For quintessentially Greek photo ops.
Perhaps the best known of the Greek islands, Santorini is a must-visit. Actually made up of two inhabited islands and several islets, there are countless cruises that will allow you to see the sights shaped by the region’s volcanic activity—including hot springs and the island of Thirassia, formed by an explosion in 1600 BC—although exploring the island with a local guide is another great option. Alternatively, if you prefer exploring on foot, consider hiking between the two main towns of Fira and Oia.
For history buffs and mythology fiends.
The largest and southernmost Greek island, Crete—home of the Minoans—is a haven for history lovers. Visiting the Palace of Knossos is the best way to learn more about this ancient civilization, but sights such as the Cave of Zeus, one of the reputed birthplaces of the king of the gods, are also unmissable. And considering Crete is also one of the oldest winemaking regions in the world, a wine tour is a must for any oenophile.
For party-hard patrons and beach bums.
Beloved by night owls and partygoers, Mykonos is the perfect island to visit when you want to let your hair down. Party until dawn in one of the island’s many nightclubs, then take it easy on the beach or set sail on a decadent sunset cruise. You can also use the island as a jumping-off point for exploring nearby Delos, said to be the birthplace of Artemis and Apollo; or Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades Islands, which is known for pristine white beaches and unique architecture.
For family-friendly attractions and unique cultural appeal.
An island with a particularly rich culture thanks to its time spent under Venetian, French, and British rule before reuniting with Greece, experiences in Corfu range from the rustic to the luxurious and everything in between. Join a tour to see the Old Town and the Paleokastritsa Monastery, or head out on a boat to visit the neighboring islands of Paxos and Antipaxos, including Paxos’ famous blue caves. Families with children may want to get their thrills at one of Europe’s biggest water parks, Aqualand.
For wine tours and natural beauty.
The biggest of the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia is located off the northeast coast of the Peloponnese and is beloved by travelers seeking natural beauty. Venturing out on a highlights tour that includes a boat ride inside the famous Melissani Cave is one way to ensure you see as much as you can of what this stunning island has to offer, but for those who’d prefer to indulge a different set of senses, a wine tour is always a good idea.
For historic attractions and cruises galore.
Home to a medieval citadel as well as Byzantine churches, Ottoman mosques, and Roman ruins, the largest of the Dodecanese Islands has served as a home to countless cultures and civilizations over the years. Discover Rhodes Old Town on foot before exploring the coast—between kayaking tours and leisurely cruises, there’s an option for every kind of traveler. Nature lovers should also be sure to schedule a trip to the Valley of Butterflies … although those with entomophobia may prefer to stay at home.
For incomparable beaches and water-based activities.
North of Rhodes is Kos, the third largest of the Dodecanese Islands, known for its historical appeal and breathtaking beaches. If you’re looking to relax, consider visiting the island’s only Turkish bath before taking in the sunset over the village of Zia. If adventure is what you’re after, why not try diving in the clear waters of Pserimos, or visiting the nearby volcanic island of Nisyros? And for travelers who want to see as much as possible, a cruise around three neighboring islands or a day trip to Bodrum might just do the trick.
For animal lovers and sun worshippers.
Known as one of the greenest of the Greek islands, much of Zakynthos is made up of the Greek National Marine Park, which is one of the nesting areas for the loggerhead sea turtle. Many tours of the island include stops at Kalamaki, the beach favored by the turtles, as well as Marathonisi, or Turtle Island. Other must-see sights include Navagio, or Shipwreck Beach—widely considered one of the world’s best—which is home to the wreck of the MV Panagiotis; the Blue Caves; and Xigia Beach, the site of underwater hot springs.
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