How can the unparalleled beauty of Greek islands be accurately described? We explore every little nook and cranny for hidden treasures with our 6 senses intoxicated; yearning to seal off a part of their brightness inside of us. Oscar Wilde praised them and made a lovely creation in their honor. Let’s travel with him…
“Τhe flapping of the sail against the mast,
Τhe ripple of the girls’ laughter at the stern,
The only sounds; when ‘gan the West to burn,
And a red sun upon the seas to ride,
I stood upon the soil of Greece at last!”
– Oscar Wilde
The strong desire leads you; the anticipation moves you; you crave to sail with your companion to romantic Santorini; to feel the cool sea breeze on your face, the warm sun rays on your skin and the sounds of the splashing waves at the beach. You have heard the best tales for this island with the wild scenery, the black beaches, the magical sunsets where the sun disappears into the deep blue of the sea. It is all true!
Santorini is one of Greece’s most alluring islands in the Aegean Sea. It is a rocky island with the worldwide reputation of being the only active volcano that is populated. The white settlements dominate – almost impudently with no trace of fear – on the volcano’s caldera and cliffs. The myth wants it to be the Lost City of Atlantis, the magnificent and enigmatic island that Plato wrote about in 350 B.C. There are no artifacts that this City really existed. It abruptly vanished during a powerful volcanic explosion which swallowed everything leaving no trace at all.
Every year, more than a million people come to this amazing natural wonder to admire this geological phenomenon. Avoid the overwhelming July and August crowds if you can, and set aside some time to visit the island’s historic attractions, undeveloped hinterland communities, and black and red volcanic beaches outside of Fira, the island’s tourist-oriented center. The greatest sunsets can be seen in Oia, which is also a lovely city for shopping and strolling. A folklore museum, a Middle Ages stronghold, and two Metropolises, one Catholic and one Orthodox, are all located in Fira. One of the best archaeological sites in Greece is at Akrotiri; it is covered under a canopy. Visitors walk on bridges that allow them a better perspective and photography.
The majority of pubs and clubs in Santorini may be found in Fira, Perissa, and Kamari. Perhaps the most well-known location is Fira, where you shouldn’t miss the chance to enjoy a drink in one of the pubs or cafés that are located near the caldera’s edge. You will have a wonderful experience thanks to the breathtaking scenery, the calm ambiance, and the soothing music. You will also enjoy traditional delicious recipes with local products and excellent wine Vinsanto.
Also read: 10 Must-Visit Winter Destinations in Greece
Leaving Santorini you could pass by cosmopolitan Mykonos, the island of the winds. Once you start distinguishing the morphology of the island you will see the windmills of 16th century rising like sentinels watching over the harbor. It is the island of the strong emotions, with the dream beaches, the lavish nightlife, the wild parties which will carry you away in their frenzied pulse and make you feel free and alive. Mykonos works as a magnet for famous people from around the globe. Don’t forget to visit Little Venice, built in the 18th century, with its foundations on the sea.
Remaining in the Aegean Sea, you come across to Naxos, a more family-friendly island, which combines a mix of calm vacation, attractive mountain villages, fantastic sandy beaches, remarkable architecture, archaeological monuments, water sports, fine restaurants, nightlife and locally produced goods.
Skiathos and Skopelos
Moving north, towards Thessaloniki, right across Volos you will find Skiathos and Skopelos, two islands known for their picturesque scenery that blends the blue of the sea with the green of the pine trees. The amphitheatric location of the center of Skopelos creates a unique image. Both islands have incredible beaches either with fine pebbles or sand and warm waters. It’s worth renting a boat to make the tour of each island. If you are lucky you could encounter playful dolphins and curious seals with a seabed rich of marine life.
At the Southern part of Greece, Crete awaits for you with its huge geographic space that needs at least 2 weeks to explore it. Due to its enormous latitude it could easily be assumed as autonomous (despite that it is not) due to the incredible massive production in local goods. Crete combines everything a traveler could imagine; sandy beaches, mountain villages, cosmopolitan cities, nightlife, wild sceneries, exotic places, exceptional culinary delights, archaeological monuments, but the biggest treasure that will remain in your heart is the warm hospitality of locals. Cretan hospitality is one of a kind.
Moving to northeast, there is a complex of islands called Dodecanese. Rhodes is one of them. Rhodes, the island of the Knights, has incredibly lush archeological history. The Medieval Town of Rhodes, or Old Town as the locals refer to it, is located inside the boundaries of Rhodes. Each stone in the Old Town recounts a tale that spans 2,400 years. It is one of the best preserved medieval cities in the world and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. There are notable monuments from the Byzantine era, the Turkish rule, and the period of Italian possession inside the Old Town walls, with the residence of the Grand Master being the most impressive. Cosmic points and traditional points blend harmonically with contemporary and timeless seasons. Moreover, Rhodes acts as the center of Dodecanese from where you can visit the rest of the islands with daily transportation.
If your goal is to visit an island for reloading your batteries then Ikaria is your place; the island where time stops. Ikaria sits in northeastern Aegean. It is famous for its beauty and relaxed rhythms, but also for its traditional amusing festivals. Wild terrain and tranquil waterways, rivers and lakes with crystal-clear water, charming beach towns and old-world hamlet tucked away in lush foliage give you numerous daily options. Ikaria is the place for you if you enjoy the outdoors and summer activities. The island won’t let you down once more if you wish to enjoy a peaceful vacation in the sun. But if you’re seeking for a feast, the island can provide it at the well-known festivals, when you may sip local wine and dance the vivid Ikariotiko till dawn. Another interesting point about Ikaria is that when you spend time on the island you feel like time has stopped. It is no surprise that a few years ago The Guardian called it “the island of long life”. Greece’s highest life expectancy is found in Ikaria, maybe as a result of the slower pace of life and overall happiness of the residents.
Kefalonia and Zakynthos
Last but not least, two of the largest in size islands of Ionian Sea, Kefalonia and Zakynthos can offer you unique moments due to their natural beauty. Ionian islands defer from Cyclades of Aegean. All the Eptanisa, as they are called in Ionian Sea, are full of overgrown vegetation. In Kefalonia you can visit Drogarati’s spectacular cave, Sami’s lovely village, and Melissani’s breathtaking lagoon cave. The cosmopolitan port of Fiscardo, the historic peninsula of Assos with its Venetian fortress and the famous beach of Myrtos with the deep tale waters are a few of the sights that you should not miss. At the southern part of the island there is a geological point, called Katavothres, with lots of interest.
Kefalonia is directly connected to Zakynthos by ferry boat. Zakynthos has numerous beauties to visit; top one to the list is the “Navagio”, or Shipwreck, where you can go only by boat. Once you enter the boat do not forget to pass by the Blue Caves with the blue and azure hues. If you are interested in the marine life of the island you can observe sea turtle careta careta in their natural environment in the bay of Lagana.
In conclusion, by visiting Greek islands you will enjoy the sun, the sea, the food, the nightlife, the cultural and archaeological sights, the sunsets, numerous geological phenomenon and most of all a warm greek hospitality!