Greece, Beyond the Beach

Greece, Beyond the Beach

From Santorini to Crete, the Greek Islands offer more than sand and sea

Ahhh, summer in the Greek Islands… Lazy days spent sunning on a kaleidoscope of beautiful beaches – from grey pebbled coves to stretches of white, red and black sand. While it may be hard to break away from their siren song, the islands offer so much to explore! Here are a few memorable excursions that are worth the journey.

Sip Wine in Santorini’s Volcanic Vineyards

Santorini VineyardSantorini’s wine-making tradition dates back 3,500 years, with distinctive wines shaped by its volcanic soil. The island is best known for its white grapes, which produce both refreshing dry wines, and sweet dessert wines. Guided tasting tours offer an excellent way to explore several vineyards in a single afternoon, with walks through the scenic vineyards, and wine cellar visits. Tastings are generally paired with a selection of local olives and cheeses – to better appreciate the flavors. Best of all, chauffeured tours allow participants the chance to fully appreciate tasting sessions without having to navigate Santorini’s hairpin turns behind the wheel!

Explore a Venetian Fortress in Zakynthos

Bocholi Castle, ZakynthosPeaceful and beach-loving Zakynthos hardly seems like a likely setting for battles, but this Ionian island was once a hotly contested medieval outpost. Traces of its former military might can still be seen at Bochali Castle – a fortress built by the Venetians in the 15th century and destroyed by the Turks less than a century later. Today, a few cannons, stone walls, and a crest of St. Mark’s Lion – representing Venice’s patron saint – are all that remain of this once impressive fort. While you won’t find many medieval treasures left in this castle, the panoramic views from its hilltop vantage point are still well worth the hike.

Set Sail on a Sunset Catamaran Cruise

Red Beach, SantoriniThe Greek Islands are known for the exceptional sunsets, and some of the best views can be spotted at sea. During the summer months, private catamarans depart daily from the most popular islands. Set sail from Santorini for a day of beach-hopping fun: swim or snorkel at the aptly named Red Beach or White Beach, or ask your captain to make a stop at the warm, mineral-laden waters of Santorini’s hot springs. Hungry after all that swimming? Not to worry – most cruises include a full picnic lunch and refreshments, so you’ll be in good shape to enjoy the sunset show.

Step Back in Time in Ancient Crete

Knossos, CreteWhile Athens may be home to many of the the best-known Greek architectural sites, the island of Crete offers a unique perspective on what was once Europe’s most prosperous and advanced civilization. Dubbed the “Minoans” by the famed British archaeologist Arthur Evans, the residents of ancient Crete ruled the surrounding seas – trading Mediterranean goods at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe. Subsequent earthquakes have damaged many of the island’s former palaces, but Knossos still offers plenty to see, with colorfully restored frescoes offering a glimpse into life on Crete before 1150 BC.

See all our villas in the Greek Islands 

Katherine Scott