Best Greek Islands: Beauty, History, and Culture
With white-sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and old-world charm, the many islands of Greece are a sight to behold. In this list of the best Greek islands, we detail 20 of the great islands Greece has to offer. With a range of topography and cultures represented, all of the islands on this list are truly special.
A quality ferry service also connects many of the islands, allowing you to visit more than one island at a time. So what are you waiting for? Go to Greece and experience all that island life has to offer!
For some great deals in getting to one of these great travel destinations, check out our list of the best travel sites. And for even more insight and expert travel advice, visit our list of the best travel blogs. Both of these lists will make sure that you have a great trip and get everything out if it that you can.
Top 20 Greek Islands:
Island Size: 226 Square Miles
Highlights: Variety of landscapes, relatively large island, host of activities.
About Greek Island: The northernmost of all of the Ionian islands, Corfu features a variety of stunning landscapes and attractions. With beautiful beaches and charming old towns, Corfu is one Greek island that is not to be missed. And, as a relatively large island, Corfu also offers a host of activities, ensuring that you will always have something to do.
Island Size: 19.15 Square Miles
Highlights: Mix of old and new, harbor shops, quaint restaurants.
About Greek Island: Unspoiled and picture-perfect, the island of Hydra is a charming mix of old and new. Quaint restaurants and harbor shops make Hydra an island worth coming back to time and time again. If you want it all, Hydra is a great choice.
Island Size: 156.6 Square Miles
Highlights: Offers beaches and mountainous interior, underwater caves, a variety of restaurants and hotels.
About Greek Island: The third largest of the Ionian Islands and a popular summer destination, Zakynthos, has something for everyone. The harbor city boasts a variety of restaurants and hotels, while the wide sandy beaches, mountainous interior, and underwater caves give outdoor enthusiasts something new every day. For crystal clear water and lush interiors, Zakynthos is a must-see.
Island Size: 184.3 Square Miles
Highlights: Has a large selection of water activities and ancient ruins explore.
About Greek Island: Samos features plenty of water activities like scuba diving and snorkeling, and its crystal clear waters are a sight to behold. Ancient ruins and a variety of attractions also add to Samos’ appeal. If you enjoy being active on your vacations, Samos is an ideal fit.
Island Size: 25.39 Square Miles
Highlights: Colorful neoclassical houses, 18th-century monastery, varied topography.
About Greek Island: Famous for its colorful neoclassical houses, the island of Symi is part of the Dodecanese Islands and close to southwest Turkey. An 18th-century monastery is another famous landmark of the island, drawing pilgrims from all around the world. Add in the beautiful scenery, azure waters, an annual music festival, and varied topography, and Symi is an extraordinary island.
Island Size: 3,219 Square Miles
Highlights: Offers mountains and beaches, luxury lodgings, quaint shops and restaurants.
About Greek Island: A distinct island and world unto itself, the large island of Crete boasts a varied landscape with mountains and beaches galore. Luxurious hotels and amenities are available, as well as quaint shops and restaurants. If you are looking for variety, Crete is the place to be.
Island Size: 29.42 Square Miles
Highlights: One of the most popular islands, white-washed buildings, active nightlife, ancient ruins.
About Greek Island: One of the most popular islands in the Aegean, the beautiful sun-kissed island of Santorini is postcard-worthy. A happening night scene and ancient ruins add to Santorini’s charm. The white-washed buildings and cobblestone streets certainly don’t hurt, either!
Island Size: 165.9 Square Miles
Highlights: Less tourist traffic, plenty of exploring available.
About Greek Island: With less tourist traffic than its island neighbor Mykonos, the island of Naxos allows for plenty of exploring. You will be able to explore the island and less inhabited beaches, old ruins, churches, and Greek culture. For an authentic Greek island feel, Naxos is a great option.
Island Size: 180.2 Square Miles
Highlights: Excellent biking for sport or pleasure.
About Greek Island: Over the years, Kos has become synonymous with biking, for both pleasure and sport. So if you are interested in biking, or are like us and just think that exploring a beautiful Greek island by bike would be awesome, then Kos is a must-visit. If biking isn’t your thing, though, Kos is still not to be missed and includes sightseeing and activities for all.
Island Size: 1.324 Square Miles
Highlights: Filled with Greek historical sites.
About Greek Island: The island of Delos, also known as the “Sacred Island of Apollo,” is filled with Greek historical sites. Considered one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, it is a must-visit. Some of the sights to see include; The Temple of Delians, House of the Comedians, and the Lion Terrace. If you enjoy Greek history, the island of Delos is not to be missed.
Island Size: 98.23 Square Miles
Highlights: Less touristy, offers a rugged and unique terrain.
About Greek Island: Not as “touristy” as some of the islands on this list, Ikaria offers a rugged and unique island appeal. There are great beaches like Nas and Seychelles, but there are also offerings of wilderness, beauty, and privacy on smaller beaches like Prioni Beach. There is also some great hiking on the island as well, and a guide map to help you out on the way.
Island Size: 116.7 Square Miles
Highlights: Unique island feel, stunning beaches, hiking on Mt. Lastos.
About Greek Island: Staying consistent with all of the islands on this list, Karpathos is a unique island all its own. Because of its seclusion, many of the locals still today speak a dialect that is specific to the island. With beaches that will take your breath away to hiking Mt. Lastos to experience authentic Greek culture and cuisine, Karpathos is sure to leave you amazed and wishing you could’ve stayed longer.
Island Size: 2.228 Square Miles (Ano) 1.505 Square Miles (Kato)
Highlights: Crystal clear water and plenty of beaches, caves to explore.
About Greek Island: Koufonisia consists of two islets (Pano Koufonisia and Kato Koufonisia), and they are only separated by a short 200 meters. With crystal clear water and white sand beaches, the island of Koufonisia also offers different caves to explore as well. When pirates first saw the island of Koufonisia, they saw the caves and thought that the island was hollow; they were the ones that named the island Koufonisisa, which means “hollow island.”
Island Size: 45.48 Square Miles
Highlights: Filled with history, home to the world’s largest natural harbor.
About Greek Island: At one time home to Odysseus and perhaps Homer as well, Ithaca is filled with history from ages past. Home to the world’s largest natural harbor, mountains to hike, and authentic towns and villages, you will always have something to do on the island of Ithaca. And, if you don’t want to do anything at all, just relax on some of the best beaches in the world and soak in the sunshine.
Island Size: 15.587 Square Miles
Highlights: Cliffs on the island provide stunning sunsets, the island is very walkable.
About Greek Island: If you enjoy a good sunset (I mean, who doesn’t, though?), you will want to checkout Anafi. The cliffs of the island are going to offer “spectacular views of the seas and unforgettable sunsets.” Along with enjoying the beaches and water, you will be able to walk around Anafi easily as it is considered a very “walkable island.”
Island Size: 75.79 Square Miles
Highlights: Whitewashed buildings and cobblestone streets, offers a number of ferries to other islands.
About Greek Island: With charming whitewashed buildings and cobblestone streets, the island of Paros also boasts beautiful beaches and a stellar nightlife. With a number of ferries coming in and out of the island, Paros makes an ideal base for exploring the islands of the Cyclades.
Island Size: 541 Square Miles
Highlights: Filled with historic sites, excellent beach resorts.
About Greek Island: Part of the Dodecanese islands near Turkey, the island of Rhodes is packed full of historical sites. A number of stunning beach resorts and villages make Rhodes an easy place to fall in love with. The cuisine is top-notch as well, giving Rhodes another point in its favor.
Island Size: 33 Square Miles
Highlights: Whitewashed buildings, excellent dining and entertainment.
About Greek Island: Featuring quintessentially Greek whitewashed buildings and tiny streets, the island of Mykonos is a popular destination for people all around the world. Cafes, bars, shops, and restaurants abound, firmly placing Mykonos as a world-class destination.
Island Size: 32 Square Miles
Highlights: Offers a large range of topography.
About Greek Island: A study in contrasts, the tiny island of Siros features everything from world-class beach resorts to quaint farming communities and remote beaches. When in the Cyclades, Siros is not to be missed, especially if you want a relaxing island experience.
Island Size: 325.1 Square Miles
Highlights: Relatively quiet, stunning scenery.
About Greek Island: Located in the northeastern Aegean, the island of Chios (sometimes called Hios) is a relatively quiet island with stunning scenery. If you want to get away from it all, Chios is a great option. Even with its peace and tranquility, however, Chios still offers a number of things to do, ensuring that you will always have a good time every time you go to Chios.
Best Greek Islands Conclusion
When it comes to visiting a Greek Island, you pretty much can’t go wrong. However, there are some different feels, views, and histories to each specific island, so hopefully, this list of the best Greek Islands will help you better determine where you want to spend your time when you go to visit. Because we all know that after researching these islands, there is no way they didn’t make it onto your bucket list.
Are you interested in more islands? Check out our list of the best Caribbean islands and best tropical vacations for more sand, sun, and clear waters. Also, check out our list of the best travel accessories to make sure that you have everything that you need for your trip.