If you’re planning an island-hopping trip to Greece, you may wonder which islands to visit or which of the greek islands groups to visit. There are over 6,000 islands in Greece, which form the seven Greek island groups. 227 of these islands are inhabited. Greece has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean, sheltered by bays and coves and with sandy beaches, caves, and volcanic areas. If you’re planning a trip to Greece, knowing where to begin and which islands to visit can be challenging.

Below is a list of all the Greek islands we have posts on split into groups of islands, plus some helpful information about each island group. Use the table of contents to find the island group you plan to visit.


The Greek Island Groups

The Greek islands are divided into seven groups. Each group is unique and has slightly different cultural influences, landscapes, and characters.

It’s easier to travel between islands within a group, as ferry services rarely travel between them.

Some islands (e.g. The Ionian Islands) are entirely separate from other islands in Greece. They are located to the west of Mainland Greece. This is the same with The Sporades, which are located in the east of mainland Greece. The other island groups are located South of Athens.

Here’s a video that explains in a bit more detail. The last half of the video covers the Greek Islands:


The Ionian Islands

The Ionian island group is known as the tropical islands of Greece. It is most famous for ‘Navagio Beach’, which is located in Zakynthos. They are located in the Ionian Sea off the west coast of Mainland Greece.

The sea is an amazing shade of turquoise, and there is less wind than on other island groups in Greece. There are also plenty of impressive beaches to explore.

View all our posts on the islands below by clicking on them:

Zakynthos
Kefalonia

The Cyclades Island Group

The Cyclades islands are located Southwest of Athens. They are famous for whitewashed buildings, cats, traditional winding streets and unique architecture. The name means ‘circular islands’ because the islands form a circle around the sacred island of Delos, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site located just off the coast of the cosmopolitan island of Mykonos.

The Cyclades group includes some of the most famous islands in Greece, such as Santorini, Mykonos, and Milos, and it has plenty of mass international tourism. The Cyclades also features some of the best islands in Greece for families as well as some of the best beaches in Greece for families.

The Cyclades are the best island group for island hopping because the islands are close together, unique to each other, and served by regular ferries.

Santorini, with its dramatic caldera cliffs, stunning sunsets, and picturesque villages, is the crown jewel of the Cyclades. Visit the villages of Oia and Fira with their stunning caldera views, unwind on the island’s black sand beaches, or try a wine-tasting experience.

Mykonos is famous for its pumping nightlife, LGBT+ scene, pristine beaches and stunning scenery. Explore the busy streets of the winding Mykonos Town and visit the famous Mykonos windmills, or spend your days at one of the exclusive beach clubs of Psarou and Paradise Beach. Mykonos is the first stop on many island-hopping adventures due to its international airport and popularity. View the islands near Mykonos to decide where to visit next.

Naxos is the largest and greenest island in the Cyclades, with some of the best beaches in Greece, lush, fertile landscapes, ancient ruins and traditional beaches. Make sure you visit my favourite beach – Agios Prokopios, and venture to the other side of the island to visit the seaside village of Apollonas. Naxos Town is also one of my favourite destinations in Greece.

Paros is known for its world-class beaches, charming villages, and delicious cuisine. Wander through the narrow streets of Parikia and Naoussa, visit the historic Panagia Ekatontapiliani church, or go on a day trip to the neighbouring island of Antiparos, which is accessible by ferry only from Paros. Make sure you visit the beaches on the East Coast, such as Golden Beach.

Milos has unique lunar landscapes and is home to the famous ‘Sarakiniko Beach’ and the fishing village of Klima. The island is best seen on a boat trip, where you can explore its coastline.

View all our posts on the islands below by clicking on them:

Amorgos beach with a rugged mountain backdrop and a serene beach setting, ideal for peaceful relaxation and nature immersion.
Amorgos

A tranquil beach scene in Ios, featuring clear waters, golden sand, and a typical beach umbrella, epitomizing the idyllic Greek island getaway.
Ios

Sarakiniko Beach on Milos with its unique white volcanic rock formations creating natural arches over clear blue waters, resembling a moonscape against the sea.
Milos

Mykonos Town viewed from the rocky shore, showcasing a vibrant seascape with traditional white buildings and blue accents, famous for its picturesque charm.
Mykonos

A scenic view of Naxos Town with its classic Cycladic architecture; white and pastel-colored houses densely packed along the hillside overlooking a tranquil sea, reflecting the quintessential charm of the Greek islands.
Naxos
A narrow, winding alley in a traditional village, lined with white-washed walls and dotted with small, colorful details like potted plants and quaint doorways.
Paros
A stunning view of Santorini’s cliffside, with white buildings and blue-domed roofs cascading down to the sparkling Aegean Sea.
Santorini
A panoramic view of a vibrant seaside village nestled in a bay, showing clusters of white buildings amid rugged hills, overlooking serene, azure waters.
Syros

A pristine beach with a lone sun lounger under a straw umbrella, set against a backdrop of clear blue waters and distant mountains, offering a tranquil retreat.
Sifnos

The Dodecanese Islands

The Dodecanese Islands are located southeast of the Aegean Sea, just west of Turkey. There are 165 islands, and 26 are inhabited. These islands have unique medieval architecture and religious importance, with features like old towns, fortified fort areas, and ancient walls.

Rhodes is the largest and most famous of the Dodecanese Islands for its history and culture. The island is home to the magnificent medieval Old Town of Rhodes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you can wander through narrow cobblestone streets, explore historic monuments such as the Palace of the Grand Master, and soak up the atmosphere of a bygone era. Rhodes is also a popular holiday destination with package tourists and the starting point of many island hopping trips in the Dodecanese Island group. Rhodes Airport serves flights across Europe and to other major destinations in Greece.

Kos is another main starting point for island-hopping trips in the Dodecanese. It is known for its pristine beaches, ancient ruins, and nightlife. Explore the ruins of the ancient Asclepeion, relax on the island’s sun-drenched beaches, or sample local delicacies at local tavernas. Kos Airport serves flights across Europe and to other major destinations in Greece.

The following islands are most-visited on island hopping trips from Kos or Rhodes:

Symi is famous for its colourful neoclassical buildings, picturesque harbours, and crystal-clear waters. Wander through the picturesque villages, hike to remote monasteries and chapels, and go on a boat trip to secluded beaches and hidden coves.

Kalymnos, known as the “Sponge Divers’ Island,” offers a glimpse into the traditional art of sponge diving and fishing. Explore the island’s villages, visit the sponge factories and museums, or try hiking and rock climbing. 

Patmos is home to the Cave of the Apocalypse, where the Book of Revelation is said to have been written. Explore the monastery of St. John the Theologian, visit charming Chora, or relax on the island’s secluded beaches.

View all our posts on the islands below by clicking on them:

brown wooden beach lounge chair on beach during daytime
Kos

The North Aegean Islands

The Northern Aegean Islands are located northeast of the Aegean Sea and feature plenty of natural history, beautiful scenery and authentic Greek charm. The main islands in the Northern Aegean Group are Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Ikaria, and Lemnos.

Lesbos, the third-largest island in Greece, captivates visitors with its stunning landscapes, including deep valleys, rugged mountains, and pristine beaches. Lesbos is famous for its delicious olive oil and draws visitors to visit the picturesque villages and experience the warm hospitality. 

Chios is known for its medieval villages and neoclassical architecture. Spend your time wandering through the winding streets of its fortified villages and look out for the amazing designs of the Genoese towers.

Samos is famous for its large forests, cascading waterfalls and archaeological treasures. It’s home to the Temple of Hera and draws visitors to visit the ancient ruins and picturesque visitors and explore the many hiking trails.

Ikaria has a very laid-back lifestyle and is known as the “island where people forget to die. Ikaria offers many beaches and healthy cuisine. The islands have a simpler way of life where time seems to stand still.

Lemnos has volcanic landscapes and traditional villages. It offers an escape from the mass tourism that some islands experience. Explore the ancient ruins, including the prehistoric settlement of Poliochni, relax on its uncrowded beaches, or savour the delicious local cuisine.

View all our posts on the islands below by clicking on them:

Secluded cove on a Greek island showcasing a tranquil beach with crystal-clear turquoise waters, surrounded by rugged cliffs and lush greenery, ideal for private yacht anchoring and relaxation.

The Saronic Gulf Islands

The Saronic Islands are the easiest islands to reach from Athens. This enchanting archipelago comprises Aegina, Agistri, Hydra, Poros, and Spetses.

You can even take day trips from Athens to different islands in the Saronics, including a three-island tour that covers Hyrda, Poros, and Aegina in one day. These islands are less touristy, and some (e.g., Hydra) are even car-free.

Aegina, the largest of the Saronic Gulf Islands, beckons and features charming harbours, ancient temples, and waterfront markets. The island is famous for its succulent pistachio nuts and neoclassical architecture, which have a timeless appeal.

Agistri, a hidden gem among the Saronic Islands, boasts pristine beaches, lush pine forests, and crystal-clear waters ideal for swimming and snorkelling. Its laid-back atmosphere and unspoiled landscapes are perfect for a relaxing break or day trip from Athens.

Hydra’s horseshoe-shaped harbour and beautiful stone mansions evoke a sense of old-world elegance and charm. Wander through its car-free streets, admire its historic churches and museums, or go on a scenic hike along the island’s rugged coastline.

Poros is characterised by its quaint seaside villages and rolling hills. The island offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Explore the Venetian clock tower, Byzantine monastery, and ancient ruins. Leave plenty of time to unwind on the sun-drenched beaches.

Spetses, known for its maritime history and aristocratic heritage, exudes a refined elegance and sophistication. From its grand seafront mansions and horse-drawn carriages to its scenic waterfront, which features cafes and upscale boutiques, Spetses offers luxury and indulgence in a breathtaking island setting.


The Sporades Islands

The Sporades are located in the east of mainland Greece and consist of 24 lush green islands, 4 of which are inhabited (Alonnisos, Skiathos, Skopelos and Skyros). The Sporades are known for their relaxing atmosphere and natural beauty.

Skiathos, the most developed of the Sporades, is famous for its beautiful beaches with crystal-clear waters. Explore its picturesque old town, lined with narrow cobblestone streets and traditional whitewashed buildings, or relax on its golden sandy beaches fringed by pine forests.

Skopelos, often called the “greenest” island in Greece, draws tourists with its lush landscapes, charming villages, and secluded coves. The island gained international fame as the filming location for the movie “Mamma Mia!” and offers a mix of cultural attractions, scenic hiking trails, and delicious Greek cuisine.

Alonnisos is famous for its protected marine park, a paradise for nature lovers and eco-conscious travellers. The island’s crystal-clear waters are ideal for snorkelling and diving, offering opportunities to encounter dolphins, monk seals, and colourful fish species. Alonnisos also has pretty traditional villages, historic monasteries, and serene beaches.

Skyros is the largest and southernmost island in the Sporades. It is known for its rugged coastline, unique architecture, and traditional local culture. Visitors can learn about the island’s folklore and traditions, witness traditional pottery-making, or hike through its scenic landscapes dotted with ancient ruins and Byzantine churches.

You can reach the Sporades Islands via ferry or by flying to Skiathos, which is the only island in the group that has an airport. Read more about the airports in Greece here.


Crete

Crete is the largest Greek island and is not part of any island group. It’s located on the southern edge of the Aegean Sea. Crete is famous for its ancient Minoan palaces, such as Knossos and Phaistos, delicious cuisine, and amazing beaches. It is home to two pink sand beaches, which are two of only 12 in the world.

The landscape of Greece’s ‘largest island’ is diverse, featuring rugged mountains and fertile plains, as well as secluded coves and sandy beaches.

 The White Mountains (Lefka Ori) dominate the island’s western region, offering breathtaking vistas and opportunities for hiking and mountaineering. On the other side of Crete, the Lasithi Plateau in the east showcases rolling hills dotted with traditional windmills and fertile farmland.

The cuisine of Crete is not to be missed. The island is fertile, and most produce is grown on the island rather than imported. Sample local specialities like dakos (rusk topped with tomatoes, feta cheese, and olive oil), kalitsounia (cheese or herb-filled pastries), and fresh seafood dishes like grilled octopus and marinated anchovies.

 Mix up your trip to Crete by visiting the major cities (Rethymno, Heraklion and Chania), visiting the lakes and mountains and spending time at popular beaches. You can get to Crete by flying into one of the major airports – Heraklion and Chania or by ferry from the Dodocenese or Cyclades islands.

Lake Kournas in Crete with a backdrop of mountains.
Crete

FAQs About the Greek Islands Groups and Island Hopping Trips

What are the groups of Greek islands called?

The Greek islands are split into seven island groups:

Cyclades
Ionian Islands
Dodecanese
Sporades
Saronic Islands
North Aegean Islands
Crete 

Which Greek island group should I visit?

I recommend visiting the Cyclades islands for a Greek island-hopping adventure. Visit the traditional whitewashed buildings, explore the famous islands of Santorini, Mykonos, and Milos, and visit hidden gems like Sifnos, Tinos, and Koufinisi.

What is the group of 12 Greek islands?

The group of 12 Greek islands commonly refers to the Dodecanese Islands, situated in the southeastern Aegean Sea. This archipelago comprises 12 main islands, which include famous islands like Kos, Symi and Rhodes.


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