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Searching for the best Greek islands to visit? Since there are literally thousands to choose from, the task of finding the ideal vacation spot in Greece can be a bit overwhelming. 

Beautiful, alluring, chock-full of culture, history, and mythology, the Greek islands are as mysterious as they are beautiful. From the tourist crowds in Santorini and Mykonos to the quieter islands of Symi and Anafi, you’ll find that each Greek island offers visitors something different. 

The best part about the Greek islands is that they’re grouped up, with many in close proximity to one another. This means island-hopping galore, making your way from one landmass to another to discover what’s in store.

To plan your dream Greek island vacation, check out our list of 20 of the best islands in Greece for a hefty dose of inspiration and wanderlust!

Quick Answer: Best Greek Islands to Visit

Here are our recommendations for the best islands in Greece! Read on to learn more about each island including highlights, when to visit, and more.

  • Santorini
  • Naxos
  • Ios
  • Crete 
  • Rhodes
  • Skiathos
  • Corfu
  • Mykonos
  • Zakynthos
  • Milos
  • Serifos
  • Paros
  • Anafi
  • Samos
  • Lefkada
  • Hydra
  • Ithaca
  • Kefalonia
  • Folegandros
  • Symi

Santorini

Best Greek islands to visit: blue and white domed church with ocean behind in Santorini Greece

Best For: First-time island visit, parties, water sports
When to Visit: May & September
Don’t Miss: Oia, Fira, Red Beach

When most people think of the Greek islands, Santorini is the first picture to pop into mind. 

Whitewashed houses accented with blue hues, bright flowers, and endless stairs leading to hidden bits of paradise, all overlooking the expansive sea… Yeah, it’s no wonder Santorini is regarded as one of the best Greek islands to visit. 

Besides being the ideal background for those Instagram-worthy photos, Santorini has lots to discover. There are volcanic beaches, plenty of vineyards and hidden hot springs, not to mention a boatload of history and some great parties, too. 

If you’re looking for some island fun, Santorini is certainly the place to be. Spend your days zipping around on a jet ski safari or learn how to scuba dive in the Aegean Sea. For a more laid-back afternoon on the water, you can even take a catamaran cruise where you’ll drink, dine, and see all that the waters around Santorini have to offer.  

On a Greek island tour, iconic Santorini simply can’t be missed!  

For more on Santorini: What to Do in Santorini, Greece

Naxos

Naxos town with white houses on top of a hill connected to the sea by a thin strip of land.

Best For: Beaches, Roman ruins, hiking
When to Visit: April to October
Don’t Miss: Apollo Temple, Hora, Agios Prokopios

Naxos is a Greek island that has a little bit of everything. Charming towns, historic sites, sandy beaches, hiking trails, and plenty of delicious places to eat, it’s an ideal destination if you’re exploring the islands in the Aegean Sea.

Naxos has lots of great museums to check out if you’re interested in the island’s history, as well as a cool mishmash of architecture ranging from Venetian mansions to Roman ruins. There’s also an abundance of nature to enjoy, ranging from bird walking to hiking up mountains!

Something that makes Naxos special is that it’s home to some amazing rural villages built into the mountainsides that have been there for centuries. Visit them to step back in time and take in a whole new perspective on Greek island life.

If you’re interested in exploring the water surrounding the island, Naxos is the perfect place to take a sailing tour to enjoy the sea breeze!

Ios

beach surrounded by mountains in Ios, Greece

Best For: Parties, beaches, island-hopping
When to Visit: June to September
Don’t Miss: Odysseus Elytis Theater, Mylopotas Beach, Manganari Beach

Known as one of the greatest places to party in Greece, Ios draws in heaps of young island-hopping travelers seeking nights full of drinking and dancing on the beach. It’s close to both Naxos and Santorini, making it easy to add on to any Greek islands itinerary, but it’s a great standalone destination as well.

While the nightlife on Ios is definitely something to write home about, there’s so much more to experience on this Greek island. There are villages sitting atop cliffs, tiny cobblestone streets, and unmatched beaches like Mylopotas, Agia Theodoti, and Gialos. 

Pair that with delicious, fresh foods and what more can you ask for?

The landscapes around Ios are simply breathtaking. These views are best taken in from the Odysseus Elytis Theater which sits high on a hill. From here, you can enjoy wild views of the expansive Aegean Sea. 

Ios is nothing short of a picture-perfect Greek island.

Crete

harbor in heraklion, crete

Best For: History, beaches, Greek culture
When to Visit: April, May, September, October
Don’t Miss: Knossos Palace, Heraklion, Elafonissi Beach

As Greece’s largest island, Crete has flourished for thousands of years. It underwent rule by the Dorians as well as the Ottomans, and displays a whole host of influence spanning from the Venetians to the Turks. 

Crete is rich in culture and history, with thrilling archaeological sites crafted by some of the first civilizations. Take Knossos for example, a Minoan palace dating back to 1,900 B.C. There’s also the Old Towns of Heraklion and Chania which are full of narrow, winding streets, holding mysteries of the past. 

But it isn’t all about learning on this island.

Crete has some fantastic beaches running along the southwest of the island. Pink sand, palm groves, high cliffs; you name it and you bet a beach on this Greek island will have it! If you’re intrigued by the pink sand, consider taking a day trip to Elafonisi Island from Chania to lie on the beaches colored pink from coral.

There are loads of places to explore up and down the coast, so you can rest assured that no matter what you get up to, you’ll never be bored in Crete. 

Rhodes

Best Greek island: White houses with hills behind at golden hour in Rhodes, Greece

Best For: History, beaches
When to Visit: April, May, September, October
Don’t Miss: Palace of the Grand Master, Old Town, Prassonissi

Rhodes is another one of the best Greek islands to visit if you’re aching for some sightseeing. The historic sights here are nothing short of marvelous, transporting visitors to a time long ago. 

You’ll be charmed by the Old Town of the island which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It doesn’t get much better than a stroll through the medieval section, surrounded by impenetrable walls, full of small walk streets and tucked away squares. 

If you’re looking to go even further back in time, visit the ancient ruins of the Acropolis sitting high on the hill. Then pop by the Temple of Athena Linda from the 4th century.

Once you’ve had your fill of taking in the sights, kick back on one of the glorious beaches, take a day cruise to explore the waters, or catch a ferry to another nearby Greek island!

Skiathos

colorful buildings with hill behind and sea with boats in front in Skiathos Greece

Best For: Scenery, beaches, scuba diving
When to Visit: June to September
Don’t Miss: Old Town, Evangelistria Monastery, Koukounaries Beach

Skiathos is one of those Greek islands that you look at and wonder to yourself, “how can this place be real?” It’s just that beautiful.

Part of the Sporades group of islands in the Aegean Sea, Skiathos is basically paradise. Think mountainous cliffs looming over empty stretches of sand, looking out over the clear turquoise waters. 

The beaches here are on another level! They are some of the best in all of Greece, backed by pine forests and laden with soft golden sand. The water is calm and warm in the summer, perfect for enjoying on a sunny afternoon.

Skiathos is also a premier diving destination, with multiple dive centers around the island and crystal clear waters to explore.

Besides the beaches, Skiathos has a lovely Old Town that you should definitely hit up for the freshest seafood ever. There are some impressive religious sites like the Evangelistria Monastery and the Agios Nikolos Church. 

Corfu

best greek island: pedestrian street in Corfu, Greece

Best For: Landscapes, cosmopolitan atmosphere
When to Visit: April, May, September, October, November
Don’t Miss: Canal d’Amour, Old Town, Paleokastritsa Beach

An impressive island with a history of drawing in the wealthy, Corfu has a cosmopolitan feel blended with a Mediterranean vibe, something you don’t get in many other places.

Attractive to upscale travelers, Corfu is alluring with its pastel-colored villages, hip restaurant scene, and chic European mansions inspired by French, British and Venetian design. However, it’s still got plenty for those seeking a low-key island vacation.

Corfu’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, enchanting to explore. This Greece island located in the Ionian Sea is also home to splendid natural beauty. One to definitely check out is the Canal d’Amour which, rumor has it, gives the power to you and your lover to stay together forever, so long as you swim it side by side… Dreamy!

The waters surrounding Corfu are brimming with marine life and a thriving Mediterranean ecosystem below the surface, making it the perfect place to learn how to scuba dive!

Mykonos

Greece islands: White buildings and shops in a small street in Mykonos, Greece

Best For: Parties, nightlife, beaches, island-hopping
When to Visit: April, May, September, October
Don’t Miss: Ftelia Beach, windmills, Delos, Little Venice

What’s a list of the best islands to visit in Greece without a mention of Mykonos? The epicenter for all things party, Mykonos is the best Greek island to visit if you’re looking for a wild time.

Home to some of the coolest clubs in Europe and an unmatched beach party scene, Mykonos is the Ibiza of Greece and attracts a young and fun crowd.

When it comes to nursing your inevitable hangovers here, drive away from town for some peace and quiet at one of Mykonos’ plentiful secluded coves. Alternatively, head into town to grab a coffee and enjoy some fresh air. 

Want to learn more about the island? To see how the locals live, consider taking an authentic tour of Mykonos led by a knowledgeable guide who will take you to remote villages, small harbors, and hidden beaches. 

Partying aside, it’s a beautiful place to visit, full of whitewashed houses with bright pops of color. Mykonos is also just next to Delos, perfect for a day trip to the island where Apollo was born!

Zakynthos

View of Shipwreck Cove in Zakynthos, Greece - a small beach surrounded by curved, rocky cliffs.

Best For: Beaches, boat tours, scenery
When to Visit: June to September
Don’t Miss: Navagio Beach, Anafonitria Monastery, Cliffs of Keri

Sitting deep in the Ionian Sea, you’ll find Zakynthos, famous for its postcard views and beaches that draw in tourist crowds from all over the world.

The most famous of these sandy stretches in Navagio Beach, aka Shipwreck Cove, a small beach tucked away between towering cliffs, looking out over the open sea. Navagio got its nickname in the 1980s when a ship smuggling illegal cigarettes crashed and washed up to shore. You can still see the rusty boat sitting in the sand today!

Besides the beach, Zakynthos has caves off the shore to explore and small coves for a secluded dip. Since they’re only accessible by water, taking a tour is the best way to experience the natural wonders off the coast as you’ll have a local guide who knows the perfect spots. This tour includes a trip to Shipwreck Cove and the Blue Caves!

When you’re done exploring the beachy coast and clear waters, head to the little towns and quaint villages where you can chill and find a bite to eat. There are also some noteworthy historic sites on this Greece island such as Anafonitria Monastery and the Byzantine Museum.

No matter where you end up in Zakynthos, you can bet it’ll be beautiful!

Milos

Greece islands: sea with rock formations and beach in Milos Greece

Best For: Unique landscape, cliff jumping, Greek charm
When to Visit: June to September
Don’t Miss: Sarakiniko Beach, Adamas, Plaka 

A volcanic island full of colorful villages, Milos makes for an exotic escape and is among the best of the Greek islands to visit for any traveler.

Most of the island, which is located in the Aegean Sea, is surrounded by fishing towns, making eating seafood a top thing to do in Milos. 

There are also some outstanding beaches — of a different kind though. Since it’s a volcanic island, the beaches are much more pebbly, with darker sand than those on many of the other islands. One of the most interesting of these beaches is Sarakiniko, where visitors sunbathe on the smooth white rock and use them as a personal platform for jumping into the sea — fun!

Besides Sarakiniko, the waters surrounding Milos are full of unique rock formations, only accessible by boat. Take a full-day sailing cruise to visit other hotspots like Kleftiko, Arkoude,s and Sykia Bay!

While in Milos, be sure to visit Adamas, the port town, and Pollonia to see how the fishermen live. Plaka is where you can find the whitewashed houses and an Old Town vibe, as well as plenty of places to stroll around. 

Serifos

church on a hill with sunset behind in serifos, Greece

Best For: Nature, local atmosphere, peace & quiet
When to Visit: May to October
Don’t Miss: Chora, Livadaki Beach, Mining Trail hike

Serifos, located in the west Cyclades, is a rocky, hilly, mountainous island in Greece that hasn’t yet been overrun by the tourism industry. Instead, it retains its traditional Greek charm, offering visitors an ultra-local experience rather than an all-inclusive resort laden shoreline. 

Spend your days traversing the hills and exploring whitewashed villages sitting high above the sea, or spread out on quiet, white sand beaches that you’ll have all to yourself. 

While there aren’t any fancy hotels, lavish restaurants, or lively nightclubs, Serifos offers a peaceful island vacation. Rent a boat from the marina to discover secluded parts of the shore or eat a delicious meal among the Greeks who inhabit the island. 

If you’re looking for a quiet Greek island vacation, it doesn’t get much better than Serifos!

Paros

white washed town with sea in front in Paros Greece

Best For: Water sports, diving, young people
When to Visit: May to October
Don’t Miss: Parika, Naousa, Kolombithres Beach

A little sister to island powerhouses Mykonos and Santorini, Paros is a divine Cyclades Island, known for its traditional villages, stunning beaches, and thrilling water sports.

Head to Paros for unparalleled windsurfing and kitesurfing (with competitions through the summer) and awesome adventure scuba diving as well! It’s the best Greek island to be on for some adventure, especially if you’re hoping to spend time out on the open sea.

There are two main villages on the island, Parikia and Naousa. There, you can find quaint places to stay, bustling taverns, and lots of young people dancing until the sun comes up. If you’re looking for a more local scene, make your way to Lefkes and Marpissa where life moves at a slower pace, surrounded by glorious natural beauty. 

Anafi

white washed village surrounded by mountains in anafi Greece

Best For: Quiet atmosphere, natural beauty
When to Visit: May to October
Don’t Miss: Church on Mt. Kalamos, Roukounas Beach

Anafi is a teeny tiny island in the Cyclades, perfect for escaping the madness of some of the larger islands in the area and chilling out for a little while. This is another Greek island that hasn’t felt the tremendous shake of tourist infrastructure, leaving it wholly local and without hoards of visitors every summer. 

A volcanic island, Anafi has an interesting and unique landscape with towering cliffs, pebbly beaches, and rocky outcrops providing fantastic views over the sea.

Besides the sheer beauty of the place, on a visit to Anafi, don’t miss the Church of Panagia Kalamiotissa sitting high on Mt. Kalamos as well as the dazzling Roukounas and Klisidi beaches.

Samos

boats on a shore with little town behind in Samos, island in Greece

Best For: Beaches, mythology
When to Visit: June to September
Don’t Miss: Heraion Sanctuary, Panagia Spiliani Monastery, Psili Ammos Beach

Samos, located in the East Aegean Sea, makes for a glorious vacation spot and is definitely one of the best islands in Greece to visit.

All along the coast, there are beaches that are out of this world beautiful, surrounded by lush greenery looking out over the turquoise waters. You’ll be able to find plenty that you can have all to yourself, but the island also has some killer beaches with awesome facilities, restaurants, and bars right on the shores.

This Greece island is also full of charming places to explore and loaded with Greek mythology magic. Samos is known for being the birthplace of Hera, the wife of Zeus, which explains the massive Heraion sanctuary built in her honor.

Also worth a visit in Samos is the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani where you can visit a church built into a cave which is where, rumor has it, the Virgin Mary was found.

The sites around Samos are pretty spread out, so if you don’t have a car, taking a full-day guided bus tour is the best way to see them all! 

Lefkada

beach surrounded by giant cliff in Lefkada Greece

Best For: Adventure activities, beaches, hiking, scenery
When to Visit: April to September
Don’t Miss: Porto Katsiki Beach, Poros, Nydri Waterfalls

An Ionian island dripping with rural charm, Lefkada is one of the best islands in Greece to visit if you’re looking for dramatic scenery and endless beach days. 

The island’s coastline is filled with beaches backed by showstopping cliffs, covered in lush greenery overlooking the golden sand and turquoise sea. As of now, it hasn’t been spoilt by massive tourist infrastructure so it feels very much like a remote getaway.

Lefkada is one of the quieter islands in Greece, perfect for a peaceful escape. That being said, there’s still plenty to do on the island whether you’re interested in exploring small towns and villages, paragliding over the coast, hiking through the hillsides, or diving below the sea’s surface. 

On a trip here, don’t miss Porto Katsiki, one of the best beaches in Greece and in all of Europe. You should also visit the villages of Poros and Sivota, where you’re guaranteed a local Greek experience. 

Hydra

best greek islands: hydra

Best For: Traditional Greek life, luxury holidays, hiking
When to Visit: May to October
Don’t Miss: Lazaros Koundouriotis Mansion, Prophet Elias and Saint Efpraxia Monasteries

Besides the modern amenities, Hydra is the picture of local Greek life as it’s been for thousands of years. The entire island is free from cars, allowing pedestrians to roam the streets freely. When your feet start to ache, hire a donkey to carry you wherever you need to go. What did I tell you? Local Greece, through and through!

Hydra is an elegant island with a harbor filled with yachts and fancy houses sitting on hillsides. Spend the day dining at the waterside restaurants in your Sunday’s best or explore the endless boutiques filled with crafts by local artists. 

While Hydra isn’t known for its beaches, there are plenty of hiking trails if you feel like getting out and about. Put on your shorts and climb up to monasteries or lookout points that provide views that are nothing short of breathtaking… 

If you’re intrigued by Hydra but want to see some other islands as well, this full-day tour of the Saronic Islands leaves from Athens and stops at Hydra, Poros, and Aegina!

Ithaca

tree with ocean, town and mountains behind in Greece island of Ithaca

Best For: Greek mythology, archaeology, local life
When to Visit: April to October
Don’t Miss: Odysseus’ Palace, Vathy, Frikes

If you read Homer’s Odyssey in 7th grade like I did, then you’ll remember that the island of Ithaca is home to Odysseus, the epic’s protagonist (or you won’t, I’m not judging). Whether you remember or not, it’s safe to say that Ithaca lives up to the glorious descriptions in the book and makes for the perfect Greek island vacation.

It’s magical, tranquil, and loaded with natural beauty from the shores of the island to the rolling green hilltops. While there isn’t too much to do on the island itself, Ithaca is the ideal place for a picture-perfect respite from the tourist crowd, especially during summer months.

While in Ithaca, explore Vathy, the island’s capital, where you’ll find plenty of folklore museums and archaeological sites. There’s also Frikes, a little fishing village sitting on a waterfront and plenty of other seaside towns where you can grab a hearty meal of fresh seafood and enjoy the scenery. 

Kefalonia

best greek islands to visit: Aerial view of beach in Kefalonia

Best For: Relaxing holiday, dramatic scenery, beaches, hiking
When to Visit: May to August
Don’t Miss: Myrtos Beach, Mount Ainos, Melissani Cave

The largest of the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia is the place to be if you’re seeking a relaxing holiday at some of the best beaches in all of Greece.

The coastline of Kefalonia is rather rugged, creating dramatic beach scenes lined by soaring rocky outcrops and mountains in the far off distance. Myrtos Beach is the star of Kefalonia, drawing in visitors to bask on its golden shores.

But there’s much more to Kefalonia than the beaches. Take Mount Ainos, for example, an opulent natural park full of deer and wild horses roaming free. It’s the perfect area to spend a day hiking and enjoying the fresh island air. 

There are also alluring villages sitting on the seaside, where you can watch the yachts pull in and out of the harbor, and vineyards where you can spend an afternoon sipping on some of Greece’s finest wines.

For a luxurious evening in Kefalonia, enjoy a private wine and gastronomy experience. You’ll have the chance to enjoy a wine tasting at a small vineyard and then a traditional Greek meal next to the sea, complete with a wine pairing! I’m drooling already.

Folegandros

white church on a hill with a winding path leading to it in Folegandros Greece

Best For: Authentic Greek life, culture, low tourism
When to Visit: March to June, September to December
Don’t Miss: Chora, Katergo Beach, Church of Panagia

Holy moly, I know it’s easy to call each of the islands in Greece magical but Folegandros takes it a step further. White houses lining the top of flat cliffs, overlooking the sea and beyond… This Greek island is something out of a movie, impossibly beautiful and endlessly impressive.

Folegandros isn’t a huge island, and as such you’ll find that it’s retained most of its authenticity rather than catering to massive tourist crowds. There are beaches that have remained largely untouched, nestled between the cliffs and tucked away in the Aegean Sea. 

Make a beeline for pebbly Katergo or Vorina Beach to bask in the sun or tan freely at the nudist Galifos Beach – just don’t forget the sunscreen!

You can easily find some delicious grub around Folegandros and plenty of small taverns and bars too. Head to Chora, the island’s capital, which is filled with little town squares where local life is abundant. 

Symi

Greek island: colorful buildings on a hilltop with boats and sea in front in Symi Greece

Best For: Scenery, beaches, peace & quiet
When to Visit: May to September
Don’t Miss: Gialos Harbor, Chorio Town, Marathounda Bay

A perfectly pastel paradise closer to mainland Turkey than Greece, Symi is without a doubt one of the prettiest Greek islands. Part of the Dodecanese group of islands, Symi is the place to be for a tranquil getaway.

Sitting along and above the port are rows upon rows of lightly colored houses in shades of peach, tangerine, robin’s egg blue, and that yellow that people use when they aren’t sure if they’re having a baby girl or boy. 

Behind these neatly-lined houses are rocky mountains rising in the distance, and in the forefront there’s the rolling sea filled with yachts and small boats. Besides the picture-perfect town, you’ll find glorious beaches, an acropolis in pieces, and a monastery that is well known as a major pilgrimage center. 

There aren’t a ton of places to stay on the island so be sure to book early. Alternatively, you can always opt to take a day trip to Symi from Rhodes, where you’ll get to see the best of the island without worrying about finding accommodation. 

Travel Must: At the risk of sounding like your parents, make sure you get travel insurance before hitting the road. Trust us, it’s one of those things you don’t want to leave home without. We recommend either World Nomads or Safety Wing, depending on the type of traveler you are.

Inspired to visit any of these best Greek islands? With so many to choose from, it’s only a matter of deciding which ones to visit first. It’s time to plan your summer getaway to Greece!


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Best Greek Islands | No trip to Greece is complete without a trip to the islands. Here's our complete list of the best islands in Greece with highlights and when to visit!

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