The Best Greek Islands to Visit for an Unforgettable Holiday
Greece has 227 inhabited islands to choose from. Here's our pick of the best
Greece has more than 6,000 islands, and 227 of those are inhabited. With numbers like that, you're going to need some help, so we're ready to step in and help you pick the perfect island for your upcoming holiday. We would never expect you to make such a tricky decision alone, so here at Plum Guide we've put in extensive hard work to ensure that you have you all the information you need to make the right choice. Below is a guide to some of the most popular islands, all of which are waiting to receive you with a smile and an ice cold glass of wine, safe in the knowledge that you’re going to have the vacation of a lifetime. Here’s our choice of the best Greek islands to visit.
Santorini is one of the most appealing Greek islands for a reason - and it's not just famous for the huge volcanic eruption that happened several thousand years ago which moulded it into the shape it is today. For those in Greece with a partner, there’s no better place to spend some time. Santorini’s gorgeous calderas are some of the best sights in the world to gaze at while you sip your morning coffee on your private terrace, and where better to do that than at an exclusive Plum Guide home.
The island is a highly popular destination, so consider visiting early or late in the season to avoid the majority of the crowds. Attractions include eye-catching black and red sand beaches, a town dating back to the 17th century which was buried by the volcanic eruption, and of course the Santorini sunsets that are known the world over. For a perfect day, and one that would cement this as one of the best Greek islands to visit, start your morning with a dip in your private pool. Then explore the winding streets and adorable boutiques of Oia and Fira, climb the steep steps which lead into the blue-domed churches, and finish up your afternoon with a glass of something cold as you watch the sun sink below the horizon.
The largest of the Greek islands, Crete brings a lot to the table (which is important when a rightfully fussy person such as yourself is deciding where to spend their time). As the birthplace of Europe’s first evolved society, there’s an awful lot of history here, so nerds (we know you’re out there) - you’re guaranteed to have a good time discovering facts about ancient civilisations in the island’s many museums. The large size of the island means that there’s a huge variety of scenery to enjoy, from tall mountains to beaches with pink sand, so it's not one to miss. After all, don’t you want to see the island that Homer described as ‘a fair land ... in the midst of the wine-dark sea’? As Crete has been occupied by many different cultures, there’s an intriguing mix of influences that can be seen in the Venetian fortresses, Turkish bathhouses, and Byzantine buildings. Food is a big part of life here too. Days start in one of the traditional kafeneions, or coffeehouses, and end with a dinner made from locally sourced vegetables and olive oil and specialties such as mountain snails.
If you grew up taking classic beach holidays where you sheltered from the wind under a parasol and ate slightly sandy sandwiches for lunch, Rhodes will feel like a home from home for you. It’s the kind of destination that makes you want to break out your bucket and spade, set up shop on one of its famously long, sandy stretches, and enjoy one of the 300 days of sunshine they boast here every year. If you’re sports-inclined (or even if you’re not), you can try out the mountain biking and windsurfing that this island is famous for.
Rhodes also has a historical backbone, however, so even if the thought of relaxing on a beach all day makes you itch with frustration, it still belongs at the top of your list of the best Greek islands to visit. The capital, Rhodes City, is Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited medieval town, and is an UNESCO world heritage site. It’s also well worth visiting the ancient stronghold of the Acropolis of Lindos, with temples that date back to the 4th century BC. While parts of Rhodes are very developed, lovers of wilderness can simply head to the western side of the island, where you’ll find a dramatic landscape of towering mountains and ruined castles.
Mykonos is widely regarded as a party island, and while it certainly has that glowing reputation for a reason, that’s just one of the countless things that this isle has to offer. This famous Greek island is also home to a number of immaculate beaches, just begging for your lazy, relaxed company. Ornos Beach, Psarrou Beach and Kalafati Beach are just some of the picturesque sandy strips on offer here - and no, the pictures aren’t fake. The water really is that blue. For those of you hoping to spend more time up on your feet exploring the scenic island, as opposed to lounging around for hours at a time, Mykonos is also a top destination for you to fill your boots (and not with sand, unlike those beach-goers).
The charming Mykonos Town will have your camera storage space filled up in no time, with Little Venice, Matoyianni Street, and the Church of Paraportiani just a handful of the eye-catching places to see. Embark on a tour of the island to explore every inch of this Greek paradise, and stop off for a bite to eat in one of the island’s finest restaurants. You’re never too far from the sea here, so always have your swimming costume handy - there’s nothing better than a quick dip in the Aegean after a warm spot of sightseeing. Just try and avoid the real hotspot areas at night if you don’t fancy running into the younger, rowdier tourists - that was you once, remember?
Paros is perhaps slightly less known than the previous few islands, but those who are aware of it are more than appreciative of its beauty. As a Greek island, it won’t come as a surprise to learn that Paros has some remarkable beaches for you to get sunburnt at, with its abundance of sandy strips including Aliki Beach, Pounta Beach, and Golden Beach (guess what colour the sand is here). The views out to sea are second to none, and while every single Greek island is more than capable of hosting your beach getaway, Paros has to be very, very high up your list of considerations. In addition to the coastal hubs, Paros is also home to some small, scenic villages, displaying authentic cycladic architecture and typical narrow streets. You’ll feel as though you’re inside a painting as you patrol the cobbled streets, encountering churches that date back hundreds of years, shops to buy your incredibly necessary souvenirs, and a number of restaurants and cafes. Paros is also the place to find some of Greece’s finest wine, with wineries and vineyards to choose from to really seal the perfect trip away.
You may not have been so familiar with Paros, but in Corfu, we are coming back to the famous global favourites. And though we run the risk of repeating ourselves in every section here… the beaches are incredible. Corfu is actually up there with the very best of the Greek islands for beaches, hence its popularity, and with sandy strips such as Paleokastritsa Beach, Agios Gordios Beach, and Barbati Beach, it isn’t hard to see why. So there’s those of you who want nothing but a tanning holiday covered - but is Corfu a viable option for anyone else?
Well yes, definitely. Corfu Old Town is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site, and provides endless amounts of classic architecture and historic tales to get stuck into. Meander through cobbled streets as you pass buildings dating back as far as the 8th century, and marvel at the traditional Venetian architecture around every corner. Outside of the Old Town, take a trip to the Paleokastritsa Monastery to discover some once in a lifetime finds, including a whale skeleton and a 200-year-old cannon (don’t stare down the barrel). Enjoy the holiday of a lifetime with the family on this paradisiacal Greek isle, and top it off with a stay in one of the irresistible vacation rentals in our Plum Guide collection.
Finally, rounding off this list of the most unmissable Greek islands, we have Zakynthos. Similarly to Mykonos, this island is a party hub, highly popular with the younger tourists looking to break away from the family for the first time, so it is important to pick your spot on this island wisely. Wherever you choose to reside however, you’ll be within a stone’s throw of a gorgeous beach and immaculate views of the scenic coast, so you don’t have to pick and choose where you can tan - that is an island-wide option. Zakynthos has so much more than just remarkable sandy strips too, with fascinating historic institutes and eye-catching architecture dotted around the island.
Break up your stint at the beach with a visit to the History War Museum, or venture into town and marvel at the Agios Dionysios Church. You’ll find an abundance of impressive buildings here, as well as shops, restaurants, and wineries to fuel your dream holiday. Discover the culture of the renowned Greek isle as you explore its countless noteworthy sights, with churches and other fascinating landmarks seemingly around every corner - please don’t forget your camera. You’ll never live it down. The variety of unforgettable ways to spend your time will have you planning your next visit before you’re even on the plane home, so book your stay here to see exactly why Zakynthos is up there with the very best Greek islands.