Top Attractions in the Greek Islands
Collected by Rachel Howard, AFAR Local Expert
Join millions of travelers who have wandered these islands looking for sun-bleached remnants of grand amphitheaters or the perfect beach among many contenders or serene temples. Bright summer days will forever remind you of your journey here.
Symi, Simi 856 00, Greece
A 90-minute ferry ride from Rhodes and just five nautical miles from Turkey, Symi feels more like the Amalfi Coast than Greece. Elegant mansions in every hue of peach and pink are reflected in the horseshoe harbor. Built by 19th-century merchants...
Mikonos 846 00, Greece
Watching a movie by moonlight with a cold beer is one of the joys of Greek summer. For smokers, it’s an even greater pleasure: Viewers are free to light up at the outdoor cinemas planted on rooftops, beachfront plots, and breezy parks...
Vardaka Square, Ermoupolis, Syros, Ermoupoli 841 00, Greece
The island of Syros, the administrative, commercial, and cultural capital of the Cyclades, was a major shipbuilding center before and after Greece won its hard-fought independence in 1821. During its 19th-century heyday, its neoclassical...
Patmos 855 00, Greece
A retreat for Orthodox pilgrims and publicity-shy celebrities, Patmos owes its mystical aura to the 11th-century Monastery of St. John, which dominates the UNESCO-protected settlement of Chora. Follow wafts of incense into the mosaic-paved...
Skopelos 370 03, Greece
Blame actress Meryl Streep for putting this chapel on the map. Teetering atop an outcrop of rock adrift the northeastern coast of Skopelos, the church of Agios Ioannis tou Kastri (St. John of the Castle) is where Streep serenaded Pierce Brosnan...
Irakleia, Iraklia 843 00, Greece
Once upon a time, the only way to get to the Greek islands was on torpid ferries that seemed to stop at every speck in the Aegean. These days hydrofoils, high-speed boats, and airplanes zip between most of them. But the Express Skopelitis, a...
Vassiliki, Lefkada 311 00, Greece
Although Lefkada is the only Greek island accessible by land (via a causeway first built in 500 B.C.E.), its main attractions are the incredible white-sand beaches Porto Katsiki, Kathisma, and Egremni, which are featured on countless Greek tourism...
Platia Brouk, Chora, Πλατεία Μπρουκ, Χώρα, Skyros - Chora 340 07, Greece
A bit removed from the other Sporades islands, Skyros is deeply traditional. Old ladies in yellow headscarves sit on their stoops, bent over embroidery. Carpenters chisel the distinctive wooden skamnakia (miniature chairs carved with...
Aptera Apokoronou, Box 411, Chania, Khania Crete, Aptera 730 03, Greece
While the (admittedly stunning) Minoan Palace of Knossos is overrun with bus tours, ancient Aptera—once the most powerful city-state in western Crete—is mostly, miraculously empty. Surrounded by two miles of fortified walls,...
Φλώρου Ζουγανέλη 23, Mikonos 846 00, Greece
Of all the Greek islands, sybaritic Mykonos has the most to offer big spenders. Instead of worry beads and flip-flops, the shopping scene is more Louis Vuitton and Lalaounis jewelry. Ergon, a stark white concept store with rag rugs installed...
Nomikos Street, Oía 847 02, Greece
Dreamed up by a pair of American philosophy majors, this atmospheric bookshop a few steps down from Oia’s pedestrian "main street" is packed to the rafters with novels, travel books, rare first editions, and, of course, Greek mythology...
Thera 847 00, Greece
Santorini may be overrun with cruise ships, honeymooners, plunge pools, and selfie sticks, but there are still places where you can marvel at the intense, otherworldly landscape in peace. A dizzying 5.5-mile footpath follows the contours of...
Mitilini 811 00, Greece
Ouzo is produced primarily on the Greek island of Lesvos. The lively neoclassical port of Mytilene is awash with delightful ouzeries that offer dozens of varieties of the liqueur alongside saucers of salted sardines, cheese cured in olive...