It was yet another record year for Greek Island holidays last year, the third in a row. Holiday arrivals in Greece jumped 7.1% to hit an all-time high of 23.6 million. Brits were at the head of the queue with a 14.7% rise in visitors to almost 2.4 million. US tourists numbers rose even higher by nearly 27% but the numbers just topped 750,000. A rise in German tourists of 14.3% helped to offset the 59% slump in Russian visitors. Greek holiday arrivals brought in much-needed cash to help Greece's troubled economy, spending an estimated €14.2 billion - up 6% on 2014. Americans were the biggest spenders with a 44.4% rise to €945.6 million but the British were right behind with a 30.5% increase on 2014 to over €2 billion. December 2015 saw a 12.2% surge in tourism revenues, even though tourism arrivals dropped 9.3% on the previous year.
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Independent holiday guides to Greece and the Greek islands. We try to keep our Greek holiday guides up to date but it's not easy. Please email Greek Islands Postcards if you spot any errors or omissions.
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As an antidote to the usual gushing Greece holiday brochures we offer a more prosaic peek at holidays in Greece and travel in the Greek islands with unbiased reports and independent guides to the best Greek beaches.
Our Popular islands list those in greatest demand. They usually have their own airport and plenty of tourist attractions.
The Peaceful islands tend to be off the main tourist trail and, while some have larger airports, others may need a ferry journey to reach them.
The Sleepy islands are well off the tourist track and may only be reached by ferry, with some a considerable distance from the nearest large airport.
Our Offbeat islands are mainly for those seeking a more remote and authentic holidays in Greece.
Favourite Greek beaches
Skala Kalonis resort on Lesvos
Not only does Skala Kalonis have one of the best beaches on Lesvos, the south coast resort also has a charming port, a famous sardine festival and excellent walking countryside that varies from salt marsh to hill forest.
Stegna beach on Rhodes
Stegna is a small and pretty resort with a long stretch of golden sand and a small harbour. The beach is a mixture of sand and pebble with shallow waters. There is a pleasant seasonal cantina and some watersports.
Agios Nikolaos on Zante
A popular and busy beach on the south-east coast of Zante, it's noted for a wide range of watersports. The golden sand shelves gently along a sheltered bay that's overlooked by a picturesque whitewashed chapel.
Hopes of getting Greek island seaplane services into the air this year appear to have been sunk, thanks to more red tape from the Greek government. Hellenic Seaplanes announced plans to operate up to 100 routes across Greece in 2013. But the scheme has been beset by delays in setting up a proper legal framework, the failure to grant waterway licences and other Greek red tape. The latest setback is a proposed bill to nationalise all the current privately financed waterways, a move that could effectively kill off the fledgling project. With more 50 waterway applications awaiting approval Greek officials have failed to grant a single license in 2015. Talks on a Greek seaplane network began in 2000, but 16 years later not a single seaplane flight has got out of deep water.
Featured Greek places
Molyvos resort on Lesvos
Molyvos is the main tourist resort of Lesvos. It's topped with a Byzantine castle and boasts traditional stone houses, cobbled streets and a very attractive harbour with many museums, galleries and shops.
Mount Oros on Aegina
Mount Oros is an extinct volcano and Aegina's highest mountain at 532 metres. A small chapel crowns the summit and on lower slopes is the ancient church of Taxiarchis. Hill climbers enjoy extensive views from its peak.
Fira resort of Santorini
Fira is the old Greek name for Santorini and the capital town sits on top of sheer cliffs that rise up from the caldera. A favourite stop for cruise ships, the village gets packed with tourists taking snaps of the famous fiery red sunsets.
Scuba diving off the Greek Islands got a new lease of life when diving bans were lifted. Now Greek scuba dive centres are springing up everywhere to meet the demand. Until recently, diving was limited to just a few Greek island dive sites in order to protect the ancient underwater treasures that lie beneath its seas. Now scuba diving is allowed pretty much everywhere in Greek seas with just a few prohibited sites. The result has been a sharp rise in the number of Greek Island diving centres. In choosing one for your holiday be sure to check that instructors are PADI qualified and the wise will take out specialist scuba diving insurance just in case. That said, the crystal clear waters of Greece are teeming with marine life and there are some spectacular caves and shipwrecks for Greek Island visitors to explore.
Planning ahead has always been a headache for those who like Greek island hopping on the extensive ferry system. Summer timetables were never published before May making it hard work to plan a Greek holiday on more than a couple of islands. Now things are different. Ferry companies got together and agreed to release summer routes and schedules at the end of the previous year. The move makes it possible for Greek holiday enthusiasts to cash in on holiday discounts for booking cheap flights early safe in the knowledge that they will not find themselves stuck on an island for days trying to find out when the next ferry sailing is scheduled. The much-welcomed move should help boost visitor numbers to the Greek Islands and help extend the holiday season.
Greece slipped into third place in the Blue Flag beach quality awards in 2015, picking up flags for only 395 beaches and nine marinas across Greece and the Greek Islands. It places Greece behind tourism rivals Spain, which topped the awards with 578 beaches, and by Turkey with 436 beaches now flying the Blue Flag. in 2014 Greece and the Greek islands were awarded a total of 408 Blue Flags, 15 more than the 2013 but this was cut dramatically when 38 Greek beaches were stripped of their Blue Flags after failing spot checks by beach inspectors. Most the Greek beaches losing the coveted Blue Flag were on the island of Corfu. Only seven Corfu beaches qualify for flags this year compared to 30 in 2014. More then 4,000 beaches and 650 marinas fly the Blue Flags worldwide.
There are more than 6,000 Greek Islands but most are just lumps of rock. Only around 230 are inhabited and about 80 have a population over 100. About a dozen are major holiday destinations with another 20 having substantial tourist visitors. There are six basic island groupings: the Ionian lie to the west and contain holiday islands of Corfu, Lefkas, Kefalonia and Zante. The Cyclades are found in the central Aegean and include Mykonos and Santorini as well as lesser visited islands like Paros and Naxos. To the east are the Dodecanese and major islands like Rhodes and Kos as well as smaller ones such as Symi and Patmos. To the north-east is the Sporades group which includes Skiathos and the north Aegean group of Samos, Lesvos and Thassos. To the south is Crete - big enough to be on its own.