All of the Greek islands have their own unique charm, but what are the best Greek islands for beaches? Beach lovers rejoice – if you want your summer travel plans to involve copious amounts of white sand, sun loungers and beachside tavernas this year then these 15 islands won’t disappoint.
Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades island chain and is slowly gaining a name for itself thanks to its low-key charm and some of the best big sandy beaches in Greece. If you want to stay close to the main town and harbour then the sheltered crescent of Agios Georgios has everything you need close to hand (and gorgeous sunsets over Paros), but the big stars are the luminescent colours of Prokopios, Agia Anna, and Plaka which are just down the coast. If you’re prepared to explore further you’ll be rewarded with empty beaches, some of them wild and windy.
The twin sister island of Naxos sitting directly to its west, pretty Paros has similarly spectacular beaches. Naoussa is one of the most beautiful whitewashed towns in Greece and is surrounded by several great beaches. Just a short drive away, Kolymbithres sports white sands with unusual rock formations. You’ll find watersports and lively bars at Santa Maria and a more chilled vibe at Monastiri, whilst windsurfers flock to Chrissi Akti.
Mykonos draws crowds for its nightlife but is also one of the best Greek islands for beaches. Paradise and Super Paradise are the main party beaches on Mykonos; big sandy with 24/7 nightlife. If you’re looking for something a bit more relaxed then nearby Ornos and Platys Gialos are traditional resort vibes and suitable for families, or Elia which has the longest white sand beach on Mykonos. Trendy little Psarrou is Mykonos’ most bijou beach, but for seclusion try Agrari, Lia or Fokos.
The Cycladic island of Ios is one of Europe’s top destinations for white sand beaches, especially if you want a side order of nightlife. Better value for money than pricey Mykonos, the 2km beach at Mylopotas is where the party’s at. Gialos and Koumbara are two more sandy beaches close to the main town Chora. For picture-perfect beauty away from the crowds head south to Kalamos or Papa.
Corfu is one of the most popular islands for a beach holiday thanks to its lush green scenery and countless Blue Flag beaches. everything from golden sands to pebbly coves. Unless you’re 17 you’ll probably want to avoid the party resorts of Kavos. The most beautiful coves and bays are to be found around Paleokastritsa. For traditional golden sands, water sports and tasty tavernas head instead to Agios Georgios, Acharavi, Ipsos, Glyfada or Kalamaki. Awards for the most Instagrammable beaches go to the rock formations at beautiful Longas or the Canal D’Amour at Sidari.
This green and beautiful island is part of the Sporades island chain. The golden crescent of Koukounaries is one of the most beautiful in the Aegean. Head south to Banana Beach for watersports and beach bars. Lalaria has some intriguing rock formations. Agia Paraskevi and Vromolimnos are similarly stunning organised sandy beaches backed by forest. The north coast is best for nature and naturists.
The word is out on Koufonisia, a small island close to Naxos which is part of the Little Cyclades group of islands. It’s worth the journey for its white sand beaches, turquoise waters and secluded boho charm. Hike a bike and cycle around to discover the beaches of Megali Ammos, Pori, Platia Pounda and Fanos.
The gorgeous beaches of Kefalonia were made famous by the 2001 film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Antisamos is the main filming location if you want to recreate the scenes. The other star attraction is steep cliff-flanked Myrtos which features on every excursion itinerary. Beaches on the south coast are sandy and this is where you’ll find the main resorts (Skala, Lourdas and Lassi), the north is for pebbly bays loved by yachties.
Zakynthos (also known as Zante) is known for two things: the spectacular Navagio (Shipwreck Beach) — one of the best and certainly most photographed beaches in the Mediterranean — and the presence of Caretta Caretta loggerhead turtles. Whilst you’ll undoubtedly want to visit Navagio, don’t stop there as Zakynthos is one of the best Greek islands for beaches (although some of the resorts can feel a tad soulless). As with Kefalonia, the south side is sandy and developed. Some of the popular beaches are Agios Nikolaos, Tsilivi and Vassilikos, Banana Beach and Alykes. Busy Laganas is for the party people. Smaller, picturesque beaches can be found at Porto Vromi, Xigia, Porto Roma and Porto Roha. Don’t miss a boat trip to the incredible Turtle Island with its sandy spit.
Thassos is less well-known than some of the islands on this list, but this island in the Northern Aegean is home to some stunning beaches thanks to its unique geology. Which is typified by Marble Beach; iridescent white pebbles made of marble meet a bright emerald sea. No prizes for guessing what Golden Beach and Paradise Beach are two of the best beaches on the island. Alyki and the surrounding area continue the amazing colours in cute bays, whilst the cliffs at Livada add to its appeal. Makryammos and Skala Potamia are popular resorts.
Crete is one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean so it’s not surprising that it has some of its best beaches. And what beauties they are. The lagoons and pink sands of Elafonisi and Balos are some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece. Generally speaking, the north of the island is more developed, whereas along the southern coast you’ll find more rugged and remote beaches. Matala and Vai are known for their hippie connections and unique landscape. Paleochora in the south west is a top spot for windsurfing.
A laid back and fertile island with lush turquoise bays and fantastic beaches, Samos is not on the radar of most travellers (being a long way from Athens) but has a devoted following. The vast sandy expanses of Potami, Megalo Seitani and Lemonakia are known as being the most beautiful on the island. The main town Pythagorion has a long organised beach called Potokaki. Charming and picturesque Kokkari and Tsamadou have small pebbly beaches. The best sand is arguably found at Psili Ammos.
Rhodes is popular with sun-seekers and its long southeast coast is made up of fantastic sandy beaches. The largest of which is found at Faliraki, long associated with boozy Brits Abroad although it has calmed down and cleaned up in recent years. The lovely whitewashed village of Lindos is a popular upmarket bijou destination and has several fantastic sandy beaches, of which St Paul’s Bay is the prettiest and has a clutch of chilled out beach bars. Surrounded by cliffs and pines, Anthony Quinn Bay is beautiful and popular with daytrippers. Low key resorts include Tsambika, Kolymbia, Pefkos and Gennadi. At the southernmost tip is the wild Prasonisi which is popular with kitesurfers.
Spectacular Sarakiniko is the poster child of tourism on Milos, the Cycladic island known for its weird and wonderful lunar rock formations. But you’ll find lovely beaches and quiet resorts in the rest of the island. Golden sandy beaches are found at Tsiagrado, Paleochora, Plathiena and Provatas. Firiplaka and Firopotamos are picturesque but have pebbles. Along with Sarakiniko, another unusual beach is Paliorema with its abandoned mining facilities.
Last but not least, the Dodecanese island of Kos has long been a favourite with beach lovers. Kos Town has the long organised strip Theodorou, as well as Lambi to the north. Tigaki is possibly the most beautiful on the island, with its 10km of fine sand. It’s popular but long enough that you’ll always be able to find a spot to yourself. Mastichari, Marmari, Kardamena and Paradise Beach are the other main resorts set on beautiful beaches. When solitude is needed make for Kefalos or Limnionas.
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