You’ll either love or hate Santorini. Its magnet, the multicoloured cliffs that soar above the sea-drowned caldera, are amazing indeed. The main towns of Fira and Oia – a snow-drift of white Cycladic houses that line the cliff tops and spill like icy cornices down the terraced rock – will take your breath away. And then there’s the sunsets, the glorious sunsets.
Still recognisable as the idyllic refuge where the shipwrecked Odysseus was soothed and sent on his way home, Corfu continues to welcome weary travellers with its lush scenery, bountiful produce and pristine beaches. Since the 8th century BC the island the Greeks call Kerkyra has been prized for its untamed beauty and strategic location.
If much of life in Crete is like a beach, remote Elafonisi is a beach and a stunning one at that. Tucked into Crete’s southwest corner, this symphony of fine pinkish-white sand, turquoise water and gentle dunes looks as though lifted from the Caribbean. Off the long, wide strand lies Elafonisi Islet, easily reached by wading through 50m of knee-deep water.
Mykonos is the great glamour island of Greece and flaunts its sizzling St-Tropez-meets-Ibiza style and party-hard reputation. The high-season mix of hedonistic holidaymakers, cruise-ship crowds and posturing fashionistas throngs Mykonos Town (aka Hora), a traditional whitewashed Cycladic maze, delighting in its cubist charms and its chichi cafe-bar-boutique scene.
Greece’s third-largest island, Lesvos is marked by long sweeps of rugged, desert-like western plains that give way to sandy beaches and salt marshes in the centre. To the 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 blotch of habitations on a long sandy beach – but what a beach! This broad sweep of pink-cream sand is considered among Crete’s finest and is famous for its superbly clear teal waters, stunning sunsets and rolling waves.