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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 holidays to break records

Taverna

It already looks like a bumper year for Greek holidays in 2018 as tour operators report a surge in early bird bookings to the Greek islands. Package giant Thomas Cook say bookings are up 12% and rivals TUI are investing heavily in Greek hotel expansion in the wake of a 10% increase in sales this year. Greek island airports are also getting a huge multi-million euro revamp after being sold off to a German-Greek consortium and tourism officials are expected to report a record number of holiday visitors this year with tourist arrivals forecast to top the 30 million mark for the first time. Brexit has yet to bite as the number of British tourists to Greece is expected to pass the 3 million mark this year. Greeks are benefitting from the political troubles in other Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia as holidaymakers opt for more stable destinations.

Favourite Greek beaches

Paraskevi Skiathos

Paraskevi sands on Skiathos

A pleasant family beach at the end of a long valley, AgiaParaskevi has a long strip of good sand, shallow water and plenty of watersports. Beach tavernas serve the basics and there is shade under the pine trees.

Alyki Paros

Alyki sands on Paros

Set in a small, sheltered cove, Alyki has small port for fishing boats and a long sandy beach that creeps around the headland. Several small bays are dotted along this part of the south east coast of Paros.

Skala Kefalonia

Skala sands on Kefalonia

Skala is a pleasant busy village with plenty of trees and a large number of tavernas and bars. The beach is a spectacular swathe of deep white sand that sweeps off the headland in both directions.

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 sights

Melisani Kefalonia

Melissani cave lake

At Melisani, boatmen ferry Kefalonia visitors around an underground lake where a collapsed roof allows sunlight to pour down on the shimmering aquamarine water below. It makes for an eerie, ethereal experience.

Faneromeni Lefkas

Panagia Faneromeni on Lefkas

The monastery Panagia Faneromeni is located on a wooded plateau to the west of Lefkada Town, with great views over the resort. It has a good museum with some rare Byzantine icons as well as a small zoo.

Skaros Ios

Skaros site on Ios

The award-winning archaeological site at Skaros on Ios is a superbly restored example of a prehistoric settlement. Many buildings were two-storey with stone-flagged floors and a sophisticated sewage systems.

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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