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With 6,000 islands scattered across the Aegean and Ionian seas, Greece is a haven of sun-drenched shores, natural beauty and captivating history. Whether you’re part of the boho crowd, craving culinary adventure or in search of a bargain, there’s an island for you. We’ve picked out some of the best, and spotlighted the hotels you should book now.
For the bohemian set
This sleepy enclave is ideal for those looking to get back to nature. Spend mornings trekking around the cascading waterfalls and natural pools hidden throughout Samothraki’s hilly hinterlands, or hike up Fengari mountain, the highest peak in the Aegean. In the afternoons, soak up panoramic views and soothe aching muscles in the hot springs of Therma, which have been melting away stress since the Byzantine period.
Where to stay: Niki Beach Hotel is located in Kamariotissa, right in the centre of the island, has entertained the boho crowd for almost 40 years. Delve into the narrow alleys of Chora, a nearby traditional protected settlement, sunbathe on Pachia Ammos beach or to take a dip in the vathres (natural pools) for which the island is famed – there are more than 100.
You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d taken a step back in time as you arrive on this island. Working donkeys meander down cobbled streets, fishermen haul their latest catch onto the harbours and food markets selling fresh Aegean food line the shore. Home to the School of Fine Arts, this car-free island has become a haven for the art crowd, with rugged cliffs and whitewashed buildings providing ample creative inspiration.
Where to stay: What this island lacks in large-scale hotels, it makes up for in trendy, bohemian stays. Our favourite is Cotommatae Hydra 1810, a traditional Grecian building complete with courtyards fragrant with lemon trees and towering stone parapets.
With ancient Byzantine history, crumbling ruins, enchanting hilltop villages and endless white sand beaches, this relatively unknown Cyclades island offers rugged charm at its most alluring. Head to the shore for meals of freshly caught fish accompanied by golden sunsets.
Where to stay: Hugging Naxos’ sandy Plaka Beach, Naxian on the Beach boutique hotel is reserved for grown-ups only. Doze off on beachfront sun loungers or park yourself firmly at the shoreline hotel bar.
Famous for being Aristotle’s birthplace, this island in northern Greece epitomises Grecian beauty. While forested land gives way to tranquil sandy beaches, the island gives off a party vibe on the Kassandra peninsula, where beach bars and clubs draw in an exceedingly boho-crowd.
Where to stay: Stay at Danai Beach Resort & Villas for a truly pampering retreat. Complete with a private beach and serene spa, it makes leaving the island a near-impossible feat.
For the adventurous crowd
Brimming with unadulterated natural beauty, Greece’s largest island has much to explore. Meander among olive groves and go for barefoot walks along sandy beaches, or immerse yourself in millennia of culture and history as you navigate historic monasteries and crumbling ruins.
Where to stay: Rimondi Boutique Hotel serves as an idyllic pitstop between adventures. Choose from one of two buildings: Palazzo Rimondi is a decadent pink Venetian manor, while the newer Rimondi Estate has a more exclusive hotel feel.
The historical capital of the Dodecanese islands, Rhodes is chock-full of things to see and do. With names that evoke fond memories of the Game of Thrones, many of the places here are every bit as mystical as they sound. Split your time between Mandraki Harbour, the Acropolis of Lindos, the ancient cities of Kamiros and Ialysos, and Petaloúdes – the Valley of the Butterflies.
Where to stay: Surrounded by fragrant gardens and cascading vines, the sandstone Melenos Lindos Hotel is delicately perched atop an acropolis overlooking the coast. Elaborate woodwork and dainty ceramics decorate the inside, although with views across the Aegean, we doubt you’ll be spending much time indoors.
Eschew the crowds of the more popular Greek islands for dreamlike Serifos. For those looking for an off-grid retreat, this is the place for you. Satisfy your need for adventure with hikes along unpaved dirt tracks to discover hidden bays and empty beaches, or rent a boat to set sail in search of uncharted coves.
Where to stay: Oozing sophistication, Coco-Mat Eco Residences prides itself on sustainable elegance. The eco-friendly hotel places focus on the surrounding nature, making it the perfect base between days spent exploring the island.
For the bargain hunters
One of the more popular Greek islands, Santorini has plenty of entertainment to ensure you get your money’s worth. Avoid costly attractions and glitzy tourist traps, and head to some of the remarkable (and free) spoils the island has to offer. Stop by Akrotiri for the ruins of a Bronze Age village, the caldera – a volcanic crater – or Vlychada Beach for white sands backed by rugged cliffs.
Where to stay: Standing out from Santorini’s overly Instagrammed pristine buildings, the converted 18th-century mansion of Zannos Melathron stands out amid its whitewashed counterparts. While it’s hard to find accommodation that is real steal in Santorini, you’ll feel like royalty without completely emptying out your pockets at this historic hotel.
The pine-fringed beaches of Kefalonia make it hard to stray too far away from the shore. Instead of splashing the cash on fancy meals and expensive drinks, spend days sunbathing on rocky coastlines, pootling round seaside villages and walking through national parks.
Where to stay: Reflecting the surrounding landscape, rooms at Emelisse Hotel are decorated with nature-inspired neutrals. Money is well spent here. Embrace the hotel’s perks and nab a sofa on the terrace to watch the sunset, laze on loungers by the infinity pool or borrow bicycles to pedal around nearby harbour towns.
Draped in a blanket of lush greenery, the verdant wonderland of Andros invites visitors to while away the hours on ethereal treks. Keep an eye out for natural springs cascading down hillsides, and elegant villas looming within forests.
Where to stay: With a name from the ancient Greek word for “dream”, Onar Andros does what it says on the tin. Tucked in the Achla Valley, its secluded cottages blend into the surrounds with Cycladic architecture, minimalist design and a soothing palette.
For real foodies
Covered in rows of vineyards and olive groves, this island has a well-earned reputation for producing some of the best food and wine in Greece. Taste-test your way around fertile farms and don’t forget to try the ouzo – the island makes half of the country’s output of this popular liquor.
Where to stay: Lesvion Hotel sits in the heart of Mytilini, a tiny town brimming with delicious seafood restaurants and cute cafés. Choose between rooms overlooking the Aegean port, or those with vistas over the majestic Church of Agios Therapontas.
Every tiny restaurant on Páros boasts a menu of delicious mezze and freshly caught fish. Take yourself on an epicurean’s tour of the island, spending extra time in Parikiá and Náoussa, two particularly foodie regions which specialise in seafood platters and juicy moussaka.
Where to stay: After a day working your way round the tavernas of Páros, collapse into a plush bed at Mr and Mrs White Paros. Classic Cycladic design of whitewashed walls and minimalist decor make for a quintessentially Greek retreat.
This island of mythical reputation is much more than simply Odysseus’s homeland. Work up an appetite exploring castle ruins, emerald coves and 16th-century churches before heading straight into the capital, Vathy, for family-run restaurants housed in pastel-hued buildings.
Where to stay: A renovated 19th-century neoclassical building, Perantzada Art Hotel is a boutique retreat adorned with countless works of modern art.
For the revellers
A popular spot with those looking to blow off some steam, Mykonos has earned a reputation as a party island. Watch the sun go down at shoreside restaurants with a cool glass of Greek wine before joining the rest of the Mykonos crowd at the island’s top watering holes.
Where to stay: Reflecting Mykonos’ laid-back atmosphere, San Giorgio’s Cycladic design brings together minimalist interiors and epic Aegean views. Recover from the night before by dozing off in hammocks dotted around the hotel, replenishing your energy with vitamin-packed smoothies and getting a well-deserved massage at the hotel’s spa.
While its reputation as a party island still stands firm, Zante has much more to offer than just buzzing bars and crazy clubs. Spend days exploring the paths less trodden to find acres of forested land and charming rural villages. Then head back to the bustling centre for sunset cocktails and late-night partying.
Where to stay: Stay at Olea All Suite Hotel to ensure you get your fix of relaxation amid the chaos. If the lagoon-like pool and views of the Ionian Sea aren’t enough to tempt you, perhaps the majestic Royal Spa complete with hamam, yoga studio and beauty salon will do the trick.
Less extreme than Mykonos or Zante, Corfu defines revelling in a more sophisticated manner. Afternoon drinks should be accompanied by large quantities of fresh Greek food at traditional restaurants, naturally followed by more drinks on terraces overlooking the island’s verdant olive groves and pristine beaches.
Where to stay: Perched on a tree-clad hillside, Marbella Nido Suite Hotel & Villas offers hypnotic views and traditional Corfiot vibes. Dine at any one of the three restaurants before dozing off next to the sea-facing infinity pool.
For the aesthetes
Known for its picturesque harbour, Symi is the place to potter about the bay admiring candy-coloured houses and cute cafés. Alternatively, head into the wooded hinterlands to explore ancient ruins and more than 100 crumbling monasteries. Ditch your snap-happy pals, you’ll want to keep the view all to yourself.
Where to stay: Nestled in the heart of Symi’s harbour, The Old Markets is a converted – you guessed it – old market. Wake up to gorgeous views across the bustling town before stepping into the action right on your doorstep.
An island of colour, Milos is relatively unknown in spite of its breathtaking beauty. One for the art lovers, Milos has been the location for the discovery of countless ancient artefacts and artworks, including the Venus de Milo and the Asclepius of Milos. Once you’ve satisfied your inner art-nerd, choose between any of the island’s 70-plus beaches, or explore countless castle ruins and catacombs.
Where to stay: Kapetan Tasos Suites offers panoramic views, boutique hotels and gorgeously sandy bays. Located in the little fishing village of Pollonia, this is the place to spend days exploring cobbled streets before retreating back to your private slice of heaven.
Very different to neighbouring island Mykonos, Tinos is defined by tranquility and beauty. Olive groves thread among the vineyards, interrupted only by quaint hamlets and towering chapels. Across more than 50 tiny villages, visitors will find elaborate marble sculptures interspersed among pared-back architecture. A favourite among surfers for its good waves and beach bars, this picture-perfect island is the ultimate destination for chilling.
Where to stay: On the southern coast of Tinos, Diles & Rinies: Luxury Hotel Villas provides a serene retreat. The resort offers luxury villas complete with private pools and individual gardens. Head back to the estate to wander through the art gallery and dine at the hotel restaurant.
Known as Santorini’s little sister, Therasia is clad in whitewashed houses with cobalt blue doors and shutters – but unlike Santorini, it is often entirely tourist-free. Like stepping back in time, Therasia has moved at its own pace over the years; electricity didn’t arrive until 1980 and the first road wasn’t paved until 2008. Come for true serenity and views that must be seen to be believed.
Where to stay: If privacy is what you seek, Perivolas Hideaway has exactly what you need. Priding itself on peaceful seclusion, the hotel is only reachable by boat. Spend days taking dips in the infinity pool overlooking the storied volcanic caldera and toasting to yourself for an excellent choice of Greek island.
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