6 Amazing Greek Islands

I have a special kind of nostalgic love for Greek islands as Lefkada was the first place I’ve ever traveled to by plane. I was eleven and my mum and I went there for a week which we spent in a small village called Agios Nikitas. I’ll never forget the tranquillity, the beauty of the beach and the pinkish flowers, surrounding the white and blue traditional houses and taverns. Calm warm evenings, the sun drowning in the Ionian Sea and the smell of grilled corn was what life was all about, and the eleven-year-old me loved it and wanted to stay forever. The Greeks were incredibly nice, we felt safe and my mind was blown by the color of the sea and everything the island had to offer, from old monasteries, resting high up on steep bare hills, to pretty small fishing towns. We both loved every minute of it and thus returned to Greece several times after that very first trip. We’ve been to Lesbos, Zakynthos, Skiathos, Kefalonia and I have been to Corfu for my high school graduation trip. 

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It might be because I’ve been to Greek islands as a child, as a teenager who came to party with friends, and as a young adult spending quality time with her mother, but I find it amazing how these islands offer so much diversity. There’s a lot of nature, lonely beaches, hidden historical places, small villages, and at the same time, there are streets filled with dance clubs and with night bars that offer all the possible alcoholic drinks. Consequently, they are a destination for pretty much anyone: families with small kids, students who want to party, and pensioners who just want to chill.

LEFKADA:

an island in the Ionian Sea with a capital of the same name. It used to be connected to the mainland; today the only remaining connection is a bridge. The airport is located in Preveza which is in the mainland, an hour from the capital Lefkada. Legends link the island to many personalities, among them Sappho, Odyssey, and Aphrodite. 

The island is definitely worth exploring by car as well as by boat; there are many organized boat trips. Some of the most interesting and beautiful sights are the island Meganisi and the beaches Porto Katsiki, Milos (pictured below; we only had to take a boat taxi to get there from Agios Nikitas), Kathisma and Egremni, the waterfalls in Nidri, and the village Vasiliki.

LESBOS:

an island in the Aegean Sea, so on the Eastern side of Greece, with the capital Mytilene. I was twelve when we traveled there, and I must admit I was rather disappointed: the beaches were not what I was used to from Lefkada and the land was sort of barren.  I would’ve probably enjoyed the island more now as it has many other interesting places to visit (even though I still agree with my 12-year-old self: the beaches are generally A LOT nicer on Lefkada). The best thing we saw on Lesbos was the Petrified forest of Lesbos (on the pic below): very old trees (from 15 to 20 million years approximately) that turned into stone: they are fossilized as all the organic has been replaced with minerals. Otherwise, Sappho, the famous poet, was born in Lesbos and she’s known for writing emotional poetry directed towards women; that’s where the word lesbian comes from the island of Lesbos. Other interesting sights are the Molivos Castle, the Vrana Olive Press Museum, the Ancient Theatre of Mytilene and many churches, monasteries, and museums. 

ZAKYNTHOS:

located in the Ionian Sea. You’ve probably all seen pictures of its most famous sight, whether you wanted to or not: Navagio or Shipwreck Beach, a beautiful cove with gorgeous water and… a shipwreck that you can climb (or at least you could because the 14-year-old-me did). It’s very crowded and there are equally beautiful beaches in other parts of the island (but they’re missing the ship).

Zakynthos, or Zanta town as you might hear people call it, the capital, is really cool: full of bars and very vibrant. Otherwise, the beaches of Zakynthos are just as amazing as the ones on Lefkada. You should definitely visit the Blue Caves (the name says it all), the Marathonisi Island and the village Keri. Besides Navagio (Shipwreck), some of the best beaches are Kalamaki and Agios Nikolaos. Zakynthos was noticeably more crowded than Lefkada and Lesbos.



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SKIATHOS:

located in the northwest Aegean Sea, fairly small and with a capital called, yes, Skiathos. The beaches are a lot more beautiful than the ones on Lesbos and the capital is gorgeous. A part of the town is on a hill, so you can walk up and down between the small streets and the old houses, and this gives it a slight Santorini vibe, even though I only know that vibe from pics as I haven’t checked that off my list yet. It also has a lot of bars and clubs and most probably an interesting nightlife (can’t really tell as I was fifteen and with my mum). A part of the film Mamma Mia was filmed here so it’s getting tourists thanks to that as well. The best beaches are Lalaria, Tsougria, Koukonaries, and others. There are also Sea Caves, reachable by boat.

CORFU:

I probably don’t have the correct impression of Corfu as most of the time I was too hungover to really enjoy it, and I’d like to go again because of that. Anyway, I do remember some things! Corfu is another island in the Ionian Sea, the beaches are beautiful and the capital, Corfu (pic below), doesn’t disappoint either. The beaches we visited were Sidari (the famous Channel of Love or Canal D’Amour), Paleokastritsa (lots of rocks and the color of the sea is the bomb) and Glyfada (a typical pretty sandy beach). There are lots of other beaches on the island and also other interesting things to see, but as far as I can remember we only visited the mentioned beaches and the capital. I guess we spent the rest of the time drinking. On the bright side, though, I can confirm that Corfu has an interesting nightlife. 

KEFALONIA:

the island of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, they say. Kefalonia is perhaps the most amazing of all the Greek islands, maybe even of all the islands I have ever been to: the colors of the sea are out of this world and the beaches really are stunning! The island is rather big, and it really has a lot to offer. The best beaches are…all of them! No, okay, they are Xi (the red sand beach), Myrtos, Petani, Lourdas, Skala and Fter. Plus, you definitely shouldn’t miss the Melissani Lake Cave.

We were staying in Argostoli (the capital) which is a nice town with lots to see and, as always, an interesting nightlife. The latter caused us a severe lack of sleep, though; there was a traditional tavern under the window of our hotel room, and it closed when it was already bright outside.

Conclusions

Perhaps it’s because we always remember the firsts and the lasts the best and with a special tenderness, but if I could return to one of the islands right now, I would have a hard time choosing between Lefkada and Kefalonia. I guess I’d choose Lefkada, it would be like taking a trip to the past. I really recommend Greece, it’s my favorite summer vacation destination for several reasons: the beaches, the weather (hot, but the wind makes it survivable), the kind locals, the delicious food (haven’t gone as a vegan yet, though), the interesting historical sights and the nightlife. As I already said, I really recommend renting a car on all the Greek islands (the roads aren’t busy, just a bit bumpy, and the signs are sometimes only in Greek, but there are always helpful locals around), taking a boat trip, eating in taverns, visiting old villages/towns/monasteries and having a night out. Go to Greece!

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