The Greek Islands are a can’t-miss destination for most travelers, thanks to the postcard-worthy scene of whitewashed buildings stacked on craggy cliffs that tumble down to the blue sea.
But for travelers who have already hit the major players in the Greek archipelago, here are a few off-the-beaten islands in Greece that raise the bar on idyllic island living.
If you close your eyes and envision the most idyllic Greek island, what you’re picturing is Hydra. Known as one of the only Greek islands that is completely vehicle-free (no cars or scooters), Hydra is the jewel in a crown that is already glittering. Popular among both backpackers and the boho chic crowd, Hydra draws travelers with its cobbled streets, dramatic vistas of rocks and the sea, time-warped tavernas (cafes) and traditional “bouzouki” music.
Ikaria is known for having a large portion of the world’s centenarians (people who are 100 years old or older), which says a lot about the quality of life on this wild and unspoiled Greek isle. Centuries of invasion from the Persians, Romans and Turks forced the locals to move inland, which has resulted in a culture with preserved traditions and ways of life. No one knows the secret of the locals’ longevity, especially considering their love of cigarettes and strong red wine. But a laid-back lifestyle replete with salty sea air, daily naps, and a diet that is big on fresh produce is certainly a style worth considering — or, at the very least, worthy of a vacation.
Rugged is an understatement when facing the rugged shores of Kalymnos. The dramatic limestone cliffs are a mecca for rock climbers, but those who prefer to remain with two feet firmly on the ground will still marvel at the contrast between the stone and the vibrant blue sea. For travelers who aren’t as experienced in rock climbing but wish to try their hand, there are plenty of rock faces that are perfect for beginners. Load up on grapefruit and the day’s local catch for sustenance before tackling a day of climbing.
Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades islands, and it’s one of the most affordable. Begin a visit in the main, water-front city of Hora, known for its shopping, meandering alleys and hilltop vistas. Clients who venture outside the main city will find that life moves at a decidedly more relaxed pace, complete with isolated beaches, ancient sites and the occasional donkey crossing. Come to Naxos hungry, as the island is known for its local potatoes, cheeses and cured meats. Hiking and horseback riding are popular pastimes here, as is mountain biking and kite surfing.
One of the smallest of the Greek islands, Skiathos is a beachcomber’s heaven, with more than 60 beaches to explore — the most famous of which is Koukounaries. A heart-pumping nightlife pulls in a young crowd that keeps the party going until the wee hours of the morning. Then, come sunrise, tired partygoers can collapse on one of the island’s many gorgeous beaches. Cultural events, concerts and the club scene is what draws the majority of travelers to this pearl in the Aegean, but the island is also famous for its watersports, walking routes and gorgeous main harbor.