When most people think of Greek islands, places like Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, and Rhodes pop into their head. These islands are iconic and beautiful, and this is probably why they are overrun with tourists, especially during the high season in the summertime.
But Greece has around 200 inhabited islands to explore, and a lot of them are just as beautiful and interesting as the most famous hotspots, though less known. If you’d like to find 5 Greek islands that only the locals really visit, read ahead. You can avoid the crowds, go to Greece like a local, and most of all, discover places most tourists haven’t seen.
1. Paxoi (or Paxi)
A string of islands located in the Ionian Sea, Paxoi tends to be quiet and devoid of foreign crowds, but it sports some of the most beautiful beaches and clear waters in the Mediterranean Sea. Most beaches here are small and quiet, without the beach bar culture of other Greek hotspots.
Some of the beaches, including the ones considered especially beautiful on the west coast, are not accessible by land, so if you’re touring the Ionian on a boat, or are up for catching boats out of the main port towards the beaches, Paxoi is probably a good fit for you, especially if you want to prefer calm, clear waters over beach parties. In some places, you can even see the ocean floor at a depth of 30 meters.
The largest islands are Paxos and Antipaxos. Recommended beaches on Paxos include Marmari, Kaki Langada, and Achai Bay. If you would like to explore the west side beaches, and the stunning caves in the cliffs of Paxos, take a day trip in a boat from the main city of Gaios, or from Lakka. Monodendri and Levrecho are probably amongst the busiest beaches on the island, and the former also has watersports to offer. The best beaches on Antipaxos are considered Vrika and Voutoumi.
Folegandros is a relatively tiny island in the Aegean Sea, and it usually passes unnoticed by tourists despite its location between tourism powerhouses Santorini, Paros, and Mykonos. However, many Greeks looking for a quiet, relaxing escape have favored Folegandros over the years for its picturesque town and beautiful beaches.
Angali Beach is the jewel of Folegandros, but there are many other shores to visit as well, though perhaps not easily accessible by car. Most people drive to Karavostasi, and walk to other beaches from there. The walks around the island are some of the most mesmerizing in Greece, and visitors always remark on the peaceful silence they experience on this island.
Syros used to be quite an important island in the Aegean Sea, as it’s main town, Ermoupolis, was once the biggest port in Greece, and is still the capital of the Cyclades. For those interested in culture, history and architecture, Syros is definitely the Greek island you want to visit.
The port in Syros is still a bustling, busy place, day and night. A few streets in from the waterfront, the beautifully constructed Town Hall towers over a huge town square. In the evening, the square is full of kids on the town hall’s gigantic staircase, and people enjoying coffee, drinks, or Syros’ famous sweet (loukoumi) in the cafes located all around the square.
You can enjoy a classy night at the Apollon Theater, constructed in the 19th century, view one of Michelangelo’s original paintings at or get lost in the charming winding cobblestone alleys of Vaporia, a little further up from the town center, and marvel at the 19th century neoclassical buildings all around you.
During the day, try heading to the beaches in Vari, Kini, Foinikas, and Agkathopes. If you want to continue exploring the island, head up to Ano Syros, a historic town towards the island’s peak that has been around since medieval times.
Right next to the more well-known islands of Paros is a smaller island called Antiparos, which is now becoming a popular choice for Greeks on vacation. In addition to nice beaches and a few nightlife spots, it features an extensive cave system for the more adventurous tourist, and a Venetian castle built in medieval times.
There are a few good beaches, and you can choose your destination based on your preferences. If you want a lounge chair and easy access to beach bar, Livadia is your best option, while families tend to prefer Psaraliki. For a more secluded spot, try Panagia, or if you’d like to be daring and try a nudist beach, Camping Beach is always an option.
Located south of Kerkyra in the Ionian Sea, Lefkada is a large, lush island with striking blue waters, plenty of small charming farming towns, a beautiful marina, and a busy capital city. During the summer season, especially in August, the island sees a huge influx of Greek and Italian tourists. Favored beaches include Kathisma and Porto Katsiki.
If you want to go outside the main city (also known as Lefkada), check out Vasiliki or Agios Nikolaos. Vasiliki has great tavernas right on the waterfront, and is considered one of the best windsurfing spots in Europe. At night, head down to Agios Nikolaos, which has a pedestrian street heading down to the beach, lined with shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars on the waterfront.
One of my personal favorite spots on the island is Rachi Taverna, located in the mountains in the small town of Exanthia. Rachi is the perfect place to have dinner after a long day at the beach and watch one of the best views of the sunset.
In the main city of Lefkada, you can find a lot of small squares with creperies and cafes, as well as a lot of shopping. If you walk out on the pedestrian walkway along the waterfront, you will pass many bars and clubs that keep going well into the night.
Travel tip shared by jkalafatis