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Seven Greek Islands Voted Among Europe’s Favorites

Balos Beach Crete
Balos Beach, Crete. Credit: Olaf Tausch / CC-BY-3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Greek islands have topped Condé Nast‘s list of Europe’s best. The islands were chosen according to the votes of Condé Nast Traveller readers for this year.

Seven Greek destinations rank specifically among the top twenty in Europe, according to the list for the 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards of the prestigious US travel magazine.

Out of all EU countries, Greece had by far the most entries in the top twenty. Spain and Italy had only three entries each. Topping the global list was Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, in the United States.

Without a doubt, the Greek islands that made the list met all the high quality standards of the prestigious U.S. magazine. From their breathtaking views to their history, architecture, and cuisine, these islands are rightly amongst some of the finest on the continent.

Kos, an island of history, tranquility, and romance

Kos island bridge, Greece
Kos Island, Town Bridge. Credit: Petr Kratochvi/ / Public Domain CC0

Kos is a Greek island belonging to the Dodecanese island group in the southeastern Aegean Sea. It is the third largest island in the Dodecanese in terms of size and the second in terms of population.

An island full of history, Kos is forever associated with Hippocrates, known as “The Father of Medicine.” It houses the same plane tree under which Hippocrates used to teach. It is the oldest in Europe, in fact, at more than 2,500 years of age.

The island is in close proximity to the coasts of Turkey and more precisely to the ancient city of Halicarnassus, now known as Bodrum. Indeed, Kos offers a combination of eastern and western elements.

Despite mass tourism in the summer months, Kos maintains its traditional soul. There are several traditional villages such as Platani, Pili, Zia, and Asomatos.

This island offers a combination of tranquility and romance in a historical setting. For instance, the thermal baths of Kos, a natural swimming pool renowned for its sulfurous water and the archaeological site “Asklepion,” is the island’s most important historical site, offering visitors the chance to immerse themselves in history while also enjoying the island’s natural beauty.

In addition, the Old Town of Kos is rich in remains from the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine periods. There are also elements from the medieval period, which was marked by the Italian occupation. The ancient Agora reflects much of Kos’s history, with the glorious temples of Hercules and Aphrodite still standing.

Finally, the island boasts a number of breathtaking beaches, such as Lambi, Ammos, Tigaki, and Paradise Beach.

The island topped the list of Europe’s top twenty best islands at number sixteen.

Rhodes, Greece’s ”medieval island”

rhodes island lindos greece
the town of Lindos on Rhodes. Credit: Wikipedia/Public domain.

One of the most historic islands in Greece, Rhodes is also one of the most visited places in the country.

It is the largest island of the Dodecanese archipelago, best known for the Colossus of Rhodes. The Colossus, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Old World, was tragically lost during an earthquake in 226 BC.

Rhodes is the  “medieval island” of Greece best known for its fortified port, seven gates, characteristic stag statue, and palace of the Grand Master. The Old Town of Rhodes, a World Heritage Site, lies inside historical walls. Visitors take a walk back in time as they stroll through its cobbled streets. However, once you leave the Old Town, you will find a more modern version of the island, which includes cosmopolitan restaurants, shops, and bars.

The island is an ideal summer destination for its many beautiful beaches, but there are many things to do in the winter as well. Medieval towns, archaeological sites, and museums combine well with the local culinary offerings and the beautiful nature found on the island.

Rhodes tops the list of the top twenty best islands in Europe at number eleven.


Corfu, the beauty of the Ionian islands

Paleokastritsa, Corfu
Paleokastritsa, Corfu. Credit: Greek Reporter

Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea and part of the Ionian Islands group.

It is one of Greece’s most famous island and has a lot of history to its name. Locals call the island Kerkyra, perhaps because, according to mythology, it was the home of Kerkyra, who was said to be the daughter of Asps, the river god. Kerkyra gave birth to Poseidon’s child, and from then on, the Phaeacian race was born.

Corfu has become a must visit place for anyone looking to experience what the Greek islands have to offer. Its breathtaking scenery, mountain ranges, and beaches are amongst the most unforgettable in the country. Furthermore, its blend of cultural histories and influences, including French, English, Venetian, and, of course, Greek, will leave you with a unique understanding of how the culture of the Ionian Islands developed.

One of the most beautiful and well-known beaches on the island of Corfu, the picturesque Canal d’Amour, or “Channel of Love,” is known throughout Europe and worldwide as the beach for true lovers who want to stay together forever.

Because of Corfu’s past under Venetian rule, the island has many magnificent Venetian buildings and defensive architecture in Corfu’s Old Town. In fact, many of the fortresses were constructed in order to protect the island from further conquests. The Old Fortress in Old Town is the most staggering example, as it overlooks the sea on the promontory where the ancient town of Corfu was situated during the Byzantine Era.

In the list of Europe’s twenty best islands, Corfu places at number ten.


Paros, one of Europe’s best islands

Best Greek islands windsurfing
Windsurfing in Paros/Credit: verchmarco via Creative Commons

Paros is quite a popular island in the Aegean Sea annually visited by thousands of travelers. Located in the cluster of the Cycladic islands, Paros contains everything you would expect when dreaming of a Greek island vacation: unique beaches with azure waters, fish tavernas, whitewashed houses, and traditional, Cycladic churches.

Paros abides by the traditional Cycladic architecture of cubic, whitewashed buildings that are mainly low-ceiling and incorporate blue accents.

The island maintains its Greek identity in its gastronomic scene. The various seafood taverns, modern Greek restaurants, and family-run establishments dot the entire island and offer traditional Greek food and the finest of available products.

The Aegean island is also popular for its seashores with crystal-clear waters. From the breathtaking Kolymbithres Beach, famous for its rocky formations and coves, to the golden sandy beaches of Santa Maria, Chryssi Akti, Aliki, Pounda, and Livadia, it is truly a paradise for vacationers.

Among the different villages on the island, Naoussa is probably the most popular. Originally an old Venetian port, Naoussa is probably one of the most well-known parts of Paros and certainly one of the most picturesque.

While on Naoussa, a stroll along the alleys of the port is a must. Dining in one of the many tavernas that populate the waterfront area is something both locals and tourists seem to enjoy. Octopus hanging to dry, a glass of ouzo, and a chat with friends amount to a perfect evening on Paros.

The island comes in at number nine in the list of Europe’s best islands.


Santorini, the jewel of the Cyclades

Sanrotini greek island
Santorini Island. Credit: Dimitra Damian/Greek Reporter

Santorini is an island in the southern Aegean Sea situated about two hundred kilometers southeast of the Greek mainland.

It was the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history—the Minoan eruption, which occurred about 3,600 years ago at the height of the Minoan civilization. The eruption left a large caldera surrounded by volcanic ash deposits hundreds of meters deep.

Santorini is the most active volcanic center in the South Aegean Volcanic Arc as well.

The island is known for its colorful volcanic stone backdrop with white houses and winding streets climbing the cliffs, leading you to villages and breathtaking vistas.

Due to their volcanic origins, the beaches of Santorini all bear unique features. Characterized by many different colors of red, white, and black, the beaches of the island create a dazzling and positively beautiful scene. It seems like no beach is alike on Santorini. There are crystal-clear waters, stunning views of the Aegean Sea, and plenty of opportunities to visit some of the most vibrant seashores on the planet.

No wonder the island tops the Condé Nast Traveller‘s list of Europe’s best islands at number six.

For the adventurous at heart, the island offers a tour of the volcano and caldera. The hiking path between the main towns, Fira and Oia, offers awe-inspiring views, sunsets, and the adventure of a lifetime to anyone who visits.


Mykonos, Europe’s cosmopolitan island

mykonos Island, Greece. windmills in front of the sea
Mykonos Island, Cyclades. Credi, Greece: Dronepicr/Flickr CC BY 2.0

Mykonos is a Greek island that is part of the Cyclades and is situated between Tinos, Syros, Paros, and Naxos.

Everyone knows about the island’s reputation for its nightlife scene, beautiful beaches, and whitewashed homes; however, there is much more to do on this Greek treasure of an island other than hang out on the beach all day only to party all night.

In Greek mythology, Mykonos was named after its first ruler, Mykonos—a dependent of the Greek god Apollo. It is said to be the scene where the battle between Zeus and the Titans took place.

Agios Ioannis Bay, located not far from Mykonos Town, offers a great escape and a window to the ancient lands of the Greek gods with views of the sacred Delos Island

There are two faces of Mykonos. The first one is the cosmopolitan aspect of the island while the other one offers picturesque settings with stone-paved alleys, whitewashed houses, and windmills.

Mykonos covers a diverse array of tastes. Archaeological sites, local traditions in villages, and magnificent beaches can satisfy all demands.

The island is considered Europe’s fourth best island by Condé Nast Traveller.

Crete, Condé Nast Traveller‘s best Greek island in Europe

seitan limania , crete island, Greece
Seitan Limania Beach, Crete. Credit: Khalid Al Zarooni / Twitter

Crete is Greece’s biggest island and one of the largest in the Mediterranean. According to Condé Nast Traveller, Crete is the second best island in Europe.

There are many unique things which make Crete one of the best islands in Europe—from two beautiful, pink-sand beaches (out of the less than twelve that exist in the world) and ancient cities to medieval castles and culinary experiences.

Crete is famous for its ancient Minoan palaces of Knossos and Phaistos. Yet, various other sites and museums depict the island’s rich history.

The island also offers visitors a delicious local cuisine to experience. It revolves around olive oil, special herbs, special local cheeses, and grilled seafood and meat.

Heraklion, the capital of the Greek island of Crete, is an ancient city that is perhaps under-appreciated for its many attractions for the international traveler.

Furthermore, Crete was the place where the Minoan civilization flourished, and it boasts traditions that go back into time immemorial. Europe’s oldest known civilization, which flourished on Crete between 2,700 BC and 1,450 BC, served as a trading center for gold, ceramics, and saffron, the precious spice and dye.

The Koules (Greek: Κούλες), or Castello a Mare, (meaning “Fort on the Sea” in Italian) is a fortress located at the entrance of the old port of Heraklion. It is yet another place which makes Crete special. It was built by the Republic of Venice in the early 16th century, and is still in good condition today.
Finally, anyone who visits Crete can experience its folklore and traditions, as performances of local dances take place all year round, as well as entire days-long festivals and events.

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