Sun, sand, and sea—this irresistible trio is found in abundance on the best Greek Islands for beaches, which offer unforgettable experiences for beach lovers.
Here, you’ll find seas of the deepest blue, pristine sands, vast and craggy cliffs, and tiny secluded coves. Little wonder, then, that everyone has their own view on the Greek island with the best beaches.
So whether you’re looking for a perfect secluded spot to imagine yourself as the lead character in a castaway novel, or want to live it up with the A-list, there’s a Greek island beach on which to create memories that last forever.
The jewel of the Ionian Sea, the strategic position of Corfu has seen it change hands many times over the years, with periods of Venetian, French, and British rule all leaving their mark on the island, particularly in the Old Town, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Like many Greek islands, Corfu’s topography—a mountainous spine falling off to cave-dotted coves—lends itself to many different beaches, from secluded stretches of sand to long arcs backed by hotels, bars, restaurants, and shops.
Set just off Corfu Town, Vidos is known as Greece’s Alcatraz thanks to the small jail that was once here. Now a car-free nature reserve, the island is densely wooded with many hiking trails, small, sandy beaches, and a seasonal taverna.
Also close to the Old Town is Glyfada Beach. Not to be confused with the eponymous resort on the Athenian Coast, Glyfada is one of the island’s most popular locations.
Here, you’ll find a backdrop of rocky, pine-topped hills and a fine stretch of golden sand lapped by calm, shallow waters and home to a number of beach bars.
For those feeling a little more adventurous, a short walk away is Mirtiotissa Beach, clothing-optional, given its secluded location and lack of organized facilities.
A 10-minute drive away lies Perama, a laid-back resort town famed as being the home of British zoologist and author Gerald Durrell whose family lived here in the 1930s, inspiring a number of his books.
There are two neighboring beaches here with great facilities, including pedalo hire and banana boats, and a number of traditional eateries with tables that spill onto the beach.
Corfu is known as one of Greece’s most romantic places to visit. Sidari plays host to a small, sandy arc of sand wedged between two rocky outcrops that is so pretty it’s known as To Kanali Tou Erota, or the Love Channel.
Romantic legend claims that any single man who swims here will find his true love waiting for him on the beach as he emerges from the water.
Other Corfu beaches of note include Barbati on the east coast, a stretch of sand backed by the foothills of Mount Pantokrator and offering glimpses of both the Greek mainland and the Albanian coast, and Nissaki Beach, just up the coast from Barbati.
This small resort is home to one of the most famous restaurants in Corfu, Mitsos Taverna, where the tables hang over the sea on platforms.
There’s a traditional fishing harbor here, as well as a small but beautiful stretch of ice-white sand and several rocky outcrops that make for great snorkeling.
Greece’s party island, Mykonos sprung to fame in the 1950s as a favored hideaway for the glitterati including Hollywood stars Marlon Brando, Richard Burton and Grace Kelly, alongside Greek actress (and later the country’s culture minister) Melina Mercouri.
Since the early 1990s, its reputation as the Aegean’s hip hotspot has been bolstered by it also being adopted as the vacation spot of choice for the LGBTQ+ community, attracted by a range of high-end nightclubs, Bohemian bars and all-night cafés.
As such, this is one of the best Greek islands for beaches if you’re looking for a cool party scene.
That nightlife spills out to some of the Mykonos’ beautiful beaches, with a water taxi service offering trips out to a succession of beaches, including Paraga, Paradise and Super Paradise on the south coast.
The energy increases and the amount of clothing required drops the further the taxi service gets from Mykonos Town.
Psarou Beach, also on the south coast, is a little more relaxed. Set three miles from Mykonos Town, it’s where the celebrities and jet-setters hang out today, attracted by glamorous beach bars and places to moor their yachts as they sip sundowner cocktails overlooking the bright, white sands.
Despite this party atmosphere, there are still beaches aplenty for those looking for a more traditional vacation vibe. Platis Gialos, a short walk from Psarou, is more family friendly with soft sand and relatively shallow and calm waters.
The west coast’s Agios Ioannis offers incredible views over the neighboring island of Delos.
Kapari Beach to the north of Agios Ioannis is more rugged, surrounded by rocky cliffs that make for a super snorkeling experience.
Another one of the best things to do in Mykonos is to visit Agios Sostis on the north coast.
The beach is perfect for a back-to-basics experience thanks to its raw charm, incredible natural beauty and lack of organized facilities that make a stark contrast to the party beaches of the south coast.
South of Kefalonia and sitting just off the west coast of the Peloponnese, Zakynthos (or Zante, as it is sometimes known) is home to one of the most photographed beaches in Greece, if not the world.
Navagio, meaning “shipwreck”, on the northwest coast of this charming island is home to the final resting place of the MV Panagiotis, an alleged smuggler ship that ran aground here in the 1980s.
Whatever the boat’s origin (some claim it was deliberately sunk to create a tourist attraction), it couldn’t have come to its final resting place in a more idyllic location.
Surrounded by steep, white cliffs, the beach is an almost perfect arc of white sand and incredibly calm, blue waters. Even when it’s busy in high season, this is one of the most beautiful places in Greece.
Elsewhere, the island is broadly split in two. The southern coast is a series of summer resorts that cater to a mostly British and Italian party crowd, while the north is more like the Greece of old: tiny unsung villages, hidden coves, and wooded mountains.
On days when Navagio is at its busiest, an alternative option is Agios Nikolaos Beach, set on the island’s very northern tip.
Here, a lovely stretch of sand adjoins a small harbor with traditional fishing boats and tourist craft that depart for the island’s famed Blue Caves, a series of underwater caverns that offer unparalleled snorkeling but few other facilities other than those offered onboard by the taxi captain.
The hubris of the south coast resorts is punctuated by the oasis of Gerakas Beach, a gorgeous stretch of sand that is a protected nesting ground for endangered loggerhead turtles.
Wild and wonderful, parts of it can be roped off during breeding season, meaning checking access before visiting is recommended.
The tiny island of Hydra in the Saronic Gulf is not only one of the closest to the capital, Athens, but also one of Greece’s most authentic vacation spots. Once an 18th-century naval power, its port area is the very definition of a picture-perfect Greek island.
Set around a natural harbor with tavernas and cafés, cobbled streets lined with the elegant former mansions of sea captains wind tortuously up a hill from the oceanfront.
Hydra is famously car-free with donkeys and sea taxis being the only methods of transportation, which makes it one of the most unique places to visit in Greece.
For those short on time, Avlaki and Plakes beaches are just a short walk from the main town and, while the beaches are more shingle than fine sand, both are home to beach bars offering sun loungers, and umbrellas for shade.
The frequent water taxis from the port area head to more remote beaches on the northeastern coast, including Bisti and Molos.
An alternative option is a visit to the small uninhabited islet of Dokos just across the water. There are few facilities here, but the small coves and beaches are as pristine as any in Greece.
While the Greek islands are an incredible spot to vacation, the various island groups have their own distinct characters.
Those in the Ionian tend to be greener, and with tiny ports backed by Venetian-style housing, while their siblings in the Aegean are more barren, with typically white-washed buildings, usually set around the crumbling remains of a medieval fort.
Santorini stands alone though thanks to its quite incredible volcanic setting. The island’s main villages, Fira, Imerovigli, and Oia all sit precariously on towering cliffs that overlook a sunken volcanic caldera.
Views stretching out from the vantage points here look out over two smoldering lava islands in the middle of a bay and to a sister island, sparsely inhabited Thirassia, that marks the far end of the underwater crater.
Santorini’s volcanic nature means swimming opportunities and beaches here are incredibly diverse.
From the rocks at the foot of Oia, it’s possible to dive into an ocean where it’s impossible to imagine how deep the sea bed is.
Boat trips to the two lava islands, Nea Kameni and Palio Kameni, allow people to dive into waters warmed by geothermal energy. Elsewhere, visitors can choose a beach in Santorini based on sand color preference.
Towns on the southeast coast such as Perissa and Kamari have striking black sand beaches and a host of amenities including water sports, tavernas, cafés and bars.
They contrast dramatically with nearby but almost untouched Vlychada Beach, with its pale sands, white cliffs, and absence of facilities.
To the southwest, colors change again at Kokkini Paralia—its English translation of Red Beach giving the game away as to the prevalent hue.
Here, rust-red cliffs that back the beach have colored the sand a deep scarlet thanks to erosion. Again, the facilities are few, but the images taken are sure to draw breath when posted on social media.
The largest of the Dodecanese islands that lie closer to the Turkish coast than they do to Athens, Rhodes remains one of Greece’s most impressive islands, largely thanks to its incredible architecture.
The island capital, Rhodes Old Town, played host to the Knights Hospitaller when they fled Jerusalem in 1309 when the Holy Lands were taken over by Islamist armies.
Their legacy is the largest inhabited medieval Old Town in Europe, its cobbled streets lined with castles and fine Gothic architecture redolent of a film set.
It’s possible to marvel at the sites here and still take a dip in cooling waters on the same day, thanks to Elli Beach on the northern tip of the island, a short walk or taxi ride from the Old Town. Lined with umbrellas and sunbeds, it’s one of Rhodes’ best beaches.
Spreading south on both the east and west coasts are a succession of resorts that feel more authentic the further they are from the Old Town.
To the east, Kremasti offers a wild stretch of shingle which can be combined with a visit to Petaloudes Valley, a nature park known for its masses of multi-colored butterflies that gather there over the summer months.
The island’s east coast, meanwhile, plays host to Faliraki Beach, a long stretch of golden sand lined with hotels.
Anthony Quinn Bay, a rocky outcrop that became famous when the Hollywood actor was captured swimming while on a break filming on the island in the 1960s, is also a popular hotspot.
Greece’s largest island is so vast, a number of Cretans see their homeland almost as a separate state to the rest of the country. Its size, of course, means this is one of the best Greek islands for beaches, with hundreds of miles of coastline to enjoy.
The Venetian port town of Chania on the north coast is an excellent location from which to explore. There are several decent beaches on either side of the town itself in the form of Koum Kapi and Nea Chora, but the further one gets from the harbor, the better the offering.
The vast rocky peninsula of Akrotiri runs north from the town and, while it’s home to Chania Airport, it also offers several great beaches such as Kalatha and Agios Onoufrios.
Heading west on the island’s north coast, the Greek beaches get increasingly better. Agii Apostoli, Ravdoucha and Nopigia are all worth a visit, but Balos Beach Lagoon is the one that takes the breath away.
Sitting at the top of a rocky peninsula, reaching needle-like out into the Mediterranean, it has a really remote feel.
Set around a lagoon, it is home to sugary white sand and calm seas, while a smaller spit of land juts from the main beach into a series of tiny coves, perfect for a dip in almost total solitude.
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