Trip to the Greek Islands

12 islands to choose where to spend your holidays

this summer of 2023

1. Spetses

On December 23, 2022, the long-awaited sequel to the blockbuster “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” was released on Netflix with the famous actors Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Kathryn Hahn, Janelle Monáe and Dave Bautista.

Shots of the film have been shot in Spetses in front of the Posidonio hotel. The choice is not accidental, because the plot is inspired by Agatha Christie’s mystery novels, so the background of the film must be classic, referring to the beginning of the 20th century.

So it’s a golden opportunity to go and see up close the places where the movie was shot and also to get to know, if you haven’t done so yet, this cosmopolitan island. A destination where nobility and history can be seen in all its parts. The beauties enchant the visitor from the picturesque Dapia where the water taxis are tied up to the Old Port where boats of all types jostle for a place in the sheltered bay.

Among the top things to do in Spetses are to walk the seaside promenade, photograph Poseidonio, have fun in the Old Port , try almonds, bathe in Agia Paraskevi and take a water taxi boat ride from Dapia to Old Port.

2. Tinos

A dynamic entry for Tinos as apart from its inclusion in Condé Nast Traveler’s list of the best Greek islands for 2023 it has won another entry in the Guardian’s list of Europe’s quiet islands and two more articles from La Repubblica and the New York Times.

Articles praise the island for its traditional villages, surreal sunsets, local cuisine, miraculous Virgin Mary and meltemias. Extensive mention is made of the sculptors who contributed to traditional architecture: Nikolaos Gyzi, Giannouli Halepa, Dimitrios Filippoti, Antonio Sochos.

In Pyrgos sculptured birds and flowers decorate every door while in Kardiani the marble taps, fountain, porticoes and skylights are built with the stones and marbles of the area. At the Marble Crafts Museum in Pyrgos, the visitor can discover processing techniques and traditional tools.

Tinos takes its food culture seriously: there are artichoke, caper and honey festivals Marathia restaurant with a field and a boat highlighted local ingredients in complex modern dishes.
For a perfect meal in perfect surroundings go for cuttlefish risotto and octopus caramelized in grape must at Thalassaki served on the pier in Hysternia Bay , then watch the dusk bleed into the horizon from the Exomeria bar.

Although only 15 minutes from Mykonos, it has miraculously managed to remain untouched. Lonely chapels and dovecotes on thyme-scented hills fall into sandy bays battered by the meltemi. The fifteenth of August is overwhelmed by pilgrims who flock to worship the miraculous icon, one of the most sacred in all of Greece.

3. Naxos

In recent years, Condé Nast Traveler’s lists have consistently included Naxos as the most complete island of the Cyclades, and this is because it has everything you want from a holiday destination: from endless sandy beaches and picturesque villages to archaeological sites and local products.

The first image from the ship shows that in Naxos the picturesqueness of the Cyclades meets ancient and medieval history. There are two sights that attract the eye. The ancient Portara , which is an unfinished temple dedicated to the god Apollo , dominates the harbor and stands impressively on a promontory, while Chora with the Castle is a medieval castle-state that was the seat of the Duchy of Naxos from 1207. Inside the Chora is the old market with winding streets, small restaurants and bars, tourist shops and picturesqueness that has nothing to envy from Mykonos!

The list of things to do in Naxos is long. Continuing with the beaches, the best are Agios Georgios and Agios Prokopios , while you will find many more on the west side of the island, some quiet and others crowded. Some of them are Agia Anna, Aliko , Kastraki , Mikri Vigla and Plaka “Endless miles of sandy beaches” is the phrase that the articles use to describe them, anyway this island is famous all over Greece for its sandy beaches.

Apart from fishing villages, it is the only Cycladic island where you can find mountain villages. The most famous are Apiranthos and Filoti on Mount Fanari with Byzantine, Venetian and Frankish roots and with popular architecture that stands out. A visit there is a must as they have not been altered by tourism and what we see is authentic. So wander through cobbled streets with arches, picturesque squares, see towers and Byzantine churches and admire this different side of the Cyclades.

Naxos is suitable for all ages, for families, couples and adults There are many options for nightlife without being a party island, while at the same time it is a quiet island, the beaches are suitable for children, it is large enough and one does not disturb the other.

4. Sifnos

Sifnos has been gaining more and more fans in recent years, with three points being its best: the picture-postcard villages, the local cuisine and the amazing beaches.

Condé Nast Traveler’s article on the best islands in Greece for 2023 praises Sifnos for its culinary heritage, which owes it to Nikolaos Tselemendes who wrote the first cookbook in Greece in 1910. Forget souvlaki and moussaka: here the chickpea croquettes and cooked capers are staple dishes of the tavern. The potteries produce the clay pots used for revithad (baked chickpeas) and mastelo (lamb with red wine and dill).

Special mention goes to the Meraki tavern of Manolis in Vathi, which cooks the dishes slowly in a wood-fired oven, to Omega 3 in Platis Gialos for the “teased” Sifnai dishes, to the traditional pastry shop of Theodoros in Artemonas for almonds, pastries and halvad pies and to the Cantina in Seralia for gastronomic dishes with local ingredients.

The article concludes that Sifnos is the right balance of understated luxury with pristine authenticity.

All the villages have something unique: Kamares the port with the long sandy beach, Apollonia the picturesqueness and intense nightlife, Artemonas the cobbled streets, Kastro was the medieval capital, the traditional fishing village of Pharos , Platy Gialos the long sandy beach , the isolated fishing village of Vathi .

The churches with the blue domes are also very beautiful. The most famous images of Sifnos are the charming church of the Seven Martyrs which is one of the most photographed in all of Greece and the patroness Panagia Chrysopigi standing proudly on the rock in the vastness of the Aegean.

5. Syros

Barrages of articles have been written about Syros in recent years by the American Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveller, the British Times and the Telegraph. All agree that it is a 100% authentic island outside of mass tourism that gives a taste of real Greece. Syros does not need tourism and therefore has not changed, the main occupation of the residents is the shipyards which, although they have an unpleasant appearance, are in no way representative of the island.

But this maritime tradition has left a legacy of the neoclassical mansions in Vaporia which impress with their ornate balconies, shutters and designs on the railings. It is the most beautiful district with alleys as if they came out of Siena, a combination of romance, Renaissance and Pompeii. However, Ermoupoli is also impressive , built on twin peaks crowned with churches, one Orthodox and the other Catholic.

Coastal ferry routes Syros - Ios

Syros does not have white houses like the rest of the Cyclades, rather it has an aroma of Italy, and as it has been described, it is a world taken out of a 19th century opera. It stands out for its cobbled alleys, tiny squares, wrought iron lamps, the Apollo Theater of 1864, a miniature of the Scala of Milan, and the town hall of 1876 with Miaouli Square.

So Syros is the island where history meets seafaring. It was once one of the great ports of Europe along with Odessa, Trieste, Marseille and Liverpool. In fact, Syros loukumi was a favorite of Queen Victoria of England.

The beaches that stand out are Vari , Azolimnos and Kini . It is also mentioned that the island has a tradition of rebetiko singing as Markos Vamvakaris came from there and sang of its beauties.

But there are also many seaside taverns: at Ambela beach for fresh fish, at Iliovasilema at Galissa beach for salad with zambiri and sea urchins and rockfish soup. Allou Yallou in the seaside village of Kini for lobster with orzo. In Ermoupoli the best places to eat and drink are along Androu Street: Usyra where the chef makes Greek pasta and beautifully balanced salads and Django Gelato for delicious smoked hazelnut ice cream and fig sorbet. Perhaps the nicest restaurant is Along with the courtyard covered with vines and decorated with bougainvillea.

6. Milos

A regular on lists of the world’s best islands: 3rd best island in the world by Travel + Leisure readers for 2021, 1st for 2022 and 4th for 2023, admittedly huge accolades for both the island itself and the Hellas.

In a related article it is stated that “the best island in Europe has stunning white stone beaches and some of the most turquoise waters in the world”, unsurpassed food and its beauty is comparable to Mykonos and Santorini. She is known anyway for the Venus of Milos.

The rocky coastline gives way to some of the most pristine crystal clear waters you’ve ever seen. The landscape is steep hillsides dotted with sparse vegetation, whitewashed houses, blue-domed churches and grazing goats.

In Plaka, the alleys are small and narrow, but the residents have painstakingly made sure that every detail is in its place. All the buildings are perfectly whitewashed, the shutters are the perfect shade of blue and the bougainvillea look like they’re always in bloom. Even the stones have been painted separately to stand out from the pavement. If you don’t know, the sunset in Plaka rivals that of Santorini, I personally thought it was better!

Klima is the most photographed spot in Milos, these colorful doors are warehouses and parking lots for boats dug into the soft volcanic rock. If you’re lucky you might see a fisherman going about his daily business there.

Sarakiniko beach is like landing on the bright side of the moon and you don’t even need filters on Instagram, mention is also made of Papafraga, another special beach of the island. The article concludes: “Milos, like its famous statue, is a siren that will call you again and again.”

7. Ithaca

A mythical haven for lovers and the lonely. With this title, Condé Nast Traveler includes Ithaca in its list of the best Greek islands for 2023 and continues: despite its legendary stature, the homeland of the hero Odysseus remains surprisingly under the radar.

And it is apparently its reputation for Odysseus and his long-suffering journey that prevents us from seeing it as a summer destination where we can spend our holidays. Because in addition to being the homeland of Odysseus, Ithaca is a verdant island adorned with picturesque villages with slopes that end in beautiful bays with wonderful beaches. In fact, it is better known to boaters who travel the seas than to holidaymakers.

From Kioni to Vathi all you will see are images that travel the mind. Picturesque harbors hugging sheltered bays with sailboats bobbing in the calm waters.
In Vathi you will see the statue of Odysseus standing proudly on one side while his boat is rowing on the other side, while in Kioni discover the very small beaches with turquoise waters that the village streets lead there.

Other villages worth a visit are the fishing village of Frikes and Stavros where there is a bust of Odysseus and a representation of his palace by the Italian architect Bruno Mazzali. The article recommends the Spavento cafe-bar in Kioni, the Ageri restaurant in Frikes and the Mylos bar in Vathi.

The beaches are small pebbly but as clean and refreshing as denim, they may be unknown but that’s because they are known to the few and the good! The best are Gidaki , Filiatro , Kioni, Platia Ammos , Kourvoulia , Sarakiniko , Menymata and Ai Giannis.

8. Folegandros

Entry also for Folegandros as it is included in Condé Nast’s list of the best Greek islands of 2023 and in the British Times list of the best Greek quiet islands. I remember that for 2022 it was on Travel + Leisure’s list as the 2nd best island in the world.

Folegandros is famous for the charming Chora and the Castle, which is one of the most photographed and recognizable spots of the Cyclades, but the articles also express admiration for the Virgin Mary with the zig-zag path , which is the ideal spot to admire the wild beauty of the sunset.

The flavors on the island are a journey in themselves. At the Chic restaurant in the square, try dishes with local ingredients, cheese meatballs, eggplant stuffed with couscous, lemon goat, stuffed vegetables. For the traditional matcha macaroni at the Meeting in Ano Meria.

In Irini in Ano Meria also for home-made food with meatballs, eggplant salad, suroto (local cheese), kalasouna (traditional pie with suroto and onion) and stews.

In Punda you can eat food with local ingredients in the wonderful courtyard. Be sure to try karpouzenia, the traditional sweet of the Cyclades. Also recommended is the Astarti bar for racomelo along with local pasteli.

The beaches are really calm and wonderful, accessible mostly by boat or on foot. The best are Vardia, Agios Nikolaos , Livadaki , Galifos , Agali , Lygaria , Agios Georgios and Katergos.

9. Kefalonia

Relaxed family holidays is Condé Nast’s title for Kefalonia. We saw the island come out of obscurity with the film ” Captain Corelli’s Mandolin ” with Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz in 2001 when it showcased its beauties through the romantic story of an Italian soldier and a Kefalonian woman during the occupation .

Ace of Kafalonia
Ace of Kefalonia

The 1953 earthquake leveled all the villages except Fiskardo and Assos which, like colorful touches, are the only representatives of traditional architecture. In the cosmopolitan Fiskardo, many famous people have come to try Tasia’s dishes, among them John Galliano and Jon Bon Jovi who tasted pasta with seafood.

An island full of colors, overgrown with beaches in 50 shades of blue. The most famous Myrtos , white as milk, is one of the most famous in Greece, but Antisamos and Fteri are not far behind. The most famous beaches after them are Atheras , Alaties , Emblysia , Petani, Agia Efimia , Koutsoupia and Horgota.

Fteri and Koutsoupia can only be accessed by boat, so it’s an opportunity for boating!

10. Paxos

If there is a place in Greece that combines natural beauty with picturesqueness and tranquility then it is Paxos , the island that is most well known for the seas in all shades of blue. Condé Nast included it in its list and characterizes the color of the sea electric blue!

Although a small island, its attractions are disproportionately many. The Italian architecture settlements with their beautiful streets and picturesque harbors are located in sheltered bays offering a unique opportunity for food and coffee on the sea. The article singles out the Taxidi bar in Logos for the patio overlooking the sea and the view of the sunset.

The most important attractions, however, are the magnificent natural formations: the breathtaking view of the cliffs from Kastanida , above the cave of Ypapanti, the natural arch of Trypitos, Erimitis beach with its vertical cliffs, the sunset over Galazio beach and also the sunset in Lakka in the calm waters of the bay.

We cannot describe the beaches in words, simply that one is better than the other, the best of course are in Antipaxos with Voutumi justly stealing the impressions.

The must include the tour of Paxos and Antipaxos to see the steep cliffs and bathe in the Blue Cave.

11. Patmos

Here is another destination on the Condé Nast Traveler list from the Dodecanese, extremely unfair because the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian surpasses the island’s reputation, usually you will find it in lists of Easter destinations that title it as the island of the Apocalypse but this is not the whole reality.

The most beautiful thing in Patmos may not be the Monastery, but the Chora, which impresses with its beauty, is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It stands out for the white mansions dating from the 16th century with the stone borders on doors and windows, for the colorful details, the serpentine alleys, the beautiful squares and the view towards Skala, the port of the island. The haunts of Chora are Astoivi and Stoa bar.

Lacy island as it is, it hides many coves with quiet beaches with Livadi Geranou and Psili Ammos being the columnist’s favorites. The best activity, however, is the day trip to the neighboring inhabited and uninhabited islets, and this is because in Patmos there are such island complexes that will give you the opportunity to make marine explorations and discoveries.

Most tourists visit Patmos by day boats from Kos, but it is definitely worth a few extra days of attention. And one more thing, the almighty Monastery has kept the night life under its control. This is a figure of speech from Condé Nast of course!

12. Symi

The Dodecanese continue with Symi. So the Condé Nast columnist narrates in clear words:

“Little Symi has the most beautiful port in Greece. As you round the headland, neoclassical mansions in every shade of apricot and peach rise like mirages from the sea. Built by sponge and spice merchants in the 19th century, the entire town is a national monument.”

Ferry connection Piraeus - Symi

Picturesque and imposing, I might add, with a large harbor of caiques and pleasure boats with the clock of 1881 dominating. What you want is to find the best spots to admire the settlement from different angles and watch the boats coming and going in the port. Up on the hill, of course, the view gets even better.

The must include the visit to the Panormitis Monastery which is the patron saint of the Dodecanese and swimming at the beaches of Agios Georgios and Marathousta . It is also famous for the Simian shrimp, although in the taverns you can enjoy all kinds of seafood. The restaurant recommended by Condé Nast is Tholos.

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