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Greek Islands Postcards

holiday travel guides to the islands of Greece

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.

By far the frankest and best written guide to the Greek islands - Guardian Online

Greek tourism feels the pinch

Taverna

They may be arriving in greater numbers than even but tourist visitors to the Greek islands are less willing to part with their hard earned cash. Latest figures show holiday spending in Greece down a huge 9.3% this year despite an increase in visitor arrivals. The average spend for the holidaymakers in Greece and the Greek Islands is €546 this year. Experts say Greece is attracting more budget conscious visitors who would normally head to Turkey or Egypt, others say the migrant crisis hasn't helped. Hotel prices have been slashed this year to tempt more tourists so the tight spending pattern is a double whammy for Greek hotel and taverna owners. Hikes in VAT rates on food and other commodities hasn't helped either. German and US visitors were the worst spenders - down 26% and 10% respectively while Brits spent just 5% less on average than last year.

Favourite Greek beaches

Rethymno Crete

Rethymnon city beach Crete

An ideal base to explore Crete, Rehtymnon is a city rich in tradition and with a large beach. Charming Venetian buildings sit alongside the minarets of Turkish mosques and a Venetian lighthouse guards the harbour.

Agios Nikolaos Zante

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.

Kolymbia Rhodes

Kolymbia beach on Rhodes

This one-time Italian-built model village has been invaded by a rash of modern hotels that back a couple of long sand and shingle beaches lying each side of a dramatic rock outcrop and an attractive harbour.

Greek seaplane flights sinking fast

Seaplanes

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

Agios Giorgis Kefalonia

Venetian castle of Agios Giorgis

Above the village of Peratata on Kefalonia sits the well-preserved Venetian castle of Agios Giorgis with coats of arms decorating its massive bastions. Peratata is also home to the monastery of Agios Andreas.

Eftalou Lesbos

Hot springs of Eftalou Lesvos

The hot salt springs at Eftalou, on the north-west tip of Lesvos, reach around 45°C with the waters good for treating rheumatism and arthritis. The renovated bath house has private rooms and a public pool.

Imerovigli Santorini

Imerovigli village on Santorini

Imerovigli sits on the edge of the caldera with fine views over the bay where the ruined fortress of Skaros perches on top an impressive rock outpost. Imerovigli is famed for its cave houses, carved out of the cliff face.

More Blue Flags for Greek beaches

Beach

Greek beaches picked up 486 Blue Flag awards this year to put the country in second place behind Spain for clean beaches. Holiday beach resorts lifted 56 more Blue Flags than last year with most going to beaches along the Halkidiki coast on the Greek mainland, to the island of Crete and to holiday beach hotspots in the Cyclades. Crete topped the Blue Flag table with 112 island awards followed the south Aegean islands with 68 and 49 for the Ionian islands which include Corfu, Kefalonia, Lefkas and Zante. Rhodes lifted 25 Blue Flag accolades followed by Lesvos with 11, Kos with eight, Santorini with six and Paros with five. Many smaller islands such as Alonissos, Skyros and Ikaria failed to make the grade because they did not meet strict criteria for disabled access.

Greek ferry timetables out earlier

Ferries

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.

Rules relaxed on Greek scuba diving

Diving

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.

A very quick guide to the Greek Islands

Greek travel map

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.

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