With a number of islands ranging from 1,200 to 6,000, only about 300 of which are inhabited, it can be hard to determine which ones are worth a visit when traveling to Greece. We’ve picked five of our favorite islands that we believe no Greece visit is complete without. Santorini, Mykonos, and Delos belonging to the Cyclades Islands, and Crete and Samothrace are archaeological treasures lined by scenic, sandy beaches.
An island blown apart by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption 2500 years ago, the resultant caldera has created an almost mystic aura surrounding Santorini’s unique natural beauty. Occupying a small 12 mile crescent of land, we feel Santorini to be the one Cyclades Island that combines relaxation, entertainment, natural beauty, and ancient history. We feel Santorini’s innumerable picturesque, quaint villages are a big plus for spending time here. The villages’ unique architecture of small white houses built on reddish cliff sides, alongside the volcanic beaches, makes for an extraordinary setting.
Considered by many as the chic/fashionable, status-conscious island of the Cyclades, this place can be quite busy and crowded during the July through August peak “party” season. Hora, the island’s well-preserved port, and capital feature narrow alleys and whitewashed buildings, overlooking the town’s iconic windmills. We recommend visiting the town’s waterfront “Little Venice” quarter during sunset as the setting is spectacular. During the summer season, the streets are overrun with hip boutiques, galleries, and numerous, loud local bars.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Delos is a sacred place, where the twins Apollo, the god of light, and the goddess Artemis, were born. Because of this, in ancient times, no child was permitted to be born here, nor any person allowed to die here. In modern time, Delos has become a wealth of archaeological treasures ranging from the Archaic to Classical to Hellenistic periods. The island itself is a museum where no overnight visitors are allowed, so soak up all the treasures of this ancient place while you can.
This long, narrow island is dominated by daunting mountains that rise to 8,000 ft. (Mount Ida), with much of the land unspoiled. Most 4th grade Francis W. Parker students know of Crete as the birthplace of Zeus (“born” in Psychro Cave at Mount Dikti), yet the island was also once the center of the Minoan civilization during the Paleolithic age, the earliest of European civilizations. In addition to stunning beaches and lagoons, Crete holds the famous archaeological sites of Knossos, 15th-century monasteries, and the gorge of Samaria.
Topped by Mount Saos, the highest mountain of all the Aegean Islands, ancient myths tell of Poseidon sitting on the peak to watch the War of Troy unfold. Here is where the Winged Victory of Samothrace, our favorite sculpture (and the inspiration for Rolls Royce’s Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament) was found. Though the statue is now held in Paris’ Louvre, there are still many things to see on Samothrace including the Sanctuary of the Great Gods and the sulfur springs of Therma.