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10 Breathtaking, Little-known Greek Islands

The harbour, Symi, Greece
The harbor at Symi island, Greece. Credit: BIG ALBERT/CC0 1.0

The Greek islands are well-known for their natural beauty. Some of them are synonymous with summer vacations and are extremely popular tourist destinations worldwide. However, there are some lesser-known islands that can satisfy every visitor while providing serenity, relaxation, and rest.

Here are ten Greek Islands that are heaven on earth


Elafonissos is on the southeast side of the Peloponnesian peninsula. The island attracts thousands of tourists, especially in July and August while more than five thousand people stay there and more than 1,600 vehicles cross over to the island daily.


Keros Island.
Keros Island. Credit: Zde/CC-BY-SA-3.0

Keros, an island northwest of Amorgos, is of particular interest to archeology buffs. In ancient times, the island was named Kereia or Keria, and it was first referred to on an inscription noting the taxpayers of city-states that were allies of Athens in 425 B.C..

Especially mountainous without any source of drinking water and easy access, Keros has one of the most valuable stones in the world, namely white marble, that was the source of its wealth in antiquity.


Koufonisia. Credit: ChristosKaragounis/CC-BY-SA-4.0

Koufonisia consists of two islands: Kato (Lower) and Pano (Upper). They belong to the complex of the Small East Cyclades. Koufonisia is located on the southeast side of Naxos and on the west side of Amorgos. Keros is an island closely associated with them.

An uninhabited island of only 15 sq. km. (5.79 square miles) from which a large number of ancient Cycladic art pieces have been excavated, Pano Koufonisi is the smallest and most densely populated island of the Cycladic island group. It has an area of 3.5 square km (1.35 square miles) and just 366 residents.

Most local residents there work in either the fishing industry or the tourism sector. It has one of the biggest fishing fleets in Greece relative to its population. The historic, white windmill on the east side of the port welcomes visitors when they arrive on the island.

Koufonisi has only been developed for tourism over the last ten years, so its natural beauty and its traditional flavor have remained unchanged.

All these charms, in combination with the great hospitality of the locals, the reasonable prices of accommodations, and, of course, the luscious food make the island an ideal destination for vacations.


Donoussa is a small island on the southeast side of the Cyclades archipelago, located ten miles north of Amorgos and east of Naxos. The island is only 13.75 km (5.30 square miles) and is composed of mountains, hills, and cliffs. Its highest mountain stands 363 meters (1,190 feet) tall and it has only 163 inhabitants.

Donoussa has a small harbor at Stavros, its main village, and ferries to Naxos and Amorgos operate out of it. The island has one ferry that takes visitors to every sandy beach with crystal waters that there is on the island.


Schinoussa island
Schinoussa. Credit: Dbebaw/CC-BY-SA-3.0

Schinoussa is centrally located in the archipelago of the Small East Cyclades. It is a place that truly offers quiet and relaxing holidays.

Belonging to the municipality of Naxos, it takes eight hours to reach the island on the Piraeus ferry. Mersini’s port is one of the best harbors for small ferries in the whole Aegean Sea due to its narrow outlet. Shinoussa has only 206 inhabitants.


Antiparos. Credit: Bgabel/CC-BY-SA-3.0

Antiparos is located in the heart of the Cyclades archipelago close to Paros. Its highest peak, St. Elias, in the middle of the island, is 308 meters (1,010 feet) high.

In ancient times, the island was full of greenery, trees, and bushes, earning the name “oliaros” (high vegetation island), but after a natural disaster, the morphology of the island changed a great deal, and it was never reforested.

Antiparos is the destination of many celebrities arriving from the United States and Western Europe. For instance, Madonna and Tom Hanks have been known to spend their vacations there, and Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson even bought a house on the island.


The Greek island of Sikinos. Credit: Pirantelo/CC-BY-SA-4.0

Sikinos is a little-known island to the majority of people; this small Cyclades island has fortunately maintained its charming beauty over the years. Its Ancient Greek ruins, blazing sunlight, and the endless blue of the Aegean Sea surrounding it are the most salient characteristics of Sikinos.

Located between the islands Ios and Folegandros, its 242 permanent residents live either in Allopronia, the harbor area, or in Chora. All beaches on the island are found on the southern side of the island. Some of them have road access and others can only be reached by boat.


Antikythera island
Antikythera, Greece. Credit: Natasjabn/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-4.0

Antikythera is located between the larger island of Kythera and Greece’s largest island of Crete. It is the perfect place to rest and to enjoy holidays without too many crowds.

Not far from Piraeus and Lakonia, historically the island has been associated with the Ionian Islands. There are only forty-five permanent residents; however, in the summer, the number reaches five hundred. The majority of them live in Potamos, which has the only harbor on the island.

Antikythera is most famous for being the location of the discovery of the Antikythera wreck from which the Antikythera Ephebe and Antikythera Mechanism were recovered.

The Antikythera Mechanism is an ancient mechanical calculator (sometimes described as the first mechanical computer) designed to calculate astronomical positions which have been dated to about 150 to 100 BC. Technological artifacts of similar complexity did not appear until one thousand years later.

It was discovered on an ancient shipwreck off Antikythera by a sponge diver in 1900. Antikythera is also a very important stop-over site for migratory birds during their seasonal movements. The importance of Antikythera for studying bird migration led to the creation of the Antikythera Bird Observatory by the Hellenic Ornithological Society.

Agia Efstratios

Saint Efstratios, island
Agia Efstratios Island, Greece. Credit: Yannis Karydas/CC-BY-SA-4.0

Agia Efstratios, or Agios Eustratios, was named after Saint Eustratios who lived on the island in the 9th century as an exile. Agios Efstratios is quiet, isolated, and desert-like with a population of approximately 250 people living close to its picturesque harbor.

The landscape is mostly rocky with scarce vegetation. There are numerous beaches on the island such as Agios Antonios, and Lemonies, most of which are reached by caique. The whole island belongs to the “Natura 2000” group of areas with special ecological significance.

The majority of the local people on the island are engaged in fishing, tourism, agriculture, and husbandry.


The harbour, Symi, island
The harbor at Symi, Greece. Credit: BIG ALBERT/CC0 1.0

Symi is the eighth biggest island of the Dodecanese archipelago’s twelve islands. There are a great number of smaller islands around Symi, such as Sesklia, Artikonisi, Koulountro, Troubeto, Plati, Oxia, Diavates, and Marmaras. Symi has a unique natural geography consisting of harbors, bays, and headlands. Its most famous harbors are in Scala and Panormiti.

Panormitis is the location of the island’s famous monastery which is visited by people from all over the world, and many Greeks pay homage to St. Michael of Panormitis each year.

The island has 2,606 inhabitants; most of them live in Marathountos, Panormitis, and Eboriou. In addition to its many historical sites, the island’s isolated beaches, many reachable only by small boats, are popular with tourists.

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