The 7 best things to do in the Greek islands
There are so many Greek islands that no one can quite agree on the exact number. But what we can agree on is that a visit to the Greek islands is guaranteed to be epic—and if you know exactly how to make the most of it, it can be life-changing. So grab the feta and that new bathing suit, leave the toga at home, and get ready to make olive the memories with these must-do activities in the Greek islands.
The way we see it, you can go to the Greek islands. Or, you can go to the Greek islands, jump off of boats, take all of the sunset pics, develop a dependency on feta cheese, find yourself (like, really find yourself), cathartically smash some plates, swim in crystal waters every day, and generally peak. Us? We prefer the latter. So we asked our on-staff experts for the best ways to see the Greek islands.
With as many as 6,000 islands, figuring out how to visit the right ones, and what to do in each can be a Herculean effort. Luckily, we’ve been building the best Greek islands itineraries since Zeus was in diapers. Seriously, we’ve perfected the art of the Greek islands trip—check it out here. So stick with us, and we’ll show you what to see, eat, do, and drink to have the most epic Greek islands vacation.
Our traveler @claire.cornett on Instagram
Cliffside winery visit
In movies, people always say “don’t look down” when confronted with heights. But this ain’t a movie (though it might feel like one). This is your perfect Greek islands trip. And you’re high above the caldera of Santorini, seated at a cliffside winery with a glass of your new favorite rosé in hand. So, by all means, look down.
Speaking of that caldera, the big bay of water you’re looking into wasn’t always there. 3,600 years ago, it was a volcano that erupted so violently that half the island collapsed underwater. The explosion was so great, the ancient Egyptians and Chinese both wrote about feeling it. Today, though, it’s far more tranquil. It’s the perfect view to gaze out on while you sip your wine.
One of our Trip Consultants—an expert on all things Greece—Hannah, had this to say, “Santorini, and the Cycladic islands, are technically a desert environment, so it’s pretty incredible that they can produce wine—and such good wine, at that—here.” Indeed, the volcanic soil makes for super unique wine. But it’s not just the wine, it’s the whole experience that matters. Hannah says, “I feel like when people picture themselves in Greece, drinking wine, it’s literally on the cliffs in Santorini. Nothing beats taking the tour, learning about the wine, then taking some pics while you actually taste the wine and have some snacks.”
Our traveler @_kyleevaughn on Instagram
Jump off a boat
The only thing better than cruising through the Aegean Sea on a boat is jumping off of that boat into the Aegean Sea. Is it the blue-est blue water known to humankind? Probably. I’ll fact-check that one later, but it certainly looks that way.
With any luck, a boat ride could take you past the cliffs, into caves for swimming and climbing, to a shipwreck for snorkeling, or even to secret beaches—of which Greece has many. Hannah says “I’ve been to maybe 30 or 40 Mediterranean beaches, and some of these secret beaches that you can only get to via boat ride are—without a doubt—the clearest water I’ve ever seen. It’s insane.”
Cruising out of Mykonos or Ios, basking in the sun, your favorite songs bumping on a playlist: can anything ruin a perfect day in the Greek islands like this? Nope. Well, maybe if you forget sunscreen. SPF up, people!
Our traveler @nicolepilote on Instagram
Fill up at a taverna
If only there were some magical place where you could soak up Greek culture, take part in top-notch people watching, and gorge yourself on Greek delicacies. Oh wait, there is, it’s called a taverna, and it’s amazing.
Tavernas are little Greek restaurants where locals and visitors alike can mingle and take in a meal. The villages of the Greek islands are chock full of phenomenal tavernas, and it’s hard to go wrong. Our resident Greece expert & beach bum, Jesse, never leaves Santorini without hitting Fougaro Beach Taverna. A bit more boujee, he says “It could be considered a more posh taverna—I would bathe in the tzatziki there.”
Speaking of Santorini tavernas, Expert Trip Consultant and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants enthusiast, Laura, loves PK Cocktail Bar for the epic sunset views, Dmitri’s Ammoudi Taverna for the authentic seafood experience (“You watch the fishermen literally catching your dinner!”), and Naoussa for the family owned charm and proximity to the nightlife in Fira.
Post up, order a cold drink, and get started with some Greek salad and tzatziki. Opt for a hearty moussaka or pastitsio (both sort of like Greek lasagna). Maybe sample grilled souvlaki or dare to get adventurous with some octopus (you are surrounded by water, after all). No matter what, make sure to snap a pic of your bountiful spread before it’s gone.
Image source: EF Ultimate Break
Hit a beachside night club
The ancient Greeks had a word for what to do when the sun goes down: toga party. Or maybe that was college Greek life. Either way, everyone needs a way to let loose, and Mykonos in particular offers an excellent way to do so. Say it with us: Beach. Side. Night. Clubs.
And as far as beachside night clubs go, it’s tough to top Paradise Beach Club. The legendary venue has hosted the likes of Armin Van Buren, Tiesto, and Martin Garrix. The best part? Open air layout means you’ll thank us later when that sea breeze cools down the dancefloor.
Not going at night? Not a problem. Our expert Trip Consultant, Laura, had a wild time in the middle of the day. “There’s go-go dancers on the bar at all times,” she says, “Like even at 1pm.” And if dancing isn’t exactly your thing, there’s the whole “beachside” thing. Per Laura, “You can have a lounge chair and umbrella super cheap for the day. It was heaven.”
Between the golden sand beaches right at your finger—and toe!—tips, and the golden sounds from the DJ booth streaming right to your ears—you’ve got a winning combination that puts a night out in Mykonos at the top of the pedestal.
Image source: EF Ultimate Break
Introduce your taste buds to ouzo
In the Greek islands, beer is so last season, and ouzo is in. This traditional Greek folk drink is a must-have for any visitor, even just to try once. It kind of tastes like licorice, yes, but no Twizzlers I’ve ever had packs a punch like this.
Ouzo comes from the same stuff as wine, so you know it’s good. When local winemakers finish fermenting grapes for the gods’ elixir (yes, we call wine “the gods’ elixir,” when in Greece, you know) ouzo distillers swoop in and turn the grape remnants into their uniquely Greek spirit.
Pop into any ouzeri for a spread of snacks and small plates accompanied by the preferred drink of the Greeks. Remember—you can water it down with ice, but adding other ingredients tends to be frowned upon. Give it a try and remember to toast to your companions’ health before drinking. Yamas!
Our traveler @emily_roberson on Instagram
Soak up the sun at Paros beaches
Sorry folks, Paros is closed. It seems there’s an infestation of natural beauty. Aha! Almost had you there. Paros rules and what it lacks in size, it makes up for in glorious beaches.
Golden-white sand, crazy blue water, sunbeds for rent, and snack bars nearby. What’s not to love? Make a day of it lounging at some of our favs. We love Marcello, Livadia, and Krios, but you really can’t go wrong anywhere.
Our Greece expert Hannah (remember her from earlier?) says the water in Paros is some of the clearest, bluest, and calmest she’s ever seen “It’s literally a glass surface, and there’s so much to do at the beachfront!”
Our traveler @kaitlynforrester on Instagram
Catch a sunset in Oia
Get lost—like, actually—get lost in Oia. The most picturesque little village on the island of Santorini, Oia, is a must-hit for any Greek islands trip. Wander off through the winding streets taking in the whitewashed neighborhoods and blue domed buildings, you can’t go wrong no matter where the path takes you.
Time it just right to emerge at the Old Castle of Oia for the view to end all views of a Santorini sunset. Simply put: you didn’t really go to the Greek islands if you don’t take in a sunset like this. But like we said, sticking with us means making sure you get the most out of your trip. No matter what, that means catching the sunset, taking you to the best baklava spot, and doing all of the above. But maybe you want more mainland, or to get off the beaten path, or you’ve only got a few days off work, or—like us—you want the classics; we’ve got the perfect trip for you.
Now, back in Oia, as the sky turns from blue to pink, and you think back on all of the gyros you ate and all the locals you had a plate-smashingly good time with, take stock of what a real paradise each of these specks of land in the Aegean Sea are.
Then, right when the sun fully sets, and you’re at peak vacation happiness, you’ll remember that the night is young. Back to the beachside night club, anyone?
Written by Reid Flynn
Reid is a copywriter at EF Ultimate Break. He loves cheese, playing guitar, and speaking loudly about indie rock to anyone who will listen. His favorite place in the world is Amsterdam.