With more than 500 staff across 25 offices in North America, Europe and Asia, Travelzoo gets about. And the Greek islands are one of our top destinations. But choosing between the 227 inhabited islands scattered across the Aegean and Ionian Seas can be a tough decision. So let our team of Deal Experts guide you through our top picks:
Kos ranks second among the Dodecanese islands in both size and visitor numbers and our travel experts have explored every aspect of this popular destination’s split personality. Plumping for a luxury break, London-based Cemlyn Jones recently experienced the all-inclusive Michelangelo Resort & Spa and rated the infinity pool as the absolute highlight of the hotel. Cemlyn’s tip? ‘‘Dine at the adjoining Mediterraneo restaurant or sip cocktails at the swim-up bar.’’
From our Munich office, Monika Heigl took a more traditional approach to her time in Kos, rating the archaeological site of Asklepeion and Thermes Beach -- famed for the healing qualities of its naturally warm waters -- as some of her top spots. Monika also recommends making the short hop across the Aegean Sea to Bodrum with a cheap boat tour to shop in the Turkish markets and souks.
The sandy beaches of Rhodes make for a popular tourist destination. However, if you’re looking for an alternative to sunbathing, London-based Raphael Giacardi rates the picture-perfect Greek village of Lindos, with plunging views of the sea, for a day trip. "There’s a daily bus departing from most hotels that can take you there for a few euro. Don’t miss walking up to the acropolis for the views from the top of the cliffs. If you can’t face the walk, you can even ride a donkey to the top." Raphael also recommends ‘‘finishing the day with a swim in St Paul’s Bay, a beautiful enclosed cove with rock cliffs and a small beach.”
Crete’s food received full marks by our Deal Experts. "It sounds simple," says Ashley Hamilton, based in Chicago, "but eat lots of tomatoes in Crete. The area is known for them and you won’t be disappointed with a huge Greek salad filled with them."
Back in the London office, it was Crete’s ice cream and yoghurt that took Sara Kriegel’s fancy, especially in Agios Nikolaos. "There are plenty of restaurants, bars and snack shops along the lake that are great for lunch or an evening cocktail. However, we relived our youth there with waffles and banana splits while sat on swings."
Get charmed by the quaint way of life in Mýkonos, just as London’s very own Christina Bracewell did. The island is famed for the windmills that line Alefkandra Harbour. Built by the Venetians in the early 16th century, they create a lasting impression, especially if you arrive by sea. Another of the island’s quirks is the legendary Petros the pelican who was found wounded by local fisherman and nursed back to health in 1958. Although sadly Petros is no longer with us, he lives on as the official mascot of Mýkonos.
Santorini is a popular island for honeymooners and this was certainly the case for our loved-up Deal Experts. Toasting the sunset in picture-postcard Oia came unequivocally top for romance. However, Chicago-based Antionette Fadera urges you not to dismiss the other side of the island during the day: ‘‘Kamari’s black sand looks like crumbled up Oreos against your flip-flops and many bars and restaurants line the boardwalk for a refreshment after a day in the sun.’’
Laura Summers in London recommends "finding out more about the islanders’ approach to grape growing." Santorini’s unusual ecology has resulted in a small but flourishing wine industry. Volcanic ash, well-draining soil and a rather ingenious method for growing grapes to maximise the moisture from dew (Santorini has very low rainfall) and protection from wind means roughly a third of the island is now covered by vineyards. "The pride of Santorini is their dessert wine, Vinsanto, made from sundried grapes," says Laura "and there’s nowhere better to sample it than at Santo Wines, while admiring the spectacular views across the caldera."
Still can’t decide which island best suits you? Why not island hop? Chicago’s Chris Vassil thinks "it’s well worth the ferry rides to one of the many other islands for a more authentic experience or to avoid crowds of tourists, particularly during peak seasons."
Jodi Burns from Miami chose to stop in Naxos. She says, ‘‘island hopping made getting between the islands very easy. It cut the ferry ride from Mykonos to Santorini in half and introduced us to a lesser known destination. We took a horseback riding tour across the island and onto the beach during sunset.’’
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