Greece has nearly 200 inhabited islands of all shapes and sizes placed like jewels in the dazzling Ionian and Aegean seas. When it comes to visiting, you’re truly spoiled for options.
Crete is the best Greek archaeology island.
Crete, Greece’s largest island, is something of an all-arounder. Crete is home to the majestic White Mountains, miles of beautiful beaches, the charming Samaria Gorge, and several attractive settlements, including the island capital of Iraklion. However, for anyone interested in archaeology, it’s the natural site to combine the pleasures of an island with a diverse collection of ancient remains to rival the mainland. Already tempted? Discover Crete’s greatest beaches.
Knossos, the island’s main ancient landmark, is just 5 kilometers west of Iraklion, with its vast, second millennium BC Minoan palace, where King Minos once held the famous Minotaur. The interconnected hallways and apartments are extremely labyrinthine, and much of the castle has been remarkably well kept.
Excellent antique art, such as the famed dolphin fresco, can be found here. Meanwhile, Iraklion’s archaeological museum is one of the best in the country, housing a plethora of remarkable Minoan relics. Malia Palace, located east along the shore, is another excellent structure from the same era.
Other notable Minoan sights along the south coast are the Palace of Phaestos, situated on a hillside with a spectacular view of Mount Psiloritis, and the lesser remains at Ayia Triada.
Gortys, in the same region, is the ruins capital of a Roman province that included Crete and a portion of north Africa. Further out, the Dhiktean Cave and the Palace of Zakros are both historic sights worth visiting.
Milos is the best Greek island for beaches.
Despite being one of the lesser-known Cyclades, most beach lovers consider Milos to be the best in this most recognized island group. Perhaps this is not surprising given its volcanic nature and horseshoe shape, as it has an astonishing seventy-five beaches while being only 20km across.
Except during high season, Milos is rarely crowded and offers a wide range of lodging and dining options.
One of the nicest beaches on the south coast is sandy Paleohóri, which is gently heated by subsurface thermal currents and connected to a second strand by a tunnel through the rock. The northern communities of Adhámas and Plaka are separated by a promontory that is interrupted by several bays.
Tamarisks shade the long sandy stretch near Pollonia in the northeast. The mountainous west coast, on the other hand, has the purest beauty and most unspoiled beaches, including Triadhes, Ammoudharaki, and Kleftiko, which can only be reached by boat.
Pátmos is the most spiritual Greek island.
Given the importance of religion in Greece, the small island of Pátmos is recognized as one of the most important. It’s where St. John went to hide and got the visions he transcribed to his disciple Prohoros as the Revelation, the final book of the New Testament.
Hike to the cave where this occurred early in the morning. It is presently surrounded by an eleventh-century chapel. Here you have the best chance of having the place to yourself and even sleeping in the niche where the saint slept. Even hard-nosed cynics will feel spiritual after looking out across the sea to the surrounding islands.
Another eleventh-century monastery, Ayiou Ioannou Theologou, commands even more spectacular vistas and is home to a monastic community. The church is wonderful, but much of the strong building is off-limits to tourists.
Similarly, the museum houses some sparkling Orthodox memorabilia, dark and somber medieval icons, and parchment manuscripts. Needless to say, there are some beautiful sandy beaches and enough other secular delights to keep visitors entertained until they return to sea level.
The best Greek island for ocean activities is Lefkada.
Lefkada has one of Europe’s largest windsurfing centers near its southern point, as well as a glittering new marina on the outskirts of the island capital. This attracts folks who enjoy spending time on the water. It is also easily accessible, as it is connected to the mainland by a causeway.
On its west coast, look for magnificent mountain scenery and some of the most beautiful beaches in the Ionian Sea. Furthermore, Lefkada Town is a charming and cultural destination with numerous beautiful historic churches.
Yachties come here for the excellent marina facilities, the enormous dry dock at Vlyho, and the ease of anchoring at the several bays on the east coast, including Dessimi, Rouda, and Syvota. The satellite islands opposite Nydri’s main resort are also superb sailing grounds, while Nydri itself offers the usual variety of watersports.
Meanwhile, near Lefkada’s southern tip, the bay extending from Vassiliki to Pondi attracts a young clientele. They make use of the perfect wind patterns and shallow sea for windsurfing. At any given time, there could be hundreds of colorful sails flying in the breeze.
Lésvos is the best Greek island for a little bit of everything.
The third-largest island in Greece after Crete and Evvia, flexible Lésvos (also known as Mytilini after its city) is surprisingly underutilized. Mytilini is a huge town with a majestic beachfront, a sprawling fortress, several fascinating museums, and plenty of places to dine and drink.
Molyvos (called Mithymna) and Ayiassos stand out among the smaller towns with impressive architecture. The former is located on a north coast headland that is capped by an impressive castle. The latter straddles a steep valley and is built around a lovely central church. Other lovely monasteries may be found all throughout the island.
The coastline is endowed with various beautiful beaches. None are better than Vatera’s 9km stretch of pebble and sand on the south coast.
However, geological characteristics other than rock and sand exist. The huge shallow Gulf of Kalloni contains salt marshes, which are a birdwatcher’s paradise. A petrified forest may be found in the west, and thermal spas can be found in the east.
There are several praised distilleries in Greece’s most highly rated ouzo region, including Varvayianni and Samara. However, the island also produces excellent wines, such as Methymneos and olive products.
Finally, Lésvos has a strong cultural component, as it is the birthplace of the poets Sappho, Aesop, and, more recently, Elytis. It is also the birthplace of twentieth-century artists Theriade and Theophilos, who have museums on the island named after them.
Sappho’s sensual poetry was frequently directed at other women (quite a thing for the sixth century). Her legacy lives on at the vibrant Skala Eresou, which attracts visitors from all over the world.