Now I know Mykonos and Santorini are amongst almost everyone's favourite Greek islands, due to the unbeatable beaches and breathtaking views respectively (plus, you can fly directly there from many countries) but for those willing to make the extra effort, I can suggest dozens of islands, less popular and touristy, yet amazingly beautiful. If you want to spend a few days relaxing within tranquillity and living true local authentic experiences, then this post is for you!
Anafi is a small island located in the southeast of the Cyclades complex. According to Greek mythology, Anafi emerged from the bottom of the Aegean Sea in order to give shelter to the Argonauts. It’s still untouched by mass tourism, with crystal clear waters, keeping its authentic character alive. The capital, Chora, is a blend of white houses, flowers and picturesque alleys.
The beaches are few but truly wonderful. Mikros and Megalos Roukounas and Klisidi are the ones you have to swim at.
Where to eat: Once you are at Klisidi, go to Margarita for breakfast. She makes homemade bread, pies and honey. Pure happiness! For fresh fish try the Anemos tavern and for delicious lobster, spaghetti go to Liotrivi Tavern. Lastly, for good coffee and cakes, accompanied by a sunset background go to Tholos.
Where to stay: Villa Kalamiotissa and Apollo Village Hotel are simple and friendly places to stay, offering stunning views.
This island can be described as a little drop of heaven, where the deep blue sea meets the whitewashed characteristic houses. The Chora of Astypalaia is imposing and it’s the place to explore the real, authentic island life. On the top, you will see the castle. Enjoy your day by strolling around the picturesque alleys, discovering colourful corners and at dusk, be prepared for the most magical scenery! Astypalaia carries a mystery, an energy that will overwhelm you. It has a magnetic force that you’ll understand only when you visit.
The nearest beaches are Livadi, Pera Yalos, Plakes and Ble Limanaki, whilst Vatses and Kaminakia are more on the ‘wild’ side. Moreover, there is Vathy, a beach that looks like a lagoon. It’s worth renting a boat and visiting Koutsomiti, Kounoupes, Diaporia, Chondro and Ligno, tiny islands that lie in a very close distance.
Where to eat: Gerani at Livadi beach is a very simple place, yet truly authentic. Take anything traditional. Agoni Grammi is the best place to taste traditional dishes, such as stuffed pepper and tomatoes, dolmadakia, octopus in ouzo and feta. Don’t miss the fava and the pork dish. Furthermore, Maroula, the lady who runs the place, makes delicious homemade pasta (try the local goat spaghetti). Astifagia is one more excellent choice for tasty adventures. A few of the best choices are the lobster spaghetti and the salad ‘Astifagia’. At the end, they serve ‘oinomelo’, wine with honey. Lastly, plan to visit Astropelos in Livadi, for super fresh and well cooked fish. Please don’t leave Astypalaia without visiting Marinos and tasting one the various milfeig options he offers, sitting in the adorable pink chairs.
Where to stay: Kallichoron offers stunning views and superb breakfast, maybe the best on the island, as it’s based on local products. Niriides Luxury Studios and Oneiro Studios are two more excellent choices. I should also mention Aphrodite Hotel, located in Pera Yalos.
This volcanic little island is part of the Dodecanese complex, situated between Kos and Tilos. It’s lovely and untouched by the tourism growth. Nisyros was shaped by the volcano’s explosion. You can actually visit it and get to see the crapers, with ‘Stefanos’ being the most popular. The island is also ideal for the ones interested in religious tourism, as it has many monasteries to visit, with Panagia Spiliani being the most scenic.
You can swim at Mandraki, the capital, at Chochlaki, known for the big black stones, at Lefki and Gialiskari beaches.
Where to eat: Aphrodite prepares the best calamari and dolmades, among other delicacies, and Bacareto makes great pasta. Balconi tou Emporiou makes delicious beef with red sauce and ‘pitia’, a Nisyrian chickpeas balls dish.
Where to stay: Porfyris and Romantzo at Mandraki are good choices.
The northern island of the Small Cyclades complex is ideal for the ones aiming to escape the crowds. It’s among the first choices for free campers, who seek for a space at Kedros or Livadi beaches. Stavros is the capital and the place which is basically the meeting point for visitors. Donousa is perfect for those who love hiking, attributed to its size and path options. The aforementioned beaches are known for crystal clear waters and white sand. Be prepared, though, and bring with you water and other necessary equipment.
Where to eat: Simadoura has heavenly ‘simiako garidaki’ (small shrimps), lentil salad and chicken with paprika. At Iliovasilema you will taste delicious meat (don’t miss the sausages). Lastly, you have to eat the local specialty, ‘patatato’, which is basically meat in red sauce with potatoes.
Where to stay: Iliovasilema Studios and Aposperitis are lovely options.
TIP: Donousa island is really close to Schoinousa and Iraklia, two more little and undiscovered islands, which belong to the Small Cyclades complex. It’s worth visiting and why not make it an island-hopping trip?!
The mountainous island on the northern Aegean Sea is blessed with natural beauty. Samothrace (or Samothraki) stands out for its natural surroundings, the imposing waterfalls and the rich ancient history and mysteries. One time is enough to encompass you in its atmosphere. Don’t miss the Sanctuary of the Greek Gods. This place was worshipped for over 1.000 years and you can still feel the awe and the aura. Samothrace is also ideal for those of you seeking adventure and activities, like trekking, crossing gorges or rafting. You should discover the paths of Mountain Saos, experience a refreshing dip in the fairytale waterfalls and go to Agios Andreas for birdwatching.
Pachia Ammos is the most cosmopolitan beach of the island, whilst Vatos is the most exotic one, reached by boat from Kamariotissa. Therma is a sandy beach with wonderful surroundings and Karkani is known for the blue waters, being kind of difficult to approach though.
Where to eat: Samothrace is popular for its goat dishes. For the best-grilled goat visit the Tavern Vrachos and for roasted goat go to Karydies. Lastly, in Psaras you will taste the best fish.
Where to stay: Archodissa is one lovely option, offering beautiful views and spacious rooms. Eroessa is a very good choice as well!
The island of green and blue colours fascinates with its spectacular natural beauty. Emerald waters and virgin natural surroundings create the best scenery for your vacation. The Village of Theologos is a must-visit, as it’s the most wonderful one, with rich cultural interest. The island is ideal for the ones who want to be active, offering options of hiking, mountain biking, horse riding in Skala and diving in Panagia Isle shipwreck.
An interesting visit, due to its special geological formation, is Giola, a natural pool in the sea. The tricky part here, though, is that you have to walk a lot and make sure that the weather is suitable. If it’s windy, it’s difficult and dangerous to swim in this little ‘pool’. Saliara beach is one of the best. Right after Saliara there is Porto Vathy (you’ll need a jeep type of car to reach but it’s worth the ride). Alykes is known for the cold water, Paradise is popular for its turquoise waters and Glyfoneri is again a must-visit. All three of them have superb taverns to eat after swimming.
Additionally, the Cave of Drakotripa is one more visit you have to make, due to its interesting stalagmites formation. From the monastery of Archangel Michael in Limenaria you will take pictures of an amazing view. Lastly, the Ancient Theatre is very atmospheric, but check before you go, it was under renovation until recently.
Where to eat: Mouses make the best pizza and the best bread in their wooden oven. Kazaviti is a tavern in the heart of Prinos village, among the plane trees. Symi in Limenas has great fish and for the best souvlaki visit Nice2MeatYou in Limenas and Koutsoura in Potamia. For dinner with a gourmet, twist visit the Enavlion Batayanni. Lastly, for the best bougatsa, all roads lead to Sakis! For drinks go to the rock style Karanti and to the romantic –with large pillows on the beach- Karnagio.
Where to stay: Thassos Inn is recommended, as it’s situated in the quiet and simultaneously attractive area of Panayia. Angelica in Limenas offers great views. Enavlion Hotel in Chrissi Ammos and Louloudis Fresh & Louloudis Hotel Spa are excellent choices.
The symbolic end of Odysseus’s travels and adventures is the island of Ithaca. Odysseus found his Ithaca, he found peace. Odyssey, one of the greatest stories ever told, ends here, in the island with the mythical soul. It’s located close to Kefalonia. Vathy is the capital and the most wonderful part. It combines perfectly the Aegean Sea and the aura of the Swiss lakes scenery. Perachori village offers splendid views over the island (there is also a tavern there that locals embrace for its grilled meat). It’s worth visiting the Cave of the Nymph or Marmarospilia. Legend has it that Odysseus hid here the gifts of King Alkinoos of the Phaeacians.
Filiatro is a very nice beach, with tourist facilities, but make sure to be there no later than noon, in order to find sunbeds. Nevertheless, it has many trees offering natural shadows, so don’t worry, you’ll definitely find a spot. Gidaki is a beach reached by boat, but here is a tip. You can go to Skinos, a secluded beach (make sure to bring with you water or snacks) and there, you can follow the –easy to cross- path which ends at Gidaki. From Vathy now, you can rent a small boat and visit astonishing beaches that lie in a very close distance. If you are interested in that, make sure to book in advance.
A very nice ride that will lead you to one more splendid and panoramic view of the island is the one to Moni Katharon. During the ride, you have two options. Either you cross by Frikes or you take the road through Anoyi, both being lovely villages.
Where to eat: In Frikes village, there is Ageri tavern. It stands out for the modern Greek cuisine. Make sure to taste ‘savoro’, the local specialty. The fish used for this dish is usually small, marinated with vinegar, rosemary, garlic and black currant. You should also try prawns with ouzo and the salads. In Rementzo try the grilled sardines and the seafood paella. Yefyri is also a must try. Make sure to order the lemon pie. For great Italian cuisine Trattoria Libreto in Vathy is your choice. If you wish to enjoy a relaxed drink, super cocktails and whiskey from a wide variety, then Spavento Bar is the perfect bar for you.
Where to stay: Peratzada Boutique Hotel is highly recommended for the views, the spacious rooms and for the amazing breakfast. Adastra and Alicelia are also excellent choices.
So, which one shall you choose? It’s a difficult choice, I know!