Greece is a country blessed with thousands of islands, each one offering a unique experience for travelers. Whether you are looking for stunning beaches, ancient history, vibrant nightlife, or authentic culture, there is a Greek island group that suits your preferences. But how do you decide which one to visit? What are the main differences between them? And what are the best ways to explore them?
In this blog post, we will give you an overview of the seven main Greek island groups and their characteristics. We will also provide some tips on how to plan your trip and enjoy the best of each island group. By the end of this post, you will have a better idea of which Greek island group is the best for you and your next vacation.
The Seven Main Greek Island Groups
The Greek islands are traditionally grouped into seven clusters, based on their location, history, and culture. These are:
- The Cyclades
- The Ionian Islands
- The Dodecanese
- The Sporades
- The Saronic Islands
- The North Aegean Islands
- Other (Crete and Euboea)
Each of these island groups has its own charm and attractions, but they also share some common features, such as the Mediterranean climate, the delicious cuisine, and the hospitable people. Let’s take a closer look at each of them and see what makes them stand out.
The Cyclades are the most famous and popular Greek island group, located in the center of the Aegean Sea. They consist of more than 200 islands and islets, but only 33 of them are inhabited. The name “Cyclades” means “circular islands”, as they form a circle around the sacred island of Delos, which was an important religious and cultural center in ancient times.
The Cyclades are known for their iconic white-washed houses and churches with blue domes, contrasting with the azure sea and sky. They also have some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece, ranging from golden sand to volcanic black pebbles. Some of the most visited islands in this group are Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Ios, Milos, and Amorgos.
The Cyclades offer something for everyone: romantic sunsets, cosmopolitan nightlife, archaeological sites, traditional villages, hiking trails, water sports, and more. They are also ideal for island hopping, as they are close to each other and well-connected by ferries and planes. However, they can also get very crowded and expensive in peak season (July-August), so it is advisable to book your accommodation and transportation in advance.
The Ionian Islands
The Ionian Islands are located in the Ionian Sea, on the west coast of Greece. They are also known as the Eptanisa (Seven Islands), as they comprise seven main islands: Corfu, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Lefkada, Ithaca, Paxi, and Kythira. They also include several smaller islands and islets.
The Ionian Islands have a different history and culture from the rest of Greece, as they were never occupied by the Ottomans but by various European powers, such as Venice, France, and Britain. As a result, they have a distinct architectural style, influenced by Italian Renaissance and Neoclassicism. They also have a rich musical tradition, featuring folk songs and instruments like the mandolin.
The Ionian Islands are famous for their lush greenery and stunning beaches with turquoise waters. Some of the most famous ones are Navagio (Shipwreck) Beach in Zakynthos, Myrtos Beach in Kefalonia, Porto Katsiki in Lefkada, and Paleokastritsa in Corfu. The islands also have many natural wonders, such as caves, waterfalls, lakes, and mountains. Some of the most popular attractions are Melissani Cave in Kefalonia, Blue Caves in Zakynthos,