The different Greek islands: Cyclades, Dodecanese, Ionian Islands, Sporades, Saronic Islands....


There are no fewer than 6,000 Greek islands (including the “rock islands”), of which around 200 are inhabited.

Cyclades, Ionian islands, Dodecanese islands, Saronic islands, Euboea… it’s not easy to find your way around all the Greek islands. Not only are they numerous, they are also very different from one another. Each has its own identity.

So, to help you plan your next vacation in Greece, let us introduce you to all the Greek islands, the different archipelagos and their characteristics.

The best-known of the Greek islands: the Cyclades

church in Plaka, milos in the Cyclades
Island of Milos in the Cyclades – © Laure M.

Where are they? The Cyclades islands are located in the middle of the Aegean Sea, between Greece and Turkey.

The different islands of the Cyclades: there are around twenty inhabited islands in the Cyclades, and their capital is Ermoupolis in Syros. This archipelago is so named because the islands form a circle(kyklos in Greek) around Delos, the sacred island.

The Cyclades islands are : Amorgos, Andros, Anafi, Antiparos, Delos, Donoussa, Folegandros, Ios, Iraklia, Kimolos, Kythnos, Kea, Koufounisia, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Santorini, Schinoussa, Serifos, Sifnos, Sikinos, Syros and Tinos.

What are these islands like? The Cyclades are Greek islands with a picture-postcard image: white, sun-drenched villages, bougainvillea-lined lanes, houses with blue shutters, churches with rounded domes, windmills, donkeys and beaches bordered by crystal-clear seas. These are Greece’s best-known (and certainly most-visited) islands.

How do I get to the Cyclades? From Athens, the Cycladic islands are easily accessible from the port of Piraeus or Rafina. Some islands even have their own airport (Milos, Paros, Naxos, Mykonos, Santorini and Syros). There are many links between the various islands of the Cyclades. These islands are perfect for island hopping.

The Ionian Islands

What to do in Zakynthos
Naufrage beach, Zakynthos – © Laure M.

Where are the Ionian Islands? The Ionian Islands are located to the west of Greece, in the Ionian Sea, south of the Adriatic Sea.

The Ionian Islands: Kefalonia, Corfu, Ithaca, Lefkada, Paxos and Zakynthos. Administratively, the island of Kythera is part of the Ionian Islands, even though it is geographically quite remote, being located in the south of the Peloponnese.

What are the Ionian islands like? These islands are very different from the Cyclades. They are green and wooded, with beautiful cliffs. These rather large islands are renowned for their magnificent sandy beaches, certainly among the most beautiful in Greece.

How do I get to the Ionian Islands? Some of the Ionian islands have airports: Corfu, Kefalonia and Zakynthos. Alternatively, these islands can be reached by boat from the west of mainland Greece (Igoumenitsa, Patras, Kyllini or Astakos). In summer, there are many connections between the various Ionian islands. Off-season, on the other hand, is more complicated.


Greek Islands Crete
Crete – Image by jarekgrafik from Pixabay

Where to find us Crete is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, south of mainland Greece.

What does this island look like? It’s the largest of the Greek islands. A marvellous island that has it all: superb beaches, breathtaking landscapes with hiking trails, major archaeological sites and renowned gastronomy.

How to get there Crete is very easy to get to. There are two international airports at Chania and Heraklion with direct flights from France (Paris and province). You’ll find all the flights on Aegean, which is very practical. There is also a small airport (domestic flights only) at Sitia.

Alternatively, you can opt for an overnight crossing from Athens, with attractive fares and comfortable cabins. For more information on crossings to Crete, visit the Ferry Hopper website.

The Saronic Islands, Greek islands close to Athens

Greece : a day in Hydra
The island of Hydra, in the Saronic Gulf © Laure M.

Where are the Saronic Islands? These are the islands closest to Athens. The Saronic Islands are located in the Saronic Gulf, just two hours by boat from the Greek capital.

The various Saronic islands: Hydra, Spetses, Aegina, Poros, Agistri.

What are the Saronic Islands like? These islands are very different from one another. For example, while Hydra is arid, Spetses is green. These islands are perhaps a little less exotic than other Greek islands. Nevertheless, they are very beautiful. And above all, their proximity to Athens makes them ideal for a short break or even a day trip from the capital.

How do I get to the Saronic Islands? The Saronic Islands are easily accessible from Athens. The hydrofoils (Flying Cats and Flying Dolphins) depart from the port of Piraeus. You can find schedules and prices on Ferry Hopper website .

These islands are also ideal for mini day cruises departing from Athens. You’ll find a number of interesting suggestions on the Get Your Guide website. We haven’t tried it out yet, but we’ve spotted this one-day cruise to the islands of Hydra, Aegina and Poros, which looks very appealing.

Powered by GetYourGuide

The Dodecanese islands

dodecanese islands greece - Symi
The island of Symi – © Laure M.

Where are they? The Dodecanese islands are located along the Turkish coast.

The Dodecanese islands: Rhodes, Symi, Astypalea, Kalimnos, Karpathos, Kassos, Kastelorizo, Kos, Leros, Nissyros, Patmos, Tilos.

What are the Dodecanese islands like? The islands are very different from one another. There’s nothing in common between Rhodes, a large tourist island, and little Symi, for example. Generally speaking, and excluding Rhodes, the Dodecanese islands are less touristy than other Greek islands, and some are even still very quiet.

How do I get to the Dodecanese islands? These islands are not very easy to get to, apart from those with airports (Rhodes, Kos, Kassos and Leros). You have to take a boat from Athens, but the crossings are very long (a dozen hours on average). Alternatively, Rhodes, an hour’s drive from Athens, is the gateway to the Dodecanese islands. Take a look at the different flight options with the Aegean.

=> You’ll find all the information you need on the Ferry Hopper website.

The island of Evia

Greek islands Euboea evia
The island of Euboea – Image by Jim Black from Pixabay

Where is the island of Evia? Evia is an island close to the Greek mainland. It lies to the north-east of Athens.

What does this island look like? Euboea or Evia is Greece’s second-largest island after Crete. It’sa green, mountainous island, with varied landscapes and superb viewpoints. An island that attracts Athenians… but not many international tourists.

How do I get to Evia? This is linked to the Greek mainland by a bridge. So it’s easy to get there by car. It’s just over an hour’s drive from Athens. It is of course also accessible by boat.

The Sporades

skopelos, the green island of the Sporades in Greece
Skopelos – Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

Where are the Sporades? Literally, “Sporades” means “the scattered ones ” in Greek. These islands lie off the coast of Volos and the Pelion region.

The Sporades islands are Skiathos, Alonissos and Skopelos. The island of Skyros (only accessible from the island of Evia) is sometimes attached to them.

What are the Sporades islands like? These three green islands are a hiker’s paradise. They are wooded, with beautiful pine forests. And there are plenty of lovely beaches. Skopelos is famous as the setting for the film Mamma Mia.

How to get there The Sporades islands are not easy to get to. But the island of Skiathos does have an airport (flight options on Aegean), and from there there are connections to the other two islands.

The islands of the Northern Aegean, the lesser-known Greek islands

Greek islands - North Aegean islands chios
Chios Island – Photo by Aggela Rentzou on Reshot

Where are they? The islands of the northern Aegean are close to the Turkish coast, to the north of the Dodecanese islands.

The North Aegean islands: Lesbos (Mytilene), Samos, Ikaria, Chios, Lemnos, Fourni, Samothrace, Thassos, Psara, Oinousses, Agios Efstratios.

What are the islands like? The islands of the Northern Aegean are less well known than the other Greek islands, and therefore less visited. They have an authentic character and their cuisine is reminiscent of influences from Asia Minor.

For more information

See also our articles :

Laure M.

Leave a Reply