8 Underrated Greek Islands To Add To Your Hit List
Beyond the Santorini sunsets and foam parties of Eos.
While the crowds head to Greece for Santorini sunsets or the foam parties of Eos, not everyone is looking for a European Bali. We found a quieter holiday on eight unnoticed Greek islands where the discerning traveller seeks cultural enlightenment over all-inclusive hedonism. Aided by the recent Kallikrates law, every island in Greece is now considered a municipality so even the tiniest are opening their doors wide to visitors.
Good to know: August is peak season in Europe when school’s out for summer, so dodge it by a month either side and enjoy the weather without the crowds.
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Dive in Amorgos’ shipwreck bay
Ever wanted to dive like Jean Reno in Luc Besson’s cult classic The Big Blue? The movie is fiction but the famous Amorgos diving locales are very real. Visible above water, the picturesque shipwreck of Olympia ran aground in 1980 in a bay in south-west Amargos. Further out to sea is the Marina III, a massive sunken cargo ship lying on the seabed from depths of 5 to 30 metres and a suitable site for certified divers.
Good to know: Don’t go it alone kids. Pro outfit The Amorgos Diving Center will arrange you a safe guided wreck dive.
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Climb to the Hozoviotissa monastery
After your dive, be sure to check out the Pagania Hozoviotissa monastery, embedded in a cliff-face on the north-east of Chora. It was built in 1088AD atop a thousand steps to house a golden icon of the Virgin Mary dating from 812AD and is home to practicing monks to this day.
Good to know: If you want to go inside and see the icon, men need to wear trousers and women, a knee-length skirt or wrap. Sexism hasn’t been invented here yet.
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Enjoy the silence on Patroklos
Do you like silent islands with a greater population of columns than people? Patroklos, 65 kilometres south-east of Athens, is uninhabited but so gosh darn pretty that former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon allegedly tried to steal it and build a casino. Thankfully the bribery was uncovered before he could pave paradise and put up a parking lot, thus depriving us all of Greek Elvis’ nightly rendition of Viva Las Lesbos.
Good to know: There’s no ferry to Patroklos so it’s certainly the hardest on this list to get to, but just think all that Instagram karma. Your best bet is to head to nearby Sounion and find a boatman who’ll bring you out for a few bob.
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Infiltrate a Byzantine fortress
Monemvasía is a mile long crag of rock off the east coast of the Peleponese that split from the mainland during an earthquake in 375AD and was turned into a fortress linked to the shore by a causeway. History buffs will be in heaven here as there are no modern buildings and much of the architecture dates from the islands’ days as a trading post of the Byzantine Empire.
Good to know: Kisterna is a medieval mansion given the whole boutique-ey hotel treatment.
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Pilgrimage to Patmos
Biblical apostle John the Baptist casts a literal shadow over Patmos from the castle monastery bearing his name high above the isle. Built over a thousand-years-ago, the locals once greeted strangers by dropping boiling hot oil down onto them from high windows. These days they’re far more likely to welcome you with a smile and rent you a moped for 20 bucks. If you’re feeling especially pious, drive out to The Cave of the Apostles where John wrote the Book of Revelation and ponder on those four raging horsemen and their fiery end to the world.
Good to know: Patmos is a two-and-a-half hour ferry ride from Kos.
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Switch off at Hydra
It’s a surprisingly Amish Paradise in the Saronic Gulf and Weird Al is invited. Cars, motorbikes and modern buildings are banned here and the order of the day is an itinerary of art galleries and 18th century mansions. After exploring the harbour and cathedral, head by water taxi to swimming spots and pebble beaches all along the coast.
Good to know: The harbour-side hotel Orloff is a new hotel converted from a historic townhouse.
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Savour the Anafi calamari
A mere 19 kilometres East of Santorini is lil’ sister Anafi, a tiny island with none of the crowds and all of the seafood. The ancient home of the Argonauts boasts a 200 metre sandy beach dotted with tavernas serving seafood fresh from the boats. Top rated restaurant Anemos is run by a family of fishermen and serves up giant platters of calamari and lobster.
Good to know: There’s only a handful of tiny hotels on the island so book early. Our pick is the 5-room, 12-apartment Apollon Village Hotel run by the Loudaros family.
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#8 Starchitect spotting on Antiparos
Starting with the dream home of art collector Iasson Tsakonas, the tiny island of Antiparos has become a utopia for international architects. Under the auspices of the Antiparos Design Properties project, the landscape of traditional white homes is now dotted with 24 modernist masterpieces by the likes of Tala Mikdashi and Atelier Bow Wow.
The marvels extend below ground and back in time to the vast Cave of Antiparos, where the French Marquis de Nointel spent Christmas in 1673 and Lord Byron carved his name on wall. In more recent years, steps and lighting have been put in so you go caving without dying, which is nice.
Good to know: There’s no tourist office, so do your research beforehand and bring your own fun. In fact, just bring a book and some sunscreen.
Craving summer? Contiki has last minute deals to Europe on sale now – start planning your adventure today.