We’re all familiar with Corfu, Crete and Rhodes, three of the main Greek islands firmly on the summer timeshare map, but with hundreds more to explore, what about the lesser known ones which are definitely worth a trip?
These five islands are uniquely different, each with its own inimitable appeal. Do a little research before you leave home and if you’re spending the summer in Greece near any of these five, think about hopping on a ferry to see one or two – you’ll be glad you made the trip.
Popular with the “insider” crowd, Paros tends to get bypassed by holidaymakers who just regard it as a stepping stone to more popular party island Ios or couples’ favourite, dramatic Santorini. But Paros is a wonderful island to spend a whole week exploring, it definitely won’t disappoint. It’s full of picturesque whitewashed villages up in the hills, but down in Parikia (the central town), that’s where most of the action is.
If Folegandros sounds vaguely familiar it’s because only fairly recently did it hit the Greek island radar. Featured in glossy travel magazines in features about the islands most holidaymakers don’t reach, it’s still a best-kept secret from most of us – quiet, authentic and a great place to completely unwind. Main points on Folegandros’s map are Angali Beach, Karavostasi Harbour, the town of Chora and Ano Meria village. Despite it not being one of the most famous islands, don’t take a chance with accommodation in peak season because what accommodation there is available, normally gets fully booked.
So you’ve just landed in Kefalonia, and it’s starting to look a little familiar? That’s because this Ionian island (part of the group that includes Corfu) was the beautiful backdrop for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, the movie starring Penelope Cruz and Nicolas Cage.
It’s actually the sixth largest of the Greek Islands and if you do spend some time there, you’ll come back with an album full of photos – the countryside is very “lost in time” and absolutely idyllic.
Patmos has strong spiritual links – it was, according to legend, chosen by St. John as the island where The Book of Revelation was written, and there are definite religious overtones here. UNESCO made its caves a World Heritage Site and it also boasts volcanic hills and a really Greek/authentic feel.
It couldn’t be farther from a party island, and is a favourite with writers, historians and religious students, so if peace and quiet, iconic churches and the sound of distant goat bells sound like your kind of summer’s day, put Patmos on your Greek shortlist.
Mention Hydra to anyone who knows Greece well, and they’ll tell you two things, immediately. First, there is no traffic in the town – it’s a donkey-only zone, which make it ultra-walkable and quieter.
Secondly, it’s the island that stole Leonard Cohen’s heart. He inherited some funds and bought a house on the island where he lived with his girlfriend Marianne, who featured in the song of the same name.
Hydra is one to earmark if you’re coming from Athens, because it’s located on the Saronic Gulf and is just 90 minutes from the capital, by catamaran. Once you’re there, there’s lots to do – it’s famous for its art galleries, jewellers and charming simple tavernas. Pop along to Pirofani, the place has been delighting locals and visitors alike with delicious kebabs for over two decades.