Greek Island Beaches

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Greek Island Beaches
Greece is a country of beaches, ranging from pebble coves just big enough for two to rolling sand dunes that run for miles. Whether your idea of beach heaven is a raft of watersports, pumping beach bars, mellow seaside tavernas, or nothing but you and the horizon, your perfect Greek beach is out there.
By Rachel Howard, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Franck Guiziou/age fotostock
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    Finding Your Perfect Beach
    There's a simple rule when it comes to beaches on the Greek islands: The closer you are to the port, the busier the beach will be. If beach bars and sunbeds aren't your thing, hire a water taxi (or even your own motorboat, no license required) and find a bay that's inaccessible by road or on foot. A short hop from Astypalea, Koutsomiti and Kounoupes are two tiny islands connected by a double-sided beach. The Small Cyclades, an archipelago of six tiny isles and dozens more uninhabited ones, are awash with castaway coves.
    Photo by Franck Guiziou/age fotostock
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    From Volcanic Rock to Smooth Sand
    There are as many kinds of beach in Greece as there are islands. Santorini's coastline is a rainbow of black, red, and gray. On Mykonos, the stunning beaches are an extension of the island's nightlife: Sunset parties go on all night at beach bars like Nammos on Psarou and Alemàgou on Ftelia. The Ionian islands of Lefkada and Paxi are respectively renowned for their powdery, cliff-backed beaches and pebble coves fringed with olive groves. With over 75 beaches ranging from smooth white sandstone to shiny black pebbles and hidden fjords, Milos has the most spectacular coastline of all.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Stroll from Coast to Coast
    If you can't stand the idea of lounging in the sun all day, hike from beach to bay instead, stopping for a refreshing dip, a seaside lunch, or a snooze in the shade. Pick up a map or ask for directions at the tourist information office. On Andros and Sifnos, you'll find excellent detailed maps and signs along the ancient footpaths that crisscross the islands. You can't dive off the nearly 1,000-foot cliff on the three-hour walk from Fira to Oia on Santorini, but you can take a dip at Ammoudi, the fishing port below Oia. A walk around the Old Fortress of Corfu, a beguiling mix of Byzantine and Venetian influences, offers wonderful views across the harbor town.
    Photo by Sergio Piumatti/age fotostock
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    Family Beach Outings
    Family days out at the beach are integral to Greek culture, so beaches get busier at the weekend. If you have babies or toddlers, head to Naxos, fringed with miles and miles of powdery sand, or tiny Antiparos, ringed with shallow, sandy bays. Active kids will find plenty to keep them busy on Lefkada's postcard-pretty beaches, from kayaking to kitesurfing, waterskiing to windsurfing. If your kids aren't strong swimmers, keep a close eye on them; lifeguards are rare on Greek beaches, and there are few restrictions on permissible swimming distances.
    Photo by Grant Rooney/age fotostock
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    Fishing Trips
    If you want to cast a line into local fishing culture, half- and full-day angling trips can be arranged at many ports. Simply walk around the harbor or visit the local tourist information office for more information. Spearfishing equipment is available in many stores, but you must be licensed before you go out, and regulations are strictly enforced. If you don’t want to catch your own fish, pull up a seat at a waterfront kafenio and watch the weathered fishermen bring in their haul.
    Photo by Ken Gillham/age fotostock
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    Cruising Between Islands
    One of the most popular ways to travel through the Greek islands is on cruise ships. This is because many of the islands are far apart; cruising allows you to travel at night, leaving the days to explore and enjoy the islands. The only disadvantage to cruising is that you just won’t want to leave some places. Most cruise ships visit the big islands: Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, and Crete. If you’re looking for a deluxe ship experience, check the sailing itineraries of companies such as Holland America. Some smaller cruise ships, like Variety Cruises, anchor in ports where many of the larger liners are too big to dock.
    Photo by Terrance Klassen/age fotostock
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    Sailing the Greek Islands
    Whether you're an experienced skipper or want to kick back and let someone else do the hard work, jumping aboard your own sailboat is the easiest way to squeeze several Greek islands into a single trip. You can venture at your own pace to lesser-known isles such as the idyllic Small Cyclades and the uninhabited islands around Lefkada. It's also surprisingly affordable for large families or a group of friends. If you're not sure about high winds or tight cabin space, look for the wooden boats offering one-day boat trips around the island: Craggy Symi, volcanic Milos, and car-free Hydra are all easily explored from the water.
    Photo by Duby Tal/age fotostock