Grouped into “families” and strewn over the Aegean and Ionian seas, Greece’s 6,000 islands – of which 227 are inhabited – are awash with history, culture and stunning scenery. Throw in the enduring Mediterranean sun and crystal clear waters that lap their shores and it’s easy to see why property buyers fall in love with this intriguing part of south-east Europe. But which of these different island groups should you focus on when planning your Greek viewing trip? From the sunburnt Cyclades to the verdant Ionians, each offers a unique experience. Join us as we take you on a tour of five of them.
Anchored in the centre of the azure waters of the Aegean Sea are the Cyclades, 30 islands that include tourist heavyweights Mykonos and Santorini. These diverse, sun-drenched, rugged outcrops are peppered with enticing features synonymous with Greece: whitewashed villages, cuboid structures, blue-domed churches and postcard beaches.
Mykonos and Ios provide the regions hedonistic appeal, while Santorini takes the energy levels down a notch or two and is more known for romance than raucous behaviour – all three form the touristic heart of the islands. Naxos, Paros and Milos offer all you might expect from the group, but without the same volume of summer crowds.#
Curved round the Turkish coast in the south-east Aegean, the Dodecanese – which translates as “the twelve islands” – archipelago is Greece’s most southern and sunniest island group. The largest, Rhodes, is awash with verdant valleys, popular beaches and ancient history. Home to the regions finest beaches and a lively capital, Kos is a popular spot with property buyers. Other islands include Tilos, Kalymnos, Aesthetes, Symi, Halki and Kastellorizo.
Of the 24 Sporades – “scattered ones” – only four are permanently inhabited: Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos and Skyros. Their location in the Aegean off Greece’s eastern coast makes them easily accessible. The most developed of them, Skiathos, also has an international airport and the sandiest beach in the Aegean. Despite being larger than its neighbour, Skopelos – the set for the blockbuster film Mamma Mia – is more low-key.
The closest Greek islands to the Turkish mainland might be less popular than the Cyclades and Dodekanese, but are no less beautiful. This has helped them to retain an authentic Greek charm that has been diluted on other more popular island groups.
The famously left-leaning population on Ikaria enjoy pristine beaches and a dramatic jagged landscape. Chios is dotted with unique fortress-like village architecture; in contrast to the more traditional whitewashed structures found elsewhere. Other islands include the home of Ouzo, Lesvos; the birthpace of Hera, Samos; and workaday Limnos.
Cooler and greener than their Aegean cousins, the Ionian islands lie off the west coast of mainland Greece. From Zakynthos in the south to Corfu in the north, they display a strong Italian influence. That said the north-west corner of corner of Corfu has been nicknamed Kensington-on-Sea after the affluent overseas buyers who have snapped up property there.
Lefkada boasts some of Greece’s finest beaches. Kefallonia’s – made famous by the best-selling novel and film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – has a dramatic mountainous landscape. Zakynthos is a popular tourist destination. Paxi, which consists of Paxos and Antipaxos, is home to harbour villages that are the very definition of picturesque. Other islands include more sedate Leftkada, which is connected to the mainland via a bridge, and Ithaka.
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