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Greek Islands for Beginners – 10 Islands worth Visiting

Oia village in Santorini island - Greece
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Oia village in Santorini island - Greece

In total, Greece has 227 populated islands. All of them are surrounded by crystal-clear water and excellent beaches, and each one has an attractive and varied landscape, from lush greenery to protruding cliffs. It’s no surprise that Greece has become one of the world’s first mass tourism destinations. Some of the Greek islands have been welcoming tourists for so long that now they’re able to support themselves through this trade alone, while other islands were discovered and adapted for recreation only recently.

It isn’t fair to single out just ten islands as everyone can find one that’s best suited for themselves – some need tranquillity and sun-drenched cliffs, others prefer cerulean lagoons and traditional ways of life, while others still just want to have fun or take walks in verdant forests.

Regardless, we present to you a top 10 list of the most and least popular islands - visit them and you just might be able to call yourself a seasoned expert of Greek islands.

1. Santorini

If you plan on visiting just one Greek island in your life, go to Santorini. Unique lava-formed landscapes, some of the most beautiful sunsets in Europe, and beaches formed from red volcanic sand make the island stand out.

The tourists enjoiying their vacation on Santorini Island in Fira, Greece.
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  The tourists enjoiying their vacation on Santorini Island in Fira, Greece.

Santorini is well-known for its white houses with blue roofs. The houses used to be painted that way because the white colour is good at reflecting heat from the sun.

It’s interesting to note that tourism began to flourish here in the 1970s. Before that, this seismically active island went through a number of calamities – the last volcanic eruption happened here in 1950, and the major earthquake of 1956 destroyed around 85 per cent of buildings and caused the deaths of many people. The threat of another eruption is still real to this day, which might provide some additional intrigue, making the trip to Santorini even more charming.

2. Crete

Matala beach
Photo taken by Nikater - wikimedia.org.  Matala beach

Crete – the largest and best-known of the Greek islands – is like an independent country with its own local culture and everything that visitors could possibly desire: busy tourist resorts, wonderful old towns in Chania and Rethymno, excellent beaches,  unspoiled mountain villages and the best food on all of the Greek islands. The Samariá Gorge and one of the country’s highest mountains Idi also make it ideal for hiking enthusiasts.

Fish market in Chania, Crete
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Fish market in Chania, Crete

Since seeing all of Crete in just one short trip is almost impossible, try to focus on either the eastern or the western part of the island. Whichever you choose, though, you’re going to have to rent a car.

3. Mykonos

Little venice in Mykonos island
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Little venice in Mykonos island

It’s like a mix of the Italian Capri and the Spanish Ibiza, just with a Greek flavour. Mykonos has the best beaches in all of Greece, wild nightlife and, most importantly, some of the lowest prices in the country. If you decide on going to Mykonos, make sure to iron your white clothes and take your enthusiasm, energy and credit card along with you.

4. Hydra

Just a little over an hour away from Piraeus you’ll find one of the most beautiful Greek islands – Hydra. Visitors of the island are primarily impressed by its unique architecture, which has been preserved thanks to strict conservation laws. Large, beautiful houses, which used to belong to famous historic figures, lay at foothills around a scenic sea port. Since automobile and motorcycle traffic here is prohibited, goods, tourists and their things are transported around on mules.

5. Cephalonia

No marketing expert could have done a better job at popularizing the island than the writer Louis de Bernières and his famous novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. When the book was adapted into a feature film, the island became even more popular as people were now able to actually see the golden beaches and sapphire bays – the lives of local people and the potential for tourism changed overnight.

Melissani cave,Kefalonia,Greece
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Melissani cave,Kefalonia,Greece

The island is home to around 35,000 people who, apart from working in the tourist sector, also grow olives and raise cattle. Due to its favourable geography and natural shelters, Agostoli – the capital of Cephalonia – has become one of the largest sea ports in all of Greece.

6. Paros

Paros is one of the most typical Greek islands and - thanks to regular ferry traffic - a good place to start if you want to visit the other islands of Cyclades. Beaches, nightlife, entertainment, good accommodation – all of the services here are of good quality, which is why so many travellers return to Paros every year.

Boats at Naoussa harbor in Greek island of Paros
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Boats at Naoussa harbor in Greek island of Paros

The capital of the island Parikia charms visitors with its endearing Old Town and entertains them with its excellent nightlife, most of which is located in the northern part of the island, called Naussa. The noisy beach of Chryssi Akti regularly hosts surfing contests, although if you’re after peace and quiet, there are also many tranquil creeks and bays. And if you want your vacation to be even quieter, you can always move to the nearby island of Antiparos.

7. Corfu

The northern part of the Ionian Sea is a real mixture of different nations. It has two names  - in addition to Corfu, it's called Kérkyra by locals. Here you can find the heritage of Venetian merchants, the French, Italians and the British. Corfu is the only place in Greece where you can see locals playing cricket and drinking ginger lemonade.

Capital city of Corfu island in Greece
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Capital city of Corfu island in Greece

The island capital of the same name, i.e. Corfu or Kérkyra, in Greek, has two mighty, UNSECO-protected fortresses and some of the most beautiful natural environments of all the Greek islands. The island is home to over 100,000 people and a very well-developed tourist infrastructure. Corfu has a little something for just about everyone.

8. Skiáthos

Unlike the Cyclades islands, Skiáthos is covered in pine trees that bend down towards the sea, thereby protecting its sandy beaches. The island capital Hora is an idyllic little town, marked by red rooftops, clustered around the slope in front of a cosy harbour.

This island is suitable for families with small children and for those who dislike the rough, rocky landscape characteristic of islands in the southern part of the Aegean Sea. Skiáthos is also a good starting point if you want to reach the archipelagos of Sporades, Skyros, Skopelos and Alonnisos, which will make your vacation in Skiáthos even more colourful.

9. Rhodes

Rhodes was among the first Greek islands to welcome tourists, and it's wonderful medieval city is protected by UNESCO. Most tourists reach the island by charter flight as ferries from Piraeus can take several hours. The island offers a wide selection of hotels – everything from luxurious five-star cottages to guest houses and economy-class resorts.

Filling the time left between lying on the beach and going to parties with cultural activities is easy enough – Rhodes has several museums and architectural monuments. It’s also the place where one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – the Colossus of Rhodes – used to be located.

10. Euboea

Most people are surprised to learn that Euboea is the second largest island of the country. That may be explained by that fact that for a long time the island was mostly visited by Greeks, while the other islands are almost entirely occupied by foreigners. This is very unfortunate, because Euboea is an excellent place to visit at any time of year

Limni village, Euboea
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Limni village, Euboea

The northern part of Euboea is characterized by exquisite mountainous landscapes with deep ravines and canyons. For mountaineers and hikers it’s a dream come true, although most come here to improve their health bathing in the famous hot mineral water springs.

Currently, the island is home to around 200,000 people. Its shores are washed by the Aegean Sea, and the distance to Athens is less than 100 kilometres. Euboea is cut off from the mainland by the Euripus Strait, which is known for its changing water flow direction – a rare natural phenomenon.

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