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.

Best drinks for your self-catering holiday to Rhodes

When it comes to drinks, visitors to Rhodes are spoilt for choice. The island has centuries of alcohol production under its belt, so you know you’re in for a quality tasting experience. The best part of a self-catering trip is that you don’t have to stick to the menu in a hotel bar, leaving your options wide open.

In the comfort of your private holiday rental, you can try a different drink every night of your trip – wine, beer, liquor, or whatever else takes your fancy. Here are some authentic Rhodian flavours that you simple have to try:

Enjoy an ice-cold ouzo from the balcony of your Rhodes villa
Image by jerrroen, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Ouzo

This strong liquor is often hailed as Greece’s national drink, and it has a long history, originating from a 14th century drink called tsipouro. Ouzo is anise-flavoured, so if you like liquorice, you’re bound to like this.

Ouzo is found local supermarkets, but for the best flavours, choose a reputable brand like Plomari. For an authentic experience, follow the Greek custom of drinking ouzo with food. Typically, is it sipped alongside mezedes, the Greek version of tapas, so treat yourself to some small plates whilst cooling down with chilled ouzo in the garden of your villa.

If ouzo on its own is a little too strong for your tastes, try adding water – and don’t be alarmed when it turns milky. This happens to all anise-flavoured spirits. Alternatively, you could experiment by making some ouzo-based cocktails in your kitchen.

Souma

Another traditional Greek drink, made from either figs or grapes, is souma. Similar to ouzo, and is also pretty strong, souma in Rhodes is usually the grape-based variety, and has a distinctive sweet taste.

As a result of the tradition and ritual surrounding the production of souma, it is not produced on a wide-scale by large companies. Instead, it is crafted by individual distillers, and often sold in unlabelled bottles. In the village of Siana, you can visit a distillery to learn about how this spirit is made before purchasing a bottle to bring home your holiday rental.

Rhodes is well-known for its excellent wine
Image by GanMed64, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Wine in Rhodes

Rhodes is one of the most prominent winemaking areas in Greece, with wine production dating back to the ancient Phoenicians. The island is home to thousands of acres of vineyards, where grapes thrive thanks to the hot, dry climate.

The CAIR (Company Agricultural Industry of Rodos) cooperative is the most esteemed wine producer on the island, and perhaps the best in the whole of Greece. For a luxury experience, be sure to sample the company’s top quality Mandylariá and Athiri wines.

The Emery winery is another top producer in Rhodes, offering a choice of wines including dry whites, rose, and reds. No matter what your tastes, you’ll definitely find a bottle you can bring back to enjoy alongside a home-cooked meal.

Beer in Rhodes

Beer might not have the same reputation and history as wine in Rhodes, but you can still enjoy some fine Greek offerings. The lager beer Mythos is made by one of Greece’s largest and most popular breweries. It won’t be hard to find in your nearest shop, and it’s perfect if you want to relax with a refreshing pint on the terrace of your holiday villa.

By Shaun Fraser, a former drinks rep, who now focuses on writing about his favourite tipples from Europe and beyond. He credits his good nose to a previous life as a sommelier.

Hidden Gems of Rhodes

As with most of Greece, Rhodes marries beautiful weather and scenery with rich history and culture. This island is an irresistible place to relax and it is easy to get lost between the ancient civilisations and incredible ruins. Popular holiday towns like Lindos, Faliraki, and Rhodes City may hoover up most of the tourists, but look further afield and you’ll find plenty of hidden gems to discover that will make your holiday all the more rewarding.

Marvel in the beauty of Rhodes
Image by AtrBirkett, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY SA 2.0)

Halki

Only 10km long, the small island of Halki is a beautiful and slow-paced destination just off the west coast of Rhodes. Offering as undeveloped a slice of Greek island life as you can find, Halki is tranquillity personified. Just over an hour from Rhodes, Halki has only a few hundred residents, one hotel and three beaches, meaning that you have little option other than to relax! The picture-perfect main village on the island is called Emporio and there are several delightful tavernas found around the harbour.

Enjoy Rhodes' rich history
Image by andyreid1, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Monolithos

For a more spectacular slice of Rhodes, take a trip to the coastal village of Monolithos. The village is known for its castle which is perched on a hundred-metre high rock face and has amazing views across the surrounding green hills and blue seas. As well as the views, the castle is an intriguing place to visit for its historical importance as it was built to protect the island by the Knights of Saint John in the 1400s.
Treat yourself to a stay in a Rhodes villa

Asklipiio

One of the most scenic settlements on the interior of the island, Asklipiio is worth visiting. Close to the popular resort town of Kiotari, Asklipiio is well known for its 13th century fort. The village also has a folklore museum housed in an even older 11th century church, replete with remarkable Byzantine wall paintings. A stroll around the village offers a pleasant change of pace from the lively beachfronts close by.

Embona

Embona is the highest village on Rhodes and it can feel a world away from the island’s busier towns. It is also right in the middle of the island’s most verdant grape producing region. This means it is the unofficial wine capital of the island as it is home to several vineyards. Wine lovers should visit in the spring when the village celebrates its wine making prowess with a local festival. Embona is also celebrated for its first-rate food thanks to the quality of local olive groves and orchards. As well as wine, it’s also the best place to sample Rhodes’ local spirit, suoma.

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.