Visitors to Greece tend to stick to the most popular spots like Santorini and Mykonos. However, there are tons of little islands that keep their treasures away from the spotlight and the commercialism, offering a truly authentic experience of what life is like on a Greek island.
Here are 20 lesser-known destinations in Greece that enchant curious travellers with dramatic landscapes, unspoiled beaches and their genuine hospitality. All of them can be easily reached by ferry from the port of Piraeus in Athens.
Koufonisia, ChristosKaragounis [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Don’t miss: a boat trip to the beaches of Kato Koufonisi and the archaeological site of Keros, the two uninhabited islands of the archipelago, and a swim in the dazzling turquoise waters of the golden Pori beach.
We like: the idyllic atmosphere of Windmill Villa, where guests can sleep in a beautifully renovated windmill, and Mixalios Grill House's large servings of delicious meat, directly sourced from the owners’ family farm.
Don’t miss: a magical sunset from the chapel of Aghios Georgios, built on a rock overlooking the sea, and a delightful hike from the port up to the old chapel and abandoned castle of St. Constantine.
We like: the chilled vibe of On the Rocks, a splendid establishment by the sea offering both guest rooms and a restaurant with Greek favourites like tzatziki and moussaka.
Don’t miss: Chora, one of the island’s three villages, with a delightful pedestrian centre decorated with colourful bougainvillaea, and the magical sunset views from the church of Panagia, standing high on top of the hill.
We like: the luxurious yet relaxed atmosphere of Anemi Hotel, offering design rooms only a quick stroll from the beach, and Blue Cuisine, the island’s much-lauded gourmet taverna serving thoughtfully crafted dishes using only fresh produce from local suppliers.
Don’t miss: a shot of souma, the traditional spirit served at the café of the monastery of Agios Ioannis Alarga, and the remains of Horio, the island’s old capital.
We like: the peacefulness of the Captain’s House rooms and the fresh fish and sea-food delicacies served at Nick’s Taverna, on the sandy beach of Pondamos.
Don’t miss: a walk barefoot on the sand dunes near the village of Katalakkos, a true natural wonder that some consider to be Europe’s only desert! The views from the 13th-century castle of Myrina are also not to miss.
We like: the chic mix of traditional features, cozy atmospheres and modern amenities of Arxontiko, one of the best hotels on the island, and the seafood plates of Grammofono, a tiny meze bar on Myrina’s main square that often hosts live music gigs.
Don’t miss: the 17th-century Monastery of Panagia Chrissopigi, which is believed to have miracle powers, and the breathtaking sea views from the cliff-top village of Kastro, Sifnos’ oldest settlement.
We like: the peaceful atmosphere of the Eleonas apartments, surrounded by splendid olive groves, yet only a couple of minutes’ walk from the centre of Apollonia, the island’s main town. Nearby is Rambagas, a gourmet restaurant serving tasty Cycladic gastronomy on a lovely terrace.
Why go: listed as a Blue Zone for the longevity of its inhabitants, Ikaria is a mostly mountainous island with photogenic villages, adventurous hiking paths and varied beaches that range from remote sandy coves to trendy resorts.
Don’t miss: Seychelles Beach, one of Ikaria's most beautiful spots, famous for the crystal clear water and the sparkling white pebbles covering the sea bed and the shores. Also, watching the sun go down over the sea from Nas beach is truly dreamy.
We like: the local delicacies that fill the menu of Thea’s Inn, a traditional Greek taverna in the village of Nas that uses ingredients straight from the owners’ organic farm, and the fabulous Toxotis Villas complete with a splendid seawater pool and breathtaking views over the surroundings.
Don’t miss: the Monastery of Saint John, Patmos’ most important religious site showcasing precious relics and documents, and the grotto where Saint John is said to have received God’s revelations.
We like: the authentic charm of the rooms offered at Archontariki, beautifully located in the heart of Chora, and a delicious meal by the sea at Lambi Taverna.
Why go: with a size of 4.5 sqm and only 600 permanent inhabitants, Ammouliani is a lovely islet covered in olive trees. Its rich seabed is great for snorkelling or diving and its authentic atmosphere attracts those looking for a relaxing spot away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland.
Don’t miss: a boat trip to Mount Athos, the spectacular cluster of monasteries perched on a cliff right across the island, and a visit to Drenia, an archipelago of little islands at the southern tip of Ammouliani, in search of the perfect beach spot.
We like: the Sunrise Hotel that offers delightful rooms and a colourful garden, and the Alikes Camping, a well-equipped campsite on the beach for the more adventurous types. For food, the fresh fish of Tzanis is really good and served by the most welcoming staff.
Why go: less than one hour from Athens, Agistri is the smallest island in the Saronic Gulf and makes for a great excursion while visiting the Greek capital. Surrounded by sparkling blue waters and covered in pine forests, the island offers plenty of activities to do, from kayaking to cycling, horse riding and hiking.
Don’t miss: Dragonera beach, covered with pine trees and complete with a canteen, and the traditional stone houses of Limenaria, one of Agistri’s most scenic spots.
We like: the warm atmosphere of Rosy’s Little Village, a delightful hotel nestled above the sea where guests can live an authentic Greek experience, and the fresh grilled fish of Agistri Taverna at the port.
Don’t miss: the incredible stalagmite and stalactite formations in the Antiparos Cave, including what is thought to be Europe’s oldest stalagmite, and a boat tour of the most beautiful spots accessible only via water, such as the islet of Despotiko.
We like: the chilled vibe of the Beach House, offering a handful of elegant suites on the bay of Apantima and a delightful restaurant overlooking the sea. For great seafood in a picture-perfect location, Captain Pipinos is a must.
Why go: Tilos is a little island in the heart of the Dodecanese rich in natural beauty, from wild mountains to unspoiled beaches and verdant hills. It is also home to rare birds and varied sea life.
Don’t miss: sunbathing with peacocks at Plaka, a remote beach sprinkled with eucalyptus trees, and the stunning frescoes of the 15th-century monastery of Agios Panteleimon that offer a great break from beach life.
We like: the lovely seafront location of Eleni Beach Hotel, offering comfortable guest rooms and very friendly service, and the tasty home cooking of Omonoia Café.
Why go: although its name means “big island”, Meganisi is an islet with only 3 villages, where total peace and tranquillity are guaranteed. Days on the island are spent diving in search of underwater caves, exploring the coast aboard a canoe and relaxing on peaceful sun-drenched beaches with a frappé in hand.
Don’t miss: Spartochori, a balcony over the sea with fantastic views up to the islands of Skorpios and Lefkada, and the monastery of Agios Ioannis Prodromos featuring some beautiful 15th-century frescoes.
We like: Taverna Lakis, serving excellent homemade food and hosting fantastic Greek Nights with traditional music and dances, and the exquisitely renovated apartments of the Teacher’s House, featuring also a sunny patio and a shared outdoor pool.
Don’t miss: Agia Anna, the stunning beach famous for being the location of Luc Besson’s classic “The Big Blue”, and the extraordinary Byzantine Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa, built into the cliff 300 metres above the sea.
We like: Emprostiada, a traditional guesthouse just steps from the island’s main town, decked out in pure Cycladic style, and the local delights served at Tranzistoraki, nestled in a picturesque cobbled alley in the heart of the Chora.
Why go: Leros is an oasis of peace and serenity dotted with enchanting whitewashed hamlets, scenic coves and low-key resorts. What’s more, the island has a unique underwater museum, with wrecks of boats and planes used during the Second World War.
Don’t miss: the 11th-century Byzantine fortress of Panagia, with an exhibition of icons, manuscripts and historical books, and the scenic church of Agios Isidoros, standing on a cliff in the sea.
We like: Archotinko Angelou, a stunning 19th-century villa that used to be the owners’ family summer house, where guest rooms ooze history and tradition, and the delicious Greek fare on the menu at Vareladiko Café, a family-run taverna on the beach of Dio Liskaria.
Why go: one of Serifos’ biggest draws is its beautiful Chora, a cluster of white-cubed houses cascading down a mountainside that has enchanted and inspired many artists. There are also some fantastic hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulty, as well as a number of alluring beaches lapped by sparkling blue water.
Don’t miss: a hike through the mining trail to retrace the island’s history as a key centre for the mining industry, and a fine wine tasting at Chrysoloras, a local winery producing excellent, bio-certified wines.
We like: the delicious Serifian specialities on the menu at Aloni, including fennel fritters and lemony rabbit stew, and the comfortable rooms of Apanemia, in the centre of Chora.
Why go: just like the goddess Calypso charmed Odysseus in Lipsi on his way back to Ithaca, the islet enchants visitors with its rough beauty, unspoiled beaches and friendly locals that continue to preserve their authentic culture and traditions.
Don’t miss: the famous icon of the Virgin Mary housed in the Church of Agios Ioannis Theologos, and the sweet red wine made in Lipsi’s winery.
We like: dining with a view at Pefko, a traditional taverna on the sea-run by one of the oldest families on the island, and the warm hospitality of Nefeli Hotel with its private sandy beach.
Why go: Schinoussa is an islet of 250 souls where relaxing on blissful beaches and trekking through unspoiled nature are the main activities that visitors can enjoy. Also, its jagged coastline is blessed with deep blue waters that are a true paradise for water sports lovers and fishing enthusiasts.
Don’t miss: the secluded beach of Psili Ammos, lined with trees that provide some shade and lapped by crystal clear water, and the white and blue church of Panagia Akathis in Chora.
We like: the special, homely atmosphere at the family-run pension Meltemi and the exquisite dishes served with stunning views at Deli Restaurant & Bar.
Don’t miss: the traditional clothing still in use among the women of Olympos, a picturesque village in the mountains, and Apella in the southeastern part of Karpathos, which is regarded as one of Europe’s best beaches.
We like: the exceptional location of Le Grand Bleu, with rooms opening onto Lefkos beach and the blue Aegean Sea, and the traditional cuisine of Ellinikon, where diners can check out the day’s specials directly in the kitchen.
Why go: very popular among Athenians, being just a three-hour ferry ride away from the Greek capital, Kythnos is a charming island with 65 beaches and a vast network of hiking trails. Major sights include the medieval Castle of Oria, the Monastery of Panagia Nikous and the island’s beautiful pine forest.
Don’t miss: the thermal springs of Loutra, famous for their therapeutic properties, and the stunning Cave of Katafyki, one of the largest in Greece, with some impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations.
We like: the lovely rooms and fantastic homemade breakfasts of Xenonas Afroditi, just steps from the beach, and Chartino Karavi, an unpretentious taverna in the village of Dryopida offering delicious local food and great music.