Scattered across the Aegean and Ionian Seas, the Greek islands take up 7,500 of the 16,000 kilometers of the country’s coastline. Out of this gargantuan number of islands, between 160 and 227 are inhabited. Among these, only 53 have a population of more than 1,000 inhabitants and in the remaining lot, 95 have less than 100. To make things easier, the Greek islands are divided into smaller clusters.
It is likely you’ve all heard of the most popular island group, the Cyclades islands, home to about 220 islands. Famous across the world for its typical architecture, the Cyclades are in the center of the Aegean Sea and include Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, Milos and Ios, among the most popular. But the cluster includes smaller, lesser-known islands equally as beautiful and definitely cheaper and more authentic, such as Serifos, Tinos, Folegandros, Syros and the exotic-looking islands of Schinoussa and Koufonisia.
Next, there are the islands of Dodecanese comprised of 150 small islands and islets and 15 larger ones off the coast of Turkey. And for those of you who have some linguistic knowledge, the name “Dodecanese” does mean “Twelve Islands”, which was used to indicate an island group in the southeastern Aegean Sea, comprising of actually the 15 (don’t ask) following islands: Agathonisi, Astypalaia, Chalki, Kalymnos, Karpathos, Kasos, Kastellorizo, Kos, Leipsi, Leros, Nisyros, Patmos, Rhodes, Symi, and Tilos as well as 93 smaller islets. But the region includes other idyllic islands such as Alimia, Farmakonisi, Gyali, Marathos, Nimos, Pserimos, Saria and Telendos, all worth exploring if you are looking for unspoiled shores, relaxing beaches and coves and tranquil villages.
Another popular cluster of islands is the Ionian, located in the Ionian Sea, between Greece and Italy. Traditionally called the Heptanese, “the Seven Islands”, the Ionian group includes a series of smaller islands next to the seven larger ones. They boast a different cultural heritage since they were never occupied by Ottoman Empire but rather bear Italian influences due to the Venetian rule. The six northern islands, namely Corfu, Lefkada, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Ithaka and Paxi, are off the west coast of Greece, in the Ionian Sea while Kythira lies off the southern tip of the Peloponnese.
Closer to the mainland, the Saronic Islands or Argo-Saronic Islands include Salamis, Aegina, Agistri, and Poros, Hydra and Dokos. Due to their proximity to the mainland and the Attica region, many Greeks have vacation homes on the Saronic islands, which are easily connected to Piraeus and the Peloponnese.
The Sporades, consists of 24 islands scattered along the east coast of Greece, in the Aegean Sea. Out of the 24, four are permanently inhabited: Alonnisos, Skiathos, Skopelos and Skyros.
The North Aegean islands, also known as the Northeast Aegean islands, are a group of islands located in the northern part of the Aegean Sea and the Thracian Sea. The cluster includes islands in the northeastern Aegean Sea and along the Turkish coast such as Samos, Ikaria, Chios, Lesbos, Lemnos, Agios Efstratios, Psara, Fournoi Korseon (or simply Fourni), Oinousses and the islands in the far north, Samothrace (Samothraki) and Thasos.
Finally, the islands of Crete at the southern edge of the Aegean Sea and the island of Evia (Euboea), off the mainland are the country’s first and second largest islands and boast splendid nature and a unique culture of their own.
So, which island do you want to visit next?