Every Greek Island has numerous fantastic beaches, so we decided not to attempt to rank the islands by their beaches, and certainly not rank individual beaches on an island. We could all argue about that for years. It’s hard enough picking just 10 islands out of the 200 (give or take) that are considered to be inhabited.
1.Crete. All Crete visitors love the Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Center. The tiny island of Spinalonga (Kalydon) near Crete is packed with Venetian and Ottoman history, plus was a leper colony! Hike through the Imbros and Theriso gorges, wander through Rethymnon’s Old Town (including the Venetian fort, Castello del Molo), check out the very popular and well respected Heraklion Archaeological Museum, and don’t miss the Monastery of Arkadi—an important historical site for Greek resistance to the Ottomans.
2. Rhodes is history, but more. Rhodes’ “Valley of the Butterflies” is filled with millions of the colorful creatures from late July to late September! But also check out the view from the ruined Monolithos Castle. Incredible! Must-sees here are the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, and the medieval or “old” city area—right out of a fairy tale. Also popular are the Acropolis of Lindos and the Acropolis of Rhodes.
3. Paros (Cyclades islands).Don’t miss the Venetian Fortress and the Archaeological Museum Parou. The Folklore Art Museum of Cycladic Civilization, one man’s lifetime effort of making perfectly accurate miniatures, is here and one of the most popular museums on all of the Greek Islands. (Do miss the tourists, since Paros is quieter than other many other islands.) Paros is home to Athena Study Abroad’s Greece program, and every student loves it. Some go back a second, or even third, time (see this issue’s Around the Field story!).
4. Delos (Cyclades islands). The birthplace of Apollo. So it’s no surprise there’s a stunning archaeological site there, plus the Archaeological Museum of Delos. Enough said!
5. Santorini (Cyclades islands) has been rated highly by visitors for hiking and other outdoor activities. But also enjoy the Museum of Prehistoric Thira, Tomato Industrial Museum, Wine Museum, Cultural Village, Monastery of Profitis Ilias, and the Megaro Gyzi Museum—with its photographs and manuscripts in addition to paintings and artifacts.
6. Mykonos (Cyclades islands). See the Monastery of Paleokastro and the Ftelia archaeological site, and especially the Church of Paraportiani, a site of five churches built on top of each other starting in the 14th century. Stop by the small but notable Archaeological Museum of Mykonos or Church of Saint George, and go ahead and see the Agricultural Museum & Boni Windmill. (Europe has many maritime and agricultural museums are pleasant surprises even for those who think they won’t be interested!)
7. Naxos (Cyclades islands). Make sure you see Kastro, a 13th century castle that includes a 16th century Catholic Cathedral, an archaeological museum and the Venetian Museum. Wander through Old Town. Home of the Eggares Olive Press Museum and the Villindras Kitron Distillery (go for the tasting!).
8. Antiparos (Cyclades islands). Antiparos is very quiet. The main tourist site at Antiparos is its stunning cave. Otherwise, enjoy the beaches and the restaurants and relax away from so many tourists.
9. Sifnos (Cyclades islands). Agios Andreas Acropolis & Museum, a site with incredible views that goes back as far as the 13th century B.C., if you can believe it! The other highlights of Sifnos, other than beaches, are religious sites: the lovely Chrisopigi Monastery, the little Church of the Seven Martyrs on a hilltop with an ocean view to die for, and Profiti Ilias Monastery, among others.
10. Folegandros (Cyclades islands). See the Church of Panagia, right out of a picture book, and spend the rest of your time on Folegrandros on the beaches and hiking!