Visiting the Greek Islands

Caroline Cassidy

After a long, harsh winter many Brits will be desperately seeking a little sunshine, sea and blue sky this summer. The Greek islands, with their crystal clear turqoise waters and white villages, have been popular with British tourists for decades, and for good reason. We check when and where to go, and why.

Visit the Greek islands
Visit the Greek islands

Pic: Getty

When to go
The tourist season on most of the Greek islands runs from Easter through to mid-October, with the southerly isles of Crete and Rhodes stretching through to late October.

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The height of the season is July and August, where you'll benefit from warm seas and steamy temperatures, but may have to contend with hordes of other tourists and the famous meltemi, or maistros, if you are holidaying in the Ionian islands, winds that whip across the sands at this time of year.

So to avoid the busiest periods, enjoy more moderate but still beautiful temperatures, and get better rates on flights and hotels, try mid-May to late June or September.

Which island?
With so many options to choose from, picking the right island on which to take your break really depends on what you want from your holiday.

The likes of Kos, Corfu, Zante and Mykonos, for instance, are well known as 'party islands' and offer plenty for hedonists looking to party the night away at a club while soaking up the sun during the day.

Sun-seekers hoping to laze beneath the blue skies with the clear waters of the Aegean lapping at the shore are spoilt in the Greek islands. Lipsi is a quiet island that boasts stunning beaches such as Platys Gialos and Kambos. The tiny island of Kastelorizo offers beautiful seclusion at St George, where you can snorkel and sunbathe virtually without being disturbed. And for something a little more spectacular, try the volanic island of Milos, where there are rocks of red, brown and bright white, and an astonishing 70 colourful beaches.

Of course, Greece and the islands are synonymous with ancient history and those travelling with the intention of seeing some of the awesome architecture, history and culture will not be disappointed.

Hydra, for instance, retains all the charm of days gone by having banned cars, motorbikes and the high-rise hotels and apartment blocks that have blighted many a holiday isle. At Hydra port, you'll find monasteries, museums and art galleries, many of which are housed in 18th century mansions. And trips to the pebbly beaches are by donkey or water taxi.

Elsewhere, Corfu boasts an amazing array of Venetian, French and British architecture, the old walled town at Rhodes is a sight to behold, and Patmos is home to the grotto in which St John, no less, wrote the Book of Revelations.

There is plenty on offer for the more active among you too. Walk around the tiny southerly island of Gavdos and you'll enjoy the heady aroma of sea juniper and wild thyme, wild flowers galore, and golden beaches to boot. No hotels means if you're after a room you'll have to book into a taverna, but it's worth taking a tent, as campers are welcomed across the island.
Ithaca, one of the Ionian islands, is surprisingly lush and green, and there are hiking and biking trails for walkers, and the equally fertile isle of Naxos is a walker's paradise, with ancient paths connecting the inland villages that will take you past ancient temples, Hellenistic towers and Byzantine churches.

And with ferries and flights from isle to isle, the Greek islands provide the perfect opportunity to mix and match to create your perfect holiday.

Are you a regular visitor to the Greek islands? Which would you recommend and why? Leave your comments below...