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.
Kamari & Kefalos Bay
Enormous Kefalos Bay, a 12km stretch of high-quality sand, lines the southwest shoreline of Kos. For most of its length, the beach itself is continuous, but the main road runs along a crest around 500m inland, so each separate section served by signposted tracks has its own name.
Ikaria & The Fourni Islands
Ikaria and the Fourni archipelago are arguably the most magical of the northeastern Aegean Islands. Ikaria’s varied terrain comprises dramatic forested gorges, rocky moonscapes and hidden beaches with aquamarine waters, while the bare, sloping hills of Fourni’s islets graze the horizon, surrounded by a lobster-rich sea.
Lefkada (or Lefkas) is ringed by electric-blue water, and shimmers with wild olive groves and the spear-shaped forms of cypress trees. Despite being connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway it feels in places distinctly untamed by the tourism footprint, whose developed enclaves tend to be on the east coast.
The popular Halkidiki Peninsula has three tendrils stretching into the Aegean Sea. Kassandra and Sithonia draw crowds to their blissful beaches and growing adventure travel scene. Meanwhile Athos is the mysterious monks' republic. Being closest to Thessaloniki, Kassandra is more built up with better nightlife (though it has good beaches, too).
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).
Some 16km west of Kissamos, Falasarna is little more than a long sandy beach – but what a beach! This broad sweep is considered among Crete’s finest, even though views are somewhat marred by greenhouses set among the olive groves. Like Elafonisi, Falasarna has magical looking pink-cream sands and teal waters. It is known for its stunning sunsets.