There’s never a bad time to go to Greece. But if you’ve opened up Instagram lately, you’ve probably noticed it gets a little (OK, a lot) more popular in the summer, especially when it comes to hotspots like Mykonos and Santorini. Don’t let that deter you from jetting off to this beautiful country, though. It’s a magical place, and definitely worth a visit. However, you might consider venturing off the beaten path and trying out some less tourist-infested Greek islands instead in order to avoid the crushing crowds of the most popular places.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. While you probably have no problem finding information about where to stay in Santorini or party in Mykonos, unearthing details about more under-the-radar islands in Greece presents slightly more of a challenge. The best place to turn, in that case? Insiders and travel experts who live in or frequently visit the country and know the most ideal places to stay if you’re in want of a hidden gem.
So, TZR sat down with a few of those people to help you out. Ahead, they offer their insights on not just the islands to visit, but their favorite places to stay, eat, and more within them. But before you start scrolling, prepare yourself — you’re about to feel wanderlust like you wouldn’t believe.
Why Visit: Dr. Terika Haynes, owner of Dynamite Travel, says she loves Paros in the Cyclades because it gives people options for their preferred vacation style. “Travelers can experience old Greek tradition in Lefkes or they can experience the beautiful waterfront views of the fishing village of Naoussa,” she tells TZR.
What To Do: If you’re in the mood for some shopping or dining, Dr. Haynes says to head to Parikia. She also recommends Solo Gelato as a must-try on the island, and Yria Hotel as a great place to stay. And her final tip? “The views from Lefkes are stunning, take your camera gear for amazing shots.”
Why Visit: Anne Liles of The Travel Studio calls Antiparos (a small island near Paros) a hidden gem: “exclusive, charming, with a lot less crowds.” As she describes it, “The main village Charos is laid-back with bougainvillea-lined cobblestone streets, family-run restaurants, and a whole lot of charm. It’s great for the history buff as well.”
What To Do: Liles says a few of her favorite spots in Antiparos include The Rooster (a new 17-room luxury wellness resort), Boogaloo for cocktails, Lollo's for pizza, and Despotiko island. And, she says, “Don’t forget to explore the magnificent caves on the water.”
Why Visit: Patmos in the Dodecanese island group is another favorite of Dr. Haynes’ for its natural beauty and charm. “It’s one of the smallest Greek islands so I think it’s often overlooked due to size.” However, she continues, it’s a great place to visit because it has tons of history and feels incredibly safe. In fact, says Dr. Haynes, locals actually “boast that they can leave their homes open and unlocked without worry.”
What To Do: While you’re there, make sure to soak up the history of the Grotto of St. John and St. John's Monastery. Dr. Haynes also recommends eating at The Patmians, and sleeping at The Petra. But just a warning before you start planning: “Because of the size of the island, travelers should plan to book their vacations at least a year in advance,” she says.
Why Visit: Dean Hayter, senior travel curator at Origin, says his choice for an “unspoiled Greek hideaway” is the island of Anafi in the Cyclades. “Only one hour and 30 minutes away from Santorini by ferry, it’s a (pleasant) surprise this island hasn’t seen the mass tourism of its neighbors.” To get there, he says you can take an 11-hour ferry ride from Athens, which explains why it’s “not an island that people will be flocking to in a hurry.” However, he continues, “it’s perfect to combine with Santorini and Mykonos for first-timers to the Greek Islands [who are] looking for something more untouched.” While it may not be for everyone due to its seclusion and lack of activities, Hayter maintains that that’s part of its charm.
What To Do: According to Hayter, Anafi is a great island for hiking, “and you can camp for free on the beach where the local municipality has provided complimentary facilities to campers such as showers on the beach.” Though if that’s not your jam, he says that the brand-new hotel Ypseli Anafi’s Hive is “a beautiful addition to the island near some of the best beaches, and one I can’t wait to stay at!” As for food? “My partner is Greek and loves octopus, so Anemos is a great restaurant for well-priced, freshly grilled octopus.”
Why Visit: “One of Greece’s most breathtaking and storied islands with fewer crowds, Corfu is an undiscovered gem known for its cosmopolitan Old Town (listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List), spectacular sandy beaches, and beautiful mountain ranges,” says Brandon Berkson, founder and editor-in-chief of Hotels Above Par. “Its rich multi-cultural heritage blends significant influences — French, English, and Venetian to name a few.”
What To Do: Per Berkson, don’t miss Banyan Tree Group’s first-ever European property, Angsana Corfu Resort & Spa. It’s “set on an idyllic hilltop estate in Corfu’s Akra Punta Bay near Benitses Village.” You should also visit the Canal d'Amour, “where legend has it you’ll find your soulmate if you swim to its furthest tip!”
Why Visit: Calilo hotel owner Angelos Michalopoulos calls Ios a “tranquil retreat” amongst the Cyclades. “Hidden away throughout the island, Ios boasts 36 private beaches, some only accessible by boat, perfect for those looking for complete privacy and exploration of the island.”
What To Do: Of course, Michalopoulos recommends staying at Calilo at Papas Beach for your visit, which is tucked away in a remote, unspoiled corner of the island. “The beach is surrounded by dramatic cliffs and offers guests of Calilo a private experience to swim, sunbathe, relax, and align with nature.” What more could you need?