Greek Islands

The Greek islands are among Europe’s most fascinating cruise destinations. It’s home to sensational white sugar-cube villages, gorgeous beaches, engaging taverns, and the sun-baked ruins of ancient civilizations.

A cruise is a perfect way to experience the best in Greece. This allows you to make a trip from island to island without worrying about ferry timetables and hotel reservations. However, not all Greek island cruises are created equal.

Famous islands such as Santorini and Mykonos star on the itineraries of all the leading cruise lines. But even though they are beautiful places to visit, they can be overrun with day-trippers during summer. 

Bigger ships will almost be tendered ashore while visiting small islands. A small cruise ship may allow you to visit the smaller, quieter islands that the big ships can’t reach.

These are places where you can have a tour of beaches and stunning ruins almost to yourself.

Most Greek island cruises are more likely to make a round-trip itinerary from Athens. But you’ll also find voyages that combine Greece with Italy, Croatia, and the Adriatic, using Venice or Rome as turnaround spots.

Some voyages include the Holy Land or pass through the Middle East during a re-positioning cruise. At the same time, others include ports on the Aegean coast of Turkey. Some even have voyages beginning or ending in the magnificent city of Istanbul.

The season usually runs from May to October, with July and August as the busiest and hottest time to visit. 

Each island has its appeal, whether you’re interested in history, cuisine, beaches, or nature. And here are the islands in Greece that you can visit during your cruise:

Athens

With a population of 3.7 million, Athens became the capital city of Greece.

It is the birthplace of Classical Greece and Western civilization. The design of the city is influenced by Byzantine, Ottoman, and Roman cultures.

Today, Athens is by far the economic, political, and cultural center of Greece. It is also home to about half of the country’s population.

This magnificent city is in the center of Mt Parnitha, Mt Ymettos, and Mt Pendeli. Inside the historical hills of Athens, you can find the Acropolis, Areopagus, Hill of Philopappus, Muses Hill, Pnyx, Lycabettus, and Anchesmus.

The Acropolis and Lycabettus are the most prominent ones. These hills provide a hideaway from the noise and commotion of the crowded city streets. It also offers magnificent views down to the Saronic Gulf, which forms part of the Aegean Sea. 

The streets of Athens have Greek and English signposts. It merges with Piraeus, the city’s ancient and still bustling port.

Places of interest to travelers can be found within the small area surrounding the city center at Syntagma Square.

Also known as Plateia Syntagmatos, the square is surrounded by Omonia’s districts to the northwest, Kolonaki to the northeast, Monastiraki and Thissio to the west, and Plaka to the south.

Santorini

Santorini is the supermodel among the Greek islands. It is a head-turner whose face is recognizable around the world.

Santorini boasts multicolored cliffs that ascend out of a sea-drowned caldera, topped by drifts of whitewashed buildings.

With its stunning panoramas, volcanic-sand beaches, and romantic sunsets, it’s not surprising that the island is featured on so many travelers’ bucket lists. Santorini hosts two million tourists every year.

Also known as Thira, Santorini is part of the Cyclade island. It also encompasses a volcanic enclave that sits in the Aegean Sea, roughly halfway between Athens and Crete.

Santorini’s commercial development is focused on the caldera-edge clifftops on the west of the island. With its large clusters of whitewashed buildings nesting at dizzying heights, it spills down cliffsides and offering gasp-inducing views from land or sea.

Fira, the island’s busy capital, ramble north into villages called Firostefani, which takes 15 minutes on foot. Meanwhile, Imerovigli, the highest point of the caldera edge, is about 30 minutes by foot from Fira.

A passage running through these villages is lined with hotels, restaurant terraces, and endless photo opportunities. These three conjoined settlements (Fira, Firostefani, and Imerovigli) draw the most visitors.

Mykonos

Mykonos is the party animal of the Greek islands. It is Greece’s answer to Ibiza, with bronzed bodies thronging its beaches by day and basslines pounding through its superclubs until dawn.

But there’s more to Mykonos than the dazzling sand and insatiable revelers.

Whether you’re looking for a tiny and secluded cove lapped by the cerulean waters, or a vast stretch of sugar-white sand covered with sun worshippers, Mykonos has a beach to suit your needs.

The island has 25 beaches, to be precise, and they are Mykonos’ biggest natural attraction.

On the north coast, you’ll see Panormos and Agios Sostis, where they boast naturist-friendly sections. Meanwhile, you can reach Pebbled Myrsine and Fokos coves via scalloped tracks off the northeast coast. They offer solitude from the crowds.

In the southwest, Ornos is fluttered with dozens of seafront restaurants, while secluded Agios Ioannis is an ideal spot for windsurfing.

On the west side of the island, you can find the tiny capital Hora, Mykonos’ second-biggest attraction. You can lose yourself for hours in the enchanting warren of narrow pedestrian streets embellished with bougainvillea and lined with picture-perfect, tiny churches, restaurants, and boutiques.

The Archeological Museum is well worth your while, too, as is the Aegean Maritime Museum.

Rhodes

Rhodes is one of the largest and most abundant islands in Greece. It is also one of the most visited islands because it combines beaches, archaeological sites, and extensive medieval town.

The climate is particularly good, with its typically sunny and mild weather. Although it’s treated separately because of its importance to travelers, the island is counted as one of the Dodecanese.

The rock-rose is so abundant here that it has been named the “Island of Roses.” However, modern scholars doubt that the ancient theory of the island’s name comes from the Greek word for rose.

While the coast in the north is known for its lively tourist resorts, the south offers serene beaches and a slower, more simple pace of life.

Rhodes is one of the major tourist attractions if you’re looking for sunny beaches. While many of its beaches are gravel, not sand, the island still boasts 300+ sun days in a year. 

You will stumble into hotels and beaches full of deck chairs for rent, and shops and restaurants that cater to tourists a lot of times. It can be overwhelming at times, so skip this place if you do not like crowded areas. 

Still, there are some places in Rhodes where mass tourism has not yet penetrated too much. And there are advantages also, as accommodation on Rhodes itself can be purchased for a low price. 

Most of the locals here speak at least English and German and often some French, Italian, Swedish, Turkish, and even Finnish.

Corfu

Corfu is one of the most beautiful and romantic islands of the Ionian Islands group.

Featuring abundant green hills, large mansions, idyllic beaches, and interesting museums, this island has everything it takes to please any traveler.

Strongly influenced by English, Venetians, and the French, Corfu is an excellent base for exploration.

Get lost in the narrow cobblestone alleys know as the “kandounia,” visit the Museum of Asian Art, walk down the famous Liston promenade, or stroll around the vast Spianada square.

The whole Corfu town squeezes out a nostalgic charm.

Moving away from the town of Corfu, you’ll discover stunning seaside villages, tiny verdant islets, luxurious resorts, and wild natural landscapes. It’s amazing how the different sides of this idyllic island coexist in harmony.

The beaches in Glyfada, Dassia, Kontokali, Paleokastritsa, and Kavos are also must-visits. Snuggled in sandy coves, surrounded by green forests and mountains, they are some of the best beaches in Greece.

Sightseeing is one of the best things to do in Corfu. The top places to visit in Corfu are the Achillion Palace and Mon Repos Palace. The latter is where Prince Phillip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, was born. It is also the former retreat of Princess Sissi of Austria.

Corfu is also famous for one thing in particular: it’s food.

Based on meat, fish, pasta, and herbs, the island’s gastronomy will excite those who love good food. The excellent Corfu restaurants and traditional taverns are the best places to taste the local delicacies.

Crete

Crete is the biggest of all Greek islands located οn the southern side of the Aegean Sea. Its beauty, though, is even bigger than its size.

The scene is enthralling with natural beauty meeting rich culture and worldwide famous gastronomy, creating the most beautiful holiday paradise.

The island is separated into four regions: Heraklion, Chania, Rethymno, and Lassithi.

The regions of Chania and Heraklion are some of the most significant towns in Crete, which boast a magnificent medieval architecture.

To start with, Crete beaches are out of this world. Surrounded by verdant nature, they have magical waters covering all the shades of blue and sugar-fine sand.

The Balos, Vai, and Elafonisi beaches are some of the most scenic Crete beaches. Lay under the sun, feel the water gently lapping at your feet, gaze out to the endless sea, take a dip into the paradise waters. Visiting the best beaches in Crete is a bucket list experience.

The mythical island is one of the most famous Greek destinations. Thanks to its fantastic beaches and amazing historical sites like the Knossos Palace and Spinalonga Islet, and its mesmerizing natural landscapes.

Honestly, wandering around their warren of romantic alleys will make you feel as if you’ve traveled back in time.

Crete is, hands down, one of the most magical Greek islands.

Piraeus

Located 10 kilometers southwest of central Athens, Piraeus is dazzling in its scale. Its seemingly endless docks are filled with ferries, ships, and speedboats.

It is the biggest port in the Mediterranean, where more than 20 million passengers pass through the core of the Aegean ferry network. It is also the center of Greece’s maritime trade and the base for its large merchant navy. 

Although it is a city, it melds into the Athens recline, with close to half a million people living in the greater area.

Populated and congested, central Piraeus is not a place where visitors usually choose to linger.

The most beautiful part of Piraeus lies east around Zea Marina, Pasalimani and Mikrolimano harbors. The latter is lined with cafes, restaurants, and bars filled with Athenians, locals, and visitors.

The islands are the main characteristic of Greece’s framework and an integral part of its culture and tradition.

Greek sovereign land includes 6,000 islands and islets all along the Aegean and Ionian Seas, of which only 227 islands are occupied.

Greece’s coastline offers an abundant landscape such as beaches stretching over many kilometers. It also boasts dark-colored sand typical of volcanic soil, protected bays and coves, and coastal caves with steep rocks.

This makes the Greek islands a unique phenomenon for the European continent.