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Most have heard of glitzy Mykonos, party-mad Zante and cosmopolitan Corfu. Yet there are over 6,000 Greek islands to explore. Whether you’re in search of white-sand beach retreats, romantic honeymoon holidays or child-friendly family hotels, here are eight lesser-known islands that are worth the boat trip.
Days here are spent wandering small alleys, spotting church domes and drinking wine at the island’s famed port. Largely known for its ship-building industry, Symi’s harbour is one of the most picturesque across all the Greek islands. Peach-coloured houses frame the bay, and over 100 monasteries pepper the wooded hinterlands. Bring walking shoes – there are barely any cars, but hiking routes aplenty.
With over 70 beaches, each enclosed by rugged cliffs and lapping, blue waves, Milos is a sun-seeker’s paradise – but that’s not all the island has to offer. Just a short walk beyond the beaches lie ancient catacombs, castles, amphitheatre ruins and Papafragas’ aquamarine swimming hole. Meander through the island’s labyrinthine capital, Plaka, or head north-east to Pollonia, for harbour-side restaurants and wineries.
While many have heard of Ithaca, few have made the trip. Known as the homeland of Homer’s Odysseus, this mythical island does not disappoint. While you’re unlikely to find any cyclops, lotus eaters or witches turning men into swines, you’ll come across emerald coves, castle ruins, forested hills and 16th-century church frescoes. Head to the capital, Vathy, for pale candy-coloured buildings of yellows and pinks, and stay in Perantzada Art Hotel. Housed in a 19th-century neoclassical building, this boutique hotel flaunts walls decorated with beautiful works of modern art.
Only a couple of hours flight from Athens, Hydra has become known as a haven for the art crowd. Home to the School of Fine Arts, this car-free island offers rugged cliffs, stone-grey mansions, wandering donkeys and steep steps leading you into the quaint towns that dot the island. There are no large-scale hotels; only small, bohemian stays and cute cafés inviting you in for a glass of perfectly chilled rosé.
With rocky coastlines, a national park filled with wild horses, seaside villages and pine-fringed beaches, it’s no wonder that Kefalonia is one of the more popular Greek islands. The largest of the Ionian Islands, this is the place to spend mornings lazing in the shade of sheer cliffs at storied Myrtos Beach before ambling around the ruins of 16th-century hilltop Castle of St George overlooking the island’s south coast. It also has an airport, so there’s no lengthy boat ride keeping you from this Ionian paradise.
This sleepy island offers no flashy hotels, barely any shops and minimal nightlife. Away from crowds of neighbouring Cyclades hotspot Mykonos, Serifos offers dramatic landscapes and blissful solitude. The best beaches are accessible only by dirt roads and boats, and Livadi is a quiet, taverna-lined harbour perfect for buckets of seafood and bottles of white wine as you watch the tide roll in.
Vineyards, thyme fields and hillside hamlets weave upwards to towering chapels, dovecotes and ancient ruins. Tinos boasts more than 50 tiny villages, each quaintly moulded with Cycladic minimalism, complete with marble sculptures and traditional tavernas. Despite being only a 30-minute ferry trip from Mykonos, this island is relatively untouched by tourists – bar the surfers who have heard rumours of Kolibithra Bay’s perfect waves and beach bars.
Differing from its Cycladic neighbours inundated with rocky cliffs and dry stone pathways, Andros is covered in a blanket of lush greenery, interrupted only by natural springs and cascading waterfalls. Visit here for nature treks, mountain hikes and elegant villas.
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