12 Most Incredible Greek Islands You Must Visit this Summer!
If you close your eyes you can practically smell it… the cool salty sea breeze blowing over the Aegean Sea, traveling from half the world away to draw you towards one of the world’s most beautiful locations. It won’t take long before you begin to imagine the salty taste of feta cheese, the savory flavor of grilled fish caught half a mile away, and the robust flavor of red Greek wine.
Whether you are imagining the golden sand of the beach, visualizing the crystal blue of the water, or dreaming about the iconic white houses of Cyclades, it’s impossible to deny the vibrancy of the Greek way of life and the primal appeal of the Greek Islands. If you choose to indulge your desire to see the magical land of Greece, you must explore these dozen unforgettable islands.
1. Track down all of the 65 sandy beaches on Skiathos
A small island barely 6 km wide and 12 km long, Skiathos still manages to provide a home for an incredible 65 sandy beaches. There are far worse ways to spend your summer vacation than by slowly making your way through the island’s 44km of coastline, hunting down every one of its hidden dunes, creating a lasting memory at each of them. And as you track down each of Skiathos’ beaches, make sure you take special note of the waters where the ancient Persian King Xerxes lost his fleet to powerful storm, thwarting his invasion of Greece!
2. Hike through the vibrant forests of Skopelos
Laying just east of the mainland of Greece you will find Skopelos, one of the greenest islands you will ever find in the Aegean Sea! Skopelos offers everything you’d expect when picturing the rugged nature of the Greek Islands — large forests of verdant pines, abundant fruit orchards, and countless olive groves.
In addition to providing one of the greenest landscapes in all of the Aegean Sea, Skopelos also offers a dynamic terrain rising dramatically within two mountains. Once you’ve finished a day of hiking through the island’s fairy-tale scenery you can head down to the community of Glossa and sip wine as the sun sets.
3. Relax on the island of the Golden Beach, Paros
Paros was once known for its luminescent white marble, and if you choose to spend time exploring the island you will encounter your share of hidden quarries and abandoned mines. These attractions are worth a trip to Paros by themselves, yet as you search for signs of ancient industry be sure to spend plenty of time relaxing on Paros’ most significant modern attraction — the Golden Beach.
Located on the island’s south eastern edge and stretching over 700 meters long, the Golden Beach, whose yellow sands literally sparkle in the sunlight.
4. Naxos, the perfect place for performing a little remote business
It’s easy to see the Greek Islands as nothing but an endless expanse of hedonistic delights, and at first glance the island of Naxos fits this perspective to the letter. With its fair share of gorgeous beaches, peaks climbing into the clouds and fields of crops, Naxos showcases enough delights to keep even the most jaded traveler entertained.
Yet beneath its sleek surface, a healthy sense of industry churns within Naxos, making it the perfect spot to get a little work done in between island hops. As the owner of an online business I’m able to sip wine as I work, and connect with clients from some of the world’s most beautiful beaches!
5. Take a break in Milos, the (now silent) center of the Ancient World
These days Milos ranks as one of the most secluded locations within Greece, yet in antiquity this island served as an important center of trade. Located midway between mainland Greece and Crete, and rich with the precious stone Obsidian, there were few centers of Greek civilization more significant than Milos. To demonstrate the island’s importance in ancient civilization, consider the fact that many important pieces of ancient art, such as the Venus di Milo, originated on its now calmer coasts.
Instead of acting as a hub of civilization, Milos provides modern day travelers with an escape from the hustle and bustle of mainland Greece and the more party-focused islands of the Aegean.
6. The never ending party at Myconos
The Ibiza of the Aegean, the party never ends on Myconos! Glittery and glamorous, Myconos embraces its reputation as the party capital of the Greek Islands with gusto. There are few more popular destinations for world travelers making their way through Greece than this island, ensuring a steady-stream of jet-setters looking to let loose on the beach until the sun rises over the sea.
The bars are stylish, the restaurants are fantastic, and the locals are fully adapted to the lifestyle of daily lounging and nightly dancing. While an extended stay experiencing Myconos’ charms will likely exhaust you, no trip through the Greek Islands is complete without at least a night or two on its beaches.
7. Ask yourself — does Santorini offer the greatest sunset in the world?
What does it take to create a truly heart-stopping sunset? Sharing the moment with good company helps. Experiencing a life-changing personal epiphany as red spreads over the sky will surely assist in creating an impression. But there is one guaranteed way to create a life-changing experience as the sun slips beneath the horizon, regardless of who you are with or what you are thinking about, and that’s watching the sunset from the perfect location.
The island of Santorini offers perhaps the greatest location for experiencing the sunset in the world. Scale this craggy cliff of an island, wind your way up through its streets packed tight with world-famous blue-domed buildings, climb up to the highest roof you can manage, and marvel at one of the world’s most powerfully affecting natural wonders.
8. Zakynthos, the most scenic of the Greek Islands
Lying about 20km west of the mainland of Greece, Zakynthos is composed of some of the Greek Island’s most dynamic terrains. With mountainous plateaus to the east and steep cliffs to the West, it’s no wonder Zakynthos is widely known as the most scenic member of the Greek Islands!
Of course, Zakynthos’ many opportunities for surveying the scenery would mean nothing if the island wasn’t populated with flora and fauna worth spending the day observing. Thankfully that isn’t the case. Zakynthos’ plains are both expansive and abundant with gorgeous wildlife and picturesque bays.
9. The hidden secret of Cephalonia
The largest of the Ionian Islands, Cephalonia is filled with enough natural beauty to rival any of its brothers and sister in the Aegean. But where Cephalonia really excels and outstrips its competition is in its cuisine.
The crystal blue waters surrounding Cephalonia are lovely to watch and to take a dip in, but they are also one of Greece’s most popular fishing destinations, resulting in a cornucopia of the best seafood you’ve ever had in your life. The creeping stretches of vineyards create an exceptional vista from the peak of the island’s massive mountains, but they also provide olive oil fresher than you will find anywhere else in the world.
10. Immersing yourself in the culture of Corfu
Where to start when discussing the cultural riches of Corfu? The culture of Corfu is as much tied to mythology as history, the love of the God Poseidon as the battles of the Greeks with neighboring nations. The island’s architecture mirrors its extensive and storied life, layered over the years with influences from the classical to the modern.
From its origins the island of Corfu has been known as a cultural hub, and these days it houses nearly a dozen major museums and libraries, as well as countless gorgeous churches and a musical tradition that is as vibrant and as varied as it was thousands of years ago.
11. Crete — Minoan Civilization, healthy life, nutrition
It’s almost a lie to call Crete just another member of the Greek Islands — Crete is practically a nation unto itself! The largest and most highly populated of the Greek islands, Crete offers a range of cultural experiences you won’t find anywhere else in the Aegean. Nearly 5,000 years ago Crete was home to the Minoan Civilization, the first highly civilized culture in all of Europe. And while the Minoan civilization came to an end in 1420 BC, the cultural bounty they left makes visiting Crete a truly unique experience!
These days Crete offers one of the healthiest cultures and lifestyles found in the entire world, giving its visitors a taste of the nutritious food, radiant sunshine and revitalizing waters that have kept its population in vital and glowing for thousands of years!
12. Rhodes — famous worldwide for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
You name it; the island of Rhodes has it! Looking for an unstoppable nightlife? Searching for incredible beaches that benefit from a climate that’s favorable all year long? In need of a good hike? Deeply interested in Greek culture, both old and new? Simply seeking a little R&R? No matter what you’re looking for, you’ll find it on Rhodes.
And to make this highly visited island even more appealing, this island was once home to the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World! The Colossus was a truly intimidating statue commemorating Crete’s victory over Cyprus way back in 305 BC. Once standing over 100 feet high yet leveled by an earthquake, searching for the modern remains of the statue is an adventure in and of itself!
Aching to visit the Greek Islands yet? Even dipping your toes near just one of these islands is enough to create some incredible memories, but taking the time to visit all 12 of them is guaranteed to shower you with a truly life-changing experience!
Featured image courtesy of kevinpoh licensed via Creative Commons.