Often regarded as the most beautiful part of Europe, the Greek islands offer an oasis of sandy beaches, tranquil countryside and towns with a thousand stories to tell.
Hop between them and discover the character and charm each one possesses. Learn about the mythology, find out which god and goddess decided to call these places home and see the homage to the legends of a bygone era. Then, of course, there is the scenery which is unlike anywhere you’ve seen before. Watch the majestic sunset over Santorini, escape to hilltop retreats in Crete and relax on secluded beaches in Zante.
What we’re saying is that you simply have to visit the Greek islands and we’ve got the lowdown on what makes each one so special.
The tales of Greek mythology speak of a beast that stalked the island of Crete. In ancient times, the Minotaur – a half-man, half-bull creature – would terrorise the locals until it was slayed by the Athenian hero Thesus. The legend of the Minotaur is celebrated today with numerous statues and artefacts dotted across the island.
You can see why the Minotaur saw fit to stick around Crete. Among biggest of the Greek islands it is a triumph of beaches – the best being around the Lassithi area in the east – mountainous countryside and the charming historical towns. Enjoy a road trip along the coast and discover the hidden coves for a slice of proper paradise.
Arguably the most historically important Greek island, Rhodes offers the perfect mix of serene countryside and bustling towns. The island is home to a number of iconic landmarks such as the Acropolis of Lindos – a series of stunning ancient remains dating back to the 6th century when it was used to protect Rhodes from advancing hordes.
The island is not just a tour of historical monuments and – like neighbour Crete – it has some amazing beaches. Enjoy a view of the Acropolis from the white sand of Lindos or relax in the quiet surroundings of Pefkos or play games and take a dip in the sea at the lively resort of Faliraki. Rhodes offers something a little different from your normal holiday.
Corfu has assumed the mantle of the Greek islands’ go-to summer holiday destination for decades. Known as the Emerald Isle it has a number of lively resorts including Sidari and Roda which are populated by holidaymakers from the moment the weather begins to warm up.
Alongside Kos and Zante, Corfu throws one of the best parties in the Mediterranean with the town of Kavos attracting the world’s best DJs during the peak season. If dancing until dawn is not really your scene you can chill out in the ambient hideaways of Gouvia and San Stefanos where you can sample delicious local cuisine at the family-run tavernas.
Nowhere does a sunset quite like Santorini. Head up to Ammoudi Bay and look out across the Aegean Sea and watch as the idyllic azure sky flickers into a deep blood orange as day turns to night. It is a truly spectacular sight and one of the main reasons while so many people have Santorini featured prominently on their bucket list.
The island is an explosion of colour with the red cliffs providing the contrast to the wealth of whitewashed buildings dotted along the coast. Indulge with delicious local cuisine paired with a drop of plonk from Santo Wines as you watch that magnificent nightly spectacle.
Experience the glitz and glamour of the Greek islands by stopping off in Mykonos. This is the playground of the rich and famous with boutique hotels and designer shops populating the achingly fashionable marinas.
Clink glasses of champagne as you watch the yachts float into the Mykonos Town dock or indulge in caviar at some of the best restaurants in the Mediterranean. They call Mykonos Greece’s answer to St-Tropez and as you sample delicious locally sourced wine by candlelight, you will understand why.
If you have seen one image of Zante it will most likely be Smuggler’s Cove. Regularly ranked among the best beaches in the world this white sand bay is overlooked by huge cliffs which beautifully contrast against the vibrant turquoise ocean – this is the closest thing to paradise you can experience in the Greek islands.
Should beached shipwrecks not take your fancy you could meet the loggerhead turtles of Laganas Beach. Between July and August, this stretch of coastline is a favourite nesting spot for these friendly creatures. Away from the coast Zante – or Zakynthos as it is also known – boasts miles of rolling countryside of olive groves and lemon trees – it is no wonder why it is dubbed ‘The Flower of the Orient’.
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