The best Greek islands to visit in 2022

Wondering which are the best Greek islands to visit? We take a look at the best destinations for couples, families and more...

Navagio Beach, or Shipwreck Beach on the coast of Zakynthos, one of the best Greek islands to visit
(Image credit: Getty / David C Tomlinson)

The best Greek islands have beaches for miles, ancient ruins to explore, and meze on every corner. Whether you're planning on island hopping or you want to explore just one Greek island in this alluring part of Southern Europe, discover which one is right for you.

From the picturesque houses of Santorini, to the sparkling sands of Zante's beaches, we've rounded up all the best Greek Islands whether you're planning on booking a honeymoon or a trip with your family. Temperatures vary in Greece and although it's one of the best places to visit in July, when highs of 29°C/78 °F are common, you can also get warm temperatures (and way fewer crowds) in the shoulder seasons too - should you want to plan a vacation in October or go on holiday in April or May.

Of course, travel has changed considerably since the pandemic, and although the Greek Islands are still open for tourists, you are advised to familiarise yourself with the travel restrictions both in Greece and at home before making any bookings and before departing for your trip. View the latest travel restrictions and advice from the tourism board in Greece here (opens in new tab).

Best Greek islands to visit if it's your first time

Crete

Azure blue sea off the coast of Crete

(Image credit: Getty/David C Tomlinson)

Best Greek Island for: The whole family

Crete is Greece's largest Island and has got everything you could want from a European holiday: stunning beaches, excellent resorts, incredible scenery, bucolic villages and a long, fascinating history. It’s also the country’s largest island.

There’s also plenty to keep you occupied if sunbathing isn't your thing. Active types can hike along canyons, cycle among orchards, kayak on the ocean or simply snorkel in the warm Mediterranean Sea. While history buffs will love the ruins of the Palace of Knossos and the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.

If you love a day at the beach or a sundowner with the sky melting into the background, there’s plenty of options to choose from on the island’s vast coastline. Choose Elafonisi to see pink-tinged sea, Mátala for romance come dusk and Frangokástello for sugar-soft sand.

How to get to Crete from the mainland: There are direct flights from most major airports to Crete’s three airports in Heraklion, Chania and the smaller Sitia. Heraklion and Sitia also have ferry ports, which connect to Santorini, Milos, Kasos and Rhodes.

Where to stay in Crete: There are plenty of hotels and holiday resorts in Crete for all budgets. For something sophisticated, try the Cayo exclusive resort and spa (opens in new tab), which has luxury rooms and world-class restaurants. A more affordable option is Arminda Hotel & Spa (opens in new tab) which is a great choice for families.

Top Tip: Want to feel like you've stepped into a picture postcard? Take a trip to Balos Lagoon - one of the most picturesque beaches in Greece.

Ios

A view of the sea on the greek island of Ios

(Image credit: Getty)

Best Greek island for: Uncrowded views

Prepare to be charmed by the sparkling blue waters and pretty whitewashed villages of Ios. With a pretty harbor overlooking the Aegean sea, the island’s capital, Chora, is a rival to neighboring Santorini for its scenery – and there's fewer crowds here too. 

Known for its hills - it's also ideal for hiking. And for the less adventurous, there are gorgeous, untouched beaches - although some are only accessible by boat.

How to get to Ios from the mainland: Fly to Santorini and take a two-hour ferry to Ios, or fly into Athens and take the ferry (runs 4-5 times per week; takes 4-8 hours) from the city’s main port, Piraeus. Ferries connect Ios from other Greek Islands too, including Naxos, Anafi, Paros, Milos and Mykonos.

Where to stay in Ios: Small and stylish with a spectacular sea view location, we love Liostasi Hotel & Suites (opens in new tab). Rooms are small but come with balconies and the pool overlooks the Aegean Sea. The most luxurious accommodation on the island, though has to be Calilo: a hedonistic luxury hideaway (opens in new tab), with its variety of serene outdoor pools, a private beach and a leafy estate covered in more than 41,000 trees to find shade under. 

Top Tip: Book six months to a year ahead to get the best deals on accommodation and excursions. 

Corfu

A view of Corfu, one of the best Greek islands for holidays

Best Greek island for: Amazing architecture

Corfu is perfect if you're looking for big resorts and pretty beaches – and it’s easy to reach, too. One of the unexpected highlights of this island is exploring the unique architecture throughout its towns. With Venetian, French and British influence behind it, there are some fascinating fortresses, French-style arcades and a few grand palaces worthy of Kings and Queens.

If you want to explore further, head up to Old Peritha, an ancient mountain village that was abandoned by its residents in the 1960s and is now a gorgeous hideaway with views out to the Ionian islands and neighbouring Albania.

How to get to Corfu from the mainland: There are regular direct flights from most international airports to Corfu. Ferries also run to and from the Greek mainland, Saranda in Albania, and Bari and Venice in Italy.

Where to stay in Corfu: If you want to soak in the romantic, secluded atmosphere of Old Peritha, stay at the Merchant’s House (opens in new tab) – a glorious little B&B filled with antiques, run by a kind couple who source locally. For a five-star resort, you can’t go wrong with Grecotel’s Corfu Imperial (opens in new tab), which has five private beaches, an amazing pool and plenty of dining options.

Top tip: Explore the island’s medieval capital, Corfu Old Town is a warren of alleyways filled with gift shops and cafes.

Hydra

Sunset on the Greek Island of Hydra

(Image credit: Getty/Anton Petrus)

Best Greek Island for: A luxury getaway

Hydra has long been a location that celebrities flock to, mainly for the beautiful sunsets and picturesque harbors. Leonard Cohen bought a mansion here, and the island found fame thanks to the Michael Cacoyannis film A Girl in Black. It's just as popular today with A-listers, having attracted the likes of Eric Clapton and even The Rolling Stones.

But it’s not all glitz and glam – there’s an understated luxury to this island, with its nearly car-free roads and old, crumbling buildings. Walkers will love the island outside of the hottest summer months – local maps are available but the coastal path is easy enough to follow without. 

There are a few old mansions on the island that have now been turned into museums – Lazaros Koundouriotis is one of the best, with gorgeous interiors and intriguing objects on display from the islands maritime heyday. Beaches aren’t spectacular here, but good stretches can be found at pebbly Limnióniza and shingle Avláki.

How to get to Hydra from the mainland: Ferries connect Hydra to the mainland from the port at Piraeus. Boats also run between Hydra and the surrounding islands, including Spétses for day trips.

Where to stay in Hydra? We love the characterful Orloff Boutique Hotel (opens in new tab), with its antique furniture and cozy outdoor seating, or the biggest four-star hotel on the island, Bratsera (opens in new tab) - there’s a pool, cozy bedrooms, and glorious mountain views.

Top tip: If you don't want to spend your whole holiday here, you can visit Hydra as a day trip from Athens.

Best Greek islands for couples

Rhodes

A birds-eye view of a beach in Rhodes

Best Greek Island for: Beautiful quaint towns 

Rhodes has many attractions including a beautiful old town, cosmopolitan resorts, stunning sandy beaches and ancient history to boot. This makes it a perfect all-rounder for romantic couples getaways.

Active types will love hiking through the Valley of the Butterflies, where thousands of the creatures flit about, attracted to the nectar secreted by the trees. 

Those seeking retail therapy should head to the Old Town for boutiques and Mandraki for big-name stores, and beach bums will be spoilt for choice by the various stretches of sand that edge this gorgeous isle. Kiotari and smaller Agathi are the best beaches we've visited.

Quieter, more laid-back life can be experienced in one of the island’s many villages such as Apollona or Lardos. If you want a less quiet night out - big, brash, late-night parties can be found in Faliraki. Don’t forget to taste some local wine, too – Rhodes was once one of the largest wine merchants in the Med.

How to get to Rhodes from the mainland: Flights from major cities go direct into Rhodes airport. Ferries connect Rhodes to the mainland from Piraeus 12 times a week, and there are regular boats to the likes of Syros, Tilos, Thira, Kos, Naxos and more.

Where to stay in Rhodes: Just 10 minutes from the airport and set on half a kilometer of white-washed sands, the Amada Colossos (opens in new tab) Resort is a 5-star Premium Seafront Resort in Kallithea - the Eastern coast of the cosmopolitan island of Rhodes. For a romantic couples escape, try the adults-only Boutique 5 Hotel & Spa (opens in new tab), where sea views and direct beach access make for a dreamy escape.

Top tip: Visit or stay in Lindos - it's one of the most beautiful towns on the island.

Lesvos

A Greek salad in front of a Lesvos fishing village

(Image credit: Getty)

Best Greek Island for: Foodies 

Famous for its olive trees and excellent vines, Lesvos has been a foodie hub for centuries. The island is also responsible half of Greece’s Ouzo output, so anyone with a taste for boozy aniseed will love this little escape.

There are dreamy seaside resorts, beautiful little fishing villages and quaint hilltop towns well worth exploring. But there’s a darker side to the island that all visitors should know about. People fleeing conflict from all over the world have come here in search of asylum and better lives, and camps are set up across the island to handle the processing of thousands of refugees.

While tourism to Lesvos has seen a decline in recent years due to the refugee crisis, with hundreds of people landing on its shores daily, the island still needs visitors and you can help the local economy just by going there. If you want to go one step further and make a small difference in the migrant camps, bring some supplies and connect with local volunteer distributors, Attika (opens in new tab), who can send them out to those in need.

How to get to Lesvos from the mainland: Fly into Athens and get a connecting flight to the island, or ferries run from Piraeus and Kavala in the north, too. There are also boat connections between the island and Chios, Lemnos, Samos, and Ikaria.

Where to stay in Lesvos: Get your own villa with a private pool at A - Luxury Villas (opens in new tab), or book into Heliotrope Hotels (opens in new tab) for sea views, a good-sized pool and beach access.

Top tip: Learn about the olive trees and how olive oil is made on a tour around the island and a tasting (opens in new tab).

Chios

A church on a spit of land off the coast of Chios in Greece

(Image credit: Getty Images/500px)

Best Greek Island for: An off-the-beaten-track adventure

Closer to Turkey than to mainland Greece, Chios is a pretty off-the-beaten-track adventure. Head to Kambos, once home to the island’s leaders, to see stately mansions of a byegone era, and visit the ‘mastic villages’, a collection of 20 settlements where the trees shed the ‘tears of Chios’ – little mastic crystals – every August, creating peculiar white, snow-like patterns on the ground.

Anavatos, an abandoned medieval village, is an intriguing and atmospheric day trip, and foodies will love the abundance of citrus fruit. Fresh orange juice in the morning has never tasted so good…

How to get to Chios from the mainland: Fly from Athens or Thessaloniki airport on the mainland, or take a ferry from Piraeus or Lavrio. There are also boat connections to nearby Lesvos, Efstratios, Samos, Ikaria and Tsesme in Turkey.

Where to stay in Chios: Stay in Chios town (Chora) for the best restaurants and bars – we love Agora Residence (opens in new tab) - serviced apartments and studios inside a renovated 19th-century mansion. If you want something a little quieter check-in at Erytha Hotel & Resort (opens in new tab) where you’ll get endless sea views and simple but cleanly decorated rooms.

Top tip: Take a walk around the Turkish bath in Chios castle for a step back in time.

Best Greek islands for beaches

Naxos

A tree on the Greek island of Naxos

Best Greek Island for: Brilliant beaches

Naxos has certainly got the finest beaches of all the Greek islands. The entire southwest coast forms one long beach, with numerous resorts and hotels dotted along the coast - so you really do have your pick.

In the Kástro area of the main town you’ll find plenty to keep you busy for a week, such as the ancient Apollo Temple and an archaeological museum, alongside hopping between coves and beaches. Local food is a highlight here, too, with the small potatoes grown across the island a total hit, alongside all manner of island-produced cheeses.

How to get to Naxos from the mainland: There are regular flights from Athens to Naxos, and BA fly to nearby Mykonos which connects via ferry. There are also ferries from Piraeus, Crete and most of the other Cycladic islands too.

Where to stay in Naxos: In Naxos town, we love Nissaki Beach Hotel (opens in new tab) which has great beach access and bright and breezy decor. Beachfront villas further down the coast are equally lovely at Salinus Naxian (opens in new tab).

Top tip: Take a trip to Alyko Beach. Set in a small cove, it has crystal blue waters and you'll feel you've found paradise. 

Mykonos

A cobbled street in Mykonos

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Best Greek Island for: Traditional village life

Famed for its hedonistic nightlife, Mykonos is more than just shots and hangovers. The buzzy little capital is called Hora - but if you're looking for something more peaceful you'll have to go deeper into the island.

Ano Mera is a gorgeous little town in the center of the island, with whitewashed houses, a taverna-filled main square, and the Tourliani Monastery. Founded in 1537, it’s a glorious old domed church with a collection of treasures inside. The beaches here are also world-class - the crystal-clear waters of Platys Gialos makes it possibly the best beach on the island.

How to get to Mykonos from the mainland: Direct flights from Athens take just 35 minutes and ferries go from Piraeus and Rafina ports near the city. There are connections to other islands such as Ios, Crete, Paros, Thira and Tinos.

Where to stay in Mykonos: If you're really looking to push the boat out - book into a villa at the 7 star Alegria villa (opens in new tab) and be ready for magnificent views and award-winning hospitality. Elia Mykonos Resort by the Sea (opens in new tab) is great for direct beach access and four-star service.

Top tip: If you're looking for a party beach, head to the Super Paradise beach club for sun and fun!

Best Greek islands for families 

Zakynthos (Zante)

Beach in Zante

(Image credit: Getty / David C Tomlinson)

Best Greek Island for: Instagram-worthy views

Better known as ‘Shipwreck Island’ and Zante, Zakynthos has featured on many a tourist brochure thanks to its enormous, rusting shipwreck on Navagio beach. Popular with Instagrammers, Zante is also famous for its pristine beaches, blue waters, and gorgeous sunsets. 

And we don't blame them - the water is so clear you’ll be able to see your toes right on the bottom of the ocean floor. If sunsets over the beach are more your thing, book a table at Lofos restaurant or have cheap cocktails at Tsilivi Beach for a memorable evening. 

How to get to Zakynthos (Zante) from the mainland: Most big airlines fly to Zakynthos directly throughout the spring and summer seasons. There are also year-round flights from Athens. Ferries travel between most of the Ionian islands, as well as the mainland ports of Patras and Kyllini.

Where to stay on Zakynthos (Zante): The Panoroma apartments (opens in new tab) have a huge sun terrace and are just 350 yards from Agios Nikolaos Beach.

Top tip: Xigia beach, only reached by car, is an Instagrammers dream - head there if you want to make your friends jealous.

Astypalea

White houses on the Greek island of Astypalea at night

Best Greek Island for: A unique experience 

This little bat-shaped isle in the Dodecanese is tiny, with fewer than 1,500 residents and just two towns to explore. On the northern half of the island, you’ll find the small town of Analipsi with laid-back beach bars serving fresh juices in the morning and cocktails by night - the beachfront restaurants also make for romantic evenings under the stars.

The southern side of the island, Astypalea, is the main hub, welcoming ferries from nearby islands and a choice of tavernas and hotels. If you're looking to explore there's an archaeological museum and the ruins of a hilltop castle overlooking the ocean. 

How to get to Astypalea from the mainland: SkyExpress run flights to Astypalea from Athens, Rhodes, Kos, Santorini and more, and ferries connect the island to Athens’ main port Piraeus, as well as Kos, Rhodes, Tilos and Symi.

Where to stay on Astypalea? Maltezana Beach Hotel (opens in new tab) is, as you might expect, right on the beach on the northern half of the island. There’s a great pool and good food in the homely restaurant. The superb Pylaia Boutique Hotel (opens in new tab) & Spa is the top pick on the south side of the island, tucked away among the hills on the coast, with sea views, minimalist decor and an excellent spa.

Top tip: If you're a smoker don't visit Astypalea - it's become the world’s first ‘Smoke-Free Culture’ island, meaning the air is extra fresh and you’ll never need to worry about second-hand smoke.

Santorini

White houses with blue roofs in Santorini

(Image credit: Greece / Francesco Riccardo Iacomino)

Best Greek Island for: Sensational views

Santorini really needs no introduction - we’ve all seen those stunning shots of whitewashed houses tumbling down towards the rich-blue ocean, with classic Greek Orthodox church domes in view. Santorini is synonymous with luxury, but there’s much more to this popular island than picture-perfect views and stunning sunsets.

We love Pyrgos Village, the island’s former capital, which is now a sleepy little settlement away from the hustle and bustle of Fira and Oia, with cute little tavernas for fresh-fish lunches and a spot of afternoon Ouzo. Also don’t miss Akrotiri, another little village hidden away on the south coast with a striking red beach backed by ochre-coloured cliffs.

How to get to Santorini from the mainland: Santorini is easy to get to directly from all major airports. There are plenty of ferries connecting Santorini to the mainland and islands like Anafi, Ios, Zakynthosm Mykonos, Milos and Naxos.

Where to stay on Santorini: For a hotel with serious character and a luxurious vibe, check into a former convent at Agialos Hotel (opens in new tab) in Fira. With stunning views over its whitewashed rooftops, you’ll get the classic Santorini scenery and sunsets alongside contemporary rooms, beautiful food and a small pool. For a more affordable stay, head to Armeni Village Hotel (opens in new tab) in Oia, which has equally gorgeous sea views and beautiful, minimalist interiors.

Top tip: If you fancy something a little different you can charter a boat to take you around the island for a few days - The Cyclades 50.5, from Borrow a boat (opens in new tab) features 6 cabins, while a chef can also cook you up some local culinary delights.

Skiathos

A birds-eye view of a beach and blue sea off the coast of Skiathos

(Image credit: Getty Images/EyeEm)

Best Greek Island for: Family beach time

Most Greek islands have a good selection of sandy stretches to explore, but on Skiathos there are over 50 beaches to choose from, so you’re spoilt for choice here. That’s why it’s absolutely overrun with visitors from around Europe come summertime. 

The island’s best beaches include Koukounariés – think fine sand, watersports and sunbeds aplenty – and the Big and Little Banana beaches, which have spectacular sunset views. On the eastern side of the island, Vromólimnos has a great taverna and plenty of sunbeds and watersports available.

How to get to Skiathos from the mainland: There are regular flights to Skiathos throughout peak season (June through September), and ferries to and from the mainland (Agios Konstantinos on the east coast), as well as surrounding islands like Chora, Volos, Alonissos and Glossa. There are also regular flights from Athens.

Where to stay on Skiathos: For small-scale luxury, book into Skiathos Mystery (opens in new tab) where chic rooms and rooftop views are accompanied by a great pool and even better service. For something a little more lavish, try Skiathos Princess Hotel (opens in new tab), which has plush furnishings and direct access to one of the island’s top beaches.

Top tip: To avoid the crowds, visit in spring or early summer (visit in May or plan a vacation for June) or take a late summer sun break and visit from mid-September onwards. Temperatures are still in the low 20s even in October.

Kos

Ancient Greek ruins in Kos

Best Greek Island for: History buffs

The highlight of this Aegean isle is the number of ancient sites. The Roman Odeon is one of the most important sites on the island, dating back to the second century AD. It has a capacity of 750 and was built to host musical competitions and political debates at the time.

Elsewhere there’s the medieval castle of Neratzia, an abandoned town and Byzantine castle in Pyli and the second-century BC temple of Hercules. All of this sits alongside glorious stretches of sand lapped by the warm Mediterranean, and great hiking and biking opportunities. There’s also a host of family-friendly attractions, such as waterparks for the kids. 

How to get to Kos from the mainland: Some airports offer direct flights to Kos, while there are internal flights from Athens with SkyExpress and Olympic. Ferries arrive to Kos from Piraeus, Syros, Rhodes, Naxos, Leros, Astypalea and many more.

Where to stay in Kos: TUI’s adults-only resort, Sensimar Palazzo Del Mare (opens in new tab), is a gorgeous getaway for anyone seeking a romantic escape. The huge resort has ample pool and sunbed space and has its own beach. Wellness-focused Diamond Deluxe Hotel (opens in new tab) has a fantastic spa, indoor and outdoor pools, and enjoys glorious sunset views.

Top tip: Come in summer to celebrate at the Hippocratia Festival, which involves all manner of traditional dancing, singing, costume and food.

Greek Islands map

Wondering which Greek island is where? Take a look at the map below to get your bearings and perhaps plan a bit of island-hopping...

Lottie Gross
Lottie Gross

Lottie is an NCTJ-trained journalist, an experienced travel writer and an expert in creating compelling digital content. 


Lottie has been in the travel writing business for nearly a decade and has writing and photography bylines at The Telegraph, The Times, The Independent, the i and National Geographic Traveller. She's done broadcast work for BBC Radio 4 and have contributed to a number of guidebooks and coffee table titles during her career.