Essential Guide to the Greek Islands

Essential Guide to the Greek Islands

Say hello to sun, sand, and every shade of blue

If you’re looking for a vacation filled with endless sunshine, great food, tons of inexpensive, incredible wines and so many shades of Mediterranean blue your head will spin, look no further than the Greek islands and dreamy places like Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu, Crete, Zakynthos and Paros. From art and culture that dates back thousands of years to plenty of white sand beaches, olive groves, cypress trees and valleys dotted with small fishing villages, you’ll see why locals and tourists alike are in love with these islands.

Santorini

In the Aegean Sea, halfway between Athens and Crete, Santorini is part of the Cyclades island group and gets its wonky crescent shape from a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. A holiday maker haven most of the year, Santorini’s unmistakable landscape includes multicoloured, layered cliffs, volcanic sand beaches in all shades, white cycladic houses overlooking the deep indigo blue waters below and spectacular sunsets that keep the crowds coming back for more. The perfect summer escape from the everyday, stroll through the bustling capital, Fira and discover all the amazing food. Or, take a wine tour in the interior then head to Oia, the most photographed village in Greece with its blue domed churches and whitewashed cave houses. Better yet, watch a movie at the island’s open air cinema, Kamari, for a true taste of island culture.
Where to Stay in Santorini

Mykonos

MykonosIt’s one of the most talked about Greek islands, but don’t let Mykonos’ party reputation deter you from visiting one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. Although there is a distinct Ibiza vibe that is hard to ignore in certain parts of this island during the summer months, there are many other sides to this breathtaking place that are well-worth discovering. Perhaps it’s the thatched roof windmills and whitewashed cubist buildings that contrast the electric blue Mediterranean waters, or the warm, dry Aegean breeze that blankets the island, or even the rose coloured hue that bathes the landscape when the sun begins to set. Besides world class clubs, high-end restaurants and bourgeois-bohemian crowds, there is a rustic, quiet and peaceful side to life in Mykonos that is charming, irresistible and worth taking a chance on this summer.
Where to stay in Mykonos

Corfu

For endless sunshine, great food, tons of wine and layers of blue upon blue upon blue, look no further than Corfu. Located in the Ionian Sea off Greece’s northwest coast, this stunning place is a haven for those in need of some serious rest and relaxation. With a rich and storied multicultural history (the island has been inhabited by the Italians, the French and the British), Corfu is also considered one of the most cosmopolitan Mediterranean destinations (the first Greek University, the first Philharmonic Orchestra and the First School of Fine Arts were all founded here). With so much art and culture, plenty of beaches, olive groves and cypress-covered mountain peaks, you’ll see why locals and tourists alike are in love with Corfu.
Where to stay in Corfu

Crete

This largest island in all of Greece could very well be its own country. With a fierce identity all its own, this magical place has a captivating, varied landscape that takes travellers from Elafonisi’s soft sandy beaches to Mount Ida, the tallest peak in the island’s White Mountain range (where Zeus was born, according to Greek Mythology). With a rich cultural history and fascinating ruins from the Minoans – the first advanced society in Europe close to 4,000 years ago –  this island is at the center of three continents and carries traditions from each one. Add to that its distinct cuisine, including raki and wine, herbs, locally grown greens and fresh seafood, and you might never go to another Greek island again.
Where to stay in Crete

Zakynthos

Zakynthos-imageIf you’re looking for a serious beach vacation, Zakynthos is definitely the place to be. Off the West coast of Greece and in the Ionian sea, this island is the perfect happy medium for those who are looking for a little bit of action (scuba diving, turtle spotting, cycling, kayaking, base jumping), mixed with some serious sun and sand. With all the beaches and well-travelled tourist spots on the southern and eastern shores, this is where you’ll find Agios Nikolaos, the best beach on the island, or Alikes and Alykanas beaches – a long stretch of sand with plenty of facilities, sunbeds and watersports. For the more adventurous travelers, head off the beaten track to the island’s interior where scenic mountainside villages and breathtaking hidden coves are just waiting to be discovered, or explore the more dramatic west and north coasts with cliffs dropping many hundreds of feet straight into the sea.
Where to stay in Zakynthos

Paros

This well known ferry hub is often overlooked by travellers as they make their way to other nearby islands… Big mistake! With its sophisticated capital, Parikia, well-heeled picturesque towns, and charming countryside villages, what makes this island even better is its lack of tourist crowds. Often referred to as Mykonos without the price tag or the hype, this small Cyclades archipelago island has a bit of everything: whitewashed villages, blue-domed churches, blonde-sand beaches, fishing harbours overlooked by taverna tables and a thriving bar and café scene. For those seeking a little more action beyond lounging in the sun, head to the charming 19th-century lighthouse on Cape Korakas – accessed by the best network of walking trails on Paros. There’s also windsurfing at Khrysi Akti or Tsardakia beach, or get on board with the very popular kite-surfing phenomena at Pounda.
Where to stay in Paros