Greece is a country of islands, with five distinct clusters stretching across the Ionian Sea and the Aegean Sea. The country's unique geology is what attracts over 30 million visitors each year. If you're unsure where to start with an island vacation in Greece, we recommend combining the popular Cyclades with the country's largest island, Crete. These two regions mix all the best elements of Greece: dreamy beaches with long stretches of sand, rugged coastlines with caves and bays, delicious local cuisine, charming historic city centers, and ancient ruins.
The Cyclades is home to some of the most popular Greek islands, including Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos, Milos, and Syros. Small and clustered closely together, it's easy (and fun) to island-hop! Enjoy sailing through the clear waters admiring unique coastlines and sandy beaches. You'll also get a mix of cultures, traditions, and history. Check out this ultimate guide to learn more about the Cyclades.
Crete is the largest island in Greece, establishing its most southern border. You'll find some of the most beautiful Greek beaches on Crete and the country's most ancient history.
Exploring the Cyclades
Starting with the Cyclades, explore a handful of neighboring islands to get the most well-rounded experience. Consider stops in Santorini, Naxos, Mykonos and/or Delos, Milos, and Syros.
Catamaran Cruise in the Caldera Lagoon of Santorini
Cruise Santorini's famed caldera in a stylish catamaran. Enjoy welcome drinks as you start gliding along the rugged coastline, passing popular spots such as Red Beach, White Beach, Indian Rock, and the Venetian Lighthouse. Make a stop at Red Beach to relax, swim, and snorkel before heading to a natural hot spring within the sea. Enjoy the views of lava caves and black-sand beaches. Then sail past Oia's lively ports, Fira's white-washed buildings, and Akrotiri's Venetian castle. End your cruise with a traditional Greek BBQ lunch onboard the boat at one of the Greek Islands' best-kept secrets: Mesa Pigadia Beach. Read More
Cooking Class in a Traditional Village on Naxos
Immerse yourself in local traditions and the world-famous cuisine of Naxos Island. Naxos is certainly the Cyclades' foodie island, and you'll learn why from a local chef in the tiny village of Kaloxylos, home to just 30 inhabitants. Wander this charming town with its flower-lined streets, an impressive church, and one of the biggest folklore museums in the Greek Islands. Then help your host prepare a delicious 3-course menu using fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients, the foundation of Naxian gastronomy. As you cook, discover recipes and methods passed down from generations and learn about the importance of the Mediterranean diet. Read More
Day Trip to Delos Island
Discover the sacred island of Delos, home to one of the most important and impressive archaeological sites in Greece. The island is uninhabited today but was once the birthplace of the two Greek gods Apollo and Artemis. It soon became home to the first multicultural civilization in the world and played an essential role in the Cyclades. A guide will lead you through the foundations of prehistoric mansions, temples, and landmarks, such as the Terrace of the Lions, before heading into the island museum. Along with neighboring Mykonos and Rhenia, Delos forms the "Cycladic Sisters" and makes an excellent day trip from Mykonos' buzzy town. Read More
Sailing Day Cruise around Milos
Milos is a favorite amongst Greeks and visitors, thanks to its world-famous crystal-clear turquoise waters. The perfect way to explore the island's dramatic coastline is by sailboat. You'll start in the Bay of Adamantas, passing the first Christian catacombs and the colorful villages of Skinopi, Klima, Areti, and Fourkovouni. Head toward Cape Vani and view the bear-shaped rocks of Arkoudes before taking a swimming break in the picturesque Bay of Kalogries. Other highlights include the massive sea cave of Sykia, the old pirate lair of Kleftiko, and Gerakas Bay, home to one of the island's best beaches. Read More
Medieval Ano Syros Tour
Ano Syros is a medieval settlement famous for its hilltop church, San Giorgio's Cathedral, which sits at its highest point. The tour starts at the top, allowing you to enjoy a gentle descent through the historic town's twisting cobbled streets. The church was once designated as the center of Catholicism in the Aegean Sea. Still, Ano Syros is also home to other chapels, including the Catholic Church of San Sebastian and the Jesuits and the Capuchins monasteries. At the city's main square, enjoy a visit to the Markos Vamvakaris Museum, followed by lunch at a terrace overlooking the port. End the tour with a stop at the Anemomilos Windmill. Read More
There are many reasons to visit Crete, and a trip to the island could easily fill a week or two. If you have limited time, you can focus on the two best elements of the island: its ancient history and famed beaches.
Palace of Knossos and Heraklion Archaeological Museum Tour
You can't miss exploring the incredible ruins of the Palace of Knossos, known to be Europe's oldest city. Discover this 3,500-year-old mansion by navigating its maze of royal chambers, grand staircases, storerooms, workshops, and the first European theater. Your guide will divulge the historical, mythological, and cultural details, including the always popular story of the minotaur. Then head to the world-renowned Archaeological Museum in Heraklion, where you'll peruse unique Minoan art and a complete collection of Minoan artifacts. End the tour with some free time to explore Heraklion's historic center, visiting the Morozini Fountain, the Venetian Loggia, and St. Titus Church. Read More
Elafonissi Beach Day Trip
Elafonissi Beach is one of the island's most beautiful and popular beaches. You may recognize photos of its pink-and-blue-hued sand complementing the shallow and clear turquoise waters. A driver will take you to this famous stretch of coastline, passing through small traditional villages and crossing the scenic Topolia Gorge. You'll make a quick stop at the cave of Agia Sofia to view the small chapel at its entrance. Then spend the rest of the day enjoying Elafonissi, where you can relax, swim, and snorkel. Stop in the small village of Elos on your way back to enjoy a traditional meal at a local Cretan tavern. Read More
How to Create the Perfect Greek Islands Itinerary
If you have time to stretch out your vacation, you can easily combine the unique clusters of the Greek Islands with Greece's mainland. Many visitors opt to fly into Athens and explore the surrounding area before hopping between the islands. With plenty of high-speed and overnight ferries, plus frequent domestic flights, you can experience the well-deserved hype of Greece's island clusters.
To get the most out of your time, give yourself at least one week to cruise around the Cyclades and explore Crete. Learn more about how to spend your time in the Greek Islands.
Past kimkim travelers have enjoyed the following trips that include the Greek Islands: