Don’t pretend you haven’t been trawling AirBnb already.
Thanks to the news of a possible Greek travel corridor with the UK this summer and Travel Secretary Grant Shapps’ comments that he’s hopeful about giving a green light to holiday flights from May 17, that girls’ trip to Mykonos might just be back on.
All going well, from May, all Britons with or without a vaccine passport will be welcomed with open arms to the Greek islands for a much-needed post-lockdown getaway. Greek tourism minister Haris Theocharis is already dreaming of a throng of tourists returning to the islands to catch that famous Santorini sunset – and you know you are too.
Mercifully, there’s many a Greek island to choose from (227, to be exact) so there’s space for everyone – just pick your travel tribe and decide whether it’s beach-time you’re after or just a bit of simple souvlaki away from the crowds. From liquid ouzo lunches in Milos to Mamma Mia-style decor in Crete, this is your island guide.
Best for: Culture vultures
Located in the heart of the Argo Saronic Gulf, Hydra is just a two-hour ferry trip from mainland Athens. There’s a ban on all cars and motorbikes over the small island so you can wander the cobbled streets with sandy toes – or even by donkey.
Take a hike from the port of Hydra to the Monastery of Prophet Elias and immerse yourself in the breath-taking views of the nearby Mount Eros and the laid-back town sitting beneath.
Bucket list beach: Just a short walk from the main town you will find Kaminia beach, a serene pebbled shore with sparkly clear water and lined with delicious fish taverns for a delicious seafood lunch. Head to Spilia beach to dive off the rocks and swim over beautiful reefs and through underwater caves.
Celeb spot: John Lennon and Yoko Ono were spotted in Hydra back in the Sixties and it even has royal approval: Princess Diana once made a glamorous landing there in her helicopter.
Stay at: Nereids Guest House, a traditional Hydran mansion just five minutes from the port, with elegant rooms overlooking the sea and complete with luxurious amenities. For other dreamy accommodation rest your head at the chic Orloff Boutique Hotel for 18th-century architecture and terraces with a view.
Best for: Beaches
You might recognise the exotic island of Kefalonia from parts of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, or for its infamous Myrtos beach – one of the best beaches in Greece and, some say, the world.
Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands, boasting a beautiful natural landscape, charming fishing villages and unspoilt beaches. Don’t miss a trip to the wonderous Melissani Cave with its crystal-clear lake surrounded by striking greenery and bewildering forestry.
Must eat at: Dine at Tassia restaurant for a fabulous menu of local recipes using the finest ingredients, including fresh fish from the island waters and vegetables from its very own garden. Sit at the end of the Argostoli harbour and taste the Mediterranean flavours at Ampelaki for an atmospheric meal – remember to try the Kefalonitiki Kreatopita (meat pie), a traditional local dish.
Bucket list beach: Myrtos is consistently named as one of the world’s best beaches and it’s easy to see why – golden soft sand and clear blue sea set at the feet of two spectacular mountains. It’s also award-winning for its cleanliness so you won’t have to worry about litter or ocean plastic.
Celeb spot: Jon Bon Jovi, Strictly’s Craig Revel Horwod and Simon Pegg are among those seen holidaying on the island
Stay at: Located in a vineyard on a clifftop overlooking the beach, Stella Vineyard Studios is the ideal holiday hotspot. For a more family-friendly option, Emelisse Nature Resort offers a wide variety of features, including their Mediterranean buffet-style breakfasts, two swimming pools and mesmerising panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and sea.
Best for: Foodies
Food-lovers, listen up. After local chef Nikolaos Tselementes brought out the first Greek cookbook in 1910, Sifnos was put on the map for its flavours and extraordinary cuisine. Traditional dishes to try include Mastello (lamb cooked in a deep red wine and herb marinade) and chickpea croquettes served with a tangy yoghurt dip.
Alongside the food scene, Sifnos has idyllic swimming spots, an impressive 366 churches and since it began producing pottery in the early centuries BC, it has become a haven for pottery and ceramic enthusiasts.
Must eat at: Omega 3 is a essentially the island’s diet. Cayenne offers a mix of traditional and modern Sifnos dishes – think lots of seafood, along with great service and a scenic dining experience shaded by a fig tree.
Bucket list beach: If you’re after a long stretch of white sand perfect for sunbathing and close to cafés and other facilities, try Platis Gialos beach. For a quieter beach swim, try Vathi on the southwestern coast.
Celeb spot: Kylie Minogue was recently seen on Sifnos on a romantic getaway.
Stay at: Kamaroti Suites Hotel is on the eastern side of the island, nestled on a natural olive grove with the beautiful backdrop of the Aegean Sea. If you don’t fancy a hotel, Vernia Astra is a complex of elegant villas with an infinity pool perched on a steep hill.
Best for: A thriving food scene without the crowds
Often overlooked, the volcanic island of Milos in the Cyclades offers more than 70 beaches, a spectacular natural landscape and many a family-run taverna offering top-spec with fewer of the crowds than those on Sifnos – perfect if you don’t like the pressure of booking ahead.
The island is also potted in history. The famous Venus de Milo was discovered on the island (now displayed at the Louvre Museum in Paris) and the caves of Milos, known for their white rock formations, are a must-visit. Take a kayak or swim through the turquoise waters to reach the gem of Papafrangas, an impressive cave carved out of the cliff’s side.
Must eat at: Enjoy a meze lunch of breads, dips and grilled meats, whilst sipping on ouzo liquor at Medusa. For an atmospheric setting in their garden terrace, visit O! Hamos, a family-run taverna, and try a wonderful selection of local foods, finished off with the traditional portokalopita, a deliciously moist orange cake drizzled with a chocolate syrup.
Bucket list beach: Sarakiniko beach in the northeast is one of the most famous beaches on the island, impressing visitors with its inviting aqua-blue water and gorgeous rock formations. Plathiena beach is a little more secluded and perfect for a quiet beach afternoon.
Celeb spot: Madonna and Tom Hanks have both made trips to the island.
Stay at: Captain Zeppos offers stylish boutique suites right on the beachfront or book in at Del Mar for sophisticated, spacious apartment rooms in the picturesque fishing village of Pollonia on the northeast of the island.
Best for: A remote getaway
Even lesser-known than Milos is Folegandros, one of the hidden secret islands forming the southern part of the Cyclades, northwest of Santorini. This slow-paced island is perfect for a recharge and the opposite of Mykonos if you’d rather escape the parties and paparazzi.
Amble the Kastro quarter of Chora for picturesque scenery, and climb to the church of Panagia, the most famous church on Folegandros – there are spectacular views over the island from halfway up.
Must eat at: Zefiros Anemos serves top-spec seafood and make sure you try the local dish Matsata, a goat or rabbit stew served with pasta. For a decadent local wine selection and creative Greek cuisine, hop to Blue Cuisine in Chora.
Bucket list beach: Katergo beach offers pebbly coves and boat rental if you fancy exploring the island from on the water.
Celeb spot: Leonardo Di Caprio and Angelina Jolie have both moored their yachts here.
Best for: Families
As the largest island in Greece with activities galore, Crete is the perfect spot for a family getaway, from scuba diving and mountain biking to visiting Acquaplus water park (the biggest one in Crete – there are a few).
Must eat at: Crete is big on its olive oil, cheese and honey. Sample traditional dishes of chickpeas, lentils and warm breads at the award winning Chrisostomos in Chania’s old port and try the delicious salads and meats at Sonio, right on the beachfront – expect fresh ingredients and Mamma Mia style décor.
Bucket list beach: Make Elafonissi Beach top of your bucket list, with its glorious pink sands and lagoons. Balos Beach is also top of visitors’ lists, and Matala Beach has a unique scenery – rocky cliffs, caves and plenty of nearby restaurants for a post-swim snack.
Celeb spot: Lady Gaga has been spotted there but you may be more likely to recognise the island from Celebs Go Dating on E4.
Stay at: If your vibe is modern chic with child-friendly, clean facilities, check out Ammos hotel which is only 5km from Chania’s harbour. Domes of Elounda is also famous for its views. If you’d prefer adults-only, Stella Island Luxury Resort & spa has a Love Island feel and is built around one of Europe’s largest lagoon pools.
Best for: Night-life and Mamma Mia magic
Remember the first Mamma Mia film where Colin Firth and co arrive on the jetty in so-called Kolokairi? That’s actually Skiathos, the smallest of the Aporades islands, but famous for its untouched beauty and surprisingly buzzing nightlife.
The petite island also has more than 60 stunning beaches, deep green pine forests and impressive sea caves to travel to by boat. Among the island’s note-worthy museums is the House of Papadiamantis, who was an important Greek writer from the 19th century. Head to Skiathos town for its lively cocktail bars in the evenings.
Must eat at: Ergon is your spot for breakfast with a Greek twist – think Skopelos cheese pies, natural Greek yoghurt and local cheeses. Before leaving, have a browse of its deli and grab some goodies from olive oils to Greek ouzo to take home as gifts. For a chilled-out ambience with amazing views, head to Taverna Sklithri, a seaside restaurant known for its seafood.
Bucket list beach: Koukounaries’ white sandy beach is surrounded by fragrant pine trees and lined with a selection of bars and water sports. The dream-like Lalaria Beach and its white cliffs are only accessible by boat.
Celeb spot: Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson are regulars in Skiathos.
Stay at: The five-star Princess Resort, situated amongst the pine covered hills with a beachfront view, offers a luxury hideaway for families and couples. Meanwhile the Elivi resort is nestled in nature and overlooks Koukounaries Beach.
Best for: Architecture
The capital of the Cyclades, Syros is full of culture and rich in history, with wonderful pastel-hued villas climbing up the hillsides.
There’s fascinating architecture across the island, including the popular attraction of the Church of Saint Nicholas (Agios Nikolaos), with its iconic blue top being seen throughout across Syros. Wander through the streets of the 19th century neo-classical town of Ermoupoli and try some of the local delicacies of Turkish delight, nougat and tsipouro (a strong spirit).
Must eat at: With live music, splendid views of the Aegean sea and fabulous food, don’t miss Ambela. For a post-dinner treat or afternoon cool-down, treat yourself to a natural ice-cream or sorbet at Django Gelato.
Bucket list beach: Galissas Beach lies in a small sandy cove, while Kini Beach offers a pebbled alternative with perfect swimming waters.
Celeb spot: Harrison Ford has been spotted there.
Stay at: Family-friendly Dolphin Bay Family Beach Resort is located in the gulf of Galissas and hosts bright and airy rooms with five-star terrace views. Near the Church of St Nicholas, the five-floor 19th century building of Apollonian Palace overlooks the bay.
Best for: Exploring
Hop on the ferry from Rhodes and arrive at the elegant horseshoe bay of Symi, part of the Dodecanse islands just off the coast of Turkey.
It’s a great island for exploring by foot. Climb to Panormitis Monastery, a major pilgrimage site, or meander round the side streets in the capital of Gialos, ending with a stroll along the moonlit harbour.
Must eat at: For a beautiful setting by the waterside, indulge on the lovely flavours across the menu at Tholos. Try the old-school Taverna Merkalis hidden in the backstreets and order the souvlaki and mixed seafood platter.
Bucket list beach: Pedi Beach offers luxury sunbeds and many a fish tavern. For an access-by-boat-only beach, head to Agios Gerogios Dysalona, with towering cliffs and quieter vibes.
Celeb spot: Sarah Jessica Parker and husband Matthew Broderick are visitors here.
Stay at: Book a self-catered apartment with a large wooded garden at the Opera House, just up the hill from the harbour and 50 metres away from the islands central square.
Best for: Celeb-spotting
It’s no wonder Mykonos is such a popular destination amongst Hollywood A-Listers. Hop off the plane onto a party island set against a landscape of white-washed houses, rolling mountains and enchanting villages and a nightlife that’s earned a reputation as the “Ibiza of Greece”.
The island is also famous for its 16th-century windmills and history-geeks can take a 40-minute boat ride to the sacred island of Delos to explore the ancient past of Greek mythological gods Apollo and Artemis. At night, the island turns into a haven for party-goers, dotted with beach clubs and buzzy bars.
Must eat at: The oldest working bakery on the island, Gioras, is family-run and serves traditional Greek pastries and sensational baked pies. Nikos Taverna, on Hora’s charming seafront square, is a favourite with locals, with an inviting atmosphere and large assortment of fresh seafood. Try the lobster salad, baked calamari with cheese or ask for its catch of the day.
Bucket list beach: Elia beach is the longest sandy beach in Mykonos, with cafés, taverns and bars dotted along the seafront. Kalafatis Beach is your spot for water-sports – have a go at water-skiing and parasailing, or hire a snorkel and swim with the fish. Paradise Beach is your spot for beach clubs.
Stay at: Book an exclusive room at the bespoke five-star hotel Bill & Coo Suites, just on the outskirts of Mykonos town and home to a dazzling infinity pool perched over the rocky landscape. Cavo Tagoo also has breath-taking views, thoughtfully designed rooms, fine dining and even an aquarium bar.