Greece is a perfect tourist destination for its beautiful clear sea, excellent cuisine, colourful history, rich natural beauty and the cheerful nature of the locals, which many filmmakers have used for their famous comedies such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Mama Mia. In addition to ancient monuments such as the Acropolis of Athens or Olympia, you can also find some of Europe's most beautiful beaches and delicious pearls of European cuisine such as baklava, dolmadakia, feta, gyros, and moussaka, to name but a few. This destination offers activities for those who simply want to relax by the sea, as well as for those who go for sports or sightseeing. In this article, we will take a look at the most beautiful islands that deserve your visit.
Zakynthos is one of the most popular Greek islands and the third largest of the Ionian Islands. Known for its natural beauty, Zakynthos is home to endangered sea turtles. Zakynthos attracts the attention of young Europeans who come here to enjoy the bustling Laganas and its many sporting activities.
Beautiful beaches (such as Navagio), monasteries, water parks, the Blue Grottoes, snorkelling with turtles and the turtle island of Marathonisi are just some of the attractions waiting to be explored.
Rhodes is the perfect island to explore with a rental car. You can start in the famous Lindos, an ancient port popular for its romantic atmosphere, medieval fortress, ancient acropolis and the temple of Athena of Lindos. The capital Rhodes is also pretty, where the Thursday markets attract visitors and where you can even buy snails. A short drive away is the Valley of the Butterflies, a green valley about 5km long formed by a stream that, unlike many other Rhodes streams, never dries up, which is home to thousands of species of butterflies during the months of July and August, which take refuge here during mating season. They are apparently attracted by the golden resin of the local trees – the eastern ragwort – which smells of vanilla.
Theologos is a romantic town with great tavernas, and in the town of Siana you can sample a variety of delicacies from local agricultural and farming produce. Prasonisi is a popular spot, the southernmost point of the island, where the Aegean and the Mediterranean Sea meet and the strong winds make it a paradise for wind and kite surfers. Lovers of luxurious pampering will be delighted by the spa at Kalithea with its beautiful private beaches for spa guests. Several picturesque beaches await you in Ladiko Bay, including Anthony Quinn, the famous beach named after the central actor of The Guns of Navarone which was filmed here.
One of the "must sees" is the island of Symi with its unique architecture of card houses, famous sea mushrooms (huge ones are sold here) for cleansing the skin, shrimp, spices and herbs, the Panormitis temple and cuddly cats in the tavernas.
Supposedly the most photogenic Greek island lies on the imaginary border of the Aegean and the Cretan Sea. It is believed that the island was the site of the mythical Atlantis, which disappeared around 1500 BC when the volcano erupted and the original island of Strongyle was destroyed, creating the huge crater now known as Santorini. Although scientists have never confirmed these speculations, the island is famous for its unique genius loci: iconic candy-coloured houses carved into the cliffs, chalk buildings covered in cobalt blue domes, sapphire seas, tranquil beaches with black volcanic sand and picturesque provincial villages like Imerovigli all attract visitors from all over the world. The town of Oia is world-famous from all the postcards – often photographed at sunset, when the changing light creates an amazing kaleidoscope of colours.
Santorini is a popular honeymoon destination, but more active individuals can also enjoy the many trekking options. Wine lovers will also enjoy the island's many small local wineries.
In addition to Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was also filmed on Santorini.
Lefkada, the pearl of the Ionian Islands, is located south of Corfu and north of Kefalonia. Here you will find beautiful beaches, an unforgettable Greek countryside and wonderful natural spots. Steep limestone cliffs rise out of the azure sea, which, thanks to the favourable climate, are covered with lush vegetation. Citrus fruits, olives, vines and vegetables are grown in the fertile valleys. The mountainous hinterland has retained its typical Greek colour, for example in the villages of Lazarata, Agios Petros and Karya.
Lefkada is the only island that can be visited without using a ferry, as it is connected to the mainland (Akarnia) by a floating bridge. In the south of the island, Cape Dukato is one of the attractions. Looking down from the heights of the cliff, it is said that everyone can understand why in antiquity this place was considered one of the entrances to Hades' underground empire. Visiting the many islands near Lefkada, such as Kastos, Kalamos, Meganissi and Scorpios, is also a great experience.
If you're a sports enthusiast, windsurfing, cycling, diving and surfing (e.g. at Vassiliki Bay, where you can also try catamarans and a range of other water sports including water skiing) are the activities you'll enjoy most in Lefkada.
The island of Kos has several nicknames: the "Garden of the Aegean" for its abundance of water and crops, the "Island of Hippocrates" because the most famous doctor in history was born here, and "Little Rhodes" for its proximity (geographical, historical and cultural) to the island of Rhodes. Kos is a strategic starting point for exploring neighbouring Turkey. This proximity to Arab culture makes the island particularly fascinating, as it offers an interesting combination of eastern and western elements. Despite tourism, this Greek island retains its soul.
The sun is one of the main and most appreciated features of Kos. From April to November, the rains are very rare and the island offers a pleasant Mediterranean climate and days full of sun.
Kefalonia is famous for its mythology, rich history and natural wonders; it is no wonder that the island captivated the filmmaker of Captain Corelli's Mandolin, was the setting for Lord Byron's Don Juan, and is where Michael Douglas got engaged to Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Although it has an international airport, Kefalonia is not as developed as the more popular Ionian islands of Corfu and Zakynthos. The beaches are mostly shingle, although there are some excellent sandy beaches in the south and east. The most beautiful, apart from the famous Myrtos and Antisamos, are Xi beach with its clay hills, Kounopetra with its "moving stones", Platia Ammos and Petani, which the locals call "biblical".
Famous towns include Agia Efimia, where a film crew from Hollywood stayed, the capital Argostoli, where in the harbour in the mornings by the fishing boats one can see the karets that come here to get goodies from the fishermen, Lixouri, Argostoli's great rival, Farsa, where the fictional character in the novel Mandolin of Captain Corelli, the heroine Pelagia, comes from Or, Assos or Fiskardo, which were the least damaged during the 1953 earthquake, so that the original stone houses and Byzantine architecture can still be found here.
Lovers of Mexican cenotes will appreciate the similarly gorgeous underground lake Melissani, hidden inside a cave, wine enthusiasts will love the Robola wine brand, which has a long tradition on the island, and the mythical island of Itháki, home of Homer's Odysseus, which is only an hour and a half's drive from Kefalonia, is undoubtedly worth a visit.
Slightly cooler than the southern Ionian and Aegean islands, wetter in winter and therefore much greener all year round, the island beckons for trekking in the lush green mountains, where trails lead to mountain villages and hidden beaches, for wandering through traditional villages with joyful night-time revelry, and for the beautiful beaches lining the coast.
The old town of Corfu offers cobbled streets and ancient buildings, including monasteries. It has the charm of a casual atmosphere and urban beaches, and a nightcap in the Liston district has become a tradition for visitors to the island. Many will appreciate visiting the museums with their Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons. The Archaeological Museum of Corfu contains an extensive collection of finds discovered during excavations around the island, the most important of the artefacts being the Gorgo Pediment from the Temple of Artemis, a work well known from reproductions in art history books.
On the west coast you will find the best beaches: Acharavi, Agios Gordios, Ag. Georgios Pagon, Agios Stefanos, Benitses, Dasia, Glyfada, Kalami, Marathias, Peroulades, Porto Timoni, Roda, Rovinia, Sidari and others.
A cruise around the sea cliffs and caves of Paleokastritsa is a pleasant way to discover the coast from a different angle. Boats sail to several different caves and coves: the Blue Eye, La Grotta and Nausica. Along the way they stop at several secluded beaches that are only accessible by boat: Limni, Rovinia and Paradise.
The film Mama Mia made this island legendary: the filmmakers loved it for its rich forests and orchards, its picturesque beaches, both pebbly and sandy, and the excellent tavernas in the port of Hora.
The plum kilns, which sit alongside the orchard cottages with their beaked chimneys, are a feature of the island's landscape. Skópelos was once famous for its plums, but the labor-intensive, late-summer drying process was uneconomical compared to the California product grown with chemical assistance, so the industry largely died out here by the 1980s.
Crete is the largest of all the Greek islands. But its beauty is even greater than its size! Fascinating natural beauty meets rich culture and world-renowned gastronomy. Crete's beaches are often surrounded by rich nature. The beaches of Balos, Vai or Elafonisi are among the most beautiful.
The island is divided into 4 prefectures: Heraklion, Chania, Rethymno and Lassithi.
The mythical island is one of Greece's most popular destinations thanks to its amazing historical monuments such as the Palace of Knossos and the Spinalonga islet and its enchanting natural landscape, not to mention the city of Chania and the town of Heraklion, one of the largest cities in Crete, which boasts beautiful medieval architecture. Wandering through the romantic streets will give you the feeling of travelling back in time.