something magical about a Greek island holiday.

Santorini

Santorini is a firm favourite with travellers to the islands of Greece. Actually a crescent-shaped cluster of islands that are on the western rim of an undersea volcano, this archipelago is a famous destination for romantic getaways.

A delightful location, where ancient Minoan sites and traditional villages meet modern wineries and breweries, Santorini offers culture and cuisine in abundance.

Mall Greek Street in Lindos, Rhodes, Greece

Rhodes

The largest of Greece’s Dodecanese islands, Rhodes is a superb place to relax and enjoy the things that Greek life is famous for; relaxing in the sunshine, eating out, and socialising with friends and family.

For centuries, this popular destination has also drawn those in search of history and culture.

The island was once home to the Colossus of Rhodes – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – and the medieval city of Rhodes is now a designated UNESCO world heritage site.

As relaxing holiday islands go, it doesn’t get much better than Rhodes: it is a lovely place to walk around by day, and the old quarter of Rhodes town is very atmospheric in the evenings.

With so much history and beauty to choose from, you may find it difficult to decide where to start your trip to Rhodes. Find out more about holidays to Rhodes here

Kefalonia

This stunning island was the setting for the best-selling novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Of course, the landscapes here are even more impressive in real life than they appear onscreen.

Be sure to pay a visit to Myrtos Beach, in the north-west of the island, where a crescent of picturesque, pristine white sand lies at the bottom of two mountains, Agia Dynati and Kalon Oros.

Stunning scenery and picturesque villages... and you’ll find Kefalonia has it all.

Corfu

One of the lushest of the Greek islands, Corfu is a favourite holiday destination of the rich and famous. It’s easy to see why – it is a truly beautiful location to get away from it all.

From its twisting coastline to rolling hillsides blushing with olive trees, there is plenty to appreciate.

Keen walkers will love the Corfu Trail, which winds its way from north to south offering walkers a chance to see many different sides of this enduring island.

Skiathos

The first of the Sporades archipelago to be developed for tourism, Skiathos is a hugely popular island destination that tempts travellers of all ages.

The island has stunning crystal waters and golden beaches in abundance for mature travellers.

The beaches are among the star attractions of Skiathos, and there are many highly worthy of recommendation. If you're staying in the island's capital, Skiathos Town, you could well find yourself drawn to the nearby Megali Ammos beach. It's a terrific spot to go for a swim.

The peninsula of Bourtzi is a picturesque and romantic spot, with dense and verdant pine trees framing stunning views of the archipelago. Delight in clear blue waters and golden sands on beaches like Lalaria and Achladies.

Along the coast, the tree-flanked Koukounaries beach offers glorious sunlight and pine-scented shade. Its fine white sands and - again - those clear, blue waters are a magnet for sun-worshippers in the high tourist months.

Many people visit Greece to go on walking tours, and Skiathos is one of the best parts of the country to do this. The rugged interior of the island is full of pretty villages, pine forests and trails of different sizes for the beginner or expert walker.

Other people come to the island for its pretty coastal towns and fishing villages which are jostling with white painted houses, narrow little streets and charming old church buildings.

Transport tip

A boat trip to Skiathos' famous Lalaria beach has to be top of the to-do list for all visitors to the island.

Aerial view of an old Venetian fortress island, Spinalonga, Crete, Greece. AV311

Crete

One of the largest islands in Greece, Crete is a many-layered destination.

The Minoan palaces of Knossos, Phaistos and Malia are among the finest attractions on the island, but you will find many different influences including the Roman and Byzantine Empires.

For a whistle-stop tour of Crete’s history and heritage, visit the Heraklion museum where there are thousands of artefacts on show.

Along with the hundreds of archaeological sites that will fascinate keen historians, there are some impressive natural wonders too.

It’s hard to ignore the turquoise waters of the Aegean glittering in the sunshine when you visit the island, and the beaches are a heavenly place to read a book or sip a cocktail.

Paros

Overlooked by many as a holiday destination, Paros has a rich and varied history, and is uniquely charming. The marble that was mined from its quarries for more than 2,000 years was used to make stoneworks like the Venus de Milo.

Paros also has its own protected designation of origin wine, as well as a range of religious festivals.

With a huge range of hiking trails formed by the island’s historical farmers, which take you from sun-soaked beaches to Byzantine churches, from marble quarries to fishing villages, this island is a walking and sightseeing paradise!

Kos

This much-loved gem in the Dodecanese island group of the southern Aegean Sea has all the best components at hand for a relaxing yet inspiring stay.

Chief among these on Kos are, naturally, fabulous weather, fine beaches, warm blue seas and tempting tavernas - all topped off with the many diversions of a peerless ancient history which Greece and her islands offer like no other.

Open your imagination to a glimpse of what live entertainment would have been like, Roman-style, courtesy of a trip to see the remains of the Odeon, the Roman theatre in Kos Town. Traces of the original Odeon first started to reveal themselves in the 1920s, when archaeological excavations revealed evidence of these ancient ruins blinking once again into the light.

A source of great pride in Kos' history is that Hippocrates, the oft-named father of modern medicine, is the island's most-famous son. His importance is symbolised by the Tree of Hippocrates, which you'll find just outside Neratzia Castle. It was under this oriental plane tree that Hippocrates was reputed to have taught students the rudiments of medicine.

If you seriously want to kick back in a textbook, traditional Greek setting, then the town of Kefalos has all those time-honoured holiday requirements of calm and relaxation. Kefalos is around 25 miles from Kos Town, at the far west point of the island.

The question of which and where are the best beaches on Kos (Therma, Marmari, Tigaki and Paradise beaches are notable favourites) is inevitably one of - literally - hot debate. The beaches in and around Kefalos are certainly worth seeking out, for indulging in the pleasures of sitting on the sands and going for a dip.

Food tip

Among favourites peculiar to the island of Kos is posa cheese: a goat's cheese marinated in red wine, which is every bit as full-bodied as it sounds.

Naxos

This island boasts the highest peak in the Cyclades, Mount Zeus. The verdant slopes on Naxos produce bountiful harvests of citrus fruits, olives, figs and grapes.

Perhaps sample Naxian wine – legend has it that this famous wine will cure broken hearts, since Ariadne was said to have fallen in love with Dionysus (god of wine) after Theseus abandoned her.

As a present-day visitor, you can tour remote beaches and ancient sites, but also thriving hubs of shopping and tourism – there is something for all your holiday needs!

Piraeus

This port has been the gateway to Athens since ancient times.

You can witness a mind-boggling array of stunning ships and ferries, sample seafront refreshments in the Zea Marina and Mikrolimano areas, and learn about the archaeological and maritime heritage of Piraeus at local museums.

Mykonos

Although it has a reputation as a youthful party island, Mykonos also offers an archaeological treasure in nearby Delos, and a range of excellent café-bars and restaurants.

In peak season, you may even see some famous faces around the island, as Mykonos is a top destination for A-list celebrities.


Tempted by a holiday to Greece and her islands? Find out more about our Greek holidays, including an island-hopping adventure on Santorini, Paros and Naxos and a tour of Cativating Crete with an Aegean Cruise.

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