The Greek Islands… If there’s a more romantic destination, I haven’t found it yet. While there are allegedly thousands of Greek islands, the number of inhabited islands is said to be somewhere between 166 and 227, spread over the eastern Mediterranean Sea and grouped as thus: the Cyclades, the Ionian Islands, the Sporades, the Dodecanese, the Saronic Islands, and the North Aegean Islands. We admit with so many choices and varied offerings it is wildly subjective, but we’ve narrowed it down to what we believe are the best Greek beaches and activities for couples.
Note, islands 2, 3, 6, 10 we visited on our Cyclades catamaran sailing with Yacht Getaways, which is also a great way to explore the best Greek Islands for couples.
You can find my complete guide for our Cyclades catamaran trip here.
Naxos is the largest of the Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea and also once the capital of the Cyclades. While other islands have their main town (Chora) up in the mountains (so it would be harder for plundering pirates to attack), the Chora of Naxos has always been the main port town. It boasts to be the most impressive capital town in the Cyclades.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by its most famous archaeological site, Portara Gate, the doorway to the never-finished ancient Temple of Apollo built in 522 BC, on the Palatia islet. We hiked uphill to the ancient site later in the day and slithered our way through the hordes to catch the magnificent sunset through the gate.
Inland Naxos is incredibly mountainous and villages seem to simply materialize out of the arid valleys. The island is home to the highest mountain in the Cyclades — Mount Zeus, which is the source of much mythology.
Narrow alleys lead up the steep mountainside to a fantastic 13th-century Venetian citadel castle, a landmark that can be seen for miles.
Due to time constraints, we weren’t able to reach the more famous and beautiful beaches. We walked through town to the beach close to the port, but to be honest, I can’t recommend it. The water was a bit murky with a lot of seaweed.
The highlight at Naxos was our romantic dinner at Flamingo. The festively decorated rooftop terrace overlooked the bustling old town below. We listened to live traditional Greek music while watching the sun go down over the azure Aegean Sea. Our meal was excellent – hot peppers stuffed with spicy Naxos gruyere cheese, tender beef fillet with tangy house Flamingo sauce, lamb souvlaki, and ouzo of course! Everything came together so well at Flamingo that we consider it our #1 dining experience on the Greek islands.
Lefkada is located in the Ionian Sea, connected to the mainland by a causeway. It is famous for its beaches like Porto Katsiki and Egremni which feature craggy cliffs spilling down to the turquoise sea. There are sleepy mountain villages with tavernas and shops sprinkled throughout the island.
We only spent a few hours in Lefkada as it was a convenient stop on our road trip between Meteora and Nafplion.
As we entered Lefkada driving from the mainland over the floating bridge, we passed the ruins of the Venetian castle. From the walls and battlements of the fortress, visitors can get a nice view of the sea and over Lefkada Town, the island’s gateway and capital.
After enjoying a late breakfast overlooking the marina, we explored the shops in the downtown area before heading for a beach break. We visited Agios Ioannis Beach, close to Lefkada Town due to limited time. While pretty, it isn’t the best beach on Lefkada. If you have more time, you’ll want to head to Egremni Beach, Milos Beach, Kathisma Beach, or Agiofilli Beach.
Other things to see include Porto Katsiki, Nydri Waterfalls, and Lighthouse Doukato
Zakynthos, in the Ionian Sea, is a popular summer getaway as well as the birthplace of the poet Dionysios Solomos, who wrote Greece’s national anthem.
The waterfront city of Zakynthos, centered around Solomos Square, is the capital. Rebuilt in the Venetian style after the 1953 earthquake, Zakynthos Town is a mix of elegant Venetian architecture, mansions, bistros, coffee shops, and boutique shops.
Zakynthos is known to have one of the best Greek beaches, the iconic Navagio or Shipwreck Beach. Only reachable by boat, the beach is home to the rusted remains of the MV Panagiotis shipwreck resting in a sandy cove framed by cliffs. The ship washed up on the beach after a storm in the 1980s. For less touristy beach alternatives, try the beaches of Tsilivi, St Nicholas, or Alykes.
For panoramic views over Zakynthos Town and the beaches of the Vasiliki peninsula, hike the steep, snaking trail to the ruins of 15th-century Bohali Castle.
The scenic coastline of Zakynthos is strewn with limestone caves, the highlight of which is the Blue Caves, named for the magnificent color of the water. Floating through the water in a glass-bottom boat is a great way to spot the dazzling details.
Corfu Island is the second-largest island in the Ionian Sea, with a rich history dating back to Greek mythological figures such as Poseidon and Asopus. A land of castles, forts, and beaches, there’s plenty to keep tourists busy.
Also known as Old Town, most of the landmarks and sights of Corfu Town are easily within walking distance via a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets. Striking out from our centrally-located boutique hotel, this UNESCO World Heritage site was a delight to wander about, taking in the Venetian architecture.
If you don’t have time to get to another beach on Corfu, a stroll to Faliraki Beach in Corfu Town is a must! This tiny cove under a towering stone wall has a pretty beach with calm aqua and azure water. The small beach is stony, so water shoes are recommended.
You’ll want to make time to visit two lovely coastal towns; Paleokastritsa is a seaside resort nestled between high cliffs, small crescent bays, and caves, overlooked by a historic monastery. Kassiopi is a former fishing village on the affluent northeast coast with lovely hillside homes and boutique hotels hugging the azure harbor.
Click here to read my full article: Corfu Beaches and Beyond
While Ios is considered to be a party island second only to Mykonos, there’s certainly a lot to do and see here before the late evening revelry.
For starters, there are 365 churches, and the best sunset view on the island can be viewed only by hiking up the hillside to the highest point, to the church of Agios Nikolaos.
Ios hosts the tranquil hillside village of Chora, probably the most picturesque in all the Cyclades with the typical whitewashed architecture, narrow alleys, and traditional old windmills. There are also a lot of really great restaurants. We had dinner at The Mills restaurant, right across from the windmills and with a spectacular view of the lit-up churches on the hill above and the village down below.
The most popular beach on Ios is Mylopotas. We found a really fun beach bar right across from the beach called Karma. Open-air with a riot of tropical luau colors, it features dozens of private cabanas where you remove your shoes to enter and either sit on the floor on thick colorful cushions or in one of the hammocks (yes, please!).
You can also visit the tomb of the renowned poet Homer; it’s alleged that Homer’s mother was born in Ios.
Click here to read my full article: 10 Things to Do in Ios
Postcard-perfect, white-washed stucco structures adorned with blue domes and fuchsia bougainvillea overlook the Aegean Sea; brilliant blue surf laps onto red and black sand beaches; ancient ruins long-buried under volcanic ash; we discovered these treasures and much more on this enchanting island.
Now, you’re probably puzzled at why I’ve placed such a beautiful island only at #5; well, that’s because:
- I’m a beach person and Santorini did not have a beautiful beach. If that’s not important to you, you can rank Santorini higher.
- Tourism is high in Santorini, receiving over two million tourists a year on the tiny island. It was horrendously overrun with tourists when we were there during August as part of a large cruise ship. Constantly elbowing my way through hordes of flesh (and not being able to get my Instagram shots) truly diminished the experience. I highly suggest avoiding high season to visit.
Once one round-shaped island, Santorini is now two islands. Around 1,500 B.C. the island suffered one of the biggest and violent volcanic explosions in the history of the world, causing the center of the island to sink. The eruption wiped out the Minoan civilization, and it became the source of the mythical lost city of Atlantis.
You won’t want to miss the hilltop town of Oia. The caldera town is one of the most photographed places in the world, with infinity pools overlooking the Aegean Sea, blue-domed whitewashed buildings, and legendary sunsets.
Built on the side of a cliff on the northwest of the island, Oia is a labyrinth of charming cobblestone alleys flanked by tiny cafes, art, and souvenir shops. The main streets are almost always crowded with tourists looking for the perfect selfie spot with the blue domes, but there are many hidden alleys with steps leading down to more secluded spots.
Other sites to explore in Santorini include Akrotiri, one of the wineries, and the town of Fira.
Click here to read my full article: Things to Do in Santorini
Second only to Santorini in popularity, and always named one of the top 10 Greek Islands, Mykonos is famous in its own right. Sitting on the brilliant turquoise Aegean Sea, the small island is part of the Cyclades archipelago. It’s universally known for its summer party atmosphere and has iconic landmarks including a row of 16th-century windmills which overlook Little Venice.
But Mykonos isn’t just for partying Millennials; there’s something for everyone on the stunning island. Idyllic whitewashed blue-roofed homes with colorful doors. The villages across this Cycladic Island offer a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways, which were constructed as a way to confuse pirates.
According to Greek mythology, the island is named after Mykonos, the grandson of Apollo, and was formed when Hercules defeated the Giants whose petrified bodies became the rocks that formed Mykonos Island.
Mykonos is called “The Island of the Winds,” since it tends to be breezy. Indeed, it was downright gusty when we were there at the beginning of September.
Since we only had one day and one night and had to cram a lot in, we chose to stay and explore the area around Mykonos Old Town a.k.a. Chora. We had such a great time, and even with so little time, it’s one of my favorite Greek Islands!
Our favorite things to do were finding the windmills, exploring Chora (old town), having a sunset cocktail in Little Venice, and of course going to the beach.
Click here to read my full article: Best Things to Do in Mykonos
Both a ferry hub and a beautiful Venetian port, Paros is considered one of the most beautiful islands in the Cyclades, defined by its stunning turquoise beaches, winding streets in whitewashed hillside villages, and lively local tavernas.
Parikia is the island’s main town and port. Here you’ll find the Panagia Ekatontapiliani church, also known as the Church of 100 Doors, one of the best-preserved Christian churches in Greece.
Perhaps more popular than Parikia is the town of Naoussa, a former pirate’s den. Once a small fishing village, Naoussa developed into the most cosmopolitan town on Paros. The marina town is filled with boutique shops and seaside restaurants.
Across the bay from the Naoussa port are the unusual white rock formations jutting up from the crystal clear water of Kolymbithres, the most beautiful beach on Paros.
There’s also the village of Lefkes with the Byzantine architecture of the Agia Triada church sitting in the middle of one of the prettiest squares in the Cyclades.
Click here to read my full article: 10 Reasons to Visit Paros
Enchanting Koufonisia, just a couple of hours away from popular Naxos, is one of the most beautiful Greek islands and will always hold a special place in our hearts because we got engaged there! Don’t hate me…I know getting engaged on a gorgeous Greek Island is the stuff dreams are made of.
Strolling around the uncrowded, narrow, cobbled alleyways, Koufonisia has the vibe of what it must have been like in Greece in days gone by.
Ammos (meaning “sand”) Beach is a beautiful stretch of soft sand with turquoise waters. It is located as soon as you debark in the beautiful main village of Chora (yes, every main village in the Cyclades is called Chora) in Ano Koufonisi. The shimmering turquoise water with the mountain backdrop and fishing boats in between will leave you mesmerized.
On the opposite side of the ferry port is a hill where you can find a few adorable tavernas with delicious seafood or lamb. There’s a wall overlooking the sea and a peninsula with an old windmill where you’ll find the best sunset on the island. In fact, that’s where we got engaged!
Click here to read my full article: Koufonesia, the Most Beautiful Greek Island
At the intersection of archaeology, amazing beaches, and Greek mythology, Crete simply put has the best of everything. As the largest island in Greece, there is enough to see, do, and eat to keep couples who are seeking adventure for a week or more. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!
The old town of Chania is one of the best places to be based in Crete. Centuries-old Venetian mansions, Turkish minarets, an Egyptian lighthouse, and ancient city walls lend romance to this harbor town.
First and foremost, Crete is home to two of the most famous and best Greek beaches… and not just in Greece, but in all of Europe, both located on the southwest coast.
Balos Beach is one of the most exotic places on the island. Two shallow lagoons of the most incredible shades of turquoise brush up against a high scruffy mountain landscape. Elafonisi beach has shallow, calm, translucent blue water lapping up to a shimmering light pink sand beach that is jammed with people in summer.
Just outside the capital city of Heraklion, the Bronze Age Minoan Palace of Knossos is a labyrinth of massive columns and beautiful frescoes. Knossos is famous for its connection to Greek mythology, i.e., the tale of the Labyrinth and the Minotaur. The Minoan civilization disappeared sometime in the 14th-century. The site, which was restored in the early 1900s, is the biggest tourist attraction on Crete.
If you’re driving from Chania to Heraklion, stop at the seaside town of Rethymno to wander the narrow alleys and lovely pristine examples of Venetian architecture.
Driving along the southern coast, we stumbled on Matala, a colorful beach town with a distinct hippie vibe on a stunning beach with an unusual cliff backdrop. We had lunch overlooking the beach and lamented that we had not found Matala sooner – we would have much preferred to stay there rather than our two days in Heraklion.
Other activities that we enjoyed in Crete include Seitan Limania overlook and beach and hiking to the ruins of the Katholiko Monastery.
While there would certainly be other best Greek beaches and islands for families, or best Greek beaches and islands for solo travelers, not to mention this list only includes islands that we’ve visited, in our opinion, these are the ten best Greek beaches and islands for couples.
All photos ©Kary Kern unless otherwise indicated.
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About the Author
Patti Morrow is a travel influencer, freelance writer, and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.
She is also the star of the upcoming TV series “Destination Takeover” which is scheduled to premiere in the new few months.
Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.