Which Greek Islands to Visit While You’re Young (Hint: All of Them?)
Bucket lists everywhere are calling the Greek islands the standout travel destination of the year, for the umpteenth year in a row. But choosing which Greek island to visit ain’t easy, so we tapped a few of our expert Greece Trip Consultants at EF Ultimate Break for their reccos. Below, a list of six best islands to see while you’re young, eager, and dreaming of gyros.
by Kevin McGraw
May 27, 2020
Aahh, the Greek islands
Doesn’t the name just sound perfect? Three simple words and you’re already imagining drinks on the beach, Insta-worthy sunsets, and all-night parties. Now I know you just got here, but we’re kicking things off with a quick pop quiz. Just how many Greek islands are there? Take a guess. Got it? If you picked any number between 0 and 5,999, you’d be wrong. That’s right, there are 6,000 islands that belong to Greece. Sure, only 227 of them are inhabited, but still. Wowza.
With 227 inhabited islands to choose from, the question of which Greek islands to visit is a popular one. The quick answer? As many as you possibly can. The real answer, according to some of the expert-iest EF Ultimate Break travel experts, is a bit more specific. With their help, we're narrowing the list from 227 down to six of the best Greek islands to visit, especially for young, first-time island-hoppers. When you're ready to turn your daydreams into travel reality, EF Ultimate Break has a perfect Greece trip for you.
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Nothing—and I mean nothing—beats a Santorini sunset. One time I had a crepe in Paris that almost beat a Santorini sunset, but I snapped out of that one pretty quickly. For the best views and a perfect glass of wine, you need to visit the village of Oia. Look familiar? Yeah, that’s because every Santorini photo ever was taken from this spot. And for good reason. It’s sheer, cliffside perfection.
Lexie, who’s part of the team that researches and designs EF Ultimate Break itineraries, believes that “Santorini is one of the top islands in the world to visit for a reason. Its blue domes, white buildings, and black lava cliffs fulfill every Mamma Mia! vision you've ever had.”
If you’re a sucker for beauty and romance, Santorini is for you.
They say the early bird catches the worm. Well in Mykonos, the early bird is only up early because this party bird danced its face off all night at beachside clubs. And now that the sun is up, it’s time for the Mykonos early bird to get some sleep.
Bird idioms aside, Mykonos is hands down the best Greek island to visit if you’re looking for nightlife. But don’t even think for a second that the party stops when the sun shines. Mykonos turns up, day and night. There are plenty of bars and clubs to choose from, but none more famous than Paradise Beach Club. Our Greece Trip Consultant Laura even had a wild time in the middle of the day. “There’s go-go dancers on the bar at all times,” she says. “Like even at 1pm.”
Not a party animal? Don’t sweat it—Mykonos has a quieter, more charming side as well. Just start walking, and you’re sure to find quaint cobblestone streets, warm and friendly locals, and mouthwatering food to sink your teeth into.
Featured Trip: Ultimate Greek Islands
17 days. 7 cities. Paradise served with extra pita.
Pros: a Zeus-sized serving of 5 distinct (but equally dreamy) islands, a side order of ancient Athens, and all of the late-night gyros.
Cons: there is a strict “one Santorini sunset pic per traveler” rule. Nah just kidding, take as many as you want!
Are you the quiet, laidback one in your friend group who somehow becomes the life of the party when you go out, and your friends are all like, whaaaaat? Well then Ios might be for you. It’s all about that chill life during the day, but once the sun sets, Ios really shows up. Some liken it to Mykonos, but with less glitz and flashiness.
EF Ultimate Break Trip Consultant (and resident Greece expert) Hannah puts it best: “Ios is the epitome of a 'vacation island'. A place where you bask in the sun, cruise on boats, and dance through the night… of the six Greek islands I have been able to visit, this one had the clearest water and most interesting coast line I have ever seen.” Thanks, Hannah—I’m convinced.
If it’s beaches you want, well, why didn’t you say so? I would have told you Paros is the best Greek island for you. Then you would have thanked me and been on your way. But here we are.
Now I’m not saying Paros is only good for its beaches. We wouldn’t mislead you like that. TBH Paros kind of has it all. In addition to picture-perfect coastlines, this island boasts classic white-washed buildings, countless boutique shops to explore, and—when you need an adrenaline boost—watersports.
Featured Trip: Italy & The Greek Islands
15 days. 5 cities.
Pros: See Michelangelo’s David up close and personal in Florence, pretend you're a Gladiator in the Roman Colosseum, and travel back in time to where Western Civilization began on the Acropolis of Athens. Then it's time to unwind on a white sand beach, drink in hand, on two of Greece’s most iconic islands.
Cons: You'll have to put your keto diet on hold. Say it with us: Homemade. Italian. Pasta.
Welcome to the section of the article I like to call: Revealing which island is the biggest of all the Greek islands. It’s Crete. And it’s the perfect island to take a load off, stay a while, and get out there and YOLO the day—there’s certainly a lot to see. The two major cities are Chania and Heraklion, named after Hercules (heard of him?). They’re both well worth a visit.
Our Greece Trip Consultant Hannah hits the nail on the head again: “Unlike the white-washed buildings of Santorini or Paros, Crete’s buildings are gatherings of pastel colors along a turquoise blue ocean. The Island has a 'travel' instead of 'tourist' vibe. It’s a lot less crowded and it’s easy to meet young people from Athens who are working there over the summer.”
And good news! If you’re looking for a Minoan settlement that makes ancient Athens look like a newborn baby, spend an afternoon at Knossos. Some historians consider it to be Europe’s oldest city. We’re talking 9,000 years old!
We are now moving into the Ionian Sea, to the west of mainland Greece. There are fewer islands here compared to the more popular Aegean Sea, but we would be remiss not to include our favorite. Zakynthos, like Paros, is a beach lover’s paradise. Except Zakynthos has one thing Paros does not: a 40-year-old abandoned ship perched on the beach of the most photogenic cove you’ve ever seen, aptly named Shipwreck Beach. Some believe the Greek government put the ship here to attract more tourists. If this is true, I would bet that while they were doing it, they were singing everybody’s favorite, “My shipwreck brings all the boys to the yard.” But in Greek, of course.
That’s it! You’ve reached the end of our list of the top Greek islands to visit when you’re young. Now, it should be noted that “young” is a relative term, and any of these islands would be thrilled to have you visit, no matter your age (yes, even you, babies that know how to read blogs). But if you are 18 to 35, and feel compelled to visit any or all of the islands you just read about, check out EF Ultimate Break's trips to the Greek islands. We want your adventures to be stress-free, which is why we plan everything and include things like flights, daily breakfast, and local tours. All you have to do is travel.
by Kevin McGraw
Kevin is a copywriter at EF Ultimate Break. He loves drinking chocolate milk, looking at photos of his parents’ dog, and, for some reason, running for hours at a time. His favorite place in the world is Mürren, Switzerland.
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