Greece is made up of over 6,000 islands and islets (although only 227 are inhabited) that are scattered throughout the Aegean and Ionian Seas. These islands are grouped into several different island chains, each with its own unique characteristics. From the lush Ionian islands, whose waters are some of the warmest in the country, to the Dodecanese Islands, which are a mix of Turkish and Greek influences, there is a lot to discover amongst the different groupings.
While many of the islands have become built up around tourism, there are plenty of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. These lesser-known islands offer a peaceful, authentic trip. Explore small villages, secluded beaches, and traditional culture and cuisine throughout these different islands. No matter what you’re looking for in your trip, there is an island in Greece for you. Step off the beaten path for your next adventure and explore the lesser-known islands of Greece.
It is easy to island hop in Greece, so this guide has been broken down into different island groups. This is ideal for anyone looking to jump around between a few different islands for a unique experience.
Northern Aegean Islands
Ikaria is one of the most interesting places in all of Greece, and even the world, because of their style of life. It has long been connected to the Japanese concept of “Inagi”, which translates to “reason for being”. The island is known for having a slow pace of life, relaxing and enjoying every moment. They eat a healthy, Mediterranean diet, and there is a strong communication between the islands’ residents. This has resulted in some of the lowest rates of dementia and middle-aged mortality in the world! This is a unique cultural experience for visitors to partake in on their time on the island and encourages travellers to practise the distinctive lifestyle on their own time once back home.
Named after a Greek mythology figure, Icarus, the man who flew too close to the sun and fell into the sea near this island, this hidden gem has a long history and is home to beautiful ancient ruins, such as the Ancient Temple of Artemis, an impressive historical site that dates back to the 6th century BC. A bit more recent in history, you’ll find the remains of the Koskina Castle, which dates back to the 10th century, built during the Byzantine empire.
One of the natural wonders on the island is the thermal springs of Therma, which are hot springs known for their therapeutic qualities. The waters are rich in minerals and have been long believed to have healing properties by the Greeks on Ikaria.
Where to Stay:
Great for anyone hoping to stay close to the thermal springs, in a small village.
Outstanding customer service, optimal location, and delicious food makes this hotel a standout.
This one-bedroom chalet is secluded and romantic, a perfect honeymoon getaway.
Samos is located off the coast of Turkey and has a long and rich history. Come to Samos to explore the ruins and ancient sites that have shaped the culture and identity of the island. Many famous Greeks in history were born on this island, such as Aesop, an ancient Greek writer who wrote legendary fables that have stood the test of time, and also including the famous mathematician Pythagaros (The creator of the pythagorean theory which might bring back some memories from school), who is also the namesake of the island’s harbour town, Pythagerion.
Samos is a paradise for anyone looking for a good hike, as there are plenty of challenging trails that access some of the most beautiful spots on the island. Potami Waterfalls is a short hike through lush, green vegetation that reveal the crashing falls. You can swim in the pools, and some people even repel down these waterfalls! For some more challenging hikes, embark on the 6-hour hike to the top of Mount Kerkis, which offers 360 views of the island and the sea, and if it's a clear day, you may even get to see another island in the distance. For beach lovers, there is a challenging hike down to the secluded Psili Ammos Beach, which is a breathtaking spot on the north coast of the island. This is also accessible by boat if you want to save yourself the hike!
Where to Stay:
This quiet hotel offers private rooms and friendly service all at a reasonable price.
Stylish rooms located in the heart of Samos Town, with additional facilities like an adorable outdoor swimming pool.
Stay at this beautiful, authentic, and unique villa with stunning mountain views and a tranquil atmosphere
Discover the inspiration for one of the classics of literature, Odysseus. This island was famously his home in the epics, and to this day, there are many mythological stories to be told about the legendary Odysseus on the island, and even spots that you can visit that were rumoured to be referenced in these epics.
Since Ithaca is a small island in the Ionian, it is possible that you can see the island in a day-trip from Kefalonia. This is a great opportunity if you’re planning on staying in Kefalonia, but Ithaca intrigues you as well. Explore the island from Kefalonia with a mythical tour that will go over all the historical, legendary tales that are inspired by the island. While a day trip is an efficient way for those who don’t have much time to see the island in a quick day-trip, it doesn’t cover everything necessarily that the island has to offer, so don’t take this as Ithaca is not worth staying in and can be done in just a day. There is plenty to do in Ithaca, from historical sites to towns, to beaches, so don’t be afraid to really get to know the small island.
Where to Stay:
Affordable studios in a charming building with mountain views.
Reasonably-priced apartments with multiple beds, making it a great option for bigger groups.
Stay in a traditional Greek seaside home, with authentic architecture and decorations.
Lefkada is an island that is truly just breathtaking, merely connected to the mainland by a causeway side. While it is a relatively known island, it doesn’t get nearly enough recognition for its beauty. One of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and frequently listed as one of the most incredible places in Europe by travellers, is located on this island. Porto Katsiki beach is known for its astonishing cliffs that surround the white sandy beach. You can’t come to Lefkada without saying you’ve been to this amazing beach, and we promise it is worth the hype!
For those who enjoy outdoor activities, Lefkada is known for its lush vegetation and beautiful hikes. The Dimossari Gorge is a particular favourite on the island for the adventurous folk, with layered rock formations and waterfalls at every next turn.
Where to Stay:
Exceptional apartments surrounded by a lush, palm-tree garden.
Amazing mountain views from the poolside with newly renovated rooms.
Located on top of a hill with incredible views of the island, plus your own personal pool.
Kefalonia is one of the most jaw-dropping islands, and is one of the lesser-known of the Ionian islands, overlooked due to its neighbouring Corfu and Zakynthos. Kefalonia has one of the most beautiful beaches possibly in the whole world, with Myrtos Beach attracting day-trippers on the ferry from Zakynthos frequently, as well as from around the island.
Kefalonia is a very tranquil island as well. The main city on the island, Argostoli, is a beautiful town that has a welcoming, friendly atmosphere. The architecture is quite different from that of other Greek islands and resembles more characteristics from when the island was occupied by the Venetians. This makes it a great option if you’ve seen a lot of the traditional Greek architecture but still want to check out an island with the same quality of the Greek beaches, just with a different cosmopolitan feel.
Another great thing about Kefalonia is that you can see the highlights of two islands in just one trip. From Kefalonia, you can take a ferry (only an hour long!) to check out the more popular island of Zakynthos, visiting the iconic shipwreck beach on this tour leaving Kefalonia. Expect crowds when you arrive in Zakynthos, all trying to capture the best photographs of the famous beaches. It is worth the hecticness for a short time, because by the end of the day you’ll be back in the serene Kefalonia with another island checked off your bucket list.
Where to Stay:
Spacious properties with an elevated view overlooking Kefalonia and a large balcony.
Located in the heart of Argostoli, this modern hotel is a perfect ground zero for exploring Kefalonia.
Right on the Argostoli beachfront, this glamorous hotel is beautiful and stylish.
Located just south of the Peloponnese region of the mainland is this relatively small island that is considered a part of the Ionian islands, despite its geographical location sets it apart from the others. This island is home to charming villages and a serene atmosphere, making it a perfect destination for an authentic and peaceful getaway.
Kythira has a long history of civilization, being occupied throughout many different time periods such as the Mynoans, Mycanaeans, Venetians, and Ottomans. Relics of these civilizations exist today on this island, such as the Venetian Fortress in Avlemonas, a castle that offers beautiful views over the traditional fishing village of Avlemonas, and the Monastery of Myrtidiotissa, an incredible example of Greek orthodox architecture that is one of the most important religious sites on the island.
Where to Stay:
An authentic Greek house with wonderful views over the rugged island.
This whitewashed building is blessed with a veranda overlooking the Aegean sea.
A beautiful hotel overlooking the sea offers amenities like an outdoor pool and a fitness centre.
Koufonisia is actually a small group of two islands in the Cyclades, and they are tiny but mighty! The small islands are as authentic as you can get in the Cyclades, almost completely untouched by tourism. Koufonisia is known for its relaxing lifestyle, enjoying the finer things in life, and embracing the authenticity of this small Greek island.
Koufonisia is great for hiking, as there are a variety of different trails scattered throughout the island that take you to beaches, up mountains and show you the most beautiful sides of the island. Agios Ella Hill offers panoramic views of the island and the Aegean sea, which is a must-do for hikers visiting the island. Koufonisia is also home to magnificent beaches, like Pori Beach. At Pori Beach, swim in the teal waters and relax upon the shore, admiring the unique shape and formation of the beach.
Where to Stay:
Stay in a traditional Greek home just a short walk away from the town and beach.
A fully-equipped, chic apartment located in the heart of town.
This stylish villa is modern with a fantastic view and large pool.
Serifos is a prime example of traditional Cycladic architecture, including white-washed buildings and houses that protect its residents from the heat, and narrow cobblestone streets. The picturesque town of Chora is known for serving up some delicious gastronomy, following traditional Serifos recipes. Serifos doesn’t get enough culinary credit like its neighbouring Sifnos, but the local restaurants and recipes are to die for, especially the fresh seafood, and don’t miss out on trying some of the typical Serifos hard cheeses.
Moving forward to the island's beaches, Serifos has an abundance of gorgeous beaches to check out, most of which are uncrowded and secluded. Livadi Beach is near the town Livadi, and is one of the more popular ones on the islands. Wide sandy shores prevent this beach from ever getting too overcrowded, and trees provide natural shade. Ganema Beach is also a big beach, with turquoise waters and golden sands that make for an enchanting beach day.
Where to Stay:
Get all the amenities of a resort on a budget! Affordable, renovated bungalows with pool and beach access.
Spectacular views only make this spacious apartment even more attractive!
This beautiful villa has a large balcony overlooking the sea, including a barbeque so you can enjoy dinner with a view.
Sifnos is known for its incredible gastronomy, often being referred to as the “Island of Flavours”. If you are on the search for authentic, home-cooked Greek food sourced from the finest local ingredients, you can’t miss out on Sifnos. Some unforgettable dishes that are traditional to the island are Revithia, which is a delicious chickpea stew served alongside Greek bread, and Kaparosalata, a dip consisting of capers that grow abundantly on the island with spices and caramelised onions. If you have a sweet tooth, you have to try Melopita, which is a dessert made out of honey and the traditional Greek cheese of mizithra. Throughout the island, there are a lot of beehives, so you’ll get some of the freshest quality of honey in this pie that is authentic to Sifnos. Is your mouth watering yet?!
Although it is most famous for its delicious gastronomy, the island also boasts an incredible natural landscape which can’t be overlooked. Vathi Beach is known for its unique horseshoe shape, surrounded by dramatic cliffs. Located on the southern coast of Sifnos, this secluded beach is a favourite sport for snorkelling and swimming. Another beautiful, easier-to-access beach is called Platis Gialos. This lively beach is organised with rentable sunbeds and umbrellas and is one of the most popular beaches to visit on the island, known for its soft, golden sand.
Probably the most iconic, photographed landmark on Sifnos has to be Chrisopigi. This white-washed monastery is perched upon a rocky peninsula and overlooks the sea. There is even a small, tranquil beach that offers once-in-a-lifetime views of the picturesque architecture and its incredible backdrop.
Where to Stay:
Incredibly beautiful, rustic rooms located right near the Platis Gialos beach offer an authentic experience.
Right above a rocky shore, home to a beautiful terrace and pool, a short drive away from some of the islands renowned beaches.
This stunning villa is a luxurious escape with a stunning outdoor area and pool.
Syros is a beautiful island that draws visitors because of its unique capital city, Ermoupoli. Ermoupoli is a stunning port town that has a vibrant blend of culture and history and looks quite distinctive from a lot of other Greek towns, due to its neoclassical architectural style. When visiting the port town, you can walk along the promenade along the waterfront while appreciating the neoclassical buildings, some of the impressive churches, and of course, all while overlooking the Aegean Sea. For a smaller village feel, you can explore the picturesque village of Ano Syros, which offers amazing sea views from perched upon a mountain.
Besides just its city and village life, Syros is also a very rugged, naturally beautiful island and offers a wide variety of nature to explore. Explore the different beaches that the island has to offer, from wide and open strips of sand like the famous Galissas Beach, perfect for relaxing and swimming to quieter, secluded coves such as Delfini Beach, which is a natural beach without development, just a beach in its purest form! For a vibrant beach, head to Kini Beach, which is lined with traditional Greek tavernas and beach bars.
Where to Stay:
Make Syros feel like your temporary home at this quaint, welcoming house.
Situated only metres away from the beach, offering incredible sea views and lovely rooms.
Luxurious rooms centrally located in Ermoupoli overlooking the Aegean Sea.
Halki has been inhabited since prehistoric times and has a similar style of architecture and landscape as Rhodes, just more under-the-radar. The main town on the island is located surrounding the harbour, named Nimoborio. Its buildings are colourful, filled with cafes and restaurants to sit at while admiring the view over the Aegean. Besides its beautiful port town, Halki is known for its calm beaches like Potamos Beach, a tranquil beach surrounded by the rugged mountains that form the island.
One of the most interesting attractions on Halki is the abandoned village of Chorio. The village was abandoned in the 1980s as the island itself was quite poor, and the people living there left Greece, subsequently making the island's population a lot smaller than it was. Nowadays, you can hike 3 kilometres from the main port up to the abandoned town. While no one really lives there anymore and the town was left to decay, it has become a popular place to visit by travellers visiting the island.
Where to Stay:
1-bedroom holiday home in close proximity to the beach, alongside hospitable service.
Styled in a pastel green colour scheme, this adorable villa is a cute place to stay, especially if you’re looking for some adorable photographs.
The historical building that houses this elegant hotel was once used for sponge production!
Karpathos is known for being a hub of traditional, untouched Greek culture. Some settlements on the island have been sheltered from outside influence for quite a while, up until recently, and nowadays, traditional villages can be visited and appreciated, which showcase the rich customs that have been well preserved for centuries. Olympos is one of the villages that still dresses in its customary clothing and speaks one of the oldest dialects of Greek that kept its charm away from outer influences. These traditions and dialects can’t be found anywhere else in Greece, so it is incredibly interesting to visit this island and learn about their way of life!
Besides its authentic charm, Karpathos is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Apella Beach has been listed as one of the most breathtaking beaches in all of Greece, due to its pebbly shores being surrounded by the lushest of vegetation, not to mention the clear, blue waters to cool you off. If you’re looking for a beach with more adventurous activities, you can check out Arkassa Beach, which is one of the windier beaches on the island. People come from all over to windsurf at this beautiful beach, which will definitely get your heart racing as you glide across the waters. For even more of adventure, you can hike the rugged trail between Olympos to Diafani. This trail offers incredible views of the rugged coast, which we think is a fair reward for the extra exercise!
Where to Stay:
Studios offering beautiful views over the Aegean sea, plus a delectable breakfast.
Known for its delicious cuisine, housing a restaurant surrounded by bougainvillaea.
The name says it all, enjoy your own private pool in this beautiful villa.
Kastellorizo, also known formally as Megisti, is a tiny island right off the coast of Turkey. It is the smallest of all the Dodecanese islands, and it is only a total of 9 square kilometres on the entire island! Seriously tiny! The main settlement on the island is also called Kastellorizo and only has about 400 permanent residents. Despite its small size, the town is a lively small town, with colourful neoclassical buildings housing a variety of different traditional restaurants, shops, and cafes. The streets are narrow and winding, and a joy to explore as you step back in time in this historical town.
Kastellorizo has had inhabitants for a long time, the oldest settlement known being the ancient city of Megisti which dates back to the Hellenistic period. Remnants of the past can be seen around the island, most notably at the Castle of the Knights, a fortress that dates back to the 14th century to protect the island from invaders.
Looking for a swimming spot at Kastellorizo? The blue cave is an amazing sea cave that quite literally has some of the bluest waters, hence the name. The cave is one of the most famous in Greece and draws attention to the tiny island, and is a must-see in Kastellorizo.
This volcanic island has a unique, rugged quality that is quite different from its neighbouring islands due to the volcanic activity on the island. Nisyros still has an active volcano to this day, although its last eruption was in 1888. One of the main attractions on this island is hiking up to the volcano, an exhilarating experience that not only offers amazing views of the island but also the caldera. The caldera is extremely impressive, and although much smaller than the famous caldera on the island of Santorini, the views are just as spectacular.
With just a population of 1000 people on the island, the majority of the island lives in the main harbour town of Mandraki. One of the highlights of the small village is the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani. This religious site is one of the most important on the island and is perched upon a rock in Mandraki. 270 steps is all it takes to reach the top of the hill! If you have the trek in you, you can visit the beautiful monastery and enjoy the sights over the harbour as you climb up the rock.
Where to Stay:
This special little house gives you a traditional village atmosphere.
A holiday home with outstanding views of the island’s volcano.
A luxurious apartment offering amenities like a fitness centre, a balcony, and a fully equipped apartment.
Rhodes is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in Greece, and is also one of the most historical in the country. The island has been inhabited since ancient times, and the Rhodes Old Town is frequently considered as one of the best-preserved medieval towns in all of Europe! The old town itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its easy to spend hours just wandering through and admiring the beautiful streets. Catch all of the famous historical sights in Rhodes with this hop-on hop-off bus tour which takes you to iconic sites from relics of ancient times such as the Temple of Apollo, and more recent history, like the Aquarium of Rhodes.
Apart from just its history, Rhodes is also known for its beautiful beaches like Falikraki and Tsambika, both popular beaches to spend the day soaking up the sun, swimming in the turquoise waters, and even participating in watersports. A great way to explore the island is from the water! Jump aboard a catamaran day cruise and discover four beaches from the water, with opportunities to swim in the warm waters!
Where to Stay:
This social hostel offers shared modern rooms and fun activities for its guests.
Stunning, elegant rooms in a luxurious hotel that doesn’t break the bank.
Treat yourself to the ultimate getaway at this modern, seaside resort.
Spetses is an island that is popular for day trips from nearby coastal cities but is still extremely under-visited compared to other islands. Known for its luxurious seaside mansions, Spetses is an upscale island that is a favourite destination among Greeks. Dapia, the primary port of Spetses, has been a significant commercial hub dating back to the Venetian and Byzantine eras and is a beautiful area to walk alongside the water, fine dine, and shop til you drop! You can even explore the town in a unique way by taking a horse and carriage ride while learning about the history of important buildings and streets from your guide.
One of the most naturally beautiful spots of Spetses is located a short distance from Agioi Anaragi Beach, called Bekiris Caves. The cave is only possible to enter by swimming as it is too shallow for boats, and the interior is definitely worth exploring if you’re a strong swimmer, as you can admire the small sandy beach within the cave, and the turquoise waters. If you aren’t the best of swimmers, but still want to enjoy a beach day in Spetses, Agia Paraskevi is a large, sandy beach with beach bars and restaurants, not to mention the magnificent swans that call the beach their home!
Where to Stay:
Comfortable rooms located in the heart of Dapia, notable for its ideal location and affordable price.
Modern rooms with fantastic balconies are situated right near the beach
This spacious and modern villa fits up to 5 people comfortably, overlooking the ocean.
Skiathos is located in the Sporades group of islands in the Aegean sea, and is a lively destination that is popular among Greek tourists. This island is the perfect destination for anyone looking for a bit of a combination between vibrant and tranquil. The island’s capital, Skiathos Town, has an energetic party scene which attracts people from all around Greece looking for a fun escape. On the other hand, you’ll also see a lot of families with their children soaking up the sun and enjoying the beautiful beaches.
Skiathos Town is an adorable little town that has artisan shops and serves up traditional, hearty Greek food in its tavernas. The main draw point to the island, however, is not the town but rather the lovely beaches. The most famous on the island has to be Koukounaries Beach, which is blessed with the softest of sands and the bluest of waters. Lalaria Beach, Banana Beach, and Vromolimnos Beach all offer stunning scenery, and make for great excursions around the island. If you don’t feel like exploring the island too much, you’re in luck. Many resorts have beach access on the island, so you don’t have to worry about leaving the comfort of your hotel. Optimise your relaxation time and soak up the sun all day long!
Where to Stay:
Stay in a quaint studio apartment with easy access to the beach
Relax in a traditional Greek home transformed into a villa, surrounded by lush greenery.
A beautiful, luxurious hotel with beach access, a delicious restaurant, a great pool, and kid-friendly. Ask my 8-year-old self who could not get enough of the kids club!