5 of the best Greek islands to holiday

Greece’s charms span across the mainland and its many archipelagos. So much so, it’s often hard to pick which are the best Greek islands to holiday on. Regardless of whether you’re drawn by Zante’s coves or Crete’s picturesque harbours, here’s a summary of Greece’s finest five isles to visit.

Crete

Crete is Greece’s largest island, comprising everything from arid mountains to sun-kissed beaches. There’s plenty of cultural attractions – think the Archaeological Museum of Chania, or the Nautical Museum of Crete – alongside plush sunspots which are the hallmark of many Greek island holidays. Elafonisi beach is one such spot, made up of crystal-clear waters with shallows perfect for a gentle (and safe) swim.

Zante

Primarily known for its vibrant nightlife, Zante is in fact a multifaceted destination which caters for a lot of different tastes. The island’s capital, Zakynthos (or Zante Town) is overlooked by a Venetian castle that dates back to around the 1480s. Brave the climb and explore stone vaulted prisons, church ruins and lookout points for cannons.

Navagio Beach, otherwise known as Shipwreck Beach, is synonymous with holidays in Zante. Its pristine sands lie sheltered within a bay looking out onto the Ionian Sea – just make sure you get a sunbathing spot either next to or in front of the shipwreck in the middle of the beach, that way you’ll get a better view.

Rhodes

Rhodes and historic sites go hand in hand. The Acropolis of Lindos dates way back to Ancient Greece, and although large parts have been gradually eroded, the remaining pillars still cast an impressive sight over the surrounding coastline.

Alternatively, visit the Medieval City of Rhodes, one of Greece’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Wander over narrow sandstone bridges or park up by the harbour and enjoy a cold drink while soaking up classic Mediterranean views.

Corfu

Corfu and its fishing villages have all the right ingredients for an idyllic getaway. The Canal d’Amour beach near Agios Stefanos comprises calm, turquoise waters resting within a narrow bay. There’s sunbed facilities overlooking the sea, and on the higher grounds above the bay, so you’re left with no shortage of places to top up your tan.

Kefalonia

Last but by no means least, the Ionian Island of Kefalonia is characterised by its mystical caves, quaint villages and (of course) stretching beaches. The Melissani Cave, or Melissani Lake, is located on the east of the island. Its interiors are lit by sunlight during the day, thanks to a hole in one of the caves’ roofs, making for a calming, slightly surreal experience when you take a boat tour here.

For something a bit more challenging, hike up Mount Ainos, the highest point in Kefalonia. It’s 1,628 metres high, gifting walkers with panoramic views over the region and the nearby village of Lourdas. Back on sea level, the beaches near the village present endless amounts of serene sunbathing opportunities – lose yourself to a good book or simply unwind in the refreshing sea breeze.

Decided on a destination? Take a look at Greek island villa offerings from Villa Plus, and find a property which works for you.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

Good snorkelling holidays for villa-loving travellers

Holiday rentals provide the perfect basecamp for snorkelling getaways. Hiring a villa gives you the freedom to prepare your own packed lunches and dinners, and you’ll have plenty of room to store your snorkels, flippers and wetsuits.


Image by Lance, used under CC License (CC by 2.0

Good snorkelling holidays unlock a country’s most enthralling secrets. Pack your underwater camera and get ready to delve deep in some of these top destinations…

Costa del Sol, Spain

Costa del Sol is blessed with tepid waters bustling with marine life. On top of that, there’s plenty of sun-kissed beaches where you can set up camp before a few hours of snorkelling. Visit Maro beach, near the town of Nerja, and try to find its fascinating underwater cave if you’re feeling daring.

The shores surrounding Las Yucas and La Viborilla beaches, near Benalmadena, house a wide range of fish such as tuna, bonitos, and dolphinfish.

Costa Blanca, Spain

Like Costa del Sol, the Costa Blanca is a snorkelers’ paradise. Explore the region’s shorelines and you’ll quickly find that it’s simply brimming with underwater life. Granadella Cove, near Javea, has notoriously clear waters. Not only that, it’s quite sheltered so younger snorkellers can see the bay’s treasures, too.

The Algarve, Portugal

Portugal’s Algarve coast comprises playful Atlantic waters and warming sands. It’s also home to the famed Ria Formosa lagoon, one of the country’s many natural wonders. Here you’ll find one of the largest populations of seahorses in the world – wipe down your face mask and prepare to dive amongst them.

Cyprus

If you visit Cyprus during summertime, you might encounter beautiful green and loggerhead turtles on the island’s western coast. The island’s Cape Greco National Park is well worth a visit, too, complete with some of the clearest waters in the region and picturesque in every sense of the word.

Corfu, Greece

The Greek island of Corfu has plenty of spots for a good snorkelling holiday. Its pebbly beaches tend to have clearer waters, but you might want to wear a wetsuit or flippers to protect your feet from the jaggier rocks! Keep your eyes peeled for a diverse range of silverside fish, alongside flathead mullet and painted combers.

Pula, Croatia


Image by Christoph Sammer, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Croatia’s idyllic Adriatic coastlines are the envy of the world. Pula houses some of its finest and along with these renowned views, it has a number of great snorkelling spots.

Take Brijuni National Park, a short boat journey from Pula. The waters of these 14 small, protected islands are alive with flora, fauna and old Roman artefacts. In Verige Bay, on the western coast of the park, you can get a guided tour to explore submerged archaeological sites. Take full advantage and get excited for a day of underwater education.

Whether you’re travelling as a family, with friends or with your partner or spouse, a snorkelling holiday provides an unrivalled way to get to know a country’s ins and outs. Uncover exotic species of fish or simply paddle around and let the waves wash over you – underwater getaways are always ones to remember.

Have a look at some of the Villa Plus offerings in these hotspots and let your snorkelling dreams come to life.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

Top things to see and do in Corfu

The natural beauty of the island is reason enough to visit Corfu. But that’s not to say that the Greek isle isn’t full to the brim with cultural and historic sites to see. The farthest north of the Ionian Islands, Corfu is just a quick hop from Albania and mainland Greece and remains one of the country’s most beguiling jewels.

With such beautiful surroundings, no one would blame you for just wanting to laze the days away in a luxury villa whilst taking in the views. While there is always time for relaxation, Corfu is a destination that rewards exploring a little further. With that in mind, here are some of its finest attractions.

Wander through Corfu Old Town on holiday
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Corfu Old Town

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Corfu Old Town is a must-visit location on the island. With a long and storied history that stretches back nearly three thousand years, the town has played a key role in the region’s past. It’s been under Greek, British and Venetian rule at varying points, with architectural traits as testament to this. Dominated by the large 16th century Venetian fortress, the town is a maze of winding streets and historic buildings. No trip here would be complete without visiting The Palace of St Michael and St George and a visit to the historic St Spiridon’s Church – home of the island’s patron saint.

Relax by the Corfu seaside
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Paleokastritsa Beach

In many ways, Corfu typifies the beauty and allure of a Greek paradise, and nowhere is this more apparent than at Paleokastritsa Beach. With spectacular views and waters that are so clear they’re almost invisible, this is where to go to enjoy Corfu at its best. Taking its name from the picturesque surrounding village of Paleokastritsa, the beach is a firm favourite with visitors to the island. Once you see it for yourself, it’s easy to understand why.

Achilleion Museum

Achilleion Museum is among the key things to do on the island of Corfu. Originally inhabited by the Austrian Empress Elisabeth (known as ‘Sissi’) and Kaiser William the 2nd of Germany, it boasts both grandeur and a fascinating past. Yet its amazing sea views and opulent setting are reasons in their own right to visit the palace. Beyond them, it houses numerous antiques, pieces of art, and fascinating artefacts from the empress and her family.

Visit the Achilleion Museum in CorfuImage by Manu, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Mount Pantokrator

At nearly a thousand metres high, Mount Pantokrator is easily the highest peak on Corfu. Thanks to its height it offers incredible views out over the island, and across the water to Albania. On especially clear days it is even possible to see right across the Aegean Sea towards Italy. The mountain makes up a portion of the popular Corfu Trail walking route, and it offers moderate hike and pleasant day out.

By Arianne Fabrice, a travel journalist who specializes in the popular resort destinations in and around Europe. Having worked for some of Paris’ premium travel mags, she’s recently moved into English-language publications.

Your guide to Corfu

Corfu is the second largest of Greece’s Ionian Islands but it’s small enough to make you feel at home! The island is only 226 mi² in size, which makes Villa Plus Holidays to Corfu ideal for holidaymakers who want to hire a car and travel across the whole island. Not to mention travellers seeking a leisurely break where everything they need is within walking distance.

Treat yourself to a Corfu holiday
Image by mickpix, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Visit the island’s northeast coast for the best diving opportunities. Alternatively, consider taking a boat trip to Paxos island for a day of white sand beaches and sparkling blue seas. Corfu’s location in the Ionian Sea, just off Greece’s northwest coast, means that it’s ideal for travellers looking to fit two holidays into one. A visit to neighbouring Albania or mainland Greece is simple to arrange and an inexpensive way to see more of the world.

Visit Corfu
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Religion is particularly important in Corfu and the island’s old town alone has a grand total of 37 churches. They are all within 15 minutes walking distance of each other, so taking a religious tour of the old town is easy to do! Saint Spyridon Church is the most important church on the island. It takes its name from Saint Spyridon, the patron saint of Corfu, and has the tallest bell tower of any church in the Ionian Islands!

Agios Stefanos

Agios Stefanos is a small resort found on the northwest side of Corfu Island. Most visitors to the resort choose to rent a villa and take advantage of the perks of a self-catering holiday. Take a short walk to Agios Stefanos’ local harbour in the morning and you can buy freshly caught fish. Save it for a special lunch or dinner time treat and serve with buttered potatoes.

Fancy a night off from cooking? You’ll be spoilt for choice for eateries in Agios Stefanos. There are Greek tavernas and restaurants at every turn and many restaurants also offer entertainment in the form of Greek music and dancing for their diners to enjoy. Try out a local speciality like tzatziki or stifado and savour the taste of Corfu while you enjoy the Greek entertainment that’s on offer.

Agios Stefanos has kept a firm hold of its fishing village roots and this sense of character makes the area a joy to explore. Agios Stefanos’ main beach in particular is a sight to behold. The beach is over a mile long with a backdrop of green hills, olive trees and paths that lead to gorgeous white-painted houses. This family friendly beach is spacious enough for children to play games and for adults to kick back and sunbathe with plenty of room to spare for a picnic basket.

Kassiopi

Kassiopi is a popular resort town which lies just 23 miles north of Corfu Town. Want more freedom and space than a resort or hotel offers? Choose from a range of self-catering accommodation and luxury villas in Corfu to make the most of your stay in Kassiopi. Once you’ve arrived and unpacked your bags, then you’re free to explore this charming resort town.

Kassiopi was once a fishing village and it still feels like a small, tucked away gem. Like any good gem, Kassiopi boasts a long and storied history. The area is overlooked by Corfu’s tallest mountain, Mount Pantokrator, and Kassiopi Castle which dates back to the Byzantine period. The exact century the castle was built in is unknown, but other discoveries suggest that it may have been as early as the 6th century!

A walkway that surrounds the castle offers fantastic views of the harbour and gives visitors the chance to see Kassiopi Castle up close. At the bottom of the walkway stands another important part of the village’s history, Kassopitra Church. The 16th century church on top of the site of an ancient 4th century temple which was dedicated to Zeus. Wear church-appropriate clothing and take a peek inside this unique church at the end of your walk.

Kalami

Kalami is a typical, sleepy Greek village. Treasured by many holidaymakers for its unique blend of traditional tavernas, a beautiful bay area and a picturesque pebble beach, Kalami offers a treat to be savoured. The village is best suited for those who want a laid-back holiday filled with relaxation, sunbathing and the occasional dip in the sea. Kalami is somewhere you’ll want to return to time and time again and the village will truly come to feel like a home away from home.

Nissaki

Nissaki is a village located on the north-east coast of Corfu, 15 miles from Corfu Town. The name Nissaki means ‘little island’ which comes from the small island that was once in Nissaki’s bay. Over time, the small rocky island joined with the main land of the village after a jetty was constructed. The area is still home to several taverns including Mitsos Taverna, a family run restaurant which serves up traditional Greek dishes with a smile.

Nissaki is also a good starting point for a challenging hike to the peak of Mount Pantokrator. Choose to walk or take the winding roads up to the top in a car. However you get there, once you make it to the 906-metre-high summit the whole of Corfu and neighbouring Albania can be seen. On especially clear days, it’s also possible to see Italy in the distance. During peak season, there’s a café at the summit to take in the incredible views over Corfu with a well-deserved drink.

Hiking in Corfu

For hikers and walkers who want a challenge, Mount Pantokrator is the biggest you’ll find in Corfu. From the mountain’s base, the hike is 8.5 miles. Wear sensible walking boots, a wide brimmed hat and pack plenty of water to ensure an enjoyable hike.

At the start of your journey you’ll find the deserted village of Old Sinies which stands on the foothills of the mountain. Once home to a bustling village community, Old Sinies has been a complete ghost town since the 60’s. Take some time to explore the lost village and marvel at the buildings that have been left behind.

Once you reach Mount Pantokrator’s peak there is the opportunity for a breather by visiting the Monastery of Ipsilos. The monastery holds many precious artefacts such as saint relics, stoles embroidered with gold and crosses embellished with rubies and roses. This opulent monastery also holds some incredible religious art and offers the best views on the island.

For a more relaxed walk at your own pace, the Corfu Trail is a fantastic option. The trail runs the whole length of the island, but walkers can join and leave the trail as they please. Get a taste of Corfu’s natural landscape before tourism as you walk along the trail and admire olive trees, juniper bushes and wild flowers. Want walking to be the focus of your holiday? You can find self-catering accommodation close to the Corfu Trail letting you enjoy Corfu’s stunning walking routes.

Scuba diving in Corfu

Corfu benefits from clear blue seas which provide the perfect conditions for divers. Nissaki is a favourite spot for regular divers and the area is home to many talented diving instructors. Whether it’s your first or tenth time going under, you’ll be in safe hands when diving in Nissaki.

Take a day trip further afield and enjoy the fantastic diving conditions available on the small, nearby Greek island of Paxos. A 90-minute boat ride from Corfu will deliver you to the white sandy shores of Paxos. The island is just eight miles long and two miles wide but it’s Paxos’ crystal seas and hidden coves that the island is best known for. Experienced and novice divers alike can enjoy a dive in Paxos’ seas and will have the chance to catch sight of rarely seen sea life such as starfish, octopi and coral reefs.

Romantic holidays in Corfu

Visiting Corfu on a romantic holiday? A trip to Canal d’Amour, the Channel of Love, at Sidari beach should be at the top of your to-do list! The beach is known for its underwater caves and unusual sandy rock formations that stretch out into the blue sea. The tunnel underneath the rocks is the Channel of Love and rumour has it that if you and your partner swim through the tunnel together then you’ll either stay in love forever or you will get married soon, depending on who you ask. Otherwise, if you swim through on your own then legend says that you’ll meet your one true love on the other side!

For a holiday that will leave you feeling refreshed, reiJust nvigorated and rearing to return, visit one of Corfu’s finest resort towns. Start planning your trip by browsing our available villas in Corfu today and you’re sure to become one of the many travellers who fall for the island of Corfu.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family-focus, and she is in the midst of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

Hidden gems of Corfu

Ever-popular Corfu is a big draw for beach lovers. Holidays in Corfu can mean long lazy days soaking up the sun, but there’s much more to this picturesque Greek island than crashing out on a beach in a large resort.

Beach in Corfu
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Discover the south

The hotels in Corfu are plentiful, but to slow down the pace and discover an authentic side of the island, try a luxury villa holiday in Corfu. Head to the south, perhaps to a town like Benitses, and you can spend your days exploring the sleepy old village. Then you can follow the paths that lead to the cypress and olive tree woodlands on the surrounding slopes.

Staying around Benitses, or the equally tranquil towns of Boukari or Lefkimmi, gives you a glimpse into local life. It offers an abundance of authentic local cuisine and treats you to landscapes that are untouched by development. Come evening, you can retreat to your Corfu holiday rental for a relaxing dinner and to sample some local wine.

Visit Corfu
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Venture to the west

Choosing a Corfu villa holiday can help keep costs down by minimising how much you dine out. It also avoids the extra expenses associated with hotels like drinks, tips and laundry. Venture beyond the big resorts found north of Corfu Town and you’ll find plenty of villas in Corfu along the west coast of the island, in and around towns like scenic Paleokastritsa or the coastal village of  Lakones.

Secluded beaches of Corfu

Peaceful beaches are easy to find in Corfu, especially if you head for the east coast and the beaches around San Stefanos. As they are pebbly, they stay quieter, but doesn’t mean they aren’t as lovely as their sandier counterparts. South of Gardiki Castle is the vast Lake Korission, separated from the sea by a narrow stretch of beach. This is a good spot to find a secluded patch of sand, away from the masses. With Villa Plus Holidays to Corfu, you’ll have privacy, sun, and luscious views – what more could you want from a getaway?

Hilly retreats

Corfu’s rugged and steep terrain makes for impressive viewing and the roads twist and turn through the landscape for an adventurous journey. Dotted along the roads on the hillsides are tiny villages like Spartylas and Strinylas, a far cry from the busy resorts of Gouvia and Dasia. Find a luxury villa on a Corfu hillside and you’ll be treated to views of green woodland reaching to the distant blue of the ocean.

Staying near the Corfu Trail

Corfu’s famous hiking trail is 136 miles long and stretches from one end to the other. It affords some of Corfu’s most fantastic and memorable views. Finding accommodation near the trail is a good idea for those planning on donning their hiking boots on holiday to explore Corfu’s diverse geology on foot.

By Ciaran Brooks. A former history graduate, Ciaran Brooks’ love for old stories has led him around the world. A self-confessed adventurer, he fell into travel writing after his blog chronicling his year in Thailand was picked up by a national paper.