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How to choose the perfect Greek island for you

Authors: Chris Deliso & Jennifer Carey

1/9 ● Lonely Planet
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Every Greek island has its own personal rhythm and delight

it's why they are such a thrilling destination to explore no matter what type of vacation you desire.



Image: ©Getty Images

Best Greek islands for sun, sea and sand

Crete – Lipsi – Kefallonia – Skiathos – Mykonos



Image: Koukounaries is one of the most renowned and popular beaches in the Greek islands © David Abrams / Getty Images

Almost every Greek isle has great beaches, but few come with a Venetian castle, like laid-back Frangokastello Beach in southern Crete. For lapping turquoise waters, try Platys Gialos on quiet Lipsi – its gradual slope into the water makes it very child friendly. And there are few beaches more stunning than the cove at Myrtos Beach in Kefallonia – it's renowned amongst locals and visitors alike.

Best Greek islands for diving and snorkeling

Crete – Milos – Paros – Santorini



Image: The Cyclades, which lie in the stunningly blue Aegean Sea, are a popular destination for snorkeling and diving © Manuel Breva Colmeiro / Getty Images

Much of Crete's coastline is a paradise for snorkeling and diving, but the sunken city of Olous near Elounda is a spectacular and relatively easy dive. Milos has phenomenal diving face-to-face with deep-sea fish, dolphins and even monk seals.

Snorkeling is great on Paros and picturesque Santorini is renowned for the high visibility in its waters, as well as reefs teeming with life and several old shipwrecks to explore.

Best Greek islands for ancient ruins, myths and legends

Rhodes – Delos – Corfu – Patmos





Image: The ancient city walls in Rhodes' Old Town © Westend61 / Getty Images

Gape at Rhodes’ magnificent, walled Old Town, where the Knights of St John ruled from 1309 to 1523, and explore their quarter before visiting the 14th-century Palace of the Grand Masters.

Tiny Delos, accessed via Mykonos, was the mythical birthplace of twins Apollo and Artemis – see ruins of shrines to the gods and explore mosaic-rich ancient dwellings. Overnight stays are forbidden, so keep a tight eye on the weather-dependent boat schedules.

After the peace and quiet of Delos, throw yourself into the bustle of Corfu’s Old Town and its warren of narrow streets full of lively bars, shops and restaurants.

Best Greek islands for hiking and cycling

Crete – Naxos – Evia – Thasos



Image: Tourists hike through the Samaria Gorge in central Crete © Dziewul / Shutterstock

The varied terrain on Greece’s biggest island, Crete, ranges from gentle plateaus dotted with windmills to canyons and mountains. Hiking the Samaria Gorge, Europe’s longest at 16km (10miles), takes you through the homeland of Crete’s famed wild goat, the kri-kri.

The quiet meandering roads of Evia make for blissfully stress-free cycling and you can stretch out at a local vineyard after a day of graft. Excellent forested trails (and a popular international race) bring mountain biking aficionados to Thasos. Both islands are under the radar of most visitors and you can look forward to having beautiful beaches all to yourself when you need a rest from the road

Best Greek islands for families with kids

Naxos – Corfu – Crete



Image: A family wanders the cobbled streets of Corfu fortress © ankarb / Getty Images

Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades and packs a lot of bang for its buck. The beaches are often quiet and have lots of activities like kite-surfing and paddle-boarding on offer. Restaurants are incredibly child friendly – you'll be welcomed to the table like long-lost family.

The old town of Corfu is a beautiful place to explore with kids and even has a miniature wooden train that runs hourly sightseeing trips – perfect for when little legs get tired. Aqualand Corfu Water Park is one of the biggest attractions in Greece for kids and is definitely worth making time to visit.

The size of Crete means you'll never run out of activities for the kids. The pink sand on Elafonissi beach in Chania will charm everyone and the shallow water in the lagoon on the western side of the beach is perfect for toddlers and young swimmers.

Best Greek island for food and drink

Lesvos – Samos – Folegandros – Crete – Corfu



Image: Lobster, mussels, and other seafood are popular in traditional Greek cuisine, thanks to the country's expansive coastline © InnaFelker / Getty Images / iStockphoto


Lesvos is renowned for its olive oil and ouzo (it produces some 70% of all Greek ouzo). The national aperitif is served with mixed mezedhes (appetizers) at traditional ouzeries (ouzo restaurants), which blend the island’s old Turkish influences with Greek seafood specialities. Lesvos produces fine wine, as does Samos, famed for its sweet muscat dessert wine.

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