While popular Greek Islands like Santorini, Mykonos and Crete have lots to offer, for those who want to stray off the well-beaten tourist path and experience the delights of more undiscovered isles, these 15 are all sure to provide just what you’re looking for and then some.
Top 15 Undiscovered Greek Islands
Folegandros may be Santorini’s neighbor, but this tranquil Cyclades island doesn’t have much in common with it. There are no fancy restaurants, boutiques or buildings taller than two stories, and you won’t ever see a big cruise ship pulling into port. Here you can look forward to relaxing on pebble beaches as the azure waves gently crash against the shore, watch the goats as they scurry up the hills and the old wooden windmills twirl in the salty sea breeze. Irresistibly charming, its Chora hosts, timeless traditional Cycladic architecture, while family-run eateries serve delicious homemade dishes like matsata and local delicacies like goat cheese paired with rakomelo, a liquor with honey added and the region’s signature beverage.
Enjoy a romantic escape to the Cyclades with a stop in Folegandros on our 12-day Private Tour.
Nestled between the Aegean and Ionian seas off the southern tip of the Lakonian Peninsula in the Peloponnese, the remote isle of Kythira is home to a population of less than 4,000, spread over 40 villages. It offers a tranquil atmosphere with incredible natural beauty, including vibrant green valleys, hidden gorgeous and precipitous cliffs that dip down to the glistening turquoise sea. Its ancient Chora boasts enticing whitewashed streets and a 16th-century Venetian castle waiting to be explored. It’s fun just to get lost among the alleyways, discovering little shops and authentic tavernas that offer delicious Greek dining with a sea view.
Nicknamed the “Butterfly Island” because of its shape, Astypalea is located in the heart of the Aegean between the Dodecanese and Cyclades, its barren landscape emerges from the deep sapphire waters, dotted with white cube-style homes. The maze of small alleys in the Chora are lined with the houses that are splashed with brilliant color, from blooming flowers to blue doors. Visit the ancient Tarara Baths with their stunning mosaics, the unique infant cemetery and take a stroll to the castle of Ai Gianni to watch a glorious sunset before relaxing under the stars on one of the beaches.
A hidden treasure, Andros is the northernmost of the Cyclades islands, located between Tinos and Euboia. Its Chora is one of the most enchanting in the Greek isles, built on a small peninsula sandwiched between two long sandy beaches. Its unique in that instead of lots of small whitewashed buildings, it’s dotted with spectacular neoclassical mansions, dating from the time Andros was a maritime superpower. The town is home to some outstanding museums, focused on archaeological, nautical and modern art interests, while the island itself boasts an extensive network of hiking trails, prehistoric sites and over 100 beaches, most of which can be easily accessed by car. There are remote beaches for swimming in the buff, and busy, organized stretches offering water sports, beach bars and parties. While it may be a cliché, it truly offers something for everyone.
The Small Cyclades are made up of four main islands, Iraklia, Donoussa, Koufonissi and Schinoussa, and dozens of little ones, that sit between Amorgos and Naxos. Filled with unspoiled, undisturbed beauty, walk the long sandy beaches and you may not see another soul, while the improbably clear aquamarine waters calls for a refreshing dip and souvenir shops are miles away. The islands remained off-grid until just a few decades ago – in fact, there was no electricity here until 1982. While an increasing number of visitors are discovering them, it’s still relatively few. Iraklia is renowned for its cave pilgrimage, while Dounousa with its rugged terrain is popular among hikers. Koufonissi is especially ideal for worshipping the sun. Schinoussa’s coastline offers 18 beaches along with many private, sheltered bays for swimming, while the tavernas in the Chora light up after dark, calling to explore the nightlife.
Tinos is an especially captivating island popular among Greeks who make pilgrimages here twice every year to visit the church of Panagia Megalochari. While most visitors to Greece only get a glimpse while sailing from Athens to Mykonos, it’s home to fabulous beaches offering water sports and 40 traditional villages with cobblestone paths, elegant archways, lovely chapels and whitewashed homes. There are lots of museums and the landscape is dotted with many pigeon houses, particularly in Tarabados valley, construction that dates back to Venetian times.
Visit the impressive island of Tinos on our Active Cyclades 12 day Private Tour.
Kimolos, a rugged Cycladic jewel, is home to some of the most postcard-perfect beaches in Greece like Prassa. Its striking white sands are the result of the layers of chalk that make of the island, which presents a jaw-dropping contrast against the brilliant blue of the Aegean. Ideal for a swim with its calm waters, it’s also a great spot to find the Mediterranean monk seal. The only settlement of size is the main town or Chora which is home to an abandoned castle and archaeological museum. There are plenty of traditional blue and white homes, often with colorful gardens.
Kythnos is a picturesque mountainous island in the western Cyclades. It’s easy to reach from Athens and boasts a stunning selection of beaches, a wild natural landscape and magnificent architecture. Yet its remained largely “hidden” from tourists – in fact its name comes from the ancient Greek verb “keftho” which literally means “hide.” You’ll discover plenty of authentic Aegean beauty and character, all just a short ferry ride from the capital city.
Kea Island is also close to Athens, just an hour away, yet it’s managed to stay a well-kept secret among the locals. There are no big tourist crowds here, and you’ll feel like your worlds away from the city. Enjoy soaking up the sun on one of the beautiful beaches, outstanding snorkeling and diving – the waters that surround the island are home to a number of shipwrecks, including the Britannic, Titanic’s sister ship which sunk in 1916. There are ancient ruins to explore, a fascinating archaeological museum to visit and plenty of eateries tasty local specialties.
Discover all that Kea Island has to offer on our Athens, Delphi & Cyclades 11 Day Cruise Tour.
Sifnos has been called “the perfect Greek Island,” located on the western side of the Cyclades island group, fringed by pretty sandy beaches and home to the Monastery of Panagia Chrissopigi. Its iconic symbol, the monastery sits atop a rock that rises out of the aquamarine sea, home to an icon that’s believed to work miracles. Sifnos is one of the tastiest islands, with a thriving food scene, with some of the favorites including velvety loukoumi (Turkish delight) and halvadopita (nougat wafers with almonds and island honey). It’s also renowned for its traditional pottery, with lots of small pottery workshops hosted in villages like Kamares and Vathi.
Part of the Sporades in the northwest Aegean between Mount Pelion and the island of Evia, Skopelos is truly blissful. One of the few inhabited islands in the archipelago set just off the east coast of the mainland, it’s renowned for its beautiful beaches framed by dazzling blue waters and pine tree-dotted hills. Skopelos Town is one of the most stunning ports in the country with its hillside a sprawl of white walls topped with terracotta tiles, while Venetian fortress ruins overlook it. There are scenic walks to enjoy and dozens of monasteries to visit scattered about the island for an ecclesiastical crawl.
Skiathos is another one of the inhabited Sporades, offering a buzzing nightlife scene and great beaches, with lots of action centered around Skiathos Town. Here the restaurants and bars spill out onto the sidewalks along the historic harbor and Papadiamanti street – you’ll find plenty of traditional architecture, including whitewashed homes with red tiled roofs that makes it look like a scene from a postcard.
Unlike the other Sporades isles, you won’t find Alonissos in any travel guide books. It has its own distinct personality, a place where the rugged natural landscape, with its olive and pine trees dip down to crystal-clear azure waters. The island is the most remote in the group and its home to the National Marine Park of Northern Sporades, a refuge for dolphins, the Mediterranean monk seal and rare seabirds. Patitiri is its picturesque capital and harbor, with a gorgeous stone paved waterfront and a medieval castle that offers sweeping vistas to the sea.
This seahorse-shaped island is part of the Dodecanese islands group in the Aegean, tucked between the islands of Ikaria, Fourni and Leros near Turkey. It’s most famous as the sacred island that inspired St. John to write the Book of Revelations, the closing pages of the New Testament. An 11th-century fortress-like monastery dedicated to the saint overlooks the whitewashed homes in the hilltop capital, while picturesque beaches are found around the shoreline, edged by crystalline blue bays and inlets for swimming. Find out the fun things you can do in Patmos here.
Paxoi is a tiny island jewel, just a few nautical miles south of Corfu. Known as a sanctuary of “love for the gods,” this was the mythical hideaway of the god Poseidon. It boasts an incredible array of colors, underwater caves and shipwrecks for diving, lush green hills, small bays with surreal blue waters and fjord-shaped beaches. Discover charming villages tucked away in olive and pine trees, soak in natural geothermal springs and visit the Venetian fortress of Agios Nikolaos.
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