Greece may be best known for its abundance of mythical Gods and Goddesses, but that abundance looks more like a shortage, when compared with the two thousand islands in its warm, inviting waters.
Of those, Greeks call over 160 of them home and, although unified by a common Grecian charm in their architecture and hospitality, each one possesses its own unique character, culture and attractions. Choosing just one to visit, therefore, is no easy feat, so we’ve compiled this short guide to help you choose the right island for you. However, if your time and money is as numerous as the Greek isles, we recommend island hopping to make the most of being in this captivating part of the world.
Like many of its neighbours, Greece’s seventh largest island has a history of attracting various civilizations through the ages. Corfu City, the most populous town, houses a fortress, dating back to the 6th century AD and was fortified a thousand years later by the Venetians to defend against a succession of attacks from the Ottoman Empire.
The island found itself shifting from strategic outpost to tourist attraction in the mid 19th century, luring European royals and elites with its natural beauty and warm climate, including Wilhelm II of Germany. Fast-forward 150 years and today its history, beaches and warm locals attract thousands of visitors every year, but few get to experience the refined elegance of resorts like MarBella Corfu, which we can’t recommend highly enough to anybody considering this stunning destination.
If you’re after a beach holiday, then Greece’s largest island, Crete, may be your island. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its own fascinating history and heritage, as it’s recognised as the home of Europe’s earliest recorded civilisation, the Minoans. With its size also comes a wealth of natural attractions, such as Ha Gorge in the western slope of the Thrypti mountain range or the tranquil rambling routes around Mount Ida.
If you’re staying at one of our luxury resorts in Elounda, we highly recommend Lotus Eaters Restaurant, whose locally sourced ingredients and recipes have earned it the 2015 Trip Advisor Traveller’s Choice Award. Nearby, close to Plaka Fishing Village, is our Blue Palace Hotel, offering some of the most regal views in the Mediterranean.
Resting off Turkey’s Aegean Coast is Kos, better known to more active holidaymakers for its windsurfing, diving and scenic cycling routes. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Greek island if it wasn’t laden with castle ruins, pristine beaches and a vibrant nightlife, but with the popular Turkish resort of Bodrum just 15 miles across the water, it’s an ideal destination from which to see two countries for the price of one.
If the prospect of trans-Aegean travel floats your boat then we have the perfect accommodation from which to set sail. Aqua Blu Boutique Hotel and Spa is not only well positioned to realise your adventurous ambitions but, as a Small Luxury Hotel of the World, is also equipped to help you do so in a level of comfort befitting a king or queen.
Mykonos is possibly the trendiest of all the Greek islands right now and its list of high profile visitors, from footballers to film stars, is a ringing endorsement for the level of luxury you can expect here. According to legend, the island was named after its first ruler, Mykonos, son of Apollo, the Greek God of music and art.
In keeping with its divinely creative foundations, the island is well known for its summer beach parties, most notably on Paradise Beach. For us, this island is both magical and inspiring and many others share that sentiment. In recent years, Fleet Foxes, an American indie band, released a track entitled ‘Mykonos’, which many agree captures the special atmosphere and ambience of this ancient Aegean wonder.
Histories don’t come much richer than the one belonging to Rhodes, where you can experience one of the few places in the world that allows you to lose yourself in the past, while remaining wholly in the present. Such is its historical wealth that we barely know where to start. In the crusade era, the island was ruled by the Knights of Rhodes, who built many of the monuments visible today, including the Palace of the Grand Master. That’s just a mere pixel of the picture that makes up Rhodes.
Today, the impressive Amathus Elite Suites cast a contemporary light on the gratifying elegance that continues to attract visitors to the island. If you visit the walled Old Town of Rhodes, be sure to treat your taste buds with a trip to the critically acclaimed Tamam Restaurant.
What can we say about Santorini that will accurately convey its captivating air of romance? Unfortunately, there are no words in the English language capable of doing justice to this stirring gem, whose breath-taking caldera was born from the fires of a volcanic eruption over three thousand years ago. Its iconic, dazzlingly white architecture, punctuated by brilliant blue domes, provides the perfect backdrop for couples in search of a romantic retreat and has made it quite the hub for honeymooners.
Nestled in the side of its cliffs, lovebirds who fly to Santorini will adore staying at Katkies Hotel in the island’s oldest town of Oia. Owing to its volcanic past and towering cliffs, its beaches may not be as big or as numerous as those of its neighbours, but what it lacks in quantity, Santorini more than makes up for with seclusion and intimacy.
Fans of the hit musical film ‘Mama Mia’ have found their perfect Greek island in the form of Skiathos, where Colin Firth and co acted out several of its scenes. Before the silver screen, the sea and sand of the island’s beaches were already famous in their own right. Mandraki Elias Beach is perhaps one of the most scenic, with its palm tree parasols, surrounding woodland and rustic feel, whereas Vassilias Beach, close to our KB Suites and Spa resort, offers water sports along with a particularly family friendly atmosphere. Skiathos is also a popular destination with walkers, due to its plentiful woodland hiking trails, particularly near the undeveloped north shore.
For a good six hundred years, Zakynthos residents spoke Italian, initially as a consequence of occupation by the Kingdom of Naples, interrupted by a brief five year spell of Ottoman rule, before becoming a possession of the Republic of Venice up until the turn of the 19th Century.
The island’s most famous landmark is probably Navagio Beach, an isolated cove, accessible only by boat, where you can top up your tan by the rusted remains of a shipwrecked smuggling vessel, which was abandoned in 1980, while carrying a shipment of contraband cigarettes for the Italian Mafia. Zakynthos also happens to be a great island for animal lovers. The exceptional Porto Zante Villas and Spa is just twenty minutes away from Turtle Beach, where you can volunteer throughout spring and summer to help protect the eggs of endangered loggerhead turtles and, if you’re lucky, see them hatch.
We’ve been lucky enough to visit each of these intriguing islands, while happily doing our homework in helping you know what to expect and where to stay, but now the assignment of choosing which to experience for yourself is yours.