Whether you sail into a bright and beautiful harbour or listen to the sound of waves crashing against the shore, whether you fly low over cobalt waters in a twin-engine propeller-driven plane or you stumble upon the antiquity here and there, the Greek Islands are the most wonderful holiday dreams to say the least. Exquisite to fuel the intense imagination, the Greek Islands can be best defined by these words by one of Greek’s favourite sons, Homer: “…There is the heat of Love, the pulsing rush of Longing, the lover’s whisper, irresistible—magic to make the sanest man go mad.”
Considering that no Greek island is any lesser than the other, the vital question here is not ‘what islands to visit in Greece’ but ‘what to leave to be explored in the next trip’. However, some of the Greek Islands are so gorgeous and seductive that they make it to the top of holiday-makers list of must-visit and best Greek Islands, here are the Top 10.
1 – Santorini
If Greece is the most magical place on earth, Santorini is its magic wand. The amber skyline blending with the azure seascape at the horizon and the absolutely stunning whitewashed Cycladic dwellings gleaming like gold in the afterglow of dusk, Santorini is not just exquisite but spellbinding. One of the most beautiful and romantic islands in the world, officially Thira in Greek, Santorini is gracefully perched on the cliff of the mountain 200kms south-east of Greece mainland in the Aegean Sea. Unparalleled beauty of hilltop villages, excellent wineries, some of the Cyclades finest dining experiences, the sandy multi-coloured beaches in Red, Black and White, rich antiquity and the Greek hospitality are a few of the many other reasons which make Santorini the most popular and best Greek island. The sunset of Oia, the black pebbled beach of Kamari, the bustling markets and white cobblestones streets of Fira, the Venetian castle and Byzantine churches of Pyrgos—Santorini’s charm is irresistible.
2 – Mykonos
If you ever wondered where exactly the white, round shaped, 16th-century Venetian windmills with a pointed roof and very small windows are? Then the answer is—Mykonos, a beautiful Greek island, which is also a part of Cyclades. And keeping the iconic windmills in mind, if you are expecting it to be a quaint village, then Mykonos will be a surprise for you. Pack your most stylish clothes and put your best fashion foot forward in Mykonos. Yes! The stunning Cycladic maze hosting crowds of fashionistas and riches from across the globe, Mykonos is the most glam and glitzy of Greek Cyclades. The pricey bars and cafes, designer stores, crowded clubs by the beaches, Mykonos is called Ibiza of Greece for obvious reasons. However, between the all the style and razzmatazz, the ‘Island of the Winds’ is holding fast to its gorgeous Greek charm and impressive antiquity. As per Greek mythology, it was in this rocky island of Mykonos that the great battle between Zeus and Titans were fought and also the invincible giants were killed by Hercules.
3 – Corfu
Flaunting its intellectual and artistic heritage, Corfu or Kérkyra as it is called in Greek, is one of the most popular and best Greek islands on the Ionian Sea. Corfu refers to both the main town and the island. Loved for its scenic villages, gorgeous Byzantine churches, stunning Venetian fortresses and exhilarating nightlife, Corfu also has dramatic coastline with steep mountains. Wander through the tapered, cobbled streets and explore the impressive New Town to discover the bounty of history that this lovely Greek island has inherited.
4 – Zakynthos
The third largest island in the Ionian Sea, named after Zacynthos, son of legendary Arcadian chief Dardanos, Zakynthos borrows it beauty from the abundance of olive and grape farms, picturesque villages and towns and the crystalline water in impossible shade of blue against the backdrop of lush green forested mountains. Fondly called To fioro tou Levante meaning The flower of the East in English, Zakynthos is home to many great Greek poets and writers. High on music, striking a perfect balance between a party paradise and a quiet hermitage, Zakynthos is often thronged by tourists in huge numbers.
5 – Paros
Not far behind in popularity, Paros is the third most popular Greek islands after Santorini and Mykonos. Enchanting and stylishly vibrant with its rich culture, Paros has known for the white marbles all around the world. The second largest island of Cyclades, Paros has come a long way from being a ferry hub to one of the most popular holiday destinations under the sun. Characterized by its marvellous beaches and lovely villages, Paros also has some great relics of olden times. Be ready to fall in love with the capital city Parikia, a stunning sight in itself with traditional flat roofed Cycladic houses. The blue-painted doors, window frames and shutters in a striking contrast with white-washed walls, shadowed by lush vines, and adorned by the gardens of oranges and pomegranates, Paros in simple words is utterly romantic.
6 – Kos
Don’t go by the size of this tiny Greek island. Although, it measures just 40 by 8 kilometres, it has the power to blow your senses with its magnificent relics from history, sylvan valleys, vernal hills, rocky patches and the cobalt vista. Go sailing and snorkelling while in Kos. If not anything else, just relax, grab a bite at a chic café and gaze upon the wonders of nature in this amazing Greek island.
7 – Nisyros
At a distance of few miles from Kos, Nisyros, has less than 1000 permanent inhabitants. Famous for having a caldera at the centre and an active volcano in its very land, the island of Nisyros was created in the past 150,000 years. The otherworldly ‘Stefanos’ caldera (volcano crater) with a view of the smoking fumaroles is not the only exciting thing about this Greek island, but the hilltop villages like Nikea and Emborios offer a perfect hiking and exploring opportunities. Beaches are rocky here but keep a keen eye on the local products especially Koukouzina, a drink made from figs and grapes.
8 – Rhodes
The largest of Dodecanese islands, Rhodes has everything one would expect in a Greek Island. A bounty of antiquity, buzzing nightlife, vibrant beaches, spectacular wooded valleys, inviting cobbled alleys and more than 300 sun days in a year—what else do you wish for? The island of the Knights, as Rhodes is fondly referred to, proudly houses the famed Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the Medieval Old Town—a world heritage site. Also called the ‘Island of Roses’ due to the rock roses, Rhodes is one of the best Greek islands.
9 – Skiathos
Sitting pretty in the northwest of Aegean Sea, Skiathos is a blessed by nature with over 60 beautiful beaches with the coastline stretch of around 44 kms. The pine forests also make the island one of the greenest in Greece and has often been touted as the most popular Greek destination. Visit close by islands such as Alonissos and Skopelos to see the seals living in the caves of the island. Apart from sparking sea and nature’s beauty, Skiathosfor also has an exhilarating nightlife to keep the holiday-makers grooving to its tunes.
10 – Crete
The largest of the Greek Islands, Crete has everything in abundance, from history to natural splendour. Artistic landscape, sun-soaked beaches, vibrant cities, dreamy-moody villages, amazing culture, lip-smacking local cuisine and generous hosts, Crete gives you a perfect backdrop to make the most wonderful of memories in Greece.
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