5 Lesser-Known Greek Islands You Must Visit

Valentini Argyropoulou gives us her insider’s tips on five less-visited Greek islands that will blow you away.


Photo © iStock

With 6,000 Greek islands to choose from (okay, only 300 are inhabited), why would you stick to the well-worn tourist route? Go beyond Mykonos and Santorini to see unspoiled, quiet Greek islands without the crowds.

1. Milos

Everyone knows Venus de Milo, but few have visited her motherland. In the Cyclades region, this volcanic island has some of the best beaches in Greece. It’s easily accessible by plane from Athens or by ship. It’s also a top destination for couples – many Greeks have their honeymoon here.

You'll be amazed by Sarakiniko's white rocks, Kleftiko caves (accessible only by local boats), and the crystal-clear waters of Firiplaka. Then, how about using a rope to reach Tsigrado beach?

If you're still feeling more adventurous, try to reach Theiorixeia and swim amid the ruins of a sulphur mine that closed down in 1978.

Mandrakia village, Milos Island. Photo credit: iStock

2. Koufonisia (Suntrap Islands)

Koufonisia stands in the middle of the Cyclades, and you won’t find luxurious hotels or crazy nightlife here – but you will find an unspoiled paradise full of clean beaches, local parties and festivals (especially in August), and picturesque landscapes.

There’s no airport here. You'll have to either take the boat from Piraeus (the port of Athens), or fly to Naxos and then take a short ferry ride. To be pedantic, Koufonisia is a trio of islands: Ano (upper) Koufonisi, with only 300 inhabitants, Kato (lower) Koufonisi, with only few buildings and a famous-among-Greeks tavern, and Keros, off-limits to visitors as it’s a protected archaeological area considered to be the equal of Delos

You will find accommodation only in Ano Koufonisi (but there are daily trips to Kato Koufonisi). You won’t need a car, but you can rent a bike (it’s one of the flattest Greek islands – very rare!) to discover clear water beaches at Italida and Pori. You'll find great food (try the local cheece mitzithra), and don’t forget to drink raki and take a picture next to the windmill while watching the sunset.

3. Elafonisos

South of the Peloponnese Peninsula, you'll find this unique, tiny island with the world’s oldest-known submerged town – Pavlopetri. Intact and only 13ft (4m) underwater, it's perfect for snorkeling, even without a mask.

One of the best, most photo-worthy beaches in Greece is in Elafonisos too: Simos, with amazing, clear water and soft white sand. Simos consists of two beaches separated by a tiny sand bar. The island itself is quiet – only 600 people live here – so you can expect a relaxed holiday full of nature, good food, and friendly locals.

4. Kefallonia

Not as hidden as the others, Kefallonia (Cephalonia) is famous for its beaches and the sailing facilities it offers. It’s a destination for everyone, including couples, families, groups, and singles.

It has an international airport and a well-connected port, so it’s extremely easy to book your holidays there. Myrtos beach is the most popular, Melissani Cave holds unreal natural formations, while Fiskardo village is famous among sailors. Argostoli is the capital, and Lixouri is one of the biggest villages.

You definitely need to rent a car and spend a few days here if you want to explore the whole island.

Actually, you may already be familiar with Kefallonia's landscape from the Hollywood movie Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

Inside Melissa Cave, Kefallonia Island. Photo credit: iStock

5. Hydra

This island in the Argosaronic gulf can be reached by ship within two hours from Athens. The unique architecture has been preserved by local stone masons, so it maintains its authenticity. Hydra differs from the Cyclades islands, so don’t expect white houses with blue doors and windows, or barren, dry landscapes.

The main town, and most of the island, is free of cars – so you’ll have to use your feet, boats, or donkeys to take you everywhere.

Beaches are mostly small coves with clear water and a peaceful atmosphere. Many famous people have their summer cottages here, drawn to the region after the movie Boy on a Dolphin (starring Sophia Loren) was filmed here. Hydra was the very first Greek island to host an American production.

Hydra Island. Photo credit: iStock

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  • Helen said

    What an amazing article! I didn't know most of these islands and I am gonna plan my next holiday there ! Please write something about the smallest Greek island you have been and don't need anything but your foot and boats!

  • Dimitris said

    Omg, real hidden gems. Even though, I am from Greece, I never visited these islands. My bucket list is getting bigger now, haha. Thank you for the article. Give us more!!!

  • Vojco Milevski said

    I would add:

    Kastellorizo (near Kas, Turkey)


    Lipsi (near Patmos)

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