Which Greek Island Should I Visit?

Which Greek Island Should I Visit?

Which Greek Island Should I Visit?

Greece has long been a popular destination for tourists from all over the world, and one of its biggest draws is the thousands of breath-taking islands that it is home to.

In Unforgettable Greece’s comprehensive Greek Island Vacation Report & Guide, we have taken a deep dive into all of the facts and figures you need to know about the Greek islands, how to visit them, the best ones to visit based on your personality and everything else in between.

Greek Vacation Statistics

Greece contains the longest coastline among Mediterranean countries and has ancient cultural history and archaeological sites, so it is hardly surprising that international visitor numbers have steadily increased over the years. 

  • Including both overnight and same-day visitors, figures rose from 14 million in 2006 to 34.2 million in 2019.
  • Two-thirds of arrivals in visitor accommodation came from a foreign country, making international tourism the highest contributor to these figures.
  • Most inbound visitors come from other European countries, with Germany and the UK representing the leading inbound travel markets in Greece in recent years.

Honeymoon in Greece
Honeymoon in Greece

Honeymoons in Greece

As far as honeymoon destinations go, couples can’t get much more romantic than Greece and its many islands, which are all touched by beauty and wrapped in myth.

  • Greece is the 8th most popular honeymoon destination, according to Pinterest activity. 
  • The average honeymoon is 8 days, with many couples spending up to two weeks away. 
  • Couples spend an average of $4,466 on their honeymoon, according to wedding industry experts. This cost can be anywhere between $6,000 to $25,000 for trips to Europe and Asia, and can increase to as much as $35,000 for really luxury trips.

Greek Island Cruises

Greece is also a major area for cruise and sea tourism and its islands are visited by thousands of tourists each day.

  • There were 5.5 million cruise passengers recorded across Greece in 2019, according to the Hellenic Ports Association (ELIME).  
  • Santorini, an island of 15,500 habitants, sees more than 12,000 passengers disembark from cruise ships every day during the summer season, 
  • It is projected that Greece’s revenue from sea and coastal passenger water transport will amount to around $1,535.60 million U.S. dollars by 2025.

Thera, Greece
Islands, Greece

Greek Islands

Greece is home to between 1,200 and 6,000 islands according to recent estimates, with the number of inhabited Greek islands being much smaller and ranging from 166 to 227.

The Greek islands are traditionally grouped into the following clusters: 

  • The Argo-Saronic Islands in the Saronic Gulf near Athens
  • The Cyclades, a large but dense collection occupying the central part of the Aegean Sea
  • The Dodecanese, located in the southeast between Crete and Turkey
  • The Ionian Islands, located to the west of the mainland in the Ionian Sea
  • The North Aegean islands, a loose grouping off the west coast of Turkey
  • The Sporades, a small group off the coast of Euboea

Greece’s many islands draw in thousands of tourists each year, particularly those popular with tourists such as Santorini and Mykonos.

  • The Southern Aegean region (Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, etc.) is the most popular destination for international tourists in Greece, attracting the highest number of travellers in 2019. 
  • Rhodes is the most visited island in the South Aegean region, with 2.3 million international air arrivals in 2019.
  • Crete is not only the largest Greek island but among the most visited, with international air arrivals increasing by around two million from 2010 to 2019.
  • The Ionian Islands (Zakynthos, Corfu, Kefalonia, etc.) saw a peak of approximately 2.9 million international air arrivals in 2019.

 

Check out our handy table below!

 

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How To Get To The Greek Islands

  • Greece has 15 international airports, with 9 of these being on the Greek islands of:
    • Crete
    • Corfu
    • Kefalonia
    • Kos
    • Mykonos
    • Rhodes
    • Santorini
    • Skiathos
    • Zakynthos
  • 14 Greek islands only have domestic airports which can be reached by a connecting flight from Athens or Thessaloniki:
    • Astypalaia
    • Ikaria
    • Kalymnos
    • Karpathos
    • Kythira
    • Lemnos
    • Leros
    • Lesvos
    • Milos
    • Naxos
    • Paros
    • Samos
    • Skyros
    • Syros
  • Almost all of the Greek islands can be accessed via water transport from the mainland apart from the more remote islands including Antipaxos, Dokos, Meganisi, Pserimos and Skyros.

Greece Coast
Greece Boat

What Are The Best Islands To Visit In Greece?

When it comes to making the most of Europe’s warmer months, there’s no more idyllic destination than the Greek islands.

Whilst they are all united with the same mainland, each island offers different things to tourists. And with over 200 inhabited slices of paradise to choose from, there’s an island — or three — to suit every traveler’s taste.

Porto Katsiki
Sarakiniko Beach

The Best Greek Islands For Beaches

If you’re the sort of traveler who enjoys the simple life of sun, sea and sand, being sun-kissed and freckled, and can usually be found at a beach bar with a cocktail in hand and flip-flops on your feet, then these are the best Greek islands for you.

Lefkada Lefkada offers some of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of the Mediterranean with Porto Katsiki, Egremni, and Kathisma being the most famous. Whilst all offer crystal clear blue water lapping onto the white sand, the beaches on the western side of the island are considered to be the most impressive due to their striking, deep blue color.

Milos Milos is home to Sarakiniko Beach, one of the most Instagrammed beaches in Greece. With a chalky white, moon-like surface, Sarakiniko Beach is pretty unique thanks to its white volcanic cliffs, range of cliff jumps, caves and rock pools, and a cenote that features a natural arch and a blue lagoon.

Zakynthos Zakynthos is the Greek island for you if all you want from a holiday is beaches, beaches and more beaches. From long sandy stretches to hidden bays and coves, Zakynthos offers a wide variety of beaches to travelers that are perfect for sun-worshippers.

The Best Greek Islands For Food

For some travelers, food is a high priority as it allows you to explore the world by tasting new cuisines and experiencing everything through your taste buds. So, if that’s you, these are the best greek islands to visit.

Sifnos Sifnos might only be 15 miles long but it has one of the hottest food scenes in the Greek islands. It was the birthplace of Greece’s first celebrity chef, Nikos Tselementes, who may not be famous to the outsider but every Greek is likely to have a copy of his 1910-published book somewhere in the house.  

Lemnos – Lemnos is no different to other Greek islands in that its menus are full of delicious seafood but its cheese offering is something that makes it stand out. Lemnos cheeses, such as kalataki, kaskavali and melichloro, are famous for their quality of preparation and their unique taste – and feta is, of course, a global favorite!

Rhodes
Skopelos

The Best Greek Islands For Culture

Any travelers hungry for the cultural and historical aspects of travel, seeking knowledge in new places and experiences and indulging in the individuality of a destination’s heritage should consider visiting the Greek islands below.  

Rhodes – Rhodes is the perfect island for history buffs, being home to the famous Colossus which is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and a UNESCO-listed medieval city where you can admire the mixed cultural heritage. Rhodes also offers visitors the chance to explore the Acropolis of Lindos where you can see the remains of a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena.

SkopelosOne of Skopelos’ biggest draws is that it was the set for Mamma Mia! The film’s main location site in Skopelos was Kastani beach on the southwest coast of the island. There is arguably no scene more unforgettable in Mamma Mia than the one in which Meryl Streep flees up the steps of the church of Agios Ioannis Kastri, and whilst the marriage scene wasn’t actually filmed inside, there’s still a palpable sense of cinematic history.

The Best Greek Islands For Honeymoons

Greece is the 8th most popular honeymoon destination according to research and it’s no surprise as its islands offer romantic bliss. So, for any newlywed travelers, these are the best Greek islands to visit.

ParosThere are many reasons why Paros is an ideal destination for honeymooners – crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches being just two. After a hectic months (or years) of planning, it is the perfect Greek island to relax, unwind and be together in the sun… but for those looking for some excitement to start married life, the island offers thrilling watersports, picture-perfect villages and daytrips to nearby islands including neighbouring Antiparos.

Naxos – Naxos is another ideal destination for honeymooners as it is the biggest and the greenest island of the Cyclades. An adunance of lush countryside, valleys and mountains, which are home to beautiful traditional villages for you to explore. A particularly romantic excursion is to catch a glimpse of the Apollo Temple in the Port of Chora as the sun is setting – watch the rays shine through the impressive marble gate which has stood in the same spot since the 6th century BC.

Photographer Greece
Photographer, Greece

The Best Greek Islands For Photography

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words so, for those travelers who like to capture their memories through a lens, these Greek islands are the best to visit for picture-perfect opportunities. 

Santorini – Santorini is home to Oia, one of the prettiest cities in Europe, and anyone looking to take a postcard-perfect photograph should consider visiting. The Greek island boasts whitewashed cliff-side buildings with deep blue roofs and keen photographers will need to stock up on memory cards as every corner of Santorini is more Instagrammable than the next.

KefaloniaKefalonia is full of quaint towns and beautiful harbours, making it a picture-perfect destination. The Greek island boasts stunning examples of Venetian architecture and one of the most photogenic spots is Fiskardo, a village that is home to a beautiful bay dotted with pastel-coloured houses, fringed with tall pine trees and lined with boats slowly swaying in the harbour.

Samothraki
Lesbos

The Best Greek Islands For Nature

For any travelers looking for a destination where they can immerse themselves in nature and be surrounded by beautiful scenery, these are the Greek islands to visit.

SamothrakiSamothraki is the ideal destination for nature lovers thanks to its pristine landscapes, dramatic scenery and geothermal richness. The village of Therma offers sulfurous therapeutic thermal springs and therefore fantastic spa facilities, which are perfect after a day outdoors. 

Lesbos – Lesbos is home to a very rich and diverse nature, with peaceful landscapes full of lush vegetation. This makes the Greek island the perfect habitat for birds and is one of the best islands in Europe for bird-watching as numerous rare and special bird species can be easily observed here.

The Best Greek Islands For Going Off-The-Beaten-Track

For some travelers, nothing beats the feeling that you’re the first person to discover or experience something, so for anyone looking for a destination off the beaten path, these are the best Greek islands to visit.

PaxosPaxos is a little gem, being only 5 miles long and 2 miles wide, that often gets bypassed for the bigger, more well-known islands. At its heart is Gaios, where laid-back cafes line the island’s main port and colorful villas tell of its heritage, and despite being the biggest village on the island, its sleepy, slow-paced feel make it authentically and undeniably Greek.

Donousa – Donousa is the ideal place for those looking to get off the beaten track, being home to just over 100 residents in four tiny villages. The Greek island offers tourists beautiful but empty sandy beaches, glittering emerald-green waters and traditional whitewashed houses that are as picture-perfect as those in Santorini but avoid the hordes of Instagrammers posing outside.

Mykonos nightlife
Group friends

The Best Greek Islands For Nightlife

If you’re the sort of traveler who goes on vacation to relax, unwind and… really let their hair down by experiencing everything a destination has to offer including the nightlife, then these are the best Greek islands for you to visit.

Mykonos Mykonos is a firm favorite among influencers and socialites for the nightlife that it offers. A Greek island that seemingly never sleeps, boasting all-day beach parties, a plethora of nightclubs and bars. Spend the day partying on the beautiful beaches, cocktail in hand, before heading out for a night out on the town and another cocktail, or two.

Crete – Crete, whilst being the biggest Greek Island, is an ideal destination for anyone looking to dance the night away. Malia and Hersonissos draw in those looking for a fun time, being full of opportunities to party in numerous beach bars and nightclubs.

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