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We all know about the legendary Santorini sunsets or the epic parties on Mykonos, but what about the thousands of other Greek Islands out there? We’re not talking Crete, Rhodes or that stopover in Kos when you hopped off your cruise ship. Stunning beaches, authentic Greek culture and cuisine, fewer tourists and lower prices all await you in these lesser-known locales. Here are eight other Greek Islands you may not have heard of, but are still worth a visit.
If you really want a taste of some local charm, head to Symi, part of the Dodecanese Islands. Each year between July and September, the island puts on a festival featuring parades, gastronomical events, open-air music, dancing, religious ceremonies and sporting events, among other activities. Symi is also known for sponge fishing and its colorful Neoclassical houses.
The island for beach lovers, Milos (also referred to as Mylos), is part of the Cyclades group and is home to more than 70 beaches, with many tucked away in coves or between cliffs. Sarakiniko is one of the most well-known, thanks to its oddly-shaped giant rocks that were formed by volcanic activity — hidden between the rock formations is pure, white sand.
The easternmost island of the Greek Cyclades, Amorgos is home to a special place that any history buff should come and see: The Monastery of Hozoviotissa. The religious edifice was built into a cliff overlooking the sea in the 11th century and views from the monastery, which overlooks the glittering blue sea, are nothing short of breathtaking. Keep in mind there’s a modest dress code if you wish to enter the monastery — like other European churches or when visiting Vatican City, knees and shoulders must be covered to show respect.
If you really want a getaway to a small and tranquil paradise, head to Lipsi. Also known as Leipsoi, this tiny island — just under five miles long — is located in a small group of islands near Patmos. Known for producing delicious local products like thyme honey, cheese and wine, the island offers plenty of tranquil coastline and beautiful churches and monasteries to visit. If you want to stick to eating clean while on vacation, Lipsi is the perfect island to reset your diet.
Schinoussa (meaning “island of the sun”) is known as a nature sanctuary, as it hosts several local plant species and many birds. The island, which is barely more than three square miles, is part of the Lesser Cyclades group, but there’s nothing “lesser” about it. With 18 stunning beaches to visit and several hiking trails to tackle, it’s perfect for outdoorsy types. It’s also famous for its fava beans, figs and grapes. There are only two villages on the island, with less than 300 inhabitants between the two of them, so Schinoussa makes a great spot for a quiet, romantic getaway.
6. Pyrgi, Chios
Not to be confused with Pyrgi, Italy, this small village on the island of Chios offers an architectural experience unlike any other. Commonly known as the “painted village,” this medieval town’s buildings are covered with painted geometrics and artsy motifs in funky grey-and-white patterns. The technique is known as xysta, and uses cement, lime and volcanic sand. Thanks to its xysta-covered buildings (churches, apartments and shops, among other buildings), this village makes the island of Chios one of a kind.
If you’re hoping to find the meaning of life during your vacation, you don’t have to go all Eat, Pray, Love and ashram it in India. Visiting the Greek island of Ikaria will definitely give you some solid insight into life, because its inhabitants live forever — well, maybe not forever, but still, longer than most. Locals attribute their longevity to all sorts of things the island offers, like a healthy Mediterranean diet full of fresh foods, daily walks and natural herbs that can be used for pretty much anything. Visitors to the island can learn about special herbs and teas and take a little bit of these life lessons home with them.
Part of the northern Sporades, Alonissos is an island covered in a rugged, green landscape. This spot is perfect for eco-friendly travelers, as it’s home to the Natural Marine Park of Alonissos and is dedicated to protecting the monk seal. Also famous for its vineyards, this island is ideal if you’d like to spend your vacation doing a combination of wine tastings, nature walks and relaxing on pristine beaches.
What are your favorite islands in Greece to visit? Tell us about them, below.
Featured image of Milos courtesy of Marka via Getty Images.
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