Greek islands are undeniably some of the most beautiful locations to visit, from exploring as a family to partying with friends. But which ones should be at the top of your list? We have 8 of the best Greek islands to explore and visit for your 2022 holiday. Sit back, relax and get ready to be inspired by the beautiful Greek culture.
Table of Contents:
How Many Greek Islands Are There?
There are 227 Greek islands. These inhabited islands are split into six collections:
- The Saronic Islands
- The Cyclased & Crete
- The Ionian Islands
- The Dodecanese Islands
- The Sporades
- The Northern Aegean
It has recently been thought that Greece sovereign land includes 6,000 islands, but this number can vary depending on what you may class as an island.
You will not be short of places to see and admire while travelling though the Greek islands. From the gorgeous Ionian and Sporades islands to great Greek islands for history. More often than not, you can fly to these Greek Islands with direct flights from London. This makes your travel experience easier and more efficient, but if you want to take the scenic route, ferries are available. You can also explore a multitude of landscapes when island hopping in Greece, as they provide an integral part of Greece’s culture and traditions. With so much on offer, it’s no wonder Greece was amongst the top ten holiday destination for UK travellers in 2019!
8 of the Most Popular Greek Islands
Santorini is the perfect Greek island for first time visitors or honeymooners celebrating their love. In every direction you can see the pristine white buildings with the iconic blue domes, which make you feel like you have just walked straight out of a Hollywood romcom. While taking in the sights you may notice a queue of tourists lining up to take a selfie with Santorini’s famous caldera. This landmark is the flooded volcanic crater that blew out of Santorini’s heart 3,500 years ago. The hassle of having a photo here may seem like a long process, but once standing in front of the view, the scenery truly takes your breath away.
Once the volcanic explosion happened, the remains created fertile ground which is ideal for the exceptional Assyrtiko grapes and Vinsanto wines. You can sample the volcanic wines for yourself when visiting Sigalas and Vassaltis wineries. On these tours your friendly expert will guide you around the inner workings of the winery right up to the production process, before you relax and enjoy a glass for yourself.
How to get to Santorini:
Arriving on the Greek island of Santorini is easy from mainland Greece by boat or plane. Many cities within Europe provide direct flights to Santorini. If you are from the UK, British Airways can offer direct flights from London Heathrow and London City and the journey takes about four hours in good weather. Refer to our airport codes guide to make choosing the right airport easy.
Kefalonia / Cephalonia
Kefalonia (or Cephalonia) is the Greek island known for its dramatic and rugged coastlines. Placed in the spotlight in 2001, after Penélope Cruz shot the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin there, it has lived up to the idyllic location ever since. From the Myrtos beach with its milky-white sand to hiking the trails of Mount Ainos to watch the wild horses roam. This Greek island is ideal for the whole family to spend quality time together, trying new activities.
How to get to Kefalonia / Cephalonia:
To reach the Greek island of Kefalonia (Cephalonia) you can board direct flights from the UK, Mainland Greece and other European countries to the island’s airport, Kefalonia International Airport.
By plane: In the UK you can take a direct flight, with Tui, from London Gatwick, London Stansted, East Midlands and Manchester. The flights take just under 4 hours to reach the Greek island of Kefalonia.
By boat: One daily journey, which runs around 3 or 4 times a day, is catching a ferry from Killini, mainland Peloponnese to Kefalonia’s port Poros. The journey takes 1 hour and 30 minutes. You can also drive and take a ferry from Piraeus to the Greek island, which is a total journey time of 5 hours and 36 minutes.
Labelled the cosmopolitan capital of the Greek islands, Corfu’s character has a special charm about it. Being one of the larger Greek islands, you could easily spend days seeking out new adventures and dining in unpretentious luxury. If you enjoy seafood, visiting Agni Bay in the north-east of the island is a must! The historic fishing village is a quaint and secluded area which you can unwind and take in the scenery. To experience Corfu’s culture, attend The Varkarola festival at the start of August. This yearly festival, full of fireworks, music and dancing, is to celebrate Saint Spyridon, who was believed to save the Greek island from Turkish invasion. Corfu’s scenic beaches are highly instagrammable and their warm, shallow waters make Corfu one of the best Greek islands for families.
How to get to Corfu:
Located 2.7km from the city of Corfu, Corfu airport is well connected to mainland Greece and international airports. If travelling from the UK, airports such as London Heathrow and Stansted operate direct flights, which take around 3 hours. If you are traveling from other European cities, Tui can provide packages to suit your needs. With the option to fly from four European countries, you have the choice of departing from nearly 30 international airports, including Helsinki Airport, Stockholm Arlanda Airport and Copenhagen Airport.
Mykonos may come to mind when imagining the white beaches of a Greek island. Rising to popularity, due to being one of the best party islands before rave culture was a thing, Mykonos now promotes luxury Greek villas and five star hotels, as well as decadent parties everyone wants to get invited to. Situated within the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea, Mykonos old town is not to be missed. Lined with independent shops and eateries, the old town captures the hearts of travellers, leaving them wanting to return for more.
How to get to Mykonos:
Arriving at Mykonos is easy both by air and sea.
By plane: This Greek island is easily reachable all year round thanks to direct flights from Athens and European cities. From the UK, direct flights can be boarded from London Heathrow with British Airways or Easyjet providing services from London Gatwick, London Luton and Manchester.
By boat: Travelling by sea to the Greek island can be done by taking a direct ferry (both slow or fast) from Athens port to Mykonos.
As the biggest Greek Island, Crete is known for being the birthplace of the mythical god Zeus. It can be the perfect place to spend a weekend as part of a European tour or a week long holiday. The longer you can pencil into your diary the better! There are many spots to overturn and sunshine is pretty much guaranteed on this island’s shores, which is why it is a hot spot for tourists who arrive from cooler climates. If you are escaping your everyday routine for an authentic Greek holiday, venturing west for the Amari valley or Apokoronas is a must! Here you will find traditional Greek villages which are surrounded by beautiful olive and orange groves.
How to get to Crete:
By plane: Fly into Heraklion International Airport from a selection of European cities. Tui provide packages from four European countries including Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark. Taking flight from the UK, you can board a direct flight from London Heathrow and arrive in Crete four hours later.
By boat: Ferry trips are possible to the Greek island but the fastest route will take you six and a half hours. You would have to catch the ferry from the port of Piraeus in Athens to the port of Heraklion and Chania, in Crete.
Zante / Zakynthos
What once was known as a wild party island, the Greek island of Zante (Zakynthos) has rebranded as one of Greece’s greenest islands. Much of the south coast has been transformed into a nature reserve, where the endangered loggerhead turtles can hatch their eggs into the sand. Not only do the turtles have a safe place to hatch, the turtle beaches have become off limits in order to preserve the wildlife. In every inch of the island you can explore and marvel in its beauty, by hiking through the pine forests or discovering the Venetian castle which sits high above the harbor. There are plenty of coves on this Greek island to uncover which present an array of blue and green hues in the crystal water.
How to get to Zante / Zakynthos:
By plane: During the summer months, direct flights are possible from the majority of European cities to the island’s airport, Zakynthos International Airport. Out of peak season it is possible to reach the Greek island by first flying into Athens and joining a connecting flight from Athens to Zakynthos. The total flying time between the two Greek locations is around 45 minutes.
By boat: A ferry trip to the island can take one and a half hours if leaving from the port of Killini on the western side of Peloponnese.
If you are looking for a great Greek island for history, visit the island of Rhodes. It stands as one of the largest Greek islands in the Dodecanese collection, and is packed full of beaches and historic elements to take inspiration from. Roman ruins, the medieval citadel in the old town, and a 15th century guest house decorated in the style of pasha’s harem are just a few of the sites which make Rhodes one of the best Greek islands for history fans. Rhodes can provide a wonderful adventure to any traveller. If you are planning a beach retreat, visiting the coastline of Saint Paul’s Bay should be top of your list. With gorgeous coastlines admiring the turquoise waters, you can stand in wonder for hours, just remember to pack the suncream!
How to get to Rhodes:
By plane: Rhodes International Airport has been classed as one of the four most busiest airports in Greece. During the Summer months, direct flights to the Greek island can be taken from many European cities, including London. During peak season and the cooler months, flights can be taken from Athens and Thessaloniki.
By boat: Taking a ferry to the Greek island is easy from Athens. Simply board at Piraeus port and relax, the downfall to this journey is it could vary anywhere from 16 to 18 hours. Other ferry options are available from different Greek islands, such as Kos, and even Marmaris in Turkey!
Skiathos is one of the smaller islands located within the Sporades islands, but by far one of the most popular with tourists. People retreat to this Greek island in search of soft, white sand and a calming atmosphere. Perfect for a relaxing holiday for the whole family, whatever age range you may be travelling with. Everywhere you look, the natural landscape is lined with pine trees, promoting the soothing feeling you want when on holiday. With a number of beaches at the tip of your fingers, the most popular to explore are the Koukounaries, Banana and Troulos. Each one allows guests to swim in crystal clear water and sunbathe on golden sands.
How to get to Skiathos:
By plane: Skiathos island has a single airport, Skiathos Airport Alexandros Papadiamantis, which you can fly into throughout the year. Direct flights are available from a selection of European cities, otherwise you can land in Athens and catch a connecting flight to the Greek island of Skiathos.
By boat: There are no direct ferries from Athens mainland to Skiathos, but you can reach the Greek island if you depart from Agios Konstantinos port in Volos or Mantoudi port in northern Evia.
Discovering a new Greek island can be a fun way to explore new areas of the world! To stay up to date with the latest posts from Virtual Wanderlust, you can follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.