Welcome to Samothrace... a spiritual centre in ancient times, home to the sanctuary of the Great Gods and of the Winged Victory, one of the most celebrated statues in the world, now prominently on display in the Louvre. The island is famous for waterfalls and ponds, one of which is nicknamed The Killer. Amateur climbers and swimmers had best stay away!
Welcome to Rhodes! The largest island of the Dodecanese was named after a rose and was home to the Colossus of Rhodes, a huge bronze statue of the sun god Helios as large as the statue of Liberty in New York. It is also home to the Valley of the Butterflies where thousands of the species panaxia (actually moths) gather every year to breed, creating a breathtaking spectacle.
Welcome to Chios! Chios was famous in antiquity for its wine. It is home to the mastic tree whose health-giving resin makes chewing gum, is an addition to many confections and liqueurs, such as Chios's signature drink, Masticha. Its amazing pebbled courtyards are unique to the island. On top of that, Homer was a native son.
Welcome to Zakynthos! or Zante: prone to earthquakes, this flower of the Levant is the largest Mediterranean nesting ground of the loggerhead turtle (Caretta-Caretta). Planes are prohibited during the night so as to not disturb them. The famous “Navagio” beach, with its shipwrecked freighter is an island Icon. It is also the best place in the Ionian sea to get a “decent curry” thanks to the large number of British inhabitants and tourists.
Welcome to Kythnos! Close to Athens, low key lightning-shaped Kythnos (the “hidden island” as its name suggests), has more than meets the eye: thermal springs, superb honey, caves and fire-dancing. It only had two year-round inhabitants as late as the 1970’s. A growing year round community has arrived in recent years and has changed that demographic. Apparently it is the place to be during carnival!
Welcome to Paros! Paros was naughty for siding with Persia against Athens during the Persian wars, but made up for it later during the 1821 War of Independence. It was the home of one of the greatest heroines of the revolution, the formidable Manto Mavrogenous. It is also the birthplace of singer Ioannis Parios. The island has inspired many hit songs in the very popular “nisiotika” genre. It is also considered to be the best windsurfing destination in Greece.
Welcome to Samos! Worshippers of the Goddess Hera, clever builders of aqueducts, and producers of sweet wine, the Samiots had more than their fair share of ancient celebrities: Aesop, Epicuros, Aristarchus (the first to suggest a Heliocentric world). The mathematician Pythagoras, may have first sketched his famous theorem in the sands of a Samiot beach.
Welcome to Corfu! Corfu was controlled by Venice from 1386 and its architecture shows it. In the 1800s the French, Russians and British had their innings until it joined Greece in 1864. Corfiots still use many Italian words and enjoy Italian confections; they also play cricket and love marching bands. Corfu town houses the mummified body of Saint Spiridon which is paraded through town on August 15th in a sedan chair; the saint is given a new pair of shoes annually so that he can travel and do good works!
Welcome to Euboea! This second largest island of Greece is connected to the mainland by two bridges and has a multitude of beautiful beaches if you take the time to explore off the beaten track. Many glisten with layered flagstone rock, native to and ubiquitous on the island. In Chalkida, the strait of Evripos splits the town in two, and offers a strange sight: the tide changes its direction every six hours. After the new moon, there is even a difference in the sea level between the north and south Euboean gulfs. (Note: the map of Euboea is scaled down to half compared to others)
Welcome to Ikaria... named after Ikaros, the son of Daedalus, architect of the Cretan labyrinth. Against dad’s advice, he flew too close to the sun on wax wings which began to melt and he plunged to his death near the island - bad science but a good moral: listen to dad. Laid back Ikaria is famous for its inhabitants reaching a great age and for hosting the best panegyri in Greece - a huge festival that the whole island takes part in.
Welcome to Karpathos! For some reason very popular with Scandinavians, this island between Crete and Rhodes with beautiful nature and a mellow vibe is full of cats waiting for their close-up. Nestled in the craggy northern hills is the isolated village of Olympos built as a refuge from pirates. There people can still be seen wearing the beautiful traditional costumes of the region.
Welcome to Ithaca! Inhabited since the second millennium B.C. this mythical island was the home of Odysseus, hero of Homer's epic. Don’t let its small size fool you. It is one of the most underrated islands. Visitors will be captivated by its understated beauty and distinctive atmosphere. Prepare yourself to encounter a good deal of rather bold goats.
Welcome to Kos! The name Kos, was mentioned by Homer in the Iliad and it has been going strong ever since. A big Mycenaean centre, settled by worshippers of Asklepios, it has always been associated with the practice of medicine, and is the birthplace of Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine and writer of the oath that doctors take to this day! Its varied history has left it dotted with temples and castles from every historical era.
Welcome to Astypalaia! Astypalaia was a mythological figure, daughter of Phoenix and sister of Europa. She was the lover of Poseidon, who seduced her in the form of a fish tailed flying leopard. Honestly, wouldn’t you be impressed? This small island serves as a border between the Cyclades and the Dodecanese, and is of exceptional beauty. Lots of beaches and caves are associated with rich pirate lore.
Welcome to Skyros... boasts a beautiful Chora clinging onto a steep craggy hill topped by a medieval castle that affords breathtaking views of the island. It is the southernmost island of the Sporades. The poet Rupert Brook was buried here and, on the square that bears his name, there is a statue of a very naked young man, of whom Rupert would have certainly approved. Smack in the middle of the Aegean, it is home base to a unit of the Greek airforce. When visiting beaches to the north part of the island, the fighter jets fly so close to the swimmers, it feels both dangerous and exhilarating.
Welcome to Ios... a Cycladic island famous for its goat cheese and stuffed zucchini flowers, and is reputed to be where the poet Homer died - by no less an authority than the Delphic Oracle. Some say he tripped and hit his head; others that he died of frustration, unable to solve a riddle. His ‘tomb’ is there - if the inscription is to be believed. Ios is famous as a party island, boasting venues with names such as Slammer Bar, Flame bar and Aftershock.
Welcome to Amorgos! The small island of Amorgos lies on the western edge of the Cyclades. It boasts a liqueur called Rakomelo or psimeni – a combination of raki, honey and herbs which is served after every good meal on the island. There are walking trails throughout the hinterland. Don’t miss the Monastery of Hozoviotissa, a spectacular white edifice splayed on a cliff face that looks like it came out of a surrealist masterpiece.
Welcome to Thassos! Thassos hangs like a large pendant, dangling from the mainland south of Kavala. It’s edges are studded with some of the finest beaches in Greece while Mount Ipsarion, a solid block of marble 1200 metres high has anchored it firmly in the north Aegean Sea for eons and acted as a beacon for a succession of interlopers, all of whom made use of its marble to create their monuments, buildings, and fortifications.
Welcome to Andros! Andros is a special island. It shared the fate of most others of the Cycladic islands throughout its history but lucked out in the late 1800s and early 1900s because so many of Greece’s mega wealthy ship owners called it home. They made sure tourists were corralled in the west of the island and that the main town, Chora, and its hinterland of mansions would remain exclusive and private. The fabulous Goulandris Museum of Modern art is a must see.
Welcome to Crete! Home of the Minotaur, Crete is the ‘big Island’ and for much of Greek history it went its own way – and still does. It is famous for its Minoan culture, it’s Venetian heritage, it’s fighting spirit, and it’s gun toting celebrations which always produce one or two accidental deaths each year. But Cretans would give up their famous knee high boots or fringed black head bands before they would give up their guns. Greece - Texas style. (Note: the map of Crete is scaled down to half compared to others)
Welcome to Lesbos... close enough to Turkey to feel it’s hot breath. The “Emerald Island” is covered by eleven million olive trees which take up almost 40% of the land. From the trail blazing poet Sappho, to Nobel prize winning Odyseas Elytis, it has cultivated many poets through the centuries. Today it is the main gateway to Europe for refugees escaping the lamentable war in Syria.
Welcome to Lefkada! Lefkada is hardly an island at all. You can drive to it over a bridge which then swings around to accommodate seafarers using its ship canal. It is a lush island by Greek standards and has it’s own unique atmosphere and a reputation for windsurfing spots that sets it apart. Nidri on the west coast faces Skorpios, Onassis’ private island. Smaller towns on the island are much more worth exploring.
Welcome to Kalymnos! Among the wealthiest and most populated islands of the Dodecanese, Kalymnos is celebrated for its sponge diving tradition and the legendary courage and recklessness of its sponge divers. Sadly a disease hit the eastern Mediterranean in the mid eighties all but ending the industry in the region. Now it is mostly known as one of the best rock climbing and bouldering locations in Europe, drawing climbers from all over the world all year round.
Welcome to Milos! Milos was not just built on a volcano, it is a volcano, with its crater now the sea in front of its main port Adamos. In ancient times, Milos was everybody’s source of sharp implements because of its wealth of glassy obsidian. It’s eerie abandoned sulphur mines can still be visited and on one spot on the west coast you can walk on the sand and watch your sandals melt! It is the only Greek island with catacombs burrowed into the tufa, another gift of the volcano.
Welcome to Kea! Kea, also known as Tzia, is the cycladic island closest to Athens and a popular destination for yachting trips and scuba diving. The divers can ‘visit’ a number of well preserved shipwrecks near the island’s shoreline. Legend states that Kea was once home to a population of water nymphs whose beauty and the beauty of their island made the gods jealous, so they sent a lion to lay it waste. At one time Greece was home to a significant population of lions. The event is commemorated by a stone lion in the main town of Lioulis.
Welcome to Kefalonia! Kefalonia is one of those islands you either love or hate. It is very touristic, even in the north where the island is at its most beautiful. Argostoli is a bustling port that would appeal to shoppers and foodies. Its patron saint Gerasimos’ main duty is to cure the sick and many arrive on his name day (August 16th) in the hopes that his relics will be passed over their bodies and they will be healed. Cephalonia has great wine and was the setting for the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
Welcome to Tinos! If the ancients had Delos, modern Greeks have Tinos, its own Lourdes where those hoping for a miracle crawl long distances from the port to the wedding cake church of Panagia Evangelistra. There are more than a few hints of Asclepios, the ancient god of healing, in the incubation of worshippers and the interpretation of their dreams. Those not seeking miracles might find the islands more than 1000 Venetian dovecotes more to their taste and the journey to find them simply delightful.
Welcome to Kythira! On the southernmost tip of the Peloponnese, Kythera is isolated from other island groups and has a distinctive history and culture to show for it. Strategically placed between Crete and the mainland, many ancient city-states used it as a trading post and, of course, it attracted pirates too! Barbarossa himself is said to have personally looted the town of Paleochora. The world's first computer, the antikythera mechanism, used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses, was found in a shipwreck between Kythera and its sidekick Antikythera.
Welcome to Lemnos... sacred to Hephaestus, because the gifted but misshapen son of Zeus and Hera landed here when she hurled him down from Olympus. Another legend has it that the women of Lemnos, irate because their husbands preferred Thracian women, murdered every man on the island. When the Argonauts landed there on their way to the Black Sea, they found only women ruled by a queen, Hypsypyle, thus giving rise to the legend of the Amazons. Lemnos is known for a delicious variety of feta, “kalathaki” matured in a little basket, thus taking on its shape and texture.
Welcome to Naxos... the biggest Cycladic island. It can claim more Greeks than tourists even in the summer. Naxos town’s medieval Venetian architecture is still intact enough to be properly appreciated. Trips to the interior of the island can be green and peaceful even in summer and it is studded with wonderful beaches all around. The architect Le Corbusier visited the island in the 30’s and was entranced by the simple and practical cycladic architecture. This experience influenced his entire aesthetic.