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Island hopping 101: Guide to the Greek Islands

Apr 13, 2017 by The Go Ahead Tours Team

Beach lovers, foodies, hikers, and history buffs—a Greek Islands tour has something for every travel craving. Here’s your Greek Islands travel guide featuring what to do on Santorini, Crete, Mykonos, and Corfu.


What to do in Santorini: Come for the sunsets

Santorini’s own spin on beach beauty

Forget soft golden sand—Santorini’s beaches offer anything but. Kamari Beach is famous for its black sand and Red Beach stuns with its (unsurprisingly) red rock sand, both offering a completely different seaside setting. In fact, the most popular swimming spot isn’t at a beach at all. It’s at Amoudi Bay, below the cliffside city of Oia.

Destination: Oia

The caldera is a four-mile wide basin at the center of Santorini, and locals and visitors alike are drawn to sea views that celebrate this natural wonder. One of the best spots to take in this view? The hilltop town of Oia at sunset—perhaps the most quintessential Santorini experience. Wander through the maze of pathways and hidden corners that run through the whitewashed village, post up on the cliffs to watch the sun go down, and settle in for dinner in a taverna, a family-run restaurant usually tucked into a side street.

Beyond the basics

There is so much to do in Santorini. The island offers lots of opportunities for town-to-town hikes, archeological viewing at the Akrotiri excavations, wine tasting of its trendy volcanic white wines, and even outdoor movie nights. And remember, Santorini is a little archipelago all its own. Thira, the main island, is home to Santorini’s biggest towns of Fira and Oia. Next in line is Thirassia, where you’ll only hear the lull of crashing waves and Greek being spoken by the 270ish locals. There’s also a handful of uninhabited islands, which you can see from aboard a cruise boat jetting around the crystal clear waters.


What to do in Crete: Come for the culture

Come hungry

As the largest of the Greek Islands, Crete has something for everyone—great beaches, beautiful hikes, and interesting history. One highlight all visitors will agree on while traveling through the Greek Islands? The food! Considered the culinary hub of the islands, locally sourced olive oil, wine, honey, mountain herbs, and Cretan cheese made from sheep or goat’s milk can all be found here.


The city of Chania has a mix of Venetian and Turkish influences, and offers great opportunities for shopping. Stepping back from its picturesque Venetian Harbor, the city’s quaint Old Town has zigzagging streets—the perfect spot to spend an afternoon getting lost just strolling around.

Step back in time

A can’t-miss for history buffs, the ruins of the Royal Minoan Palace at Knossos offer a look into what the island was like millennia ago. The Venetian Caste in Loutro is another opportunity to explore local ruins on foot; hikers can make their way right up through the castle grounds.


What to do in Mykonos: Come for the beaches

Mykonos’ must-dos

The picturesque windmills in Mykonos Town are a traveler-favorite. For cute shops and romantic restaurants, Little Venice is the place to go.

A glamorous past

A longtime playground for jetsetters traveling the Greek Islands, Mykonos has the ingredients for a good time: gorgeous beaches, bohemian-chic restaurants, and lots of options for nightlight and entertainment. While it’s been popular with European A-listers for ages, Jackie Kennedy Onassis is credited for putting the island in the limelight back here in the states.

Catch up some rays

Mykonos has some of the Greek Islands best beaches. Head over to Platys Gialos Beach (reachable by bus from Mykonos Town) for unbeatable views, Paradise Beach for a lively seaside bar scene, or Fokos Beach for a more secluded setting.


What to do in Corfu: Come for the greenery

Trees, please.

Northwest of mainland Greece, close to the Albania border, this Ionian island feels quite different than many of its neighbors. In fact, this leafy retreat is almost completely covered in olive trees, with citrus trees and cypresses sprinkled in. The forested landscape extends to the water’s edge and jagged cliffs, making the island an excellent (read: shaded!) choice for hikers.

A global spin on island life

Heavily influenced by the Europeans, Corfu takes pride in its museums, palaces, and cultural institutions. This influence floods into their flavors as well. Alongside traditional Mediterranean specialities, you’ll find gingerbeer, a British drink that locals whole-heartedly embraced (ask for Tsitsibeera), English breakfast, and Middle Eastern kumquat liqueur.

Old town, new treasures

Corfu City is the island’s UNESCO-recognized old town. A stroll through its tangle of cobblestone street and elegant archways opens up to its legendary Liston, a charming arcade inspired by Paris’ Rue de Rivoli and lined with restaurants and boutiques.

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About the author | The Go Ahead Tours Team
We’re a team of passionate travel experts, dedicated to helping people explore the world. From inspiring stories to tips for an amazing trip, the topics we cover are all about getting you out there and making discoveries.

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views of the aegean sea from the greek islands with white buildings in the foreground
views of the aegean sea from the greek islands with white buildings in the foreground views of the aegean sea from the greek islands with white buildings in the foreground
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