As the heat of summer intensifies, our minds inevitably drift towards the Mediterranean—the rhythmic lull of cerulean waves, the tactile delight of sand kissing sun-warmed skin and the invigorating clink of ice cubes in a cocktail glass held aloft to the azure sky. For many, it’s Greece that first unfurls before the mind’s eye, with its thousands of islands scattered across the Ionian and Aegean Seas. Yet, we’re not here to retrace the cobblestones of Mykonos and Santorini. Instead, let’s nudge aside the oft-trod tourist trails to uncover the shy allure of the unsung Hellenic hideaways.
These clandestine idylls, each with their own seductive siren call, paint a mosaic of wild, untouched beauty, infectious local charm and palate-tantalizing delicacies. Here, amidst this kaleidoscope of experiences, the Greek summer reveals its true essence. From the rugged peaks of Amorgos to the sapphire seas of Serifos, each of these 13 destinations is a universe unto itself, teeming with distinctive landscapes, mouthwatering signature dishes and exquisite accommodations that cradle you in luxury while whispering stories of a Greece beyond the guidebooks. Here are our top picks.
Astypalaia, a butterfly-shaped jewel of the Aegean, was once an incognito locale within Greece’s island lineup. Today, it flutters under the radar of even the most savvy travelers, though it’s easily accessible via daily flights from Athens. This captivating Dodecanese haven marries chic elegance with a tantalizing taste of the uncharted. Between beach-hopping, from the spirited Maltezana to the remote Vatses, find time to amble through the dreamy hilltop town of Chora. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to give a hat tip to the Baths of Talara, with their vibrant Hellenic-period mosaics.
Where to stay: The Kallichoron Art Boutique Hotel not only pioneered luxury on Astypalaia in 2021, but also blazed a trail in eco-friendly travel by signing the UNESCO “Sustainable Travel Pledge.” The hotel’s commitment to environmental stewardship is as palatable as their local thyme honey.
Halki, or Chalki, is an ode to undisturbed Grecian charm. The island’s old town fell into a slumber when the local sponge industry died, imbuing Halki with a tranquil allure. This car-free wonder, accessible only by boat from Rhodes or weekly hydrofoil to Kalymnos, Kos, Nisiros and Tilos, is a serene oasis. With its scarcity of rooms and absence of hyper-commercialization, Halki preserves the authenticity of island life, making it a refuge for the weary city dweller.
Where to stay: Halki Sea House, a meticulously restored waterfront villa, offers opulence in simplicity. Two bedrooms, exquisite furnishings and sweeping terraces kitted out with plush sun loungers and deck furniture—all just steps away from the sapphire Aegean.
Kimolos, the Cyclades’ little secret, is a small island that punches well beyond its weight. This volcanic wonder, just a stone’s throw from Milos, showcases nature’s drama on a geological stage. The island is a canvas of fascinating rock formations and beaches that shimmer with fossil-studded sands. Amid this natural spectacle, the main village, Chorio, radiates quaint charm, with whitewashed Cycladic houses, labyrinthine alleys and snug tavernas that strike a balance with the island’s wild beauty.
Where to stay: Located between the port of Psathi and the main hilltop village, Toffee Kimolos is proprietor Kostas Ventouris’ residential-style hideaway that encapsulates the island’s charm. Inspired by the snow-white volcanic rocks blanketing much of the isle, its four apartments offer private terraces and kitchenettes, making it a particularly idyllic retreat for a romantic getaway.
In Ithaki (Ithaca), the legendary home of Odysseus, Greek mythology is not simply history; it’s a palpable presence whispering through the hidden coves and overgrown archaeological sites. The island’s capital, Vathy, with its neoclassical charms and overlooking natural harbor, is a postcard-perfect image. Spot the Lazaretto islet’s white chapel peeking out from the tranquil sea. Sample the local lobster pasta and allow yourself an idyllic afternoon for a simple pastime of swimming and sunning at a hidden pebble beach. Best of all, there’s no need for a map on this labyrinth of an island, where wandering aimlessly is an art form.
Where to stay: The Perantzada Art Hotel, a regal neoclassical mansion, offers comfort, luxury and postcard-worthy views of the Ionian Sea. The hotel’s tasteful elegance is in perfect harmony with the island’s charm, and the promise of a gentle sea breeze and the hypnotic sound of lapping waves make it the ideal Ithacan home.
The pastel-colored time capsule that is Symi is most famous for its harbor, framed by neoclassical homes. The Panormitis Monastery, a revered Greek Orthodox pilgrimage site, holds a hallowed stillness in the midst of bustling island life. And the local cuisine? A medley of fresh flavors, with the delicately fried Symi micro-shrimp (simiako garidaki) taking the gastronomic center stage.
Where to stay: Occupying a 19th-century trading post, the Old Markets Hotel comes complete with harbor views and an indoor swimming pool. The rooms retain their original features, such as the rustic bread oven in the Ottoman Room, but with modern comforts thrown in, like Greek-made Korres toiletries.
Syros, the Cycladic capital, is an eclectic hodgepodge of cultures; a melting pot of Cycladic and Venetian architectural influences. While not famous for its beaches, there are a few, namely Galissas and Posidonia, that provide the perfect setting for a lazy afternoon. The cosmopolitan town of Ermoupoli is worthy of multiple strolls, meandering past rows of polychromatic piles. Culture vultures should flock to the Apollo Theater, an architectural marvel showcasing the island’s love for the arts, while those with a sweet tooth must seek out the famed halvadopita (nougat pie) as soon as they land on the island.
Where to stay: Aristide Hotel offers an ultra-boutique experience in the heart of buzzing Ermoupoli. The commodious rooms, bathed in gentle pastels and outfitted with antique furniture, gift visitors with panoramic views of the town—a particularly stunning sight as the sun sets. Be sure to make time for a quality cuddle session with the hotel’s resident (and inevitable mascot) French Bulldog, Alexia.
A sense of mystery shrouds the easternmost Cycladic island of Amorgos, making its rugged charm undeniably captivating. It has a kind of raw, primitive beauty—the kind you would scribble a postcard home about. It’s a place where craggy mountains dramatically drop into azure seas, crusader castles huddle amidst the mist and monasteries appear to be one strong gust away from tumbling into the deep. The Monastery of Chozoviotissa, clinging to the cliffside overlooking the Aegean, is nothing short of a wonder—not just for its architectural audacity, but also for the sweeping views of the sea.
Where to stay: Calling Amorgos 1L Villa home during your stay is akin to living in an art piece; a collage of whitewashed sugar cubes etched against the cerulean Aegean. With five inviting bedrooms, the villa embodies the island’s ethos of simple luxury. The place is a layered paradise of chic, reclusive corners, plus a divine swimming pool.
Samos, a viridian wonderland, is where the humdrum gives way to the thrill of discovery. Home to lush pine forests, splendid beaches and wine that makes the muses sing, Samos is an island with stories to tell. The Heraion, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands as a testament to its rich history, while the famed sweet wine of Samos whispers tales of sun-kissed muscat grapes. The island is a painting in the broad strokes of green and blue, with trails that weave through vineyards, olive groves and mountains, like an endless scenic route.
Where to stay: Tucked away in the wild hinterlands of Pythagoreio, the Doryssa Boutique Hotel offers an escape that’s equal parts chic and serene. The adults-only hotel imbues a barefoot luxury spirit in every corner, with rooms decked out in earthy tones and plush fabrics. Each room is a private retreat with a terrace, an open invitation to luxuriate under the Grecian sun.
A stone’s throw away from the Turkish coast, this little-known paradise enchants with its harmony of sparkling turquoise waters and picture-perfect harbor. The island reveals a past that’s as rich as its natural beauty, echoing tales of Ottoman mansions, Byzantine castles and wartime scars. The local culinary scene is a treasure trove of traditional Greek cuisine and local honey. Though lacking sandy beaches, its rocky coves hold a world of wonders for snorkeling enthusiasts.
Where to stay: The team behind Kastellorizo’s Mediterraneo Hotel has, this summer, launched its sister property: Casa Mediterraneo. Design firm Studio Noor upgraded the hotel experience by refurbishing three sea-side mansions. Each suite takes up a whole floor, featuring limewashed walls, reclaimed hammam sinks and vintage furniture draped in local hemp linen.
Known for its sandy beaches that seem to go on forever, Antiparos is a slice of heaven nestled in the Cyclades. It invites exploration with natural wonders like the Cave of Antiparos, and the alluring old town with its Venetian castle. For the aimless wanderers, the island offers an impressive array of charming shops, quaint cafes and appealing restaurants forming the heart of the sole hamlet. Even elusive celebrities have found a hideaway here (the fact that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson own a stunning retreat on the isle is no secret).
Where to stay: Immerse yourself in the slow dance of Mediterranean summer at The Rooster. The resort is composed of 17 luxe villas, suites and rooms, each offering the chance to greet the morning with stunning Aegean vistas. From garden-fresh cuisine at the resort’s restaurant to unique spa treatments, The Rooster delivers a heady mix of low-key luxuries, including private swimming pools, alfresco showers and a spa specializing in bespoke treatments rooted in Ancient Greek remedies.
Serifos, a relatively untouched gem in the Cyclades, is a paradise for beach lovers. Perched on a mountain overlooking the bay, the island’s main village boasts whitewashed houses that harmonize with the surrounding scenery, while the inviting ouzeries serve traditional mezedes, offering local specialties like marathopites pies (think spanakopita, but with wild greens instead of spinach). Although Serifos lacks its own airport, the journey from Athens’ main port, Piraeus, via ferry is a small price to pay to experience the island’s untouched allure.
Where to stay: The COCO-MAT Eco Residences Serifos are a charming reimagining of old miners’ abodes on the beachfront. It’s a place where eco-minded elegance intertwines with Greek craftsmanship, as it’s furnished with the homeware brand’s organic mattresses, furniture and linens handcrafted from materials like coconut fibers and eucalyptus. Not to mention, the sleep aficionados among us can choose from a pillow menu as exhaustive as a sommelier’s wine list.
Kea, or Tzia, is an enigmatic island that often slips under the tourist radar despite its proximity to Athens. In Kea, you can sip on the calm air of seclusion, just 90 minutes by ferry from the Athens mainland port of Lavrio. It’s a quaint trove of cultural antiquity, a paradisiacal collection of beaches and a culinary carnival attracting Athenians and wanderers alike. The village of Ioulida, with its maze of traditional white Cycladic houses, is a sight to behold, perched on a mountainside like a flock of swans.
Where to stay: One&Only Kéa Island is a Greek architectural masterpiece nestled in the rugged natural landscape. The sprawling 150-acre beachfront site, set to open this summer, hosts 75 villas and private homes, in addition to a host of dining spaces, from an organic taverna to a speakeasy bar. And, if a taste of Athens beckons, a private boat and helicopter service links to their Athens property.
The enchanting Koufonisia islands, part of the Small Cyclades, comprise the uninhabited Kato Koufonisi and Keros—both dazzling in their own right—but it’s Pano Koufonisi that dances with unabashed charisma. The island’s plentiful secluded beaches are best discovered via the jaunty wooden boats departing from the port to coves along the eastern shore. Your adventure should cap off at Pori Beach, where the chic Kalofego beach bar awaits with creative cocktails and incredible Cycladic dishes sourced from the land and sea.
Where to stay: Eros Keros is an ode to the island’s laid-back charm, a labor of love by Anita Papantoniou. A quaint quartet of houses cocooned by stone walls, furnished with heirlooms, handmade ceramics and vintage textiles, it’s a sanctuary that effortlessly blurs the line between rustic and chic.