It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how many islands are dotted throughout Greece. Geographers have estimated that there could be anywhere from 1,200 up to 6,000 different islands. However, the majority of them are tiny and have remained uninhabited over the last few centuries.
Greece is home to several clusters of islands, many of which lie in either the Aegean Sea, the Ionian Sea, or the Saronic Gulf. The largest clusters are the Argo-Saronic Islands, The Cyclades, the North Aegean Islands, the Dodecanese, and the Ionian Islands. These clusters contain some of the largest islands in all of Greece.
Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades, which is located southeast of mainland Greece in the Aegean Sea. As the Cyclades greenest island, Naxos is also home to lush valleys, rocky coastlines, and miles of sun-soaked beaches.
The largest city on the island is Naxos Chora, a portside town known for its beautiful white-washed buildings and the ancient Venetian castle. Close to the port lies the iconic Portara door, the last remaining feature from the Temple of Apollo that was built in 530 BC.
Located on the north Aegean Sea, Limnos is a stunning mix of beaches, volcanic rocks, and sparkling lakes. Besides the diverse scenery, the island is also home to several villages, including the capital town of Myrina, the prehistoric settlement of Polochni, and the archaeological site of Hephaestia.
It is believed to be sacred to the mythological god Hephaestus, who fathered the first tribe of people on the island. Over the last few centuries, it has been occupied by several different empires, including the Persians, Romans, Venetians, and the Turks.
Due to its proximity to the Asia Minor, Samos is one of the only Greek islands with direct ferry routes to and from Turkey. Covering over 184 square miles, it’s one of the largest and most mountainous islands in the Aegean Sea. It also happens to be one of the sunniest places in all of Europe, receiving over 3,300 hours of sunshine a year.
Famous residents of Samos include the astronomer Aristarchus of Samos, the mathematician Pythagoras, and the philosophers Melissus of Samos and Epicurus. Besides its rich history, Samos is also known for its vineyards and wine production.
Of the seven Ionian Islands, Corfu is the second largest. Not only is it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece, but it’s also one of the most historically significant. Over the last 3,000 years, Corfu went from a ruling naval power to a Venetian defense system and was even taken over by the British Empire during the Napoleonic Wars.
With hundreds of miles of coastline, Corfu has over 90 different beaches. It’s also home to the first university as well as the first modern theater and opera in the entire country.
Not only is Kefalonia the largest of the Ionian Islands, but it’s also the sixth-largest island in all of Greece. There are over 36,000 residents living on Kefalonia, although most of them reside in the western capital of Argostoli. Other villages include Lixouri, Skala, Lassi, and Fiskardo.
When it comes to natural landmarks, Kefalonia is home to Mount Ainos, the tallest mountain in the Ionian Islands. The majority of the island is also covered in olive trees and vineyards. Olive oil production and winemaking are just two of the biggest industries on Kefalonia.
The fifth-largest Greek Island is Chios, which is located in the Aegean Sea 4.3 miles off the coast of Turkey. There are five distinct regions and areas, including the most populated town of Chios (although most locals refer to the city simply as Chora.)
Chios’ landscape is relatively mountainous, with a range of mountains snaking through the entire island. On the northern end of Chios are the island’s two largest peaks, the 4,255-foot tall Pelineion and the 3,898-foot tall Epos. According to Greek mythology, Homer was born right here on the island.
The Dodecanese Islands consist of over 150 individual islands. The capital of the Dodecanese Islands is Rhodes, which also happens to be the largest all the islands in the archipelago. It’s located in the southern Aegean Sea just a few miles off the coast of Turkey.
Shaped like a spearhead, this island is littered with small villages, rolling hills, and dense forests. Over 35% of the island is covered in pines and cypresses, making it one of the greenest islands in the Aegean. There are over 115,000 residents living in Rhodes, with almost half of them residing in the capital city. Besides the main capital, there are 44 other towns and villages scattered throughout the island.
With almost 200 miles of coastline, the island of Lesbos is Greece’s third-largest island. Its capital, Mytilene, was founded in the 11th-century BC. Since then, the island has seen its fair share of occupation, being under Byzantine, Genoese, and Ottoman rule until it was liberation in 1912.
Besides the two main mountain peaks, Lesbos is mostly shrouded in olive and fruit trees, which make up 40% of the island. Its most famous historical resident was Sappho, a female poet known for her extensive collection of elegant lyrics and songwriting.
Hugging the northeastern coast of mainland Greece is the country’s second-largest island, Euboea. It’s the second-largest island in size, as well as in population. This narrow strip of land was believed to once be attached to the mainland before it was separated and pushed out by an earthquake.
The entire island is divided into three distinct regions. The north is brushed with dense forests, while the center is littered with mountains and rocky cliffs. The southern coast is lined with beaches and dramatic coastlines. Scattered throughout the island are quaint villages, thermal springs, and even cascading waterfalls.
Situated on the southern border of the Aegean Sea is Crete. Not only is Crete the largest island in Greece, but it’s also the fifth-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s almost 100-miles off the coast of mainland Greece, making it only possible to visit by plane or an 8.5-hour-long ferry ride.
Crete is believed to be home to the Minoans, Europe’s first advanced civilization, who lived on the island during the Bronze Age. The majority of Crete’s landscape is mountains, with a few coastal cities like Heraklion and Chania on the northern end. The White Mountains span the entire length of the island, with the towering peak of Mount Ida sitting in the center.