But which ones should you go to instead? Valentini Argyropoulou gives us an insider’s view of five lesser-known islands that will blow you away.
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!
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 landscape.
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 amongst Greek 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!
South of the Peloponnese Peninsula, you'll find this unique, tiny island with the world’s oldest-known submerged town – Pavlopetri. Intact and only four-meters underwater, it's perfect for snorkelling, even without a mask!
One of the best, much-photographed 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!
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 amongst 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!
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 landscape.
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.