Greek islands are like a box of chocolates – each one even better than the last. Follow our guide to finding the best Greek island for you – whatever kind of trip you’re after.
Best for relaxing – Antiparos
Chilled-out Antiparos is the antithesis of many of the party-heavy Greek islands. This tucked-away island, just a mile across the sea from Paros, offers a slower pace of life, with narrow cobbled alleys, traditional whitewashed guest-houses and boutique hotels, all lined with trailing, beautifully scented pink and purple bougainvillea. Get away from it all by hiring a pedal bike – you can cycle the whole of the island, stopping only to admire the beautiful views or sip a frosty beer at one of the lovely tavernas.
Best for romance – Santorini
In 1600 BC, a volcano erupted on Santorini, its centre collapsing into the sea. It left a steep-edged crater known as a caldera peeping above the waves, which, today, is a spectacular sight from the island’s clifftops. With boutique hotels and blue-domed churches, whitewashed buildings cling to the side of the sheer cliff face, with the views from any direction out to sea guaranteed to be spectacular. Gaze across the perfect sunset over the sea at the remnants of the volcano over a bowl of fat, juicy Greek olives and a glass of wine; time passes more slowly on Santorini – thank heavens.
Best for families – Corfu
There’s a lot of family-friendly fun to be had in Corfu, side-stepping the party town of Kavos. Pretty beaches line the spectacularly green-hilled coastline, traditional tavernas lie tucked up in the hills and more family-friendly restaurants serving up fresh fish, indulgent pizzas and tasty pastas can be found everywhere. Corfu Town, with its cobbled streets and trendy cocktail bars is perfect for a spot of shopping followed by supper within the ancient city streets, whilst you’ll find watersports galore on the beaches or at the super-fun waterpark.
Best for hiking – Symi
You couldn’t paint a more perfect picture of Greece than Symi, an hour’s ferry journey from Rhodes. It’s picture-perfect pastel-hued neoclassical houses rise from the sea up into the hills, recalling a time before hotels and tourism and evoking a real feel of ancient Greek culture at its best. Mountainous Symi is divided into two areas; Yialos, full of places to eat and drink, is also packed with pretty boutiques, while the upper town, Chorio, is more traditional, with stunning views over the harbour. The island itself is full of wonderful walking tracks which are well-marked and afford incredible views out to sea and of the rugged landscape.
Best for getting off the beaten track – Ithica
Just a 45-minute ferry ride from Kefalonia, undeveloped Ithaca is just the ticket for those who like to discover islands before the islands are discovered by the masses. Lush green hills and valleys are perfect for hiking – you’ll come across incredible views and plenty of sites of archaeological interest. Thought to be the homeland of Homer’s Odysseus, you’ll spend evenings feasting at traditional tavernas and days idly wondering why you didn’t discover Ithaca sooner.
Best for history – Rhodes
Famous for its medieval old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which was once home to Colossus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, Rhodes has long been a popular destination thanks to its mix of fine beaches and fascinating ancient culture. Twisting alleyways lead you to the walled Old Town area, where history seeps from every crumbling wall and turreted buildings; you could almost be in Game of Thrones. Definitely a must for culture vultures.
Best for partying – Mykonos
Greece’s very own version of glamorous Ibiza, this is a good-time island if there ever was one. Glammed-up guys and girls strut their stuff through the town, showing off their tans from another day’s poolside sun-worshipping. If you’re young, single and ready to mingle, you’ll delight in the chic bars, pool parties and wealth of clubs which will welcome you with open arms and generously-poured cocktails.
Best for a little of everything – Crete
The largest Greek island, Crete has a hugely diverse mix of landscapes and a very definite culture all its own. Agios Nikolaos, to the east of the island, is a picture-perfect town, set around a saltwater lake which provides a setting for dining and enjoying an afternoon or evening drink, while five golden beaches and a water park will occupy the rest of the family. The nightlife buzzes too, with cocktail bars and restaurants open until the early hours. For more sedate days, the island’s interior is home to the White Mountains, which offer a fabulous opportunity for driving or hiking through a craggy landscape.
Best for healthy lifestyle holidays – Skyros
This laid-back island has a very different feel to most of the other islands, with an emphasis on low-key holidays based around yoga or writing. There’s an Annual Goat Dance held before Lent, a pagan festival during which men dressed as goats ‘marry’ men dressed as women – it has to be seen to be believed. If goat-marrying isn’t on the agenda, there are plenty of places to feast on the freshest seafood you likely to find – there’s no way you can’t relax on this lovely, alternative island.
Best for chilling out – Lesbos
Stunningly beautiful beaches and colourful towns make up the gorgeously rugged island of Lesbos. Desert-like landscapes meet sandy beaches which in the east gives way to forest and millions of olive trees. Birdwatching and hot springs are just two of the island’s highlights – there are almost 300 species of bird and the Healing Springs of Levos, a unique experience in which you’ll experience nature’s very own sauna and spa – if you can handle the heat! show less