Many people often describe “the Greek Islands” as if they were one giant entity, easily popped into and out of and in between, like shops in a strip mall. But look a little bit closer and the magnitude and diversity of the archipelagos becomes as clear as the azure waters.
The Lure of Greece
In reality, there are over 200 inhabited islands in Greece – and over 6,000 isles of varying sizes in total. Each island has its own residents and its own character, from the whitewashed cave homes of the Cyclades to the lush, green Italianate Ionians, to the Crusader castles of Dodecanese.
If you’re one of the lucky ones planning a trip to this beautiful land, there are few things that you should know before you go.
An Overview of the Greek Islands
Greek sovereign land includes 6,000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, with only 227 islands being inhabited. The Greek Archipelago itself takes up more than 4,600 miles of the country’s total 9,942 mile coastline, offering everything from beaches stretching over many kilometers and sheltered bays and coves to sand-dunes, pebble beaches, coastal caves and wetlands.
Because some of the oldest European civilizations developed on the Greek islands, the islands have unique archeological sites, a distinctive architectural heritage, and local traditions of a centuries-old and multifaceted civilization.
Best Time to Vacation In Greece
If you’re looking for smaller crowds and beautiful weather, June or September are the ideal times to travel to Greece. When it comes to the busy season — roughly late June through early September — you’ll have more ferry routes and open restaurants and beach bars to choose from. However, because there are more visitors to compete with, there are also higher prices to pay.
The weather will actually depend on which island group you travel to. Crete is warmest year-round, so it’s a great choice for late fall or winter — and while some islands are full of locals and see tourists year-round, others, like Santorini, get very quiet come winter.
If you’re looking to take in some of the religious culture, visit Greece during Orthodox Easter, when each island, town, and village celebrates in its own way with religious parades, firecrackers, and revelry. The later Easter falls, the better the weather.
Which Greek Islands Should You Visit?
With so many options available, choosing where to spend your vacation time can seem more difficult than the crossword puzzle in the New York Times. Many of the Greek Islands offer similar attractions — great beaches, beautiful villages, delicious food, and a list of historical sites. If you’re looking for a quiet escape, head to some of the uninhabited islands. If you’re looking for more adventure, stick to the beaten path.
Here’s a small overview of some of the most popular islands:
As the largest and the southernmost Greek island, located roughly halfway between Europe and Africa, Crete could be its own country with its own customs, climate, accent, and cuisine. There are tourist traps, but there are also incredible beaches, including the unparalleled pink-sand Elafonissi. Add in top-notch ruins such as the palace at Knossos, and a growing locavore scene, and you could spend weeks here without ever getting bored — or hungry.
With rich multi-cultural heritage, historic monuments, a stunning natural landscape, crystal clear seas, and excellent weather all year round, it’s no wonder that Corfu is one of the most cosmopolitan Mediterranean destinations. Home to numerous museums and cultural attractions, this destination offers colorful music events, culinary feasts, religious festivals, and carnival celebrations all year long.
South east of mainland Greece, in the Aegean Sea, the southernmost of the Cyclades Islands is known as one of the most romantic and beautiful places in the world, making it a popular spot for couples and honeymoons. Thanks to it being a volcanic island, the scenery is beyond compare and one of the main attractions.
With dense vegetation, rocky landscapes, and pure blue seas, this island in the northwest Aegean is a uniquely alternative destination. If you’re a movie fan, you can trace the path used in “Mamma Mia!” where the wedding ceremony took place. There’s also a vibrant nightlife, a National Marine Park, the local cheese pie, and gold sand beaches.
Located in the north eastern Aegean, closer to Turkey’s coast than Greece’s, Lesbos is known for its Petrified Forest and for the country’s most famous drink, Ouzo. Unlike some of the other popular Greek islands where mass tourism killed the vibe, Lesbos Island is still a place where you can find the authentic Greek laid-back lifestyle with an ocean overlooking idyllic bays and pretty calm beaches.
Planning a Trip to Greece?
There are just a few of the most popular choices, but it’s really a choose your own adventure — and Sunset Travel & Cruise is here to help you do just that. If you’ve decided to make Greece your next vacation destination, contact Sunset Travel & Cruise today to help plan an adventure that you’ll never forget.