Greece is a country in southeastern Europe with thousands of islands throughout the Aegean and Ionian seas. It is located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. Influential in ancient times, it’s often called the cradle of Western civilization.
Athens, its capital, is one of the world’s oldest cities. It is steeped in culture, spanning more than 3,000 years including the 5th century B.C. Acropolis citadel and Parthenon Temple.
The ancient Acropolis rises out of the Athenian skyline like a manmade version of Mount Olympus. Whether you’re looking from your hotel room window or are up there exploring, it’s hard to believe it’s real. Consisting of the remains of several temples, monuments and other historically significant sites, you can’t visit Athens without checking it out at least once.
While visiting Athens, you should visit the Plaka district, the oldest and one of the nicest neighborhoods in Athens, with terraces, souvenir shops and restaurants serving authentic Greek food.
The Greek Isles are made up of six archipelago island groups consisting of inhabited and uninhabited islands:
The Cyclades Islands, the location of Santorini and Mykonos, are two of the most visited islands, along with Naxos, known for its endless sandy beaches and small villages to explore. Santorini is romantic and luxurious; Mykonos is famous for its nightlife and beaches. There are many other interesting islands in the archipelago.
The Saronic Gulf Islands are the closest island group to Athens, popular with Greek weekenders and Europeans yet less known to Americans. Hydro became famous throughout the world because of the film “Boy on a Dolphin,” shot on the island in 1957 with Sophia Loren in the starring role. It is also famous for its picturesque architecture, vivid nightlife and cosmopolitan character.
The Ionian Islands are a group of seven islands offering unique local culture, music, art cuisine and architecture. These islands are known mostly for Corfu; however, the six other main islands hold their own and attract their fair share of tourists too. Zakynthos is well known for its emerald green hills sliding into the electric blue Ionian Sea. It is a paradise for bikers and hikers.
The Sporades Islands are a group of 24 green islands off the northeastern part of mainland Greece, but only four are inhabited — Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos and Skyros. Of these four islands, tourism is all about sailing, swimming, mountain biking, sea kayaking and hiking.
The Northeast Aegean Islands consist of 13 islands located closest to Turkey. They offer incredible beaches, natural wonders, volcanic rocks, sand dunes and thermal springs, depending on the island of choice.
The Dodecanese Islands consist of 12 main islands and multiple smaller islands. Rhodes and Kos are the two largest and most popular islands, while the smaller 10 are less discovered. Rhodes was devastated by centuries of crusaders and invaders before and during World War II; however, it was later rebuilt and has reinvented itself as one of Greece’s top travel destinations. Kos is known for its historical sites, beautiful beaches and lush vegetation. The island is visited by almost one million tourists every year.
Crete is the largest Greek island, located halfway between Europe and Africa. It could be a country unto itself with its own customs, climate, accent and cuisine. This popular island has two main airports, with easy access from Athens.
There are many beautiful Greek islands to explore. The 10 most popular islands are Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, Skiathos, Hyda, Zakynthos, Kos and Naxos.
A Greek Island cruise is a popular way to visit several of the islands, including Athens and/or Istanbul, Turkey. Otherwise, island hopping is an option for visiting the various islands located within an archipelago.
A travel advisor can answer many of your questions and give you guidance as you plan your visit to Greece and the Greek Isles.