Lesser Known Greek Islands

Greece is easily identifiable on a map of Europe for its islands, of which there are over 6,000 in total. In antiquity, Greece was a land entirely shaped by this geography. The fact that it was a land of city-states is often lost on us when we consider the ancient Greeks as a civilization. And then we have great cultural works like the Odyssey, the story of a man wandering from island to island in a way that modern travellers might emulate in a rather more drunken fashion.

Nonetheless, only 227 of the islands are inhabited, only 78 have populations above 100 and of these, far fewer are actually names that are well known. Crete, Lesbos, Rhodes, Cephalonia, Corfu and few others can claim to be household names. This leaves many islands which are completely worth visiting, that have the benefit of fewer tourists and a more authentic experience.


With rival islands like Cefalonia, Corfu and Odysseus’ Ithaca nearby, Zakinthos is easily overlooked among the islands of the Ionian sea. The third largest of the islands, it actually offers a remarkably balanced vacation experience: Whilst it has enough nightlife to keep the party tourists happy, things don’t get too messy. There is a lot to see on the cultural and historical side of the island instead. The mountainous south side features some great views and walks away from the hustle and bustle of the heavily populated north. Scuba diving is particularly recommended on the island – fish are perhaps not abundant, but the Keri caves and sea arch are fine landmarks to dive. The beaches are as pristine and sunbathe-worthy as you’d expect from an Ionian island. The Agio Nikolaos beach is considered the best on the island.

Image via Flickr user: spamdangler


Paxos is in the same group of islands as Zakinthos, itself part of a smaller group, the ‘Paxi islands’, alongside Antipaxi. Most certainly not for lovers of nightlife, a stay in one of the rustic Paxos villas will appeal almost exclusively to those who want the freedom to be free from the pressure of having to really do anything. Other islanders, used to the sights and sound of the their homeland dare to consider Paxos rather unexceptional, but it offers seclusion in a lush vegetated, easily traversed and beautiful place. Time spent swimming and hiring a boat is advised.


In the north-eastern corner of the Aegean sea, Samothrace is a rugged little island dominated by the 1,611 metre tall Mt Fengari. Though not a major power in ancient Greece, the historical side of the island is more than satisfactorily represented by the ‘Sanctuary of the Great Gods’, a mystery cult that worshiped on the island. A museum documenting this stranger past can be found on the island. Samothrace is a rural island, but some vacations are best spent in such a setting. Go for a hike, enjoy the beach at ‘Fat Sand’, far away from the two urban areas and discover a more mystical, yet down to earth side of the Greek islands.


In the eastern Aegean, Ikaria (sometimes Romanised as ‘Icaria’) is the island of Icarus, the son of Daedalus whose wax wings melted when he flew too close to the sun. The weather here is more manageable than such an association would suggest. But time spent in the Greek sun on Ikaria is time well spent: Agios Giorgis, Evdilos and Faros are the names of the principle beaches on the island and worthy of a slow day’s sunbathing. The island is also perfect for offshore sports, and the waves bring countless surfers to the island. Ever historical, this is another greek island with worthy museums documenting classical, Hellenistic roman and Byzantine Greece. Oh, and they’re free, which is more than can be said for most Greek historical sites.
Steph Wood writes content for Simpson Travel who provide vacations to multiple alternative destinations in the Mediterranean including Holidays in Turkey and Greece.


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