Greece boasts an abundance of isles, each one with its own distinctive allure and unique charm. But just how many Greek islands are there? With over 6,000 inhabited and uninhabited Greek Islands scattered across the Aegean Sea it can be pretty hard to keep track!
From popular tourist destinations like Santorini or Mykonos to hidden gems like Kastellorizo or Symi, you’ll be in a daze from the number of Aegean islands to choose from.
Overview of the Greek Islands
Located in the Mediterranean Sea southeast of mainland Greece, the Greek Islands form an archipelago. Thousands of islets and islands dot the Aegean and Ionian Seas, offering a plethora of stunning vistas to discover and adore.
Geography and Location
The Greek Islands span from north to south along the coastlines of both seas and boast their own unique characteristics. Comprised of both uninhabited and inhabited islands, they can be divided into seven main groups.
- North Aegean Islands
- Saronic Gulf Islands
- Sporades Islands
- Crete Island Group
- Ionian Isles
Types of Islands
The majority of the Greek islands are mountainous with steep cliffs rising up out of crystal clear waters; however there are also some low-lying flatlands where visitors can find stunning beaches perfect for swimming or sunbathing. There is also a wide range of terrain on each island including forests, vineyards and olive groves which provide a picturesque backdrop for any vacationer’s stay in Greece.
Thanks to its location in the Mediterranean Sea off the southern tip of Europe’s Balkan Peninsula, temperatures remain mild throughout most parts year round with warm summers (May-October) averaging between 24°C (75°F) – 28°C (82°F). Winters tend to be cooler but rarely dip below 10°C (50°F). Rainfall varies depending on location but typically ranges from 500mm – 800mm per year, making it ideal for outdoor activities like hiking or beach days during your visit.
Popular Greek Islands
Known and loved throughout the world, the Greek islands have something special to offer everyone. Whether you’re an outdoorsy type or simply after some beach therapy, the islands offer up their best features to you so you can enjoy your holiday exactly the way you intend to.
Santorini is undoubtedly one of the most popular Greek islands, known for its stunning views, romantic atmosphere and rich history. Situated in the Aegean Sea, Santorini boasts a distinctive topography resulting from its volcanic formation.
The island features dramatic cliffs that surround an expansive caldera with picturesque white-washed houses perched on top of it. Tourists can explore the ruins of ancient Akrotiri or take a cable car up to Fira for breathtaking views of the Cyclades islands and sea below. Visitors can also enjoy swimming at one of many sandy beaches that stretch across Santorini’s coastline, such as Red Beach, Black Beach or Vlychada (our personal favorite!)
If you want to spend the day out of Santorini, then just hop on the boat to its sister island, Thirassia, a small inhabited island full of secluded beaches, abandoned monastaries, and a slower pace of life – not to mention the views of Santorini and surrounding islets scattered across the Aegean are breath-taking! Also, if you have time and fancy taking a walk to the southern most part of the island, you can also catch a glimpse of one of Santorini’s uninhabited islands that sits between these two islands.
Mykonos is another favorite destination among tourists visiting Greece. This vibrant island offers something for everyone and is considered one of the major islands for its bustling nightlife. From luxury resorts and high-end restaurants to lively bars and clubs playing all night long. Explore the quaint villages scattered around the island by day and experience their world-famous nightlife come nightfall.
Mykonos offers a variety of beaches for sun-lovers and water sport enthusiasts alike, ranging from the more secluded coves to those ideal for activities like windsurfing, kitesurfing, snorkeling, kayaking or sailing. Mykonos Town is full of traditional white-washed buildings and blue-topped homes while Little Venice provides amazing sunset views over the sea along with charming cafes and bars lining its waterfront promenade.
Mykonos is also shrouded in mythology, with the neighboring tiny island, Delos, being the birthplace of the twin Gods of the Sun & Moon, Apollo and Artemis. Delos is considered a sacred island, thus is entirely uninhabited, and comes with some pretty peculiar rules such as no one being allowed to be born or die on the island (doesn’t sound too difficult to do though!).
Corfu is an Ionian Island that has been welcoming visitors since antiquity thanks to its strategic location between Italy and Greece. It’s known as “the Emerald Isle” due to its lush vegetation and abundance of olive groves that blanket much of this idyllic paradise. Here you can explore Corfu town’s famous Venetian architecture or head out into nature and explore places like the Achilleion Palace Gardens where you can enjoy the surrounding tropical greenery and even check out the location of a James Bond movie!
The Ionian islands are one of few Greek island groups famous for its rich culture and heavy influence of old Italian and European aesthetic. Take a walk around Corfu’s streets and you’ll discover the layers of history left by its past residents, including Austrian palaces, Asian art collections and Corfu’s own traditional marching band.
Mountain-climbing aficionados will also find no shortage of opportunities on Corfu’s Mount Pantokrator, which towers nearly two kilometers above sea level and offers awe-inspiring views across the island, including a glimpse of Mouse Island just off the coast. Whatever it is you plan to do in Corfu, you can be sure there’s enough to keep you entertained throughout your time there.
Located in the Dodecanese Islands, Rhodes is considered one of Europe’s most beautiful islands thanks largely in part due to its UNESCO World Heritage Old Town which dates back centuries ago when Rhodes was under Byzantine rule.
Rhodes stands at the west coast intersection between Europe and Asia, boasting a long-standing history that dates back centuries. Rhodes historical past is nothing short of impressive, with remnants of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Colossus Rhodes, who once towered high above this island. Tourists can take in the sights while strolling along the bustling harbor lined with cobblestone streets inviting you to explore the old town’s narrow alleyways filled with shops, restaurants, and small boutiques that will entice you with their charming aesthetics.
The residents of Rhodes also maintain strong ties with their own culture, with a plethora of traditional villages and culturual habits that stand strong even day. Take a walk down some of the winding streets and you’ll find women baking bread outdoors in century-old wood-fired ovens, or discover the ‘Street of Knights’, a famous street restored to its original Medievil state, and explore the ‘tongues’ (the national guards) who once made up the Order of the Knights on this regal island.
Zakynthos, or “Zante,” the largest Greek island within the Ionian prefecture off the western coast of mainland Greece, is renowned for its Shipwreck Bay and Navagio Beach – both accessible by boat. Those who visit this stunningly beautiful spot will be treated to azure waters surrounding limestone cliffs that are sure to take their breath away. Photographers in particular can find a wealth of inspiration here as they snap majestic landscapes and sunsets with silhouettes of boats against a sky at dusk giving off an ethereal glow.
Zakynthhos is also a great location for nature lovers, as this Greek island is home to an endanged species of turtle, Caretta Caretta, and was even noted by the Venetians for its natural beauty after being named the ‘flower of the east’. It also appears the residents of Zakynthos are musically inclined, and a trip to this beautiful island could have you participating in their famous ‘cantatas’ – an audible past time of their Venetian roots.
From Shipwreck Bay with its imposing shipwreck standing sentinel against a backdrop of pristine golden sand, rock formations and turquoise Ionian sea, to Solomon’s Castle and Blue Caves, these wonders will have you wanting more.
Kefalonia, the second largest island situated off the western coast of Greece, is an area of mountainous terrain and lush green valleys with a plethora of secluded bays and coves that offer plenty to admire. One of the lesser visited islands, Kefalonia boasts pristine beaches and awe-inspiring stalactite formations in Melisani Cave near Argostoli, charming fishing villages such as Fiskardo, and a bustling harbor full of sailboats ready for an adventure ahead.
Kefalonia, like many other greek islands, also has its share of mythological history, and is thought to be the home to the great hero Odysseus, who’s decade-long travels saw him return to his home of Ithaka. Thought to be the mystical location of Homers Odyssey, the influence of this folklore can also be seen in the nature of the Kefelonian residents, who’re considered to be naturally quick-witted, intelligent, and with a great sense of humour.
This natural paradise teeming with wildlife serves as heaven on earth for nature enthusiasts and hikers alike who come here to enjoy its unspoiled wilderness by trekking up mountain peaks or soaking in the sights of the Aegean sea while meandering through vineyards and olive groves. Foodies can indulge in local cuisine delicacies such as stuffed zucchini flowers, fried cheese pies, pickled capers, olives, honey, and their local sweet dessert wine ‘Robola’ made on the island’s exclusive vineyards – it’s most definitely a place to reward your tastebuds!
Crete is home to some of Greece’s best beaches along with charming towns like Chania, Rethymno and Heraklion which offer a perfect mix of local culture and entertainment throughout the year. This charming greek island also features historical sites such as Knossos Palace (home to King Minos) or Dikteon Cave (where Zeus was born). There are plenty of outdoor activities available too; hiking trails crisscrossing Samaria Gorge National Park make it ideal for exploring Crete’s rugged terrain while water sports enthusiasts will find no shortage of opportunities around Elafonisi beach.
Whether you’re a night-owl or a sun-baby, Crete offers one of the most diverse ways of living out of all the greek islands. If you’re wanting a bar-cawl vacation with your nearest and dearest, Malia is sure to impress with its huge range of bars and clubs that go until sunrise, but if you’re looking to catch some serious sun time, beautiful beaches like Balos can trick you into thinking you’re vacationing in the Caribbean.
Crete offers a plethora of archaeological sites as well as miles of coastline featuring pristine sandy beaches, ideal for spending the day lounging and taking in the sights. Its crystal clear waters are teeming with marine life, making it an excellent spot to combine sightseeing and culture with beach fun.
Activities on the Greek Islands
Exploring the Greek Islands can be a captivating experience, with numerous ancient sites to visit, from archaeological remains to idyllic villages and breathtaking scenery. In addition to the many historical and cultural sites, visitors can also explore local wineries, and head to one of many traditional tavernas that offer you a unique taste of each island.
Beaches and Water Sports
With its crystal clear waters, sheltered bays and pebbly beaches, it’s no surprise that the greek seas are a major attraction on the Greek Islands. Popular spots include Mykonos’ Paradise Beach, Corfu’s Agios Georgios Beach or Elafonisi Beach in Crete where you’ll find sandy beaches stretching for miles. For the more daring, activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, sailing and windsurfing offer an exciting way to explore the Greek Islands.
Hiking and Outdoor Adventures
Hiking enthusiasts will be delighted by what they find on the Greek Islands – from easy walks along coastal paths to more challenging mountain treks through rugged terrain that offer breathtaking views over the Aegean sea or lush valleys below. For the thrill-seekers, rock climbing, mountain biking and paragliding are all available for you to get your heart pumping. And for the aspiring geologists, don’t forget about the island’s many caves filled with alien-like stalactites for you to discover.
Easter is a particularly great time to visit Greece, as Orthodox ‘Pascha’ (Greek for Easter), demands a week long celebration with specific events over the course of the week that commemorate the crucifiction and rise of Christ. This celebration is not only a sacred traditional, but is a beautiful way to introduce yourselves to the religious practices of Greece.
And with a history that stretches millenia, the Greeks have a wide variety of religious, communal, and national events that take place all year long. From great feasts to commemorate their Saints, to sailing and paddle boarding events that brings the community together, you’ll struggle to find a Greek island that doesn’t have something interesting going on!
When is the best time to visit the Greek islands?
There is really no good or bad time to visit the islands, it’s more down to personal choice. For those wishing to catch some rays on one of thousands of beautiful beaches, then the Summer season (May to October) is the best time for you. However, if you’re more of a trail-blazer and enjoy being active outside on most days, then the cooler winter months may serve you better – just make sure to pack a rain jacket and some good shoes!
Can I travel to multiple Greek islands whilst on vacation?
If you’re a fan of island hopping, then look no further than Greece! With the option to personalise your vacation to your own choice of islands, you can spend your days travelling coast-to-coast on the Aegean sea. Whether its the Ionian islands, Cyclades, or you want to make an island stop en-route, you can island hop to your hearts content. Better yet, all of the islands have good transport links via ferry or plane from central greece, so you can rest easy knowing that your trip will be well organised.
With so many islands to choose from, it can be a real task when deciding on the best Greek island for you. From the white-sand beaches of Mykonos to the ancient ruins of Santorini and Crete, there is something uniquely charming found in every island. Whether you’re exploring the rich tropical greenery of the North Aegean, or heading out to explore one of Greece’s many uninhabited islands, you’ll be sure to be inspired and moved by these beautiful landmarks that make up this magical country.
So if you’ve been wondering how many islands does Greece have? The answer is plenty – enough for every type of traveler.