So many islands, so little time.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been or not; mention the The Greek Islands and one instantly starts salivating over the idea of saucy waters, postcard-worthy villages and endless sun. And to be fair, these dreamy clichés are right on the money; the Greek Islands are straight-up magic. The seas are impossibly blue. The sand is always warm under foot. The homemade tzatziki puts Tescos to shame. And the general pace of life is just a little more relaxed.
I’ve always said that the best part of living in Europe (and the UK) is the rest of Europe. Growing up in New Zealand the world always felt so damn far away (because it is). Being in Europe and having an entire continent right on our doorstep ready to explore never gets old. Neither, for that matter, does visiting Greece. So this summer Sam and I headed there for the second time to indulge in our age-old holiday mantra of swim, eat, read, sleep, repeat.
Supposedly there are around 6000 islands, 200 of which are inhabited. And while we haven’t quite ticked off all 6,000 islands (let alone 200), we have covered a bit of ground. So if you’re looking to book a trip next summer and can’t decide which islands are your jam, I’ve jotted down some of my travel wisdom below.
If being a Greek Island was a competition, then Zakynthos would be awarded the top spot. Yes, it has the infamous touristic Shipwreck Bay (which will blow your mind, particularly when looking down at from a precarious cliff edge with no rails in sight), but the island also has some of the most incredible water surrounding it – from oceans of crazy milky-blue to the clearest snorkelling spots imaginable. Throw in some rugged cliffs and you’ve pretty much found heaven. I’d advise to avoid the well-trodden south and head straight up north to find a quaint hotel nestled in one of the villages. We even hired our own little boat to explore the bays and secluded beaches; hands down the best part of our trip.
Spetses is the perfect mix of traditional Greek island living and killer swimming spots. Think windy beachside roads, entire walls of bougainvillea and turquoise seas. Hire a scooter and head out to Agii Anargyri beach where you can find the hidden (but well known) Bekiri Cave – where you take a leap of faith into near-blackness and swim towards the light where the water turns blue.
What’s cooler than bars and restaurants nestled amongst jagged cliffs? Nothing, that’s what. Head up the town steps, grab a cocktail and watch the braver young boys jump off the cliffs into the sea below. It’s also home to a killer sunset, if you’re partial to that sort of thing (I’m sure you are).
Poros was made for romantics. Hire a scooter and head up into the hills where you can find impossibly picturesque garden restaurants with lush views and grape vines overhead. After a day of exploring de-sand yourself and head to Dimitris Taverna (provided you eat meat) for one insanely big and juicy (sorry vegetarians) t-bone steak. Topped off with seaside views.
Ahh Mykonos, how I love thee. It may be the notorious party island but I spent an entire week there and managed not to get drunk once – so don’t be put off by the rumours; you can go there just to relax. Mykonos can only be described as a Greek postcard in real life. Head there early June or September to avoid the crowds. For more in-depth info on my favourite places to swim, eat and sleep in Mykonos head here.
Hands down the busiest, most touristic island of them all, I will be honest and say Santorini isn’t 100% my vibe (sorry). Not that I’m saying give it a miss – seeing it’s white buildings stacked into the hillside with your own eyes is something not to be missed. For more info on where to eat, sleep and play head here.
Can I add another favourite to my list? Because Folegandros ticks all the boxes. Untouched beaches (largely thanks to the fact that they are only accessible by boat), white-washed streets and endless views over the horizon. For more travel tips (and photographic proof of it’s deliciousness) check out my mini guide here.
Crete is the kind of place you head when you need something that can fit everyone’s needs (it’s also one of the cheapest places to fly to). It’s the biggest island of the lot, which means it’s impossible not to find a little nook that isn’t exactly what you’re after. Head north for the best beaches and put Balos at the top of your list.