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Which Greek Islands Should I Visit? (2024 Update)

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A vacation to the Greek Islands sounds heavenly but the Which Greek Islands Should I Visit? question must have been tormenting your mind since you decided to plan that long-awaited trip to Greece. We can’t blame you. Greece is home to 6,000 islands – 277 of which are inhabited – and visiting all of them would certainly require a lifetime. But fear not. JayWay is here to help you pick the right Greek Island for you.

The Greek Islands are divided into groups. You will often hear mentions of the Cyclades, the Ionian, and the Dodecanese Islands, among others. Each island group is known for its unique characteristics, architecture, and local cuisine. Deciding which Greek Islands to visit can be a challenge, as all of Greece is undeniably rewarding.

However, we promise that whichever Greek Island you visit, your trip to Greece will fill you with cherished memories to last a lifetime. But let’s take it one step at a time. Let’s start by answering THE question. Which Greek Islands should I visit? Here are our suggestions of the best Greek Islands to visit according to your travel needs and preferences.

This image shows a breakfast table in the foreground and the architecture of Santorini in the background.
Breakfast with a view in Santorini anyone?

Which Greek Islands Should I Visit?

Best Greek Island For Romantic Holidays: Santorini

If romance is on your mind, look no further than Santorini in the Cyclades Islands. The crescent-shaped island that was formed after a massive volcano eruption around 1600 BC has been infatuating travelers from all corners of the world with its one-of-a-kind beauty. Once you set foot on Santorini, you will be left spellbound by its dramatic rock formations soaring above the Aegean Sea, dotted with picture-perfect white houses and blue-domed churches.

But that’s not all. The miraculously beautiful village of Oia is especially compelling at sunset. As the shimmering sun dips slowly below the horizon, the world stops for a moment, and you will witness hundreds of enthused spectators burst into delightful applause. 

This image shows the iconic buildings of Oia at sunset.
Oia at sunset

Santorini is equally charming at sea level. As such, to make the most of your day, a catamaran cruise will whisk you away past the stunning colorful beaches – Red, White, and Black – as you soak in the rugged natural beauty of this volcanic landscape. For those who wish to escape the crowds, Santorini has its share of lesser-known romantic spots, traditional villages, and scenic trails which are bound to let you spend quality time with your significant other. 

This is a panoramic view of Pyrgos village in Santorini with a blue-domed church in the foreground.
The lesser-known village of Pyrgos in Santorini

One of the most popular Greek Islands, Santorini has gained quite a reputation for gorgeous hotels with breathtaking infinity pools and all that you hear is true. You will be spoilt for choice when selecting the finest address for your romantic escape.

Wining and dining are equally exciting on this famous Greek island. From sipping chilled Assyrtiko, which is Santorini’s finest grape variety known for its unique cultivation methods in volcanic soil, to waterfront dining at the quaint seaside family-run tavernas that stretch along Ammoudi Bay, a quintessentially romantic experience awaits you in Santorini. 

This is a night shot of the traditional restaurants that line Ammoudi Bay. For exclusive moments, Santorini should answer the question Which Greek Islands should I visit.
Dinner by the water on a summer night at Ammoudi Bay

Best Greek Island For Lifestyle & Nightlife: Mykonos 

Mykonos is a name you will hear often as it’s one of the most popular islands in Greece, especially in the high season. This glamorous Greek Island gained celebrity status in the 1960s when famous Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis vacationed here on his luxury yacht with the Greek-American soprano Maria Callas, followed by several appearances with his wife Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Soon afterward, the international tabloids picked up this jet-setters paradise and Mykonos became the playground for the rich and famous.

This image shows the whitewashed buildings with the colorful wooden balconies at Little Venice.
The iconic Little Venice in Mykonos

Then came the nightlife status and Mykonos became the Manhattan of the Mediterranean. Hollywood celebrities, models, fashion designers, and gay icons showed up in its trendy bars and nightclubs. Mykonos became the perfect place to see and be seen, but also a mecca for the gay community. Life on Mykonos is an eternal party, where everything starts after midnight and stretches until the wee hours. 

Modern-day celebrities have maintained the popularity of Mykonos. However, besides the vibrant nightlife that Mykonos was always known for, the island has also developed into a high-level-service destination, catering to the most affluent travelers, who come here with private jets and helicopters, host lavish yacht and villa parties, and promote the bon-vivant lifestyle on their social media accounts.

The dining scene in Mykonos has reached another level as the world’s most famous food and beverage outlets have opened their signature restaurants along the cobblestone streets of Mykonos Town and beachfront locations.

This image shows a table set for lunch with the natural landscape of Mykonos in the background.
Lunch with the best view in Mykonos

When it comes to shopping, Mykonos won’t disappoint. Mykonos Town offers a generous selection of local crafts stores, designer boutiques, and art spaces. At Nammos Village, you can find some of your favorite designer brands, such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Dior, Christian Louboutin, and others. 

Apart from the glamorous lifestyle and the best beach clubs though, Mykonos has a more secluded side as there are plenty of almost deserted gorgeous beaches that can only be reached by boat. The island also caters to history buffs. One of the world’s most important archaeological sites, the sacred island of Delos, the birthplace of the God Apollo, is located just a short boat ride from the port of Mykonos.

Mykonos does have it all, and whatever you ask you shall receive for the right price, of course.

This image shows Armenistis Lighthouse and the dirt path that leads to it.
Armenistis Lighthouse offers a more authentic view of Mykonos

Best Greek Island For Family Holidays: Naxos  

The unpretentious island of Naxos has quickly become one of the most family-friendly holiday destinations in Greece. The island’s relaxed vibe, safe environment, and a long coastline of sandy beaches along its west coast make it the perfect getaway for an authentic Greek Island escape. The main highlight of Naxos Town (Chora) is the well-preserved Venetian Castle with its cozy restaurants, bars, and several boutique shops.

This is a photo of some whitewashed buildings, including a church, in Naxos Town.
Whitewashed Chora in Naxos

At the entrance to the harbor, you will be greeted by the imposing Portara, a massive marble doorway that stands on a small rocky island, which is part of the unfinished temple built in honor of the God Apollo in 530 BC.  The most visited place at sunset, Portara is known for its remarkable energy.

This image shows Portara in the blue hour with the view of Naxos Town in the background.
Portara in the blue hour

Anyone who comes to Naxos instantly falls in love with the warmth and hospitality of the locals and it’s that one Greek island that they promise to visit again. Over the past couple of years, Naxos has also gained popularity as a wedding destination with more and more international couples opting to exchange their vows in an intimate setting with their closest friends and relatives.

Naxos offers more than just the charming Chora. Its 46 villages tend to leave a lasting impression on those who make their way through the mild slopes lined with olive trees, occasionally passing a flock of sheep and goats. Naxos is famous for its dairy products. You will surely be impressed by the fine selection of Naxian cheeses. The Naxian graviera which has been granted the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status is definitely one to try.

Once you arrive at the village of Chalki (Halki), you will be greeted by neoclassical buildings and blooming bougainvillea as you stroll along the stone pathways. One of the highlights is the small traditional distillery that produces the local liquor Kitron, which comes in three different colors. 

Further up on the slopes of Mount Fanari, lies the village of Apiranthos, characterized by its imposing towers and marble pathways. The locals here have their unique dialect, linked to Cretan origin. Apiranthos has several museums, ranging from folklore exhibits to visual arts to natural history. 

A quaint alley with stone houses in Chalki. If you're wondering which Greek Islands should I visit for a family vacation, Naxos is the one!
The village of Chalki is utterly picturesque

The adventurous can discover some of these villages on foot while hiking with a local enthusiast along the ancient marble paths. Since antiquity, Naxos has been known for its fine-quality marble and you can spot several ancient marble quarries where some of the greatest sculptures were made.

On the other hand, Agios Georgios is a short walk from the main town if you want to spend the day relaxing on the beach. Here you can listen to the sound of the waves and enjoy lunch at one of the tavernas serving fresh seafood specialties. Simple island life is what Naxos is all about. 

This is a panoramic view of the long sandy beach of Agios Georgios, lined with traditional restaurants right by the water.
Agios Georgios Beach is a haven in Naxos Town

Best Greek Island For Watersports, Hiking & Nightlife Combined: Paros

Paros is often compared to the nearby Mykonos in terms of nightlife and entertainment but with a more affordable price tag. Due to its Meltemi winds, which are particularly strong on this island during July and August, Paros is also a paradise for those who seek ideal conditions for kiteboarding and windsurfing. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, several professional schools offer guests the opportunity to master an array of water sports in no time. 

This image shows a beach on a windy day.
Windy Paros is a beauty even if you’re not into water sports

As you would have already guessed by now, Paros is ideal for those seeking to spend time in the water. And what better way to explore the Aegean than by boat? A full-day sailing trip will allow you to discover some secluded beaches. Better still, those who wish to enjoy some alone time can rent a RIB boat with a skipper that will whisk you away across to the nearby island of Antiparos where Tom Hanks purchased a house and holidays in the summer months.

End the day watching the sun set in the quaint seaside tavern overlooking Despotiko, a small uninhabited island just off the island of Antiparos, the Sanctuary of Apollo. Cruising around Despotiko is one of the most rewarding experiences. Its turquoise waters and pristine surroundings make it one of the top destinations for yachting. And if you are lucky, you will spot dolphins swimming along. 

The jewel of Paros is the picturesque village of Naoussa, which represents the true essence of Greek Island life. The small charming harbor is lined with traditional fishing boats, alongside which you will find several taverns serving the fresh catch of the day, paired with local ouzo, an alcoholic drink infused with anise. As you stroll along the harbor, look out for the hanging octopus, left to dry in the scorching sun. 

This image shows the quaint Old Port of Naoussa in the background and a wooden fishing boat in the foreground.
Quintessentially Greek vibes in Naoussa

Paros is also attractive for hiking and cycling enthusiasts. The island has a hiking trail network covering approximately 35 kilometers. A trail passes through the island’s Byzantine and post-Byzantine road networks, connecting the capital Parikia to the mountain villages and the villages of southeast Paros. Along the paths, you will also come across the ancient quarries from where the renowned Parian marble, known as Lychnitis, was extracted.

If you come here during Easter or the 15th of August (a religious celebration marking the Dormition of the Virgin Mary), several celebrations take place across the island. This is a spectacular time to experience Greek tradition. 

This image shows people sitting at traditional café in Lefkes. The village's large church dominates the background.
In the mountainous village of Lefkes, time stops

Best Greek Island For Elegance: Corfu 

If you’re wondering which Greek Islands should I visit that combine old-world charm, stunning architecture, character, history, and beautiful nature, Corfu in the Ionian Islands is a must. This jewel in the Ionian Sea tops the list of the safest destinations in Europe.

The famed Old Town adorned with grand neoclassical mansions, Art Nouveau architecture, timeless squares, and two imposing fortresses, the Old and the New, both erected to protect the city from unwanted intruders, is well positioned on the UNESCO World Heritage List. 

This is a panoramic shot of Corfu Old Town with its Italianate buildings.
Corfu Old Town has a scent of Italy

The island of Corfu boasts a few grand palaces such as the Achilleion Palace, which was constructed by Empress Elizabeth (Sisi) of Austria in 1892. It features perfectly manicured gardens and a lavish collection of fine marble statues.

Corfu’s countryside is equally inviting, with rolling hills of cypress and olive trees that cover most of the island. The landscape looks like a verdant canvas, stretching as far as the eye can see. It is here that the celebrated naturalist and author of My Family & Other Animals Gerald Durrell was inspired to share his vivid memories of growing up in Corfu. In the pages of his book, he paints the distinct sound of the cicadas, which stayed with him throughout his adult life.

The village of Palaiokastritsa located in the northwest of Corfu is said to be the mythical island of the Phaeacians, which is described in Homer’s Odyssey as the place where Odysseus was washed ashore after being almost destroyed by the storm and met Nausicaa for the first time. Among the highlights in the area is the Palaiokastritsa Monastery, built in 1225. Surrounded by idyllic beaches, underwater caves, and dazzling turquoise waters, Corfu is a paradise waiting to be discovered.

A panoramic view of Paleokastritsa Bay with its turquoise waters, surrounded by a lush forest.
The emarald waters of Paleokastritsa Bay

Best Greek Island For Food & History: Crete

Crete is undeniably breathtaking and one of the most scenic islands in Greece. Its rugged landscape, shimmering coastline, and heartfelt hospitality are just a few of the reasons why you must visit Crete.

Crete is steeped in centuries of history dating back to as early as the Neolithic times, with remnants of this past still evident at its many ancient sites. It’s also home to the illustrious Minoans, one of the most advanced European civilizations, which flourished from 3000 BC. The advanced seafarers who built lavish palaces – there are four Minoan Palaces in Crete: Knossos, Phaestos, Malia, and Zakros – advanced in pottery and goldsmithing and left a lasting legacy on the world’s history.

This image shows the ruins of Knossos Palace. One of the ancient buildings has bright red-colored columns.
The remains of the impressive Knossos Palace

To this day, many myths and legends are associated with Crete, stories of conquests and defeats that lasted until WWII. Crete’s strategic geographical location made it enticing for foreign invaders. But the one element that defines true Cretans is their feisty character and passionate, rough nature, which almost resembles the rugged Cretan landscape. However, despite their roughness on the outside, they are some of the kindest and most hospitable people you will ever meet. 

Crete has been blessed by the Gods with a microclimate and fertile soil that is ideal for agriculture, rendering the island a paradise for growing tomatoes, figs, cucumbers, eggplants, avocados, and other fruits and vegetables. Anything produced in Crete is spectacular and a gift from the Gods. Crete is also famous for its olive oil, wine, and cheese production. One of the oldest olive trees in the world is located in the village of Ano Vouves in Crete.

This image shows a table set in nature. There's a bottle of olive oil, a Cretan rusk and some olives on the table.
Olive oil from the blessed land of Crete, the largest Greek Island

Crete is a heaven for foodies. It’s almost impossible to have a bad meal anywhere in Crete. The island is also known for its precious herbs and mountain teas, many of which are used to prepare exquisite Cretan dishes. Get ready to dine like the Gods and drink to good health in honor of Dionysus.

A popular drink in Crete is raki and it is rude to refuse to drink it when offered to you by the locals. The Cretans are loyal to their raki drinking tradition, and visitors should respect this custom, too. A traditional distillation event known as Kazania takes place between October and November in almost every village. Friends and neighbors gather during the distillation process throughout the day. This involves dancing, singing, eating, and drinking raki, of course.

The largest island in Greece, Crete is divided into four regional units. Chania is known for its stunning Venetian harbor and picturesque alleyways, adorned with blooming bougainvillea and fragrant jasmine trees. On this part of the island to the West, you will come across some of the most beautiful beaches like the postcard-perfect Balos Lagoon.

This image shows a dimly lit alley in Chania Old Town.
Strolling around Chania in the evening is a dream

Rethymnon is blessed with an equally charming Venetian harbor with an Egyptian Lighthouse and exudes an old-world charm. The prefecture of Rethymnon and its wonderful mountainous villages are also the birthplace of some prominent personalities. The world-famous artist, Dominikos Theotokopoulos (1541–1614), known as El Greco – The Greek – was born in Fodele, where now a museum is located in his honor. 

The capital of Crete, Heraklion is the perfect base to visit the famous Knossos Palace, the home of the half-bull, half-man Minotaur. The largest of all the Minoan Palaces, Knossos Palace is regarded as one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.

Eastern Crete with Agios Nikolaos as its capital is one of the lesser-known areas of this exciting island. Among the highlights is Elounda, the small fishing village that has gained worldwide fame due to its five-star luxury resorts, and the fortress of Spinalonga, a rocky island with a fortified fortress, sitting in the middle of the Mirabello Bay. In the early 19th century, the island served as a leper colony. 

There is hardly a rock, village, or mountain in Crete that is not bound by a myth or a historical event. Everywhere you go, you will be told stories of the past, which have shaped this giant of an island that dominates the southernmost point of Greece. You will often hear that Crete is like a country of its own, and when you do visit on a carefully crafted JayWay itinerary, you will know why that is. 

This image shows a blue table with blue chairs by the sea.
The relaxed atmosphere of Crete

Best Greek Island For Medieval Architecture & Stunning Nature: Rhodes

Also known as The Island of The Knights, a reference to the Knights of Saint John that ruled it in the Middle Ages, Rhodes is a large island of rich history, grand architecture, and beautiful scenery. Historically, Rhodes has been one of the first major tourist destinations in Greece. For that alone, it should be part of the answer to the Which Greek Islands Should I Visit question.

Since the 1920s, when the island was still under Italian occupation, Rhodes has been known for its hospitality, high level of service, luxury hotels, and top-notch tourist infrastructure. Although throughout its long history as a tourist destination the island has seen some rough days, Rhodes is now one of the best Greek Islands to add to your itinerary.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the island’s Old Town is one of the most striking medieval towns in the world. Walking through its dimly lit cobblestone alleys in the evening feels as though you’ve traveled back in time when knights were the sole inhabitants of those gorgeous stone buildings. In Lindos, you’ll be taken aback by the sheer beauty of a whitewashed town dominated by ancient ruins that offer breathtaking views for as far as the eye can see.

This image shows the dimly lit Knights Street in Rhodes Old Town.
Knights’ Street in Rhodes Old Town

Beyond the towns of Rhodes and Lindos, though, lies a world of stunning landscapes that range from windswept hills adorned by mighty castles, endless stretches of sandy beaches, mountains inhabited by deer, and valleys where butterflies live, elements that nature lovers would appreciate immensely. All this on a wondrous island that boasts more than 300 days of sunshine throughout the year.

Whether it’s a passion for beautiful architecture, a relaxing vacation by the sea, or an adventurous exploration through spectacular nature that makes you dream of a Greek vacation under the bright Mediterranean sun, Rhodes won’t disappoint.

This is a panoramic view of Lindos. The Acropolis of Lindos is in the background and a beach with transparent waters takes up most of the photo.
Lindos is simply spectacular

Best Greek Island For The Perfect Blend of Luxury & Authenticity: Milos

Compared to all the other beautiful islands on this list, Milos is a small island. Yet, it abounds in charms. An up-and-coming destination in the Cyclades, Milos also manages to accomplish the seemingly impossible: offer high-end services while retaining its authentic character.

From extraordinary minimalist suites built on the edge of the water to boutique hotels with private pools, Milos promises an exclusive stay like no other in a setting that allows you to relax, unwind, and experience Greek hospitality at its best.

On the other hand, Milos is known for its utterly picturesque villages. Some, like Plaka, are perched atop hilltops and slopes, offering stunning sunset views, while others, such as Klima and Mandrakia, feature waterfront traditional houses once inhabited by fishermen and boatmen, their colorful shutters and doors perpetually caressed by the Aegean Sea waves.

This is a photo of the distinct buildings built by the water in Klima Village. The buildings are whitewashed with colorful doors, shutters, and staircases.
The quaint village of Klima

Of course, the island’s biggest draw shouldn’t be overlooked and that’s no other than its beaches. Similar to other islands of the Cyclades, Milos boasts some of the best beaches in Greece. The turquoise sea, volcanic rock formations, and stunning caves await to fill your eyes with beauty as you swim in the crystal-clear waters or indulge in a cruise around the island.

This is an aerial shot of the white rock formations and deep blue waters in Sarakiniko Milos.
The otherworldly Sarakiniko Beach in Milos

Which Are The Best Greek Islands For You?

The choice of Greek islands is endless and we can list thousands of reasons to visit each. But it truly takes a lifetime to discover Greece. Now that you’ve answered the fundamental question – Which Greek Islands should I visit? – are you ready to start with the first chapter of your own Odyssey to Greece?

Sample Greek Island Itineraries

Here are some sample Greek island-hopping itineraries to get you started.

* Starting price is based on double occupancy in 3 star accommodation, in the most affordable month an itinerary is offered. Airfare to Europe is not included.

Click on your choice of itinerary, select number of travelers in your party, month of travel, and desired star level of accommodation to get an approximate price. Submit the enquiry form with any additional details and we can start planning your customized trip.

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