Swap glitzy Mykonos and overpriced Santorini for more affordable options this year. Boasting just as gorgeous beaches, delicious food and incredible landscapes, the following islands will inspire your Greece travel plans without costing you a fortune.
Did you know Culture Trip now offers premium bookable trips, with an adventurous twist? Well, you do now. And if it’s a little bit of Greek chic you’re looking for from your next getaway, we’ve got four different – but equally ravishing – itineraries to choose from.
If you’re looking for a quick escape from Athens, Agistri is your best bet. Far more affordable than nearby Aegina, this tiny island lies only a 60-minute ferry ride from Piraeus port. Stroll through Skala village among fuchsia bougainvillaea and rest in one of the cafes lining the main road. Forests carved with hiking trails and dreamy beaches abound here – don’t miss snorkelling in the pool-like waters of pine-fringed Aponisos. Get a feel for laid-back island life with a stay at Saronis, where homemade jam and pastries are served for breakfast in the garden.
Who knew the Cyclades aren’t just Mykonos or Santorini? This little jewel is a calmer, certainly cheaper, alternative to its sister isles. Kythnos bursts with beautiful beaches – there are more than 70 to choose from – combined with the Cycladic traits that make this archipelago so special. Wander around Messaria village to find whitewashed houses, cobblestone streets and picture-perfect cafes, and walk past red-roof houses in Drypodia village to get a taste of understated charm. For a quiet seaside stay, book the chic Kythnos Bay, with its sand-and-white colour scheme and massage menu. The nearby thermal springs of Loutra call for a dip.
Fancy an epic Greek island getaway? Island-hop from Athens to Santorini on Culture Trip’s eight-day adventure around the best destinations in Greece.
It’s no secret the Ionian islands boast the best beaches in Greece. Opt for Lefkada to swim in blinding-turquoise waters – the most striking found at the Porto Katsiki and Egremni beaches – or milky emerald pools fed by waterfalls, such as the Dimosari ones in Nidri town. Make sure to catch the sunset from Cape Lefkatas; this is where poet Sappho is said to have leapt to her death, so stand clear of the edge. When compared to cheap hotels in neighbouring Corfu, accommodation in Lefkada is even more affordable. Book your stay at Allure in Lefkas Town and feel at home in sleek, pastel-hued suites that combine city convenience with island living.
They say locals in Ikaria live longer than anywhere else. It’s easy to see why, when swimming in unspoiled waters or hiking through plane trees, crossing stone bridges and rivers along the way; all for free, too. Follow the trail along Halari Gorge to reach the ancient temple of Artemis and the hidden Nas beach that feels like paradise on earth. Spend your days exploring picturesque villages and your nights drinking and dancing at the local fiestas (panigiria). Embrace Ikaria’s simple way of living with a stay at the unassuming Kerame Studios – the outdoor pool over the green hill adds a touch of glam.
Astypalaia is not among the most famous Greek destinations, yet this lovely Dodecanese island will win you over with the fairly affordable cost of living, the divine beaches and the chocolate-box architecture – look out for the white and blue Lady of the Castle church, the windmills, and the white houses with the blue windows in the capital; the latter populate the hill all the way up to the Venetian castle, forming clusters of real-life Monopoly houses (only white ones instead of red). The stylish Aelia – from the Greek for “air and light” – blends in with pops of colour throughout its white-based, minimalist suites.
Significantly cheaper than its sister island of Spetses, Hydra is where to go if you love classy mansions, crystalline waters and a bohemian way of life. The island’s quaint port and virgin beaches have inspired creatives for decades, including Leonard Cohen, who lived here in the 60s. Hydra is entirely free of cars, so you couldn’t ask for a quieter place to create your own masterpiece. Angelica, set in a traditional stone mansion, might be just the sanctuary you need. Make sure to taste Anna Tsagkaris’s popular amygdalota, a sweet delicacy made with local almonds.
Fans of Greek churches will love this Cycladic island. The cutest is the Chapel of the Seven Martyrs, built on a cliff edge in the Kastro village, perched above the Aegean. Shaped like a little fortress town with winding alleys, Kastro is dotted with more churches, taverns and bars. Follow the Sifnos Trails – 62mi (100km) of marked hiking paths – through villages and olive groves, or take a pottery class to learn how to shape the Sifnian clay. Then rest your eyes on clear waters from your room balcony at Venikouas – you won’t even break the bank.
Serene, artistic and not costly at all, Tinos bears no similarities to Mykonos, even though the two are just a short ferry ride apart. There’s a beach for everyone here, from wild beaches for surfers, such as Kolymbithra, to calm shores for sunbathers, such as Agios Ioannis. Pass by Pyrgos village to admire the abundance of marble, and Volax village, for the grand granite boulders whose origin is yet to be determined – or for the lyrics of poems on the doors. Stay at Vincenzo and ask them to prepare a meal just for you, made from organic produce grown on their farm.
Idyllic beaches, lush landscapes and a philosophy of ‘not needing much to feel happy’ should be enough to convince you to spend your Greece holidays in Alonissos. Between scuba diving in the National Marine Park – the largest in Europe, protecting dolphins, rare seabirds and even rarer Mediterranean monk seals – plus learning all about monk seals at the MOM centre, Skopelos is a naturalist’s playground. Rugged coves, olive groves and pine forests are all around, as are the restaurant terraces with majestic views in the capital. For a bit of unpretentious country luxury, stay at Yalis and gaze at the vast sea, poolside.
Need a place to stay during your Greece holiday? Check out the best boutique hotels in Greece for every kind of budget. Dial up the romance at the most perfect honeymoon hotels in Greece, or the most beautiful hotels in Greece.
This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Chloe Byrne.
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