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11 Lesser-Known Greek Islands You Should Explore
The islands in Greece are well known – and jam-packed in the summer. It’s hard to find a spot in the Mediterranean where you can get away from the crowds, but these 11 lesser-known islands in Greece may be your answer.
The Greek islands are blessed with stunning landscapes and feel like an authentic slice of paradise. There is nothing more magical, romantic, and adventurous than boarding a Greek ferry and sailing the sea to explore the unique beaches of Greece. Although most of us close our eyes and dream about the enchanting images of white Santorini, there are so many more Greek islands to choose from! You must first know that the islands are divided into different groups:
Naxos – Our Top Pick For Little-Known Greek Islands
Try Out Windsurfing
If you have a thirst for adrenaline, windsurfing is always the best solution. One of the closest islands to Santorini is Naxos. Because of the shallow waters, gorgeous slow waves, and nearly perfect wind conditions all the time, Naxos has become one of the best spots in all of Europe to try out the sport.
That has made Naxos one of the most popular windsurfing destinations in Greece, especially in the summer, when the northern winds meet blue waves all around the island.
The best windsurfing spots in Naxos are Laguna, Agios Georgios, Agios Prokopios, and Plaka. Talk with professionals at the camps where you rent the boards for the ideal winds. They will likely provide lessons and be interested in your safety over everything.
Explore The Nearby Mountain Villages
Naxos is lucky to have 41 beautiful villages, each with its own individual culture but united by the charm which sweeps Naxos visitors off their feet. These villages have splendid ancient traditions and impressive centuries-old architecture. However, you certainly can not miss three of the many: Naxos town, Koronos, and Halki, three of our favorites on the island.
Naxos town is the island’s central city and should be your visit’s highlight. There are many exciting things to see in this beautiful village, from the authentic structure and architecture to the beauty of the landscape and a pleasant stroll along the sea with numerous bars, cafes, and restaurants to stop in at.
Koronos is located in the northeastern part of the island, surrounded by a beautiful wine valley and rolling green hills you expect to see in Tuscany, but certainly not in Greece. Koronos is known for its delicious wine, mostly being one of the best you can find in Greece. Also, as a day trip, if you want to take in the beautiful village from another perspective, most of the surrounding villages overlook the green valley and highlight its natural beauty.
Halki is another village you can not miss. It is a picturesque village in the northern part of the island, with Venetian towers and Byzantine churches that show the island’s rich history, and its age is just part of the charm.
Visit The Marvelous Doorway Leading To Nowhere
Portara ( meaning “great door”) is the name given by the inhabitants for this beautiful marble door. This monument is just a short walk from Naxos Town’s harbor, but very few people visit. When you visit Naxos, be sure to visit Portara to enjoy the beautiful view and absorb the pulsating energy of this mysterious attraction.
The 2,500-year-old structure marks the doorway that “does not lead anywhere” but was once the centerpiece of the Greek god Apollo temple. The temple was built under the rule of Lygdamis when Naxos was an important cultural center of Greece.
The doorway has been described as having magical powers and high spirits guarding it, especially at sunset.
Aegina – The Closest Island To Athens
This is the closest island to Athens, and Aegina is a great place to discover while you’re enjoying some time in the capital of Greece. It’s an incredible destination with exciting things to find for a short day trip and a more extended vacation.
Suppose you’re looking for unique monuments, history, and culture but also to relax on amazing beaches and splurge on fresh fish and delicious pistachios. In that case, Aegina is a must-place to add to your bucket list.
Milos – Our Favorite Most Unspoilt Greek Island
Milos Island, also known as the Island of Colors! Why? Well, that is thanks to its jewel-colored waters and the vivid buildings, all painted in Instgrammable primary tones.
Located in the Aegean Sea, this horseshoe-shaped island is where the world-famous Venus de Milo statue was discovered in 1820. An ensign in the French navy (Olivier Voutier) found it after he decided to explore one day while his boat was anchored close by.
Hike To The Castle Of Chora
The Venetian Castle of Chora dominates the village. It was built in 1503 on the site of an ancient Byzantine fortress from the 12th century. Among the remains of the castle, there are beautiful churches and ancient stone walls to explore.
Explore The Cave Of Agia Sofia
This cave is located 15 miles northwest of Chora. Inside the stone cave is a chapel dedicated to Agia Sophia; it is said that her body is buried there.
Swim In The Fall
Incredible waterfalls to visit, including Neraida and Fonissa, lie between thick, lush trees and glistening pools of water, which are perfect for cooling off under the hot sun. If you are a nature person, there is plenty to explore on Kythira, and these waterfalls, in particular, are a must!
See A Church Set In A Cave
Another cave worth seeing in Kythira is the impressive Cave of Kalamos. Like the Cave of Agia Sofia, this cave also houses a small church – the Church of Agia Sofia, which is found at the cave entrance. You will marvel at the idea of the work this must have taken to build.
The cave and church were dated using Neolithic ceramics, which were found in the cave and believed to be from the 6th century.
Adventure Into The Castle Of Mylopotamos
The castle is a medieval village that was inhabited until the 1950s. It is also called “Kato Hora” and is very interesting because much of the building is still preserved relatively well.
Serifos is easy to get from Athens, with ferries leaving Athens’ main port, Piraeus. This is one of the least-populated islands in Greece, with just a population of 1400. The island is also tiny at around 75 km2 and has plenty of beaches. One of the most popular beaches on Serifos is Livadakia Beach; this sandy beach is lined by cedar trees, perfect for taking a break from the scorching summer sun.
This is one of those little-known Greek islands that we wonder about – as in, why is it not more popular?
Enjoy The Quiet, Gorgeous Beaches
There are so many beautiful beaches in Syros that I don’t even know where to start! And the best part is that they are never as busy as the neighboring islands.
Galissas is one of our favorites. It is surrounded by hills and rocks in an isolated bay west of the island, making it very secluded – almost like you have a paradise island to yourself. It is clean, and clear turquoise water will have you chomping at the bits to visit again.
And when you are done with the sun, the beach has a delicious restaurant called Aventura, where delicious traditional Greek dishes are cooked to perfection. Try a parsley salad, a signature Syros dish. You will be licking your chops for more.
Read A Book At The Grand Town Hall
Syros was an important shopping and production center and one of the most visited islands in the Aegean Sea centuries ago. You will notice the effects of the big financial boom the most in the beautiful neoclassical architecture.
Buildings such as the Town Hall, one of the largest in Greece, the Apollo Municipal Theatre, and Agios Nikolaos stand to the importance of Ermoupoli, the Cyclades’ capital.
See a world-class performance at the Apollo Theatre.
Built in the 19th century, the building is a replica of the famous La Scala di Milano, but on a smaller scale. Though, the structure had a hard time aging through the times. The Apollo Theatre had to close its doors and undergo a long reconstruction and restoration period before it was reopened in 2000.
Today, the theater is one of Syros’s most important cultural centers, hosting various artistic and cultural events, such as the Animasyros and the Aegean Festival, famous theatrical performances, and world-class performances of all art forms.
Lose Yourself In The Narrow Alleys Of Ano Syros
Ano Siros, which means Upper Syros, is a beautiful Venetian settlement built as a fortress in the 13th century and is now the densest Roman Catholic area of the island. The streets are so narrow and steep that it seems as if you are in a maze, which makes for a fun and entertaining afternoon spent wandering.
If you get lost here, we imagine you might take time to appreciate the little things which bring Syros so much charm – the beautifully decorated doors, the colorful balconies, and the locals sitting around on the front porch watching the world go by. All of these things are so romantic about Syros.
Relax At One Of Greece’s Top 10 Beach Bars
The Asteria Bar is located in the Vaporia district of Ermoupoli, on the coast near Asteria Beach. The wooden tables and armchairs by the sea offer a beautiful view of the neoclassical villages. There are stairs to get into the water but beware of sea urchins. From our perspective, the environment is just as relaxing, if not more, enjoyed from the beach.
It was named one of Greece’s top 10 beach bars, and we can clearly see why. The unique location is ideal for walks on the beach or a relaxing spot to watch the sun go down.
Amorgos is an island in the most eastern part of the Cycladic islands, so far east that it borders the Islands of the Dodecanese. You can book ferry tickets to either of the main harbors in Amorgos. Choose either Egiali or Katapola. Amorgos is equally authentic and stunning. Active vacationers will love the many trails and walking paths that criss-cross the islands.
Breathe In History At Loizos Cave
The cave owes its name to Dimitrios Loizos, who discovered it in 1868 and got rich selling gold he found in the cave and other treasures he came across.
It is a place of outstanding natural beauty and historical importance, seen in the mysterious and beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.
Educate Yourself On Greek Mythology At Nymphs Cave
According to Greek mythology, the gods and the other humans used one of the entrances to Nymphs Cave. It is also the place where Odysseus had to hide the gifts from Phaeacians when he returned to Ithaki.
Today, the cave is no longer accessible, but the view from the entrance is a unique experience, given the myths that have been associated with it for thousands of years.
Visit A Traditional Greek Sea Village
Kioni is a traditional village on the Ionian Sea with a small picturesque harbor that attracts boats and yachts, especially in the summer. This place was once a stomping ground for pirates, and the three abandoned mills symbolize a glorious yet notorious past.
Explore A Deserted Medieval Town
On the small road to Perachori, you’ll find yourself in the abandoned medieval village of Palaiochora. You will notice its architecture is dominated by defensive elements, forts, shelters, and churches, with exquisite Byzantine paintings dating back centuries ago.
Visit The Most Important Monastery On The Island
The Qatari Monastery is the most important monastery on the island and a symbol of the religious life of its inhabitants. It is situated about 10 miles from Vathi, the center of the island, nearly 2,000 feet above sea level. The earthquake of 1953 utterly destroyed it and it was rebuilt in 1696. On September 7 of every year, the traditional feast and a litany of the statue of the Virgin Mary are celebrated annually.
An easy ferry ride from Athens, Agistri is awesome to be in September (in summer, the island is packed with locals) when you can kayak and lay back and soak up the last of the years’ rays. After a day of kayaking, we suggest you feast on seafood at any one of the local taverns in Skala, the island’s main port.
Karpathos – Lesser Known Greek Island
Get In Touch With Karpathian Heritage
The Day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15) is a special time to stay in some Karpathian villages, but above all, in Olympos.
This time of year, the village grows together with the descendants of emigrants who want to come into contact with the Karpathian heritage. The extended family is reunited, and women dress in colorful costumes and necklaces of gold coins, which symbolize the family’s wealth and good fortune.
You can even attend a church service where you will witness services for which women bring bread in flower baskets to offer to the Virgin Mary.
After the service, there is a large outdoor reception where musicians perform folk songs in laouto and Lyra at Plati (in the main square), where the dancing and good times continue until dawn. Dive into unbelievable marine life
The incredible transparency of the water and the rocky geology of the Aegean Sea around Karpathos put diving near the top of the list of things to do while you visit the island.
The only diving center on the island (which shows how little the island is explored) is located in Pigadia, on the waterfront. It offers all PADI courses, both for fun and technical certification.
Around Karpathos are 18 diving sites, from wrecks to rocks and reefs, underwater arches, and caves such as the mystic St. Peter’s Cathedral.
There are also trips to Saria, which has colorful fauna in its protected waters and is another not-so-popular but beautiful dive destination where you will surely recognize the differences between an overrun dive location and an untouched oasis.
Visit The Lesser Traveled Santorini-Like Village
The white and pastel houses of Menetes, built nearly 1,000 feet above sea level on steep cliffs, are among the most visited places on the island – but still, not nearly toured enough for its beautiful location.
The best pictures of the village and the Pigadia region can be taken from the Kimissi tis Theotokou – a high-sitting vantage point in the north.
The church was built in 1845 with reused stones from the former Arkesia colony.
Marble columns inside the church come from the early Christian basilica of Agia Anastasia, dating back to the year 400. The church is the center of the great feast on the day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15).
No matter where you are on the town’s streets, you are never out of view of the rocky cliffs. And if you are looking for something else to do, you can visit the folklore museum, where you can find traditional lace, ancient craft tools, and musical instruments such as the laouto and lira.
And Another Village Similar To Cinque Terre, Italy
Olympos is located on a majestic hill north of Karpathos. Before the construction, you could only reach this picturesque village by sea, and not many tourists made the trip. Recently, a road was constructed leading to the village, but before that (not too long ago, the village was about as isolated as it gets, and there is no wonder tourism hasn’t found the village yet.
The reason for this inaccessible environment was that in 600 AD, when pirates often attacked Karpathos, local people searched for a way to preserve their lifestyle and beautiful customs. They sought refuge in Olympos, which represented a paradise of peace and seclusion where Doric culture, dialect, and ancient artifacts could be preserved.
With its beautiful setting and calm atmosphere, we think the Karpathians of that day and age achieved what they were after, an oasis to escape to and the perfect preservation of a grand island.
And, like many spots on this island, the day of Ascension is also celebrated here, so if you are traveling during this time, you will have plenty of options to choose from for your celebration.
Relax On A Postcard-Worthy Beach
Apella is probably the most famous beach in Karpathos. However, that does not mean it is overcrowded or bustling with tourist get-ups. Not in the least. Since it is just over 10 miles from Pigadia and can be difficult to access on the road, you won’t find many visitors here. It is only popular with the local population and those who are used to making the difficult crossing of the mountain.
But for those who make the trip to Apella, the route is, of course, a beautiful one well worth your time. You will be treated to an absolutely stunning view of the coast before making the descent down to the equally lovely beach.
Another (less stressful) option is to board one of the regular ferries to Apello from Pigadia, which leaves daily.
You won’t regret your decision to come once you find this genuinely phenomenal sandy beach with plenty of shade trees to relax under. Stick your feet or wade in crystal clear waters and feel the breeze through your hair. Its turquoise waters are why it gets the reputation of being so pretty it could be featured on a postcard.
Folegandros is by far one of the less-visited islands in Greece. Spend time in Hora, the main port, perched on a cliff. Spend the day roaming the pedestrian-only center and admiring the view from the dramatic cliffs. Folegandros is further south; low season times (think of May and October) still offer up impressive enough beach weather. We suggest Karavostasi Beach; with its fine pebbles, you will need beach shoes, but it’ll be worth it. Rent a sunbed under the shade and curl up with that book you’ve been waiting all year to read.
All you have to do now is decide, will all of these non-touristy Greek islands make your list? If not, which ones will you travel to?Share