Your no-fail guide to the best of the Greek Islands

Seitan limania or Agiou Stefanou, the heavenly beach with turquoise water at Chania, Akrotiri, Crete. Picture: Shutterstock
Seitan limania or Agiou Stefanou, the heavenly beach with turquoise water at Chania, Akrotiri, Crete. Picture: Shutterstock

How do you choose from more than 1200 sun-drenched islands? With Ute Junker's no-fail guide to the best of Greece.

The island: Crete

Why we love it: With a colourful history that stretches from the ancient Minoans to four centuries of Venetian rule, there's plenty to learn on Greece's largest island.

What to do: Greek history starts with the ancient Minoans, who erected grand palaces on Crete. The partly reconstructed palace at Knossos is a highlight, as is the superb archaeological museum in nearby Iraklio. For mighty Venetian castles head to Spinalonga or Fortezza, and there's a fortified monastery at Toplou. If monuments aren't your thing, spend some time exploring the Venetian streetscapes of Rethymno or Chania, or chill out on the gorgeous Elafonisi Beach.

Memorable meal: Perhaps the most memorable thing about a meal at The Old Phoenix in Finikas Bay, is the journey there. Take the boat from Sfakia Harbour to Loutro, then follow the trail to this bayside restaurant. Everything here is super-fresh, from the straight-off-the-boat fish to the lamb, sourced from the owner's own flock.

Where to stay: Stylish and family-friendly, the Ammos Hotel outside Chania is one of the island's most welcoming places to stay.

Don't miss: The five-hour hike through Samaria Gorge is a spectacular experience but it can only be done between May and October.

The island: Santorini

Beautiful Oia town on Santorini island, Greece: traditional white architecture and Greek orthodox churches with blue domes over the Caldera.

Beautiful Oia town on Santorini island, Greece: traditional white architecture and Greek orthodox churches with blue domes over the Caldera.

Why we love it: With its whitewashed villages clinging to the sides of a volcanic crater, Santorini is Greece at its absolute picture-postcard best.

What to do: Boredom is not an option on Santorini. Start in the pretty villages of Fira and Oia, browsing the chic boutiques and galleries, before sampling some of the local wines at Santo Wines in Pyrgos. (White-wine lovers should try the assyrtiko.) Feeling energetic? Then try the 10-kilometre hike from Fira to Oia, which lets you soak up stunning views along the entire route. Start in mid-afternoon and you will arrive at Oia just in time for one of its famous sunsets.

Memorable meal: Dinner at one of the rustic fish tavernas lining Ammoudi Bay is an essential Santorini experience; Dimitris Ammoudi Taverna is one of the best. For a more sophisticated dining experience, try the lovely Ambrosia restaurant in Oia.

Where to stay: The whitewashed interiors at Kirini Suites and Spa are designed not to distract from the panoramic views from every corner. Its location in the quiet village of Oia makes this a great place to relax; book yourself in at the hotel's superb spa to speed up the process.

Don't miss: Instead of heading to the ever-popular Kamari Beach, try striking Red Beach instead.

The island: Rhodes

Main gates of The Knights Grand Master Palace at Rhodes island, Greece. Picture: Shutterstock

Main gates of The Knights Grand Master Palace at Rhodes island, Greece. Picture: Shutterstock

Why we love it: Still surrounded by its ancient walls, Rhodes' atmospheric old town conjures up the days when the island was run by the Knights of St John, an order of warrior monks.

What to do: The Knights' Quarter, including the impressive Palace of the Grand Master, is Rhodes' most famous attraction, but it is worth exploring the rest of the old town, including Hora, and the Turkish and old Jewish quarters. Also worth a visit is the ancient acropolis of Lindos and its pretty neighbouring village.

Memorable meal: The family-run Mavrikos restaurant in Lindos offers clever updates of Mediterranean standards. Vegetarians will love the fennel root slow cooked in wine; carnivores will savour the lamb's liver with chilli, garlic and wine.

Where to stay: Lodgings don't get more atmospheric than Hotel Kokkini Porta Rossa. Tucked inside the ancient city walls, this family-run hotel consists of just five luxurious suites, with meals served in the peaceful courtyard.

Don't miss: From June to August, the lovely Petaloudes, or Butterfly Valley, is filled with huge numbers of butterflies. Visiting at a different time of year? You won't see the butterflies but, on the upside, you will get to enjoy this lovely valley without the crowds.

The island: Mykonos

Why we love it: Get lost in the winding lanes of pretty-as-a-picture Mykonos town, before kicking back at its buzzing bar scene.

What to do: The no-fail Mykonos routine starts with a lazy day at the beach - Super Paradise and Elia are popular - where the music pumps and the drinks flow. Then, it's back to your hotel to freshen up before browsing the boutiques and galleries of Mykonos town. Head to the chic Caprice for cocktails, before exploring the many bars tucked in the neighbourhoods of Little Venice or Alefkandhra. Rest, then repeat.

Memorable meal: Dinner for two? Head to the award-winning Bill & Coo restaurant for sophisticated dishes using local ingredients such as olives, samphire, citrus and fresh fish. For a more casual feast, head to laidback Ftelia beach, where Ftelia Restaurant serves up tasty local fare.

Where to stay: Perched in Mykonos' most scenic setting, right by the famous windmills, Mykonos Theoxenia is a chic 1960s-style getaway. Its pool, surrounded by four-poster beds, makes an inviting alternative to the island's beaches.

Don't miss: The nearby island of Delos was one of ancient Greece's most sacred sites. A half-day trip to this World Heritage-listed site lets you explore one of the country's most enchanting ruins.

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