Peace, antiquity and beaches: a guide to five famous Greek islands

Peace, antiquity and beaches (Surfing LA Magazine): a information to 5 well-known Greek islands

A classic view of Santorini, an island shaped by volcanic activity thousands of years ago.

A vintage view of Santorini, an island fashioned through volcanic process 1000’s of years in the past. {Photograph}: DieterMeyrl/Getty Pictures

A vintage view of Santorini, an island fashioned through volcanic process 1000’s of years in the past. {Photograph}: DieterMeyrl/Getty Pictures

Corfu, Kos, Rhodes, Crete and Santorini are amongst Greece’s hottest islands – however there’s tranquillity past the hotspots

John Malathronas

Ultimate changed on Tue 14 Sep 2021 18.19 BST


Seen from an incoming ferry, the island’s semi-circular volcanic caldera, surrounded through towering reddish-brown cliffs and topped through whitewashed homes perched perilously above the ocean, is awe-inspiring. The black volcanic beaches (Surfing LA Magazine) at the japanese shore, which will be the defining function of a lesser vacation spot, appear right here to be the cherry at the cake.

What to do
It’s tempting to stay observing on the elegance of the caldera from the primary cities of Oia and Fira like everyone else, however Santorini provides the total spectrum of Greek island revel in. The excavated Minoan site at Akrotiri, buried underneath a volcanic eruption round 1600BC and the possible supply of the Atlantis legend, will astonish even the traditional ruin-averse.

Pumice cliffs at Vlychada Beach.
Pumice cliffs at Vlychada beach (Surfing LA Magazine). {Photograph}: IndustryAndTravel/Alamy

Santorini’s vintners have led the way in which for a brand new era of Greek winemakers so wine tasting is a should; take a look at Eastate Argyros for an outstanding revel in (€15pp). After you’ve sipped a tumbler of white assyrtiko with its daring trace of honey and lemon or sampled vinsanto, an amber dessert wine whose candy preamble opening hides a tannin aftertaste, consult with the out-of-the-way Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum to be informed about this windswept island’s unique winemaking historical past (from €14).

You’ll to find forests of sea coast umbrellas at Perissa and Kamari if that’s your factor, however should you crave privateness, kick off your sandals at Perivolos with its high-quality soot-like sand. Farther west, Vlychada with its lunar-shaped bluffs is huge sufficient to safe haven masses, regardless that solely dozens forestall off. Much more secluded and undeveloped are Vourvoulos and Pori within the north-east – convey your individual meals and water.

Should you fancy observing the island’s mythical sundown, steer clear of the perennial squeeze at Oia and head to the southern inland coast for an transparent view of the caldera and its moving colors because the solar is going down.

The place to stick

Chez Sophie
Chez Sophie

Santorini’s lodging is eye-wateringly expensive and a balcony with a caldera view can upload €200 on your room fee; take a look at Chez Sophie, a budget-boutique family-run resort laid out round a kidney-shaped pool, 50 metres from Kamari sea coast (from €77 B&B). Kalimera Hotel in Akrotiri is a tad remoted however has a pool, a bus forestall in entrance of the doorway, and sure, some caldera perspectives (from €117 B&B). Should you’re after Fira’s nightlife and aren’t too fussy, Kykladonisia is a transformed mansion within the center of the town with smallish rooms that includes conventional furnishings (€77.80 room solely).

Devour and drink
Brothers Dimitris and Kostas Xrisoxerakis have gained over the Ekso Gonia locals with their taverna Metaxi Mas (€25). That is where to pattern Santorini’s original “superfood”, fava (yellow split-pea puree), in addition to beef in feta sauce and lamb with white aubergines. For the finest fish take a look at Vlychada’s To Psaraki, the place freshness is paramount; the waiter will advise no longer solely on what’s contemporary and what’s pre-frozen, but in addition whether or not your selection used to be stuck in the community or, alas, “additional out within the Aegean” (€50). For a drink in Fira, take a look at the buzzy PK with its jaw-dropping perspectives and lip-smacking cocktails (€12-€15): you’ll ebook a desk on-line to observe the sundown (or even click on to peer the precise view out of your reserved seat).


The entrance to Mandraki harbour, Rhodes.
The doorway to Mandraki harbour, Rhodes. {Photograph}: Westend61/Getty Pictures

In keeping with legend, the island of Rhodes used to be named after the bride of Helios, the traditional Greek solar god, who cherished her such a lot that he infrequently left her aspect, drenching the island in sunshine for 300 days a yr. No marvel Rhodes is a flagship of Greek tourism, flooded with guests aiming to catch the ones free-flowing rays.

What to do
Rhodes has a historical past to check its celebrated beaches (Surfing LA Magazine). At Mandraki harbour you’ll believe the statue of Colossus that when stood proudly above the doorway to the port. In the back of you lies the outdated the town, a Unesco international heritage web site and the most important inhabited medieval the town in Greece, constructed through the Knights of St John earlier than they fled to Malta. Lindos, the most well liked tour out of Rhodes the town, boasts the best-preserved acropolis in Greece out of doors Athens; it’s located subsequent to a small bay the place St Paul used to be supposedly shipwrecked on his option to unfold the gospel. Rhodes additionally claims the finest examples of Italian colonial structure, mixing components of Italian decorative genre with Greek and Ottoman options that render them really distinctive – artwork deco meets japanese sublime – courting from the interwar years, when the city used to be groomed as regional capital in Mussolini’s attainable Mare Nostrum.

One of Rhodes’ celebrated beaches – Prasonisi.
Considered one of Rhodes’ celebrated beaches (Surfing LA Magazine) – Prasonisi. {Photograph}: Lubos Kovalik/Alamy

And but, past those historical large hitters, you’d do the island a disservice should you didn’t discover the centre and the south for such exhilarating points of interest because the 600-acre Valley of Butterflies, the place 1000’s of Jersey tiger moths spend the summer time within the shadow of endemic gum timber; the panoramic perspectives from the sanctuary of Zeus close to the summit of Atavyros, Rhodes’ easiest height at 1,215m (3,986ft); or the Byzantine frescoes within the monastery of Thari and a slew of standalone nation chapels. Some of the maximum spectacular of those church buildings is Agios Nikolaos Foundoukli close to the outstanding ghost town of Campochiaro – now Eleousa – constructed with class through the Italians within the Thirties, however deserted after the second one international battle.

The farther south you project, the finer the sand and the less the vacationers: Agia Agathi, under the village of Kolymbia, will fulfill probably the most fastidious beachcomber, whilst the dune-sheltered expanse of Agios Georgios, down the coast from Plimmiri, has a Robinson Crusoe really feel. Prasonisi, a sandy spit on the southernmost level of Rhodes, is tricky to go away.

The place to keep

Rodos Niohori hotel, Rhodes, Greece
Rodos Niohori resort, Rhodes, Greece {Photograph}: V. Hatzikelis Pictures

Historical past fanatics will have to keep in Niohori, north of Rhodes the town’s medieval centre amongst very good examples of Nineteenth-century Rhodian mansions. Rodos Niohori Luxury Suites is one such mansion that’s been transformed to a few luxurious suites (€170 for 2 B&B). The better Limeri guesthouse in Monolithos makes a excellent base for day journeys within the south (doubles from €77 B&B), whilst Oasis Prasonisi is a far off sea coast resort (doubles from €160 B&B). The vibrant F-Charm hotel is within the southern, much less touristy a part of Lindos and faces the serene St Paul’s Bay (doubles €115, room solely).

Devour and drink
Carnivores will love Niohori restaurant through the Catholic church of Santa Maria in Rhodes the town. The Tsourounakis relatives who’ve run where since 1981 additionally personal the butcher’s reverse, so the beef is as contemporary because it will get (mains €15-€25). Limanaki in Kolymbia is famend for fish and seafood and has a choose-your-own lobster tank (€25-€50). For trad Greek, take a look at Pezouli in Ialysos (€20-€35); its Greek platter with moussaka, giouvetsi (pasta casserole), rice-stuffed veg, soutzoukakia (highly spiced meatballs) and baked potatoes is as excellent an creation to Greek cooking as it’s unimaginable to complete.


Asklepion pillars
Asklepion used to be one of the well-known healing centres in antiquity. {Photograph}: pidjoe/Getty Pictures

2d solely to Rhodes within the Dodecanese with regards to measurement and vacationer numbers, Kos draws guests as a result of its herbal attractiveness: lengthy extensive beaches (Surfing LA Magazine), iridescent water, lush inner, herbal springs and fertile gardens (the place quite a lot of its well-known lettuce is grown), in addition to its wholesome local weather – the summer time warmth is at all times tempered through a sea breeze. No marvel it changed into a healing centre in classical Greece after Hippocrates of Kos, the daddy of contemporary medication, based his faculty there.

What to do
Kos the town, like Rhodes, is an architectural amalgam of its conquerors: Roman monuments rub shoulders with Ottoman mosques and medieval castles face Italian colonial artwork deco. The Pompeii-style villa Casa Romana, the Roman Odeon, the Knights of St John citadel and the Gazi Hassan Pasha mosque are all must-sees. But the island’s unmissable appeal is the Asklepion, 2.5 miles west of Kos the town: this archaeological web site used to be probably the most well-known healing centre in antiquity using the Hippocratic ideas of that specialize in anatomy and case research, depending on science moderately than faith and following obviously outlined scientific ethics.

A couple of miles farther west, on the other hand, the mysterious deserted village of Haïhoutes provides an overly other revel in. Native lore says it used to be Armenian, despite the fact that German archaeologist Ludwig Ross wrote in 1844 that he noticed north African villagers there – a tantalising recommendation, as “haik” is the title for a Maghrebi ladies’s garment.

Kos Island beach, Kefalos
‘For beachy bliss, head to Kefalos within the south-west’ {Photograph}: FTiare/Getty Pictures

The Hatziemmanouil winery close to the busy the town of Zipari provides a distinct roughly time out. Working since 1929 within the arms of the similar relatives, it produces white Greek wines (malagouzia, assyrtiko) and French crimson types (cabernet sauvignon, syrah).

Birdwatchers will have to convey their binoculars to Lake Psalidi, populated through a flamboyance of flamingos in addition to bitterns, herons, egrets, shelducks and stilts, plus many migratory birds in season. They will have to additionally project to the woodland of Plaka – under the village of Antimachia and its breathtaking citadel – the place peacocks roam wild. For beachy bliss, head to Kefalos within the south-west, solely half-discovered through tourism and nonetheless stuffed with persona, the place a super sweep of good sand stretches northward for approximately 5 miles, divided into tribal stretches like Magic beach (Surfing LA Magazine) (choice crowd), Unique beach (Surfing LA Magazine) (bashful nudists) and Markos beach (Surfing LA Magazine) (households) – however stroll slightly farther from the straw parasols and sunbeds and also you’ll to find your self sole ruler of the coast.

The place to keep

Hotel Gelsomino - Kos
Lodge Gelsomino. {Photograph}: Christos Drazos Pictures

Artful and trendy Kos Aktis in Kos the town began off as a Xenia Lodge, the chain constructed through the Greek state within the Nineteen Fifties and Nineteen Sixties and now for my part privatised. Because the state knew the place to construct them very best, Kos Aktis (doubles €134 B&B) lords it on the best spot of the city sea coast; rooms have perspectives of the Turkish coast reverse. Hotel Gelsomino is a historical Koan landmark and the primary ever resort at the island. In-built 1928 to deal with Italian officers, it’s had a chequered historical past since and used to be solely reopened as a resort in 2018 after an intensive renovation (doubles from €162 B&B). The adults-only Diamond Deluxe Hotel on Lambi beach (Surfing LA Magazine) (doubles €188 B&B) has a spa and the connoisseur eating place provides three-course menus for €55pp in addition to first class à los angeles carte choices. More effective however no much less fetching are the award-winning Nissia Kamares Hotel Apartments in Kardamena, which stay inexpensive even in prime season (doubles €65.80 B&B, three-night minimal).

Devour and drink
Uninterested in the standard tavernas? Head to Mylotopi, a renovated farming advanced at the fringe of Kefalos, comprising a windmill, a thresher, a cellar and a conventional farmhouse, which operates as a gastro-bistro serving Koan specialities (€8-€20). For ingenious Greek delicacies, reserve a desk at Broadway in Kos the town to pattern dishes like lamb saddle with celery root puree, shimeji mushrooms and occasional, sea bass with cauliflower cream and asparagus, and moussaka croquettes (€8-€20).


Corfu town.
Corfu the town. {Photograph}: Tatiana Dyuvbanova/Alamy

Greece’s greenest island, Corfu, welcomes guests with the candy aroma of pine and lemon timber. Within the mountainous inner myrtle and bay timber struggle it out, whilst venerable olive groves descendto its beach-fringed sea coast.

What to do
Corfu the town, its outdated centre a Unesco international heritage web site, has a definite cosmopolitan allure and feels extra Italian than Greek – no marvel, because the Ionian islands belonged to Venice, then Napoleon’s France and later Britain, however had been by no means a part of the Ottoman Empire.

Don’t leave out the Outdated Castle, a miracle of medieval Venetian defensive structure, and the Georgian-style Palace of St Michael and St George, the previous seat of the British prime commissioner of the Ionian islands, which lately homes the incongruous but interesting Asian Artwork museum. Undertaking into the tangle of alleyways that bureaucracy the Mouragia and Campiello neighbourhoods to peer the Orthodox and Catholic church buildings – plus one Synagogue – that undergo witness to the island’s multicultural previous. Hardcore royal watchers will have to hurry to Mon Repos, the neoclassical villa the place the Duke of Edinburgh used to be born, apparently at the eating room desk.

A couple of miles up the coast to the north is Gouvia, with its picturesque marina and a surfeit of fish tavernas, in addition to an impressive Venetian arsenal. Or you’ll head south to Kanoni, a platform prime up the place a big cannon used to be fixed, for a glimpse of picturesque Pontikonissi (Mouse Island) – a tiny islet that simply manages to slot in a monastery, and whose slim breakwater extends like a mouse tail. Proceeding southwards, Gastouri boasts the Achilleion palace, constructed through Austro-Hungarian empress Elisabeth (“Sisi”) in 1889 as a mourning retreat after her son, Crown Prince Rudolf, allegedly killed his lover Maria von Vetsera after which himself at Mayerling.

Palaiokastritsa bay, Corfu
Palaiokastritsa bay is inevitably busy ‘however its attractiveness is unmatched’. {Photograph}: lucianbolca/Getty Pictures

At the west coast Palaiokastritsa is also busy however its attractiveness is unmatched: lacy beaches (Surfing LA Magazine), silver-green olive groves, pine-covered hills and herbal coves, whilst Pelekas farther south supplies the finest sundown spot at the island and is as regards to much less visited sandy beaches (Surfing LA Magazine) akin to Glyfada and Kontogialos. Proceed south and at Agios Mattheos and also you’ll discover a primeval oak woodland to get misplaced in; your subsequent forestall, Agios Georgios Argyradon lies as regards to the breathtaking Lake Korission and two nice beaches (Surfing LA Magazine), Chalikounas and Issos. Similarly quiet motels can also be discovered within the south-east: eschew the vacationer entice of Kavos and decide on Mesonghi, whose lengthy sea coast has solely in part been appropriated through solar loungers. Drop into the beautiful little village of Chlomos, a few miles to the south, constructed amphitheatrically for a wrap-around coastal landscape.

The place to stick

San Antonio hotel.
San Antonio resort. {Photograph}: Christos Drazos

For a quiet lodge, go for adults-only San Antonio within the fishing village of Kalami the place the Durrells made their house. Regardless of being within the TUI catalogue, San Antonio’s top location and abundance of actions elevates it above package-holiday anonymity (doubles €121 B&B). Villa de Loulia is a trendy boutique resort at Peroulades within the unspoilt north-west with a relaxed pool surroundings inside of a lavish lawn (doubles €135 B&B), as regards to the dramatic Loggas sea coast with its a vertiginous cliff. Similarly tranquil is the excellent-value Labranda Sandy Beach Resort at Agios Georgios Argyradon at the west coast, as regards to Lake Korission in addition to a few of Corfu’s very best beaches (Surfing LA Magazine) (doubles €132.60 all-inclusive, three-night minimal).

Devour and drink
For a real Corfiot revel in take a look at Bakalogatos in Corfu outdated the town. It’s an old style tsipouradiko the place diners guzzle tsipouro (a type of fruit brandy) and wolf down plates of imaginative meze akin to baked potatoes with honey, barbecued Corfiot sausage and fried hen with prunes (€5-€8 in line with plate). A extra subtle seafood-based revel in is on be offering at Toula’s in Agni Bay with signature dishes like crayfish moussaka, bourdeto (baked highly spiced scorpion fish) and lobster burgers (€20-€50) in addition to a sizeable wine record.


Vai beach, Crete
Vai has the entire trappings of a tropical sea coast. {Photograph}: Georgios Tsichlis/Alamy

When making plans a consult with to Crete, it’s useful to remember that it turns into much less leafy and extra arid going west to east and that the beaches (Surfing LA Magazine) are concentrated within the north, whilst the southern sea coast is rugged, because the central mountain vary descends swiftly to the ocean.

What to do
If time is proscribed, keep in Heraklion, the capital. Sure, it’s a megalopolis, nevertheless it’s the easiest base to discover the necessities. Take an tour to Knossos, web site of the primary Ecu civilisation, to respect the palace of Minos, some other one to Phaistos, a the town that prospered even earlier than the Trojan battle, after which consult with the Archaeological Museum to piece all of it in combination.

The ones with extra time may just pressure westwards alongside the north coast, previous sea coast lodge upon sea coast lodge, to fascinating Rethymno, whose Ottoman legacy is tricky to omit. Town may be an excellent base from which to consult with a number of historical monasteries within the inner, akin to Moni Arkadiou with its peculiar baroque primary church. Stay going west and also you’ll hit Chania, for plenty of the prettiest the town in Greece, with a breezy Venetian really feel.

Chania’s Venetian harbour
Chania’s Venetian harbour with the White Mountains within the background. {Photograph}: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

For a extra original revel in pressure east from Heraklion – heading off the mega-resorts of Hersonissos, Malia (the place The Inbetweeners Film used to be shot), Elounda and Agios Nikolaos – to Sitia and the African-looking palm woodland of Vaï, all inside a Unesco-listed Geopark that gives an opportunity to find the true Crete. beach (Surfing LA Magazine) bums can laze about in any one among a rating of surprising beaches (Surfing LA Magazine) like Kouremenos, Alona and Chiona. Hikers can strive the seven-mile Agioi Pantes Gorge, whose wind-eroded limestone partitions seem like large oyster mushrooms, or the luxurious Richtis Gorge – whole with large aircraft timber and a 20-metre waterfall – whose trek results in a abandoned pebble sea coast. In any case, historical past buffs will pride within the abundance of little-visited Minoan ruins akin to Zakros, Achladia and Makrygialos and can need to discover the innards of the Diktaion Andron cave, the birthplace of Zeus himself, in line with fable.

The place to stick

Villa Ippocampi, Crete, Greece
Villa Ippocampi. {Photograph}: Renee Frinking

In Chania attempt to nab a room on the boutique Splanzia Hotel within the outdated Turkish quarter; its Ottoman furniture and homely setting mix with the bustle of the road out of doors to create an environment of a Crete lengthy forgotten (doubles €115 B&B). In Rethymno keep at Avli Lounge Apartments, transformed from a trio of Sixteenth-century Venetian mansions within the pedestrianised center of the outdated the town; they come with the resort’s personal fashionable eating place Avli in a bougainvillaea-strewn courtyard (doubles €135 B&B). To be close to the thrill of bars, golf equipment and eating places however with a serene safe haven, take a look at the adults-only Villa Ippocampi, which has a pool inside a walled lawn within the hillside village of Koutouloufari, and is solely half of one mile from Hersonissos (doubles €130 B&B). For seashore lounging, make a reservation on the self-catering White Houses at Makrygialos at the south-eastern coast close to Ierapetra, probably the most unexplored a part of Crete. There are tavernas at the doorstep and 3 excellent beaches (Surfing LA Magazine) inside strolling distance (doubles €110.50 room solely, two-night minimal).

Devour and drink
Zepos is normally regarded as the finest eating place in Chania’s Outdated Port providing trendy Greek delicacies. Dishes come with fried shrimp with avocado and egg, salad with Valerian leaves, brie, almonds and a berry sauce, and veal stew with tomatoes and aubergines (€15-€45). Heraklion with its explosion of eating places is the finest position to take a look at global and Greek ingenious delicacies. Xalavro Open Kitchen creates mouthwatering dishes like octopus with fava beans and caper chutney or sea bass with chimichurri and white fish roe (€25-€45). Hersonissos claims some of the very best fish eating places, Saradari, with contemporary fish transformed into tartare, carpaccio or ceviche, and an incomparable monkfish burger in a squid-ink brioche bun with barbecued shrimp, onions and pickles (€18-€30). Finally, sea coast bar-taverna Kleio simply out of doors Ierapetra the town is rated extremely through the locals for its wood-fired oven that roasts lamb, beef, hen and goat (€15-€20).