Few countries in the world have as much to offer as Greece does. Lively islands surrounded by sand, secluded mainland beaches and hundreds of ancient archaeological sites for those in search of some culture.
Beach Holidays Greece
Beaches, and particularly those on the famous Greek Islands, are the main draw for visitors to Greece. Few countries have the range of destinations that Greece has – from the quiet beaches of mainland Halkidiki to the party islands of the South Aegean – Greece has something for everyone.
South Aegean Islands
The South Aegean Islands include a lot of the livelier islands that are popular with people seeking nightlife as well as beaches. However, not all towns are full of clubs, and even on the busier islands it is possible to find quieter beaches and towns.
Kos has almost 300km of sandy coastline and its beaches are it biggest draw. However, the island also has some ancient ruins, great terrain for cycling and a party scene.
Kos Town is home to Greek, Roman and Byzantine ruins, as well as having lots of bars and restaurants that become lively at night. The town has a harbour lined with bars and cafes and guarded by a 15th Century Castle.
Around the island there are a number of luxury hotels and resorts with private beaches that offer a wide range of water sports.
Santorini is probably the most beautiful of the Greek islands – famous for its white-washed towns perched on cliffs overlooking the sea and its stunning sunsets.
As other Greek islands have become more popular with backpackers and island-hoppers Santorini has emerged as a luxury and exclusive option. The island is home to lots of luxury and boutique hotels.
The most popular places to stay on the island are the iconic towns of Thira and Oia. These towns have lots of bars, restaurants and stylish shops.
Beaches on Santorini are darker than other islands due to its volcanic formation. However, despite the colour the island still has great beaches. The town of Perissa is on a 7km long beach that has lots of water sports, whilst Kamari has a Blue Flag beach.
Mykonos is one of the smallest yet most popular Greek Islands. Its popularity is partly due to its beautiful beaches and reputation as a destination for celebrities, and partly due to its famous nightlife.
Mykonos Town is the main town on the island. It has a maze-like layout of streets winding down to a colourful harbour. The town is also home to some of the islands’ iconic windmills.
Ornos Bay is home to one of the best beaches on the island and is great for families. Other top beaches on the island include Elia Beach and Agios Stefanos.
For a livelier beach head to Paradise or Super Paradise – where the beaches are full of bars and water sports. At night these beaches become the centre of the party scene.
Rhodes is one of the largest Greek islands. The east coast has most of the beach resorts. Towards the north of this coast there are several lively resorts, whilst there are quieter resorts towards the southern end of the coast.
Lindos is a village towards the southern end that has a beautiful beach with clear water. The village itself is home to ancient architecture and is car free – giving it a peaceful feel. Just south of Lindos is Pefki – a quiet Blue Flag beach that is another great option for a quiet beach holiday.
On the north coast of the island is the resort of Ixia, which offers an escape from the busier eastern coast and is a great spot for water sports. It is also close to Rhodes Town – an ancient city and capital of the island. The city is home to many sites including the Acropolis of Rhodes, Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, and several other archaeological sites.
North Aegean Islands
The North Aegean islands are much quieter than their southern counterparts and the towns are much more authentic. You will find pristine beaches, traditional Greek bars and restaurants, and undeveloped interiors.
Thassos has the best beaches in the area. Golden Beach is backed by bars and a good range of hotels.
Samos is a relatively undeveloped island with a lots of beaches. The interior is great for hiking and is covered in jasmine – giving it an unforgettable smell.
Other islands with good beaches and luxury resorts include Skopelos and Skiathos.
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and has a long coastline with lots of beautiful beaches. There are a number of main areas on the island – ranging from lively to laid-back. The interior of the island is mountainous and contains ancient Greek and Roman archaeological sites.
Agios Nikolaos is one the most popular holiday destinations on the island. The old town is well preserved and has lot of bars and restaurants, but is still quiet and relaxed compared to other places in Crete.
Elounda is one of the best places on the island for luxury hotels. This lively town has a man-made sandy beach that looks out on Spinalonga Island. The beach is good for water sports and snorkeling.
Chania – on the north coast – has lots of beaches, including several Blue Flag ones. Chania itself is an attractive old town with some good nightlife but more tasteful than you’ll find in Malia or Heraklion.
Ierapetra is a city at the south of Crete and contains an old Venetian fort. Surrounding the city are lots of long beaches – often viewed as the best on Crete.
The Palace of Knossos, near the capital Heraklion, is one of the archaeological highlights of the island and is the legendary site of the labyrinth used to house the Minotaur.
The Ionian Islands are off the west coast of Greece. There is a mixture of quiet towns and beaches – particularly on Kefalonia – and lively party islands, such as Zante.
Corfu has a mixture of lively resorts with lots of bars and a party scene, and quieter resorts perfect for a relaxing luxury beach holiday.
The north is home to the quieter towns and resorts. Around the towns of Gouvia and San Stefanos there are luxury resorts on quiet beaches.
If you want to stay somewhere with good nightlife, the areas of Sidari and Roda are good options. The towns have plenty of bars and clubs, but you can still find quiet beaches and coves nearby.
Other Ionian Islands
There are a few other Ionian islands that are great for a beach holiday. Kefalonia has long beaches and a laid back atmosphere, whilst Zante is a livelier island but with some quieter areas and stunning coves.
The Greek Islands attract most of the attention when it comes to beach holidays in Greece. However, there are great destinations on the mainland, and the lack of attention means these tend to be quieter and less developed.
Haldiki is made up of three peninsulas on the north eastern part of the Greek mainland. The area is not as well-known as other parts of Greece and receives less visitors.
The western most of the three peninsulas – Kassandra – is the main beach destination in Halkidiki. Hanioti is the main tourist town, however the best area for luxury resorts is Sani, which has a great beach and marina. Kalithea has the best nightlife in the area.
The other two peninsulas are less suited to beach holidays – Sithonia is great for walking and discovering isolated coves, whilst Athos is mainly an out-of-bounds Monastic Republic. That said you can visit the beaches at the northern end of the Athos peninsula or go on a boat trip to catch a glimpse of the Republic from the sea.
Peloponnese is at the southern end of the Greek mainland. The area has lots of beach resorts that tend to be quieter than those on the islands.
Loutraki is one of the best beach resorts in Peloponnese. It is relatively quiet and has a good range of luxury hotels, as well as a 4km long Blue Flag beach.
Messini – to the southwest of the peninsula – has beautiful beaches, as well as medieval castles and towns. The area is less visited by tourists so is an ideal spot if you are looking for a relaxing beach holiday with some culture.
If you want a really secluded and luxurious holiday then Costa Navarino is the perfect spot. There are only a couple of hotels here.
The area also has lots of culture – including the ruins of Sparta and the original location of the Olympic games (see culture section below for more).
Cities and Cultural Sites
As home to one of the greatest civilisations ever seen Greece is full of ancient archaeological sites and ruined cities.
Athens is the capital of Greece, and as the centre of the Greek Empire is seen as the birthplace of Western Civilization. The city is full of historic archaeological sites and museums.
The Archaeological Promenade is 2.5 mile pedestrianised route that links all the main ancient sites of Athens.
Other important sites nearby include the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which has several huge columns still standing, as well as Hadrian’s Gate and the Panathanaiko Stadium – home to the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
Athens is not just about the ancient ruins. The modern city has lots of art galleries, as well as great restaurants and nightlife.
Olympia is an ancient town in Peloponnese that has archaeological sites dating back 3000 years. The city was the birth place of the Olympics Games and even today the torch for each new games is still lit in this ancient city.
Also in Peloponnese, the ancient city of Sparta is famous for being home to fearless warriors. The city is now marked by an archaeological site and museum. Unfortunately not much of Sparta remains standing – partly due to the lack of defensive walls, which they believed they did not need.
Less than 10km from Sparta are the Byzantine ruins of Mystra. The ruins are an old fortress town containing churches, palaces and libraries. The town was built on a hill and you can wander through the narrow alleys that wind their way up past the surprisingly well preserved ruins.
Island hopping between the Greek islands is an extremely popular holiday choice. The range of islands means that there are no standard itineraries – whether you want to explore the quiet Northern Aegean Islands or hop between lively Kos and stylish Santorini we can help plan the perfect trip for you.
Athens and Peloponnese
If you are looking for a mixture of culture and beach start your trip with a couple of days visiting the sites of ancient Athens before heading down to Peloponnese to a secluded beach resort. From the beach resort you can explore the nearby sites of Sparta, Mystra, and Olympia.
Where to Stay in Greece
Greece has long been a tourist destination and has lots of accommodation to suit all budgets.
When to Go to Greece
The weather is warm from May to October. The hottest and busiest months and July and August, so if you want to avoid crowds its best to go outside of those months. If you plan on mainly sightseeing then June and September will be best as you’ll avoid the crowds and the hottest weather.
If you plan to travel around a lot on the bigger islands or the mainland then hiring a car is easy. Otherwise on smaller islands and for short trips taxis are easy to find. Getting between islands can be done on frequent ferries, or by private boat.
Getting to Greece
There are lots of daily direct flights to Greece from most major UK airports.