Sailing holidays in Greece will always be one of our favorite Mediterranean vacations. Here’s why…
So, how do you decide on the right Greek island for beach lovers?
Now is a perfect time, as the summer stretches on and the economy needs tourism now more than ever.
With more than 250 days of sunshine or 3,000 sunny hours a year, 6,000 gorgeous islands and islets and 16,000km of enchanting coastline, Greece is perfect for renting a boat, whether you are seeking a romantic getaway, family fun or partying with friends. Now you have the difficult choice of deciding which of these islands to explore on your next sailing holiday in Greece, which is why we have created a guide to the best Greek islands for beaches that highlights each of these spectacular island regions.
Mainland Greece is surrounded by about 6,000 islands and islets set in the stunning indigo and aquamarine waters of the Aegean and Ionian Seas. Greece’s diverse islands offer visitors an abundance of striking beaches, charming clifftop villages, unforgettable sunsets, impressive archaeological sites and plenty of gastronomic delights.The islands’ distinctive colors, iconic pebble and black sand beaches, alluring coastal caves and dynamic landscapes produced by natural and geological formations that have taken place over the course of thousands of years while their historic treasures bear testimony to a culture that has influenced the world. Read on to learn more about Greece’s spectacular island regions and renting a yacht.
Facts about the Greek Islands:
- The vibrant blue you’ll find on many doors, windowsills and church domes, especially in the Cyclades Islands, follows the ancient belief that this color blue keeps evil away.
- The city of Rhodes housed one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Colossus of Rhodes, a huge 303-meter statue of the god Helios, which was sadly destroyed by an earthquake in 226 B.C.
- No point in Greece is more than 137 kilometers (85 miles) from water.
- Though Greece is made up of thousands of islands, only 227 are inhabited.
So, you want to travel to Greece?
Well, we can’t tell you exactly, but here are 7 of our favorite Greek islands for beaches that are must-visit destinations:
Check them out and become one step closer to booking your next sailing holiday in Greece!
The Cyclades Islands
Among the most visited and well-celebrated Greek islands for beaches are:
- The Cyclades, which are made up of 56 islands including the famous islands of Ios, Mykonos and Santorini.
- The “Minor Cyclades” of Donousa, Irakleia, Koufonisia and Schinousa.
The Cyclades are distinguished by:
- their white-washed villages perched atop cliffs high above the sea;
- blue-domed roofs;
- intriguing volcanic beaches; and
- sunsets that will take your breath away.
NOTE: If choosing to sail around the Cyclades, unlike the Saronic and Argolic Gulf area, this island area is not protected from strong winds, so be prepared for some strong gusts.
1. The Cyclades – Mykonos
Mykonos is by far one of the most well-known Greek islands, but it’s more than just a partygoer and tourist haven.
- is perfectly diverse and large enough to escape the crowds when you need to.
- during summer, thousands of cruise-ship passengers flood Mykonos Town and Little Venice
- where hundreds of club-goers hit the bars of Paraga beach and Super Paradise beaches.
However, mass tourism hasn’t harmed the beauty of the island yet. The stunning cycladic architecture and clear blue sea continues to draw us back every year.
TIP: If you want to escape the crowds, towns like Ornos, Ano Mera and Kanalia are perfect. For a secluded beach, sail on over to AgioSostis or Kapari, a quiet, rocky cove just past Agios Ioannis.
2. The Cyclades – Santorini
The azure waters, the blue-domed churches and the whitewashed houses exude pure Mediterranean romance. The views are some of the best in Greece, with the 250m sheer coastal drop in the town of Fira, acting as one of Greece’s most popular picture postcard shots.
Santorini is home to some excellent beaches; you’ll find black, volcanic sand, red, lava-colored sand, and classic, white sandy beaches like Kamari and Perissa.
With a good mix of romance and nightlife, Santorini is a classic Greek Island destination. Things here will cost you a pretty penny, though, so we suggest mooring at one of the other islands and sailing over to Santorini for a day or two.
The Ionian Islands
The famous Eptanisa or “the Seven Islands” and are said to be Greece’s most green and fertile islands:
- Corfu: most visited islands, a place rich in cultural treasures and spectacular beaches
The Ionian Islands are also made up of many small islands:
TIP: For a more relaxed sailing holiday choose to cruise around the inland sea, which offers many harbours and anchorages in addition to ideal wind conditions. You can learn more about sailing the Ionian Islands in our guest blogger Georgina’s suggested route starting from Lefkas.
3. The Ionian Islands – Corfu
Corfu has long been a cultural and educational hub, with excellent beaches and a relaxed island atmosphere. A mountainous coastline covers the northern area of the island, with dramatic cliffs meeting the rolling hillside that lies inland. Corfu’s old town has got to be one of the most relaxed, with its stunning Venetian and French architecture.
Once you dock in Corfu, experiencing the island’s true Greek culture, impressive fortresses and incredible museums and galleries is very accessible. Corfu’s local cuisine remains very much Italian inspired, and some of the more affordable tavernas and restaurants can be found on Corfu.
4. The Ionian Islands – Zakynthos
Breathtaking Zakynthos, the third largest of the Ionian Islands, is one of our favourite Greek islands for beaches and sailing. The landscape of Zakynthos is one that draws environmentalists and wildlife lovers from all over the world. Here, you can volunteer to protect endangered wildlife like sea turtles, and the famous Blue Caves and shipwreck beaches are fascinating geological and historical sites.
The rugged cliffs of the north and west coasts lead down to spectacular views of the sea. The beautifully unspoilt and secluded beaches of the east and south coasts lie waiting for you to arrive. On the northwest coast you’ll find Shipwreck Cove with the picturesque Navagio beach, one of the most famous of all the Greek islands.
5. The Ionian Islands – Kefalonia
Kefalonia’s unspoilt beaches, extended summers and hospitable locals make this island one of our favourite sailing destinations in Greece. The largest of the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia has yet to be overrun by mass tourism, and finding a secluded cove or bay to anchor in is still easily done.
The picturesque beach of Myrtos is one of our favourites, and the lush forests, breathtaking landscape and dramatic cliffs provide incredible scenery.
TIP: A visit in October could have you joining the famed celebration of the patron saint, where the island comes alive and the locals parade through the streets. The wine produced in Kefalonia is also said to be some of the best in Greece.
The Dodecanese Islands
The Dodecanese Islands are made up of over 50 islands located off the coast of Asia Minor. The most visited island is Rhodes, which is famed for its mesmerising and colorful bays, fascinating medieval villages and fantastic cuisine. The island also boasts 300 days of sunshine each year, making it a perfect destination all-year round.
6. THE DODECANESE ISLANDS – Rhodes
Travellers flock to Rhodes all year round for its sunshine and blue skies. Rhodes welcomes visitors late into fall when more northern European destinations are cold and grey.
Discover Rhodes’ magnificent walled old town and then wander over to the 14th-century Palace of the Grand Masters. Rhodes is home to many blue flag beaches – Panogialos is one of our favourites. Sail round to the south of the island where you’ll find the two-kilometer-long beach of Plimmiri. Rhodes Town and the town of Lindos, on the east coast, are full of hospitable tavernas and ancient buildings, and are both worth a visit.
The nightlife in Rhodes is also one of the most popular of all the Greek Islands. Between Rhodes Town, Faliraki and Lindos, you’ll find plenty of bustling bars and clubs to unwind in.
Crete is Greece’s largest island and, with such varied terrain, it’s the perfect island for hiking and exploration. From canyons and mountains to rocky plateaus and rolling hills, Crete’s countryside has it all. Hike Europe’s longest gorge, Samaria Gorge, and see the Kato Zakros, a former Minoan palace site.
- is extremely laid back.
- is the perfect Greek island for beaches and a true escape.
- Beautiful Frangokastello beach is one of our favourites, and beaches like Vai, Myrtos and Elafonisi are popular with visitors all summer long.
The island cuisine of Crete is also some of the best. Famous for its olive oil and other local specialties like dakos, horta and myzithra, Crete draws food lovers from all over the world.
Have we got you dreaming of endless sunshine and white sandy beaches?