How do you choose from more than 1,200 sun-drenched islands? With our no-fail guide to the best of Greece.

Santorini

Why we love it: With whitewashed villages clinging to a volcanic crater, this is Greece at its picture-postcard best.

What to do: Boredom is not an option on Santorini. Start in the pretty villages of Fira and Oia, browsing the chic boutiques and galleries, before sampling some of the local wines at Santo Wines in Pyrgos. (White wine lovers should try the assyrtiko.) Feeling energetic? Then try the 10km hike from Fira to Oia, which lets you soak up stunning views along the entire route. Start in the mid afternoon and you will arrive at Oia just in time for one of its famous sunsets.

Memorable meal: Dinner at one of the rustic fish tavernas lining Ammoudi Bay is an essential Santorini experience; Dimitris Ammoudi Taverna is one of the best. For a more sophisticated dining experience, try the lovely Ambrosia restaurant in Oia.

Where to stay: The whitewashed interiors at Kirini Suites and Spa are designed not to distract from the panoramic views on offer from every corner. The location in the quiet village of Oia makes this a great place to relax; book yourself in at the hotel’s superb spa to speed up the process.

Don’t miss: Instead of heading to the ever-popular Kamari Beach, try the striking Red Beach instead.

Crete

Why we love it: With a colourful history that stretches from the ancient Minoans to four centuries of Venetian rule, Greece’s largest island offers plenty to discover.

What to do: Greek history starts with the ancient Minoans, who erected grand palaces on Crete. The partly-reconstructed palace at Knossos is a highlight, as is the superb archaeological museum in nearby Iraklio. Also worth a visit are mighty Venetian castles such as Spinalonga or Fortezza, and the fortified monastery of Toplou. If monuments aren’t your thing, spend some time exploring the Venetian streetscapes of Rethymno or Chania, or chill out on the gorgeous Elafonisi Beach.

Memorable meal: Perhaps the most memorable thing about a meal at The Old Phoenix, in Finikas Bay, is the journey there. Take the boat from Sfakia Harbour to Loutro, then follow the trail to this bayside restaurant. Everything here is super fresh, from the straight-off-the-boat fish to the lamb cuttlets, sourced from the owner’s own flock.

Where to stay: Stylish and family friendly, the Ammos Hotel outside Chania is one of the island’s most welcoming places to stay.

Don’t miss: The five-hour hike through Samariá Gorge is a spectacular experience, but can only be done between May and October.

Rhodes

Why we love it: Still surrounded by its ancient walls, Rhodes’ atmospheric old town conjures up the days when the island was run by the Knights of St John, an order of warrior monks.

What to do: The Knights’ Quarter, including the impressive Palace of the Grand Master, is Rhodes’ most famous attraction, but it is worth exploring the rest of the old town, including Hora, the Turkish quarter, and the old Jewish quarter. Also worth a visit is the ancient acropolis of Lindos and its pretty neighbouring village.

Memorable meal: The family-run Mavrikos restaurant in Lindos offers clever updates of Mediterranean standards. Vegetarians will love the fennel root slow-cooked in wine; carnivores will savour the lamb’s liver with chilli, garlic and wine.

Where to stay: Lodgings don’t get more atmospheric than Hotel Kókkini Porta Rossa. Tucked inside the ancient city walls, this family-run hotel consists of just five luxurious suites, with meals served in the peaceful courtyard.

Don’t miss: From June to August, the lovely Petaloudes, or Butterfly Valley is filled with huge numbers of butterflies. Visiting at a different time of year? You won’t see the butterflies, but on the upside, you will get to enjoy this lovely valley without the crowds.

Mykonos

Why we love it: Spend the day getting lost in the winding lanes of pretty-as-a-picture Mykonos Town before kicking back in the evening in the buzzing bar and club scene.

What to do: The no-fail Mykonos routine starts with a lazy day at one of the island’s beaches – Super Paradise and Elia are popular choices – where the music pumps and the drinks flow freely. Late afternoon it’s back to your hotel to freshen up before browsing the boutiques and galleries of Mykonos Town. Head to the chic Caprice bar for cocktail hour, before kicking on in one or two of the many venues tucked into the neighbourhoods of Little Venice or Alefkándhra. Rest, then repeat.

Memorable meal: Dinner for two? Head to Bill & Coo restaurant, located in the hotel of the same name. The award-winning restaurant offers sophisticated dishes using local ingredients such as olives, samphire, citrus and fresh fish. For a more casual feast, head to the laidback Ftelia beach, where Ftelia Restaurant serves up tasty local fare.

Where to stay: Perched in Mykonos’ most scenic setting, right by the famous windmills, Mykonos Theoxenia is a chic 60s-style getaway. Its pool, surrounded by four-poster beds, makes an inviting alternative to the island’s beaches.

Don’t miss: The nearby island of Delos was one of ancient Greece’s most sacred sites. A half-day trip to this World Heritage-listed site lets you explore one of the country’s most enchanting ruins.

5 more Greek gems

Thessaloniki: From Roman ruins, including the impressive Arch of Galerius, to Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques, Greece’s second-largest city and the capital of Macedonia has a wealth of attractions.

Monemvasia: A coastal castle town on the edge of the Peloponnese, inhabited in turn by Byzantines, Franks, Venetians and Ottomans, picturesque Monemvasia is Europe’s only continually inhabited castle.

Naxos: It’s not just the beaches that make Naxos special. This island is also known for its many tiny villages – almost 50 of them, where life continues as it has centuries.

Meteora: When medieval monks wanted to remove themselves from the temptations of the world they headed to the monasteries of Meteora, perched on a series of soaring sandstone peaks.

Ancient Olympia: For over a thousand years, Olympia was home of the original Olympic Games; today it is one of Greece’s most evocative sites, with an on-site museum that houses some extraordinary treasures.

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