Few Greek islands boast an immaculacy comparable to that of Astypalaia – a butterfly-shaped cloistral haven rising from the stunning blue of the Aegean Sea. Captured at certain angles, Astypalaia bears a striking semblance to its not-so-distant yet far more glamorised cousin of Santorini. With its pristine beaches, whitewashed houses, and uncharted walking paths, the island is an explorer's heaven, and a find for those looking to escape the madding crowds of summer vacationers.
GreeceEurope’s beloved summertime destination – Greece – is a treasure chest of assorted holiday hot spots, from ancient Athens for the history buffs and city breakers, to is scattering of fabulous islands: all-white, picture-perfect Santorini, swanky Mykonos, party-geared Zakynthos (with its world-famous Navagio shipwreck beach), sizable Crete and an alluring multitude of others, on both the Ionian and Aegeean sides.
Of all Europe’s historical capitals, Athens is probably the one that has changed the most in recent years. But even though it has become a modern metropolis, it still retains a good deal of its old small town feel. Here antiquity meets the future, and the ancient monuments mix with a trendier Athens and it is precisely these great contrasts that make the city such a fascinating place to explore. The heart of its historical centre is the Plaka neighbourhood, with narrow streets mingling like a labyrinth where to discover ancient secrets.
Chania (pronounced “Hanya”) must be the loveliest port town in Greece. Swallows soar in sheer blue skies above the semicircle of tall Venetian houses around its picture-perfect Old Harbour. The tables of scores of bars and restaurants line the quayside. Behind the harbour front, narrow, traffic-free shopping lanes thread through the atmospheric Old Town. On either side of the town, sandy beaches stretch along the coast.
Like most Greek islands, Chios really comes to life in summer – but unlike many of its neighbours, most of its summer visitors are Greeks from Athens and the mainland. This gives the island an authentically Greek flavour and ensures an animated nightlife and some excellent Greek cooking. There’s plenty of sightseeing to be done, and enough active pursuits to keep any visitor happy for a full fortnight.
Corfu is considered by many to be the most beautiful of all the Greek islands. The island offers a beguiling landscape of wild flowers, cypress trees, olive trees and several seductively sandy beaches. The west coast of the island is the most attractive, as that is where you will find some of the prettiest countryside and small coves with sandy beaches surrounded by cliffs and trees. The north is defined by a rocky coastline where the crystal clear water has chopped into pebbled bays and coves.
Crete, the largest Greek island, is washed by the waters of the eastern Mediterranean, and so enjoys a mild climate. An island where Myth meets History, where the age-old Cretan culture has its roots in the long-ago, where the sea meets the mountains and unspoiled nature coexists with modern tourist infrastructure. Crete has a thousand faces: one for each and every sort of traveller: the nature-lover, the explorer, the cosmopolitan, the lover of history and culture.
Kos is one of the most popular islands in the Dodecanese. The island has a well-established tourist industry, which benefits visitors because the island is very organized. The locals are very friendly people and they have realized just how important tourism is for the island. Kos offers plenty of action in the summer, but goes rather quiet in the wintertime.
The eclectic mosaic that is Mykonos is made up of pristine beaches, elegant boutiques, fine dining restaurants, rowdy bars and dazzling nightclubs all packed onto one tiny piece of land, a mere 15km long at its widest point. Partying is a round-the-clock affair here, happening against the backdrop of scenic whitewashed houses crowding up the old town and iconic windmills perched atop the hills overlooking Little Venice, Mykonos Town's most charming neighbourhood.
Naxos stands out from the Cycladic competition with its unusually crisp white beaches and an exceptionally lush, fertile terrain. With none of Mykonos' pretense or Ios' ferocious partying, the island is a destination for those who enjoy a good hike and low-key evening entertainment. Naxos is also home to its fare share of ancient sites, off-lying mountain villages, and excellent family-run taverns.
Rhodes, the pearl of the Mediterranean area, is a cosmopolitan island, combining unique natural beauty and archaeological wealth with great beaches and intensive nightlife. This is a place for everyone: simultaneously youthful and family friendly, romantic and modern.
The mythical birthplace of the goddess Hera is certainly worthy of its divine reputation of one of the greenest of all Aegean islands. Nature-lovers and sun-seekers alike are attracted to its pebbled beaches, green expanses and impressive rocky cliffs. The island is also famous for its vineyards and home to the ruins of the magnificent Temple of Hera and a true marvel of ancient engineering, the 1,000-metre Tunnel of Eupalinos, which once brought clean drinking water to the people of Pythagoreio.
Rising out of the crystalline waters of the Aegean Sea, Santorini is the result of an erupting mouth of a volcano that has left a dramatic legacy of black and red-sand beaches and an enormous caldera draped by white-washed houses and blue-domed churches. A harmonious Mediterranean backdrop, shaped by the sharp contrast of the ivory village clashing with the bold black of the volcanic soil, opens up to the traveller in an awe-inspiring paradise that is Santorini.
Byzantine churches, Roman constructions, Muslim buildings, modern architecture, intensive nightlife and stunning beaches - this is the essence of Thessaloniki. Being the second largest city in Greece, Thessaloniki combines more than 2,300 years of history with every facility and excitement that a modern European city can offer a visitor.
The Venetians, who owned it for 600 years, called it "the Flower of the East". Zakynthos is still one of the lushest and most-loved Greek islands, with green hillsides covered with flowers in spring and early summer, cliffs dropping to dazzling turquoise waters, and some of the country´s best beaches. Along with its natural beauties, it is claimed to be the sunniest among the island of the Ionian Sea, matching its natural beauties with a sizzling nightlife.