From the sun-washed cyclades south of the mainland, to the forested hills of the Ionian Islands, the Greek islands are equally rugged and paradisiacal. Pictures alone are evidence enough as to why they reign supreme as some of the most coveted holiday destinations in Europe.

With over 200 to choose from, picking which to visit can be overwhelming. So to make your holiday planning easier we’ve compiled a list of the most beautiful islands that Greece has to offer.

Here are the best islands in Greece to visit this summer:

Santorini

With a real sense of mystique and enchantment in the air, Santorini is arguably the most romantic island in Greece. The extremely popular honeymoon destination sees thousands of loved up couples and newly-weds flock to its shores every year.

Believed to be the site of the ‘Lost City of Atlantis’, the island was formed around 4,000 years ago by a sudden volcanic eruption. The climax of an enormous volcano, the island’s dark volcanic rock hillsides plunge into the the world’s largest caldera, where the sea is so tranquil that it could be easily mistaken for an enormous lake.

The most exciting way to arrive in Santorini is by boat, followed by a donkey ride up the steep switchback road that leads to the capital city of Firá (Thera). While it’s modern centre is fairly unremarkable, the scenes from its cliff tops are unforgettable.

The best islands to visit in Greece this summer
Beautiful view of Churches in Oia village, Santorini | The best islands to visit in Greece this summer

Making the most of their incredible location, iconic whitewashed houses cling to the steep hillsides, and many hotels, restaurants, and cafés have outdoor terraces with panoramic views.

The Museum of Prehistoric Thera displays objects uncovered at Akrotiri, an archaeological site known as the “Greek Pompeii” because the ruins were hidden under volcanic ash for several centuries.

Nearly any spot in Oia looks like the image of a postcard or painting. Here you’ll find the bulk of Santorini’s best hotels. Be sure to book an outdoor table for your sunset drinks as Oia is known to provide some of the best in the world.

Kamari Beach with its volcanic black-sand shores is well worth a visit for a day in the sun, and Ammoudi Port, the scenic old harbour, features wonderful waterfront tavernas that serve the finest fresh seafood. For a more peaceful Santorini experience, head to the quieter southern region of the island.

 

Mykonos

If nightlife and a party vibe are what you’re after, then Mykonos is the place for you. Mykonos has long been one of the best islands in Greece for carefree travellers in search of a good time. The island was home to gay clubs and sunrise parties before rave culture was even invented.

Located in the Aegean Sea, the island is fully fitted with trendy restaurants, vibey tavernas and live entertainment venues. Most of which run through the night, into the early hours of the morning.

Views over Mykonos with Tinos island in the distance | The best islands in Greece to visit this summer

The best beach clubs are those at Paradise beach, Super Paradise Beach and the island’s longest beach – Elia. The influx of celebrities, super models and superyachts has brought with it various new hotels and restaurants, which only add to the island’s allure.

For an escape from the glitzy excess, head over to Chora Mykonos. Here you’ll find a labyrinth of winding cobblestone streets brimming with whitewashed houses, quaint old churches, and narrow alleyways draped in bright bougainvillea.  Must-see attractions within Chora Mykonos are the Little Venice area where balconied buildings resemble Venetian edifices thanks to their waterfront facades.

The tiny island of Delos is also well-worth a day visit. The archaeological sanctuary is the rumoured birthplace of Apollo, the Greek god of light and here you’ll find a temple dedicated to his honour.

 

Crete

The largest island in Greece and the birthplace of Zeus, Crete has long been a crossing point for humanity. The Minoan civilisation thrived here during the Bronze Age, while various parades of conquerors have left their mark over the centuries.

In Crete you’ll find a little bit of everything, from glorious beaches to snow-capped peaks and ancient ruins. The best of the island’s history is preserved in and around Heraklion, including the Minoan Palace of Knossos – the world’s oldest city. Aptera and Malia are stunning ancient sites worth a visit!

Agios Nikolaos and Voulismeni lake in Crete | The best islands in Greece to visit this summer

The best way to take in the island’s beauty is by exploring its outdoor attractions. One of the most beautiful hikes runs through the Aradena Gorge in the rugged Sfakia region. The hike ends at Marmara, where you can cool off in a glassy cove on the Libyan Sea, and enjoy lunch at one of Crete’s finest tavernas, Dialiskari.

Head south to find Crete’s dreamiest beaches. Paleochora is a long, sandy stretch lined with hotels and restaurants. Sougia is a more secluded, pebble beach, but the added privacy also means there are less easily-accessible amenities. Ligres and Kedrodassos are also fantastic choices, while Elafonisi features an incredible pink sand shoreline straddled by turquoise waters.

In the east you’ll find the Lassíthi region, esteemed for its exceptional beaches that boast crystal waters ideal for snorkelling.

Naxos

Once the location from which local Naxiots made a mint exporting potatoes, cheese, marble and emery, today Naxos is known for its beaches. Some of the finest of all the Greek Islands, to be more specific.

Naxos was the site of one of the most ironic transfers of wealth in modern Greek history. Seaside land – deemed useless for farming and therefore undesirable- was generally given away to the laziest offspring and extended family members. However once the rest of the world caught wind of the calibre of these endless stretches of sand, this land became a gold mine.

The best islands in Greece to visit this summer
The cityscape of Naxos town, Naxos | The best islands in Greece to visit this summer

The west of the island is home to its best beaches, with Agios Prokopios and Agia Anna being particularly popular choices. Here you’ll find powdery white sand, shallow waters and numerous beach bars.

Further south, the beaches are equally as beautiful, and wilder in landscape. Plaka is where you can gallop across the dunes on horseback, Mikri Vigla is ideal for windsurfing, and Kastraki boasts crystal clear waters.

For a break from the sand and sun (is that a thing people need?) Naxos town will draw you in with the allure of any of the islands in Greece. Whitewashed houses, Venetian mansions and catholic churches characterise the colourful seaport town. Kastro, the 13th century fortress, and Portara, the gate of an ancient temple, are both worth a visit when in Naxos.

There are also numerous small villages to wander through, and 3 oversized Kouros statues hidden in the hills.

 

Paros

A superb addition to an island-hopping itinerary, Paros offers a quiet escape from the busier Greek Islands, while still sharing all the same benefits.

Paros Island is just short ferry ride from Santorini, Mykonos or Naxos and boasts traditional villages, golden-sand beaches and one of Greece’s best preserved churches, the Monastery if Panagia Ekatontapiliani.

The best islands in Greece to visit this summer
Naoussa fishing village, Paros | The best islands in Greece to visit this summer

To experience an authentic fishing village, head to Náoussa, where you’ll find a vibrant harbour with various restaurants and a beautiful town centre lined with winding cobblestone streets, whitewashed houses, and quaint chapels.

Loyarás and Písso Livádi are popular beaches and the mountain village of Léfkes is a great starting point for hikes in the most picturesque of scenery.

From Paros, you can also take a ferry to visit the smaller, neighbouring Island of Antiparos.

 

Milos

Milos is home to arguably the wildest coastline of any of the islands in Greece.

Formed by ancient volcanic activity, the island is extremely varied when it comes to the topography of its beaches. Here you’ll find shores trimmed with yellow, white, red, or black pebbles, and sapphire or turquoise coloured waters.

Klima village, Milos | The best islands in Greece to visit this summer

Every year, Milos gains popularity, with sun worshippers flocking to enjoy the island’s 70+ beaches, like Sarakiniko, with its white volcanic rock shores and undulating white cliffs. Papafragas is known for its bottle-green swimming hole and colourful old syrmata, tiny boat houses wedged between rock and sea.

Pláka is the prettiest village on the island, while Adamas and Pollonia are the most prominent spots for holiday makers.

 

Hydra

Completely free of cars, Hydra offers a glimpse into traditional Greek island life. Less than two hours from Athens, the island is a popular location for locals looking to escape for a relaxing weekend away.

Arriving at the Hydra Town harbour, tourists are immediately met with the view of rows of whitewashed houses that begin right at the water’s edge and cascade up the slopes. At the café-lined harbour, its not uncommon to see humble fishing boats moored alongside super-yachts owned by multi-millionaires.

Main port of Hydra island | the best islands in greece to visit this summer

Hydra is renowned for its jewellery boutiques, where beautiful hand-crafted pieces are sold by local artisans. The island is also famous for its culinary specialties, such as the almond cake Amygdalotá and Galaktoboureko, a creamy custard layered with crispy phyllo dough.

Dissimilar to the other Greek Isles, Hydra is home to hardly any sandy beaches. Instead you’ll be spoilt for choice with various slabs of rock and cliffs from which to dive into some of the clearest water in the world. The island also features a fantastic network of hiking trails, scattered throughout and leading to some of the most sensational views that Hydra has to offer.

 

Amorgos

Situated between Naxos and Astypalaia, Amorgos is not the most accessible of Greek Islands. When winds are high, the fast ferries are grounded and the slower alternatives can take up to 8 hours from Athens. Visitors arrive at Katapola, a sleepy harbour lined with quaint fishing tavernas.

The island boasts scenic hiking trails, often referred to as Blue Paths, with the sea and sky on show in all directions. Here you’ll also find numerous scenic bays with secluded golden beaches and picturesque underwater caves waiting to be explored.

Katapola vilage, Amorgos | The Best Islands In Greece To Visit This Summer

In the small rocky bay of Liveros you’ll find the Olympia shipwreck, rumoured to have been abandoned by Pirates after strong winds tossed their ship into the bay. The wreck has since become part of the island and is a popular diving spot. Best enjoyed with a GoPro in hand!

With a population of less than 2,000, Amorgos locals are outnumbered by shaggy goats that blend in perfectly with the burnished landscape. The island is also the only place that produces Psimeni Raki: a syrupy sweet local homemade liquor.

 

Paxos

The tiniest of the Ionian Islands, Paxos is covered in olive groves which produce some of the finest olive oil in the world.

Despite not boasting the usual amenities that make the Greek Islands so desirable (there are virtually no sandy beaches and hardly any luxury hotels) Paxos packs a big punch when it comes to its beauty. Electric blue waters leave little to be desired, and the island’s three harbour towns are all so lovely its impossible to pick a favourite.

Trypitos, also known as Kamara, a natural rocky arch at Paxos island | The Best Islands In Greece To Visit This Summer

Each of these islands is ideal for its own reasons. Loggos, ideal for a few drinks on an outdoor terrace under a star-lit sky. Lakka, for relaxing days at the waterfront as sailors and yachts pass by, and Gaios, for its Venetian architecture and cosmopolitan vibe.

Be sure to rent a motor boat for a gentle cruise along the coast to pebble coves such as Marmari and Kipiadi. Or even to Antipaxos, an even smaller island popular with the yachting community, where pathways through vineyards and orchards roll down into bays with water so clear it looks photoshopped.

 

Corfu

The mythic stomping ground of Poseidon and the most popular of the Ionian Islands, Corfu is an incredible medley of sandy stretches, pebbled coves and chiselled cliffs.

Agios Stefanos cape, Corfu | The Best Islands In Greece To Visit This Summer

Despite being home to some of the best beaches in Europe, it’s the human element that makes Corfu so desirable. The cosmopolitan capital Corfu Town is a charming blend of British, French and Venetian colonial influences. With pastel villages, rolling olive groves and magnificent manor houses, the rest of the island recalls Tuscany.

The Angelokastro castle, the Vlacherna monastery and the Mandraki marina are all renowned for leaving visitors awe-inspired.

 

Ithaca

Surrounded by the Ionian Sea and draped in lush greenery, this incredible island definitely lives up to its incredible stature of Homer’s mythical descriptions in the Odyssey. Despite this, the island remains largely under the tourist radar.

Hillside village in Ithaca | The Best Islands In Greece To Visit This Summer

There is little to do on the Island aside from soaking up the natural beauty. Ithaca’s turquoise and emerald coves are popular among sailors, but few visitors venture into the forested hills. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself the only person exploring the eighth-century BC ruins of Odysseus’ palace, or making the heady trek to the church of Anogi.

A two-hour hike down from Anogi will lead you to Kioni, a charming resort town built into the hillside. The drowsy fishing port of Frikes boasts a natural beach and delightful waterside tavernas.

Unspoiled and relatively hard to reach, little Ithaca is somewhere you can still disappear.

 

Folegandros

On the southern edge of the Cyclades near Santorini, you’ll find Folegandros, a barren and largely untouched island.

Here, there are no white-sandy beaches, but instead sun-kissed pebbly coves with crystal clear waters, such as Katergo, Ambeli and Livadaki. Despite the lack of sand, Karavostassis, Vitzetzo and Hohlidia beaches are all worth a visit.

The best islands in Greece to visit this summer
Folegandros village | The best islands in Greece to visit this summer

The clifftop capital of Hora is one of three village squares on Folegandros and one of the most appealing in the Cyclades. The square boasts a mix of cafés, tavernas and raki bars.

The island is a hiker’s paradise, with the path from Hora to the hilltop Panagia church offering spectacular views. Make the trek at dawn or dusk for the best views, you won’t regret it.

While in Folegandros try the Matsata, a typical homemade paste served with roasted lamb and tomato sauce.

 

Tinos

Just 15 minutes from Mykonos and with over 50 quaint and incredible villages, it’s a surprise that Tinos isn’t  completely overrun with tourists.

In Pyrgos, famous for its marble craftsmen, you’ll find sculpted birds and flowers decorating every doorway. In Volax, basket weavers squat outside cottages carved from giant boulders. There’s even a village called ‘love’, Agapi. Tinos takes its food culture seriously: there are artichoke, caper and honey festivals.

Tinos Island | The Best Islands In Greece To Visit This Summer

The 15th of August sees swarms of Orthodox pilgrims flock here to kiss the icons at Panagia Evangelistria monastery, one of the holiest sites in Greece. Aside from this event, the island is miraculously untouched.

Solitary chapels and whimsical dovecotes stud thyme-scented hills, dropping to sandy bays whipped by the meltemi wind. There’s an up and coming surfer scene on Kolibithra bay, where a VW bus has been converted into a cute beach bar.

 

Zakynthos/Zante

Home to the breathtaking Shipwreck Bay and a reputation for a legendary party scene, Zakynthos remains one of the most diverse destinations in the Greek islands.

The island is a paradise for nature lovers with lush wild mountains rolling into the electric blue Ionian sea. Much of the south coast is a nature reserve, where endangered loggerhead turtles hatch in the sand.

the best islands in greece
Shipwreck Beach, Zakynthos | The best islands in Greece to visit this summer

The turtle beaches are off limits, but there are numerous coves ripe for exploring. Favourites are Xigia, with its bubbling underwater springs, and Porto Limnionas, where sunbeds are wedged between the rocks and palm-frond umbrellas positioned between the pine trees.

Skinari is the starting point for boat trips to the island’s most famous landmarks, the Blue Caves and Shipwreck Beach, where an iconic rusty vessel leans into the chalky cliffs. From Keri, you can cast away for Marathonisi island, another turtle sanctuary.

If you’re looking for buzzing nightlife head south or east, to Laganas and Kalamaki.