There are hundreds, if not thousands of islands within Greece. Therefore, depending on what size you think of when it comes to an island, there are anywhere from 1,200 to 6,000 islands in all! The sheer number of islands really makes it necessary for you to read this comprehensive guide on how to travel to the best twenty-five Greek Islands.
Most of the Greek Islands can be found within the Aegean Sea and you can see many of the larger ones here on this map. However, a few of the Greek Islands can also be found within the Sea of Crete and the Ionian Sea. The largest of all the Greek Islands is Crete, while the second largest is Euboea. Since there are so many islands, it seemed necessary to group multiple islands into sections. The islands within each section are close together, so you are never worrying about trying to find them on opposite sides of a Greek map.
How to Get to the Greek Islands
When you decide to vacation in the Greek Islands, you will need to be prepared to have an adventure just to get there! While some of the islands have their own airport, many of them do not, so you will need to fly into the Athens International Airport. Once you arrive at this airport, you will collect your luggage and then board a ferry over to the island you are visiting.
The time each ferry leaves is dependent on the island it is traveling to. Those ferries that are headed to Crete, Rhodes, Lesvos, and Kos leave later in the evening. In those scenarios, you would reserve a cabin on board and sleep the night away, similar to a cruise ship. When you wake up in the morning, you would be at your destination.
It is always best to reserve your ticket for the ferries in advance, because they do sell out, especially on certain days of the year. However, there are occasions where you can purchase your ticket at the ferry if you forget to do so ahead of time.
How to Get Around the Greek Islands
Once you arrive on the Greek Island you plan on visiting, you may be happy to stay there for the duration of your trip. However, if you like to be on the go quite often, or you simply want to see more than one island during your vacation, you can easily do a little island hopping.
One way to get from one Greek Island to another is to reserve a seat on one of the ferries, but you have a couple other options as well. You can also charter a sailboat or a yacht for all your island-hopping adventures. Simply plan to hire a captain as well and you will have a guide, translator, and a person to man the boat all in one. The best part about chartering a yacht is you can easily skip the hotel room, because you can stay on the yacht at night.
As you are exploring the Greek Islands, you can rely on the bus or a cab for all your transportation needs. However, I believe the best way to see the islands is via a scooter or a quad, because you don’t need to wait for someone else to pick you up.
The Weather in the Greek Islands
The weather in the Greek Islands goes from hot and dry in the summer to cooler and wetter during the winter months. There are four specific seasons on these islands, so you must plan your trip accordingly if you are seeking a specific type of weather. While rain is common throughout the winter months, the rest of the year brings a dryness that makes up for the cooler temperatures during the spring and fall. However, it is the heat that brings people in droves to these islands during the summer months, so a visit during that time is quite crowded.
Best Time to Go to the Greek Islands
As you can see from the weather above, it is best to visit the Greek Islands during the summer. However, as long as you don’t mind the cooler weather, spring and fall months are excellent since they are dry and less crowded. Most people will avoid the Greek Islands during the winter months, due to the never-ending rain, but if you plan your trip properly, you can still have an amazing time as you dodge the raindrops.
Language Spoken in the Greek Islands
Most of the people living on the Greek Islands speak Greek, but you will find many of them will also speak either English, German, Italian, or French as well. Therefore, you should be able to communicate fairly easily for most of your visit.
Currency Used in the Greek Islands
When you are traveling to the Greek Islands, you will want to be prepared to convert your money into Euros, because that is what they use for their currency. You used to need to convert your money to the Drachma, but the Euro replaced that currency back in 2002.
You can easily use cash on everything you purchase on these Greek Islands, but you can also use credit cards to pay for things. I recommend using your credit cards for larger purchases, and places that do not take cash, and then using cash for everything else. No matter what, you should always have some cash on you, especially when you are traveling to the more remote islands. Those are the places where credit cards are not accepted, and you may have a difficult time finding an ATM over on those islands as well.
Safety in the Greek Islands
As with almost everywhere else in the world, you must take a few precautions when visiting the Greek Islands. However, it is safe to visit these islands and you will rarely have any trouble when you are there.
It is best to travel light when you are visiting the Greek Islands, because thieves prefer to grab stuff from people who have more than they can easily carry. It is also best to avoid large crowds and areas where protests may be taking place. Pickpockets are common in some Greek Islands, just like in most touristy places in the world, so make sure your money is secured to your body and not anywhere that it can be easily grabbed from. You may also want to avoid wearing lots of jewelry or carrying lots of valuables with you when you are out and exploring. The hotel safe is the best place for a lot of that or simply leave those valuables at home.
The Best 25 Greek Islands To Visit
Nisyros is near both the islands of Kos and Tilos, so you can always island hop between the three if you have the time. There are many charming villages on this island, but you may be more fascinated by the dark pebbled beaches that were created by the still active volcano on the island.
Add in the hot springs and hydrothermal craters and you have plenty of places to explore as you wander along the forty different trails. I recommend checking out the Volcanology Museum and Pantoniki Fortress before enjoying the nightlife in Mikri Venetia.
Samothrace is also known as Samothraki and it is closer to the country of Turkey than the mainland of Greece. This island is known for its relaxing ambiance, but there are plenty of adventures to be found there as well.
As you are hiking, rafting, or paragliding, you will find yourself nearby some amazing waterfalls, beaches, and medieval castles. I recommend hiking to the summit of Mount Fengani, because it is one of the tallest mountains within the region. If you get worn out while on this island, or you are simply having a difficult time relaxing, you can venture over to Therma for the incredible hot springs that are there.
There are not as many ferries that go to Alonissos, so you must really plan your trip there carefully if you want to spend time in this slightly remote location. This island is part of the National Marine Park of Alonissos Northern Sporades, so you will find lush areas throughout the island.
As you walk along the pristine white sandy beaches, you can see dolphins frolicking out in the water and Mediterranean monk seals swimming in and away from the shoreline. You can learn more about this island at the Alonissos Museum in the capital of Patitiri.
Rhodes is one of the most popular of all the Greek Islands, mainly because the weather stays beautiful for longer towards the end of the year. Old Town is the perfect place to start exploring this island, just make sure you stop into the Palace of the Grand Masters, because it is now a museum.
There are many castles scattered around the island, as well as churches, so you may want to rent a vehicle or hire a car to see a few of them.
Zakynthos is often called Zante, so do not get confused if you hear this island referred to by both names. This is one of the Greek Islands that is considered paradise all year long and it is perfect if you want to capture spectacular sunsets. Shipwreck Beach, or Navagio Beach, is quite famous, so you will want to spend hours there exploring.
If you are up for a bigger adventure, simply take a boat over to Marathonisi Turtle Island and the Blue Caves before returning to watch the sun set at the Sunset Taverna.
Aegina is also close to Athens, so you will see many locals wandering around the island. This island is full of Greek ruins, just waiting to be discovered.
A few attractions you must visit include the Temple of Aphaia, Folklore Museum, Byzantine Paleohora Ruins, and Kolona, which is an archaeological site. Aegina Town is another must-see destination and you will find many waterfront cafés there.
If you are looking to truly get away from it all, then Hydra is the island for you! There are no roads, and no vehicles of any kind, on this gorgeous island, so you can finally understand what silence really sounds like. There are not as many beaches on Hydra, but you won’t miss them as you are visiting the historical museums and monasteries.
A few places I recommend visiting include the Historical Archives Museum, the Lazaros Koundouriotis Museum, and the Kimisis tis Theotokou Church.
The island of Poros is actually two islands. The larger side is across a channel and is completely uninhabited, while the smaller side is where you will find Poros Town. You can easily reach this island in an hour on a ferry from Athens, so it is an excellent option if you do not have too much time to spend on the Greek Islands.
When you are not out kayaking or relaxing on the sandy beaches, you can explore the Archaeological Museum of Poros and make a stop at the Poros Town Clock Tower.
This island is one of the closest ones to Athens and it only takes a couple hours to reach via ferry. Romance is everywhere in Spetses Town and you simply must take a horse and carriage ride along the cobblestone streets if you are on a couples-only vacation.
A few sights to see on this island include Poseidon Square, Navy Park, and the traditional shipyard. The best time to visit is September, because that is when the Armata Festival takes place.
Skiathos is one of the most developed of the Greek Islands, so do not be surprised when you are not the only person on the beach in the morning. This is the best island to visit when it comes to the nightlife.
Skiathos Town is by the main port, so there is always something happening there. After a long day of seeing the monasteries and churches, you can spend a little time on an open-air waterfront club or at a bar.
The international airport on Corfu makes it a popular destination for those who do not want to ride the ferry over from the mainland. Add in the stunning beaches and vibrant nightlife and you have a vacation destination for everyone.
There is a theme park in Sidari, which is perfect for families traveling to the Greek Islands. Partygoers will prefer the area of Kassiopi though, so plan your trip to this island carefully.
If you do not want to fly directly to an island, or ride on a ferry, you have one option available to you within the Greek Islands. Lefkada is the only island that can be reached from the mainland by car, thanks to the narrow strip of road.
Thankfully, no one really wants to spend their time driving to an island, so Lefkada is fairly empty during the summer months and the rest of the year. You will find the best beaches on this island, as well as the Santa Maura Castle from the 14th century.
You will find plenty of tourists on this island if you choose to visit in July or August, because this is one of the more touristy Greek Islands. Fortunately, this island is not all developed yet, so you can still find plenty of green spaces to wander through when you are not on a beach.
It is best to spend your time in Argostoli, because that is where the monuments and markets can be found. There is a Venetian Castle on a hill in Kefalonia, so make sure you take a little time to explore that during your stay.
Kalymonos is quite close to the country of Turkey, so you might want to consider flying into the Kalymonos Island National Airport from Athens instead of taking a ferry. This is the perfect island to visit if you love to hike and climb in the great outdoors, because there are more than sixty different rock-climbing adventures to tackle.
Diving is also popular on this Greek Island, so if you are certified, you can see gorgeous underwater sights at Telendos, Nera, and Platy.
Chios happens to be the fifth largest of all the Greek Islands. There are so many fishing villages on this island, but there is so much more to discover. You can learn more about Chios at the Chios Mastic Museum.
I recommend doing a lot of shopping when you are on this island, because it is the perfect place to purchase items that are produced locally and then exported. A few favorites include perfume, jams, and brandy ouzo, which is a local liquor.
One of the best reasons to visit this island is their sweet Muscat wine! As much as you will love wandering through the vineyards and doing everything else that is available on this island, one sip of their delectable wine will have you wanting to return time and time again in the future.
Okay, yes, you will want to see the Roman Aqueduct from the 6th century and the temple that honors the Goddess Hera, but you will keep going back to the wine. You might want to take a bottle with you when you venture out to discover waterfalls and the monasteries within the charming villages high up on the cliffs.
It is all about the outdoors on Thasos, because this Greek Island is full of lush forests, sparkling bays, olive groves, and soft sandy beaches.
When you are not hiking, you must take the time to visit a couple of the authentic mountain villages and see the ancient ruins. The Byzantine Moni Arhangelou is a must-see site in Thasos Town, while it is all about the early Christian Basilicas over in Alyki.
Hikers will love visiting the Greek Island of Andros, because of all the hiking trails that lead to waterfalls, olive groves, and citrus groves. When you are exploring the villages, you will encounter many Byzantine churches, monasteries, and even a few archaeological sites.
Don’t forget to relax and have a little fun while you are on this island as well, because it is the perfect place to swim, dive, and even play a little beach volleyball.
Mykonos is one of the most expensive of the Greek Islands, so you will want to be careful if you are traveling on a budget. With that being said, you can find something for everyone on this gorgeous island. Mykonos Town has those whitewashed buildings with blue doors, as well as windmills and churches tucked away in the most unusual places.
After wandering through the three different museums, archaeological, maritime, and folklore, you can do a little shopping at the boutiques and grab a bite to eat at the local cafés.
Time on this island will have you staring out over the water or towards a quaint town, as you try to take in all the astonishing views. You will spend most of your time in the center of the island when you are in Serifos, because that is where most of the ancient monasteries and Cycladic buildings can be found.
An old mining museum can be found in Megalo Livadi and you must walk along the old mining trail, so you can explore the ancient caves that you discover along the way.
Santorini is often the very first island that people think of when they consider visiting the Greek Islands. This magical destination offers those gorgeous whitewashed buildings, but the best views are found within Oia and Fira. Many celebrities spend their time in Santorini, so you never know who you may capture a glimpse of during your visit.
I recommend walking on the cliffs, high above the caldera, and spending time on the pebbled beaches, relaxing and letting all your stress melt away.
Kea is so close to Athens and that makes people believe it is going to be overcrowded at any time of the year. However, would you like to know a secret?? This island is barely a blip on anyone’s radar, so you won’t find too many other tourists there if you choose to visit.
This Greek Island is quite different than many of the others, because it is filled with olive groves, peach colored buildings, almond orchards, and lush oak forests. I recommend wandering along the Old Lion Trail to see the native birds before exploring the cobblestone streets in Ioulis, which is the capital of the island.
The land on the island of Naxos is quite fertile, so you will see lush green areas almost everywhere you go. This island has a port that the cruise ships dock at, so it is very busy during the summer months.
You must hike to the summit of Mount Zeus before wandering through Naxos Town to see the Venetian Mansions.
Crete is the largest of all the Greek Islands and it is another island that has warm weather for longer periods of time every year. There are three airports on this island, so it is easy to fly there instead of taking the ferry.
While I recommend visiting the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, the Turkish Bath Houses, and the Byzantine Chapels, you may want to skip all that and simply focus on the food. Everything from the olives to the cheeses and meats are amazing and let’s not forget about the wine. Before you return to the mainland, you may want to do a little mountaineering or rappelling if you are adventurous enough.
Euboea is the second largest of all the Greek Islands and you will love the picturesque villages that you can see during your visit. You can easily wander along the trails through the forest to reach a beach on the other side or to find a nearby thermal spring that will have you relaxing in the water in no time at all.
Gorges are plentiful on the southern end of this island, so take a little time to venture in that direction for a little different landscape.
Expert Tips for Visiting All the Greek Islands
There are so many different ways to visit the Greek Islands, so you will want to make sure you plan your trip down to the smallest detail. Here are a few things that might help you out:
- Visit the islands that are nearby each other when island hopping
- Consider the available activities and the rest of the atmosphere of the Greek Islands you are thinking of visiting
- Become familiar with the ferry schedules and make sure you book all your ferry tickets in advance
- I recommend visiting the Greek Islands in September or the beginning of October, because the crowds have dispersed, and the weather is still nice without being too hot
You will love your time on the Greek Islands, no matter how many of them you take the time to see. So, choose the island, or islands, that fulfill your vacation needs the most and then plan the perfect getaway, so you have the vacation of your dreams.