For many people, Greek island is simply a cycladic island with cubic whitewashed houses, a maze of tiny streets, small churches and chapels at every corner, crystal clear sea. Each island has to offer something different and each one has its own character, style, lifestyle, traditions and customs.
Naxos Island is the largest and most fertile island with superb long sandy beaches. It is an island for all tastes. Neighbour Paros has excellent sandy beaches and combines a cosmopolitan with authentic Greek life. Santorini is spectacular with distinct night life. If you want to get away from it all, then Anafi is not far away from Santorini.
Well known Mykonos has everything: Superb beaches, life style and nightlife. Ios is an island with beautiful beaches and white washed houses. Sikinos and Folegandros are two quiet and very nice islands. The capital of Folegandros is one of the most beautiful in Greece.
Beautiful and unspoiled Tinos, the island of Virgin Mary attracts thousands prayers each August. The capital of Cyclades, Hermoupolis is at Syros island. Syros is a nice island, with nice sandy beaches. Ermoupolis is a large city and even has a Casino. Andros, the second largest island becomes more and more popular and is very close to Athens. The same applies to quiet Kythnos and Kea (or Tzia) which are popular weekend destinations for Athenians.
Sifnos is a very picturesque with over 300 churches and chapels, Milos has spectacular rock formations and satellite Kimolos is an ideal island for tranquil holidays. If you like walks, Serifos with the excellent scenery and beaches is for you. Amorgos with a pretty capital, is very authentic.
Small Cyclades is a group of small island south and west to Naxos Island. Koufonissia is a tiny island with excellent beaches and attracts lots of visitors, Schinousa is very quiet, Iraklia is quiet with some nice beaches and Donousa is the most remote from the group and it has fantastic beaches and it is very quiet too.
Ferry connections are excellent in Cyclades, especially in high season. Paros, Naxos, Milos and Syros have airports for domestic flights, while Mykonos and Santorini islands have international airports with charter flight arrivals from Europe.
The literal translation of Dodecanese is "Twelve Islands" although there are 16 inhabited ones and up to 27 in total. Dodecanese have a distinct character and architecture due to successive rulers - Venetian, Ottoman and Italian while the formal incorporation of the Dodecanese into Greece came in 1948.
Rhodes and Kos are among the most popular and cosmopolitan islands in the Mediterranean. Kalymnos is the island of the sponge divers, Tilos claims the last paradise in Greece, volcanic Nissyros, Lipsi, Pserimos and Halki are totally untouched by massive tourism. Symi is a picturesque small island which becomes popular, wild and mountainous Karpathos is dramatically beautiful, Agathonissi and Kassos are hilly and difficult to reach. Patmos is the island where Saint John the Divine wrote the prophetic Apocalypse (Revelations). Leros, a paradise in the Aegean, is relatively quite, Astypalaia's character and geographical position matches Cyclades, while Castellorizo or Megisti is lying on 'the edge of the edges' of Greece.
Direct charter flights are available from European cities to Rhodes, Kos and Karpathos. Daily flights operate from Athens to Astypalaia, Leros, Kos, Rhodes and Karpathos, while inter-island flight service operate between Karpathos and Crete, Kos and Leros, Rhodes, Karpathos, Kastellorizo, Crete, Santorini and Mykonos.
Crete is the largest island, where summer lasts from March to November and it is renowned for its breath taking mountain ranges and long sandy beaches running down to crystal blue seas. It is one of Europe's most alluring destinations, which combines the romance of the Aegean. Gavdos Island (south of Crete) is the most southern place in Europe and it has fine beaches.
Ionian Islands are also known as Eptanissa, (derived from the word "epta" = seven) in other words, the Seven Islands. Each island retains a strong personality: Corfu is an international resort gifted with green landscape and excellent beaches. Kythera, with the breathtakingly village above the port Kapsalli, still retains its unspoiled style. Kefalonia has a dramatic mountainous scenery with beautiful beaches, while its neighbor Ithaca - Odysseus' island - has a jagged indented coast. Meganissi is a tiny spectacular and unspoiled island. Zakynthos (Zante) is the flower of the East (as it was called by the Venetians) and Lefkas with the white cliffs has excellent sandy beaches, one of them to be wind surfers paradise. Paxi is like an olive groove and Antipaxi has fine sandy beaches. There are also numerous other small islands, Erikousa, Kalamos, Strofades, Elafonissi, Othoni reached from the largest islands by boat.
Ionian islands have wetter autumns and winter the Aegean islands. Summer can be hotter than the Aegean, since here there is no meltemi -the winds from the north.
Corfu, Kefalonia and Zakynthos have international airports with charter flights from European cities, while there is four times a week flight connection between Athens and Kythera. Ferries connect the islands with mainland Greece (Parga, Igoumenitsa, Astakos, Killini) and Italy. Lefkas is served by Preveza's international airport (in mainland Greece) - Lefkas is connected to the mainland by road.
North East Aegean Islands
What is common in these islands, is the individualism and the character. Beyond that all offer the simple joys of life such as crystal blue sea, unspoiled nature and villages, constant sunshine and beautiful beaches.
Most of these islands were colonized during the Dorian invasion in the 12th century BC and in the 7th and 6th century they were centres of brilliant civilizations, independent and powerful maritime centres.
Beside their natural attractions, all the large islands offer their visitors every facility and easy access. Lesvos (Mytelene) the home of Sappho and other great poets is an acquired taste, once you get a feel for the island you will find it difficult to leave. Samos -once the richest of the islands and the birthplace of many great men among them Pythagoras, Aristarchos and Eupalinos- is the most visited island. Chios is nice and culturally interesting and famous for its gum mastic that grows here and nowhere else in the world. Thassos is beautiful and offers fantastic beaches, forested mountains and archaeological sites. Ikaria with its thermal therapeutic spa is delightful and relatively unspoiled. Limnos, the home of Hephaestus, offers scenic beauty and simple pleasures. Samothraki is a quiet island, one of the least accessible and Agios Efstratios is suitable for day-trippers. Tiny Oinousses offer nice beaches and Fourni (a pair of islets) are known for their picturesque harbours and the plentiful fishes. Psara became famous for their contribution during the War of Independence.
Argosaronic Gulf Islands
Argosaronic (or Saronic) Gulf is set between Attica and Peloponnese and it is the home for the Saronic Islands. Aegina, Agistri, Poros, Hydra, Spetses and Salamina (or Salamis) are the main islands of the Saronic Gulf, with Aegina to be once a major rival to Athens, Salamina to be famous for its sea battles, Poros to be the island of Poseidon, Hydra and Spetses to play an important role during the war of independence. Today some of the Saronic Islands are a virtual suburb of Athens during the the summer and there are even commuters living in Aegina and working in Athens / Piraeus. >
Today these islands make a good holiday resort, with Aegina to be in 1985 the most visited island in Greece. Cosmopolitan Hydra (no cars are allowed here) has a spectacular waterfront and attracts many artists. Spetses is a relaxed pine island and Poros is a busy (especially in weekends) pretty, fertile island less than 400 meters away from Galatas town in Peloponnese. Angistri is a small island of pine woods.
Sporades Islands combine the cosmopolitan atmosphere with tranquility. Rugged coasts, "post-card" beaches, pine forests, stunning scenery.
Skyros looks like an island of mixed origin, where the southern part is mountainous and barren, contrary to the northern part which is green, full of pines. Skopellos is the most fertile island in Sporades, very beautiful with picturesque villages and nice beaches. Skiathos has a stunning scenery, glorious "post-card" beaches and combines cosmopolitan atmosphere with tranquility. Alonissos is very beautiful, very green, with countless excellent beaches and is also the shelter for a very rare mammal of Mediterranean, monk seal (monachus monachus).
It is a huge island -the second largest in Greece after Crete, connected to mainland Greece by bridge. It has dramatic scenery with olive groves, orchards, dense forests, cliffs, snow topped mountains and beaches. It is an island suitable for most activities, 4x4, trekking, swimming, water sports, riding, canyoning, climbing.