How to Explore Greece’s Lesser-Known Islands Like a Local

Ios, also known as Io or Neo, is a Greek island in the Cyclades group in the Aegean Sea.

Sven Hansche mesh | Good pictures

A perennial favorite among holidaymakers, Greece consistently ranks among Europe’s top 10 holiday destinations.

But now tourists want to explore lesser known places across it Thousands of vast islands.

„We are moving beyond sea and sun. We want to extend the tourist season in time and space,” Olympia Anastasopoulou, secretary general for tourism policy and development at Greece’s Ministry of Tourism, told CNBC Travel.

To that end, the country is investing in far-flung destinations including Syros, Amorgos and Milos as part of its „Greece is what you want” campaign.

To facilitate tourism, popular hot spots such as Mykonos and Santorini are converted into shoulder season destinations.

Our goal is to expand those islands seasonally as well. We want to expand tourist traffic in other months,” said Eleni Mitraki, director of tourism development at the Greek National Tourism Organization, noting that the season runs from March to November.

The plans coincide with the expansion of direct flights from the US to Greece in March 2023.

Currently, Germany and the UK represent Greece’s largest inbound tourism markets by revenue, followed by the US, France and Italy. However, further growth is expected from other markets, particularly Canada and India, Anastasopoulou said.

Here are CNBC Travel’s top picks to get you off the beaten track in Greece.

A rock climber’s paradise

Located in Greece’s Dodecanese island chain in the southeastern Aegean Sea, Kalymnos was famous for sponge-diving – diving underwater to collect natural seaweed from the sea floor – which brought the island considerable wealth and recognition in the previous century.

Part of Greece’s Dodecanese island chain, Kalymnos has become a popular destination for rock climbers.

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More recently, the island has become a world famous destination Rock climbersAlso with 3,000 climbing routes Its rugged terrain is dotted with numerous rocks, caves and overhangs.

Kalymnos’ tourist season peaks in autumn with the Kalymnos Climbing Festival. But adventure seekers can get their kicks year-round Other activities Including scuba diving, hiking and boating.

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How to get there: Kalymnos is easily reached by ferry from nearby Kos, taking 45 minutes by ferry and 25 minutes by speedboat. In high season, it is also accessible by plane from Athens.

A haven for history buffs

Ios, also known as Io or Neo, is located between Santorini and Naxos, and was once seen exclusively as a party destination. But the Cyclades island has embraced and revamped its image in recent years Historical and natural features.

One of Greece’s oldest archaeological settlements, the Skarkos Monument, Ios has a strong association with the Greek epic poet Homer, who is said to have patronized the island and ended his days there.

Once known purely as a party island, Ios in the Cyclades is embracing its other attributes, including beautiful beaches and ancient Greek archaeological settlements.

IOS Municipality

Along with history, visitors to Ios can explore its numerous beaches and hiking and diving spots, tucking into some of the local cheeses the island is famous for.

How to get there: Ios does not have an airport. The island is accessible by ferry or speedboat from Athens and other Cyclades islands. It can also be reached by helicopter from Santorini.

A movie lover’s delight

Skopelos became famous as the filming location of the hit musical rom-com „Mamma Mia” and has emerged as a popular destination for weddings, honeymoons and movie tours.

The island is part of the Skopelos archipelago in the northwestern Aegean Sea Stunning beaches and picturesque villages There are many options such as diving, boating and cycling.

The Greek island of Skopelos is famous for filming the hit musical rom-com „Mamma Mia,” in which the clifftop church of Agios Ioannis Kastri played a major role.

Konstantinos-Iliopoulos | Istock | Good pictures

According to legend, the island was founded by the son of the Greek god of wine. Although many of its vineyards were destroyed by pests in the 1940s, small-scale domestic production continues to this day. Meanwhile, locally grown plums, almonds, chestnuts, figs, citrus fruits and olives adorn the local dishes.

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How to get there: Skopelos can be reached by ferry or speedboat from the port city of Volos in mainland Greece. Services operate throughout the year, with additional routes from other islands added during high season.

A hiking retreat

One of the largest islands of the Cyclades and only two hours from the Greek mainland, is mountainous Andros Different terrain Forests, waterfalls, beaches and native flora make it perfect for an outdoor escape.

One of the largest islands of the Cyclades, Andros has a diverse landscape of waterfalls, forests and beaches, making it a haven for hikers.

Summer Photos | Istock | Good pictures

Visitors can explore the island along its grand avenue A network of hiking trailsOr try their hand at windsurfing or scuba diving before sampling the local cuisine.

Art and culture fans can check out Andros’ collection of monasteries, galleries and museums, including the Archaeological Museum of Andros and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

How to get there: Andros does not have an airport. The island can be reached by boat from the port of Rafina on the outskirts of Athens.

Island of innovation

Astypalea, one of the Dodecanese islands, has a rich ancient history. But in the 21st century it is firmly positioning itself with the goal of taking the number one spot Sustainable and smart island The Mediterranean Sea.

The Dodecanese island of Astypalea has ambitions to become the Mediterranean’s first sustainable and smart island.

Astypalia Municipality

As part of an agreement with the Greek government and Volkswagen, Astypalea plans to implement an island-wide, zero-emission drive by 2030, replacing traditional vehicle rentals with electric cars, e-scooters and e-bikes. Elsewhere, charging points and renewable energy sources will also be added.

So called tourists Butterfly Island Enjoy its natural landscape with beautiful beaches, rocky slopes and diverse flora and fauna, as well as picturesque villages of white houses with bougainvillea.

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How to get there: Astypalea is accessible from Athens by boat and plane.


Surrounded by a necklace of 24 islands with dozens of blue-green beaches, Lipsi in the Dodecanese region is considered the Polynesian and ecological paradise of the Aegean Sea.

An ecological paradise surrounded by 24 islands, Lipsi is part of the Dodecanese island collection in the southeastern Aegean Sea.

Aegean Sea Life Sanctuary

With a fertile surface Flora and Fauna Protected by the European Union, the island is home to a variety of wildlife, including Mediterranean monk seals and sea turtles. Dolphins are also common in the area, and new Aegean Sea Life Sanctuary Dolphins Island is set to open soon.

Vacationers can enjoy boating, diving, beachcombing and hiking, before enjoying local festivals such as seafood and August’s wine celebration.

How to get there: Lipsi is only accessible by ferry or speedboat, with regular services from Athens and Leros.

Divers pleasure

Alonissos, part of the Sporades group of islands, is a diver’s paradise and the base of Greece. The first underwater museum. BC Featuring the „Parthenon of the Wrecks,” one of the largest shipwrecks of the pre-Classical period dating back to 425, the site offers recreational divers a unique insight into the region’s history.

Alonissos, part of the Sporades archipelago in the northwest Aegean Sea, is known for its diving spots, including Greece’s first underwater museum, the „Parthenon of the Wrecks”.

Alonissos Municipality

This island is also home to Alonissos and Northern Sporades National Marine ParkCurrently Europe’s largest marine protected area, it offers visitors the chance to see a wide range of flora and fauna.

Kayaking, hiking and cycling are among others activities available on the island, while museums and a local theater group showcase the island’s artistic and cultural scene.

How to get there: Alonissos can be accessed by plane or ferry from the ports of Volos, Agios Konstantinos and Kymi.

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