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67 Best things to see & do in Greek Islands

  • Greek Islands, Greece

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: John Malathronas
  • Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

Mountainous narrow edge of the caldera, with blue water in the centre

Bucket List Experience

Hike along Santorini’s caldera

A 6-mile hike along the rim of Santorini’s caldera, this relatively easy three-hour trek is one of the most memorable in the whole of the Aegean. The route links Fira, the island’s capital, with Oia, its most picturesque village.

Walking the caldera – the rim of a sunken volcanic crater – is the best way to appreciate the island’s unique geography and to soak up those spectacular landscapes. As you walk, you’ll see whitewashed houses perched on vertiginous slopes, and colourful, striated caldera cliffs that plummet into the azure sea.

Good for age: 16+

Duration: 4-5 hours

  • Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

A sailboat sailing on bright blue waters in front of a cliff face in Santorini

Bucket List Experience

Sailing in Santorini

If you do one thing in Santorini, make it this. These fully customisable excursions aboard luxury catamarans – both full sail or motorised – allow you to take in Santorini’s spectacular volcanic scenery in stylish comfort.

You can sail all day, or select to stop at sights like Akrotiri, the Red and White Beaches, Thirassia and the hot springs, or sail off to a remote island for a day’s swimming and snorkelling. A gourmet lunch is served on board, while moored up in an idyllic bay. A day in paradise.

Adult price: £25

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 4 hours

Knossos

  • Crete, Greek Islands, Greece

Knossos

Bucket List Experience

Knossos

Knossos is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete, and is known as Europe’s oldest city, dating back to the Neolithic period.

It was the palace of King Minos, founder of the Minoan civilisation that flourished 4,000 years ago. This is also where Theseus slayed the mythical Minotaur, after navigating through the labyrinth with the help of Minos’ daughter, Ariadne.

The size of a small town, the palace itself resembles a labyrinth. With its stunning frescoes, mosaics, ceramic vessels, and painted columns, the site is remarkably well preserved (though some archaeologists object to Arthus Evans’ partial reconstructions of the site).

Adult price: £5

Good for age: 13+

  • Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

Hike to the Kameni Volcano

Bucket List Experience

Hike to the Kameni Volcano

Cruising the island’s half-submerged, cliff-rimmed volcanic crater is like floating in an open-air geological museum.

A full-day boat trip takes in three equally extraordinary attractions: climbing the charred, hissing crater of Palia Kameni, wallowing in the sulphurous hot springs of Nea Kameni, then shinning up the steep islet of Thirassia, a charming time warp miraculously overlooked by mass tourism.

Adult price: £25

Good for age: 10+

Duration: 6 hours

  • Crete, Greek Islands, Greece

Hike Samaria Gorge

Bucket List Experience

Hike Samaria Gorge

Running from a plateau in the White Mountains all the way down to the Libyan Sea, Samaria Gorge is one of the longest and most spectacular canyons in Europe.

Well-trodden and well-maintained, the 16-kilometre trail goes through incredibly diverse scenery. You might spot some of the 450 species of flora and fauna, alongside freshwater springs, abandoned villages, and isolated chapels. Look out for the increasingly rare kri-kri goats, an endangered breed endemic to Crete.

It’s possible to hike a much shorter route, if you start at the end point: the coastal village of Agia Roumeli, where you can cool off with a plunge into the Libyan Sea.

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 1 day

  • Crete, Greek Islands, Greece

Hike Aradena Gorge

Bucket List Experience

Hike Aradena Gorge

There are dozens of gorges on Crete; so if you’re looking for a shorter (and less busy) alternative to Samaria, the Aradena gorge ticks all the boxes.

The 7.5-km trail takes you from the ghost village of Aradena (abandoned in the 1950s, after a bloody vendetta between two local families), along very old, cobbled mule tracks (called kalderimia), crisscrossing the riverbed and climbing up and down the sheer cliffs. The rock face is covered in tiny flowers in spring. (Be warned: you need a head for heights.)

The route ends at the pebble cove of Marmara on the Libyan Sea. This beautiful, hard-to-reach beach is also home to a fantastic taverna.

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 2-3 hours

  • Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

Wine tasting in Santorini

Bucket List Experience

Wine tasting in Santorini

Santorini’s arid, volcanic terrain produces some of Greece’s finest wines – a tradition that dates back more than 3,500 years. The practice of cultivating vines in niabelos (specially pruned baskets) to protect the grapes from the harsh winters also dates back centuries.

There are ten professional wineries and several smaller concessions on Santorini. The bone-dry, citrus-and-smoke Assyrtiko, Aidani and Athiri whites, and smooth, sweet Vin Santo are the island’s most famous exports.

Min age 18

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 1+ hours

  • Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

White Santorini buildings lit up at night with a pink and peach sunset in the background

Bucket List Experience

Sunset at Oia

The character-filled town of Oia stands at the north-western tip of Santorini’s own little archipelago, with postcard-perfect views west and south. At sunset, the soft pinks and pumice-grey strata of the caldera walls turn to deep crimson and pewter, with the sea beneath deepening from shimmering azure to a dark indigo abyss.

Regrettably, Oia’s main street becomes shoulder-to-shoulder crowded, so come early and walk to the westernmost point and the rocky promontory further beyond. Later arrivals will act as a natural barrier, and your gaze will remain relatively unencumbered.

Another option is to book at a restaurant or café (with views) beforehand. The best place is the King Neptune restaurant, whose terrace stands above the throngs below. It’s a good-value family taverna with traditional staples such as moussaka, and its sunset location can’t be matched.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 1-2 hours

Corfu Historic Centre

  • Corfu, Greek Islands, Greece

Corfu Historic Centre

Experience

A UNESCO Heritage site, the Old Town (Xopoli) lies between the Old and the New Fortress and grew horizontally inside the fortified walls along twisted, narrow cobbled alleys (kantounia). Great for a lazy wander.

Good for age: 18+

Day trip to the Lesser Cyclades

  • Naxos, Greek Islands, Greece

Day trip to the Lesser Cyclades

Experience

Pleasure boats leave daily for day trips to the small islands around Naxos. Expect clear, pristine beaches overlooked by simple tavernas at Iraklia and Schinoussa. Book through any of the travel agencies by the main bus station.

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 1 day