Visit 6 of Greece's Hidden Islands
With only a fraction of its 6000 islands known to travellers, Greece is still one of the most under-explored places in Europe. A journey across any of these six islands will take you deep into Greece’s history and the lives of its people. They would be a treat for hikers, bird watchers, snorkelers and those who just want to relax and take it slow.
You may have heard of Milos without even knowing: the Venus de Milo was discovered here, in the village of Tripiti, in 1820. This horseshoe-shaped island is accessible via Athens and is 70 miles north of Crete. Milos itself feels a bit like going to the moon: white cliffs jutting at peculiar angles and volcanic coastal rock formations lend the place an otherworldly feel.
The volcano is still active, but that means that the island has hot springs that you can bath in. Perhaps the best of its 80 beaches is Sarakiniko, with twisted white rocks sprawling into a sparkling blue sea. There’s more to see underground, too: Milo’s catacombs, a labyrinth below the island, which date back to around the 1st-5th century. While you are there in Athens, why not see the Acropolis by helicopter to get a bird’s-eye view of this ancient monument, plus the city, Olympic Stadium and the Athenian coastline.
Want to feel like you are on a desert island? Dramatic cliffs with not a soul in sight are the order of the day here, the southernmost point in Europe. The island is 30 miles south of Crete, but to get here you can fly to Heraklion from there take a ferry from Hora Sfakion or Paleochora to Gavdos. While it doesn’t have a year-round restaurant, it does have its own radio station, Gavdos FM, which transmit from a hut with a tin roof.
Gavdos is renowned for its free camping, with small fires and camping permitted on the beach. Don’t miss Agiannis beach, rated as the second-best beach in the world by National Geographic in 2013. There’s more wildlife here than people, including the endangered Mediterranean monk seal and sea turtles. Where here you should visit the Aquarium and Reptile Rescue Centre, kids will love seeing the turtles and snakes.
Symi is the place the Greek jet-set don’t want you to know about. It’s not cheap, as you’ll see from the super-yachts lined up in its port. Neoclassical buildings flank the harbour town of Yialos, and every building in the town has been listed. Yet Symi still has rustic charm. The cobbled pathways and herds of cattle in the streets make it feel authentically Greek.
Symi gained its wealth from sponge fishing, and you can still see the copper helmets used by divers on display in the town. Do visit the 18th-century Venetian monastery of the Archangel Michael Monastery in Panormitis, which has the highest Baroque bell tower in the world. Located 12 miles north of Rhodes, off the coast of Turkey. If you are in Rhodes for some time visit Lindos, on the southeast of the island, as well as Rhodes Town, then don’t miss the chance to go snorkelling at the uncroweded St. Paul’s Bay.
It’s believed that thousands of years ago dwarf elephants roamed wild on this S-shaped island. You can check out their skeletons at the palaeontological museum in Megalo Chorio, the Tilos island capital, which is overlooked by the Knight’s Castle, a medieval fortress. Livadia, just a few miles away from here, is the port village. Go for a hike along the coastline, there are more than 400 species of herbs and flowers such as the Bonelli’s Eagles and Eleonora’s Falcons that call the island home; enough to keep birdwatchers occupied. A good way to see the island is on horseback, which allows you to trek along the beach and visit remote villages.
Located 21 miles east of Santorini, Anafi is a walker’s paradise, but that’s mainly because there’s actually only one road on the island and nowhere to rent a car. The island’s steep cliffs and hairpin walkways will certainly challenge even the most experience hikers, but Anafi’s unusual terrain also keeps tourists at bay. By day you can snorkel in the shimmering blue sea, or visit the monks in the ancient Zoodochos Pigi Monastery with its picturesque spire. For the best view of the justifiably, world-famous Santorni sunset, head to the west of the island for a drink at Palia Kameni cocktail bar.
You’ll have to get use to the life on Ikaria. Shops and restaurants have a relaxed attitude to opening hours, and the Ikarians can be found chatting and singing outside taverns until the early hours. In the village of Raches, the streets only start getting busy after sundown. The island is listed as one of Earth’s five ‘Blue Zones’ where people live longer lives. By day, hike over the rugged landscape, there are plenty of footpaths leading to waterfalls and rivers to go wild swimming in. You can access the island via Mykonos and is located 30 miles east of the Turkish coast. While in Mykonos visit Vioma Organic and Vineyard for wine tasting an unforgettable lunch made with the farm’s fresh produce.