7 things no one tells you about the Greek islands

Dec 13, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Sunshine-filled beaches, charming white buildings and epic sunsets — if this sounds like your kind of holiday, head to the Greek islands. Here are seven things you may not know about this fascinating part of Greece that can help you have an incredible trip.

1. There are so many more islands than you think

If asked to name some of the Greek Islands, you’d probably be able to come up with a few off the top of your head, but in reality, there are closer to 6,000 of them. Only a couple of hundred or so are actually inhabited, but even that gives travelers many less-crowded options if you’re willing to go beyond the typical Santorini or Mykonos trip.

Lovely Mykonos. (Photo by Alexander Spatari/Getty Images)

2. Take your pick of natural — and man-made — wonders

The magic of these islands goes beyond the breathtaking sunsets. Santorini is one of the few places in the world where you can see white, black and red-sand beaches, thanks to all the volcanic activity — the island of Crete is also home to more than 300 caves. Romantics should visit Kardia, a naturally heart-shaped island and Amorgos is home to a giant shipwreck, as is the island of Zakynthos. Visit Giola, a turquoise pool of water formed by rocks on the island of Thassos and hot springs on the island of Samothraki are said to have healing powers, too.

Read more: 9 things I wish I knew before visiting Greece

A view of the shipwreck on Zakynthos. Image courtesy of NurPhoto via Getty Images.
A view of the shipwreck on the island of Zakynthos. (Photo by NurPhoto/Getty Images)

3. Don’t rush — you’re on island time

You should know this going in: Greece runs on “Mediterranean time”. Things here move slowly, and people don’t take time as seriously as they do in the U.S. or most of western Europe, especially in the islands. Don’t expect any type of public transportation — like buses or ferries — to arrive or depart on time, give yourself plenty of time at the airport and expect crowds everywhere.

Taxi and airport strikes are common and can put a dampener on your plans, so try to just take it easy and go with the flow. There’s no point in rushing because no one else is. Head to a less-visited island if you want something a little calmer. Most importantly, add in a little extra time when planning and booking connecting flights, ferries and other transportation to avoid any extra headaches.

Stranded tourists crowd the docks during a ferry strike in Greece. Image courtesy of Louisa Gouliamaki via Getty Images.
Stranded tourists crowd the docks during a ferry strike in Greece. (Photo by Louisa Gouliamaki/Getty Images)

4. There’s an island where the people live forever (well, almost)

Ikaria is one Greek island where the people basically live forever — well, maybe not forever, but longer than anywhere else. It’s considered to be one of the few “blue zones” in the world, special areas where the residents tend to live longer and often reach the three-digit mark. Locals attribute their long lifespans to daily rituals involving coffee, exercise, drinking local wine and using the island’s natural herbs in teas and to cure ailments — bathing in the nearby hot springs is also said to help.

Read more: 8 Greek Islands you’ve probably never heard of

People live (almost) forever in Ikaria, Greece, thanks to simple, stress-free living. Image courtesy of Dea G. Sioen via Getty Images.
People live (almost) forever in Ikaria thanks to simple, stress-free living. (Photo by Dea G. Sioen/Getty Images)

5. Don’t wave at anyone

It’s probably best not to wave at anyone in the Greek islands because you could (accidentally) be flipping them off. The exact motion you should avoid: extending all of your fingers and directing your palm at someone in a forward motion. It’s called the mountza and is believed to be derived from an ancient curse, so don’t do it!

6. Be prepared to deal with large crowds

Greece normally receives double its population in tourists each year and is one of the few destinations where they actually outnumber the locals. While this isn’t limited to just the islands, in many cases the local population on one of them could be just a few hundred, but that number swells well into the thousands during the high season. Keep this in mind while travelling and try to respect the (few) locals who may reside on your chosen island.

You defintely won’t be along on the beach! (Photo by Lichtwolke/Getty Images)

Read more: How to spend 48 hours in Athens

7. Dance all night long — and maybe all day

If you want to have a local experience, don’t forget to pack your dancing shoes. There are more than 10,000 types of traditional Greek dances and many of them come from the islands — each isle, and often each village, has its own. The people here don’t necessarily need a reason to bust a move — dancing at weddings, during holidays, to celebrate the grape harvest or just because they feel like it.

Make sure only to dance when you’ve been invited to, though, as some of the dances may have strict traditions and arrangements, like a set order by age or status — you wouldn’t want to be the random tourist who screws up the whole routine now, would you?

Bottom line

While the Greek islands have some gorgeous beaches and tavernas galore, each also has its own personality and systems and is definitely a different experience to the Greek mainland. So read the above tips to manage your expectations with regards to crowds and punctuality to have the best time possible at this fantastic part of the world.

Featured photo by Allard Schager/Getty Images

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.