Greece is a beautiful country with a rich and diverse culture dating back more than 5000 years. It has also been blessed with spectacular scenery, sun-kissed shores and clear blue waters. Little wonder it’s one of the most visited countries in Europe.
If you’re planning to visit Greece for the first time, you’re in for an extraordinary experience that will leave you in awe. And while there are hundreds of enticing destinations in Greece, the Greek islands stand out as some of the most enchanting places to explore. These islands offer a perfect blend of history, natural beauty, and warm hospitality, making them ideal for first-time visitors looking to immerse themselves in the essence of this captivating country.
Allow me to introduce you to a few of the best Greek islands to consider for your first trip. Each of these islands has its unique charm and attractions, ensuring an unforgettable introduction to the wonders of Greece.
How to get to the Greek Islands
If you’re planning a trip to the Greek Islands, you’ll want to know how to easily get there without any hassle. The Greek Islands are known for their stunning beauty and rich history, making them the perfect destination for your first trip to Greece.
Most people who visit Greece fly into Athens, which is the main hub for international flights. From there, you have several options to reach the islands.
Ferry. One of the most popular ways to travel between the Greek Islands is by ferry. Ferries are usually the most affordable option, they operate regularly, and they are quite comfortable. Depending on your itinerary and preferences, you can choose a fast ferry to get there quickly or opt for a slower one that allows you to enjoy the picturesque views along the way. We use Ferryscanner for searching and comparing ferry routes, schedules, and prices. It’s super convenient!
Flight. Another option is flying directly from Athens to some of the islands that are further away, like Crete or Rhodes. These flights are convenient if you have limited time or prefer a quicker mode of transportation.
What are the best Greek islands to visit?
Since it’s your first trip to Greece, it may surprise you to learn that a whopping 225 Greek Islands are inhabited. You can read about the best ones in a Greek Islands travel guide, but the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming.
Alternatively, you can simply visit tourist favorites on a Greece group tour. That’s a great choice if you want to relax and let someone else do all the planning.
But then, you wouldn’t be reading this article, would you? For a TL;DR answer to “what Greek island should I visit?”, read on.
Here’s a list of the very best Greek islands for your first visit.
Santorini is probably one of the most well-known of all the Cyclades Islands. It is amazingly photogenic, which makes it is the recommended island for those who are new to Greece. This island is about as quiet as Serifos and is always bustling with tourists, especially those on honeymoon who are taking selfies with the gorgeous sunset as a backdrop.
Every Santorini itinerary should include Fira―which is the capital―since it has the most breathtaking whitewashed cubic houses. After this, you should check out Red Beach, although don’t go in summer, since the small beach is difficult to walk around on since it is usually packed with tourists.
Mykonos is another of the Cyclades Islands. It has always been a popular tourist destination because of its well-known nightlife scene. It’s also a favorite getaway for international travelers due to its popularity as a stopover point for tourists on their way to the Greek mainland and Turkey.
Mykonos town is full of narrow streets and restaurants, which serve great food and drinks. Wander down the winding streets and explore the many shops and restaurants at your leisure or take a boat tour to get up close to some of Greece’s most iconic sights. The beaches are stunning as well.
With its beautiful beaches and crystal-clear water, Mykonos offers endless fun and adventures for travellers looking to be active on their vacations. The island is well known for its many water sports, such as scuba diving, yachting and sailing schools, and fishing trips.
Mykonos is a gem for history lovers as well. From here, you can visit the sacred island of Delos, one of the most important archaeology sites in Greece. There is no accommodation on Delos though, so the only way to visit the site is to take a day trip to Delos or get a day return ferry from a nearby island (Mykonos, Paros or Naxos).
Located in the Mediterranean Sea, Crete is a place where endless sunshine, vibrant colors, and unparalleled natural beauty come together to form a one-of-a-kind destination. From its dramatic mountains and stunningly clear waters to its centuries-old ruins and traditional villages, it’s truly an idyllic Greek island.
Crete is the largest Greek island of all and is sure to exceed your expectations. The island is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Crete is a favorite among foodies, who come to enjoy its fresh seafood and local wine.
it’s also one of the best islands for history geeks. Known as the birthplace of Western civilization, Crete is home to many ancient Minoan archaeological sites, including the Palace of Knossos.
4. Corfu (Kerkyra)
Among the Ionian Islands, Corfu (Kerkyra) is often considered the most popular and well-known destination. Travelers are drawn to Corfu for its blend of historic architecture, inviting beaches, and a lively atmosphere that offers a mix of relaxation and exploration.
Corfu has been blessed with a combination of stunning natural beauty, historical significance, and vibrant culture. The island’s rich heritage is a blend of Venetian, British, and French colonial influences, which adds a unique layer to its appeal.
Your first stop should be Corfu old town, where you can get pleasantly lost among the alleys and streets, taking in the fantastic culture and architecture of the ancient city.
Here you can also visit the Archeological Museum, as well as the Church of St George. Or, if you’re up for an adventure, you can hike or drive (much easier!) your way up Mount Pantokrator. It’s the highest peak on the island, and you’ll be mesmerized by the view.
Lush and green, the Ionian Islands (also known as the “seven islands” or “Eptanissia”) offer unique local culture, music, art, cuisine, and architecture.
If you love history, then head to Rhodes. One of the Aegean Islands, Rhodes is the birthplace of one of the most famous ancient Greek philosophers, Aristotle, and was once home to the Colossus of Rhodes, a giant statue that was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Rhodes’ medieval old town is chock full of ruins, Byzantine churches, and synagogues, as well as a medieval citadel.
If you want to visit somewhere a little quieter, then you can go to Lindos, a pedestrian-only town. There are many paved alleys, restaurants, cafes, clothing, and souvenir shops to visit in this surreal little village. While there, be sure to pay a visit to the Lindos acropolis, which overlooks the town. The ruins of this ancient temple are the most impressive archaeological site on Rhodes.
After this, you could visit one of the many beaches on the island, like Tsambika, Afondou, Gennadi, Agathi, and Faliraki beach. Many of the beaches have restaurants and taverns if you are looking for a place to eat.
Next, we have Kefalonia (Cephalonia), which is perfect for family holidays because of the many activities available, like four-wheel-drive safaris, or the national park where you can see wild horses and deer.
There are also amazing beaches to visit, like the Petani beach with its crystal clear blue waters, and a quaint little village named Assos village, with its multicolored buildings and beautiful bay. There are many restaurants to visit here, with a pebbled beach that is a must-see.
If you are someone that loves the beach but is also looking for an adventure with exciting activities, then Naxos has everything you need. Not only are the beaches beautiful, but you can also go windsurfing at Mikri Vigla, or even horseback riding at Plaka.
Once you are done at the beaches, you should head to Chora, where you can shop or have lunch at any of the amazing restaurants. In the afternoon you could visit one of the four museums, such as The Mitropolis Museum, The Venetian Museum Della Rocca-Barozzi, The Archaeological Museum or The Folk Museum Collection.
If you are looking for a Greek island to visit where you won’t be bothered by the throngs of other tourists, then you should consider going to Serifos. It’s one of the top Greek islands for couples. Serifos is a pristine, remote island that accommodates visitors who are looking for something different.
With limited access to gasoline, Serifos offers visitors the opportunity to explore the island on foot or by bike. Backroads are unpaved and scenic. The capital, Chora, is home to tavernas, cafes, churches and other important buildings which offer traditional Greek culture. The town also has two museums and a number of restaurants to check out.
Serifos has some of the most beautiful yet secluded beaches in Greece, such as the Livadakia, Vagia, Kalos Ambeli, and Skala beach. It’s a well-known fact that Serifos is one of the best greek islands for beaches and that the beaches are one of the most popular attractions for this island. There are eight beaches within walking distance from town and another eleven worth visiting, as well as a few more to explore by boat.
After your day at the beach, you could head to the many popular tourist attractions, such as Monastery Evangelistria, or grab a bite to eat at Stou Stratou, Aloni, Metalleio, or even Kalis Seafood Restaurant. There are also many places to stay, like The Captain’s House, Cocomat Eco Residences, or even at the Alexondros Resort.
Final thoughts about visiting the Greek islands
In conclusion, there are many Greek islands to visit. Some people like to go to one of the most popular, like Santorini or Mykonos, while others prefer one that is less traveled. Wherever you decide to go, there will be plenty of beaches and good food for everyone.
If you want a vacation this year, plan a trip to one of the Greek islands!
Trust us: Our list of top Greek Islands to visit will come in handy in the future.