By far the largest and always the most powerful of the Dodecanese Islands, Rhodes (ro-dos) abounds in beaches, wooded valleys and ancient history. Whether you arrive in search of buzzing nightlife, languid sun worshipping, or diving in crystal-clear waters, or embark on a culture-vulture journey through past civilisations, it’s all here.
Hania is Crete’s most evocative city, with its pretty Venetian quarter, criss-crossed by narrow lanes, culminating at a magnificent harbour. Remnants of Venetian and Turkish architecture abound, with old townhouses now restored, transformed into atmospheric restaurants and boutique hotels.
Santorini may well have conquered a corner of your imagination before you’ve even set eyes on it. With multicoloured cliffs soaring over 300m from a sea-drowned caldera, it rests in the middle of the indigo Aegean, looking like a giant slab of layered cake. The island spoons the vast crater left by one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in history.
Delphi & Sterea Ellada
Greek mythology and history seem to mingle in the rugged and scenic landscape of Sterea Ellada (Στερεά Ελλάδα). On the slopes of Mt Parnassos sits the famous site of Ancient Delphi. The land stretches east to Attica, where the legendary King Oedipus met his fate, and west to Messolongi, where British bard Lord Byron died of fever during the Greek War of Independence.
Greece’s third-largest island, after Crete and Evia, Lesvos is marked by long sweeps of rugged, desert-like western plains that give way to sandy beaches and salt marshes in the centre of the island. Further east are thickly forested mountains and dense olive groves (around 11 million olive trees are cultivated here).
Southwest Coast & Sfakia
The mountainous province of Sfakia extends from the Omalos Plateau down to the southern coast, and has some of the island’s most spectacular landmarks, including Samaria (sa-ma-ria) Gorge, the Lefka Ori (White Mountains) and Mt Gingilos (2080m) in the rugged interior.
The largest of the Cyclades, Naxos packs a lot of bang for its buck. Its main city of Hora (known also as Naxos) is a web of steep cobbled alleys, filled with the hubbub of tourism and shopping. Yet you needn’t travel far to find isolated beaches, atmospheric villages and ancient sites.
Lying just off the Turkish coast, Samos is one of the northeastern Aegean Islands’ best-known destinations, yet beyond the low-key resorts and the lively capital, Vathy, there are numerous off-the-beaten-track beaches and quiet spots in the cool, forested inland mountains, where traditional life continues.
The southwestern corner of the Peloponnese has many boons, from the peninsula's loveliest beaches to old Venetian towns, impressive castles and even an underwater park in the making. Messinia’s boundaries were established in 371 BC following the defeat of Sparta by the Thebans at the Battle of Leuctra.