Greece is a stunning country with tons of little islands off the main coast. People flock to see ruins from ancient times and the magical white buildings everyone sees in movies.
If you’re planning a trip to one of the Greek islands, you may be overwhelmed by all of the choices. Luckily, each island has something special to offer, from tasty food to unbeatable views. So let’s discuss the twenty best islands in Greece for tourists.
The 20 Best Islands in Greece in 2023
First off, it’s hard to find a bad island to visit in Greece. But there are so many to choose from it can be a daunting task. To help you narrow down your choices, twenty of the best Greek islands are reviewed below, so you know what to expect from each one!
Santorini is one of the most well-known Greek islands. It has so many thing to do, from delicious food to breathtaking views. One of the main draws of this location is the active volcano.
People love to stay in luxury hotels where they can view this monstrous volcano right from their room. It erupted in the 16th century BC, reshaping the land and way of life forever. Now you can see the white cube-shaped buildings that seem to stack on top of one another gracefully.
Santorini is full of phenomenal restaurants, relaxing hot springs, and cultural history. However, because it is so well-known and popular, expect to be surrounded by many other tourists on your visit.
Read Next: Where to Stay in Santorini
While Santorini has a romantic, idyllic vacation vibe, Mykonos is more of a party island. It typically attracts a younger crowd and has restaurants, bars, and more stay open well into the night to keep the fun going.
Tourists flock to the picturesque beaches, mostly Paradise Beach and Psarou Beach. The sands are soft, and the water is a dazzling bluish-green, making Mykonos the perfect place for sunbathing and snorkeling.
But for those who want a more cultural experience, there are several museums, churches, and monasteries that exemplify the stunning architecture and history you can find in Greece. There are also mesmerizing art galleries that give you a taste of the art scene in Greece.
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and has the biggest population. The island was the site of the earliest civilization in Europe and is the location of many Greek myths.
The infamous King Minos supposedly ruled over this civilization and imprisoned the famed inventor Daedalus, leading the inventor to build wings to escape. If you know the story, you know it doesn’t go well for Daedalus and his son Icarus.
You can learn about the depth and possible realities behind these illustrious tales and more island’s history. Visit archaeological museums and the ruins of ancient cities. But if history isn’t your thing, the wildlife along the shores and throughout the island is remarkable and exciting.
Rhodes is all about sightseeing, from majestic ocean views to immense castles to impressive architecture. Rhodes is one of the more family-friendly islands because it doesn’t have a young, party vibe and features loads and restaurants.
There’s also a water park and resort you can stay at to keep the youngins entertained all day long! You can check out the Rhodes Petting Zoo or relax on the magnificent and plentiful beaches on the island.
Rhodes has more modern excursions and buildings, which some feel takes away from the ancient aura other Greek islands have, but it offers more in the way of contemporary activities.
Contrary to Rhodes, Milos does not have many modern attractions but offers splendid beaches, boutique hotels, and ancient Greek sites.
If you want to immerse yourself in Greek culture on a romantic getaway, Milos is one of the best places to do so. Many hotels and restaurants are high-end, making the island less family-friendly and more geared toward sophisticated adults.
Dining is one of the most popular features of the island, from impeccable seafood places to traditional Greek cuisines, and every spot has awe-inspiring views of the ocean or the island.
There are many quaint shopping centers to meander around and collect souvenirs, as well as exhilarating activities like scuba diving and boat tours.
Naxos is an outdoor’s enthusiasts dream. It is the most mountainous of the Greek islands and also one of the greenest, with thick forests you can hike through.
You can trek to the tippy-top of Mount Zas and take in the one-of-a-kind ocean and island views, or take casual hikes from village to village. If you want to soak up the nature Greece offers and get away from the tourist traps, Naxos is the best island.
The mountains trap clouds causing more rainfall compared to other islands, but this deters tourists who just want to lay on the beach from visiting.
Paros has the perfect blend of cultural sightseeing, fine dining, and natural scenery. Both families, individuals, and couples can enjoy the many things the island offers.
Paros is more urban than other islands, but not more modern, holding onto the classic Greek look of narrow cobbled streets and stunning white buildings with pops of color.
You can feel like you’re truly experiencing Greek life while still being near the finest restaurants and hotels. The island has a vibrant nightlife, as well as thrilling excursions like scuba diving, jet-skiing, or parasailing!
Corfu has one of the most dramatic landscapes of all the Greek islands. There are towering cliffs and dramatic capes that will make your jaw drop.
Travel through winding natural canals lined with colorful rocks or visit the monastery that was built on a rock pile more than 100 feet off the shore. One of the most popular Corfu activities for tourists is boating around the island, so you can see the unbelievable natural features.
Corfu has a mix of fine dining and casual eateries, but they all feature authentic Greek food, so you can get the full Greek vacation experience.
The island of Zakynthos combines breathtaking wildlife with the ruins of ancient people. You can explore the ocean and bays where sea turtles lay their eggs and float around the crystal blue water.
Ride on glass-bottom boats, and you’ll see vividly-colored fish and majestic sea turtles swim right under your feet. Or you can go scuba diving and explore Navagio, also known as Shipwreck Cove.
This eerie yet beautiful shipwreck scene is the most notable attraction on Zakynthos and draws many tourists to the island purely to witness this. There are also blue caves and caverns you can swim and walk through for an ethereal experience.
Hydra is one of the closest islands to the mainland and Athens, making it easier to get to. Hydra is full of rich history and culturally significant landmarks. There are no vehicles allowed on the island other than ambulances.
So you can escape the hustle and bustle of modern life by vacationing here. So you’ll have to ride donkeys or horses to get around, which appeals to many tourists looking for an immersive Greek experience.
It’s also impossible to explore the island and villages without being in awe of the intricate and lovely architecture. And the pristine islands that litter the shores are the perfect opportunity to sunbathe and appreciate the idyllic blue water.
Syros is one of the best Greek islands to visit if you’re looking for some peace and don’t want to be surrounded by swarms of tourists. It’s considered a hidden Greek gem by many, as it captures the beauty of Greece that you see in Hollywood movies and Instagram pictures.
Every part of this island exemplifies the calming aura of Greek architecture and what island life is like. The buildings are beautiful pastel shades of pink, blue, and yellow.
Even municipal buildings, like the town hall, are exquisite and worth a photo op. A beloved attraction for locals and tourists is the Syros Cat Garden, a sanctuary for the many stray cats that roam about the island.
Kos is abundant in ancient buildings and architecture that is still standing thanks to the brilliant engineering skills of ancient Greeks. Some sites have partial restoration, but only as needed, so they retain their antique appearance.
Explore Palio Pili, Casa Romana, or Asklepion to see buildings and columns erected thousands of years ago. If Greek mythology and history have always intrigued you, you can get an idea of what life was like back then for the affluent citizens of the island.
One of the most astonishing structures is the Odeon, an ancient music auditorium with marble and granite steps you can walk up and down.
Amorgos is a lesser-known island that has magical views and ancient Greek history. The island is most famous for the Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa, a bright white structure built directly into the side of a massive cliff beside the ocean.
While there are places to stay and eat on the island, most people visit for the architecture, beaches, and outdoor adventures like hiking and swimming around rusted shipwrecks.
It’s also one of the more centralized islands, allowing visitors to check out surrounding islands like Paros, Naxos, and Santorini without spending 2+ hours on a ferry. With that said, the ferry rides are magical in themselves!
Lefkada is all about the water! So if you love swimming, diving, and boating, this is the island for your vacation. There are spectacular beaches, bays, ports, and even waterfalls for people that want to embrace the aquatic aspects of the Greek islands.
If a different kind of liquid intrigues you, there are gorgeous wineries where you can taste Greek wine from the source and get tipsy in one of the most heavenly places in the world.
You can ride the waves on a charming sailboat or sun yourself on the massive rocks along the shores. But be warned, many beach bums head to this island to relax, so you won’t be alone with the locals.
Skiathos is one of the Greek islands that embraces tourists with open arms. Because of this, there are many activities and excursions designed for visitors to enjoy!
Skiathos is excellent for families, couples, and individuals because they combine casual activities like cinema showings with a vibrant nightlife in the center of town. It’s easy to find a party if you want one, but also easy to avoid if you don’t.
The island offers loads of organized tours that explore the villages and shores with some cultural and historic context. Do yoga on the soft beaches or sail through the blue water. Whatever you want to do, you’ll find it on Skiathos, along with many other tourists.
To get away from the tourist scene a bit, you can visit the smaller island of Ios that has left to offer tourists in the way of modern amenities. Locals on Ios live a simpler life, with few restaurants or vehicles.
To experience a laid-back and down-to-earth Greek experience, Ios is one of the best islands. For those who like to immerse themselves in the culture and avoid all touristy activities, you can drink wine at the local bars and taste authentic cuisine from one of the small restaurants.
Like all the Greek islands, there are magnificent beaches where you can relax. Plus, they have mountains with exquisite hiking trails that lead to some of the most amazing views in the world.
And you’d be remiss if you visited the island and neglected to watch one of the mesmerizing sunsets on the shore.
Icaria or Ikaria is a popular tourist spot with famous locations like Seychelles Beach and the Theoktistis Monastery. The island’s architecture features white cubiform buildings with rounded sky blue tops that many people associate with Greece.
There is no shortage of beaches or roads to walk along. But one of the coolest attractions are the stone houses built into the side of hills where Icarians would shield themselves from attacks, you can even walk into the rock houses!
People also stay on the island to get hydrotherapy in the ancient hot and cool springs said to have healing powers.
Ithaca is steeped in Greek mythology, as it was the homeland of the Greek King Odysseus, who fought in the Trojan War. But today, it’s a quiet and calm island that people visit to get back to nature and explore the lush green forests.
The homes are colorful with tiled roofs that make you feel like you’ve stepped into a postcard. Ithaca is full of beauty and outdoor adventures, but many people go just for the incredible restaurants and food.
If you want to experience authentic and mouthwatering Greek food, look no further than Ithaca. The island isn’t the most lively and exciting, so it’s ideal for someone that wants a tranquil vacation with fantastic food.
Several of the islands on this list are quiet, but Skopelos may be the most peaceful. There are no organized activities or tourist attractions. So if you just want to sit on the beach, eat Greek food, and walk around the brilliant villages, this is the island to do so.
People that visit Skopelos spend most of their time lounging on the beach or hiking up to churches and monasteries. They have several churches atop massive, rocky hills with countless steps leading to the top.
If you’ve ever seen Mamma Mia, Meryl Streep, and Pierce Brosnan sing a killer duet on their way up to such a church. If you’d like to reenact this scene, check out the glorious Agios Ioannis Church!
Delos is the best island for history buffs and people interested in the religion of the islands and ancient Greece. The island is practically barren, with no green trees or foliage.
But there are many sacred locations like the Sacred Lake, Sacred Precinct, and Temple of Isis. You can stand in the same spots ancient Greeks worshipped their gods in the House of Cleopatra or the House of Dionysus.
Delos also has beaches, but they don’t compare to the other islands’ beaches. However, there are budget hotels, as well as luxury places to stay, giving you plenty of options to fit your budget and needs.
Things to Consider
Not every island will be the right choice for you. There are some things to consider when picking the perfect Greek island for your vacation.
Keep these things in mind when planning your trip:
- Tourism. Many people picture a quiet and isolated beach vacation in Greece. But to achieve this, you need to choose an island that won’t be packed with tourists. On the other hand, if you want to be surrounded by other visitors experiencing the same things you are, opt for one of the more popular islands.
- Main attractions. If you want to learn about history and culture, visit Delos. If you’re looking for the party scene, go to Mykonos. Each island has something a bit different to offer, so make sure you choose one with the vibe and attractions that appeal to you.
- Ease of travel. Some islands take hours on a ferry to reach, while others are just a 45-minute ride. If you have small children, consider choosing a closer island to make the travel easier.
- Natural elements. Consider whether you want tons of beaches or mountains to explore. While most islands have a mix of both, some have better beaches or hiking trails than others. The mountains and beaches won’t have equal importance to every visitor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are a few frequently asked questions for people planning a vacation to Greece and its islands.
How many islands are there in Greece?
Greece has more than 6,000 islands of all different sizes. However, less than 50 of these islands are inhabited, as many are too small or unsafe. But you can visit these other islands on certain boat tours and excursions.
What’s the best time to visit Greece?
No surprise, the best time to visit Greece to experience the most you can is in the summer when the weather is perfect, and all tourist attractions are open. But it’ll be packed with tourists and flights and hotels will be more expensive.
If you go in the winter or late fall, places you want to go and things you want to do may not be available. Try to aim for early spring or late fall; those are the sweet spots.
Is Greece an expensive country to visit?
Many people view Greece as super expensive because of the luxury resorts and fine dining. But for the average person, it’s quite affordable once you get there, with hotel stays for as little as $30 a night and meals as low as $5. Typically, the flight to get there is the most costly part of the vacation.
Is Greece family-friendly?
Greece is a wonderful country for a family vacation. The majority of it is safe, with many restaurants and hotels that accommodate kids and adults.
But some islands are better for children than others, as mentioned in the list of islands. Rhodes and Ios are typically the best spots for families with young kids to go because there is plenty to do!
Is the mainland of Greece better than the islands?
There is no right answer to this question, as it depends on what kind of vacation you envision. If secluded beaches and quiet villages are what you want, the islands may be better for you.
But the mainland has plenty of lovely beaches, along with things you can’t get on the islands, like ski resorts! Keep in mind that visiting an island requires more travel, including driving and taking a ferry.
So, What’s the Best Island in Greece?
No one Greek island will be perfect for every visitor. Each island is unique and has distinct aspects that attract different people. But outdoor enthusiasts, beach bums, foodies, and history buffs can all find an island that offers the perfect vacation for them.