Aegean Islands

Information and Tourism

Numerous sandy beaches, hours of unbroken summer sunshine and a backdrop of sparkling aquamarine sea. It is little wonder that the Aegean Islands have a loyal following of holidaymakers who come here year after year to live the Greek island dream. Little wonder, too, that some of the islands can feel rather overcrowded at times.

Outside of the peak holiday months of July and August, many of Greece's Aegean Islands settle down to a quieter way of life. Beaches are emptier and package tour crowds are fewer in number. All of which means that out-of-season visitors get a chance to appreciate other aspects of island life, including hidden coves, traditional villages and scenic walking paths.

Crete, Greece's largest Aegean island, is a winning combination of beautiful mountain landscapes, stunning beaches and historical vestiges that include the ruined Minoan palace of Knossos. Tourism might be difficult to avoid on Crete's north coast, but head southwards and there are quieter beaches galore. Inland, it is still possible to catch glimpses of traditional mountain village life.

The far flung north-eastern Aegean Islands are so close to neighbouring Turkey that you would expect much more of a Turkish feel about them. Among Greece's most far-flung secrets, the forest-covered island hideaway of Samos is an easy hop from nearby Turkish coastal resorts. In legend, it is also the place where Hera, the wife of Zeus, was said to have been born. The hillsides of Greece's third-largest island, Lesvos, are covered with millions of olive trees and prehistoric fossils. This island is also one of the largest producers of the Greek national drink 'ouzo'.

The Cyclades island group offers a paradise for tourists. Its islands boast golden beaches, exotic olive groves and lots of sunshine. There are over 200 islands in all, but the two best-known and busiest are Naxos, dominated by the towering peak of Mount Zeus, and the bigger and brassier island of Mykonos.

Also belonging to the Aegeans, the Dodecanese islands are located close enough to each other to allow easy island hopping. Under Italian rule until the late 1940s, they feel quite different to the other Greek islands. Firm tourist favourites include the likes of Rhodes and Kos, where there is never a shortage of sandy beaches or open bars. Meanwhile, the most northerly of the islands, Patmos, manages to combine a lively social life with a more spiritual side.

Aegean Islands Information and Fast Facts

World Guide to Crete, Greece
Filled with Greek history and steeped in Minoan mythology, the island of Crete is surprisingly large and the biggest of its kind in Greece. Crete is home to Byzantine monasteries, Venetian castles, palace remains and plenty of beaches.
World Guide to Kos, Greece
One of the Greek Dodecanese Islands, Kos is almost overflowing with beachfront resorts and traditional tavernas, together with some interesting archaeological sites. Kos Town serves as the island's capital and is well worth exploring.
World Guide to Mykonos, Greece
A glamorous Greek island and part of the Cyclades archipelago, Mykonos contains a wealth of stunning beaches and exciting nightspots. The capital of Mykonos Town (Hora) is very much central to the tourism scene on the island.
World Guide to Naxos, Greece
Naxos is an alluring island with a distinctive classical Greek character. Naxian wine is a particular speciality of the island, while sweeping beaches, friendly mountain villages and ancient remains are never far from hand.
World Guide to Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes is the biggest of the Dodecanese Islands and offers tourists an average of more than 300 sunny days every single year. The beaches of Rhodes are nothing short of dreamy and the nightlife is cultured, exciting and very tempting.
World Guide to Santorini, Greece
The island of Santorini has been rather shaped by its volcanic history and the water-filled 'caldera' crater is a strong reminder of this past activity. Santorini's colourful cliffs are very distinctive and often crammed with traditional stone houses.