Destination Immersion

A Guide To The Greek Isles

Friday, April 24, 2020
By Azamara

Year after year, The Greek Isles is at the top of every list as one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world—and for good reason. There’s no better way to explore the islands than by cruise. Life in the Greek Isles is laid back and relaxing. A vacation there should be, as well. Nothing puts a damper on a trip like the hassle of packing and unpacking your suitcase over and over, or the stress of missing the hydrofoil to the next island on your itinerary. When you cruise to the Greek Isles with us you can explore the entire region, and only unpack once. Enjoy incredible onboard amenities at night, and wake up feeling refreshed each day in a new, stunning Greek port.

Explore all our upcoming voyages to Greece here.

Not all cruises are created equal—we consider our Greek Isles voyages a cut above the rest. Our late-night departures and overnight stays mean you’ll have more time to explore the heart and soul of each port-of-call. Onboard programming like enrichment lectures, culinary demonstrations, and wine tastings will enhance your onshore experience. It’s not just the destinations you visit, but the people in them. The history, the culture, the food. Our shore excursions are designed to peel back the layers of each place we visit, to not only showcase local life but to immerse you in it.

More than 6,000 islands and islets are scattered across the Aegean and Ionian Seas, though only 227 are inhabited. Each one has its own unique personality and flair. Use our helpful guide to nine of the most beloved Greek islands and select which islands you simply must visit. (“All of them” is definitely an acceptable answer.)

1. Santorini

Panorama of Oia town in Santorini

Island Group: CycladesSize: 90.6 km²Famous For: Sweeping Views

Close your eyes and picture a Greek island. We bet Santorini comes to mind. It’s a quintessential scene thanks to its beautiful whitewashed, cliffside villages, deep orange sunsets, and incredible panoramic views. It’s not just one of the most photogenic places in Greece, it’s one of the most photogenic destinations in the world. For the best photo-ops, head to the village of Oia. The ocean views, red volcanic sand beaches, blue-roofed buildings, and bright pink flowers are unparalleled.

Explore ancient vineyards, hike rugged volcanoes, sail aboard traditional Greek vessels, and more on our authentic Santorini shore excursions.

2. Mykonos

A 14th century Paraportiani Church on the island of Mykonos, Greece

Island Group: CycladesSize: 105.2 km²Famous For: LGBTQ-Friendly Travel

If Santorini has a competitor for “most famous Greek island”, it’s Mykonos. Mykonos is another postcard-perfect destination, with its gleaming white houses with brilliant blue shutters, vibrant bougainvillea, and spindly 16th-century Venetian windmills. It’s known for being a friendly and popular LGBTQ travel spot, and has a vibrant nightlife scene you can soak in when the sun goes down thanks to our late-night departures.When it comes to things to do on shore in Mykonos, you can keep it low key (but still super chic). Spend a day lounging at Elia Beach, dive into ancient history at Delos, or get hands on with a mosaic making class in a traditional kipos (open-air garden).

3. Crete

View of the old port of Chania, Crete, Greece

Island Group: Not ApplicableSize: 8,336 km²Famous For: Great Food

Crete is the largest and most populous island in Greece. On the northwest coast, the ancient Venetian port city of Chania is fascinating with a mix of Greek, Venetian, and Ottoman influences. It’s also an ideal travel destination for foodies. Think fresh, local produce, unique Cretan cheeses, and famous local olive oil. To taste it all, book our Azamara Chef Experience that takes you to the bustling Agora Market to shop, a winery to sip, and back to the ship to savor a dinner created with the local ingredients you found.Chania is also a perfect gateway for exploring other parts of the island. Shore excursions from this port can take you to local villages, the ancient remains of Knossos Palace, local Cretan wineries, or the island’s finest beaches.

4. Rhodes

Acropolis of Lindos on the island of Rhodes at sunset

Island Group: DodecaneseSize: 1,408 km²Famous For: History

With a story spanning more than 10,000 years, Rhodes is a bucket-list destination for history buffs. It’s the largest and most historically important island of the Dodecanese group, and one of the best-preserved medieval cities in all of Europe. The entire city-center is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If everything ancient doesn’t get you excited, don’t fret—you’ll still love Rhodes. With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, the beautiful Tsambika Beach is hard to resist.In fact, there are plenty of ways to spend a day in Rhodes. In addition to exploring history or hitting the beach, our shore excursions include a Jeep safari and beach barbeque, a pottery workshop, and more.

5. Corfu

Beach in Corfu Island

Island Group: IonianSize: 585.3 km²Famous For: Family Travel

Corfu is one of a few islands rumored to have been the inspiration for Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Once you’ve visited, it’s easy to understand why. The island is downright magical, with sparkling turquoise waters, gentle breezes, and the smell of olives wafting through the air. Its atmosphere is undeniably romantic, and locals love to entertain. 

The island lends itself well to being explored on foot. It’s definitely worth venturing out to the countryside where unique villages abound, like the foodie’s paradise of Agni, hard-partying Kavos, and genteel “Kensington-on-Sea”—an affectionate nickname referring to the wealthy West London tourists that make it their holiday home. 

6. Patmos

Monastery of St. John on Patmos island, Greece

Island Group: DodecaneseSize: 45.04 km²Famous For: Religious History

Patmos may be small, but it’s a place of importance in the Christian faith—it’s where John the Apostle is said to have written the last book of the New Testament. If this piques your interest, visit the Cave of the Apocalypse, as well as the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian.For less ecclesiastical excursions, spend the day soaking up the sun and savoring traditional cuisine at Agriolivadi Beach, or if you can’t get enough cruising, explore remote islands on a traditional caique fishing boat.

7. Delos

Ancient ruins at Delos, Greece.

Island Group: CycladesSize: 3.43 km²Famous For: Ancient Ruins

At less than four square kilometers, Delos is tiny. But when it comes to history and ancient ruins, it sure packs a punch. The island has a UNESCO World Heritage distinction thanks to its impressive archaeological site. The remains of Hellenistic-era temples, statues, a theater, and more make the island a must-visit destination. While it’s not possible to stay on Delos, it’s easily accessed from Mykonos. Azamara guests can visit during a shore excursion that takes you up close to the Temple of Apollo (legend says he was born here), elaborate mosaics, and an impressive outdoor theater.

8. Spetses

Spetses, Greece in the early evening

Island Group: SaronicSize: 22.2 km²Famous For: Revolutionary History

During the 1821 War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire, the Greek revolutionary flag was first raised here. Rich in naval history, Spetses is a favorite getaway for the elite of Athens, but still retains all of its authentic island charm thanks to its ban on cars in the town center. Yachts moor alongside traditional fishing boats and horse-drawn carriages are the preferred mode of transportation. 

If you’re in search of paradise, you’ll find it at Vrellos Beach—that’s what the locals call it anyway! Surrounded by a dense pine forest, it’s the perfect starting point to follow a walking trail up to Profitis Elias. It’s the highest point on the island and offers sweeping views in all directions

9. Skiathos

Umbrellas and lounge chairs on the beach in Skiathos, Greece

Island Group: SporadesSize: 49.9 km²Famous For: Beaches

Skiathos may be the Sporades’ smallest island, but it is one of the most popular with jet-setters for shopping, swimming, and sunbathing. It’s famous for its incredible beaches (of which there are more than 60 packed into just 27 miles of coastline), which have pristine white sand and dazzling turquoise waters.

If you don’t consider yourself a beach bum, Skiathos has plenty more to offer. Make your way to Kastro, a 16th-century medieval town. Overlooking the town is Chlemoutsi Castle, a well-preserved fortress and castle that dates back to the early 1200s.Browse our upcoming cruises to Greece and join us on board! If you want to explore further in Greece and really immerse yourself in island life, our unique country-intensive voyages are your ticket to discovering the even more of this incredible region.

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