There is something uniquely captivating about the islands of Greece. Perhaps it’s the history, a hotbed for the development of the western world we know today. So much history, religion, culture, technology, and philosophy come from Greece that we can’t help but be drawn to it. It’s a special place and a beautifully enchanting one. Each island feels as though it comes from another world—so pristine, clear, and blue. It’s hard to believe that something so sunny and perfect can really exist. But it can get overwhelming quick.
Greece has over 6,000 islands within the Mediterranean, between the Aegean and Ionian seas. It’s hard to believe but the islands of Greece are like an entire galaxy of worlds all floating about one another, each distinct from the other and yet familiar. Of course, there are more well-known islands, islands that a travel agent would recommend if you asked, but we’ve made this list to stand out. Those crowded tourist-ridden islands can steal away some of the pure beauty of Greece. The crowds can overwhelm you and evaporate the feelings of calm and serenity you’re supposed to experience out there. So this list is for those of you looking to break free of the typical islands, the paths well-worn, for those of you who want a taste of Greece that’s hard to come by, an old world experience. On this list, you’ll come across islands with only a handful of villages, with less than 1,000 permanent inhabitants. You’ll discover a part of Greece hidden from the rest of the world. So sit back because we can already smell that salty air and fresh seafood. Here’s our list of 20 Greek Islands So Isolated Even Your Travel Agent Won’t Tell You About Them.
It’s easy to get swept up in the beauty of Greece, but when it comes to visiting tourist-heavy islands, it can be overwhelming or can even feel cheap to be among the crowds filing in from the ferries and airstrips and crowding the beaches and local villages.
Amorgos offers some of the old world flavors of Greece without the new world crowds of international tourism. One of the most spectacular aspects of this island is the sheer rock faces that line on the coast and face out into the brilliantly blue Aegean Sea.
It’s there that you’ll find the Monastery of Hozoviotissa, a place so nice that it keeps a dress code for both men and women. But the view of the monastery against the rock face is worth the pants. There’s also a nice winding path to a beach just below it. The town of Amorgos Chora has the dreamy essence of the white and blue homes and tight streets that you come to know and love in the Cyclades but also has a distinct church which sits on a massive rock overlooking the town. In the same area, you’ll find the Venetian Gavras Tower which hosts an archaeological exhibit full of wonderful relics.
From the ship, you’ll think you’re somehow lost. Yes, you’ll still be floating along the beautiful Aegean Sea. You may ask the ship’s captain if you’re still in the western Cyclades, but you’ll still be sure you’re lost. That dry island up ahead seems to have whitecap mountains. Is that snow? It looks like it, but those are just the classical Greek-style whitewashed homes that litter the mountains of Serifos. The island is a local favorite among Athenians but relatively unknown to international travelers at large. This island provides everything you could want from an authentic laid-back trip to Greece, from local tavernas and fish markets to beautiful hikes and unforgettable beaches. The main beach of Serifos is an exquisite specimen of the deep crystal blue water and the gorgeous pebbles which cluster along the sea bed. You’ll feel as though you’ve stepped straight into a painting and won’t want to come back. The island was once famous for its mining sites, and visitors can still see them to this day. The hiking on the island includes hikes to the top of the main settlement, Chora, where you can see sprawling stairs and pathways as well as the mine shaft hikes. There are also nearly 100 Orthodox churches in Serifos that provide beautiful views of the surrounding areas.
On the easternmost edge of the Greek islands, further and more isolated than any other and closer to Turkey than the mainland Greece, sits the island of Kastellorizo. You’ll arrive via a port with a rectangular shape that gives this harbor a uniquely different look than any other Greek island.
Here, the water is so deeply blue that you’ll feel as if you’re floating on a swatch of oil paint. Because it’s so far from the rest of the islands of Greece, Kastellorizo remains relatively untouched by the tourism industry and holds a local population well under 1,000.
Traveling to Kastellorizo is considerably longer than most islands, but the trip is well worth it. One of the special treats about this remote island is the view. You can go hiking to the peaks overlooking the village nearly 400 steps up where an old monastery rests, and you can see the country of Turkey (quite a breathtaking experience). But the main attraction when visiting Kastllorizo has to be the Blue Grotto. Although difficult to reach (you need calm waters as the entrance is only a few feet), the Blue Grotto is one of the most spectacular sea caves in all of Greece. Once inside, you’ll find that the sunlight breaks through the water and illuminates it, a vibrant hypnotizing turquoise that really must be seen to be believed.
Leipsoi is a small cluster of islands at the northern part of the Dodecanese near to Patmos and Leros. This gives the area a beautiful array of bright blue and turquoise colors for the water and some dazzling sea life which you can encounter while snorkeling (this is an island we highly recommend you go to for snorkeling). If you’re lucky, you can even see some dolphins. The island cluster is such a beautiful source of nature that the European Union has listed the area as part of the Natura network for its environmental significance. But the stunning water and sea life aren’t the only mainstays of Leipsoi. This is also one of the better islands to visit for red wine. There was a time early in the 20th century when the red wine of Leipsoi was so popular among travelers that it was actually shipped to the Vatican itself and used in Holy Masses. Wine is such a staple in Leipsoi that if you’re a fan of red wine, you should time your trip around August when the local residents host a 3-day festival just to celebrate wine. In the summer, you can also see some amazing theater productions and art exhibits.
Alonissos rests off the eastern coast of Greece in the Aegean Sea. It is the most isolated of the islands in the group known as the Northern Sporades, an archipelago which consists of 24 islands, 4 of which have a permanent population. You can reach this island by ferries or hydrofoils that typically dock in the capital town of Patitiri. Patitiri is a port town that provides a beautiful first taste of the island with its stone-paved waterfront. Known in ancient times for its wine,
Alonissos has many sprawling vineyards, orchards, and olive groves. There are also scenic pine forests that surround the island and are perfect for taking a stroll through.
Patitiri is located towards the south, but towards the north is the old capital known as Old Village where you’ll find a stunning medieval castle. Another interesting attraction on Alonissos has to do with its cave systems and agreeable Mediterranean climate. The island is home to one of Europe’s largest marine wildlife preserves known simply as the National Marine Park. It is here that you can view rare seabirds and dolphins in their natural habitat as well as the Mediterranean monk seal, a threatened species which makes a home on the island.
The island of Delos is situated in the center of the island cluster known as the Cyclades. It’s in the south of Athens and named for the shape of the islands forming a circular shape around the storied island. However, Delos isn’t the only island worth visiting in the Cyclades. While there are a number of islands to see, Milos makes our list because it’s one of the lesser-known islands in the Cyclades, but just as beautiful, which makes it all the more appealing. The beaches are pristine and the water is crystal blue. Once used as a station for pirates and smugglers, you can now visit the caves carved into the white rock of Kleftiko or Sarakiniko and see firsthand what it was like living as a pirate in the ancient Mediterranean. In Milos’ ancient port, there are cave-like structures carved into the rock and used for storing boats surrounding the area and have been converted into mesmerizing holiday homes for visitors and travelers. For history enthusiasts, stop by Plaka where you’ll find the Catholic church of Panagias of Rodon or the vibrant all-white Panagias Thalassitra. You can also go climbing in this area and explore the ancient ruins. Plaka also has wonderful cafes and restaurants.
Symi makes our list as the perfect alternative for those who want to travel to the island of Rhodes but prefer a quieter laid-back Greek experience. Rhodes is one of the better-known islands to the south, nearly the farthest from the mainland of Greece, but Symi is still a part of Rhodes' regional unit and the Dodecanese island chain.
When you arrive in Symi by boat, you’ll find a scene pulled straight from a painting–an array of colorful houses built into the cliff side, quaint and untouched by time.
There aren’t as many activities in Symi aside from the obvious trips to the beach and the wonderful hikes, but because of its size, everything you could need is within a reasonable distance. The main town is divided into two parts, the harbor side called Gialós and the slopped hills of the village, Chorió. The calm and peace aren’t knocks on this island, but there is one event held in the small village of Pedi in August that you can attend if you’re looking for some excitement and a truly remarkable Greek experience. It’s the folk festival of the monastery of Panagia Altheini. There’s also a scenic walk through a cypress forest which will take you to some reconstructed wine presses.
When you travel to Sifnos by ferry, you’ll arrive to their small quaint port of Kamares and you’ll catch a whiff of something sizzling. The fresh sea air has slowly receded from your senses and this new warmer scent is pulling you along the shops and markets along the coast. It’s the smell of seafood sizzling in oil. And no matter where you are on Sifnos, this island is perhaps the most delicious in all of the Cyclades and a must for those yearning to experience the exotic and delectable flavors of Greece without having to wait in long lines or pay tourist-sized bills. And after lunch or dinner, have some of the island's famous honey, cinnamon, or almond pastries that will leave you in the perfect food coma for resting out on the beach. The living here is cheap and so close to so many major ports you’ll find that a majority of travelers are heading to other more famous islands, while Sifnos sits unassuming and waiting for those who crave a more down-to-earth Greek experience. And if cuisine isn’t your only purpose for traveling to the Greek islands (although it should definitely be at the top of the list), then Sifnos also offers some of the most remarkable pottery in all of Greece, second only to its food.
Kythnos, an island in the western Cyclades, is one of the lesser-known destinations on this list and an island that sees very little tourism. So this island, perhaps above all else, is one that your travel agent probably won’t know or even want to tell you about. This is for those of you looking for something truly secluded. The island has very little in way to tourist attractions. There are two settlements, Chora and Driopida, which are both small classic Greek settlements with steep winding roads that are restricted to foot traffic. Panagia Kanala is a beautiful Greek orthodox church set against the scenic landscape of Kythnos and perfect for taking pictures. There are also hikes, and although most do not have signs or posts, most of them are easy to navigate.
Because of the lack of a tourism industry, you’ll have no problem finding peace and solitude on one of the island's 70 beaches, many of which cannot be accessed by road.
Kolona beach is probably the most iconic of the island’s beaches and a unique geographical feature worthy of checking out. The island also has a stunning cave known as Katafyki Cave, as well as some local hot springs.
One of the islands closest to Greece and interestingly located at the back of the gulf of Agion Oros, the island of Ammouliani is a perfect tiny island getaway for those of you looking for some nice beaches. We emphasize beaches here because Ammouliani has some incredibly popular beaches for visitors to sunbath, dive, and swim in. All of the beaches on the island have been Blue Flag-certified, meaning they meet the strict standards set forth by the Foundation of Environmental Education for the maintenance of tourist beaches. The name derives from the Greek word for sand, so you know you can trust the beaches to be scenic and gorgeous. The most popular beach for swimming and for taking pictures is Alikesenjoy, but there is also the lovely Karagatsi, Porto Agio, Ai Giorgis, and the Megali Ammos if you want to tour all of the major beaches. All the beaches are maintained for heavy traffic, organized with umbrellas for tourists to lie out and relax under the Mediterranean sun. The main town is built all around the coastline with beautiful and well-maintained houses that feature gorgeous tiled roofs. We also recommend you take a small trip to the satellite island of Drenia for some more beach adventure.
Samothraki is one of the more northern islands on our list. In the Northern Aegean Sea and a municipality within the Evros regional unit of Thrace, this island is quietly becoming one of the more popular islands to visit for those looking for less-frequented islands in Greece. The island is mostly made up of lush mountain ranges. It is under this dense canopy, in the freckled shade of the leaves, that you can walk along the Fonias River where you climb over and around large boulders along the edge until you reach a thirty-foot waterfall which you can swim from.
This is one of the more scenic, beautiful things you can do on the island–laying out in the shade with the sound of running water easing you into a nice afternoon siesta.
For history buffs or those interested in seeing remnants of ancient Greece, there are the ancient ruins of Paleopoli or the most famous attraction on the island, the Sanctuary of the Great gods. In ancient times, the sanctuary housed one of the most secretive and mysterious religions of Greece. A number of prominent Greek figures were members, and the site of the sanctuary is well-preserved with a variety of fascinating aspects to explore.
When you step off the ferry and onto the small port on the island of Folegandros, you’ll feel as if you've sunken down into another time, lost in a different century. This is where the old Greece comes alive, an island frozen in time. There are no airstrips. It is not a destination for cruise ships.
Folegandros has maintained an unassuming air about it, an island untouched by heavy tourism. The medieval district of Kastro, with the charms of white-washed walls, tight living spaces, and walkways, seems to be one of the most distinctly Greek settlements in all of the Cyclades, the first image that comes to mind when thinking of classical Greece. In Ano Meria, there is the century-old Aspropounta lighthouse which is perfect to visit for pictures. Ano Meria also has a unique style of architecture that is different from the typical white and blue style on most Greek islands. Here, you will find the themonies-style home, a more rustic earth tone interior built so that the walls give the appearance of rock face. The Panagia church is probably the most visited stop for travelers on the island, but there are so many Greek-inspired activities on this island from beaches and hikes to Greek cuisine and boating that you’ll be glad you stepped off the beaten path to avoid the crowds.
The municipality of Meganisi rests on the southeast of the larger island of Lefkada. Unlike most of the Greek islands which reside to the east in the Aegean Sea, Meganisi is actually on the western side of mainland Greece, located just off the coast in the Ionian Sea. Like many of the islands on this list, you’ll want to visit Meganisi for the beaches, many of which are accessible by foot, but some need to be reached by a boat.
As far as seclusion goes, this is an island we don’t think many travel agents would be recommending to clients since there are only three villages on the entire island of Meganisi.
Of the three, we encourage you to stay in Vathy. This is the most picturesque town and has a dizzying array of small taverns and restaurants to dine on fresh seafood. Very few visitors come to Maganisi, but those who do typically arrive via a boat for the day and leave before night. If you chose to stay here overnight, you’ll have more time to explore a number of secluded coves on the island that many day visitors wouldn’t normally have time to see. You should also travel south of the island to explore the Papanikolis sea caves.
One of the southernmost islands, even south of the major island of Crete, in the Libyan sea, lies the small isolated island of Gavdos. It is even the southernmost part of Europe itself. Walk along cobblestone pathways, through a rich biodiversity of plant life and local fauna on your way to some of the most exotic beaches in the Mediterranean. The Sarakiniko and Agiannisbeaches have smooth, fine sand and shrubbery growing nearby where you can string up a hammock and lay out in the sun all day if you’re so inclined. Pine trees and perineal cedars litter the island. While there, we strongly encourage you to head south of south of Karave harbor and check out Tripiti beach. This is the southernmost point of both Europe and Gavos and is also home to the beautiful rock formations known as the Kamarelles, three natural archways over the water to the corner of the beach. You can climb these and soak in the amazing view or simply snap a photo of the beautiful white rock arching over the pristine water. As for where to eat on the island, we recommend the Theophilos Taverna, an easy walk from the Agios Ioannis beach.
At the heart of the Cyclades lies the beautiful little island of Antiparos, a lesser-known island with less tourism, but it is a favorite travel destination among the Hollywood elite. The first thing you should do when visiting Antiparos is head over to the old town and visit the Venetian castle. Like most Greek islands, Antiparos saw its share of pirates, and this fortified castle was built because of it. Still,
the old town has that classic Greek style that’s so alluring–white washed walls, blue doors, and narrowing winding walkways. Another unique draw to this island is the Cave of Antiparos. Like being in the belly of a whale, the sheer scale of the cave is overwhelming and breathtaking all at once.
Massive stalactites and stalagmites litter the cave's roof and floors, and stairs take you to multiple depths. But don’t worry, it’s not dark. The inside is illuminated with a soft golden glow. If you love the water (you better if you’re going to a Greek island), then Antiparos has a number of lovely bays you can visit. For an even more intimate swimming experience, explore the uninhabited island of Despotiko, just off of Antiparos’ shores where you’ll find plenty of uninhabited coasts, as well as some historic archaeological sites.
Where the Dodecanse meets the Cyclades, you’ll find the butterfly of the Aegean Sea known as Astypalaia. This alluring island has a flavor of its own among Greek islands. The remarkable capital and port of Chora lies on the western side of the butterfly’s wings. This is where you’ll see a town unlike any other, with whitewashed Greek houses nestled into the hill as it advances towards the sea, like a pile of seashells on the sand (Insta-worthy view right here). In Chroa, you’ll come across the castle on the hill, a beautiful structure with fortress-like walls surrounding it, but a lovely white dome poking up and above. The west, often referred to as the inner island, is where you’ll also find the small village of Livadia. It is here that’ll you come across a beautifully lush valley ripe with citrus groves and stunning vineyards, houses overflowing with colorful and exotic flowers, and a delightful view of the ocean (of course). Protected by another island, the area known as Vathy also has a lagoon-like setting for tourists to experience a unique and impressive body of water.
Off the western coast of Turkey is the stunning island of Chios, and to the south of Chios, just below the capital, is the small village of Pyrgi. What makes Pyrgi stand out among the other villages on Chios is not just its gorgeous medieval layout. The medieval style is a staple of the village’s unique flavor, and most of the buildings have remained intact, unharmed by earthquakes famous in the region.
What really makes Pyrgi unique is the style painted onto the majority of buildings in the area, a style known as Xysta. Xysta is a style of covering the white walls of the buildings in Pyrgi with geometric patterns in simple black or grey colors and cover the entire village with wonderfully unique art.
It’s truly a rare experience to walk along the narrow streets, under archways and vaults, and soak in this unique style. At the village’s center is a 60-foot tower with four smaller towers to denote the four corners. There are also a handful of beautiful churches to visit as well. Pygri is known as the traditional seat of the Mastic Villages. Mastic, or Arabic gum, is a resin obtained from the mastic tree and has a number of uses but is primarily used as an aromatic flavoring for chewing gum.
What makes Paxos so unique is that its isolation has in part made this island in the Ionian Sea a destination that people can't seem to visit just once in their life. Something about the island draws people back over and over again because they can’t get enough of its serene beauty. This is truly old Greece–boats moored in the harbor bobbing up and down with the gentle wake while fishers bring in their fresh catches and small quaint cottages that flicker under the spotted shade of the olive trees. The sun paints the island in a golden hue and you’ll find yourself in a peaceful trance. This is the kind of place where it’s actually more practical to travel by boat than it is by car, which helps the island maintain its old world feel.
Along the western coast, you’ll find towering limestone rock faces, gorgeous grottoes and caves, and crystal blue waters. The pebble beaches are just as stunning as any found on any other Greek island. Staying in the west, you’ll find the waterside bar and restaurant, Erimitis. There you’ll find a mesmerizing view of the sun dipping into the Mediterranean as you indulge on some of the freshest food the island has to offer. Another reason you’ll find yourself coming back to Paxos are the people. The locals are incredibly friendly and welcoming on this island.
Nisyros is one of the more beautiful islands in the Aegean Sea considering the lack of major tourism to the island. Another member of the Dodecanese island group, situated between Kos and Tilo,
this is a special entry on our list because Nisyros has something no other island on this list has: it’s an active volcano. Wait, it’s not as bad as you think. Although active, the last major eruption occurred over a hundred years ago and scientists closely monitor the activity on a daily basis.
So, if you’ve always wanted to see an active volcano, Nisyros is one of the most accessible in the world. In total, there are 10 geothermal craters you can visit while on the island. The volcanic activity also provides other unique opportunities. The island has a number of thermal springs which have accumulated from a combination of ground, salt, and rain water on the island. You can also visit the small village of Nikia which features a beautiful picturesque square and scenic views of the many craters on Nisyros, perfect for the photo album that’ll surely follow any trip to Greece. The village also has a museum where you can learn about all things volcano.
For the island of Ikaria, the resident motto seems to be something along the lines of "live and feel." Simple, sure. Obvious, perhaps. It sounds so obvious and yet so many of us find it so difficult to do either on a daily basis. The locals of this eastern island near the Turkish coast have seemingly found the secret fountain of youth on their tiny home. That’s because
the inhabitants on the island of Ikaria have life expectancy far greater than their European and American counterparts. 1 in 3 Ikarians will live into their nineties. That’s not only amazing but a testament to the importance of simply finding the time to live and feel on a regular basis.
And if you travel to this island, living and feeling are exactly what you’re going to be doing. The local culture is alive with vibrant energy with dancing, singing, games, and red wine. The locals here are all about leisure and ignoring those big circles full of numbers (we think they might be called clocks). When you travel to Ikaria, the stresses of the hustle and bustle that comes with Westernized living will melt away, and you will find yourself on an island untouched by time where your only worries will amount to whether or not you should take an evening dip after dinner.