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Top 11 Greek Islands

We asked Tempo Holiday’s Greece specialists Nick Good & Katie Rodopoulos to share their pick of Top 10 Greek Islands.

“It’s impossible to choose!” they said, and gave us 11. The result is a detailed guide to some all-time favourites and some lesser known beauties that should feature in every Greek Island-hopping holiday.

 

#1 Santorini

Boasting stark, multicoloured cliffs and incredible sunsets, Santorini is undoubtedly the most spectacular of the Greek Islands. The remnants of an ancient volcano, Santorini’s immense caldera is home to a fantastic selection of cliff-top hotels that offer amazing views over the crater to the shining blue water below. The eastern side of the island is flatter but no less beautiful, with volcanic beaches and glorious vistas of the Aegean Sea. The wine is known for its unique taste due to the volcanic soil the grapes are grown in. Take a wine tour to the underground caves, wine storage and enjoy some local food along the way.

OUR TIP: Walks around the island include lots of steps so may not always be ideal for small children.

#2 Mykonos

Once an exclusive haven for the jet set, Mykonos can now be enjoyed by everybody. Blissful beaches, old windmills and whitewashed buildings with blue trim typify this ruggedly beautiful island. The cobblestone streets of Mykonos Town are crammed with shops and bars, and its reputation as the glamour island with a party-hard reputation is evident everywhere, especially in summer. Its also the jumping off point for the archaeological island of Delos - one of the most important in Greece and teeming with history.

OUR TIP: Mykonos can be extremely busy, especially when the cruise ships are in port. Book tours early to avoid disappointment.

Visit Mykonos and Santorini on one of our most popular island hopping packages. This package takes you to our top two islands with the opportunity to explore Athens before and after your island adventure.

#3 Crete

Crete is Greece’s largest and most diverse island. Explore and discover its treasures – rugged mountains, endless beaches with turquoise seas, exciting cities, picturesque towns and tranquil villages, stunning countryside, fantastic gastronomy and vibrant entertainment. The island is best explored by car, giving you the freedom to discover its quaint fishing ports, Venetian-style towns and Minoan archaeological sites. Be sure to visit Knossos Palace, capital of the Minoan empire. The local arts and crafts are also a highlight, you’ll find artisans on every corner of the charming villages.

OUR TIP: Try the local cuisine: cheeses, olive oils, liqueurs, dakos (like bruschetta), and fried snails!

Take yourself on an independent tour around the best of Charming Crete. A self-drive holiday is perfect for those wanting to take their time. Heraklion, Chania, Agia Galini and Sitia are just some of the sites you will see along the way!

#4 Naxos

The Cyclades’ biggest and the greenest island with impressively high mountains, lush green gorges, stunning seascapes and villages perched high on mountain tops where traditional dress is still worn. Naxos is also an island of beautiful old churches, monasteries and Venetian castles where you can admire a unique blend of Cycladic and Medieval architecture! Mt Zeus is the central focus point and a visit to the interior will uncover traditional villages such as Halki and Apiranthos where you can visit ceramics workshop, or the citrus distillery.

OUR TIP: Take a walking trail between villages for an indepth insight into the traditions and culture.

#5 Milos

Lying halfway between Athens & Crete, the island’s volcanic origins have produced surreal rock formations and beaches of extraordinary beauty, leading to its nickname ‘the island of colours’. A visit to some of Milos smaller villages is an absolute must. Hiking, hot springs and rock exploration are also must-dos. The famous Venus de Milos was discovered in a niche in the ancient city ruins of Milos in 1820 by a farmer. The iconic statue with no arms is now displayed in the Louvre in Paris.

OUR TIP: Milos is perfect for beach exploring, there are 75 to be enjoyed! Make sure you spend time finding your perfect spot.

#6 Paros

Paros is watched over by a single mountain, its gentle slopes dotted with vineyards and fruit trees. Parikia is the island’s capital, a gorgeous Cycladic township of winding cobbled streets lined with whitewashed houses. Situated on the north coast is Naoussa, a picturesque fishing village with typical Greek taverns and outstanding views. If you’re looking for a quieter, slower pace, Paros is Mykonos but without the crowds, hype and price tag!

OUR TIP: Make some time for Antiparos, only 10 mins from Paros, it feels like a proper secluded getaway, with a couple of really good beaches.

#7 Rhodes

This popular holiday island has beautiful white sands that fringe the dazzling waters of the Aegean. The medieval arches, ramparts and cobbled streets of Rhodes’ Old Town are a legacy of the Knights of St John and have earned the town a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The entire island has a rich collection of historical sites and monuments that represent Greek history and are well worth visiting. Climb the 116m rock wall to the beautifully preserved Acropolis of Lindos.

OUR TIP: Rhodes is a great option for families. Many resorts and hotels are equipped for little travellers.

Spend nine days discovering stunning Kos, Symi & Rhodes. An excellent contrast for those wanting to explore the well-known and little-known pockets of Greece. Relax in spectacular Symi away from the crowds, then discover what makes Rhodes so popular. Combined with Kos' endless surprises and ancient treasures, this package covers it all.

#8 Lefkada

Hugely popular with kite surfers and wind surfers due to favourable winds, Lefkada is also ringed by stunning blue water and beaches ideal for sailing and diving. The only island linked to mainland Greece by road, there are also intriguing archaeological sites and a traditional island way of life to explore. The island is now attached to the mainland by a bridge, however it used to be accessed by an isthmus until the Corinthians breached it with a canal.

OUR TIP: An island of contrasts, the west coast is wild and untamed, and the east coast has been more fully developed.

On our Corfu, Lefkada & Kefalonia package, hop amongst Greece's most picturesque spots. See the country from east to west - from Corfu, fly to Kefalonia and then ferry to Lefkada, where you'll find yourself on some of the most stunning beaches on offer.

#9 Sifnos

Sifnos is a beautiful and dreamlike island located in the western part of the Cyclades. It is a typical example of a Cycladic Island, with traditional architecture, calm beaches, seaside taverns and low hills. The most popular beaches are located on the southern side of Sifnos and have crystal clear water and soft sand. The picturesque village of Kastro is lined with narrow paved streets, stone houses and great sea views. The island also offers a unique culinary heritage and is known for producing excellent chefs, including the creators of the first Greek internationally-distributed cookbook.

OUR TIP: An excellent choice for independent travellers, there are well-organised bus links on the island and a plethora of walking trails to explore.

Visit Sifnos, Milos & Folegandros over nine days on our island hopping itinerary away from the crowds. Beginning and ending in Athens, you will be whisked away by ferry to see the archipelago's most stunning and best kept secrets.

#10 Symi

A perfectly painted traditional village scene is what first greets visitors while approaching Symi. Beautiful houses rise on all sides to create an unforgettable vista. The island is surrounded by blue coves and beaches, with water so clear that boats appear as if they’re floating on air. Ideal for those that want a quiet getaway in a distinct corner of Greece. Be sure to visit Horio and Pedi, the islands smaller towns. The rest of the island is mostly deserted, so a visit to Symi makes for a perfect day trip from one of the nearby islands.

OUR TIP: Don’t miss a trip to the southern-most tip and the statuesque monastery Panormitis.

#11 Amorgos

Step off the well worn path and visit an island ideal for soft adventure lovers and those who enjoy unspoilt villages and open countryside. With ancient footpaths leading through steep rocky terrain, azure waters fantastic for diving, gorgeous caves, scenic bays and a long cultural history, Amorgos is that island that offers something for everyone. Discover the extraordinary Monastery of Hozoviotissa, built into a cliff face, and take yourself on an exploration of the fascinating landscape.

OUR TIP: Visit Agia Anna, the location of scenes from Luc Besson’s cult classic ‘The Big Blue’ and perfect for a secluded swim away from the crowds.


This article first appeared in Cox and King's Issue One of Compass Magazine - see here for more great ideas and to download your own copy!

Tempo Holidays offers many ready-made island hopping packages around the Greek Islands - or we can tailor-make the perfect holiday for you to these highly recommended islands.