The best Greek Island hotels By Telegraph Travel Experts
island silhouettes on the horizon, a transparent sea lapping a sand or
pebble shore (there’s a special Greek word for the sound – flísvos), a
congenial beach bar a few steps away… for many visitors, these are the
essentials of a holiday in the Greek islands. Venture further inland,
however, and you will find atmospheric villages and monasteries,
world-class museums and a laid-back lifestyle pursued mostly in public.
Corfu has figured in our consciousness since Edward Lear
visited and painted while it was a British possession from 1814 to 1864.
It’s one of the greenest of the Greek islands – thanks to intermittent
but torrential rains from September to June, and the thousands of olive
trees that carpet the landscape. It is also, perhaps surprisingly, one
of the more rural, sleepy islands away from the touristic honeypots.
Crete boasts one of the
longest beach-lounging seasons; north-coast beaches tend to be long and
sandy if a bit exposed, while others are apt to be shorter but more
secluded. For those of a non-beachy disposition, there’s plenty of
interest inland: exquisitely frescoed country chapels of the 14th and
15th centuries, ruined Minoan palaces and towns, plus top-drawer hiking
and botanising opportunities.
With miles of beaches, a
forested, mountainous interior, Crusader castles, frescoed churches,
one of the finest medieval towns in the Mediterranean and eight sunny
months a year, Rhodes can’t help but be a winner for holidaymakers. The
walled old town of Rhodes has justly been accorded Unesco World Heritage
status, and rarely fails to impress with its sandstone architecture,
flying buttresses over cobbled streets and a skyline exotically stooked
with minarets and palm trees.
Santoríni is really best
approached by sea; as your arriving craft manoeuvres over the
impossibly midnight blue waters of the caldera, the sheer lava cliffs of
the caldera lip, layered in varicoloured rock, loom overhead, with
white houses on top like a dusting of snow It’s one of the spectacles of
the Med, as is the reverse practice of staring out over the caldera
waters from up top – something not lost on the strangely assorted
Once among the poorest,
barest Greek islands, Mýkonos - starting in the late 1950s - became a
bohemian mecca and is now one of the glitziest, most renowned tourist
destinations in the country. This central Cyclade was briefly the
premier Mediterranean resort for gay travellers, though since then
Mýkonos has tried to reinvent itself for a more varied clientele.
There’s also no shortage of clothing and jewellery boutiques in the main
town (Hóra) for a spot of retail therapy.
Sumptuous mansions and
humbler vernacular homes arrayed amphitheatrically around Hydra’s
marble-quayed harbour date from the 18th and 19th centuries, when
Hydriot seafaring prowess brought great wealth. The island remains
endearingly time-warped: as a listed architectural reserve, all new
construction is (theoretically) banned, and it’s blissfully free of
motor vehicles except for a few miniature rubbish trucks – photogenic
donkeys (or mules) do most haulage. The clip-clop of the beasts' hooves
on marble pavement and their drovers' cries are very much part of the
geology, with basalt formations pointing evocatively skyward and quirky
islets floating just offshore, adds to the palpably spiritual
atmosphere. But the corporeal certainly gets a look-in, with excellent
beaches and arguably the most varied clientele of any Greek island,
ranging from backpackers to current and deposed European royalty.
Páros has a bit of
everything you’d expect from an island in the Cyclades archipelago –
whitewashed villages, blue-domed churches, blonde-sand beaches, fishing
harbours overlooked by taverna tables, plus lively bars and cafés. The
landscape is perhaps not the most dramatic, with its modest 771-metre
(2,388ft) -high Ágii Pándes summit, but from the ring road the views out
to sea over dozens of surrounding islands are unbeatable.
The largest and loftiest
of the Cyclades archipelago, rugged Náxos is one of the few Greek
islands besides Crete that could feed itself – you see flocks of sheep,
goats and cattle everywhere, along with all manner of market gardens.
The local small potatoes are renowned, commanding a price premium, as do
a range of island cheeses. The biggest draw is Náxos’s entire
southwest-facing coast which, from the resort of Ágios Prokópios down to
Agiassós near the island’s southerly cape, essentially forms one great
long beach, separated by little headlands.
Skiáthos was the first
northern Sporade to be developed, back in the mid-1960s. It’s not hard
to see why, with more than 50 beaches lapped by an almost
Caribbean-coloured sea, plus a lushly green backdrop inland. Its
original forest, alas, has burnt frequently (last time in 2007), but
such is the humid climate and ample groundwater that replacement growth
springs up quickly. A busy yacht marina and drydock are a natural
outgrowth of the traditional local caique-building industry. The Telegraph