Lapped by brilliant blue water and sprinkled with sun-bleached ruins, the Greek islands will fill your imagination with mythical tales, your belly with local flavours and your soul with true relaxation. Why I Love the Greek Islands By Korina Miller, Writer I was marooned on Tilos – a speck of an island adrift in the Aegean.
Crete is a magical tapestry of splendid beaches, ancient treasures, and landscapes encompassing vibrant cities and dreamy villages, where locals share their traditions, wonderful cuisine and generous spirit. Culture Crete’s spirited people champion their unique culture and customs, and time-honoured traditions remain a dynamic part of the island’s soul.
On a quest to find the Greek islands of your dreams? Start, here, in the Cyclades (Κυκλάδες; kih-klah-dez). Rugged, sun-drenched outcrops of rock, anchored in azure seas and liberally peppered with snow-white villages and blue-domed churches, this is Greece straight from central casting, with a stellar atmospheric archaeological sites and dozens of postcard-worthy beaches.
Ever pined for the old Greece, where timeless islands beckon modern-day adventurers just as they did Odysseus and Alexander? Enter the far-flung Dodecanese (Δωδεκάνησα; do-de-ka-ni-sa) archipelago, curving through the southeastern Aegean parallel to the ever-visible shoreline of Turkey.
Immense northern Greece (βόρεια Ελλάδα) stretches across more cultures and terrains than any other region in the country. Mighty civilisations, including Macedonians, Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, Slavs and Turks, have left traces here. You'll find beaches to rival the islands, especially in popular Halkidiki and around Parga, along the golden Ionian coast.
Northeastern Aegean Islands
The northeastern Aegean Islands (Τα Νησιά του Βορειοανατολικού Αιγαίου) are notable (like the Dodecanese) for their proximity to the Turkish mainland. Influences from Asia Minor abound in old-fashioned island cuisines, traditional village culture, dramatic celebrations and even the language.
With their cooler climate, abundant olive and cypress trees and forested mountains, the Ionians (Τα Ιόνια Νησιά) are a lighter, greener version of Greece. The Venetians, French and British have all in their own way shaped the architecture, culture, (excellent) cuisine – and the unique feel of Ionian life.
Saronic Gulf Islands
The Saronic Gulf Islands (Νησιά του Σαρωνικού) dot the waters nearest Athens and offer a fast track to Greek island life. As with all Greek islands, each of the Saronics has a unique feel and culture, so you can hop between classical heritage, resort beaches, exquisite architecture and remote escapism.
The west of Crete stands apart in so many ways. A land of giant mountains, grandiose legends and memorials to great battles past, it is presided over by the romantic port city of Hania, once Venice’s jewel of a capital and now filled with arty hotels, interesting shops and some of Greece’s best eateries.
The Peloponnese (pe-lo-po-nih-sos; Πελοπόννησος) is the stuff of legends. Literally. It is here that Hercules fought the Nemean lion and gods walked the earth, meddling in mortal affairs; it's from here that Paris of Troy eloped with Helen and the Argonauts set sail in search of the Golden Fleece.
Iraklio is Crete’s most dynamic region, home to almost half the island’s population and its top-rated tourist site, the Minoan Palace of Knossos. Priceless treasures unearthed here, and at the many other Minoan sites around Crete, have catapulted the archaeological museum in the capital city of Iraklio onto the world stage.
Ancient Greece's ‘centre' of the Earth – Delphi – is these days among Greece’s most visited places for its archaeological site, ancient footpaths and vistas of the Corinthian Gulf. Delphi is rivalled in popularity only by Meteora, the breathtaking outcrops of rocky towers topped by teetering monasteries (and rock climbers).
Lasithi is the wildest area of Crete with the richest biodiversity and least trampled ranges; it’s so rugged in places, you half expect Pan to emerge, pipe in hand, from the meadows. With its abundance of caves, gorges, gas-blue coves and snow-capped mountains, the region seems to have been naturally lavished by the gods.