Guide to the Greek Islands

By Amira Hashish

Where to begin when navigating Greece’s sparkling islands? There are more than 200 inhabited destinations to uncover, brimming with world-class beaches, dazzling sunsets and culinary delights. Start by getting to know the main groups, each with their own mix of statement escapes and hidden gems, before deciding on the island-hopping route that works for you….

The Cyclades Islands

The lowdown: Many of the Greek islands’ most well-known and magical spots can be found in the Cyclades. There are two big players; Santorini for ultimate romantic escapes bathed in luxury and Mykonos for parties and beach clubs.

These destinations aside, there are so many more hidden gems to be found with signature sandy beaches, beautifully crafted white and blue houses and isolated chapels.

There is a buzz around Milos’s breathtaking beaches and Kleftiko caves, Tinos has a cool creative scene emerging whilst Naxos is the place for activities to keep the whole family busy. Paros houses Byzantine footpaths connecting traditional villages and breathtaking landscapes with crystal clear waters. Sikinos is a more tourist free option, as is Serifos with its white villages, quiet harbours and golden sand.

A place to know: Just a seven-minute ferry from its big brother Paros lies Antiparos. A truly dreamy destination, it has the feeling of being a secret paradise whilst also subtly featuring a brilliant selection of restaurants and well-curated shops. Stay at The Rooster for a truly impeccable experience. Most of the wonderfully designed suites have their own private pool, the sunsets are movie-quality, the restaurant is a joy and there is access to a translucent soft-sand beach, theroosterantiparos.com

Alternatively, for a selection of villas across Mykonos, Paros, Antiparos and more check out The Luxury Travel Book, theluxurytravelbook.com. Email Jamie@theluxurytavelbook.com and let him know you are a BBB member.

In Santorini and Mykonos BBB members receive 15% off spa treatments and a complimentary bottle of champagne for bookings of 7 nights or more at the luxe Katikies hotels, katikies.com.

Click here to become a member of BBB if you aren’t already.

Crete

The lowdown: It takes around six hours to drive from one end of Crete to the other and there is so much to take in along the way. This island has it all; nature, history, produce and beaches to write home about. You’ll find pink sand in Elafonissi and laid-back but luxurious beach clubs in Elounda. Chania is a picturesque harbour town that packs a punch. The Venetian, Turkish, traditional and modern architecture is set against archaeological sites. History buffs will also be keen to visit the ruins of Knossos, Malia, Zakros and Phaistos.

A place to know: those in the know are heading to Acro Suites, a new wellness resort just west of Heraklion. At the very tip of a peninsula, its cave suites are built directly into naturally occurring caverns with pool terraces half-shaded by natural rock, acrosuites.com.

Alternatively, Daios Cove has a selection of suites and villas that can be booked via Carrier, carrier.co.uk. Contact bbb@carrier.co.uk to get access to benefits.

The Dodecanese Islands

The lowdown: Rhodes and Kos are the two most famous islands of this group, both with airports. They provide a gateway to some of the much more off-the-beaten-track but beautiful spots. One to know is Symi. Centred around the delightful port, the hill that sits just above blooms with colourful mansions. With incredible views of the Aegean Sea from most corners, there is something mystical about this island. Hop around by boat and soak up life’s simple pleasures.

A place to know: If you are seeking an adults-only beach getaway with a healthy dose of style Oku Kos has you covered. The chic beach resort has a very chilled out spa, farm-to-fork dishes and a rustic but luxurious design. Not to mention a standout sunset every night, okuhotels.com. The hotel is a part of the Red Savannah collection. Contact Sarah Leigh slshenton@redsavannah.com and let her know you are a BBB member.

Saronic Gulf Islands

The lowdown: Keen to tie in an Athens trip with an island break? This is the closest group to the Greek capital and is full of picture perfect isles. Hydra, Poros, Spetses, Agistri and Aegina tend to fly under the radar and that’s part of their appeal. Hydra is built in the shape of an amphitheatre on a slope overlooking the Argosaronic gulf. Think stone mansions, cobblestoned streets and, perhaps most remarkably, no cars. Donkeys are the main mode of public transportation here.

A place to know: Hotel Bratsera is a former sponge factory in Hydra that has been lovingly restored and turned into a charming little bolthole. The building surrounds a peaceful garden with a pool and the vibrant harbour is just a two-minute stroll away. If you’re keen for an authentic slice of Greece, this is it, bratserahotel.com.

The Ionian Islands

The lowdown: The most prominent of these lush, green islands is Corfu with its beautiful UNESCO protected old town. There are other notable options though; Kefalonia has emerald beaches and standout wineries. Then there is Paxos for underwater caves, small bays and green hills. Antipaxos is its neighbouring small but perfectly formed island. In Ithaca, the home of Odysseus, you will find peace and serenity. If rugged cliffs and a vibrant underwater world are your thing, make a beeline for Zakynthos or try Lefkada for secluded beaches and sweet villages. Not forgetting Aphrodite’s birthplace of Kythera.

A place to know: If you are planning a trip to Paxos, Scott Williams are the specialists. The family-run travel service prides itself on knowing all the locals; from chefs to diving experts (some who double as both) and they have an impressive villa collection alongside a team on the ground to help with boat and car hire or table bookings, scottwilliams.co.uk.

The Sporades Islands

The lowdown: Skiathos may be known as the nightlife spot but just across the way is the much more chilled and nature-filled Skopelos with forests, monasteries, coves and shipwrecks off the coast. Did we mention it is also where Mamma Mia was filmed? Alonissos is the base for fishing or spotting Mediterranean wildlife. Culture lovers will soak up the ceramics of Skyros before meandering through the mountaintop capital of Chora and exploring its Venetian castle. 

A place to know: Adrina Resort & Spa is ideal for families with 22 villas and 16 rooms on site. All have an outdoor balcony with sprawling views across the glistening blue Aegean Sea, adrinaresort.com.

Northeast Aegean Islands

The lowdown: Closest to Turkey, these islands are brimming with stunning beaches, forests and sand dunes. The main islands to have on your radar are Limnos, Samos, Lesvos, Chios and Ikaria, packed with thermal springs.

A place to know: Lesvos is the third biggest island in Greece behind Corfu and Evia but it remains much less trodden. With delicious food, sprawling beaches, imposing pine and hardwood forests (including the remarkable petrified forest of western Lesbos) and more than a million olive trees, this feels like traditional Greece. Oliver’s Travels has a collection of luxury villas on its books, oliverstravels.com.