The most underrated Greek islands

The most underrated Greek islands

Destinations

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Looking to go to Greece but don’t want to deal with tourist crowds? These are five of the best Greek islands for you — the least-visited, unspoiled, and ultimately underrated

Greece is one of our popular holiday destinations, with the islands of Santorini, Crete, and Zakynthos being the main spots to welcome visitors from all over the world. But if you’re looking for somewhere less touristy (and often cheaper with it), there are some 200 other inhabited islands to choose from. We’ve narrowed them down to five of the quieter, lesser-visited, but still equally beautiful — these are the most underrated Greek islands, and any one of them might just be exactly the kind of you-time vacation you need.

Kefalonia

Melissani Cave — Getty ImagesMelissani Cave — Getty Images

Kefalonia is one of the largest Greek islands, but one of the lesser-visited. This means that you can explore the island’s rugged mountains, fir forests and magical caves in peace, away from huge huddles of tourists. For this, you’ll need at least a week if you want to go at a leisurely pace, stopping at regular intervals for glasses of local Robola wine. And because it’s quieter than the likes of similarly-sized Crete, Lesbos and Rhodes, the prices are cheaper and the locals are even friendlier.

One of Kefalonia’s sure highlights is Melissani Cave, with its lagoon water so clear, your boat will look like it’s floating in mid-air. On beaches, Myrtos Beach is generally regarded as the most beautiful, and its 700-meter stretch means that it never gets truly crowded. But for something that little bit more special, find Fteri Beach. There’s no road access to this spectacular little cove, so you either need to walk through the cliffs or take the Fteri “Water Taxi” from the village of Zola. Pure paradise, we’re telling you.

Ikaria

Sunset view over hills on Ikaria — Getty ImagesIkaria is an island all about healthy food, wellness, and outdoor activities — Getty Images

Some 30 kilometers from the tourist hotspot of Mykonos, the unspoiled island of Ikaria can be described as a cute and calm collection of villages dotted in and around lush green mountains. This is the spot for you if you’re into trekking, birdwatching, and cooling off in secluded streams and waterfalls.

An interesting Ikarian feature is the peculiar stone houses that you’re likely to come across if you do venture inland. They date from a time known as piratiki epochi (“pirate era”), when pirates would regularly attack the island. To protect themselves, locals would build their homes so that they resembled nothing more conspicuous than big piles of rocks. Thankfully, people now live in houses more lavish than this, but the rudimentary stone structures remain as a cool and little-known relic of Greece’s dramatic history.

Ikaria is also one of the world’s Blue zones, and it’s easy to understand why. The local diet is one of the healthiest in Greece, if not the world; the island is especially known for its production of red wine, olives and honey — all of the highest quality. This, the natural surroundings that sort of force you to lose track of time, and the wellness culture as seen in the spa town of Therma all make for the best quiet Greek island vacation.

Samos

If you want to hop between islands, Samos is right next to Ikaria and equally beautiful, with its pretty villages, beaches and vineyard coves. Geographically, Samos is one of the last stepping stones before Asia, with the Turkish mainland being less than two kilometers away, yet it exudes its own charming identity. It welcomes more tourists than Ikaria does, but still relatively few compared to the larger islands. This is a place where you can truly chill out, be it among nature, or the laid-back village locals.

With a liberal sprinkling of archeological sites, Samos is the perfect choice for anyone with an interest in ancient history. The small town of Pythagoreio, for example, was named in honor of the pinoeer mathematician and philosopher who was born on the island, and it’s well worth exploring. It contains several ruins — collectively with Unesco World Heritage status — such as the very first human-constructed Mediterranean harbor which dates back to the 6th century BCE. Then, bring yourself back to present-day island life with a stroll down The Blue Street, an Instagrammable alleyway where the ground and the surrounding buildings are painted artistically in no other colors but white and blue.

Anafi

View out to sea from cliffs on Anafi — Getty ImagesAnafi is the very quietest island on our list — Getty Images

Fly to Santorini, but don’t stop there — take a short ferry ride to Anafi for some proper peace and quiet. With a population of less than 300, this is the smallest Greek island on our list, and despite its proximity to Santorini, it remains unspoiled by mass tourism. Yet still, miraculously, Anafi is pretty visitor-friendly.

Because of its remote nature, people tend to visit Anafi for more of an off-grid experience. The best things to do here are take long, relaxing walks in the hills, swim in the clear waters, and simply lie on the sunny beach undisturbed. Camping on one of Anafi’s beaches is also an incredibly freeing thing to do (in more ways than one — you don’t have to pay a penny). Imagine drifting off to sleep at night, cozy in your tent, soothed solely by the sound of gentle waves lapping against the sand. This will be the point at which all your troubles with the outside world seem to melt away.

Kasos

This is a wonderful island to hop over to if you fly to nearby Crete or Rhodes, as it offers an experience that is both serene, and authentically, unpretentiously Greek. On your approach, you’ll notice that the landscape of Kasos isn’t as lush and green as that of some of the other islands we’ve recommended here, apart from around the municipality of Agia Marina on the north side. But don’t let the initially barren, rugged appearance of Kasos put you off — the place has a lot of things going for it, the distinct lack of noisy tourists being one of them.

It’s here that you’ll find some of the most secluded beaches in the Aegean, though some of them — such as Emporio Beach not far from the village of Fri — are organized, which basically means there might be a hut or a sun lounger to make use of. Emporio is said to be one of the best beaches on the island for its golden sands and the little nearby taverna of the same name, renowned for its fresh seafood dishes. Arts and culture also play a significant part in everyday life in Kasos, with village locals often up for a traditional song and dance, while exhibitions of local art take place in Fri. And, owing to the fact that it is a hidden gem of a Greek island, it’s comparatively cheap. What are you waiting for?

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