Updated: October 7, 2017
- All Greek islands are unique, wonderful, and worth visiting. But my favorites (especially for first timers) are Santorini, Naxos, Paros, Mykonos, and Crete.
- If you can only visit one island then make it Crete or Santorini (they have the most to see and do). If you can only visit two then it should be Santorini and Naxos (very easy to get between) or Santorini and Mykonos (both have international airports making visiting from western Europe easy).
- The best Greek island for couples (or a honeymoon) is Santorini.
- The best Greek island for families is Naxos.
- The best Greek islands for nightlife is Mykonos and Ios.
- The best Greek islands for beaches are Crete, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, and Ios.
The 29 Best Places To Go in Greece
Santorini – My favorite island in Greece. This is the footpath that runs from Fira to Oia along the edge of the caldera and it’s nothing short of magical. If you can only visit one island in Greece then it has to be Santorini.
The best beach in Greece: Elafonisi in southwestern Crete. It takes a bit of effort to get here (90 minutes by bus from Chania) but it’s worth the effort. Crete is loaded with great towns (Chania, Rethymnon, and Agios Nikolaos are my favorites), things to do (Samaria Gorge), and historical attractions (Knossos and a top notch museum in Heraklion).
Athens is great fun and a highlight for me, after a day of sightseeing, is watching a movie in an open-air cinema in the Plaka beneath the Acropolis. (Movies are in english with greek subtitles.) Athens deserves 1 or 2 full days of sightseeing.
The idyllically beautiful town of Chania in Crete. Those are my 2 boys walking along the port jetty.
Naxos has a half-dozen great beaches but the one near the Chora (main town) is probably the most kid-friendly beach in all of Greece. As you move south from Naxos Town the sand gets even better. Naxos (and neighboring Paros, which you can see in the distance) are also great for wind-surfing. Phenomenal local food is a highlight of Naxos.
Ios is just 50 minutes by ferry from Santorini and has some of the best beaches in the Greek islands. Day trips are easy to do in summer when ferries are running all the time.
Mykonos is known for its party scene (which is super fun) but even here, it’s easy to leave the crowds behind, and find a quiet patch of sand. The walk along the coast (from Psarou to Paradise Beach) is a highlight of Mykonos.
Greek Island Hopping: easy, cheap, and awesome fun. You just never forget those ferry trips bouncing from one little island to the next.
The Pelopponese is an underrated jewel. Great beaches, tons of history, never overwhelmed with tourists, and easily accessible from Athens. This is a view of Nafplio (a super charming town), the largest city in the Peloponnese, from Palamidi Castle.
Gerolimenas in the Mani Peninsula of the Peloponnese.
Katakolon in the Peloponnese and close to Olympia.
Monemvasia looks like just a big rock out in the middle of the sea (that’s connected to land by a thin causeway). But as you round the corner there is a byzantine village clinging to the far side of the island – completely hidden from the mainland (and invaders). Yes, it’s as amazing as it sounds.
The mountain villages of the Peloponnese are magical. This is the Monastery of Orthokosta in the southwest of the peninsula.
The Corinth Canal about an hour from Athens and divides the Peloponnese from mainland Greece.
Kos – Beautiful island great for biking owing to its flat geography.
Corfu Town – Beautiful city that makes a great base for the island’s beach towns.
The beach coves of Paleokastritsa in Corfu.
Ermopoli on Syros – Traditional city that sees relatively few tourists even though it’s smack in the middle of the Cycladic Islands.
Folegandros – Close to Santorini and great for hikes around the countryside.
Traditional stone bridge in Konitsa village in mainland Greece. This is a stunningly beautiful area. If you drive or take the bus from Corfu to Athens try to spend a few nights in the town of Ioannina and explore the rugged beauty of northern Greece.
Famous Navagio beach on Zakynthos island. Since it’s somewhat isolated Zakynthos is not a great choice if you’re looking to island hop but if one island is all you need then it’s almost perfect.
If you want a traditional island with few tourists then Karpathos Island (near Rhodes) is idyllic. This is Olimbos village up in the hills of the island.
No cars or traffic on the island of Hydra. It’s a short ferry ride from Athens making it a great day trip.
The Meteora – 4 hours from Athens. This is truly one of the wonders of Greece and is my favorite destination in mainland Greece. Monasteries are perched on the top of mountainous rocks. This an amazing and awe-inspiring sight.
Mandrakia village on Milos island in the Cyclades. It’s easy to overlook Milos but it’s second to only Santorini for it’s stunning geography.
Phospfori tower in Ouranopolis on the Halkidiki in Northern Greece. This is a popular area for Greeks but doesn’t see a lot of foreign tourists even though it’s stunningly beautiful and loaded with great beaches.
Skiathos is a great choice away from the usual tourist track. Popular with Greeks and filled with beautiful beaches.
The beautiful cove beach at St Paul’s Bay near Lindos in beautiful Rhodes.
Delphi can be done as a day trip from Athens but it’s best to stay overnight and visit the temple before the crowds arrive mid-morning.
Which Greek Island by Season and Weather
Where To Go In Greece in July and August (Summer/High Season)
Santorini and Mykonos are great if you want lots of activity, nightlife, live DJs, and packed clubs. If you want a quieter island in the peak season Naxos, Folegandros, Milos, Sifnos, Antiparos, and Ikaria are wonderful choices.
Where To Go In Greece in June and September
Santorini and Mykonos are a little quieter than their high season peak but still plenty going on. Crete, Naxos, Paros, and Rhodes are at their best. The quiet islands (Sifnos, Ikaria, Antiparos) quickly become very quiet by mid-September which might be fine for some but too slow for others.
Where To Go In Greece in May and October
Most islands are slow in these shoulder months but Santorini, Crete, and Rhodes are still wonderful places to visit with lots open. Naxos and Paros are quiet but far from dead. Quiet islands are very slow but still enough open to get by.
Where To Go In Greece in March, April, and November
A great time to visit if sightseeing, wine tours, fine food, and walking are your main interests. Weather is nice by northern European standards but usually not warm enough for swimming or suntanning. Santorini and Crete are the best islands to visit during this period but unfortunately there are no ferries between the two islands during the slow season so you’ll need to fly via Athens if you want to visit both.
Where To Go In Greece in December, January, and February (Winter/Low Seasons)
Santorini is the best island to visit during the winter. Best to fly directly as the sea can be rough during the winter months. Crete is also a good destination as it’s the warmest place in Greece during winter.