7 of the Best Islands to Hop in Greece

Colm Hanratty and Tracy Lynch, of Hostelworld.com, takes us through some of the best islands in Greece to pencil in to your island-hopping itinerary.

Photo © iStock.com/milosducati

I have a penchant for islands. The way of life is laid back on them and the people are friendly. There’s always lots to do: if you like lazing in the sun, depending on what part of the world you’re in, they’re full of beaches. If you’re a more active person, then there’s hiking to be done. I’m a bit of a water baby at heart so am fond of the activities that can be done too.

An archipelago that begs being explored in Europe is that belonging to Greece. Here you’ve got party islands, quieter islands, plus you can visit one of Europe’s most famous capitals before you head off.

Athens

Okay, so Athens isn’t an island, but I can’t write about Greece and not mention the capital. It’s a city that needs to be really explored to be proper appreciated. Do so and you’ll discover neighbourhoods like Kolonaki and Monatiraki before ending the evening among the bars in Gazi.

So my advice is this – if you’re thinking of heading to Greece make sure to put by a couple of days to see what Athens has to offer. You’ll be nicely surprised. Now, on to those islands…

Athens Acropolis. Photo credit: iStock

Santorini

You know that photo you always see advertised with Greece of the blue roof overlooking the sea? That’s shot is from a village called Oia on the island of Santorini. After the Acropolis, it’s safe to say it’s Greece’s ‘Eiffel Tower’. This is by far the most popular attraction on the island, but if you’ve time to explore you can visit wineries, check out volcanic cliffs, or visit the island’s very own Pompeii called Akrotiri – a town over 3,500 years old that was persevered in volcanic ash.

Volcanic Beach, Santorini. Photo credit: iStock

Crete

The largest of the Greek Islands is Crete – a place where you’ll discover a diverse range of attractions from enchanting ruins to idyllic beaches to hectic nightlife. The island is full of breathtaking scenery where mountain ranges dotted with hidden churches fall into the deep blue sea, and towns are surrounded by stunning beaches and populated with bars and restaurants.

Explore the island even more and you’ll discover hidden mosques and monasteries in the hills. Must-sees on the island include the Minoan Palace of Knossos along with the capital of Iraklio - Greece’s 5th largest city. If it’s nightlife you’re after towns such as Stalis and Hersonissos should be on your radar.

Ios

If you want to spend your days on golden beaches or discovering Aegean architecture, then Ios should be on your list when planning a Greek island-hopping adventure. Undoubtedly (another) party island, get up early and you’ll find historical landmarks such as Homer’s Tomb or visit some of over 350 churches on the island.

Chora, Ios. Photo credit: iStock

Chora is its main town which is peaceful and charming with winding streets and blue and white buildings. However, at night these streets come alive as the restaurants and bars are filled with visitors looking for entertainment. 

Ios sunset. Photo credit: iStock

Mykonos

Part of the Cyclades group of islands, Mykonos is yet another island the hedonists will enjoy. But let’s focus on what else the island has to offer… Its longest stretch of beach is Elia Beach which is easily accessible from Mykonos Town. If you’re looking for a good photo op visit Little Venice with its white stone building resting on the sea’s edge.

If it’s peace and quiet you’re after then take the trip to Delos, a neighbouring, uninhabited island.

Little Venice of Mykonos. Photo credit: iStock

Corfu

The most northern of the Ionian islands, Corfu has an extremely Italian feel to it, and walking the streets of Corfu Town (the main town on the island), you could easily forget you were in Greece at all. This is due to the island’s location (you can get to Italy by ferry from here). Due to its popularity it’s got water parks if that’s your thing. If it’s not there are palaces and churches to discover. Of course, if it’s just relaxing you want to do, it’s full of golden beaches too.

Palaiokastritsa sandy beach, Corfu. Photo credit: iStock

Zakynthos

Zakynthos is the ideal pick if you’re looking for culture, sandy beaches and breathtaking scenery. This island is regarded as one of the sunniest in the Mediterranean which makes enjoying its stunning sandy beaches even easier. In fact, one of the most popular attractions on the island is Navagio Beach.

This hidden cove is only accessible by boat as it lies in the shadow of high cliffs. Take a boat trip here and you’ll be rewarded with a swim in the turquoise waters and views not to be forgotten. The island is also popular for diving and lots of other exciting water-sports.

Navagio Beach, Zakynthos island. Photo credit: iStock

Island Hopping by Ferry

Unless you're a keen swimmer the best, and often the only way to get between islands is by ferry, which is also part of the experience.

You can save on the cost of ferry tickets by getting an inter-island pass or Greek island pass from another of our partners, HostelBay.com. Check out their ferry passes.

About Hostel World

Hostelworld.com has hostels, budget hotels, guesthouses in more in destinations all over Greece. You can keep up to date with everything they do by liking their page on facebook and following them on Twitter.

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13 Comments

  • Corinna said

    I mean... All of those Island (if they are islands) are nice and for sure beautiful, but to be honest.. .This article is pretty average. It's where everyone goes.

    If you want a unique Island go to Astypalea. It is about 9 hours by ferry from Athens, but only 4 from Paros. You can fly also... It is beautiful and not as overcrowded and expensive as Santorini. Dont get me wrong. Santorini is beautiful, but overrated and way to expensive.

    Find the hidden gems in Greece.

    But really... you said it yourself... Over 6000 islands and you come with the once that everyone writes about? Pretty boring.

    If you understand german, yoou can come to my articles about Astypalea: https://aussteigenbitte.de/astypalea
    https://aussteigenbitte.de/griechische-ostern/

    Cheers,
    Corinna | Aussteigen Bitte

  • andrew Klein said

    I will never forget the first time I found myself in the Greek Isles. There is a special feeling that overcomes you. I have been fortunate enough to wake up here on several occasions. They are as interesting as they are beautiful. The writer of the article fails to mention the people of these incredible dots on the map. I am the author of the book, 'Footprints'(Amazon.com), and have been to literally hundreds of islands. In Greece you will meet people from all over the world. Don't miss Paros, Naxos or Lemnos. In fact, see as many as you can!!!!

  • Valentini said

    I def agree with Corinna. If you really want to write good articles you should leave the writing for people who know what they are talking about. For a site named "world nomads" the article refers to such expensive islands (like Mykonos and Santorini) that don't reflect the nomadic type of exploring -unless you have Greek friends to help you around! As a Greek and a passionnate traveler that has been in morebthan 25 countries I find this misleading for my coumtry. Please hire some local people for each country otherwise there is no reason or us to read this specific website. Thanks!

  • Jacqueline said

    Actually, I expected more of the unknown. This article was average and discussed all the popular islands. I would go to the other side and take in Kefalonia, its beautiful, not full of tourists and you can pick up wine made right on the island and this is the only place where you can get it. This article seems to be written by someone who made their first trip to Greece. Boring!

  • Daniel said

    Actually, Akrotiri was preserved not persevered. And this is more a list of the most popular islands not hidden gems like Syros and Sifnos.

  • Gary said

    I agree that these are the most widely known and highly touristed spots in Greece. Give me Milos as in Venus de Milos. Accessible by air, uncrowded with some of the prettiest beaches anywhere.

  • Alistair said

    27 years ago l went to all those islands when l was backpacking with a Lets Go book and word of mouth.

    I consider myself so lucky to have done it without the internet spoiling the surprize.

    Wonder if that charming girl is still working in the Thira supermarket.

    I recall Ios was over run with Americans. A pair of earplugs did the trick.



  • Robyn said

    Yes I was in Santorini over 30 years before the crowds and it was lovely and quiet.
    Have been back since too many tourists overcrowded.
    I lived in London at the time travelled over on a cheap flight from Manchester with just my back back and letter from a Australian friend who had done the trip a few months before so I had part of a plan of where to stay and the rest I just worked it out as I went along.
    I remember travelling by ferry we called it the cattle truck because we waited late at night to travel.
    Was on The islands when Evis passed away.
    Third was lovely also
    But living in Australia it's a long way to go we have beautiful beaches here in Queensland where I live.

  • PhilSylvester said

    Corinna, Valentini and Jacqueline
    we'd love to hear your thoughts so we can improve this (admittedly old) article. It sounds like the three of you have information the rest of us would love to hear.
    Please drop me a line at [email protected] and I'll ask a few questions, get some details and/or if you're writers, pay you to contribute to a re-write.
    World Nomads is a collective, so please contact me and lets work together to make it a better piece.
    Phil

  • Jackie said

    I found Milos and Sifnos (both in West Aegean) both had a lot to offer. Santorini, Crete, Mykonos are all wonderful but everyone knows about them. You can fly in or out of Athens to Milos as alternative to the long ferry trip. During the peak season there is no problem with combining Cycladic islands etc by ferry on almost a daily basis but after about 7Sep they can reduce to just twice a week so as long as aren't in a hurry or are sweating on the schedule to be released, all is good. Milos has great hikes, ancient ruins, beaches, bays, round island or 1/2 day sail trips to Kleftiko as well as lovely villages, great food & wine etc. hire a car and drive to the remote western beaches - only a couple of people there (out of peak season) but the signposting is terrible.

    Sifnos has great walks (eg Platis Gialos to Panagia Chrissopigi, hike up to Kastro for fantastic views), nice beaches, villages and bus services or hire a car.

    Naxos has so many great beaches, historic remains of the Temple of Apollo, the old "Kastro" with its winding alleys, wonderful traditional inland villages and countryside and coastal towns.

    Amorgos, (you can book a cabin on the overnight ferry arriving at 2am and this gives you a dedicated lounge that seat on boat passengers can't access) near Astypalea, is also off then usual tourist track. Lots of hikes, bays, amazing scenic views, villages etc. Take the boat to Nikouria island and almost have the whole beach to yourself, but no-one writes about it. Seems to get a lot of cloud and wind when we were there in Sep.

  • Marcia Kellam said

    Kastellorizo (aka Megisti) is another small, but lovely and quiet island of the Dodecanese group one mile off the turquoise coast of Mediterranean Turkey. If in Turkey, you can ferry to Kastellorizo from Kas in about a half hour. I have done it a few times. I believe you can also get there by ferry from other Greek islands, probably Rhodes (Rodos) and Piraeus. I know the island also as Meis, which is what the Turks call it.

    The ferry brings you into the picturesque port town. It's fun to explore both the promenade along the harbor (with all the bars, restaurants and tiny shops) or some of the winding back streets. You can also climb up to the Castle of the Knights or take a brief hike to the other side of the island to Mandraki. Apparently, there's also an acropolis, though I have never been to it. Despite its small size, Kastellorizo has seen its share of historic events, ancient and modern. Not to mention its crystal clear turquoise sea that is quite refreshing if you choose to swim!

  • Annita said

    Great post guys! I love Greece... This summer I was there, went Greek Island Hopping with Hostelbay and got to see Paros, Naxos, Ios, Santorini, Mykonos, Amorgos and Crete! It was superb, I wish I could stay longer. Frankly, I think that each island deserves a 4 night stay at least. The beaches are magnificent, the sun was radiant... I would also suggest Milos, Anafi and Sifnos. Excellent islands for couples as well, very romantic and picturesque with lots of nice places for food and drinks! If I had to choose 3 islands from your list I'd definitely pick these: Santorini, Zakynthos, Crete! I went to Zakythos a few years back and it has some of most exotic beaches I've seen. I also got to see those cute sea turtles <3

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