One of the first things that come to your mind when thinking about Greece is a paradisiac collection of stunning islands offering the perfect summer escape for a relaxing seaside vacation. The country is home to a myriad of amazing islands, some of them small and unknown and many others extremely popular among tourists from all over the world. In this article, we will focus on introducing the ten biggest Greek Islands, ten unique destinations so incredibly beautiful that you should visit at least once in your life.
Among the most popular summer destinations in Europe, Greece offers incredible locations for an outstanding beach holiday. However, it is not always easy to choose where exactly to go, especially if this is your first time planning a trip to Greece.
If you’re trying to plan a vacation that includes plenty of gorgeous beaches to choose from the task won’t be easy.
However, if you want a holiday that also offers alternative things to do, including outdoor adventures, stunning landscapes, fantastic cuisine, Greek archaeological sites and landmark, museums, and some nightlife fun, then choosing a bigger island will certainly guarantee tons of entertainment opportunities. Let’s take a look at the 10 largest islands in Greece!
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10 Of The Biggest Greek Islands in Greece
Crete – Biggest Greek Island
The biggest of the Greek Islands and the fifth-biggest island in the Mediterranean, Crete is located on the southernmost portion of the Aegean Sea and it stands on its own, not belonging to any group of islands.
Crete occupies a surface of about 8336 square kilometres (about 3220 square miles), crossing from the easternmost tip to the westernmost coast of the island by car can take anything from 5 to 6 hours.
The easiest way to get to Crete is by plane from Athens (the flying time is about 50 minutes), while the cheapest way is by ferry, the trip takes about 8 hours.
The island is divided into four different regions and its capital, Heraklion, is the fourth biggest city in Greece, right after Athens, Thessaloniki, and Patras.
Crete has a unique and extensive coast with some of the most magnificent Cretan beaches in the Mediterranean, including the spectacularly famous Elafonisi, a pink sand beach facing the southern Libyan Sea.
There are interesting archaeological sites and museums to visit, as well as some of the most impressive mountain ranges in Greece, including the White Mountains, with one of Europe’s longest gorges, Samaria (about 13 km long).
The four most important Cretan cities are located in the North, they are Heraklion, Chania, Rethymnon, and Agios Nikolaos. These cities are connected using the only national road on the island. Crete’s northern coast is the most developed part of the island, featuring thousands of hotels and dozens of small seaside towns and resorts.
On the other hand, the southern coast is wilder and more isolated since it is necessary to cross the mountains to get there. This lesser-known part of Crete features a fascinating rugged landscape and a more authentic vibe made of tranquil rural life, and a limited nightlife.
The second biggest Greek island is not as popular as Crete and its touristic side is less exploited, making it a tranquil and affordable destination and great for those wanting to go island hopping in Greece on a budget. Just like Crete, Evia does not belong to any island group.
Also known as Euboea, this big Greek island is located fairly close to Athens, and it can be easily reached by car since it is connected to the mainland with a bridge. Evia has a total surface of 3670 square kilometres (about 1415 square miles) and its capital town is the city of Chalkis.
This island has yet to be discovered by mass tourism, which makes it an excellent destination if you want to avoid the crowds. On the island, there are some incredibly beautiful beaches, amazing hiking trails, and high mountains to explore.
Visitors can also explore unique archaeological sites and a few interesting museums as well. Since the island does not have a well-developed infrastructure to receive tons of tourists, public transport makes it a bit difficult to move around as the service is neither frequent nor efficient. Therefore, Evia is one of those Greek destinations where car rental is a must if you are eager to explore and discover hidden gems off the beaten path.
Belonging to the North Aegean group of Islands, Lesbos is another forgotten Greek destination worth exploring. The third biggest Greek island is about 1633 square kilometres (about 630 square miles).
The capital of Lesbos, Mytilini, is an important town with a magnificent castle facing the sea. Another important town to check out in Lesbos is Molyvos, also home to a gorgeous ancient castle and fortress.
On the island, there are gorgeous natural sites to visit, such as a unique petrified forest close to a small village known as Sigri.
However, the best reason to visit Lesbos is its gastronomy. Some of the most traditional gastronomic products from Greece have long been produced on Lesbos, including the legendary Ouzo, an aniseed Greek alcoholic drink that people from most of the country enjoy together with a dish of mouthwatering seafood.
The island is home to unique ouzo distilleries worth visiting too. Other local products that have earned a name due to their unique flavour and quality include the local cheeses and Lesbos’ sardines. These are all unique Greek souvenirs to consider buying to remind you of your wonderful visit to the islands.
When visiting Lesbos, do not overlook its pristine beaches, renting a car and moving around the coast of the island will offer the possibility to admire some of the most amazing landscapes in the Northern Aegean Sea.
Back on the trail of the famous Greek destinations, the fourth largest Greek island, Rhodes, is among the most popular islands in the Mediterranean when it comes to sunny beach holidays.
The largest island in the Dodecanese cluster, it has a total surface of 541 square kilometres (about 1400 square miles). The island is quite close to the coast of Turkey and its capital, Rhodes City, is one of the most fascinating places to explore in Greece.
Popular among many European travellers, the gorgeous island of Rhodes features some incredible beaches and a fascinating past, clearly visible along the ancient alleys of the Medieval City of Rhodes, listed among the several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece.
One of the most iconic places to check out in the area is the magnificent Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, one of the best-preserved castles in the world. However, there are also other interesting things to see, including the gorgeous beach in Anthony Quinn Bay, the small islet of Prasonisi, and the Acropolis of Lindos, a fascinating archaeological site that stands facing the sea.
This big island is an incredible paradise for those who enjoy exploring the outdoors, with unique springs and a one-of-a-kind valley, known as Petaludes, that during certain periods of the year is populated by an endless amount of small butterflies.
Right after Rhodes, Chios is another island located on the North Aegean Sea that features a total surface of about 326 square kilometres (more or less 842 square miles). The capital of the island is known as Chora (like many of the main towns on different Greek islands) although tourists tend to refer to it as Chios Town.
Although not as popular as other islands in the same region, Chios is a magnificent destination, full of curious sites and ancient villages that are worth visiting. Besides, Chios’ main characteristic is the cultivation of a unique tree, which grows only on this island (and only on one half of the island) and nowhere else in the world: The mastic tree.
This plant is key to the local economy while several Chios villages are known as mastic villages since their activities have always revolved around the collection and elaboration of this substance. These gorgeous, ancient villages have their distinct architecture, featuring black and white decorations and beautiful buildings with interesting facades.
The mastic trees of Chios produce a resin that comes out from their bark in the shape of teardrops and that has mostly gastronomic and medicinal uses. Owner of a unique, delicate fragrance, mastic is often used to produce sweets, pastries, and alcoholic drinks, but also gum, candies, and more.
The island is also fantastic for road travel while sailing along its coast offers the possibility to visit some of the most pristine beaches in Greece, some of them unknown even to locals!
Kefalonia – Biggest Islands In Greece
We now move to the Ionian Sea to discover Greece’s sixth-biggest island, Kefalonia (also spelt Cephalonia). Located close to the more popular Corfu, Kefalonia is an island that has increased its tourist infrastructure during the last ten years or so.
The island has a total surface of 781 square kilometres (a bit more than 300 square miles) and its capital, Argostoli, is the perfect departure point to visit its unique and famed beaches of Kefalonia, and many other interesting sites.
The island is home to Myrtos, one of the most famous beaches in the country and the whole world! This perfect crystalline bay features incredible waters with every imaginable shade of blue you can imagine, from bright, light turquoise, to deep Navy blue.
And if you’re interested in outdoor escapes and fun activities in the open, then it can be a good idea to check out Mount Ainos National Park with epic vistas and dozens of fantastic hiking trails.
Another of the most visited islands in Greece, this fantastic destination on the Ionian Sea is a favourite holiday place among Europeans who pick Corfu for its international atmosphere, incredible beaches, and lush green landscape.
Locally known as Kerkyra, Corfu is the seventh biggest Greek island. It has a total surface of about 229 square kilometres (more or less 593 square miles). The capital of the island is known as Corfu Town and it features an ancient district that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This popular vacation hub features incredible beaches, such as the impressive Canal d’Amour or the spectacular coast of Paleokastritsa, with beautiful sea caves open for travellers to explore.
Corfu has an interesting history and travailed past. Conquered and ruled by many different civilizations (such as the Turkish and the Venetians) and other nations (including England and France), it is easy to find eclectic architecture and unique buildings with interesting influences deriving from many different cultures.
The island is also a great place to enjoy the outdoors, with high mountains, hiking trails, and a wide offer of sports including kayaking, canoeing, paragliding, scuba diving, and a lot more. And if you’re into gastronomy, the local cuisine also reflects foreign influences in many of its dishes and local flavours.
Also spelt Limnos, this North Aegean island is the eighth biggest in Greece and maybe not as known as it should be. Occupying almost the same surface as the next island, Samos, Lemnos is 184 square kilometres (about 478 square miles).
The capital of the island is Myrina and its lack of popularity is mainly because to get there, travellers need to face quite a long ferry ride from Athens. However, the island is quite easy to reach by plane from the city of Thessaloniki, in northern Greece.
The island is quite off the beaten track and does not offer a lot of infrastructures for tourists, however, it is an excellent destination to indulge in the authentic local cuisine or to spend long hours swimming or snorkelling on some of its solitary pristine beaches.
About 2 kilometres smaller than Lemnos, the Greek island of Samos is a Northeastern Aegean island that you should not overlook when looking for your next destination in Greece. Its capital town, also known as Samos, is a beautiful town with good hotels, tons of restaurants, and enough entertainment for a fun summer holiday.
Owner of rich history and interesting cultural aspects, the island was ruled by several different countries and civilizations, something that has left a clear mark on its society and other cultural aspects, including its architecture, food, its music, and many other traditions. Besides, the island is also close to the Turkish coast, another element that helped shape Samos’ original traits.
This beautiful Greek island has an amazing coast sheltering some fantastic beaches, including the famous Tsabou and Psili Ammos Beach.
The tenth-largest Greek island belongs to the Cycladic island cluster and it is among the most interesting destinations in the country. The island is about 165 square kilometres (more or less 430 square miles) and its capital is also known as Chora or Naxos Town.
Located close to other much more popular islands, such as Santorini, Mykonos, and Paros, Naxos has a more relaxed vibe and quiet atmosphere that makes it a great destination for family travel, or for those looking for a quiet and romantic Greek honeymoon destination.
But it is also a great island from which to embark on interesting hikes and trips in the mountains. Naxos is also home to Mount Zas, the highest peak in the Cyclades and a popular place among mountain enthusiasts.
On the island, it is possible to spend time exploring small mountain villages, interesting archaeological sites, and one of the most iconic Greek ruins in the country, the impressive Portara, which is believed to have been the entrance gate to a temple dedicated to god Apollo which was never finished.
Naxos is also a perfect destination for foodies, featuring unique cheeses and the tastiest potato crops in Greece. On the island, it is also possible to taste the Kitron, a unique Greek alcoholic beverage with a strong citrus taste.
Of course, the island, like so many others, is also home to some stunning Naxos beaches for those wanting to soak up some rays in the Aegean!
As you can see, there are several large Greek islands to explore in Greece and, fortunately, not all of them are overcrowded tourist destinations. However, one thing is certain, all of them have their unique traits and characteristics, amazing landscapes, and unique beaches for an unforgettable beach vacation.
Map Of The 10 Largest Greek Islands
We’ve compiled this handy map outlining these awesome 10 biggest Greek islands to help you plot out your visit when considering island hopping in Greece!