Milos beach
Europe,  Greece,  Travel

Best Greek Islands

An often asked question when pondering a trip to Greece is: what is the best greek island?

The question implies that there’s one that is overall “the best”, which there isn’t. Greek islands can be wildly diverse and appeal to different types of tourists. If you are looking for peace, for instance, you wouldn’t probably choose Rhodes or Santorini, as they’re extremely popular. So the “best” greek island for one like you would be a smaller, less frequented island. And so on.

Therefore when I say the “best greek island” I mean “the island that has a bit of everything to offer the tourists, without being seriously lacking in anything”. An island that can accommodate to the most categories of tourists and at the same time put off the least. Of course it should also boast some of the best views, beaches, locations and what not of among them all. It’s far from an easy choice. Let’s dive straight away into my list of the best greek islands.

Mykonos

An obvious choice but what can you say against an island that has awesome beaches, the most famous nightlife in Greece, a greatly picturesque main town, is next to the most important archaeological area in all the greek islands, Delos, and is frequented by the jet-set of all around the world?

Mykonos Mills
Mykonos Mills

Yes it is expensive, yes it is crowded, yes it is insanely hyped but it is also truly beautiful. Ignore the glamour if you want, you can rent an apartment in nearly absolute quietness away from the crowd and enjoy one of the top greek islands without going crazy or drunk every night. Or merge with the tribe of party-goers and celebrities and have the time of your life (possibly).

Whatever you fancy, it’s really, really hard to miss Mykonos for long. And there’s no reason you should.

Paros

One of the ferry hubs of the Cyclades, Paros lies a bit in between some of the most famous greek islands, Santorini, Mykonos, Ios etc. Due to this, perhaps, it is often neglected in favour of them.

Paros street
Paros street

Wrongly so. Paros has 2 very beautiful towns in Paros town, the capital, and Naoussa, a dozen of beaches that wouldn’t disfigure on any other greek island, and a lively nightlife. It is still more family-friendly than, let’s say, Mykonos, but no less beautiful. I would put Mykonos town about Paros’ but as per beaches and nature, it’s a tie. An underrated gem of the Cyclades.

Crete

The biggest greek island, one where the season goes well into early October as being that south gifts it a warmer climate than the other islands, Crete is so big and diverse that I can’t imagine any category of tourists that wouldn’t find something for them here. Perhaps only skiing aficionados.

Crete has multiple towns, Herakleio, Retimno, La Canea, plus tens of villages all around the island. Venetian art, medieval history, minoean ruins and palaces and 19th century modernity all mixed together in an island that will appeal any art/history lover.

Crete has also awesome beaches, especially in the western part of it. And when I say awesome, I really mean it.

Crete beach
Crete beach

Considering its size, Crete may be the only greek island that could host you for a prolonged vacation, 10 days or more, without having you bored after a few days. There’s so much to do and see here that it is a small region of Greek of its own, basically.

Santorini

Another obvious choice. Its dramatic views and awesome towns of Fira and Oia are world class famous and rightly so. The Caldera is unique in its genre and the island is so universally associated with romanticism and weddings that if you’re travelling as a couple it is a must do of Greece.

Santorini view
Santorini view

I have written already about Santorini, so head there to read about some of its pitfalls. If you come here, do a day tour or stay 1-2 nights at most, as the island is small and, especially, chaotic and expensive to warrant a longer stay. But it has to be one of the best greek islands, without any doubts.

Corfu

Another of the big islands, Corfu lies on the western side of Greece and probably offers the most variety of everything from its blend of ethnic cultures to its contrasting landscapes and array of attractions. Remaining of the island Byzantine, French, Italian and British past scatter it plus the obvious choice of beaches, from the sandy to the stony ones.

Corfu Citadel
Corfu Citadel (credit Wikimedia)

Corfu is one of the most complete greek islands and, which can be a refreshing new for many, one of the greenest ones, with plenty of shade to save you from the scorching summer sun.

Rhodes

On the opposite side of the greek islands, Rhodes is similar with Corfu, just with more history. The ancient old area of Rhodes town is one of the best preserved ones in the whole Europe, the ancient acropolis of Lindos is stunningly romantic, perched on a cliff over the blue sea, while if you are traveling with the whole family, the north-western coast of Rhodes offers plenty of villages and big hotels to host you.

Lindos
Lindos (credit http://www.all-free-photos.com/ )

It is big enough to warrant a longer stay and close enough to the other Dodecanese islands to allow you to hop from one to another in a few hours at most. Rhodes has as much history as Crete, is as variegated as Corfu and just a little less romantic than Santorini (which is unbeatable in this regard). You’ll surely find something for you here.

Milos

Still relatively unknown to mass tourism, and I do hope it will stay so for many years, Milos can boast a vast number of beaches and the most dramatic views of the whole greek islands, paralleled only by the ones in Santorini. If you like variety of beaches, volcanic rocks and colorful earth, Milos is for you.

Me in Milos
Me in Milos

I’ve written more about it, because I love it so much, in a previous article (plus another about its best beaches) so head there to know more (and head to your favourite booking portal to book a trip there πŸ™‚ ).

What’s your best Greek Island?

Did I forget your favourite? Do you believe there should be another one in this list? Be welcome to write either in the comments πŸ™‚

Neapolitan programmer, traveller and metalhead, co-author of PaperSounds blog.

2 Comments

  • Alyssa

    So glad I read this post as I am planning to go to Greece next year! Santorini looks incredible and oozes romance.
    Great article with loads of useful information on each island.
    Thank you for sharing!
    Alyssa
    THESACREDSPACEAP.COM

    • Gianluca Fiore

      Santorini is never a bad choice πŸ™‚ If you go, be sure to visit some of the other Cyclades too, they are the heart of Greece and each of them offers something special to the visitors

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