Greece is famous for its cobalt blue seas, aged whitewashed houses set against a brilliant blue sky backdrop and rustic fish restaurants by the ports. But did you know that Greece has over 6,000 islands in the Aegean and Ionian seas. Quite incredible, isn’t it?
Despite all of these beautiful islands, we only hear about a handful of them. Most of us have heard of the main Greek islands, including Santorini, Crete, Corfu, Kos and Rhodes. But if we really want to experience the true beauty of unspoilt Greek island life, we need to look a little deeper into our travel books and open up the pages of our passports to islands that we may never knew existed.
Off the beaten track, stunning deserted beaches, tranquility, bustling ports, incredibly fresh food and even the odd celebrity haunt are all on the menu in the Greek islands. So pull on your explorers hat and open your senses to the top Greek island destinations you’ve never heard of before…
Located in the Halkidiki peninsula, neatly tucked away between the two prongs of the peninsula, sits Ammouliani. This beautiful island has a good dose of rustic flavour combined with powdery white sandy beaches. Relatively unknown to tourists, most visitors to the island are Greek, meaning that it retains an authentic atmosphere reminiscent of Greek years gone by.
Beach lovers will be totally at home on the relaxing beaches of Ammouliani. Soak up the sun, lose yourself in a good book and sip cocktails served at a nearby beach bar. We have it on good authority that the clams really are worth trying too.
But if you fancy something a bit more energetic then why not go on one of the locally arranged excursions by boat? Try a boat trip to nearby Mount Athos to witness the famous cliff hanging monastery. Camping is also popular on Ammouliani, since the nights stay so warm. Most camp sites are a clam shells’ throw from the beach, so it’s ideal if you simply can’t tear yourself away from these pristine sands and the lapping blue seas.
Lying opposite the relatively well known isle of Paros you’ll find the smaller, more peaceful island of Antiparos. A haven away from the hustle bustle, if you will.
Popular with celebrities and those who value being in a relaxing haven away from the crowds, Antiparos provides the perfect holiday destination for sun seekers, solo travellers, seekers of quietude and anyone looking for peace and relaxation. Visit the incredible cave in the centre of the island, but watch out, if you’re not that stable on your feet or you’re not a lover of steps this day trip might not be one for you – there’s many, many steps!
Antiparos has a choice of secluded, sandy beach coves, offering plenty of space for relaxing and soaking up some rays without any disturbances from stray beach balls or party goers. There’s also lots of small, fashionable boutique hotels offering comfortable stays for couples and families alike. Plenty of beach side restaurants complete this stunning Greek island. No wonder it’s so popular with celebrities! Our tip – Relax with a delicious cocktail at Boogaloo, a trendy cocktail bar in Antiparos square or enjoy one of the best brunch in town at La Louche.
If you really fancy getting away from it all then head to the idyllic island of Schinoussa, home to a mere 250 residents. This tiny Greek island lies south of Naxos and has a stunning and completely untouched stony landscape.
There are a handful of hotels available on this tiny slice of paradise and as you can imagine the vibe is very chilled out. With only three villages; Mersini, Messaria and Chora, Schinoussa is the ideal place for meandering around, soaking up the Greek island way of life.
You can reach the island by ferry from Piraeus, the main port of Athens and most hotels will meet you off the boat. If you love sailing, then the island’s port, Mersini, is the perfect spot for you. This was also once a handy hideout for pirates, so you might even spot some hidden loot!
Beaches are everything on Schinoussa, so make sure you spend some time relaxing on Psili Ammos and Fikio. If you want to stretch your legs, wander through the village of Hora. There you’ll find the pretty Eisodia Theotokou Church and the icon of the Panayia Akathis. The latter is rumoured to have mystical powers, so you may well fall in love with this island!
Once a thriving fishing and merchant capital, Halki still retains its majestic aura. Along with Rhodes, Halki is a Dodecanese island, and even though it’s only 75 minutes by ferry from Rhodes, Halki is worlds apart in terms of development. If you love Rhodes but you’re looking for an unspoilt version, this is it.
Halki doesn’t have many hotels, but many of the beach front houses are open as holiday homes. With only one village, this island doesn’t have lots in the way of amenities and things to do, but it sure does promise peace, relaxation and unspoilt views.
Arriving in the port of Emborio you’ll notice the grand 19th century mansions that attest to the island’s illustrious past. Beach wise, head for Pondamos, which is generally thought of as the best beach on the island. Or, go exploring and find your very own favourite! Halki now possesses a sleepier atmosphere than of days gone by, which makes walking around the island a delight. Make sure you visit the 14th century castle perched above the remains of Horio, the view from the top is spectacular.
Leros is a tranquil and unspoiled island of the Dodecanese with beautiful white sandy bays and coves, located between the islands of Patmos and Kalymnos. Leros has remained low key and uncrowded, making it ideal for quiet, peaceful, uninterrupted exploring. And it certainly is large enough to explore; it’s a fair sized island for one that’s so unknown to the UK tourist trade. It’s managed to slip under the radar of the developers and remains as Greek and unspoilt as it was way back in the day.
Spend your days wandering around the picturesque whitewashed villages and enchanting coves. That is, if you can tear yourself away from the pristine white sands of the beach! If you’re a beach lover, then you simply have to stay at Alinda, the islands longest beach, situated near the newly restored 19th Century villa, Archontiko Angelou.
Meander through the pretty town of Platanos, the main town on the island. Make sure you spend time exploring the traditional windmills, fortresses and narrow lanes dotted with large antiquated mansions as these truly do sum up life on Leros.
Only a short boat ride from Athens, this little island is very popular with the locals and to see it at its unspoilt best, you’re better off avoiding it in high season. (In July and August, the Greeks themselves go on holiday and many of them head for Agistri.)
Out of season, when the crowds have left but the weather is often still fantastically warm, Agistri becomes a fabulous place to visit. If you’re visiting the Greek capital of Athens, then arranging a day or two island hopping to Agistri is ideal for escaping the hustle and bustle of the city for a while. It’s only a 55 minute boat ride from the main port of Athens, Piraeus.
Relaxing on the beach is always an option but you could also hire a kayak and do a circuit of the island to earn your lunch if you’re that way inclined. Or simply enjoy a pre-lunch cocktail at one of the many bars and tavernas offering such delights. To cool off, head for the roads shaded by pine trees and hire a cycle to explore the sights and discover some more hidden tavernas.
The enchanting island of Tilos is more luxuriantly verdant than many other Greek islands. As a result, it’s renowned for its abundant wildlife; particularly its bird species which are many and varied, Tilos will indeed bring out your inner ornithologist! In fact, this entire island is a nature reserve and is a real nature lovers paradise.
Situated between the two well known Greek islands of Kos and Rhodes, Tilos is a true gem. Soon to be 100% reliant on renewable energy, it’s ideal for travellers looking to visit somewhere that doesn’t impact as much on their carbon footprint. Its gentle rolling landscape dotted with tiny traditional fishing villages and deserted coves is perfect for leisurely hikes. In the hills above the port of Livadia you will discover the haunting medieval hamlet of Mikro Horio, abandoned in 1940. Uninhabited ever since, this makes for a spine tingling visit.
Beach lovers are also catered for, with its unspoilt, white sandy beaches perfect for peaceful relaxation and contemplation. Kick back, chill out and breathe in the Greek way of life that seems to have stood still for the past few decades. Tilos is a real get away from it all island, and you’ll most certainly fall in love with it!
Amorgos might be nestled between its two glamorous and popular cousins, Santorini and Mykonos, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have glamour of its own. It might not be as fashionable, but it’s stunning mountainous landscape will take your breath away.
Amorgos isn’t the best Greek island if you’re looking for beautiful beaches (although they are still lovely in their own right, there’s just better Greek islands for living the beach life), but if you love hiking and walking, then you’re in luck. There are trails and old mule tracks aplenty on Amorgos.
This dramatic island is famous for its diving as well as its hiking, and fans of the French movie The Big Blue (that was shot here) pay regular pilgrimage to Amorgos. Make sure you visit the 11th century whitewashed monastery of Hozoviotissa, which clings to the cliffside and is approached by a precarious looking narrow pathway. The sweeping views of the Aegean Sea below are well worth the steep climb. (Although make sure you’re moderately dressed, otherwise you’ll be walking straight back down again.) Food wise, there are plenty of tiny, family run tavernas hidden among the back streets which are well worth exploring.
The volcanic island of Folegandros looks strikingly similar to the ever popular island of Santorini, yet is far less visited. So if you love the stunningly rural landscape of Santorini, but you’re not keen on the crowds, then Folegandros is the Greek island for you.
A high speed ferry from Santorini will get you to Folegandros in just under an hour, and you’ll be greeted by a more understated Greek island where your hard earned cash will certainly serve you further. Explore the charming main town of Hora, dramatically perched on the edge of the cliffs with breath taking views across the cove below. Then, meander around its central squares flanked by whitewashed buildings draped in beautiful flowering bougainvillea.
There are plenty of donkey trails to follow on foot or by bike, too and if you’re lucky, you’ll stumble across a crystal water filled cove. Dawn walks to the Panagia church atop a steep hill are also a popular pastime. Visiting Folegandros truly is living the authentic Greek experience. But for trendsetters and lovers of the finer things in life, there’s still a gentle buzz in the air in the evenings, with its sophisticated bars and restaurants.
Sifnos has remained, until now, a secret amongst the Greek set. Achingly trendy and exclusive, they haven’t wanted to let the outside world know about this gem of an island. The atmosphere is chic yet authentic and is perfect for foodies with its reputation for fantastic local dining. Although hip, the island of Sifnos still has an air of authentic Greece around it, with its traditional Greek food and wine served in traditionally Greek tavernas.
The landscape of Sifnos is simply made for hiking and local guidebooks detail trails around the island that you can enjoy on foot. All levels of fitness are catered for here. Or set off on your own adventure and find yourself lost among the peaceful olive groves and stunning scenery.
After the sun sets, pay a visit to the main town of Apollonia, the place where the jet set go to see and be seen. You’ll find a variety of buzzy bars along the Steno, its buzzing, main yet very narrow street full of places to eat and drink. So this area is well worth a visit to experience the finer things in Greek island life!
The island of Milos is the original homeland of the stunning Venus de Milo statue. If you’ve seen her in her new home of the Louvre in Paris, then you simply must visit the birthplace of Greece’s most famous statue! Milos is a volcanic island and boasts a magnificent 65 beaches, all of them stunning. The most popular (and most Instagrammable) is Sarakiniko which has a moon like feel about it. But if you want to explore, there’s plenty of other beaches to sink your toes into.
Touted as the next Santorini, we advise visiting Milos before it’s secrets become well known amongst travellers. Her thermal springs on the east of the island are said to have healing powers and are well worth a visit. (They were even recommended as medicinal retreats by none other than Hippocrates!) The western side of Milos is a protected nature reserve and offers a peaceful haven of beauty and reflection.
If you’re a foodie, then make sure you make it to the breath taking Paleochori cliffs. Here, the geothermal energy emanating from the ground is so strong, that local tavernas offer delicious Greek stews cooked overnight in clay pots buried in the sand.
If you’re looking for a small, quiet, beautiful Greek island, then seriously consider Kastellorizo. The smallest of all the inhabited Dodecanese islands, Kastellorizo is one of the prettiest islands you’ll find on your Greek adventures. The best way to reach this tiny island is by ferry or by air, both a short hop from neighbouring island, Rhodes. It’s nestled in the crystal clear waters around 2km from the coast of Turkey.
The name of the game here is chilled, relaxing days followed by more of the same at night. All with the added bonus of clear skies perfect for star gazing over long, lazy traditionally Greek dinners. Homes here are coloured with beautiful pastel hues and make for great sightseeing if you fancy stretching your legs after a long day of lazing on the beach. Streets are dotted with tiny little tavernas serving the freshest of food, right on the edge of the sea.
There are no cars on this island, except a few taxis. But since it’s only 2 miles across, getting around on two legs really isn’t a problem! And if you’re a fan of the award winning Italian film, Mediterraneo, you’ll love Kastelloizo as it was filmed right here.
Also known locally as Lefkada, Lefkas is an island with a little bit of a twist – you can drive to it! Lefkas is one of the Ionian islands and is only a short distance from the Greek mainland. So short in fact, that it’s actually connected to the mainland by a small road bridge.
It’s easily accessible by flying to Preveza on the mainland of Greece and then either hiring a car or getting a taxi over the bridge to this beautiful island. This makes it ideal for a day trip or a short hop if you’re tight on time and still want to experience Greek island life. It’s also ideal as a first step into the Greek islands.The beaches of Lefkas are stunning. Think white, soft sand like the most powdery of icing sugar that your toes are just dreaming of sinking into. Lapping at the shores is the bluest of crystal clear waters making this a paradise island.
The villages here are reminiscent of traditional Greek villages and have remained unspoilt by the rapid onset of urbanisation and technology on the mainland. Explore the beautiful sun bleached buildings and valleys teeming with floral life. If water sports are your thing, then you’re in luck too, as Vassiliki and Nidri are both popular with those seeking out watery thrills.
Despite being the second largest of 6,000 of the Greek islands, Evia is pretty much unheard of amongst non-Greek tourists. Also known as Euboea by the locals, Evia is situated in Central Greece and is very popular amongst those in the know – the Greeks themselves!
Locals flock here on holiday, meaning that this island has maintained its traditional Greek feel. Evia has everything on offer, from mountainous forests to the most beautiful of waterfalls. Plus, beach wise, it has it all! Evia has sand, shingle and pebble beaches, and for those who want it, even a nudist beach! Easily accessible from Athens, Evia is a two hour drive from the Greek capital along a long causeway. But don’t let the drive put you off, there’s plenty of natural beauty to look at along the way.
Evia’s coastline has a multitude of hiking trails, some of them easily signposted, whilst others keep their secrets close to their chest. Locals are usually more than happy to let the secrets out though, and a stunning trail will await you. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a local taverna at the end serving traditional Greek fare.
Ithaka is the Greek island famous for having Odysseus as its king in Greek mythology. Odysseus was the main protagonist of the poem The Odyssey written by Homer and legend has it, he was a clever and cunning trickster. But you don’t need to be cunning to visit this island, all are welcome!
Despite the fame of its king, Ithaka is relatively unknown to travellers. One of the Ionian islands, just off the north east coast of Kefalonia, Ithaka has a dramatically jagged coastline and is popular with sea swimmers. The island is a hilly one and is mainly covered with woods, making it an ideal place for exploring on foot or by bike. Those keen on sailing will also love this island due to its beautifully sheltered harbours and pristine waters.
Ithaka is also home to curiously named places of interest such as the Cave of Nymphs and the Fountain of Arethousa. This stunning island is simple to get to, and the best way is to take the ferry from nearby Kefalonia. It takes around 45 minutes to reach the stunning Ithaka shoreline.
Some liken the Greek island of Andros to the Highlands of Scotland due to its landscape of waterfalls, forests and hiking trails paved with stones. But with more sunshine guaranteed than the Scottish Highlands, Andros also offers over 70 beaches all perfect for basking in the sun.
The island situated at the most northern point of the Cyclades, Andros also has a scattering of beautiful villages with curious whitewashed houses that stand out against the brilliant blue sky. It might be a little tricky to reach (after flying to Athens, it’s best to take a taxi trip to the port of Rafina and then get on one of the ferries to Andros that run three times a day) but the trip is well worth it. You’ll be greeted by an almost completely wild slice of paradise.
Lush, green and mountainous, Andros features many streams trickling down from the mountains that have formed gorges in the rocks. This water, from the Sariza Spring is actually bottled and sold all over the world, so make sure you sample some! Andros is also well suited to those who love surfing as its east coast has the perfect windy conditions for the sport.
Ikaria might be a Greek island you’ve never heard of, but you’ve almost certainly heard of the ill-fated guy that the island is named after. Icarus was the Greek man who “flew too close to the sun” causing the wax to melt on his homemade wing suit leaving Icarus plunging towards the Aegean Sea.
Ikaria is also known as one of the six ‘Blue Zones’ of the world, where residents can expect to live longer than most around the world. This reputation has brought more curious settlers to the island in recent years, but it’s still a slice of genuine Greek island life.
Part of the healthy lifestyle on Ikaria is a love of dancing and joining in with festivities, so make sure you pack your dancing shoes. Especially so during the panigiri season in the summer months when dancing with strangers is the norm! The stunning beaches on this delectable island are the perfect place for resting dance weary legs, the pure white sand and crystal clear, blue waters the ideal tonic for getting away from it all. You never know, you might catch the secret to longevity with one visit, but we’re certain you’ll want to visit again and again!
If you love ouzo, the traditional Greek, anise flavoured aperitif, then you’ll love the Greek island of Lesvos. Lesvos is the original home of ouzo, and was also the home of the Greek poet, Sappho. In fact, the island still celebrates Sappho, with regular festivals held in her honour. (No doubt with an ouzo or two!)
In some places better known as Lesbos, Lesvos has had it tough in recent years. It was hard hit during the refugee crisis and is still suffering as tourists stay away, preferring to visit the neighbouring islands in the Aegean Sea. But pay a visit to this large and beautiful Greek island and you won’t be disappointed. Its history alone is fascinating with plenty of places of interest to visit. The landscape of Lesvos boasts forests, stunning beaches and pretty harbour villages, so there’s something for everyone. Especially foodies, since the restaurants and tavernas offer many Greek gastronomic delights.
Since the refugee crisis, Lesvos has attracted many volunteers and aid workers, giving this island a new and diverse lease of life and is now considered a counter culture hotspot. If that sounds like the sort of place you love, then Lesvos is most certainly for you!
Chios is relatively large compared to many of the islands featuring on our list of Greek islands you might not have heard of. It’s the fifth largest of all 6,000 of the Greek islands and it’s still mostly undiscovered by tourists. Even when tourists do visit, they tend to stick to one small part of this gorgeous island, the traditional mastic villages. Although these villages are beautiful to visit, Chios offers so much more.
Hire a car, and you’ll discover a wealth of quiet, peaceful, pretty beaches, and you may even have them all to yourself. Chios is most well-known for its citrus fruits, and you’ll certainly smell a hint of lemons, limes and oranges in the air. The mastic villages shouldn’t be overlooked though. The largest and most visited is that of the historic village of Pygri. But look around and you’ll find all manner of hidden Byzantine villages, long abandoned and left to the ravages of time.
Pygri itself is full of buildings uniquely etched with a black and white pattern called sgraffito, which was common to the Genoese invaders back in the day. With its history, places to explore, quiet, empty spaces and glorious beaches, Chios is begging to be visited. Will it make your adventure list?
If you’re looking for a true, authentic slice of Greek island life, then you may have just found it in Kalymnos. This Greek island has managed to withstand the effects of the busy tourist trade to nearby Kos, a well-known travel destination for backpackers, sunseekers and party goers.
Kalymnos has a strong sense of being traditionally Greek and the locals are fiercely proud of their traditions, heritage and character. This is an island for the active among us, because what it might lack in the party scene, it certainly makes up for in climbing sports. Kalymnos has been steadily becoming famous for its rock climbing thanks to its rocky terrain and stunning rocky drops. There’s even a rock climbing festival celebrating the islands landscape every autumn.
Anyone who loves diving to explore shipwrecks or fishing for sea sponges will also have a brilliant time visiting Kalymnos. Accessible by car ferry from the island of Leros or by air from Kos, if you’re looking for an active Greek holiday, you’ve just found your perfect destination.
Also known locally as Samothrace, Samothraki is one of the most peaceful of all the Greek islands. It’s also one of the least visited Greek islands by overseas travellers and sun seekers. So we’re writing about this island really quietly, in case it loses its air of peace and tranquillity by too many foreign visitors…
The Greeks themselves adore this island and it’s almost as if they’ve kept quiet about it to keep it as their own. But that’s not to say that visitors don’t get a warm welcome, because they absolutely do. It’s just a very quiet one. This hidden gem is loved by anyone who visits who cherishes solitude and has a love of nature. Samothraki has a breath taking landscape of lush green forests affording shade from the sun to explorers and a cacophony of species of flora and fauna. It also has plenty of majestic waterfalls that delight anyone who stumbles across one.
Popular with the bohemian set who live in the north of the Greek mainland, this pretty island has definite low key air about it, that some even describe as mystical. If you fancy visiting Samothraki, you’re better off arranging to do so from the mainland, even though there are plenty of islands closer by. Ferries only arrive from the mainland, rather than the neighbouring islands, helping to help keep its air of tranquillity and mystique.
Karpathos, along with Rhodes and Kos, form part of the Greek Dodecanese islands. It’s smaller than Rhodes but bigger than Kos, yet it’s still relatively unexplored by overseas travellers. Travel to Karpathos’ main town and port area, Pigadia, and you’ll be greeted by a delightful old fashioned town that is adorable but isn’t to everyone’s liking. Perhaps that’s why it’s not a popular tourist destination.
But give it time, and you’ll learn to love this island, especially if you go further afield by hiring a car and exploring the understated but charming and mountainous interior of this rugged island. The pretty villages are welcoming and make a great pit stop to refuel hungry stomachs and take in the stunning views. Make it as far as the highest mountains, and you’ll discover the village of Olympos with its breath taking views and women wearing traditional Greek dress.
Beach lovers never fear though, you will still love Karpathos. Choose this island over its more popular neighbours and you’ll be rewarded with stunning beaches and crystal clear, blue waters ideal for relaxing and swimming. There’s even a satellite island to explore in the form of nearby Kasos.
So far on our list of amazing Greek islands you’ve probably never visited, we’ve spoken about places that have been off the beaten track and unspoilt by commercial tourism. They’ve all had their own unique charm and personal plus points.
But if what you’re looking for in a Greek island is total seclusion, then the island of Anafi will be right up your street. With hardly any tourist trade, this remote island is the perfect place for switching off from the stresses and strains of modern life. The journey here by ferry from the mainland is long, but completely worth it for uninterrupted peace and tranquillity. Anafi is one of the furthest islands from the mainland, and its landscape is barren and windswept.
But don’t let that put you off, many liken this island to the far fancier Santorini, without the throngs of holiday makers and commercialised hotels and tourist hot spots. Many firmly believe that the beaches here are far nicer than those on Santorini, too. With only one village on the entire island, which you’ll find teetering atop a volcanic hill, when you visit, you truly will feel like you’re on top of the world!
Despite being one of the closest Greek islands to Athens on the mainland, Kythnos isn’t well-known to overseas travellers and holiday makers. However, it’s very popular with the Greeks who love going there for their summer holidays in August!
Travel to Kythnos outside of the Greek peak summer season, and you’ll be well rewarded. The beaches on this gorgeous island are pristine and provide the perfect backdrop for lazy sunbathing, relaxing and getting into a good book. Kythnos is also famous for its hot thermal springs, and these are well worth a visit to experience the true mystique (and natural geology) of the island.
Sea taxis are popular on Kythnos too, so make sure you take one to Kolona, a narrow strip of sandy land that connects Kythnos to this tiny island ideal for exploring. You’ll probably spot a few fancy yachts here, too! This island houses most of its permanent residents in sleepy villages high up in the mountains, making the beaches quiet and relaxed places. It’s ideal if you don’t have time to venture too far from the mainland, but still want to experience Greek island life and all those fabulous beaches.
Skyros is one of the Sporades islands, and its neighbouring islands from the same group, Skiathos and Skopelos were thrust into the tourist limelight in 2008 after the release of the film, Mamma Mia. However, Skyros and the rest of the Sporades islands, with their distinctive pine fringes, remain relatively unknown. Lovers of a resort holiday will probably feel out of place here, but anyone looking for a peaceful holiday far out into the Aegean Sea without many other tourists will love it.
It doesn’t have many ferry connections to and from its neighbours, making this beautiful island even more tranquil. Skyros has an independent feel, and is now becoming a place to visit for wellness and creativity, with plenty of workshops and retreats to choose from.
Skyros is home to its own unique breed of miniature horses and the locals are usually found working their trades – most commonly wood carving and shepherding. Visit Skyros in February or March and you’ll be greeted by the annual carnival which sees locals dressed at goats, dancing merrily along the well-trodden cobbled streets. A true slice of Greek island life!