If you really want a taste of some local charm, head to Symi, part of the Dodecanese Islands. Each year between July and September, the island puts on a festival featuring parades, gastronomical events, open-air music, dancing, religious ceremonies, and sporting events, among other activities. Symi is also known for sponge fishing and its colorful Neoclassical houses.
The island for beach lovers, Milos (also referred to as Mylos), is part of the Cyclades group and is home to more than 70 beaches, with many tucked away in coves or between cliffs. Sarakiniko is one of the most well-known, thanks to its oddly-shaped giant rocks that were formed by volcanic activity — hidden between the rock formations is pure, white sand.
The easternmost island of the Greek Cyclades, Amorgos is home to a special place that any history buff should come and see: the Monastery of Hozoviotissa. The religious edifice was built into a cliff overlooking the sea in the 11th century and views from the monastery, which overlooks the glittering blue sea, are nothing short of breathtaking. Keep in mind there’s a modest dress code if you wish to enter the monastery — like some other European churches or when visiting Vatican City, knees and shoulders must be covered to show respect.
If you really want a getaway to a small and tranquil paradise, head to Lipsi. Also known as Leipsoi, this tiny island — just under five miles long — is located in a small group of islands near Patmos. Known for producing delicious local products like thyme honey, cheese, and wine, the island offers plenty of tranquil coastline and beautiful churches and monasteries to visit. If you want to stick to eating clean while on vacation, Lipsi is the perfect island to reset your diet.
Schinoussa (meaning “island of the sun”) is known as a nature sanctuary, as it hosts several local plant species and many birds. The island, which is barely more than three square miles, is part of the Lesser Cyclades group, but there’s nothing “lesser” about it. With 18 stunning beaches to visit and several hiking trails to tackle, it’s perfect for outdoorsy types. It’s also famous for its fava beans, figs, and grapes. There are only two villages on the island, with less than 300 inhabitants between the two of them, so Schinoussa makes a great spot for a quiet, romantic getaway.
Not to be confused with Pyrgi, Italy, this small village on the island of Chios offers an architectural experience unlike any other. Commonly known as the “painted village,” this medieval town’s buildings are covered with painted geometrics and artsy motifs in funky grey-and-white patterns. The technique is known as xysta and uses cement, lime, and volcanic sand. Thanks to its xysta-covered buildings (churches, apartments, and shops, among other buildings), this village makes the island of Chios one of a kind.
If you’re hoping to find the meaning of life during your vacation, you don’t have to go all “Eat, Pray, Love” and ashram it in India. Visiting the Greek island of Ikaria will definitely give you some solid insight into life because its inhabitants live forever — well, maybe not actually forever, but still, longer than most. Locals attribute their longevity to all sorts of things the island offers, like a healthy Mediterranean diet full of fresh foods, daily walks, and natural herbs that can be used for pretty much anything. Visitors to the island can learn about special herbs and teas and take a little bit of these life lessons home with them.
Part of the northern Sporades, Alonissos is an island covered in a rugged, green landscape. This spot is perfect for eco-friendly travelers, as it’s home to the Natural Marine Park of Alonissos and is dedicated to protecting the monk seal. Also famous for its vineyards, this island is ideal if you’d like to spend your vacation doing a combination of wine tastings, nature walks, and relaxing on pristine beaches.
When one thinks of jetting off to a Greek island, it’s easy to just look at the usual big hitters — however, there are so many more to choose from, especially if you want to be somewhere where social distancing will be a bit easier. A boat is a fun (and sometimes necessary) means of island hopping, so do check each destination’s tourism page for the easiest access.
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