Moon Greek Islands & Athens

Timeless Villages, Scenic Hikes, Local Flavors


By Sarah Souli

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Soak up the sun, dance till dawn, hike through wild forests, or explore Greek history: Escape to the Mediterranean with Moon Greek Islands & Athens.
  • Choose the right islands for you, with strategic itineraries for different timelines, budgets, and activities, whether you want to lounge on the best beaches, linger in ancient villages, explore the outdoors, or island-hop for a little taste of everything
  • Focused coverage of Athens and 18 Greek islands, including Santorini, Mykonos, Karpathos, Corfu, Lefkada, and more
  • Unique experiences and must-see highlights: Marvel at Oia's picturesque blue and white architecture or take a boat to the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. Soak in therapeutic hot springs, hike through lush forests to waterfalls in Samothrace, or hop aboard a boat and discover hidden coves and wild beaches. Learn about local folklore in Olympos, explore Athens' contemporary galleries and ancient ruins, and savor authentic Greek cuisine, from roasted lamb and olives to dakos and fiery shots of ouzo
  • Insight from Athens local Sarah Souli on how to experience Greece like an insider, support local businesses, and avoid over-tourism
  • Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
  • Background information on the landscape, history, and cultural customs of Greece and each individual island
  • In-depth coverage of: Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, Folegandros, Milos, Naxos, Anafi, Karpathos, Rhodes, Kalymnos, Samothrace, Ikaria, Lesvos, Alonnisos, Skyros, Corfu, Zakynthos, Lefkada, and Crete

With Moon's practical tips and local know-how, you can experience the best of Athens and the Greek islands.

Exploring more of Europe? Check out Moon Prague, Vienna & Budapest or Moon Southern Italy.

About Moon Travel Guides: Moon was founded in 1973 to empower independent, active, and conscious travel. We prioritize local businesses, outdoor recreation, and traveling strategically and sustainably. Moon Travel Guides are written by local, expert authors with great stories to tell—and they can't wait to share their favorite places with you.

For more inspiration, follow @moonguides on social media.


a tiger mosaic in Delos

Milos island beach

DISCOVER Greek Islands & Athens


Planning Your Trip



Best of the Cycladics: Naxos, Mykonos, and Anafi



Best of the Dodecanese: Rhodes and Karpathos

Best of the Northeast Aegean: Ikaria and Lesvos



Best of the Sporades: Skyros and Alonissos


Best of the Ionian Coast: Corfu and Lefkada

sun-dried octopus in Crete.

“Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean Sea.”

—Nikos Kazantzakis

There’s a winding mountain road on Karpathos that leads down to a sliver of liquid turquoise paradise, cut between two jagged rocks like a bite of an ice cream sandwich. The view itself is stunning: With each turn of the road, the browns and greens of the mountainside give way to the dazzling blues of the Aegean. The light, a hazy glow that has inspired countless artists and writers, reflects off silvery olive trees and catches the ripples of the sea. The air is satisfyingly thick and salty, and as you inhale the scent of wild sage and oregano, it feels like you are sitting, in the best way possible, inside a giant mug of tea.

Karpathos is just one of more than 6,000 Greek islands flung haphazardly across the Mediterranean like dozens of coins dropped from a great height. Each is a holistically sensual and unique experience, from the lunar dunes of Milos to the lush forests of Samothrace. You’ll find dazzling displays of earnest humanness: villages precariously carved into cliff sides where old men finger komboloi (prayer beads) and drink syrupy coffee, domed churches painted ocher, octopuses drying in the sun, and bodies of every shape and size baking under the hot sun like loaves of bread. Each of the 202 inhabited islands has its own vibe, character, landscape, and specialties, and you can find one to soothe any ailment, tickle any fancy, or live any adventure.

souvenirs in a Mykonos shop

House of Cleopatra on Delos

a boat on a Mykonos beach

It’s increasingly easy to travel across the Aegean and Ionian Seas. Each year, the Greek government adds new, or bolsters existing, ferry lines. Budget airlines fly regularly from European cities to Ikaria, Lesvos, and Corfu, and new eco-lodges and hotels are built every season. Islands are offering more amenities to travelers, including windsurfing, yoga, and well-preserved hiking trails. The Greek islands continue to inspire and delight with their beauty, and there’s never been a better time to visit.

fresco of leaping bulls in Knossos, Crete

ancient ruins on the island of Delos.

bright green olives commonly grown throughout the region


1 Finding your favorite beach. From party spots (Mykonos) to hippie hangouts (Anafi) to unbelievable lunar landscapes (Milos), the Greek islands have you covered.

2 Visiting the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis at Delos Archaeological Site, just a short boat ride from Mykonos.

3 Taking a boat trip around Milos (called a gyros tis Milos) to access the island’s wildest beaches and most secluded swimming spots.

4 Catching a glimpse of Acropolis from rooftops, streets, and other corners of Athens—especially at sunset.

5 Visiting Olympos village, aka the city of living folklore, on Karpathos. Isolated from the rest of the island (and world), this traditional village has successfully preserved its past.

6 Sampling chilled ouzo accompanied by seafood meze at an ouzeri on Lesvos, known as home of the famed Greek drink.

7 Exploring the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace, one of the most important (and mysterious) archaeological sites in all of Greece.

8 Losing track of time on Ikaria, one of the world’s famed Blue Zones, and a place where time itself seems to be a philosophical concept.

9 Exploring Chania Town. The Venetian harbor town is not only the most beautiful city on Crete—it’s also a stunning portal to some of the island’s most amazing scenery, beaches, and food.

10 Walking through Skyros’s Hora, an endless maze of cobblestone streets and whitewashed houses with flat roofs that you can climb onto.

Planning Your Trip

Where to Go

Why go: Fantastic ruins, street art, top-notch restaurants, excellent people watching

the Acropolis of Athens

There’s never been a better time to visit the birthplace of Western civilization. Despite the economic crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic, the Greek spirit has persevered, and there’s an explosion of creativity, with new shops, museums, and restaurants opening at a rapid clip. Come for the old, too; no visit to Greece is complete without at least a glimpse of the marvelous Parthenon. Piraeus port is a gateway to most of the islands, and you’ll likely pass through here at some point.

Cycladic Islands

Why go: Endless turquoise seas, whitewashed villages


Thousands of years ago, a cataclysmic volcano made Santorini what it is today: an architectural marvel of cave dwellings precariously perched on the lip of the red caldera. For romance, luxury, and truly out-of-this-world views, come to Santorini. This is an island best visited in the late fall or early spring, when the tourists have gone and you can drink in the caldera view alone. It’s one of the most crowded islands in Greece, so come in the off-season to appreciate its sensual vibe.


Greece’s most notorious party island is the place to come for excellent gourmet meals, endless nightlife, and fantastic music. But there’s a tranquil, authentic side to this island as well, and it has the most harmonic architecture of all the Cycladic islands. True clubbers should come in July or August; the rest of you will enjoy Mykonos in September or June. Just a boat ride away is the Delos Archaeological Site, located on an uninhabited island.


Once totally off the grid, Folegandros is becoming more touristic, but that doesn’t detract from this beautiful island’s subdued charm. Come for the beaches, the hiking, and the bougainvillea-laced towns. Its hora is one of the most beautiful in the Cyclades. It still attracts a bohemian, if well-heeled, crowd.


With more than 70 fantastic beaches, ranging from black sand to strange white rock formations that look like a lunar landscape, Milos is a geologist’s dream island. Most of the beaches are accessible only by boat, and it’s a true pleasure to spend the day cruising around, lazily jumping into the sea.

Fyriplaka beach, Milos island


As soon as you arrive at the port, you’ll see the heart-stoppingly beautiful Temple of Apollo. The biggest island of the Cyclades is home to fantastic ruins, expansive sand beaches, traditional mountain villages, and some truly excellent restaurants.


Seemingly lost in time and last on the Santorini line, tiny Anafi is the island that everyone else forgot about. All the better for you, since you can enjoy this hippie island’s pristine beaches and glorious sunsets without the crowds. There’s not much to do besides lounge and swim, usually naked, and that’s exactly the point.

Dodecanese Islands

Why go: Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman history; adventure travel


Faraway Karpathos has some of the Mediterranean’s best windsurfing, and some of the Greek islands’ best-kept secret beaches. The island also has a curiously large portion of Greek-Americans, who return home every summer and have lent a decidedly American flair to the island.


Rhodes has something of a party reputation, but it’s so much more than a hedonistic island. With some of the best-preserved Ottoman and medieval era ruins around and some stunning nature, Rhodes has something for everyone.


Once the epicenter of sponge diving in the Aegean, Kalymnos is now better known for its extreme sports: Between its dramatic mountainscape and craggy boulders, it’s the perfect place for rock climbers and divers.

Northeast Aegean Islands

Why go: Authentic experiences without the crowds; excellent seafood


Difficult to get to, Samothrace rewards those who make the journey with endless hiking trails full of waterfalls and natural swimming pools. The island is full of wild goats and attracts a decidedly hippie crowd, who camp in the forest and swim naked. This is an island for letting your spirit loose.


The delightfully endearing wacky aunt of the Greek islands, Ikaria is a magical little place. The laid-back and philosophical character of the locals is truly inspiring, and the social cohesion, excellent food, and therapeutic hot springs all contribute to one of the biggest centenarian populations in the world. Ikaria literally runs on a different time: Everything opens at night!


Greece’s third-largest island warrants a visit: It’s the home of both ouzo and Sappho, and boasts some stunning natural landscapes, from petrified forests to kilometer-long beaches. And let’s not forget the food, which is some of the best in Greece. Lesvos has borne the brunt of the refugee crisis, which is all the more reason to visit and support the island.

Sporades Islands

Why go: Tranquility, hiking, horses


Lovely Alonissos feels like a world away: Covered in vegetation, the island is a nature lover’s paradise, with fantastic beaches and plenty of hiking trails. The Alonissos Underwater Museum, which opened in 2020, lets divers access one of the biggest Classical-era shipwrecks ever found. Alonissos also has one of the most beautiful horas in the Aegean, and a relaxed, happy vibe.


You’ll probably fall madly in love with the tiny Skyrian horses, plus the fantastic food, strangely abandoned landscape in the south of the island, the lovely locals, the beautiful hora, and the generally off-the-beaten-path vibe of Skyros.

Ionian Islands

Why go: Stunning beaches, Italian influence, and picturesque coves


Walking around Corfu Town, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re in Italy. From the architecture to the food, Corfu has a strong European flair. There’s excellent cuisine, beautiful beaches, and enough museums to spend your whole vacation just looking at art.


Home to Shipwreck Bay, one of Greece’s most famous beaches, Zakynthos has some of the most unbelievably blue waters you’ve ever seen. Now an adrenaline junkie’s paradise, the island becomes overrun with families in the summer, but the colors alone are worth the crowds.


One of only two islands you can drive to, Lefkada is all pine trees and winding roads, and water that might be even more beautiful than Zakynthos’s, but with half the crowds. Popular with Italians, Israelis, and Greek families, Lefkada has a laid-back vibe that makes it a family-friendly destination.


Why go: Tradition, mountains, beaches, food

The largest of the Greek islands, Crete is a universe unto itself. It would take a lifetime to experience everything this island has to offer. Come for the fantastic history, museums, beautifully preserved port towns, local character, and of course, the food. (Don’t tell anyone, but it’s the best in Greece.)

When to Go
High Season (June-August)

Summer, when temperatures (and prices!) soar, is the high season in Greece. Business is in full swing, and you’ll find everything open, usually for longer hours. Though the weather is great (28-40°C/82-104°F), the crowds can be relentless, especially in August (and particularly the middle two weeks of the month). If you’re going to travel during this time, be prepared to make plenty of reservations and wait in lots of lines, especially if you’re going to blockbuster islands like Mykonos, Santorini, or Crete.

Shoulder Season (April-May and September-October)

The months bookending the summer season (particularly May and September) are great times to visit the islands. The crowds aren’t so intense, the weather is mild but warm enough to enjoy the beaches (12-25°C/54-77°F in fall, 9-25°C/48-77°F in spring), and you’ll be able to snag reservations that would be impossible in mid-August. By October the weather has usually cooled down, but you can still swim.

Low Season (November-March)


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On Sale
Jan 10, 2023
Page Count
560 pages
Moon Travel

Sarah Souli

About the Author

Sarah Souli is an Athens-based journalist covering all things Greek for outlets like Vice, The Guardian, Condé Nast Traveler, Roads & Kingdoms, and more. She's been traveling to Greece for years, eventually settling in Athens several years ago with her Greek husband. Through her writing and travels, she's formed an intimate relationship with Greece's people, language, and customs, and loves seeking out the hidden gems of the Greek islands. She studied Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, speaks French, Spanish, Arabic, and Greek, and never tires of inspiring wanderlust and learning new things about her adopted home country.

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