The Greek Islands are an incredible combination of history, beauty, and romance – what’s not to love? But there are so many islands and so little time; Here are top 6 Greek islands you must see.
The Mediterranean is a part of world that everyone should visit. I still haven’t decided whether I liked Spain, Italy or Greece best but I loved all three countries. It goes without saying that if you are going to Greece you have to spend some time in Athens.
After you’ve seen the Acropolis, pretended you were Socrates wandering through the Agora, and shopped the Plaka until you couldn’t walk any more, it’s time to start considering where else in Greece you intend to visit.
I think the islands are romantic, as well as a lot of fun.
How to get there
There are a number of ways to see the Greek islands. You can fly into them although it can get pricey going from island to island. There are daily ferries as well and rentals for cars and scooters on the islands are quite reasonable so that’s another good option.
If you go with a tour group, expect to take the ferry. About the ferries, don’t choose a deck seat for longer trips. You’ll literally end up on the deck and on an overnight trip that’s not your best option. Choose a first class ticket if, like me, you’d like your own stateroom to sleep in.
There are cheap cabins as well as fancier ones so you can take your pick.
Where to stay
Some people need to have everything arranged in advance. If you are like that, there is lots to choose from in a range of prices. Don’t be afraid to try the apartment rentals if you plan on spending a few days on an island. We did this in Spain and it was perfect.
I loved having a kitchen to make tea and coffee in and keep fruit on hand for snacking while soaking up sun by the pool. They even had free laundry facilities you could use.
If you like to fly by the seat of your pants, Greece has something fun for you. When the boats come in, hotel and apartment owners flock to the docks to try to sell you a place to stay. You can haggle with them about the price.
Greeks love to haggle. You miss out on good deals if you fail to haggle at the Plaka and the same is true about hotel rooms on the dock.
What to see
There are a lot of Greek islands and there is a lot to see. Most people don’t have weeks on end to explore each island. These are five islands you don’t want to miss on your travels.
This island has the most beautiful sunsets ever. It is the place to go if romance is on the trip agenda. It has everything from gorgeous scenery to black sand beaches to archaeological ruins and tons of history.
Santorini is basically what is left after a gigantic volcanic eruption in 1500 BC. The eruption is believed to have caused a tidal wave or tsunami that was responsible for the destruction of Minoan civilization. At its center is the caldera, a water filled lagoon. The views from the villages on the cliffs overlooking the caldera are nothing short of spectacular.
If you love history, you won’t want to miss Akrotiri. This archaeological dig site has revealed remains from a village that was destroyed by the historic volcanic eruption. While some pieces have been removed to a museum in Athens there is plenty to see and lots of history.
The beaches are also worth a visit. The volcanic nature of the island means that many of them have black sand although there are a few white and pink sand beaches as well.
Mykonos is the place to go if nightlife and parties are what you enjoy. It’s incredibly popular with everyone, including the rich and famous. There are great beaches and lots of great restaurants and nightclubs but the real treasures are the old town, which is a labyrinth worthy of any minotaur, and the fact that this is how you get to Delos.
Delos is technically uninhabited but it does play host to many tourist visitors. You can get there through any number of boats. It is the birth place of Artemis and Apollo and full of ancient temples and ruins worth visiting. They date from as far back as 8th century BC.
Close to the Turkish coast, Rhodes is an absolute must for anyone going to the islands that loves history. Rhodes was occupied for a time by the Knights of St John until they were driven out by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire.
It is also where the Colossus of Rhodes was once located. Apparently the ruins were eventually sold to a Jewish merchant and he needed 900 camels to drag it away.
There are two basic parts of Rhodes – New Town and Medieval Town. The latter is surrounded by medieval walls and was the home of the Knights. It has been beautifully preserved and restored. There are parts of it that will make you think of a Turkish bazaar.
You’ll want to see the Grandmaster’s Palace, it represents thousands of years of history and is incredible. You’ll also want to explore the old town and for the curious, you can visit (and take) a Turkish Bath. They alternate days for men and women.
New Town has been strongly influenced by the Italians and Mussolini. While newer than the medieval city, it is not really all that new. It is a good place to stay and close enough to the medieval city that you can walk there. Other places worth exploring include the Valley of the Butterflies. Home to thousands of butterflies and some beautiful scenery, this is a great place for an afternoon stroll.
Corfu is a popular island stop. As with all the islands, there are lots of great beaches. Corfu has some great museums and archaeological sites. The Kerkyra Archaeological Museum has some remnants from ancient temples that were once on the island including some nicely preserved pediment pieces.
There are two forts on the island; the Venetian built Neo-Frurio offers better views and architecture. Other fun sites include Theotokou Monastery, Angelokastro castle, and the resort at Kassiopi, which was once frequented by the likes of Tiberius and Nero.
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and the former home of the Minoan civilization. As you can imagine, it has many archaeological sites and museums. The ones you should make a point of seeing include the Lychnostatis Open Air Museum, Spinalonga Fortress, Arkadi Monastery, The Historical Museum of Crete, and the Ancient Aptera ruins.
Crete also has some beautiful national parks, botanical gardens and gorges suitable for walking for those who are tired of museums, ruins, and beaches. Animal fans should make a point of visiting the Amazonas Park which specializes in endangered parrot species and the Aquaworld Aquarium.
Zakynthos is located in the Ionian Sea and is known for its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters. You can visit the famous Navagio Beach, explore the Blue Caves, or take a boat trip to see the endangered loggerhead turtles that live in the area.
So, these are 6 Greek islands you must see. But, honestly, Greece is fantastic and you’ll love it no matter where you go. I tend to like the historical sites and ruins but for those who want to lie on the beach, you cannot really go wrong no matter which island you choose. The food is fabulous. Look for small tavernas for more authentic fare. Oh, and have a great time!
Cover photo: pheed.com