Summer is right around the corner and it seems the Greek Islands are on everyone’s radar! One of the most common questions I’m receiving lately is how to choose which Greek Island to visit. It’s important to note that there are actually over 6,000 Greek Islands, but only a handful that are well-known and convenient to get to from Athens.
Over the past few years we’ve traveled to a number of the islands. The white-washed facades and sunsets of Santorini and beaches reminiscent of the moon’s surface in Milos are two standouts. The best part about the Greek Islands is that there really is something for everyone — whether you’re after incredible Greek food, turquoise blue water and sandy beaches, picturesque towns, family-friendly activities or nightlife, or a combination of all of the above. Read on for my tips on how to choose the best Greek Island to visit and a breakdown of each one!
PRESET COLLECTION USED IN THIS BLOG POST: GREEK ISLANDS COLLECTION
Quick Tips for Visiting the Greek Islands
May and September is shoulder season – less crowds, cheaper hotels. We prefer September because the water is warmest and the winds have died down.
Flights and ferries are best to get to the islands – book everything in advance, but know that weather can also delay and cancel transport.
Car, motorbike and ATV is the preferred mode of transport – you’ll have the freedom to explore more with an ATV or motorbike rental. Book in advance.
The most quintessential, romantic Greek Island of Santorini is known for picturesque views of white-washed facades and blue domes; perfect for those who want good food, unique hotels, cobblestone streets, shopping, and plenty to explore.
Best for: romance, trendy hotels, picture-perfect views.
Not good for: beaches and crowds. Santorini may have crystal-clear water, but most of the beaches on the island are rocky or overcrowded. Consider Milos if you’re after amazing Greek beaches.
Where I’ve stayed: This traditional Oia cave house Airbnb, which remains one of my favorite Airbnbs to date. Oia is the most popular part of the island, for good reason. If you have a picture in mind of Santorini, it’s likely of the white cave houses and blue domes in Oia, perched on cliffs over the ocean.
If you’re able to splurge on one stay, make it a hotel or Airbnb on Santorini. The accommodations are incredible here. In the right spot, you won’t want to trade the views from your balcony for the crowds outside your door.
Airbnbs in Santorini
Oia Home – $ – a gorgeous open space apartment with a beautiful balcony overlooking the volcano. (Similar in price: Selana en Pori House nearby Oia)
Pura Vida Cave House – $$ – hilltop views in Imerovigli, with a rooftop terrace that overlooks the blue waters of the Caldera. (I-Sol Cycladic House)
Vima Villa – $$$ – traditional villa built over 300 years ago with all the amenities; located in a walkable neighborhood in southern Santorini. (Artia Mansion, The Nook Agate)
Postcard Perfect View – $$$$ – traditional cave house with the quintessential view of Oia town on the sea. One of my favorite Airbnb stays to date! (Cave House is similar)
Hotels in Santorini
Finikia Memories Hotel – $$ – family-run, traditional white-washed style with spacious rooms just outside of Oia. (Similar in price: Hotel Sunshine, farther from Oia but beachfront)
Caldera Villas – $$$ – the terrace at the Caldera Villas has stunning ocean views, and they often run deals on their rooms and suites. (Charisma Suites)
Canaves Oia Boutique Hotel – $$$$ – built on the side of a cliff overlooking the Caldera, with Cycladic-style architectural elements just outside the town of Fira. (Kapari Resort and San Antonio in Imervogli, Pezoules and Andronis Suites highest rated in Oia)
Left: winding alleyways downtown Mykonos; Right: sunset on the south side of the island.
Often referred to as the party island, Mykonos has an upbeat vibe and attracts crowds throughout the summer with dance clubs and beach music. The picturesque downtown of Mykonos and the windmills are some of the most famous attractions on the island.
Best for: nightlife, sandy beaches, luxury hotels.
Not good for: restaurants. We’ve found the food on Mykonos to be catered to tourists and lacking in diversity. For an island with great cuisine and seaside dining, consider Paros.
Where I’ve stayed: Boheme Hotel. It’s a beautiful property close to Mykonos downtown. Breakfasts are amazing, as well as the views. Definitely on the pricier side, but great if you’re traveling as a couple and want to splurge.
Airbnbs in Mykonos
Mooi Skylight – $ – a cute and cozy loft right in the middle of town. Great location, not great for light sleepers. (Similar in price: Urban Studio)
Biatriza’s Summer Shelter – $$ – modern apartment with spacious terrace decorated in soft greys and muted earth tones. (Little House, right in town)
Sea View Studio – $$$ – contemporary white-washed interior with sea views over Korfos Bay. (Little Villa, Villa Mykonis Prana)
Silvernoses Boho – $$$$ – cozy, boho inspired home in the heart of Little Venice.
Hotels in Mykonos
Esperides – $ – spacious apartments & studios with minimal design in traditional island architecture.
Island Mykonos Suites – $$ – perfect, minimalistic suites in the heart of Mykonos island.
Vencia Boutique Hotel – $$$ – light-colored rooms with balconies and an infinity pool overlooking the Aegean sea. (Similar in price: Rochari, close to the famous Mykonos windmills)
Boheme Mykonos – $$$$ – boho-chic vibe, and breakfast each morning consists of over 20+ Greek inspired dishes — plus, you can order as many as you want! (Livin Mykonos Hotel, My Mykonos Hotel)
Left: Sarakiniko Beach in Milos; Right: Tsigrado Beach.
Our favorite island, Milos has gained popularity in the past few years for its unique beaches, quaint towns, local food, and general laid-back atmosphere. It’s the perfect size with enough to explore on a week-long trip, but small enough to get around by ATV.
Best for: unique beaches, restaurants, boutique hotels, small towns.
Not good for: nightlife. Milos has some bars and and small clubs, but if you’re after the party scene you’ll want to head to Mykonos or Ios.
Where we’ve stayed: Asterias Boutique Hotel, a family-run property near the famous Sarakiniko Beach. Basic and affordable, but really all we needed since we spent all our time at the beaches!
Airbnbs in Milos
Mandrakia Studio With A Sea View – $ – a modern, cozy one-bedroom with a terrace that’s steps from the ocean. (Similar in price: Venia’s Superior)
Green Suite – $$ – whitewashed 2-bedroom property with a pool just outside of Pollonia. (Sirma Klima, Apollon by Akropolon, Blue Mare is on one of my favorite beaches on the island)
Sarakiniko Boathouse – $$$ – a unique boathouse stay with a beach right outside your doorstep, and adjacent to the famous Sarakiniko beach. (Terra Oliva in Pollonia near beaches and restaurants, Aigeis-Milos Suites on the south side of Milos between two beautiful beaches)
Manolis and Filio Home by the Sea – $$$$ – Cycladic house in a traditional fishing village right in front of the sea, where you can swim and enjoy sunsets from the balcony. (Skinopi Lodge, an eco-luxury villa great for groups)
Hotels in Milos
Asterias Boutique Hotel – $ – we loved this family-run boutique hotel. It was affordable, comfortable, and in a perfect location for exploring the best beaches in Milos!
Milia Gi Suites – $$ – a new boutique hotel nearby the beach and town center of Pollonia. The rooms are spacious, some with private jacuzzis. (Similar in price: Delmar Suites)
Cave Suites Milos – $$$ – all suites provide a balcony with private pool and panoramic sea views, right next to famous Sarakiniko beach. (Captain Zeppos)
Melian Boutique Hotel & Spa – $$$$ – one of the few luxury boutique hotels on the island – snap it up if it’s available during your trip! (Milos Breeze, Miland Suites)
Left: Turquoise bays in Ios; Right: sunset near Teatro Odysseas Elytis. Images credit + blog on Ios: Haylsa
Ios features a number of beautiful beaches, amidst classic Greek towns and a nightlife scene that attracts younger crowds. It’s a great option for a trip with friends, and conveniently located between Santorini and Naxos.
Best for: bars and restaurants, beach options, accessibility.
Not good for: honeymooners. If you’re after a romantic getaway, consider the sweeping views and luxurious offerings of Santorini. Or the more relaxed vibes of Milos.
Airbnbs in Ios
Little Home With a View – $ – an understated hideaway with stunning views overlooking Ios.
Wabi Luxury Suites – $$ – minimalistic design suite located in the picturesque, historic neighborhood of the windmills in Ios town. (Similar in price: Theros Apartments, Magganari Moments)
Villa Baya – $$$ – beautiful, modern villa with views of the sea from an expansive terrace close to the Chora village. (Athina Island Villa also great for small groups)
Mylo Villa – $$$$ – secluded villa with a large pool close to the famous beach of Mylopotas. (Sky Villa, On The Rocks)
Hotels in Ios
Avra Pension – $ – simple rooms with private balconies and homemade breakfast.
Yialos Ios Hotel – $$ – close to shopping and dining in Chora with a warm atmosphere and functional accommodations, steps from the beach. (Similar in price: White Loft, Hotel Katerina)
Levantes Ios Boutique Hotel – $$$ – a Mediterranean-inspired boutique hotel a short walk from Mylopotas beach. (Liostasi Hotel)
Hide Out Suites – $$$$ – set on a dramatic hillside right above Mylopotas beach with eye-catching views.
Known for having amazing food and beaches, Paros is a crowdpleaser for couples, groups, and families. Long sandy beaches coupled with plenty of restaurant options and close proximity to its neighboring island, Antiparos, allow for lots of activities and nearby villages no matter where you choose to stay.
Best for: lots of beaches, day trips, diverse accommodations, restaurants.
Not good for: your only destination. While Paros has something for everyone, it’s not the most unique of the Greek Islands. Coupling it with somewhere like Santorini will provide the best of both worlds (uniqueness and accessibility).
Where we’ve stayed: this rental house in Paros with a group of friends – one of the most fun trips! Highly recommend Paros for group trips. We also stayed at the Cleopatra Seaside Homes – a series of local apartments converted into rentals just steps from one of my favorite beaches on the island.
Airbnbs in Paros
Studio Next to the Beach – $ – charming studio with an outdoor bistro and a short walk from Naousa center. (Similar in price: Sofianna’s House)
Aegis Luxe – $$ – cozy home and well-designed with lovely touches right in the center of Naousa. (Similar in price: Aspasia’s Apartment, Drios Apartment, Aperado Paros House)
The View – $$$ – beautifully landscaped property with an expansive outdoor space steps from a popular beach. (Soso’s Place)
Potami Phos – $$$$ – gorgeous home located in northeast Paros with an outdoor space great for gatherings.
Hotels in Paros
Apartments Tarsa – $ – clean and spacious apartments with a kitchen and private balcony and beautifully landscaped grounds.
Argonauta – $$ – charming hotel with a lovely courtyard minutes from the port of Paros. (Similar in price: Cleopatra Suites, private apartment-style stay steps from the beach)
Blue Waves Suites – $$$ – located on the beautiful beach of Drios, each room opens up to a private balcony where you can relax and take in the tranquil atmosphere. (White Blossom, Parian Boutique Hotel)
Yria Hotel & Spa – $$$$ – top-rated luxury boutique hotel close to Paros main town and 100m from the beach.
Left: winding streets in Apiranthos; Right: views from Apollo Temple.
A short ferry ride from Paros, Naxos offers a beautiful seafront town on arrival, trendy hotels, laid-back beaches, and great opportunities to experience local culture. A drive around the island is a must, you’ll find picture-perfect mountain towns and remnants of medieval architecture and history.
Best for: landscapes, local culture, hotel options, beaches.
Not good for: diversity. We loved the authentic, easy-going feel of Naxos but it is best when combined with another Greek Island, like Milos for unique beaches or Ios for bars and restaurants.
Where we’ve stayed: Naxian Collection, one of the dreamiest hilltop properties with our own suite in front of the pool. If I went back, I would definitely stay at their sister property too, Naxian on the Beach.
Airbnbs in Naxos
Naxos Cave Nest – $ – quaint traditional house with a picture-perfect entrance, a short walk from town. (Similar in price: Perivoli)
Libra Apartments – $$ – charming apartment with a patio to enjoy dinner or a hangout in a quiet area close to the port and Old Town. (En Lefko Boutique House, Smirida House)
Naxos Infinity Villa Pool Suite – $$$ – built and designed in an authentic cycladic with breathtaking views of the sea and surrounding cliffs. (Naxian Castillo)
Beachfront Cycladic Villa – $$$$ – beautiful beachfront home situated on the west coast of Naxos, great for groups. (Naxos Luxury Villa)
Hotels in Naxos
Anatoli Hotel – $ – budget-friendly, modern rooms with balconies near Naxos town. (Similar in price: Petrino)
Medusa Beach Resort – $$ – traditional cycladic accommodations surrounded by lush gardens and a swimming pool overlooking Plaka beach. (Emery Hotel, Galini Hotel)
Santana Beach Hotel – $$$ – breezy, bright hotel located on top of one of the most desirable beaches on the island.
Naxian on the Beach – $$$$ – sister hotel to the Naxian Collection, with boho chic decor and a prime location right on Plaka beach.
Left: Shipwreck beach in Zakynthos. Right: caves along the coast. Images credit + blog on Zakynthos: hedonistit
This lesser-known Greek Island features one of the most incredible beach views, perched thousands of feet overlooking an old shipwreck. Zakynthos has beautiful beaches, cliffside views, local cuisine, and plenty of options for fun activities all over the island.
Best for: unique beaches, local food, nightlife, activities.
Not good for: families. Though there are parts of the island that allow for more family-friendly options, I’d recommend checking out Paros instead.
Airbnbs in Zakynthos
Joya Villas House – $ – located on the west side of the island in Agios Leon, offering a more local experience. (Similar in price: Votsalo Exclusive)
The Dreamy Treehouse – $$ – charming little hideaway where you can enjoy a view amongst the olive trees. (Similar in price: Seaview Maisonette, Anemos Studio close to shipwreck beach, Anemomilos a converted windmill stay)
Akron Suites – $$$ – stunning suite with incredible views of your private pool and the sea from the bedroom.
West Villa – $$$$ – a luxurious, private property with a sea view on the northern part of the island.
Hotels in Zakynthos
Ionian Hill Hotel – $$ – bright and airy studios with views of the entire coastline, a 5 minute walk from the beach.
Contessina Hotel – $$$ – a tranquil and serene hotel with a central pool, close to Tsilivi town. (Similar in price: Aliv Stone Suites, close to Shipwreck Beach)
Olea All Suite Hotel – $$$$ – a unique property set on a hill surrounded by olive trees. (Zante Maris Suites)
Left: Galifos beach in Folegandros; Right: sunset over the island. Images credit + blog on Folegandros: Andyjam
The small, charming island of Folegandros is quiet yet romantic. It’s fairly untouched — with local bakeries and tavernas, dramatic seaside views, and picture-perfect beaches that are perfect relaxing and taking in the Aeagean sun.
Best for: pristine beaches, relaxation, local culture.
Not good for: activities. Folegandros is very small and if you’re going for anything other than relaxation, you might get stir-crazy. Consider Milos or Paros if you want beautiful beaches and more things to do.
Where we’ve stayed: we ran into a bout of really bad weather late summer last year and our ferry to Folegandros was cancelled. We were planning to stay at Blue Sand Hotel in Folegandros. Fingers crossed we make it over there one day!
Airbnbs in Folegandros
Rodies Charming Cottage – $ – quaint space surrounded by a beautiful garden. (Similar in price: Barbara’s Place, The Big Mill)
Agali’s View House – $$ – traditional cycladic house, steps from the sandy beach of Agali. (Similar in price: Mr & Mrs Parrot’s Seaview Home)
Villa Levanda – $$$ – a spacious home with two balconies and daily fresh bread delivery, great for groups.
Villa Mikros Vorias – $$$$ – traditional meets modern architecture with a large terrace for entertaining. Walking distance to local beaches and taverns.
Hotels in Folegandros
Pasithea Folegandros – $ – guest rooms have a sun terrace and gorgeous views of the sea and a short walk to the beach.
Blue Sand Boutique Hotel – $$ – built on a hillside next to Agali beach, each room has picturesque views of the Aegean Sea. (Similar in price: Aegeo Hotel, Vrahos Boutique Hotel a beachfront hotel)
Makarios Villa – $$$ – actually a beautiful villa designed by local hotel owners; featuring a terrace, outdoor dining area, pool and sea views. (Onar Suites, top rated in Folegandros)
Anemi Hotel – $$$$ – modern design, white tones with colorful details and an expansive pool close to Karavostasis Port.
→ Other lesser-known Greek Islands worth checking out: Patmos, Kefalonia, Kímolos, Paxoi.
If you’re planning a trip to Greece, I highly recommend visiting more than one island. Combine a popular island like Santorini or Mykonos with a more unique one like Milos or Paros if it’s your first time. Don’t forget to venture out and get lost, no matter where you end up! That’s half the fun…
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