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By Chris Leadbeater, journalist for The Telegraph. 

Featured in the Telegraph on 24 June 2023. Copy written by Chris Leadbeater, holiday suggestions recommended by the Sunvil team.

Where can you find the archetypal Greek island holiday, all taverna-lined beaches, white-washed chapels and wine-dark sea?

It is a scene you can capture easily in your mind’s eye: A soft curve of a bay, the water within it a certain shade of blue – consistent in its colour, but light enough that you can see the sand that underpins it. There is a wooden boat, nodding gently on the tide, and a stone wharf next to it, on which there are tavernas and tables, little clusters of people at play. It is mid-afternoon, probably, and the evening yawns ahead. And while the shadow of the church, behind, is starting to stretch, there is still plenty of time for a jug of wine.

Or, to put it more succinctly… here is the Greek island, in all its glory. Now is the time of year when these most special of places, strewn across the Ionian and Aegean Seas, are at their most seductive. Throw in a few extra elements to the image above – the discreet villa with a pool, on the edge of town; the lunchtime salad, heaped with local olives and fat chunks of feta; the parcel of ancient ruins, dusty and half-forgotten in the golden hour – and you might already be wondering why you would travel anywhere else this summer.

But which Greek island is the greatest? It is a big question; with myriad answers – and yet we will try to answer it anyway. The following feature takes 20 of these sun-baked outcrops, and attempts to wrangle them into some sort of order. It takes in various factors – including whether you can fly in directly from the UK, the type of holiday you might enjoy once you arrive, and the attractions awaiting you beyond the quay. But ultimately, it is a subjective list, swayed by the mental image outlined above. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to give us your opinion. Or prove us wrong by taking a trip to your own number one.


20. Karpathos

SIZE RANKING
15th

ARCHIPELAGO
Dodecanese

DIRECT FLIGHT?
No

Like a middle child eclipsed by two high-achieving siblings, Karpathos is the island with the difficult task of dotting the map between Crete and Rhodes. In some senses, it cannot compete – in size, infrastructure, access. But its semi-remoteness has been a gift. Even in the 21st century, it remains a kernel of Greek authenticity; all small villages – the likes of Menetes, Finiki, Othos – and life lived without rush. Travellers who have already ticked off the larger tourist islands on either side will find another, older Greece on this outsider.

Don’t miss: Karpathos Archaeological Museum; ancient history, Byzantium and beyond.

Do it: A week at the Sunrise Hotel Karpathos  including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage starts at £1,214  per person.

Sunrise Hotel

19. Chios

SIZE RANKING
5th

ARCHIPELAGO
North Aegean

DIRECT FLIGHT?
No

Pushed right over to the east side of the Aegean, Chios has the distinction of being the largest Greek island that cannot be reached from the UK via a single flight. This is one of the reasons why, despite its size, it remains something of an unknown package for British tourists. But it rewards those who are prepared to make the two-step journey. The capital (also Chios), on the east coast, has a historic air, all stone windmills and medieval walls. Its near-neighbour – the village of Vrontados – is meant to have been Homer’s birthplace.

Don’t miss: Nea Moni, a grand 11th century monastery at Chios’s heart, is a Unesco site.

Do it: A week at the Kyma Hotel, including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage starts at £849 per person.

Chios Town

18. Kythira

SIZE RANKING
17th

ARCHIPELAGO
Ionian

DIRECT FLIGHT?
No

Cartographers may wish to argue as to whether an outcrop that lies between the lower tip of the Peloponnese and the north-west corner of Crete is strictly “Ionian”. But while they are debating, Kythira is becoming a coveted destination. Admittedly, due to a relative inaccessibility, with Greek tourists – but its profile is growing. You can reach it by air, if you change planes in Athens. The short flight will drop you onto an island that feels like the Greece of 30 years ago – agricultural, only sporadically developed, entirely peaceful.

Don’t miss: Paliochora, a town sacked by the Ottomans in 1537, and left largely to ruin.

Do it: A week at the Anemes Hotel Apartments including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage starts at £832 per person.

Anemes Hotel Apartments

17. Patmos

SIZE RANKING
53rd

ARCHIPELAGO
Dodecanese

DIRECT FLIGHT?
No

A close association with the apocalypse would not normally be a recommendation. But then, nowhere is tied to the world’s end like Patmos. This small Aegean nugget is meant to have been the place where St John wrote the Bible’s fire-and-brimstone climax, the Book of Revelation. If so, he will have had time and space to concentrate on his work. Patmos is as quiet and unhurried a Greek island as you could wish for, a summer refuge where neither hilltop capital Chora nor main harbour Skala ever need to raise their voice.

Don’t miss: The Cave of the Apocalypse, the saint’s “office” – now an Orthodox chapel.

Do it: A week at the Skala Hotel including 20kg hold luggage, flying from Bristol (to Samos) starts at £1,340 a head (with ferries).

Skala Hotel

16. Santorini

SIZE RANKING
36th

ARCHIPELAGO
Cyclades

DIRECT FLIGHT?
Yes

If this article were ranking Greek islands on their celebrity, Santorini would be at the top. You would think that being the main remnant of one of the fiercest volcanic eruptions in human history (circa 1500BC) would preclude being a holiday hotspot 3,500 years later. Yet the island also known as Thira makes fine use of its plunging cliffs – you will rarely take photos as dramatic as those snapped from Oia or Imerovigli, the sea sparkling in that broken caldera. But my, it is crowded in summer, not least when a cruise ship has docked.

Don’t miss: Akrotiri, “the Pompeii of the Aegean”, now excavated from its ashen tomb.

Do it: A week at one of the “Leading Hotels Of The World” - the Katikies Santorini Hotel - including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage from £2,864 per person. 

Katikies Hotel

15. Meganisi

SIZE RANKING
62nd

ARCHIPELAGO
Ionian

DIRECT FLIGHT?
Effectively (see Lefkada)

The smallest island on this list is also one of the prettiest. You might almost fail to spot it, squished between the mainland and its big brother Lefkada – and at just 8.5 square miles, Meganisi is not an enormity that demands you spend a full week exploring it via a vast labyrinth of trails. This is a place for finding a villa and a lounger; for admiring the view. As near a neighbour as Lefkada, Skorpios is the private isle once owned by Aristotle Onassis; a suntrap where the former Jackie Kennedy spent her second-marriage summers.

Don’t miss: Vathy. Not a rare name for a Greek harbour, but a fine example of the genre.

Do it: A week at the Rose Garden Apartments including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage starts at £539 per person.

Rose Garden Apartments

14. Skopelos

SIZE RANKING
32nd

ARCHIPELAGO
Sporades

DIRECT FLIGHT?
No

Never underestimate the effect of the Hollywood spotlight. It would be wrong to say that Skopelos was unknown before the Abba-infused movie Mamma Mia! made it a star in 2008, but all that song and dance has done wonders for the tourism industry on an island that, even now, demands a little persistence of visitors – you have to fly to neighbouring Skiathos (see below), then take a ferry to reach it. Many do, wandering in the footsteps of Streep, Seyfried and Brosnan – the Agios Ioannis chapel near Glossa a site of pilgrimage.

Don’t miss: Palouki, the island’s mountainous south-eastern corner – an oasis for hikers.

Do it: A week at the Afrodite Hotel including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage starts at £780 per person.

Afrodite Apartments

13. Skiathos 

SIZE RANKING
45th

ARCHIPELAGO
Sporades

DIRECT FLIGHT?
Yes

Although it also lent its landscape to Mamma Mia! (the old harbour in Skiathos Town appears on screen), Skopelos’s partner took little of the cinematic credit. Still, Skiathos takes the tape in this race between near-equals, because it has the airport that serves them both; no added ferry ride is required if you want to spend your holiday here. And you might well. Effectively an extension of the Pelion peninsula, adjacent on the mainland, Skiathos is fir-forested and fabulous, that warm aroma of pine needles forever on the air. 

Don’t miss: Skiathos has over 60 beaches. West-coast Mikros Aselinos is one of the best.

Do it: A week at the Achladies Beach Cottages including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage starts at £749 per person.

Achladies Beach Cottages

12. Kos

SIZE RANKING
16th

ARCHIPELAGO
Dodecanese

DIRECT FLIGHT?
Yes

There is much to be said for being a mass-tourism hotspot. While some of the islands in this article will display their “no room at the inn” signs as summer progresses, Kos will have no such issues. It has long been an unapologetic advocate for the resort hotel and the affordable break, dozing in the heat just off Turkey’s Bodrum peninsula. Some of it has no truck with sophistication; if you are not in your late teens or early Twenties, the noisy bars of Kardamena will be anathema. But if you are after sun and fun, Kos is your friend.

Don’t miss: The Asclepeion – the ancient temple site that reveals Kos’s depth of history.

Do it: A week at Kosta Palace Hotel including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage starts at £755 per person.

Kosta Palace Hotel

11. Skyros - written by Dudley Der Parthog (Sunvil's Company Director)

SIZE RANKING
19th 

ARCHIPELAGO
Sporades Islands

DIRECT FLIGHT?
No (but you can get a domestic flight from Athens or Thessaloniki)

Skyros is the largest (but least known) of the Sporades group of islands. Poor ferry links mean that the best way to reach the island is via a 40 minute small plane journey from Athens. This relative isolation means visitor numbers are limited but those who do come find an island that has gone its own way, marked out by its own distinctive culture and traditions, where income is still derived more from farming and fishing than from foreign pockets. In fact Skyros' 3000 souls are outnumbered 15 to 1 by sheep and goats! The island has a beautiful main town set on a rocky outcrop high above the sea, landscapes ranging from barren peaks to forested walking trails, miles of beaches, a history dating back 4500 years, and a unique breed of miniature wild pony.

Don’t miss: The grave of English war poet Rupert Brook atmospherically located on a remote mountainside gazing out to the blue Aegean.

Do it: A week at the Skyros Nefeli Hotel including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage starts at £1,044 per person.

Skyros Nefeli Hotel

10. Lesvos

SIZE RANKING
3rd

ARCHIPELAGO
North Aegean

DIRECT FLIGHT?
Yes

Few islands were marked on the map of Ancient Greece quite as firmly as this Aegean colossus – which also crops up in The Iliad. Its capital Mytilene was one of the great cities of pre-Roman Europe, its streets awash with poets and philosophers (Aristotle lived there for a bit). Its amphitheatre and archaeological museum remember this era; its castle looks further forward, to the Venetians and Ottomans. But there is much more to Lesvos than the past; some 250 miles of seafront make it one of Greece’s best beach destinations.

Don’t miss: Vatera Beach, on the south coast. All four miles of it. Space enough for all.

Do it: Lesvos is an excellent option for families. A week’s stay at Archontiko Petras 1821 including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage starts at £916 per person. Alternatively, the entire house (all five bedrooms) can also be booked for a special occasion.

Archontiko Petras 1821

9. Corfu

SIZE RANKING
7th

ARCHIPELAGO
Ionian

DIRECT FLIGHT?
Yes

Corfu has been one of the favourite options for British holidaymakers since the Trojan War broke out – or, at least, for the last 50 years; its hotels filled with tourists from these shores as soon as the package boom began. If familiarity once bred, if not contempt, then a belief that the westernmost Greek island is a case study in basic fly-and-flop, Corfu has upped its game this century, with a wealth of upmarket villas and hotels. It is a haven of history too, its capital (Corfu Town) wearing its Venetian heritage to Unesco-listed effect.

Don’t miss: Roda, a classic resort-village on the north coast, alive with inviting tavernas.

Do it: A one-week stay at Kalami Bay including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage starts at £509 per person.

Kalami Bay

8. Lefkada

SIZE RANKING
14th

ARCHIPELAGO
Ionian

DIRECT FLIGHT?
Yes (to Preveza, adjacent on the mainland) 

Lefkada is only an island by dint of a thin channel – in this case, a man-made one, dug by Corinthian hands in the 7th century BC, and crossed by a road-bridge in the present. Not that this dilutes its island essence. Suitably craggy in all the right places (Mount Savrota, its high-point, reaches a peak of 3,799ft/1,158m), here is a Kefalonia for those who like less obvious options – yet not so obtuse that the beaten path is nowhere to be seen. Indeed, Kefalonia is but a ferry hop from the gorgeous south-coast town Vasiliki.

Don’t miss: Porto Katsiki, at its south-west corner; one of Greece’s most fabled beaches.

Do it: A one week’s stay at the Palm Trees Hotel including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage starts at £1,017 per person.

Beach by the Palm Trees Hotel

7. Mykonos

SIZE RANKING
33rd

ARCHIPELAGO
Cyclades

DIRECT FLIGHT?
Yes

Perhaps it is the fact that it is bigger (if only marginally so), but Santorini’s partner in summer popularity never seems to feel as stuffed to the rafters as its Cycladic colleague. Perhaps it’s the fact that it is flatter than Santorini; that riding one of its many mopeds does not involve steep roads and vertical drops. Or perhaps, simply, it has sold itself better, its reputation as the Ibiza of the Aegean reinforced by the cool resorts and laidback soundtracks around the main town. But Mykonos just feels chic. Grab a cocktail, no rush.

Don’t miss: The stone windmills of Mykonos Town – and the sunset party beneath them.

Do it: A week's stay at the Elena Hotel including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage starts at £875 per person.

Mykonos

6. Zakynthos

SIZE RANKING
11th

ARCHIPELAGO
Ionian

DIRECT FLIGHT?
Yes

Though smaller than its Ionian colleagues Corfu and Kefalonia, Zakynthos has a capacity to be all things to all people. It can be heaven for hikers, with 80 miles of trails crossing its interior. It can be fantastic for families – Tsilivi, on its east coast, is a resort-town ideal for a holiday with children. And it can be a party zone – Laganas, on the south coast, is unabashed 18-30 territory. But beyond this, it can be strikingly beautiful. The Venetians – who ruled it from 1484 to 1797 – called it “the Flower of the Levant.” A fair description.

Don’t miss: Navagio Beach, with its lone shipwreck; the emblem of Zakynthos’s beauty.

Do it: A week at the Blue Sea Cottage including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage starts at £1,182 per person.

Blue Sea Cottage

5. Rhodes 

SIZE RANKING
4th

ARCHIPELAGO
Dodecanese

DIRECT FLIGHT?
Yes

The largest piece of the Dodecanese jigsaw was the only island to play host to one of the original Seven Wonders of the World – an accolade that was partly down to its position as one of the key ports of the ancient Mediterranean. The Colossus – a 108ft (33m) statue of the sun-god Helios, which adorned the entrance to the harbour in Rhodes Town – is long gone. But Rhodes still attracts travellers in droves, whether they are heading for the clubs and bars of up-all-night Faliraki, or the luxe villas and hotels further down the east coast. 

Don’t miss: Lindos – a lovely east-coast town with cosy tavernas and a grand acropolis.

Do it: A week at the Terinikos Hotel Apartments including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage starts at £876 per person. 

Terinikos Hotel Apartments

4. Hydra

SIZE RANKING
44th 

ARCHIPELAGO
Saronic

DIRECT FLIGHT?
No 

Leonard Cohen famously had a house on Hydra. Various members of the Beatles ate at what is now the Omilos restaurant (then the Lagoudera club) on the main harbour. Yet for all its Sixties sheen, this splendid sliver of land, just off the Peloponnese, is best defined by its relationship with the capital – Athenians love to dash down to it on the hydrofoil ferry from Piraeus. And with good reason – Hydra is (officially) car-free, and life moves at a slow pace, on foot. Happily, there is plenty of space for international tourists as well.

Don’t miss: The Profits Ilias monastery. The hike up is lengthy. The view is widescreen.

Do it: A one-week stay at the Mistral Hotel including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage from £1,023 per person. 

Views from the standard room, Mistral Hotel

3. Samos

SIZE RANKING
9th

ARCHIPELAGO
North Aegean

DIRECT FLIGHT?
Yes

Some of the most spectacular corners of Greece lie beyond the obvious. Samos sits so close to Turkey – there is barely a mile of water to the Mycale Strait – that you can almost touch the next country over from its south-eastern corner. The view here is remarkable, a whole new continent welling up beyond the beach. But this underrated isle has more than sufficient charm to draw your eye inland. Heraion is one of those clusters of tumbled temple masonry that Greece has in abundance, but no less special for it. Just down the road, Pythagorion is a splendid seaside town, close to Paralia Glikoriza beach. 

Don’t miss: The wild west coast. Its winding road could be California’s Highway One. 

Do it: A week’s stay at the Kerkis Bay Hotel including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage starts at £853 per person. 

Votsalakia, South West Samos

2. Crete 

SIZE RANKING
1st 

ARCHIPELAGO
Cretan

DIRECT FLIGHT?
Yes

It could easily be a country (at 3,260 square miles, it is bigger than Malta and Barbados; only just smaller than Cyprus). At one point it was – the centre of the Minoan civilisation, rich in the myths of maze-bound minotaurs and sky-falling Icarus. It is barely less mighty in the present day, its north-coast cities – Heraklion, Rethymno, Chania – defined by Venetian fortifications and waterside restaurants. With 650 miles of coast, it has enough hotels and beaches for a lifetime of holidays – including splendid options around Agios Nikolaos. And it soars mightily – the White Mountains so swarthy that they deal in snow.

Don’t miss: Samaria Gorge – a glorious gap in the ridgeline, protected as a national park.

Do it: A week’s stay at the Afrodite Apartments including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage start at £801 per person. 

Chania

1. Kefalonia

SIZE RANKING
6th

ARCHIPELAGO
Ionian

DIRECT FLIGHT?
Yes

There is a school of academic thought which says that Kefalonia – and not the smaller neighbour that bears the name – is the Ithaca of The Odyssey. It certainly looks the part; an Ionian Avalon that any wandering hero might seek. Fiskardo is a welcoming harbour; a blur of fluttering sails and evening cocktails. West-coast Assos is the Greek village as artform, gazing at Homer’s “wine-dark sea” in the shadow of a Venetian castle. And the Paliki peninsula is ragged and mysterious, ending on the sheltered sands of Petani Beach. All in all, a holiday paradise – well worth a decade of struggles with monsters and sirens.

Don’t miss: Myrtos Beach, in the north-west – another supermodel sliver of Greek sand.

Do it: A week’s stay at Eleni’s Cottage including flights, transfers and 20kg hold luggage start at £871 per person. 

The Sunvil Family

By The Sunvil Family

25th June 2023



The Sunvil Family
The Sunvil Family
The Sunvil Family

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