Undiscovered Greek islands perfect for escaping the crowds

By , 5th March 2015

Greek island-hopping is a dream for thousands of travellers – and who could blame them? Home to around 1,400 islands, Greece is the best place to experience the clear blue waters of the Aegean Sea, delicious Mediterranean cuisine and a selection of the world’s best beaches.

But some islands also come with hordes of tourists. Santorini, for example, has become world famous and now attracts more than 1.5 million visitors a year.

So are there still any islands left to discover? Thankfully yes. Here we bring you seven beautiful places that are firmly off the beaten track.


Samothraki


Where to go in Greece: Samothraki

Photo by classik0s

Located in the far north of the Aegean Sea, Samothraki (also known as Samothrace) is one of the most rugged of Greece’s islands. Its mountainous interior offers some great forest hiking trails interspersed with refreshing waterfalls, while pristine beaches hug the south-eastern shore. The island is also home to the ruins of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, an archeologically significant site of pre-Hellenic religious ceremonies.

Despite this, the island’s poor public transport and distance from other islands deters island-hoppers, keeping visitor numbers low. But with natural and cultural treasures abound, their loss can be your gain.


Kastellorizo


Hidden gems in Greece: Kastellorizo

Photo by lemuel.gulliver

Kastellorizo is a real hidden gem. The furthest east you can go without leaving the country, the island is almost off the map – literally. But visitors who make the trip can expect a picturesque horseshoe bay lined with pretty pastel houses and rustic cobbled alleyways. Visitors are free to bathe in the crystal clear waters of the harbour, but the real star of the show is the Blue Cave – a dazzling grotto reached by boat.

Kastellorizo’s isolation is also one of its best assets – you won’t find legions of tourists here outside of the peak season, though those that do come have been known to include celebrities like Tom Hanks.


Gavdos


Undiscovered Greek islands: Gavdos

Photo by christofth

“Gavdos is as much a state of mind as it is an island,” writes Lonely Planet – the perfect introduction to this rocky-outcrop-turned-hippie-paradise. Both the southernmost Greek island and the southernmost point of Europe, Gavdos doesn’t seem like much on the surface: there are only around 50 year-long residents and there are few amenities for tourists, yet the island does attract a stalwart group of free spirits every year looking to chill out and sleep beneath the starry sky.

Far away from the bustle of package holidays and mass tourism, Gavdos is all about natural beauty: over half of its rugged surface is covered in trees and vegetation, while several impressive (and often deserted) beaches hug the north-eastern coast and cliffs line the south-east.


Lefkada


Undiscovered Greek islands: Lefkada

Photo by pinay_flying_high

Unfairly upstaged by its Ionian neighbours, Lefkada is often passed over in favour of nearby Corfu and other popular places. While the island is still home to small number of holiday resorts, these are concentrated along the east coast – leaving the rest of Lefkada relatively unexplored.

The west coast in particular is a great place for losing the crowds. Here, you’ll find sandy beaches backed by dramatic cliffs and edged in by the piercing blue waters of the Ionian Sea. Meanwhile in the mountainous interior, remote villages still live according to customs, with older women wearing traditional dress.


Symi


Lesser-known Greek islands: Symi

Photo by Florian Unterholzner

There are few islands that offer a welcome like Symi. On arrival to the port of Yalos, visitors will be met with views of charming pastel-coloured Neoclassical houses, leading many to call it the most beautiful harbour in Greece. Though the island has resisted the trappings of mass tourism, it is a popular destination with day trippers and has a growing population of foreign residents (mostly Italians and Brits) who are restoring old homes in their classic style.

Among its sights, the island has an old fortress town, Ano Symi, and boasts many churches. Symi is particularly popular with yachters as many of its pristine beaches can only be reached by boat.


Limnos


Greek islands without the crowds

Photo by Rosemary Howard

Despite its prominent position at the entrance to the Aegean Sea, Limnos (also known as Lemnos) remains a relatively underdeveloped tourist destination. Fortunately for its few visitors, its capital, Myrina, has held on to its classic fishing harbour feel and life on the island remains relatively traditional.

Largely flat, Limnos’ interior is a mixture of peaceful rolling fields, vineyards and shallow lakes, while its coast is home to more than thirty sandy beaches – though they might not be world class, they are certainly quiet. The island is also home to the ruins of Poliochne, one of the most ancient cities in Europe.


Spetses


Beautiful Greek islands: Spetses

Photo by themismiles

Found just a few kilometres from the mainland, Spetses is an island with a difference: cars are banned within town limits, meaning that you’ll have to explore the gems of Spetses town on foot, via scooter – or even by horse-drawn carriage. An affluent town, Spetses stretches along the eastern coast and boasts a lively nightlife.

The remainder of the island is sparsely populated and is instead dotted with pebbly coves and small shady beaches, of which Agia Paraskevi is probably the most popular. Inland, visitors will find plenty of scenic hiking trails among the pine forests, though you’ll never be far from a relaxing dip in the ocean.

Lead image credit: alljengi

Which of our off-the-beaten-track islands would you most like to visit?
Comment below!

More from Room5: