There is never a bad time to go to Greece. But if you’ve been opening Instagram lately, you’ve probably noticed it’s getting a bit (Okay, a lot) more popular in summer, especially when it comes to hot spots like Mykonos and Santorini. However, don’t let that stop you from flying to this beautiful country. It is a magical place and well worth a visit. However, you might consider going off the beaten track and trying some less tourist-infested Greek islands instead to avoid the crushing crowds of the most popular places.
That is of course easier said than done. While you probably won’t have a problem finding information on where to stay on Santorini or party on Mykonos, unearthing details about more under-the-radar islands in Greece poses a slightly more challenge. Where is the best place to turn? Insiders and travel experts who live in the country or visit the country regularly and know the most ideal places to stay if you are looking for a hidden gem.
So TZR sat down with some of those people to help you. Moving on, they offer their insights on not only the islands to visit, but their favorite places to stay, eat, and more within them. But before you start scrolling, get ready — you’re about to feel wanderlust like you wouldn’t believe.
Why visit: dr. Terika Haynes, owner of Dynamite Travel, says she loves Paros in the Cyclades because it gives people options for their preferred vacation style. “Travelers can experience the ancient Greek tradition in Lefkes or they can experience the beautiful waterside view of the fishing village of Naoussa,” she tells TZR.
What must we do: If you feel like shopping or dining, Dr. Haynes that you should go to Parikia. She also recommends Solo Gelato as a must-try on the island, and Yria Hotel as a great place to stay. And her last tip? “The view from Lefkes is breathtaking, bring your camera gear for great photos.”
Why visit: Anne Liles of The Travel Studio calls Antiparos (a small island near Paros) a hidden gem: “exclusive, charming, with much less crowds.” As she describes it: “The main village of Charos is laid-back with bougainvillea-lined cobbled streets, family-run restaurants and loads of charm. It’s also great for the history buff.”
What must we do: Liles says some of her favorite spots in Antiparos include The Rooster (a new 17-room luxury wellness resort), Boogaloo for cocktails, Lollo’s for pizza, and Despotiko Island. And, she says, “Don’t forget to explore the beautiful caves on the water.”
Why visit: Patmos in the Dodecanese archipelago is another favorite of Dr. Haynes for its natural beauty and charm. “It’s one of the smallest Greek islands, so I think it’s often overlooked because of its size.” But, she continues, it’s a great place to visit because it has a lot of history and feels incredibly safe. In fact, says Dr. Haynes, “locals boast that they can leave their homes open and unlocked without worry.”
What must we do: While there, be sure to soak up the history of the Cave of St. John and St. John’s Monastery. dr. Haynes also recommends eating at The Patmians and sleeping at The Petra. But a word of warning before you start planning: “Due to the island’s size, travelers should plan their vacation at least a year in advance,” she says.
Why visit: Dean Hayter, senior travel curator at Origin, says his pick for a “pristine Greek retreat” is the island of Anafi in the Cyclades. “Just an hour and 30 minutes by ferry from Santorini, it’s a (pleasant) surprise that this island has not seen the mass tourism of its neighbours.” To get there, he says you can take an 11-hour ferry ride from Athens, which explains why it’s “not an island that people will flock to anytime soon.” However, he continues: “It is perfect to combine with Santorini and Mykonos for beginners to the Greek islands [who are] looking for something more pristine.” While it may not be for everyone due to its seclusion and lack of activities, Hayter claims that’s part of its charm.
What must we do: According to Hayter, Anafi is a great island for hiking, “and you can camp for free on the beach where the local council has provided free facilities to campers, such as showers on the beach.” But if that’s not your problem, he says the brand new Ypseli Anafi’s Hive hotel is “a wonderful addition to the island near some of the best beaches, and I can’t wait to stay!” As for food? “My partner is Greek and loves octopus, so Anemos is a great restaurant for well-priced, freshly grilled octopus.”
Why visit: “One of Greece’s most breathtaking and storied islands with fewer crowds, Corfu is an undiscovered gem known for its cosmopolitan Old Town (listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List), spectacular sandy beaches and beautiful mountain ranges,” said Brandon Berkson, founder and editor-in-chief of Hotels Boven Par. “Its rich multicultural heritage combines important influences – French, English and Venetian to name a few.”
What must we do: Per Berkson, don’t miss the Banyan Tree Group’s very first European property, Angsana Corfu Resort & Spa. It is located “on an idyllic hilltop estate in the bay of Akra Punta in Corfu, near the village of Benitses.” Also visit the Canal d’Amour, “where legend has it that you will find your soul mate if you swim to the farthest point!”
Why visit: Calilo hotel owner Angelos Michalopoulos calls Ios a “peaceful retreat” among the Cyclades. “Hidden all over the island, Ios has 36 private beaches, some only accessible by boat, perfect for those seeking complete privacy and exploring the island.”
What must we do: Of course, Michalopoulos recommends staying in Calilo on Papas Beach for your visit, which is tucked away in a secluded, unspoilt corner of the island. “Surrounded by dramatic cliffs, the beach offers Calilo guests a private experience to swim, sunbathe, relax and be in harmony with nature.” What else do you need?