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.