12 islands for the summer 2024 holidays

John KarkalatosNovember 12, 2023

1. Spetses

Spetses

On December 23, 2022 the long-awaited sequel to the blockbuster "Knives Out" entitled "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery" was released on Netflix with the famous actors Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Kathryn Hahn, Janelle Monáe and Dave Bautista.

Footage of the film have been shot in Spetses in front of Poseidonion hotel. The choice is not accidental because the plot is inspired by Agatha Christie's mystery novels so the background of the film should be classic referring to the beginning of the 20th century. Daniel Craig anyway through the role of James Bond we are used to seeing him in picturesque villages in Italy and France, so here came the turn of Spetses.

So it is a golden opportunity to go and see up close the places where the movie was shot but also to get to know this cosmopolitan island. A destination where nobility and history can be seen all around. The beauties enchant the visitor from picturesque Dapia where the sea taxis are tied up, to the Old Port where boats of all types are cramed for a place in the sheltered bay.

The top things to do in Spetses are to walk the seaside promenade, photograph Poseidonion, visit the Old Port (Palio Limani), taste the local macaroons, swim in Agia Paraskevi and ride a sea taxi from Dapia to Palio Limani.

I remind that in 2021 was released the movie "The Lost Daughter" shot entirely in Spetses with Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley and Ed Harris.

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2. Tinos

Tinos

A dynamic entry for Tinos as apart from its inclusion in Condé Nast Traveller's list for the best Greek islands it has earned one more entry on the British Times list.

The articles praise the island for its traditional villages, the surreal sunsets, the local cuisine, the miraculous Virgin Mary and the meltemi wind. An extensive mention is made about the sculptors who have contributed to the traditional architecture: Nikolaos Gyzis, Giannoulis Halepas, Dimitrios Filippotis, Antonios Sochos. In Pyrgos sculpted birds and flowers adorn every door while in Kardiani the marble faucets, the fountain, the archways and skylights are built with the stones and marbles of the area. At the Marble Crafts Museum in Pyrgos the visitor can discover processing techniques and the traditional tools.

Tinos takes its food culture seriously: there are artichoke, caper and honey festivals. Marathia restaurant with a field and a boat highlighted local ingredients in complex modern dishes. For a perfect meal in perfect surroundings go for cuttlefish risotto and octopus caramelized in grape must at Thalassaki served on the pier at Hysternia Bay and then watch the dusk bleeding into the horizon from Exomeria bar.

Although only 15 minutes from Mykonos it has miraculously managed to remain untouched. Lonely chapels and dovecotes on thyme-scented hills fall into sandy bays battered by the meltemi. On the 15th of August the island is overwhelmed by pilgrims who flock to see the miraculous icon one of the holiest in all of Greece.

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3. Naxos

Naxos

In recent years Condé Nast Traveller's lists have consistently included Naxos the most complete island of the Cyclades, as it characterizes it, and this is because it has everything you want from a holiday destination: from endless sandy beaches and picturesque villages to archaeological sites and local products.

The first picture from the ferry suggests that in Naxos the picturesqueness of the Cyclades meets ancient and medieval history. There are two sights that attract the eye. The ancient Portara, which is an unfinished temple dedicated to Apollo, dominates the harbour and stands impressively on a promontory, while Chora is a medieval castle-state that was the seat of the Duchy of Naxos from 1207. Inside Chora is the old market with winding streets, small restaurants and bars, tourist shops and picturesqueness that has nothing to envy from Mykonos!

The list of things to do in Naxos is pretty long. Continuing with the beaches the best are Agios Georgios and Agios Prokopios while you will find many more on the west side of the island, some quiet and others crowded. Some of them are Agia Anna, Aliko, Kastraki, Mikri Vigla and Plaka. "Endless miles of sandy beaches" is the phrase that the articles use to describe them, anyway this island is famous all over Greece for its sandy beaches.

Apart from fishing villages it is the only cycladic island where you can find mountain villages. The most famous are Apiranthos and Filoti on Mount Fanari with byzantine, venetian and frankish roots and with popular architecture that stands out. A visit there is a must as they have not been altered by tourism and what we see is authentic. So wander through cobbled streets with arches, picturesque squares, see towers and byzantine churches and admire this different side of the Cyclades.

Naxos is appropriate for all ages, for families, couples and adults. There are many options for nightlife without being a party island while at the same time it is a quiet island, the beaches are children-friendly, it is big enough and one does not disturb the other.

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4. Sifnos

Sifnos

Sifnos has been gaining more and more fans in recent years with three being the points it excels at: the postcard villages, the local cuisine and the amazing beaches.

Condé Nast Traveller's article about the best islands in Greece praises Sifnos for its culinary heritage which owes it to Nikolaos Tselemendes who wrote the first cookbook in Greece in 1910. Forget souvlaki and moussaka: here chickpea croquettes and cooked capers are the main dishes of the tavern. The potteries produce the clay pots used for rebythada (baked chickpeas) and mastelo (lamb with red wine and dill).

A special mention is made to the tavern Meraki of Manolis in Vathi which cooks the dishes slowly in a wood-fired oven, to Omega 3 in Platis Gialos for the "teased" dishes of Sifnos, to the traditional pastry shop Theodorou in Artemonas for macaroons, pastels and halvad pies and to Cantina in Seralia for culinary dishes with local ingredients.

The article concludes that Sifnos is the right balance of frugal luxury with pristine authenticity.

All the villages have something unique: Kamares the port with its long sandy beach, Apollonia its picturesqueness and intense nightlife, Artemonas its cobbled streets, Kastro was the medieval capital, the traditional fishing village of Pharos, Platis Gialos the long sandy beach, the isolated fishing village of Vathi.

The churches with the blue domes are also very beautiful. The most well-known pictures of Sifnos are the charming church of the Seven Martyrs which is one of the most photographed in all of Greece and the patron saint Panagia Chrysopigi standing proudly on the rock in the vastness of the Aegean.

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5. Syros

Syros

Barrages of articles have been written about Syros in recent years by the american Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveller, the british Times and the Telegraph. All agree that it is a 100% authentic island outside of mass tourism that gives a taste of real Greece. Syros does not need tourism and therefore has not changed, the main occupation of the residents is the shipyards which, although they have an unpleasant appearance, are in no way representative of the island.

But this maritime tradition has left the legacy of the neoclassical mansions in Vaporia which impress with their ornate balconies, shutters and designs on the railings. It is the most beautiful district with alleys as if they came out of Siena, a combination of romance, Renaissance and Pompeii. However Ermoupoli is also impressive, built on twin peaks crowned with churches, one Orthodox and the other Catholic.

Syros does not have white houses like the rest of the Cyclades, rather it has an aroma of Italy, and as it has been described, it is a world taken out of a 19th century opera. It stands out for its cobbled alleys, tiny squares, wrought iron lamps, the Apollo Theater of 1864 a miniature of the Scala of Milan, and the town hall of 1876 with Miaouli Square.

So Syros is the island where history meets seamanship. It was once one of the great ports of Europe along with Odessa, Trieste, Marseille and Liverpool. In fact Syros loukumi was a favorite of Queen Victoria of England.

The beaches that stand out are Vari, Azolimnos and Kini. It is also mentioned that the island has a tradition in rebetiko songs as Markos Vamvakaris came from there and sang of its beauties.

But there are also many seaside taverns: at Ambela beach for fresh fish, at Iliovasilema at Galissa beach for salad with zambiri and sea urchins and rockfish soup. At Allou Yallou in the seaside village Kini for lobster with orzo. In Ermoupoli the best places to eat and drink are along Androu Street: Ousyra where the chef makes Greek pasta and beautifully balanced salads and Django Gelato for delicious smoked hazelnut ice cream and fig sorbet. Perhaps the nicest restaurant is Mazi with the courtyard covered with vines and decorated with bougainvillea.

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6. Milos

Milos

Constantly present on lists of the world's best islands: 3rd best island in the world by Travel + Leisure readers for 2021, 1st for 2022 and 4th for 2023, admittedly a huge honor both for the island itself and for Greece. In a related article it is stated that "the best island in Europe has stunning white stone beaches and some of the most turquoise waters in the world", unsurpassed food and its beauty is comparable to Mykonos and Santorini. It is known anyway for the Venus of Milos.

The rocky coastline gives way to some of the most pristine crystal clear waters you've ever seen. The landscape is steep hillsides dotted with sparse vegetation, whitewashed houses, blue-domed churches and grazing goats.

In Plaka the alleys are small and narrow but the residents have painstakingly made sure that every detail is in its place. All the buildings are perfectly whitewashed, the shutters are the perfect shade of blue and the bougainvillea look like they're always in bloom. Even the stones have been painted separately to stand out from the pavement. If you don't already know it the sunset in Plaka rivals that of Santorini, I personally think it is better!

Klima is the most photographed spot in Milos, these colorful doors are warehouses and parking lots for boats dug into the soft volcanic rock. If you are lucky you might see a fisherman doing his daily work there.

Sarakiniko beach is like landing on the bright side of the moon and you don't even need filters on Instagram, mention is also made for Papafragas, another special beach in the island. The article concludes: "Milos, like its famous statue, is a siren that will call you again and again".

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7. Ithaca

Ithaca

A mythical haven for lovers and the lonely. With this title Condé Nast Traveller includes Ithaca in its list of the best Greek islands and continues: despite its legendary stature the homeland of the hero Odysseus remains surprisingly under the radar.

And it is apparently its reputation for Odysseus and his long-suffering journey that prevents us from seeing it as a summer destination where we can spend our holidays. Because in addition to being the homeland of Odysseus Ithaca is a verdant island adorned with picturesque villages with slopes that end in beautiful bays with wonderful beaches. In fact it is better known to boaters who travel the seas than to holidaymakers.

From Kioni to Vathi all you will see are pictures that travel the mind. Picturesque harbours hugging sheltered bays with sailboats rocking in the calm waters. In Vathi you will see the statue of Odysseus standing proudly on the one side while on the other side he is rowing jaded the boat while in Kioni discover the very small beaches with turquoise waters that the village alleys lead there.

Other villages that worth to visit are the fishing village of Frikes and Stavros where there is a bust of Odysseus and a representation of his palace by the Italian architect Bruno Mazzali. The article recommends Spavento cafe-bar at Kioni, Ageri restaurant at Frikes and Mylos bar at Vathi.

The beaches are small with pebbles but as clean and refreshing as gin, they may be unknown but that is because few and good know them! The best are Gidaki, Filiatro, Kioni, Platia Ammos, Kourvoulia, Sarakiniko, Minimata and Ai Giannis.

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8. Folegandros

Folegandros

Entry also for Folegandros as it is included in the list of Condé Nast and the British Times for the best Greek islands. I remind that for 2022 it was on Travel + Leisure's list as the 2nd best island in the world.

Folegandros is well-known for the charming Chora and the Castle which is one of the most photographed and recognizable spots in the Cyclades but the articles also express the admiration for the Virgin Mary church with the zig-zag trail which is an ideal spot to admire the wild beauty of the sunset.

Tastes on the island are a journey themselves. At Chic restaurant in the square try dishes with local ingredients, cheese meatballs, eggplant stuffed with couscous, lemon goat, stuffed vegetables. For the traditional matsata spaghetti at Synantisi in Ano Meria. At Irini's in Ano Meria also for home-made food with meatballs, eggplant salad, souroto (local cheese), kalasouna (traditional pie with souroto and onion) and stews. At Punda you can eat food with local ingredients in the wonderful courtyard. Be sure to try karpouzenia the traditional sweet of the Cyclades. Astarti bar is also recommended for racomelo together with local pasteli.

The beaches are really calm and wonderful accessible mostly by boat or on foot. The best are Vardia, Agios Nikolaos, Livadaki, Galifos, Agali, Lygaria, Agios Georgios and Katergo.

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9. Kefalonia

Kefalonia

Laidback family holidays is the title of Condé Nast for Kefalonia. We saw the island coming into the spotlight with the film "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" with Nicolas Cage and Penélope Cruz in 2001 when it showcased its beauties through the romantic story of an Italian soldier and a Kefalonian woman during the german occupation.

The earthquake of 1953 leveled all the villages except Fiskardo and Assos which, like colorful touches, are the only representatives of traditional architecture. In cosmopolitan Fiskardo many famous people have come to try Tasia's dishes among them John Galliano and Jon Bon Jovi who tasted pasta with seafood.

An island full of colors, verdant with beaches in the 50 shades of blue. The most famous Myrtos, white as milk, is one of the most well-known in Greece but Antisamos and Fteri are not far behind. The most famous beaches after them are Atheras, Alaties, Emblisi, Petani, Agia Efthimia, Koutsoupia and Chorgota.

Fteri and Koutsoupia can only be accessed by boat, so this is a boating opportunity!

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10. Paxoi

Paxoi

If there is one place in Greece that combines natural beauty with picturesqueness and tranquility then this is Paxoi, the island that is best known for its seas in all shades of blue. Condé Nast Traveller included it in its list and characterizes the colour of the sea as electric blue!

Although a small island, its attractions are disproportionately many. The villages are of Italian architecture with beautiful alleys and picturesque harbors located in sheltered coves offering a unique opportunity for food and coffee by the sea. The article distinguishes Taxidi bar at Logos for the patio overlooking the sea and the view of the sunset.

The most important sights however are the magnificent natural formations: the breathtaking view of the cliffs from Kastanida, above the cave of Ypapantis, the natural arch Tripitos, the beach Erimitis with the vertical cliffs, the sunset over Galazio beach and also the sunset in Lakka in the calm waters of the bay.

The beaches cannot be described in words, just that one is better than the other, of course the best are in Antipaxos with Voutoumi stealing the show fairly.

A must is the round of Paxos and Antipaxos to admire the sharp cliffs and swim in the Blue Cave.

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11. Patmos

Patmos

Here is a destination on the list of Condé Nast Traveller from the Dodecanese, extremely wronged because the Monastery of Agios Ioannis Theologos exceeds the reputation of the island, you'll usually find it in lists for Easter destinations that title it as the island of the Apocalypse but this is not the whole story.

The most beautiful in Patmos may not be the Monastery but Chora that impresses with its elegance, it's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It stands out for the white mansions dating of the 16th century with the stone outlines on doors and windows, for the colorful details, the winding alleys, the beautiful squares and the view to Skala, the port of the island. The haunts of Chora are Astoivi and Stoa bar.

Lacy island as it is it hides many coves with peaceful beaches with Livadi Geranou and Psili Ammos being the favourites of the columnist. The best activity however is the day trip to the neighbouring inhabited and uninhabited islands and this is because in Patmos there are such groups of islets that will give you the opportunity to make marine explorations and discoveries.

Most tourists visit Patmos with excursion ferries from Kos but it is definitely worth a few days more attention. And one more thing, the almighty Monastery has kept the nightlife under its control. This is a figure of speech of course from Condé Nast!

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12. Symi

Symi

Dodecanese islands continue with Symi. So the Condé Nast columnist narrates in brilliant words:

"Little Symi has the most beautiful port in Greece. As you turn the cape, neoclassical mansions in every shade of apricot and peach rise like a reflection from the sea. Built by 19th-century sponge and spice merchants the whole village is now a national monument."

Picturesque and imposing I would add, with a large port and the clock of 1881 dominating. What you want is to find the best places to admire the village from different angles and to watch peacefully the boats that come and go the port. High on the hill of course the view becomes even better.

A must is a visit to the Monastery of Panormitis which is the protector of the Dodecanese island group and swim at the beaches Agios Georgios and Marathounta. It is also well-known for the Symian little shrimp although in the taverns you can taste all kinds of seafood. The restaurant recommended by Condé Nast is Tholos.

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