Wondering where to go to in Greece and what are the best Greek islands for you? From quiet Greek islands to the most beautiful Greek islands we have you covered.
Don’t worry – you honestly can’t go wrong with any Greek island, especially if it’s your first time to Greece. Each one has amazing food, wine, and beaches, but each island also has something totally unique about it too.
Let’s dig in!
The Best Greek Island to Just Chill
We knew Paros was one of the quieter Cycladic islands to visit, which is always my choice over more popular well known islands. Now I can without a doubt say that Paros ranks up there as one of our favorite Greek islands to visit, especially in September, when we went!
Paros has everything you could want out of a trip to the Greek islands. Friendly Greek locals, delicious seaside food, unique beaches, fun towns, stunning sunsets and so much more. Wondering what to do in Paros? Exploring the mountain town of Lefkes brings you right back into olden day Greece, rent a boat and cruise the blue lagoon for some fun in the sun, and end the day enjoying sunset at the hip restaurants in Naousa. See all the things to do in Paros here!
The Best Greek Island for Beach Hopping
The Greek island of Milos had been on our list of places to visit in Greece for years. We had seen photos of the moonscape beaches and heard about how quiet the island was in comparison to others, so it was only a matter of time before we ventured to Milos ourselves.
It was everything we could have hoped for. It has gorgeous beaches, including Sarakinio, the one in the photo above that literally looks like another planet. The towns are like something out of a movie, and there are even cliff jumps for the adventurous souls. Get here soon before it turns into another Mykonos. See all the things to do in Milos here.
The Best Greek Island for Families
Just a short ferry ride away from Paros is the beautiful island of Naxos. Naxos is the picturesque version of Greece. Cycladic white and blue houses, amazing history, ancient Greek architecture, great food, beautiful European beaches, amazing sunsets, friendly Greek people? Check, Check, Check!
We loved venturing around Naxos whether it be sitting on one of the best beaches in Europe, strolling around the small village of Halki, or seeing the island’s landmark, Portara. It’s a great Greek island to visit for families as it’s quiet and not a huge party place. See all the things to do in Naxos here.
The Best Greek Island for All Around Outdoor Activity
We’ve ventured back to Crete twice and seriously want to go a third and fourth time! We traveled all over, from Stefanou Beach to the famous Pink Sand Beach and were never disappointed. The Wikitravel page for Crete states that “If there was a beauty contest for Greek islands, Crete would surely be among the favorites.”
After visiting Crete, with its secluded bays, empty villages, deep valleys, and pink sand beaches we can attest that Wikitravel is right. The island is vast, stunning, rugged, and filled with friendly Cretans that may even be more hospitable than their mainland counterparts. It’s no wonder that the island is a top destination for European holiday goers. It may even win the award for most beautiful Greek island. The island is big you’ll need at least a week or two to hit everything there is to do. See the fun things you can get up to in Crete here.
The Best Greek Island for Romance
One of the best places to visit in Greece is Santorini. Due to the beautiful white and blue buildings of Oia, a few popular movies, and then, of course, Instagram, Santorini is one of the most popular islands in the Greek isles.
Mix that in with a few cheap flight options, friendly Greeks, neverending sunshine, and delicious Mediterranean food and you have yourself the grand slam of holidays.
Santorini has taken off in popularity over the last 10 years, but for good reason – it is stunning. Amoudi Bay is what dreams are made of, and then you have all the Greek wine, sunset cruises, and black sand beaches to enjoy. It truly is one of the best Greek islands to visit. See all the things to do in Santorini here.
The Best Greek Island for Partying and Clubbing
Mykonos is one of Greece’s most well-known Aegean islands. Set in the central archipelago of the Cyclades, this island has just about everything going for it – and we mean everything. There’s nightlife by the gallon, some delicious food, charming Cycladic architecture, beaches, water sports, boutiques, and nightlife. Yeah, did we mention the hedonistic, sometimes pricey nightlife?
Mykonos is a Greek party island, best for the young holiday goers after some drinking and clubbing. However, there are still other fun things to do and see on Mykonos that all can enjoy!
The Best Greek Island for Adventures
Samos is one of the popular East Aegean Islands and is a busy place come summer. It’s a great island to soak up the delicious Greek food, wine, and beaches. As well as your typical Greek goodness, Samos is also an exciting place to go hiking, climbing, and mountain biking.
Make sure to try the famous muscat wine that is exported from Samos all over the globe. Samos Vin Doux, is the main muscat dessert wine, and you should definitely try some before leaving!
The Best Greek Island for a Day Trip from Turkey
We ventured to Chios from the Turkish Coast. That’s because the island is only one hour by ferry from Cesme. It’s one of the larger Greek islands and takes some time to explore.
Chios is famous for its mastic trees, which is an evergreen shrub you can really only find on this island. Besides the trees there’s plenty to do on this mountainous island. Try strolling around the Medieval villages of Olympi and Pyrgi or see one of the many monasteries.
If you don’t mind going underground hit up the Olympi Cave, a cave gorge, that is 60m wide and a humidity of 95%!
The Best Greek Island for History
Rhodes is one of the most popular islands in the Greek isles due to its cheap flights from mainland Europe. Of course, it’s Greece, so it’s sure to give you sun and a great time.
Rhodes is known for being one of the most diverse Greek Isles and packed with history due to its geographical significance. Old Town Rhodes for one, has a fascinating history dating back to antiquity. While exploring you can walk down the Street of Knights, a medieval street that was once the home to the famed Knights of Hospitaller who ruled over Rhodes.
When you’re done with the history and ancient ruins head to one of the many beaches for sunbathing and kitesurfing. See all the things to do in Rhodes here!
The Best Greek Island for Peace and Quiet
Antiparos is the small neighboring island next to Paros. It’s not well known on the Greek island radar, but is well worth a day trip from Paros! Only a five minute ferry ride will bring you to the small island. Once here you can explore the cute town of Chora, venture to the many beaches, or check out the Antiparos cave.
If you want to stay on Antiparos the only town to do that at is Chora. The other option is to rent a car and venture to some of the small villas and guesthouses around the island.
Also, this island is where Tom Hanks has a holiday home. Maybe you’ll spot him and his wife, Rita Wilson, if you’re there at the right time. Although he is well loved and protected by locals so don’t think you’ll find out where he lives.
How to Get Around the Greek Islands?
There are a few main options for getting around the Greek islands. Rental Car, moped, public bus, or 4×4. A moped is the cheapest option, but in Greece, you need a motorcycle license in order to rent one. Many rental agencies in Greece will let you slide and rent a moped without this, but we couldn’t find anyone on a few of these Greek islands to rent us a moped on just a standard license.
A 4×4 is the most fun option to get around the Greek islands on. However at around €40 a day it’s an expensive one. Also during the high season, you’ll need an advanced reservation to rent one of these bad boys. I prefer not to rent mopeds or 4x4s as I appreciate my shade and AC while getting around the Greek islands.
If you don’t want to drive yourself around the Greek islands the public bus will get you to the main sites around the islands. However, you will be limited to their schedule.
The last option (and our favorite) is a rental car. To rent a car in Greece you need a standard International drivers license (A valid US license works). If your license is not in English or Greek, have a translation just in case. You also should be prepared to hand over your passport. Also depending on where you trying to rent an International Drivers Permit may be mandatory for if you get pulled over. It may be tough to find a rental agency to rent to you without an IDP, we rented with Avis and they were great and didn’t need any additional paperwork.
We’ve rented a car in Greece without an IDP and had places in Greece require that we have an IDP. If you are from North America, Australia, or outside the EU it’s best that you arrive to Greece with an IDP just to be safe. You can get one here if you’re in a hurry. If you get in an accident or our fulled over without an IDP you may be subject to a steep fine in the EU.
Most car rental companies in Greece will require you to be 21 and to have held a license in your home country for a year. If you are under 25 you may face additional charges. Here are some sites to compare prices on:
How to Get to Greece?
Most visitors to the Greek islands will have to get to Athens first. There are great flight connections from around the world that fly into Athens. From Athens you can fly right to many Greek islands which might be a quicker option than taking a ferry.
If you are coming from elsewhere in Europe you have budget flight options that go to Santorini, Crete, Mykonos, and other Greek Islands.
From Athens, the best way to travel the Greek islands is by water. There are tons of ferries and highspeed catamarans running daily to the other Greek islands. I like to check schedules on Ferry Hopper.
When is the Best Time to Visit Greece?
High season (June-September)
Like most places in Europe, Greece’s high season runs from June to mid-September. This is when you will find the best sunny weather, but also larger crowds. Days are longer, the weather is HOT, so you’ll want to be close to a pool or ocean. Hotel and car rental prices are at their highest.
Shoulder Season (April – May or October -November)
The weather in Greece is cooler during these months, some would consider it much more comfortable than prime summertime weather. It’s not as busy as the summertime, but you’ll still see lots of travelers lingering about. Prices on accommodation and car rentals will drop during this time. The shoulder season is typically a fantastic time to visit Greece.
Low Season (Late November – April)
The temperatures are cooler during the low season in Greece. You’ll still see plenty of sunny days but also overcast days and little to no sunbathing on the Greek beaches. It’s too cold to take a dip in the water, but you can still enjoy the Greek beaches with some clothes on to keep warm in the breeze. The upside is you’ll find low prices and low numbers of tourists. See the month by month breakdown here.
Where to Stay in Greece?
Plan and Pack for Greece
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem in Greece so it’s best not to contribute to the problem buying plastic water bottles everywhere – plus the water from the taps here is perfectly safe to drink. We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well.
However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
A cover-up is one of those beach vacation clothes you should always travel within your luggage. When packing for a day at the beach, make sure you don’t forget one. Not only do they look cute, but they will also protect you from the suns harsh rays.
Many establishments don’t allow beachgoers to wear just a swimsuit, so this is where the cover-up is essential. Most of my cover-ups come from Pitusa.
This all depends on where you’re heading to the beach, but a portable Bluetooth speaker is great to have when you’re in a group. We travel with a small BOOM speaker and take it with us when it feels appropriate. We say this because it’s often best to leave it at home on small secluded beaches so not to annoy anyone else with your music — no one’s that good of a DJ.
Of course, what you wear all depends on where you live! For those heading to Greece in the Spring or Fall, you may want something a little warmer. For those days we always reach for a warm fleece jacket.
Patagonia’s Synchilla Snap T Pullover fleece is the best fleeces for the beach in our opinion. The fleece has a classic relaxed cut that has a timeless look for a walk on the beach or evening bonfire. It’s a double-sided fleece that provides plenty of warmth while remaining soft and comfortable.
No matter what you will need a beach bag when heading to the beach. This is to throw in anything like towels, a book, a speaker, sunglasses, snacks, and sunscreen. As full-time travelers, we often use our daypacks for trips to the beach since a tote is unnecessary.
However, a classic tote that everyone has in their closet is a great option for those on short trips or live close to the beach. They also travel well as they can fold flat and lie in your luggage. For family beach goers I recommend a large yet durable beach tote like this one.
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Greece. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
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