Some stats on the isles of Greece. Though a good many of us think only of the holy quintet of Crete, Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos and Rhodes, the country contains a prodigious 6,000 islands. Not Indonesia, not the Philippines but still, impressive in the pantheon of world archipelagos.
Oia, Santorini – Photo credit
Now, of the thousands of islands in the Aegean, Ionian and Myrtoan seas, a wee percentage have any human settlements of note. In fact, the figure comes in at about 1%. That still gives prospective tourists a bundle of options beyond the oft-trodden, usual suspects. By our math, about 20 under the radar (or under the radar-ish) islands, to be exact. Check ‘em out before you give Greece a go.
The Saronic Islands are just off the Greek mainland in the Saronic Gulf, close to the port of Piraeus and hotels in Athens.
While Hydra’s 2,200 or so populace subsists largely on tourism, visitors lean heavily towards Greek nationals and Athenians in particular. The deliberate lack of cars is a big plus.
Tiny, 58 km south of Piraeus (read: super convenient) and with 4,300 permanent residents, Poros is a lovely island haven.
Salamis, the most inconspicuous of the Saronics (close to 40,000 people live on the island), is woefully short on foreign tourists. Perhaps the 16 km proximity to Athens is the reason why. Forget about that, however, and get lost amid a treasure trove of superb points of interest.
The Sporades are in the Aegean Sea, northeast of the more numerous and prominent Cyclades chain.
Home of fecund almond, fig, grape and olive agriculture and the pristine Alonissos National Marine Park.
A necklace of sandy coast is the indubitable main event on Skiathos.
Stay at Stelios Studios Skiathos Island.
While problematic to classify the set of Mamma Mia and holiday home of U.S. celebrity chef Cat Cora as “under the radar”, the archaeological heritage of Skopelos too often gets short shrift.
The millennia-old Byzantine Monastery of Saint George is worth the trip to Skyros alone.
Home to ever-popular Corfu, the Ionian Islands dot the west coast of Greece and climb as high as Albania.
Native Greeks have been hip to Elafonisos’ myriad charms for ages. Decamp to the extreme south of the Peloponnese peninsula for a look-see.
The idyllic island home of Ulysses is epic.
Egremni Beach, Lefkada – Photo credit
A causeway connects Lefkada with mainland Greece but relatively few foreigners take advantage of the transport link to explore the wonderfully diverse island at large.
Stay at Villas Nousia Lefkada.
As mythology has it, Poseidon made Paxi by thrusting his trident at Corfu, so that he and wife Amphitrite could have a peaceful refuge. Nice.
The islands in the Dodecanese archipelago number about 164, all off the southwest coast of Turkey.
The southernmost island in the Aegean has less than 1,000 residents and gorgeous mountain scenery.
Like all Greek islands a short swim from the Turkish mainland, the cultural landscape and history of Kastelorizo is inherently fascinating.
An adorable island settlement south of busier Samos.
One good reason to visit Patmos? The “Historic Centre (Chorá) with the Monastery of Saint John and the Cave of the Apocalypse on the Island of Pátmos” UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Outstanding heritage architecture lines the coasts of this once-vibrant hub of sponge and ship production.
The Aegean’s Cyclades chain welcomes the bulk of tourists to Greece, with popular spots like Santorini, Mykonos, Ios and Naxos. Happily, plenty of under the radar alternatives abound.
The heart of Andros is the capital town of the same name, where the squares are brilliantly covered in marble.
Compared with the Red Bull and vodka infused adolescent nightlife of nearby Ios, tranquil Folegandros is a dream.
Antonio Vassilacchi, perhaps the most famous of all Greek painters, was born in Milos in 1556, when the island was part of the Venetian Empire.
Stay at Aeolis Hotel Milos Island
Paros monastery – Photo credit
Paros is a known Cyclades commodity, of course, and a somewhat regular haunt with EU visitors. Still, the scenic, hilly island has enough furtive corners in which to abscond.
Best rates on hotels in Greece.