9 Great Greek Island Getaways
From the backstreets of Mykonos to the beaches of Santorini, Greece is a long-time favorite island getaway spot.
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What you likely know: Santorini is one of the most breathtaking and romantic islands in the world. What you probably don't: It's actually a group of islands in the southernmost part of the Cyclades, the largest of which is the crescent-shaped Thira. When you step into the mythical village of Oia, on Thira's northernmost tip, with its whitewashed cubist buildings atop multicolored cliffs it's no surprise Cousteau once searched for the lost city of Atlantis here. Relax in a chaise lounge on the colorful sands of Santorini's famous Red Beach or taste assyrtiko, a dry white wine on a winery tour of the island, both byproducts of having endured one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history.
With stately cypresses, shimmering olive groves and rugged mountains you'll find Homer's "beautiful and rich land" off the west coast of Greece. While Corfu's stunning coastline has attracted areas of dense tourism, it remains one of the greenest of the Greek Islands. Much like the other Ionian islands, the beautifully preserved Old Quarter -- A UNESCO world heritage site -- has Venetian influences including a 15th-century fortress.
One word comes to mind when you think of Symi — beauty. If you’re into traditional water villages, classic architecture and fantastic fishing opportunities, then Symi is the perfect port for you. With it’s beautiful, pastel-colored neoclassical homes stacked along its stunning coastline, Symi offers a ton of tiny, hidden beaches for lovers and romantics of all ages to enjoy.
Boasting some of the most picture-perfect aqua blue water you’ve ever seen, it’s no wonder that Zakynthos is slowing becoming one of the most popular summer vacation islands in all of Greece. With ample cliffs and beaches for sun-bathing, people watching and an exorbitant amount of water activities — from scuba diving to surfing — Zakynthos is the perfect place for millennials to party under the warm summer sun.
Beware of "the season" on Ios. Every July and August the island becomes a youthful party destination, with beach parties stretching from midday into the wee hours at Mylopotas beach, while shoulder season (from mid-April to mid-June) draws older travelers and families looking for a quieter pace.
The most popular island in Greece, Mykonos has all the trappings you'd expect that attract the Jet Set: glamorous shops open until midnight, trendy galleries, rollicking nightlife and plethora of water sports off Psarou beach. What's not lost, however, are winding, white-marble streets, the quaint windmills of Kato Myli, hidden, blue-domed churches and charming, small museums. The south shore boasts the best beaches whether you're looking to spend time with family (try Ornos), relax (find a quiet cove at Agrari) or party (see what all the fuss is about on the hedonistic Paradise beach). Expect crowds and high prices during the high season, but the quintessential town of Hora is still worth a visit.
What Paros lacks in large crowds, it makes up for in traditional Cycladen architecture and unrivaled natural beauty. In past lives it was best known for its marble (in which the Venus de Milo and Napoleon's tomb were carved) and central location in the Aegean Sea (it's a major ferry hub for nearby Naxos, Santorini and Mykonos). The charming capital of Parikia is home to the 6th century Panayia Ekatontapyliani, which roughly translates to the "church with one hundred doors." To the north, the old port of Naoussa manages to be equal parts quaint fishing town and nightlife hub. Beautiful Golden and New Golden Beaches in the south east are ideal for sunbathing, windsurfing and kitesurfing.
One of the largest and most popular islands for tourists to visit, Rhodes plays home to some of the most stunning beach resorts in all of Greece. You’ll wonder where the time went as you could spend countless days just laying around, basking in the sun. But Rhodes has more to offer than just beautiful beaches. Known as the Island of the Knights, explore the incredible ruins that still remain during the day, then shower up and hit the streets to see why people can’t get enough of notorious Rhodes’ nightlife.
Hydra's picturesque harbor in the Saronic gulf is full of open-air cafes, artful shops and chic boutiques -- where the owners are as charming as their wares. There are no cars or scooters on the island and everything is generally moved by donkeys up the steep mountain slope. Climb the tiny, marble lanes for views of the beautifully-preserved architecture or sunbathe on the large flat rocks and watch gutsy tourists attempt to jump off cliff tops. Once a popular hideout for celebrities such as the Rolling Stones and the Onassis family -- the nightlife won't disappoint either. Watch the sun set over cocktails or a white-tablecloth dinner at the aptly named Sunset Restaurant, just two minutes around the corner from the main port. It's second only to Santorini in its beauty.