Greece: it’s so much more than the first few islands you can rattle off. Of course, we’ve got nothing against the likes of Santorini, Rhodes, Corfu or Crete — but there are some hidden gems twinkling away in the Aegean Sea that are equally worthy of your air miles.
Below, we’ve rounded up seven of our favourites. They’re not completely devoid of tourism — after all, we still want a good restaurant and a comfy night’s sleep wherever we wash up. But these are the more traditional destinations; authentic islands perfect for a deeper dive into the waters around this ancient country…
Amorgos is perfect for panorama-hunters
Where is it? On the south-eastern edge of the Cyclades; an island group in the Aegean Sea. One of the most geographically impressive of the group, much of the island soars above sea levels — and thus offers incredible views.
What is there to do? Plenty — if you’re an avid outdoorsman. With craggy caves, beautiful spots for diving and scenic bays connected by ancient footpaths, there’s also a long cultural history here. As such, it’s also a haven for budding archaeologists.
Where should you stay? We’d recommend the Vigla Hotel, found in the picturesque village of Tholaria. Overlooking Aegiali’s sandy beach, it’s that typical, traditional white-walled image of the Greek islands — but with a luxury touch.
Where should you eat? The nearby Apospero. With a menu inspired by classic Aegean recipes, and borrowing the traditional cooking techniques of Mediterranean cuisine, dishes are changed daily depending on the produce available. The seafood is divine.
Aegina is the ideal break for history buffs
Where is it? Just 16.5 nautical miles from the mainland port of Piraeus. This makes it exceedingly close to Athens. But, while this proximity has led to slightly increased tourism numbers, it’s still an underrated gem when compared to the big holiday players.
What is there to do? The ‘Holy Triangle’ of Aegina is the perfect way for history buffs to spend some time away. The Aphea Temple sits at one corner, with the Parthenon at another and the beautiful Temple of Poseidon at Sounion at the third.
Where should you stay? Despite the antiquity of the sights, the best place to check-in is relatively new. LaLiBay Resort & Spa, found in Aiginitissa, sits in a dense planted area by the coast — and boasts unparalleled views of the Saronic Gulf.
Where should you eat? We’d head to Remvi, an all-day café bar in Aegina Town. Prices are slightly higher than other nearby cafés, but the fresh, modern spins on salads and pasta dishes come second only to the bar’s exquisite Greek coffees.
Milos is a stronghold of natural beauty
Where is it? It’s back to the Cyclades for our third recommendation; to the gloriously volcanic island of Milos. From the idiosyncratic and colourful rock structures to the white sandy beaches, the ancient activity from the Hellenic volcanic arc makes this the most striking island on our list.
What is there to do? A jaunt around the harbour of Adamantas is classic ‘Greece’ — as is the lagoon of Revary at Emporios. But the best thing to see is the early Christian catacombs near Trypiti, rediscovered in 1844.
Where should you stay? Milos Breeze. A boutique hotel on the Aegean coast, you won’t find luxury like it anywhere else on the island. Facilities include a gorgeous outdoor pool, sea views and a blazing sun terrace.
What should you eat? All of the local cuisine you can get your tastebuds on. The refined Gialos is known for its sea bream carpaccio with olive oil and fresh pepper, as well as its traditional Glyko koutaliou (fruits or vegetable cooked in sugar).
Agistri should be the choice of sportsmen
Where is it? Very close to Aegina above. But this lush green island, lined with pines and sitting pretty in the Saronic Gulf, has become a must-visit destination for lovers of the outdoors; especially extreme sportsmen.
What is there to do? That’s right, extreme sports. Whether you’re a rough-terrain downhill biker, a keen climber or an adventure sailor or kayaker, there are few Greek islands that balance opportunity and serenity quite as well as Agistri.
Where should you stay? At the charming, family-run Saronis Hotel — in the island’s main village of Skala. Just a stone’s throw from the main beach, the accommodation is simple but stylish, with touches of traditional decor — and lashings of famous Greek hospitality.
What should you eat? It’s an odd recommendation, but we’d nudge you in the direction of Italian-style pizzeria Avli. On the coastal road to Megalochori, the food blends rich Greek flavours with the traditional tomato flatbread dish — to great effect.
Karpathos is king if you’re keeping things traditional
Where is it? This beautiful island is the second-largest of the Dodecanese; a group known for medieval castles, ancient archaeological sites and Byzantine churches. Karpathos is perhaps the prettiest, with traditional villages, turquoise waters and towering mountains.
What is there to do? We’d take things easy and simply tour the villages. Whether it’s the mountainous Aperi (known as the spiritual centre of the island), the picture-perfect Volada or the charming fisherman’s village of Diafani, you’ll be welcomed like a local wherever you go.
Where should you stay? Konstantinos Palace — because who can resist a hotel with ‘palace’ in its name? Suitably sumptuous, this upscale resort sits on Afoti Beach, and is just over a mile from the island’s main ferry terminal.
Where should you eat? Despite the quaint, old-fashioned atmosphere that drifts through Karpathos, Ratatouille in Pigadia offers something fresh; a playful, modern type of cuisine that riffs deliciously on traditional Mediterranean food.
Naxos is a hiker’s paradise
Where is it? It’s back to the Cyclades for a third time with Naxos. Likely the best-known destination on our list, the largest of this island group has lush green gorges, stunning seascapes and remote villages where locals still live, dress and eat in a traditional manner.
What is there to do? Hiking – and lots of it. Given the size of the island, there’s almost an infinite capacity for exploring once you wash up on Naxos. Our top suggestion? Follow the hiking trail from Apiranthos, along the emery mines, to Moutsouna Beach.
Where should you stay? You’ll want somewhere relaxing and recuperating after all that hiking. So where better than Nissaki Beach Hotel? Found in Naxos Town, the pool is a particular highlight — fitted with a hydro-massage area for up to eight weary trekkers.
What should you eat? Find yourself a beach restaurant and try some local specialities. We’d recommend Tortuga, a coastal bistro, with a bohemian style, that serves some of the finest meze dishes and cocktail on the entire island.
Syros is a Greek island unlike any other
Where is it? In the heart of the Aegean Sea. Our final island from the Cyclades group, Syros is a significant port town — and a Greek island unlike any other. It’s said to be where ‘Greek tradition and western influence come to a harmonious marriage’.
What is there to do? Marvel at the architecture. Occasionally odd, but always beautiful, buildings from the Customs Office to City Hall borrow neoclassical cues to create towns unlike anywhere else in Greece. Capital Ermoúpoli has even been given the curious nickname ‘The Manchester of Greece’.
Where should you stay? In one of those neoclassical buildings. Hotel Ploes can be found in a mansion just minutes from Ermoúpoli’s Miaouli Square, and is decorated with handmade rugs, Venetian chandeliers and contemporary art.
Where should you eat? Try Mammo, a wine and food bar tucked away in Ermoúpoli’s more cosmopolitan coastal area. Ambient, atmospheric and with the best wine list within walking distance, it’s a gastronomic treat.
Want more island action? Here’s every island James Bond ever visited (real or otherwise)…
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