There are thousands of Greek islands – here are some lesser-known ones where you can avoid the crowds
Blessed with more than 6,000 islands – of which 170 are inhabited – glorious Greece has plenty of places where you can laze on golden sand beaches, eat succulent food and enjoy spectacular cultural attractions – without the crowds.
Here are the five under-the-radar Greek islands you need to discover now.
Sister to Skopelos – the Sporades island where feel-good movie Mamma Mia! was filmed – Alonissos’ pristine waters attract divers who come here to explore Greece’s first underwater museum near the uninhabited isle of Peristera.
Renowned since ancient times for its health-giving herbs, Alonissos is also a paradise for hikers who can explore a web of walking trails leading to mediaeval castles, ancient churches and mountain villages. There are some incredible beaches, with crystal-clear waters, too, including Megalos Mourtias, Steni Vala, Milia and Marpounta.
Lovers of marine animals should head the to the National Marine Park of Alonissos, the first of its kind in Greece, where people can spot common dolphins and Mediterranean monk seals.
Tucked between Milos and Santorini, this charming Cycladic island has a timeless quality which is best discovered in the spectacular cliff-top capital Chora, where sugarcube houses linked by winding alleys lead to the island’s centuries-old Church of Panagia, home to a silver icon that’s said to work miracles.
This unsung island, surrounded by mirror-clear waters, is also famed for fabulous food: must-try dishes here include matsata, a handmade pasta served with rooster or rabbit in a rich tomato sauce. There are also some fantastic beaches, such as Katergo, which is made up of thin pebbles that run into the beautiful blue water.
One of the largest islands in the Dodecanese group, Kalymnos is known for its sponge harvesting trade – the only Greek island to be involved with it after the Second World War. However, the island is arguably now better known for its outdoors sports, with people heading there for scuba diving, rock climbing, mountain hiking and spelunking, including an annual Climbing Festival and Diving Festival.
Walk around Pothia, the island’s capital, and you’ll soon be seduced by the cobbled streets and colourful buildings. Many of the grander mansions were owned by the sea sponge merchants of years gone by.
One of the island’s most popular sandy beaches is Masouri while Vlychadia, in the south, consists of two beaches, a sandy and a pebbly one. Emporios, towards the north, is a favourite among wind and kite surfing lovers.
One of the lesser-known Cycladic islands, Serifos has much of the charm of its more popular neighbours, without the crowds – despite its proximity to Athens (2 hours and 30 minutes by speedboat). White and blue buildings dot the landscape and sit beautifully against the azure waters of the Aegean. There are some incredible beaches, too, including Ganema, Agios Sostis and Vagia.
The capital, Chora, is split into an upper neighbourhood (Pano) and a lower one (Kato) with the town seemingly cascading down the side of the island. The Venetian castle, the highest point of Chora, boasts views of the island’s harbour and the Aegean.
The birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, Kythera has inspired artists, poets and filmmakers for centuries – many of whom would have arrived through the ancient port of Skandeia. The southernmost of the Ionian Islands, Kythera boasts valleys that end on the seashore; mountainsides that can be green or rocky and barren; spring waters cascading down the slopes; wonderful beaches (including Palaiopolis for water sports, Diakofti and Avlemonas for families, Fournoi for relaxing and Chalkos for a more cosmopolitan vibe); picturesque little villages; and an architecture that blends the apparent Venetian influences with the style found in the south Peloponnese. This is especially evident in the medieval castle at Chora and the lively Kapsali village close nearby.