Lonely Planet Writer

The lesser-known Greek islands gaining popularity this summer

Greece’s lesser-known islands are growing in popularity. Hidden gems like Karpathos and Tilos may not dominate your Instagram feed like Santorini just yet but they offer equally rewarding sights that are less crowded and often cheaper.

The lesser-known Greek island of Kythira is growing in popularity this year. Image by Lonely Planet

Greece is one of Europe’s most popular holiday spots but it’s becoming a victim of its own success, straining under the weight of 32 million international visitors. Islands like Mykonos and Santorini are reaching saturation point with daily flows of thousands of tourists stretching infrastructure and supplies. With that in mind, this year might be a good time to take the pressure off the hotspots and visit some lesser-known gems.

Karpathos’ quiet, tumbling villages are well worth exploring. Image by Matt Munro/Lonely Planet

Specialist tour operator, Sunvil recently analysed search volume for Greek islands – the number of times per month that people in the UK search online for terms including each island’s name – and found that the biggest increases in volume between 2018 and 2019 were for lesser-known islands.

Samos may not be as well-known as some of its neighbours but it’s still a popular island with tourists. Image by Getty

Kythira with its perfect beaches, waterfalls and sugar-cube architecture generated the most searches this year, followed by Samos, which lies just off the Turkish coast. Chilled out islands like Limnos, Kythnos and Halki are also arousing curiosity in travellers who want all the hallmarks of a classic Greek island holiday but with unhurried evenings spent in family-run tavernas and less crowds to jostle with over tables.

Dudley Der Parthog, Sunvil’s programme director for Greece, said: “today, more and more people are searching for those less-travelled or ‘secret’ islands. Whether they’re looking to escape the crowds and their own busy lives, or to simply fuel their own wanderlust – and others’ through social media – we know it’s always a thrill to discover somewhere new – and first.”

All of these islands offer excellent places to stay with often cheaper rates. If you need some inspiration, here’s the full top 10 list:

1.Kythira +340%
2.Samos +39%
3.Limnos +38%
4.Kythnos +32%
5.Halki +30%
6.Koufonisia +25%
7.Milos +23%
8.Meganisi +22%
9.Tilos +21%
10.Karpathos +14%

But if you really can’t resist the lure of Greece’s most famous island and are curious to see if it lives up to its hype, see Lonely Planet’s guide to Santorini for first-timers here.