The best Greek islands in the Aegean

The six pearls of the group of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea - Andros, Mykonos, Paros, Santorini and Siros - are the most famous and most visited in the country and represent the true archetype of the Greek island. In a magnificent fusion of light, stones and sparkling blue waters, the Greek islands offer unique moments of culture and hedonism, such as archaeological sites, castles, Byzantine museums, a lively nightlife, shops, restaurants and beautiful beaches.

See also the amazing "Spartan" trip, a cruise from Athens through the Greek islands and the Turkish coast!

 

Andros, Mykonos y Naxos, the quintessential Greek Islands 

The prosperous Andros, located only a short distance from the island of Evia, is the northernmost of the Greek Cyclades and the second largest. Its mountains, covered with thick forests, reach a maximum height on Mount Kouvari (994m). Vineyards and fruit orchards abound in the valleys. Andros is the former residence of ship owners' families and is a good place for adult travellers in search of history, good museums and quiet nights.

For its part, Mykonos, one of the stars of the Greek islands, a small island of 75 square kilometres and almost totally devoid of vegetation, has become one of the largest tourist attractions in Greece, both for its enormous beauty and the charm of its beaches, but also for being the starting point for the indispensable trip to the small, deserted and beautiful island of Delos.  This windswept point on the map, believed to be Apollo's birthplace and guarded by a row of marble lions, was, in the past, the commercial and religious center of the eastern Mediterranean. In Mykonos, the whitewashed houses huddle together to ward off the meltemi (the strong and characteristic dry wind that some days, or at certain times, alleviates the Greek summer heat) and backpackers rub shoulders with millionaires in their labyrinthine streets. The degree of refinement of the island is remarkable, with excellent beaches and a great assortment of shops.

Naxos, the largest and greenest of the Greek Cycladic islands, separated from Paros by a 5-kilometre channel, has an irregular pentagon shape and its terrain is mountainous (culminated by the 1,001 meter Mount Naxos Dias). Here the islanders produce their cheeses and wines, raise their cattle and harvest their potatoes, olives, and fruits. According to legend, it was on this island that the god Dionysus Bacchus introduced the cultivation of the vine and where Theseus, upon returning from his confrontation with the Minotaur in the labyrinth of Crete, abandoned Ariadne. It was built in the early thirteenth century, and you can still see the remains of walls, gates, among which the Trani Porta stands out for its pointed arch.  There are also the old towers, such as the Cripsi, later called Glezos, which houses the Byzantine museum. This great territorial extension within the Greek islands, a Venetian bulwark for centuries, has a mainly Catholic population, with typical Venetian houses and fortifications as well as prolific Cycladic and Mycenaean archaeological sites.

 

Paros and Santorini, the Greek Islands to keep in mind

Likewise, Paros, which in ancient times was an important religious center and famous for its white marble quarries, used in most of the temples and sculpture masterpieces, nowadays is a communications hub for ferries.  This makes the island affordable, with reasonable prices and an excellent starting point for your travels to the other Greek islands. Of course, it is also perfect for sunbathing on its white sand beaches and for visiting the delightful fishing villages. The island of Paros is well connected to Piraeus, Mykonos and Naxos by boats and ferries as well as by plane, since there are daily flights from Athens lasting about 45 minutes. There are also weekly flights from Iraklion, within reach in 45 minutes, and from Rhodes, lasting about one hour.

Santorini, also called Thira (For more information see "Journey to Santorini") link is the southernmost of the Greek Cycladic islands, and is shaped like a crescent moon on the edge of an ancient submerged volcano that erupted around 1500 BC. The splendid views of the caldera would suffice to make worthwhile a visit to the island in its own right, but it also boasts magnificent excavation sites and radiant white villages with great tourist and commercial activity.

 

Syros, a Greek island off the beaten track

Ermoupolis is the main town of Syros and administrative capital of the Greek Cycladic islands.  It was conquered by the Venetians in the 13th century and, until the last century, it was the largest Greek port and one of the main ports in the eastern Mediterranean. It became an important territory and flourished on account of its shipyards, but it also produced its local produce, especially on its green and fertile southern slopes. This was despite the markedly different air of the island due to its commercial and industrial activity, compared to the islands living mainly off fishing and agriculture.  Of course, Syros also has fabulous beaches to laze around and enjoy a leisurely promenade by the waterfront, animated by countless restaurants and taverns.  In the Plateia Miaoulis, the main square, you can see the Town Hall, a neoclassical building built by Ziller, a Bavarian architect, who knew how to leave the distinctive mark of 19th-century architecture.

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