santorini

Santorini Secrets

The Largest Travel Blog For Santorini and Greece...

Santorini Secrets

The Largest Travel Blog for Santorini and Greece

Best Greek Islands (2019 UPDATE)

Greek islands are some of the most beautiful travel destinations in Europe and depending on what your situation is, a trip to a greek island might be the perfect trip for your wedding, your honeymoon or your family holiday.

best greek islands

The best greek island really depend on your situation and what you are looking for from your vacation in Greece.

The best greek islands to visit at least once, are:

But not all greek islands are the same and the best time to visit them actually might differ.

All of them are extremely idyllic locations and a top 10 wouldn’t make any sense as they are all equally beautiful (at least in my greek eyes!)

And I can tell you that because I am actually Greek and I have been to all of them!

(yes…you will find greek island travel guides on the internet from people who have been there once or twice and are not even greeks…). 

So, I am explaining here what are the differences and what is the best greek island for you depending on your situation and who are you traveling with.

Keep reading…

RECOMMENDED WEBSITES FOR HOTELS, VILLAS, FERRIES, TOURS AND FLIGHTS TO GREEK ISLANDS:

  • Booking.com is the website with the most available rooms and Private Villas in Greece (more than Airbnb)
  • Let’s Ferry is the best website to book your ferry tickets or check the timetables for all greek islands
  • Expedia has all the available flights from Athens or other European cities to all greek islands
  • Get Your Guide has the best and largest variety of tours and excursions in Greece
  • Rentalcars is the best website to rent a car in Greece (highly recommended as you won’t waste time waiting for local buses)
  • Bikesbooking is the best website to rent a quad for a greek island
  • Transferwise is the best service for travel money with the lowest rates compared to any bank worldwide and their Mastercard is accepted all over Greece (you can thank me later…) 
  • High season for the greek islands is between May-October. This is the time when the greek islands are most crowded with tourists but also when the weather is the warmest (temperature between 25-30 degrees Celsius or 70-100 Fahrenheit)
  • Best Time to visit greek islands is at the end of the high season which is September and October, when the weather will still be warm (more than 20 degrees Celsius) and you would still be able to swim in the sea water. 
  • When You Can Actually Swim in the Sea Water of the greek islands: the sea water is perfect in greek islands between June-October (and including these 2 months), so if you are visiting anytime outside of these months you may get sunshine and 30C degrees temperature but the sea water won’t be warm enough; you can certainly give it a try though!
  • Best Greek Island: undoubtedly Santorini is the best greek island and the one you have to visit if you are only visiting Greece for a few days; you should know though that it is the most touristic and the most visited by cruise ships
  • Best greek islands near Athens: Aegina, Hydra, Poros, Spetses (all are very cute and scenic but only worth a daytrip from Athens as they are very small)
  • Best greek islands for beaches: Mykonos, Naxos, Paros and Crete have the best beaches in Greece; Santorini’s beaches are nice but not the best in Greece
  • Best greek islands for families: Santorini, Naxos, Crete, Rhodes and Corfu
  • Best greek islands for couples: Santorini, Mykonos, Milos and Skiathos
  • Best greek islands for honeymoon: Santorini, Mykonos, Milos, Paros and Skiathos
  • How to get to greek islands: almost all of the greek islands have direct flights from Athens (Expedia has all the options) but you can always take a ferry from Athens (check Let’s Ferry website for timetables and prices – Piraeus or Rafina Athens main ports )
  • Most romanic greek island: Santorini
  • How to avoid tourist crowds and cruise ships on greek islands: visit in late September or early October
  • How to get around on greek islands: all islands have local buses and taxis (no Uber or Lyft unfortunately) that run frequently but it is highly recommended that you rent your own means of transportation as it will give you more flexibility and let you visit more areas on any island (Rentalcars.com is the cheapest and safest website to rent a car for greek islands)

Ok….so without further ado, these are the best greek islands :

1. Santorini

best greek islands
Santorini is the most famous and for some people the most beautiful greek island; it's also the one that attracts the most tourists and that might be an issue sometimes...

Santorini is the most famous greek island and there are many good reasons for that.

Santorini on Google Maps

Believe all the hype and all the instagram pictures you have seen.

This island is amazing and you have to visit it!

When it comes to honeymoons, Santorini is the place to have your ideal honeymoon as the island offers some of the most romantic hotels in Europe.

It is indeed the ideal location for couples but it has lots of things to do for families and solo travellers too.

There is a ton of things to do in Santorini and there is no shortage of activities and amazing restaurants you can visit and enjoy a romantic dinner.

Best Time To Visit Santorini Island

  • READ THE DETAILED GUIDE: Best Time To Visit Santorini
  • The best time to visit Santorini is late September, early October or early June where the sea water will still be warm enough to swim, all businesses/hotels will be open (this is still high season) and you won’t find the millions of tourists that July and August have. This is also called the “shoulder season” as it is not in the middle of the high season (July, August and September).
  • If you visit Santorini in the winter (between November-May) then you won’ t be able to swim in the sea and you may get strong winds and cold weather (below 10 degrees Celsius). Also, most of the businesses will be closed and you should stay in Fira town as it will be the liveliest place.

How To Get To Santorini Island

Where To Stay in Santorini

  • READ THE DETAILED GUIDE: Where To Stay in Santorini
  • The best area to stay in Santorini is called Imerovigli (this is it on Google Maps).
  • Oia is packed with tourists, overpriced and I do not recommend it.
  • The sunset is the same from Imerovigli and also from Fira.
  • The best hotels of Santorini are located at Imerovigli.
  • If you cannot afford Imerovigli (get prepared to pay at least $200/night unfortunately) then you should stay at a hotel close to the beach (Perissa, Kamari or Perivolos) but you won’t have the famous Santorini views. 
  • If you are visiting with your family with kids or seniors then staying close to the beach is the best option (Perissa, Kamari or Perivolos)
  • If you are visiting Santorini in the winter (November-April) then the best place to stay is the capital called “Fira” as this is the liveliest place (all beach town will be empty in the winter)

Best Hotels in Santorini

  • Cosmopolitan Suites : one of the most luxurious hotels in Santorini with amazing views and close to all shops and main restaurants of the island at the capital town Fira
  • Grace Hotel Santorini : the most impressive swimming pool in Europe and 5-star luxury with stunning views at Imerovigli – perfect hotel for honeymoons with very seclusive suites and villas
  • Maregio Suites : the best hotel in Oia with stellar service and some of the best hot tubs and private plunge pools of the island; also one of the best honeymoon suites in Santorini…

Best Things To Do In Santorini :

Best Restaurants In Santorini :

2. Mykonos

mykonos
Mykonos is the second most famous greek island and one of the most glamorous and celebrity-style places in Europe; it has some of the best beaches in Greece.

Mykonos is the second most famous greek island with millions of tourists every year.

Mykonos on Google Maps

Mykonos is all about the amazing nightlife, incredible parties, celebrities boats and lovely sandy beaches.

Mykonos though has some of the most amazing beaches and beach bars in the world.  

Some of the most famous chefs in the world have established restaurants in Mykonos and some of the most famous DJs play every year in the nightclubs of Mykonos.

But Mykonos is not only about partying.

The island offers amazing opportunities for a relaxing trip as it has some of the best hotels in Greece with incredible 5 star service and amenities.

Also, Mykonos town is one of the most picturesque and cute among the greek islands.

Best Time To Visit Mykonos Island

  • The best time to visit Mykonos is pretty much the same as it is in Santorini: late September, early October or early June. This is when the sea water will still be warm enough to swim and all hotels and restaurants will be open (September and October is still high season).
  • July and August are the worst months to visit Mykonos as you will be packed on every beach you visit and in every town you walk! 
  • The prices on everything in Mykonos (from accommodation to restaurants) skyrocket in July and August.

How To Get To Mykonos Island

Where to Stay In Mykonos

  • The best area to stay in Mykonos is Mykonos Town (the capital) (this is it on Google Maps).
  • Mykonos Town is the best place to stay if you want to enjoy the nightlife oF Mykonos and the best restaurants and bars of the island
  • If you are visitng with family and kids and you want a much quieter area then you should stay at Ornos or Platis Gyalos towns which are also beach side towns with some really good hotels.
  • Avoid staying in areas like Kalo Livadi or Elia beach beacause apart from the amazing beach there is nothing else around and you will need a car to get around if you stay there.

Best Hotels In Mykonos

  • Rocabella Mykonos Hotel : Possibly one of the most instagrammable hotels of Mykonos, with one of the most incredible swimming pools on the island.
  • Lyo Boutique Hotel : This is a truly 5-star hotel with one of the best restaurants of Mykonos and impeccable design.

Best Things To Do In Mykonos :

  • Go to a beach: Mykonos beaches are some of the best in Greece (and in Europe) so don’t miss out on these ones – all of them have golden sand and crystal clear blue waters; the thing is that most of them are occupied by expesnive and luxurius beach bar restaurants but nothing and nobody is blocking you to sit down with your towels; sitting on a sunbed though might cost you anything from 20 euros to…3000 euros…!
  • Eat at some of the most amazing restaurants in Greece: Mykonos is full of famous restaurants and chances are you will be dining next to a celebrity 
  • Go on an island cruise to Delos and Rhenia cute nearby islands: Delos was an ancient island that is only inhabited by cats today!
  • Enjoy the amazing Mykonos Nightlife in places such as Skorpios , Scandinavian Bar or Cavo Paradiso
  • Visit a traditional Mykonos home and take a Greek Cooking Class

Best Restaurants In Mykonos :

Just to warn you: Mykonos is super expensive so get prepared to pay New York, London and Tokyo prices at the restaurants.

3. Crete

crete
Crete is the biggest greek island with a million things to do and hundreds of beautiful beaches; but you need at least 1 week thre and definitely a car to move around

Crete is the biggest greek island and definitely one of the most beautiful in the meditteranean sea.

Crete on Google Maps

Crete is a big island.

It’s almost the size of Hawaii ‘s big island, so you definitely need a car to move around 

Crete is famous for each unique beaches , the amazing local food and produce, the hospitality of its local people and the thousands of years of history.  

Crete is full of impressive hotels and all-inclusive resorts that make it an ideal destination if you are in the hunt for an islands that has everything.

The biggest cities of Crete are Chania (West), Rethymnon (West), Heraklion (East), Aghios Nikolaos (East).

In fact, Heraklion city (the capital of Crete) is the 4th biggest city in Greece (population wise).

It is not advised to visit Crete for 2-3 days .

You need at least a week in Crete and even during that time you will only be able to see 20-30% of the island.

You definitely need your own means of trannsportationin Crete (preferably a car) unless you will only be staying in your all inclusive resort and you are not interested to see the rest of the island.

Best Time To Visit Crete Island

  • The best time to visit Crete is in late September or early October. Crete is one of the hottest places in Greece (and one of the northest) so the summer lasts till November…
  • July and August are still the most crowded months but the island is so big that you won’t be annoyed by the tourist masses even during these months
  • Crete is relatively cheaper than other greek islands because it is a big island with thousands of businesses to choose from. Obviously the most touristic areas will have more expensive prices (restaurants, hotels, shops)

How To Get To Crete

  • With a 7hrs , 10hrs or 12hrs direct ferry from Athens (Piraeus or Rafina ports) to Heraklion or Chania citiesBook your Ferry ticket to Crete here 
  • The cost of the ferry varies from 30 euros to 80 euros (depending on the ferry speed and the seat)
  • With a direct 1hr flight from Athens (all year)  – you can book flights on Expedia (Chania airport: CHQ and Heraklion: HER)
  • There is also a direct flight from all major European capitals (London, Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Rome) – mainly between April and October (check Expedia for specific schedules)
  • You can fly directly to Chania or Heraklion city as this is were the biggest airports of the island are.

Where to Stay In Crete

  • The best area to stay in Crete is the west side of the island in or around Chania town (this is it on Google Maps).
  • The west side of Crete has the best beaches and the most impressive hotels but there are amazing resorts in other areas too (Elounda Beach Hotel is probably the best hotel of Crete and it’s in Elounda on the east side of Crete)
  • If you are visiting with family and kids then staying close to Chania is also the most preferable option
  • Avoid staying in very remote areas or up in the mountains (there are lots of villas located in the mountains of Crete) as you will be very isolated and the road network of Crete is in very bad condition
  • Avoid staying in Heraklion as unfortunately it is not a pretty city; Chania , Rethymnon and Agios Nikolaos are the most picturesque towns you can stay

Best Hotels In Crete

  • Elounda Beach Hotel : Undoubtedly one of the best hotels in Greece. You will be having the aegean sea on your balcony and 5-star service 24/7. One of the best hotels in Europe!
  • Mitsis Rineia Beach Resort & Spa : One of the best spas in Greece and Crete with lots of spaces for kids and families. An ideal all inclusive resort for families with amenities for everyone.
  • Amirandes Grecotel Resort : Located on a private beach between palm trees and a sea lagoon this is the best resort close to Hearklion city. With more than 10 restaurants and lots of shops this is probably the most impressive all inclusive resort of Crete.

Best Things To Do In Crete :

  • Visit the amazing Knossos Palace ancient ruins (close to Heraklion) – a guided tour like this one is highly recommended as there are lots of things to see and learn from Minoan history; this is one of the most impressive archaeological sites all over Greece so it’s a must-do!
  • Visit the incredible beaches of Balos lagoon and Elafonissi : These are 2 of the most impressive beaches in the world with the most impressive sea waters you will ever find; these are easily compared to Maldives 
  • Wander the picturesque towns of Chania and Rethymnon and go for shopping
  • Take the boat and visit the famous island ex-lepran colony of Spinalonga (featured in many films and books)
  • Taste some of the best olive oil in the world and learn about olive oil production in Crete through the incredible Terra Creta Olive Oil Experience
  • Visit the unique palm tree forest of Vai beach (Google Maps)
  • Hike the wild Samaria Gorge alone or with a guided tour like this one

Best Restaurants In Crete :

Cretan food is probably the best in Greece and you will be surprised by the large portions and the free stuff you will be offered in every restaurant (free fruits, deserts and local drinks at the end of the meal)

4. Corfu

corfu
Corfu is an island on the west side of Greece between Italy and Greece and the scenery is completely different than Santorini and Mykonos as there are lots trees and green areas

Corfu is one of the bigest islands in Greece and it has a completely different landscape compared to Santorini and Mykonos. The scenery is much greener but the sea water is still incredibly blue and crystal clear.

Corfu on Google Maps

Corfu is an island at the sea between Italy and Greece (Ioanian sea) and the italian influence is spread all over the island.

The greek name of Corfu is : Kerkyra

Corfu has been a famous tourist destination for the last 70 years and there are many good reasons for that.

The island is full of beautiful beaches and picturesque towns and villages.

You need at least a week in Corfu as it is a pretty big island.

It is nearly impossibel to combine a visit to Corfu along with another greek island like Santorini or Mykonos because these islands are on the other side of Greece and you need to travel through Athens. Doable but not smart…

5. Zakynthos

6. Kefalonia

7. Rhodes

8. Naxos

9. Ios

10. Paros

11. Milos

12. Skiathos

CONCLUSION

READ OUR OTHER AMAZING TIPS FOR GREEK ISLANDS

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Highest Rated Hotels in Santorini:

Best Hotel in Oia: Maregio Suites
Best Hotel in Fira: Cosmopolitan Suites
Best Hotel in Imerovigli: Grace Santorini
Best Hotel in Firostefani: Tsitouras
Best Hotel in Perivolos: Orabel Suites
Best Hotel in Perissa: Anastasia Princess
Best Hotel in Kamari: Sunrise Studios

Highest Rated Villas in Santorini:

Best Villa in Oia: Anemi House

Best Villa in Fira: Anteliz Villa

Best Villa in Kamari: Eolia Villa

Best Villa in Pyrgos: Sensation Villa

Best Villa in Akrotiri: Cavo Ventus

Best Villa in Firostefani: Villa Aura

Best Villa in Imerovigli: Grace Villa

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Who Are We:

SantoriniSecrets.com is the largest and most informative travel blog for all things Santorini, Athens, Mykonos and Greece maintained by local travel bloggers who love Greece and its islands more than anything else in this world. Some of us were actually born in Santorini and some others have spent many months not only visiting the greek islands but actually living on it for long periods of time. We are not just visitors. We are from Greece!

We consider ourselves the tipsters of this magical place, called Greece.

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