Visiting Greece doesn’t need to cost an arm and leg. Enjoy the Greek sun and sea at budget-friendly prices for a memorable summer. While there may be faster (and more expensive) ways to reach the islands listed below, Culture Trip provides the most affordable options. Don’t fret if you haven’t booked accommodation in advance. Long before Airbnb, Greeks have shared their sense of hospitality with the world, offering small, basic rooms for rent on virtually any island.
Very close to Athens, Agistri is a very affordable option for an island holiday. A serene paradise where nature reigns, it’s perfect for those who are looking for a quick escape on a budget. Covered with pine forests, Agistri has turquoise waters, pebbly beaches and several excellent places to eat. There are also a few bars for the night owls.
Getting there: 1 hour 35 minutes by ferry from Piraeus, €11.50 (£10.45) one way
A stone’s throw from the golden shores of Skala, French windows and wooden shutters open up to flood the Vasilaras Rooms and Residences with natural light. Stone paving makes up most of the floors – soothing to hot feet after a day of exploring under the relentless sun. And although rooms have air conditioning, there is also the coastal breeze to keep you cool, as each expansive space comes with a balcony overlooking the gardens or ocean. Start your day with a dip in the pool, or dig into fruits and freshly baked bread from the breakfast buffet on the plant-lined patio.
Koukounari Apartments, in the centre of Skala, welcomes you in with whitewashed walls, large terracotta pots and model boats made from driftwood. Choose between stripped-back rooms or apartments: the latter can sleep up to four (perfect for families) and includes a kitchen, living room and balcony with views of the mountains or sea. You can escape the sun in the cooling waters of the pool before drying off on the loungers with a drink from the Koukounari Cafe, or swing by the honey-hued Grill House for souvlaki and beer.
Kythnos, a stunning little island in the Cyclades, seduces visitors with more than 70 beaches – the beautiful Kolona Beach is a must-see. With small villages brimming with traditional Cycladic architecture, cobblestone streets and breezy central squares lined with cafes and tavernas, the island is perfect for a truly relaxing vacation.
Getting there: 3 hours 10 minutes by ferry from Piraeus, €23.50 (£21.35) one way
The grainy, undulating facade of the Kythnos Bay Hotel mirrors the rolling waves and pebble-streaked beaches that lie just steps away. Follow the salty gusts of sea air into the lobby where hessian curtains are tucked back from colonial-style windows to drench the space in light, while beachcombed wood and dried starfishes dangle from the ceiling like Atlantean mobiles. Fresh, white rooms include oceanic touches such as shells-turned-dishes that contain natural Papoutsanis toiletries, and each has a balcony that overlooks either the glistening gulf or verdant hillside.
Fringed by palm trees and floral vines, Foinikas Studios is a tranquil getaway in the heart of Kythnos. The hotel sticks to a traditional blue-and-white palette with cerulean window shutters and pearl-white murals of Grecian skylines and sailboats in the rooms. Each has an all-important balcony or patio so that you can make the most of the sun, though with the beach a few minutes’ walk away, you’re more likely to spend days digging your toes in the sand or tucking into seafood dishes at one of the waterfront taverns.
Lefkada, connected to the mainland, is one of the top low-budget destinations in Greece. Blessed with spectacular natural beauty, stunning beaches and a verdant landscape, it is truly an island with multiple faces. The Ionian cuisine will impress visitors, and the relaxing and laid-back vibe makes it a perfect low-key destination.
Getting there: 5 hours 15 minutes by bus from Athens-Kifissos bus station, €36.80 (£33.40) one way. Buy tickets at Ktel bus station, or book online in advance for a 10 percent discount.
The Oasis Hotel’s hillside position offers sweeping views across terracotta roofs to the Ionian Sea. Backdropped by craggy mountains, the peach-coloured building makes an idyllic first impression – climb some steps to find a pool flanked by crooked trees, loungers on manicured grass and dining tables in prime position for admiring picture-perfect vistas over a glass of wine. Breakfast is included, and you can grab a bite to eat at the snack bar before venturing down to the wilderness-fringed Pasa Beach for sunbathing and dips in the sea.
Cobblestone walls and concrete steps set with potted plants carve their way through picturesque plant life to the entrance of the Aliki Hotel. Inside, elegant rooms feature tufted leather sofas, floral art and balconies shaded by frilled awnings – a perfect spot for admiring the far-reaching sea views over a morning coffee. Jutting out over thick woodland, the outdoor pool is lined by sleek white loungers and overlooked by the bar’s rustic tables where you can indulge in lip-tingling margaritas and tuck into classic Greek cuisine.
More than an island, Ikaria is a way of life. A vacation on the island where people forget to die is an enlightening experience. Take part in a traditional panygiri, where the whole village comes together for a night of celebration, relax at the beach and enjoy some coffee with your friends.
Getting there: 11 hours by ferry from Piraeus, €38.50 (£35) one way
Cavos Bay Hotel and Studios, set on a weather-beaten rock face that pierces the Aegean Sea in Ikaria, blends seamlessly with its Arcadian surroundings. Its sun-yellow facade peeks out from behind gnarled trees and vibrant pink flora, while a wall resembling ancient ruins borders the two seawater pools. Rooms are simple and decorated in deep-ocean blues and sandy tones – fitting surrounds to wake up to with waves crashing in the background. Soak up the sun on your private veranda before heading down to the breakfast buffet to indulge in locally sourced fare and endless views of the sea.
Kerame Studios and Apartments is a beautiful property that cascades down the hillside in Ikaria. The hotel sticks to a Grecian colour palette with blue loungers and handrails, and window shutters that resemble the Mediterranean Sea combined with cooling white walls. Housed in an on-site windmill, Mylos Restaurant includes a twisting staircase leading to snug nooks – a romantic setting to tuck into seasonal dishes and Ikarian wine. Unwind with a refreshing swim in the pool, or stroll down past vegetable gardens and trickling streams to the beach.
Part of the Dodecanese archipelago, hourglass-shaped Astypalaia is sequestered away in the southeastern Aegean Sea. Its picture-postcard architecture speckles the hills with fresh white and blue; spend your days getting lost down its labyrinth of narrow alleyways. Overlooking the island is Querini Castle, a Venetian reminder of bygone eras that draws the bulk of rarely seen tourists, while a host of secluded beaches offer peaceful respite in contrast to the heaving sands of the more well-known islands.
Getting there: Around 7 hours 50 minutes by ferry from Piraeus, €41 (£37.20) one way
Wrapped in vines, the chalk-white Maganas Hotel is a slice of bucolic escapism. It sits steps from the beach, borrowing elements from its coastal environment for natural decor – think baskets overflowing with beachcombed coral, shells stuffed with succulents and arty sand-filled bottles. The apartment-style studios include kitchenettes with kettles and a mini-fridge, but if you don’t consider yourself much of a cook, there is a traditional restaurant next door. Don’t leave without exploring the narrow alleys and striking Venetian castle in nearby Astypalaia town.
The Aelia Apartments and Suites injects a playful splash of colour to its classic whitewashed walls with vibrant shutters, rails and awnings on each building. Cradled in the valley of Agios Vasileios, the hotel is surrounded by billowing tamarisk trees, ancient ruins and pebble beaches, promising miles of enchanting landscape to discover. When you’re not launching yourself off craggy cliff edges into the sea, you’ll find respite in one of the suites or apartments (decorated in mint greens, sun yellows or candy reds to match its exterior). All are air-conditioned and include flat-screen TVs, fully equipped kitchens and a private balcony or courtyard.
A favourite among Greek travellers and international visitors, Hydra, with its laid-back vibe and car-free lanes, is perfect for a relaxing getaway. Since cars are prohibited, all exploration has to be done on foot, saving travellers some euros in the long run. The island has various hiking trails, which connect the main town to some of the best beaches on the island.
Getting there: 1 hour 30 minutes by ferry from Piraeus, €28.50 (£25.90) one way
The Achilleas Pension resides in a traditional mansion on the postcard-worthy island of Hydra. A short amble from the beach and port, the hotel features a rooftop terrace where you can take in 360-degree views of the glittering harbour and rugged mountains. Old-worldly rooms with periwinkle-blue doors are dressed in frilly table covers and floral art and range from cosy singles to sprawling apartments. They all wrap around the flowery courtyard in the heart of the hotel, its secluded setting peppered with lush plant life fountaining out of terracotta pots and set with tables for evening libations under the stars.
Hotel Angelica exudes historical elegance. Enclosed in rose-tinted sandstone walls, archways lead you past balconies with cream-coloured filigree railings and a plant-fringed garden filled with pillowy loungers and a Jacuzzi. Rooms are named after Greek gods and goddesses. Afroditi adds glamour with ornate white-framed mirrors and floral duvets, while crimson drapes and candelabra-style lamps are found in the Poseidon. Meanwhile, the Muses and Apollo family suite spoils you with a Jacuzzi tub.
The birthplace of many of Greece’s famous poets, Sifnos is a joy to discover. With beautiful beaches, cute little villages and no fewer than 227 magnificent churches on its soil, it is truly a place to appreciate. A major pottery hub, the island has a few ceramics workshops worth visiting, where visitors may even take pottery lessons to create a unique memento.
Getting there: 5 hours 50 minutes by ferry from Piraeus, €36 (£32.70) one way
High on the hillside in Cherronisos, the Romanza has enviable views over winding roads and a shrub-punctured valley to the endless sea beyond. The building is set in a pocket of wilderness, with many hiking trails in the area. While away the hours working on your tan at the golden beach below, and when night falls, treat yourself to a delicious meal in its restaurant.
Set on the slopes of Sifnos, the Venikouas Hotel is a cluster of whitewashed buildings that house stripped-back rooms. Each is kept minimal and air-conditioned to prevent overheating under the sweltering Grecian sun, while French doors open onto balconies that overlook the white-speckled hills and calm bay. There is also a fridge to keep your evening tipples chilled and a television for rare rainy (or lazy) days. Also, the white sands of Platys Gialos Beach are within walking distance.
Tinos is best known for its striking white marble church, the Megalochari of Tinos, which attracts numerous worshippers every year. Each summer, the quiet island comes alive with spiritual festivals that celebrate the Virgin Mary and include hearty feasts and traditional dances. Alongside its religious roots and idyllic villages, the island has an enchanting collection of hiking trails that splinter out past old windmills, ancient sites and long-forgotten monasteries and lead to surfer-friendly beaches.
Getting there: 3 hours 45 minutes by ferry from Rafina, Athens, €27 (£24.50) one way
The blue-white Cycladic architecture of the Galini Bungalows looks like a classic Greek postcard. Wander past electric-blue pots sprouting bright bougainvillaea vines and flower beds bursting with cherry-red flora to find airy bungalows decked out with fully equipped kitchens and large verandas. The daily continental breakfast includes freshly squeezed orange juice and is the perfect prelude to a day exploring the seaside stretch of Kionia – once thought to be protected by the god of the sea, Poseidon, and his wife, Amphitrite.
Akti Aegeou’s giant palm trees, cube-style buildings and geometric pool are a slice of Greek paradise. The hotel’s collection of studios, apartments and suites dot the shores of Laouti Beach, each simply decorated with azure accents and seashell art. Every room has a balcony with outdoor furniture so that you can take in the sunset over evening bubbles, while suites have sofa beds and enough space to swing a beach towel or two. Grab a refreshing drink from the poolside bar, and recline under straw umbrellas on the hotel’s private beach.
Alonissos is home to the National Marine Park of Alonissos Northern Sporades, a natural sanctuary for marine life such as dolphins and the rare Mediterranean monk seal. The island is a treasure trove of natural delights, including rugged coves along its coastline, along with olive groves, orchards and dense pine forests farther inland. Ruins from a Neolithic settlement have also been found on its hillsides, suggesting it was among the first Aegean Islands to be inhabited.
Getting there: 2 hours 10 minutes by ferry from Skiathos, €11 (£10) one way
With a facade flanked by lion statuettes, a bucolic garden and a mural of a blissful beach scene, the family-run Gorgona Hotel knows how to make a memorable first impression. A skip and a jump from the beach of Rousoum Gialos, the hotel is ideally placed if you’re looking to split your time between exploring coves, orchards and cliffs by day and tucking into succulent seafood in one of the beachfront tavernas by night. The budget-friendly rooms include snug family studios and studios with a kitchenette and balcony.
The Agnanti Hotel calls the natural haven of Alonissos home, embedded on the hillside facing the Aegean Sea and just a short drive from the island’s National Marine Park. Discover a wealth of marine creatures snorkelling the park’s glassy depths before returning to the hotel, where whimsical decor includes a collection of coral and shell-strung fishing nets. In the rooms, swan-shaped towels sit romantically on beds, while the tiled floor and furnished balconies help keep the spaces airy and cool.