6 stunning under-the-radar Greek islands

By Nadine Mellor

Many believe the mythological Greek Isles of the Blessed, an earthly paradise for heroes, are very much with us today. Head on your own personal odyssey to find fewer crowds, beautiful beaches and an unspoiled way of life on Greece’s lesser-known islands. Live like a local in selected self-catering boltholes and head out for adventures galore.


1. Astypalaia

The Dodecanese, a group of 12 larger and many smaller islands in the eastern Aegean, has a rich and dramatic history. Astypalaia (pictured above) is the most westerly of the dozen, and enjoys beautiful beaches, rugged landscapes and some great archaeology. Take a boat trip to tiny Tigani for sparkling seas and a two-sided beach, or explore the stalactites and stalagmites inside Negros Cave. There are daily flights from Athens, ferries from Piraeus and Rhodes, and these luxurious villas are on the outskirts of the lovely hilltop town of Chora.


2. Folegandros

A lump of rock in the southern Cyclades, fringed by coves and cliffs, with only one real road and accessible only by boat, Folegandros (pictured above) is a true island escape. Explore pebble beaches from a round-the-island cruise, or snorkel in translucent waters. Scamper along walled mule paths in search of private bays. These apartments, which work well for families with older children, are set into the cliff above the main village, and share a pool with gorgeous views.


3. Ithaca

The Ionian Islands, to the west of mainland Greece, have turquoise seas, glorious beaches and literary associations (Corelli, Durrell); some parts have fallen prey to mass tourism. Consider wooded hilly Ithaca (Odysseus’ home), the most unspoiled of the group, for its crystal-clear waters, rugged coastline and beautiful shingle beaches. Take a boat trip, historical island tour or admire the view from the saltwater infinity pool at Villa Kalos (pictured above). Fly in to Kefalonia from where daily ferries head to Ithaca, or from Athens drive to Patras or Killini in the Peloponnese and take a ferry.


4. Milos

The most westerly of the Cyclades, fashioned from volcanic rock and familiar to the ancients for the trade in obsidian, Milos (pictured above) is best known today for the Venus de Milo statue which now graces the Louvre. Archaeologists have long visited the isle, yet tourism remains almost an afterthought, despite hot springs, smugglers coves, gin-clear seas, secret beaches and charming villages. Looking for somewhere completely off the tourist track? A converted windmill with views across country and coast should do nicely.


5. Kastellorizo

The smallest and remotest of Greece’s inhabited islands, triangular Kastellorizo (pictured above) is made of limestone (there are great sea caves including the Blue Grotto). The island’s population departed in droves for Australia during the 20th Century to leave one picturesque town, one road, one port, one taxi driver and one bus service to the small airport. Boating, snorkelling, swimming and day trips to Kas (2km away in Turkey) beckon. Stay in a bijou house rental or guesthouse, Caretta, run by the same couple whose excellent taverna is nearby.


6. Lefkas

One of the Ionians, Lefkas (pictured above) is remarkable for being linked to the mainland by a causeway and bridge (making it highly accessible via Preveza airport), and for having some of the most picture-perfect beaches in the country. Outdoor adventures including hiking, mountain biking, and watersports such as kitesurfing and sailing will delight even the most hyperactive family. Return to the Stone House, a superb villa with gated pool terrace and breathtaking views.

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