14 Amazing Greek Islands to Consider for Your First Time In Greece

Steve Cummings

Santorini, Greece

Greece is one of the most popular places in Europe as a summer holiday destination. 

Many people need help figuring out where to go, as the choice can be overwhelming. The islands appeal to people more than the mainland, and it's easy to see why, as they just look so picture-card-perfect!

There are over 6000 islands, but only 227 of these are inhabited. Every island offers something different to tourists, whether it's beaches, nightlife, or the lovely little towns scattered across the islands. 

In this article, we will look at 14 Greek Islands that should be on your shortlist for your holiday.

1. Rhodes

Rhodes, Greece
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Rhodes is the 4th largest Greek island, but it's at the top of our list as it's one of the most popular. 

The main attraction here is the fantastic old town which the author of this post spent two weeks visiting most evenings after something to eat and drink. It is a fantastic place with a great atmosphere and many beautiful buildings. What we enjoyed most was wandering down a side street, wondering where we would end up. It found us some of the best family-run restaurants with fantastic owners. Just be careful on the cobble streets, as after two weeks of walking around them every day, the author's wife ended up with a fractured foot, which she didn’t know about until she returned home.

It's also worth taking a trip (or staying in) to Lindos. The beach here is just fantastic, and just behind it is the Acropolis of Lindos, which is worth visiting, although quite a walk up. This piece of Greek history is worth visiting.

2. Santorini

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If you are reading this and interested in the Greek Islands, you will know what this island is, even if you don’t remember the name of it. It's the one that's on everyone's Instagram with the white buildings that have blue roofs.

It's our favorite at the Frugal Expat; what is there not to like? Apart from the lovely buildings, it has black lava sandy beaches and fabulous restaurants, and most people dream of spending a few days here and being part of Greek island life.

We recommend you take a boat tour and enjoy one of the lovely sunset cruises. You will be able to visit the volcano and have a chance to swim in the sea. 

Plenty of wine tours are available on the island, where you can learn about the Assyrtiko grape and drink some of the best wine you have ever tasted.

3. Mykonos

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While Santorini may be more of a chill-out honeymoon island, Mykonos has a different vibe. It's known as more of a party island with many beachside clubs that attract tourists every year.

When not enjoying the nightlife, there are the famous windmills this island is known for and the perfect beaches, such as Paradise Beach and Ornos Beach, for relaxing after a heavy night in the bars. Then head over to Little Venice, a place not to be missed with its seaside shops and restaurants. 

This island is for you if you are young or like to stay up late into the early hours.

4. Corfu

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Corfu is known for its crystal clear seas and fantastic weather throughout the year, so it's easy to see why it's so popular.

It's very popular with British tourists as it's the closest island to them, only a 3-hour flight away. It can get hectic during the summer, so our tip would be to visit either side of the main summer holidays, where it's still lively but not as busy.

Corfu is one of the greener Greek islands, and its landscape is full of olive and Cyprus trees.

You won’t be disappointed if you choose Corfu; there are plenty of beaches, fantastic food, and history.

5. Crete

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Crete is the largest Greek isles, with a population of 600,000, and has something to offer every traveler. There are old historic and medieval cities with plenty to explore.

The beaches are some of the best in all the Greek islands, with Falassarna, Balos, and Elafonissi being the ones we recommend, with lovely white sand and turquoise sea.

There are many lovely mountain villages you could choose to stay at and explore, and plenty of scenery to hike through. Even though there are a lot of package holidays on the island, there are still plenty of parts where you can escape the crowds.

6. Evia

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Evia is one of the largest Greek Islands, but sometimes, it's one that people seem to forget about. 

It's the perfect one to visit as part of a multi-destination holiday. Spend a few days in Athens visiting the city, and then you can drive over to Evia and the island. After all that, walk around the city, relax, and enjoy island life.

You will be spoilt for choice if you wonder what to do here. Your main choices are thermal springs, monasteries, waterfalls, impressive mountains, and pretty beaches. The springs are the attraction you should visit as they have so much history, and the Romans visited the baths many years ago.

The old town is also great. Grab a coffee, walk around, and enjoy it!

7. Hydra

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Hydra can be found in the middle of the Saronic Island Group. Just like Evia, it's perfect for a destination if you are staying in Athens as it's only a few hours away on a ferry from Piraeus port in Athens.

What we like about it is that the island is car-free. This helps with giving the island a different feel to some of the others out there.

We recommend heading away from the main town if you can (it is lovely), but some other great villages, such as Vlichos and Kaminia, will give you a different perspective on this island.

8. Skopelos

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Skopelos is beautiful with its clear waters, golden beaches, old-style Pelion buildings, wild nature, and authentic island feel. The island is mostly pine forests, so you'll see a lot of green everywhere.

What wows visitors are its beautiful beaches, where the pine trees set the backdrop for its turquoise waters. Once you visit here, you will see why movies such as “Mamma Mia!” were set here, which has helped attract tourists to the island. Head to Aϊ Giannis is the chapel where parts of it were filmed, and the steps outside are the perfect place to propose.

9. Symi

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Symi is full of brightly colored houses in shades of red, blue, yellow, and pink that cover the hillside, and the port is full of fishing boats. It's the quintessential Greece you see in holiday brochures, and you can’t help but fall in love with it.

The island itself is tiny and easy to get around. You don’t need a car as you can walk to most places you will need to visit, which we like. Chorio is the main town at the top of the hill, which is a bit of a walk, but there is a bus if you need it.

If it's hidden beaches you are after, then you will be happy to know that a few of these are only accessible by boat, which makes them and the island even more special.

10. Zakynthos

Navagio Bay
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This island has a reputation for being a party island, and while that's true of the south coast, there's another side to this island.

Navagio Beach is one of the most famous places on Zakynthos, and it's where the Instagram crowd likes to head for the perfect selfie from high up on the cliff. It's where a smuggler's ship crashed into the beach in a storm and has now become a tourist attraction.

Local Cuisine is big on Zakynthos, and the island has a rich culinary tradition, with local specialties including fresh seafood, Zakynthian cheese, and local wines.

Overall, this is a busy island that can be packed in the summer, but it's still worth visiting.

11. Skiathos

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Skiathos in Greece is the most visited island in the Sporades group. It's small but attracts many visitors every year, especially young people, because of its lively nightlife. 

The island is also known for its romantic old town, and you know we love an old town here at the Frugal Expat as it's full of traditional white-washed houses and narrow cobbled streets with the usual tourist shops and tavernas. The old port area is worth walking around as well.

If beaches are your thing, then you will be spoilt for choice here as there are over 60 to choose from, meaning you are likely to find one that's not too crowded. We recommend heading to Koukounaries, Lalaria, and Banana.

12. Kefalonia

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By now, you may notice a theme: all these islands are gorgeous, and Kefalonia is another stunning island.

The most famous things here are Melissani Lake and the cave, where many people come over for day trips from neighboring islands. Our tip would be to spend a few days on this island to make the most of it.

We recommend heading to Assos Village. This picturesque and colorful village is situated on a small peninsula and is known for its tranquility and charming architecture.

It's less crowded when compared to Santorini and Zakynthos, which is why we like it, as some of these islands can get a bit hectic. If you want even fewer crowds, visit in either May or October when it's still warm but just out of the main season.

13. Paros

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We have left one of our favorite islands until the end, as this one is full of charm. It has a little Santorini vibe but without the crowds, and the island feels luxurious. However, even though it's quieter, it still has a party vibe!

We recommend heading to the famous Kolymbithres Beach; it's the perfect place to chill after having too many cocktails in the beach bars.

If you visit Paros, you will get a more traditional Greek atmosphere – lovely little villages, white beaches, and gorgeous hiking trails.

14. Ios

Ios Town Greece
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Ios is well-known for its pretty beaches and fun parties, making it an excellent spot for young people. It's only a tiny island and measures 11 miles by 6 miles, but there's plenty to see and do.

Chora (Ios Town) is the main village and is a typical Cycladic village with white-washed houses, narrow, winding streets, and blue-domed churches. It's also the center of nightlife on the island.

Have you heard of Homer? No, not Homer from The Simpsons, but the famous Greek poet. His tomb is here on the island for you to visit if you are into that sort of thing.

Besides its exciting night scene, Ios has many other things to see, like sparkling seas, lovely beaches, and pretty villages on cliffs. Getting to Ios is easy. You can take a ferry from Athens or the Rafina or Piraeus ports.

Final Thoughts

Sifnos, Greece
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We hope this article gives you ideas for your Greek island adventures. 

While it is fun to just head to one island and spend a week there, while you are already in Greece, you should hop between a few islands and experience a few of them. Party on one island, then head to a more secluded island to relax for the last few days of your holiday. 

The choice of Greek islands is endless, and everyone you ask will have a favorite island that is different from others.

As always, feel free to ask any questions if you have them in the comments below. We would also love to hear about your favorite Greek island!

Related: 11 Beautiful Cities in Greece That Deserve a Visit or Two

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