Greek Islands Holidays
Greek Island Holidays – Richly varied and wonderfully romantic
Zorba the Greek, Shirley Valentine, Mamma Mia: for every generation there’s a classic film celebrating the idea of escaping to the Greek islands and falling in love, not only with another person but with life itself. Visit a few of the islands yourself and you’re bound to agree: there’s something about a Greek island holiday that brings out an inner happiness in each of us.
The Greek islands are well known as a great place to enjoy a classic holiday in the sun: long sandy beaches, clear water and days of near-guaranteed warm sunshine are reason enough for millions to fly out to some of the thousands of islands scattered around the edge of the Greek mainland.
Yet there is much more to draw visitors here beyond the chance of lazing the day away in beautiful surroundings. The Greek islands offer fabulous opportunities for adventure sports, nature spotting, learning about Greek cuisine and exploring the unparalleled wealth of ancient Greek history.
The Greek islands are spread over a wide expanse of the Mediterranean. Corfu in the north west is within sight of Albania and only 60 miles from Italy; Crete in the south is less than 200 miles from North African coast; while less than 5 miles separate Kos and Samos in the east from the Turkey and the mainland of Asia.
Across such a great distance comes an incredible diversity of holiday options. On mountainous islands such as Crete you can be in chilly highland pine forests and then swimming in the sea less than an hour later. On other islands you might leave behind a busy beach resort and within minutes be hiking on an old Byzantine footpath. On others still you might learn to windsurf while your partner tries their hand at making the super-sweet baklava.
Greece is of course awash with ancient sites and it’s no surprise that the country has more archaeological museums than anywhere else in the world. From the Palace of Knossos in Crete to the important sanctuary of Delos and the spectacular acropolis on Rhodes, wherever you turn you are not far from a reminder that this was once the centre of a thriving civilisation.
While major sites such as Delos or the buried city of Akrotiri on Santorini attract large tour groups from the visiting cruise ships, visit many other sites on the Greek islands and you’ll have the entire site to yourself.
For those who like their holidays on the more active side the Greek islands offer many great options. Sea kayaking and sailing lessons are available around many of the islands, while diving and snorkelling is extremely popular in the clear warm waters of the Aegean.
Islands such as Naxos are crossed by many miles of walking trails with horse riding also an option in many places. Choose your level of preferred activity and there will be an active holiday to suit you.
Food is guaranteed to be a highlight of a holiday on the Greek islands. With an emphasis on simple dishes made from the freshest ingredients, even the most nervous eater will find reassuring familiarity on offer within the average Greek menu.
Look out for the meze, a selection of many dishes that come without end to your table, allowing you to sample many examples of Greek cuisine over a leisurely evening. Dips made with aubergine, cucumber, chickpeas and garlic can be found across the Greek islands, but each region will also have its own specialities, linked to their islands’ traditional harvests. Olive oil is everywhere; hardly surprising given that Greece is the world’s third largest producer of olives.
And when you’re done with eating, don’t be surprised when the waiter offers you a glass of the local tipple – it might be raki or ouzo (both anise-flavoured drink, although the latter is generally more agreeable to the unseasoned drinker); it might be Kitron, a citrus-based drink popular in the Cyclades; these drinks are complementary and an example of the typically warm hospitality found around these parts.
Although Mamma Mia and the other films are fictional stories it is no accident that they were set on the Greek islands. Spend a week or two out there and you may find the islands work their magic on you too as you embrace a philosophy and a way of life that has survived for thousands of years.
When to go to
Holidays to the Greek Islands in early and late season will find very quiet beaches and a blissfully relaxed atmosphere. Spring is the perfect time to explore scenic islands like Kefalonia and Crete. You can expect lots of warm sunshine when the season begins in earnest in May. Town resorts on Corfu and Crete are rewarding in the low-season.
For the liveliest nightlife you should travel in July or August. June is a lovely optimistic time to arrive. September and October are exceptionally laid-back. If you hope to do some walking and touring we recommend avoiding the heat of peak summer.
The weather in the Greek Islands
Beautiful beach holiday weather from May through to October. Summers are hot and dry. Expect long days of uninterrupted sunshine and temperatures of at least 30º. July and August may see several days with temperatures in the mid-to-high 30’s. Romantically warm summer evenings see everyone eating and drinking outside.
Spring weather is ideal for holidays combining beach relaxation with walking and excursions. Temperatures are in the low 20’s as early as April. Sea temperatures remain beautifully warm into early autumn. Sunbathing weather typically continues into October. Winter sees plenty of sunshine but it can be chilly out of the sun and cold at night.
Getting the best deal
Search early to ensure the widest choice of accommodation options. We frequently offer early booking discounts. Many of the cheapest package holidays to the Greek Islands are found on Corfu, Crete, Kos and Rhodes. Some of the smaller islands have a more exclusive feel and higher prices. Avoid the school summer holidays if you possibly can. June and September are often quite a bit cheaper than July and August.
The real bargains are found in quiet holiday periods like May and September/October. Our current best deals and late deals frequently feature holidays to Greece.
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Travel preparations for a holiday to the Greek Islands
Here are some additional useful tips to help you plan your holiday to the Greek Islands
- The time in the Greek Islands is 2 hours ahead of the UK
- Average flight time from the UK to the Greek Islands is 4 hours.
- The local currency is the Euro
- The official local language is Greek. Basic English is widely understood in restaurants and hotels. Menus almost always have English translations.
- Eating out is inexpensive. A good meal out might cost 10-15 euros. Prices vary considerably from island to island and resort to resort. Upmarket islands like Santorini will obviously be more expensive than budget holiday favourites like Kos. Eating out at lunchtime is often cheaper than the evening. Typical street snacks like souvlaki are cheap. Drinks are reasonably priced and bars open until very late.
- A typical Greek taverna provides plenty of options for vegetarians. Salads are great. You can also buy tasty picnic snacks and wonderful cheese pies in a typical Greek corner store or bakery.
- The Greeks eat late. Locals have lunch at 3pm and dine at 10pm. Resorts cater to British tastes and habits.
- Holidays to the Greek Islands do not require visas or vaccinations