Everyone has heard of and perhaps even visited the popular Greek islands of Santorini, Crete and Mykonos, and for a good reason, too. They are stunning Mediterranean islands with pristine beaches, delightful food and many conveniences for tourists to enjoy during their holidays. With that being said, they get extremely busy at the height of summer, with tourists flocking to their shores from all over Europe and even further afield. Luckily, if you wish to evade the large crowds of vacationists, Greece has additional 6,000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian seas, 6 of which present a whole world of opportunity and discovery for intrepid travelers.
Known locally as Samothraki, Samothrace has long been a treasured holiday destination for northern Greeks who enjoy the endless beauty that the island possesses. According to Greek mythology Samothraki is the island from which Poseidon watched the fall of Troy.
Owing to the vital role the island played in Ancient Greek folklore, one of the fascinating sites on Samothraki is the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. You can enjoy several hours of hiking around the shrine that was a former worshipping site of Ancient Greek deities, and you can visit the quaint on-site museum that houses an exact replica of the famous statue of Nike that was sculpted on the island.
Another must-visit spot is the Fonias River that locals refer to as “the killer”. When you visit its stunning waterfalls and crystal-clear swimming pools, you wouldn’t think that come spring, massive floods sweep down the valley and wipe out everything in the river’s path. If you manage to hike to the top, you can visit the place where Poseidon supposedly watched the Trojan War, but be sure to take a guide with you.
If you’re a keen hiker, also consider climbing to the summit of Fengari, a 1,610-meter-tall mountain on the island. According to local legend, if you make it to the top during the night of a full moon, you will see something that you wish for, coming true.
photography by: Dimitris Siskopoulos
Located a short boat ride away from the popular island of Milos, Kimolos has done well to retain much of its historical charm and is largely unspoiled by mass tourism and outside influences. The only village on the island is Chorio, home to magnificent architecture and some independent eateries and guesthouses that are extremely welcoming to visitors.
The beaches on Kimolos are nothing short of spectacular. Although there are many beaches surrounding Chorio, the further you move away from the village, the more remote and untouched the beaches become, ultimately culminating at the white sandy beach of Agios Georgios, the most picturesque one on the island.
If you head to the northwestern part of Kimolos, there is a huge stone mushroom that the local islanders refer to as “Skiadi”. It owes its creation to the various rocks that comprise it and the strong winds that have blown over the course of the centuries. This unique point of interest is regarded amongst the Atlas of Geological Monuments of the Aegean.
Kimolos is also a paradise for keen hikers, with so many accessible trails that you can utilize to access all parts of the island. You can plan your route to visit the many of the eighty churches that are dotted around the island, appreciating the remarkable architecture employed at the various sites. In the village of Chorio, in particular, you will see many post-Byzantine churches, with the most impressive one being the cathedral of Panagia Odigitria, dominated by a pair of clock towers and a deep-blue dome.
photography by: Chris Booth
Situated approximately 30km southeast of the island of Alonissos, you probably haven’t heard of Skantzoura. In centuries past, it was a monastic island, evident by the abandoned eighteenth-century Monastery of Evangelistria that sits at the very center of the island, serving as a great place to get lost in history.
Visitors who make it to the monastery can explore the vaults and the surrounding countryside of the historical site and enjoy the fact that the only other living being for kilometers around is likely to be a goat that has sauntered from the nearby hills to see what you’re up to.
Besides the monastery, Skantzoura is a must-go place for bird and wildlife lovers, as the island is home to the rare Au douin’s gull as well as the Eleanora’s falcon that nests in the tall trees down by the coast.
Out to sea and from the shores of Skantzoura, you can often spot various whales, including the sperm, long-finned pilot, and even the Orca, the latter visiting these shores very infrequently. You will also catch a glimpse of striped and common dolphins, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled when you’re traveling across to the island.
photography by: Pascal Missale
The uninhabited island of Armathia undoubtedly rivals for the title of “the most stunning beaches found anywhere in Greece”, as the first thing you will notice when you reach the island by boat is the vast expanses of unspoiled coastline awaiting your arrival.
Armathia is part of the Dodecanese group in the eastern Aegean Sea and can only be accessed by boat from the surrounding islands. Most visitors arrive from Kasos, which is a thirty-minute journey by boat. You can arrange a trip by visiting the Port of Kasos and asking for advice on how to travel. It’s best to plan your trip in advance, and also be aware that the crossing isn’t always possible due to choppy seas.
Besides its plethora of pristine beaches, Armathia is a rugged wilderness that is scattered with ruins of homes and stables, left abandoned by the miners, shepherds, and fishermen who moved away from the island, seeking better opportunities elsewhere. The only structure that still stands on the island today is the modest sized Ypapanti church, somewhat reflecting the significance of religion for the people who used to live on this Aegean island.
Recently, an observatory was erected on the island so visitors can look out to the sea and appreciate the bird and wildlife species that call this speck of land home.
When you pick the island of Symi out on a map, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was a part of Turkey, such is its proximity to the Turkish mainland. The easiest way to reach the island is by boat from nearby Rhodes, from where it’s a short ride away to this sleepy Greek insular enclave.
Upon your arrival at the port, you will be greeted by neo-classical buildings, traditional Greek eateries and exquisite sea views, all of which constitute the local fabric of life. Most visitors to the island start their journey by walking around the port while heading in and out of the independent shops and restaurants that line the streets, just before heading out to explore what else the island has to offer.
As with so many of the Greek islands, the beaches are incredibly enticing. The further you head out of the port, the less sunbathers you’ll encounter while at the beach, as at most times of the year, you can enjoy some of the sparkling, crystal clear waters all to yourself.
If you wish to complement your Symi visit with something cultural, consider visiting the Holy monastery of Panormitis, a whitish building punctuated by a tall flamboyant clock tower, venerated as the protector of the island. After a hike up to the monastery, you can sit down and enjoy a locally made ice cream while listening to the hymns and psalms being read out over the loudspeaker before heading back down to the beach.
photography by: Chris Parker
Othonoi is located northwest of Corfu and is actually the westernmost point of Greece. According to Greek mythology, it was the island of the nymph Calypso, with whom Odysseus fell in love and remained there as a prisoner for seven years.
Visitors that can be drawn away from the hustle and bustle of Corfu arrive on the shores of Othonoi following a three-hour ferry ride. In spite of its proximity to Corfu, Othonoi has managed to keep much of its ancient charm, and the settlements across the island are nothing more than a cluster of homes with access to local amenities.
You can explore the many local churches, hike in the lush green countryside and enjoy diving off the coastal waters, rich in marine life and unique rock formations. The beaches are pretty special as well, with those around Ammos being particularly popular thanks to the soft sands and shallow waters, which ensure that a day at the beach is relaxing and soothing.
photography by: mabi2000