9 of the Most Enticing Lesser-Known Greek Islands

Greek Islands like Mykonos and Santorini receive huge numbers of tourists, with their images splashed across the Internet, tourism brochures, postcards, and more. 

While the country’s popular destinations are certainly worth visiting, unless you travel during the winter months, you’re likely to encounter thick crowds, not to mention the high prices. 

What are the best Greek islands to avoid crowds?

There are tons of amazing Greek islands to visit that are still lesser-known to tourists and outsiders. The following Greek islands are some of the country’s kept secrets:

  • Kefalonia
  • Kea
  • Alonissos
  • Tinos
  • Sifnos
  • Skiathos
  • Folegandros
  • Asypalea
  • Ithaca

If you prefer a more tranquil island with breathtaking scenery minus the tourist hordes, consider one of these enticing but lesser-known options instead. 


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Despite its striking natural beauty and Greek charms, Kefalonia remains wonderfully unspoiled. 

Soft white sands frame spectacular aquamarine waters, some with lush foliage, while Mount Ainos, a national park where wild horses and deer roam, was made famous by Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, a book, and subsequent film adaptation. 

Along the rocky coast at Fiskardo, snorkeling is outstanding.

It’s the most well-preserved traditional village, with many seaside tavernas serving fresh-caught fish. 

Myrtos Beach is especially notable, often named among the most beautiful in Greece, tucked between two mountains. 

The sea here is practically glowing in a surreal shade of blue when the light hits the marble sediment that is churned up in the water. 


Kea is just an hour by ferry from Athens, yet it’s remained a locals’ best-kept secret. Tourists largely ignore it, perhaps because it can’t be accessed by the more well-known Piraeus Port, rather Lavrio instead. 

Those who do get there often return again and again thanks to its seductive feel. 

There are remote beaches, opportunities for diving and snorkeling, ancient ruins like temples dedicated to Athena and Apollo, and centuries-old restored mule tracks for hiking. 

This is also a food lovers’ delight, with local cheeses like Kopanisti and Ksnino to sample, while the signature dish is Tsigaropita, a pie made with tsigara, milk, eggs, sesame, and anise. 

Cooking lessons are available too if you’d like to learn to make everything from your own special filo dough to grilled fish wrapped in fig leaves.

Visitors who arrive in the fall can pitch in and help harvest the olives too.


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Alonissos is an island that you’d be hard-pressed to find in a travel guide books. 

The most remote in the Sporades Islands, it has a rugged natural landscape with its own unique personality, where pine and olive trees sprawl out to crystal-clear turquoise waters. 

The National Marine Park of Northern Sporades is here, providing a refuge for the Mediterranean monk seal, dolphins, and rare birds, while the pretty capital of Patitiri has a beautiful waterfront and medieval castle where one can take in sweeping views of the island and sea. 

The tavernas and restaurants serve delicious cheap eats, with fish dishes especially popular; in fact, most only serve the day’s catch. 

Wine, cocktails, Mythos beer, and ouzo are often on the drink menus as well.


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Tinos is an especially captivating island

Known as the Holy Island, it’s popular among Greeks, many of whom make pilgrimages to the island twice each year to visit the church of Panagia Megalochari. 

While it’s often overlooked by tourists who simply glimpse the port while passing by, there are some 40 traditional villages with cobbled paths to wander, nearly 90 windmills, Venetian ruins, and many serene beaches. 

The rocky cliffs at Kolibithra form a horseshoe-shaped bay that frames a sandy beach popular among Greek surfers, while the village of Pyrgos is the center for marble art, with marble in the churches, homes, museums, a fountain dedicated to the Greek Revolution, and an art school where students learn how to create marble sculptures. 

Tarabados Valley is known for its many pigeon houses with their construction dating to Venetian times.


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Sometimes called “the perfect Greek Island,” Sifnos is one of the Cyclades, located in the western part of the island group, fringed with sandy beaches. 

One side, where most ferries land, is rugged and bare, while the other is greener, with its iconic symbol a monastery that tops a rock rising out of the cerulean sea, home to an iconic many believe works miracles. 

The island is also renowned for its traditional pottery, and visitors will find small pottery workshops in villages like Vathi and Kamares.

Sifnos has long had a reputation for its delicious cuisine, with many excellent restaurants offering everything from fast foods to fine dining. 

Fresh seafood is commonly found on the menus while favorite sweets include velvety loukoumi (Turkish delight) and halvadopita (nougat wafters with island honey and almonds). 


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Skiathos is home to vast stretches of sandy beaches, many of which have beach bars, watersports facilities, umbrellas and loungers, among other tourist facilities, particularly on the southern side, while those on the north are more secluded and affected by the wind. 

Two of the most beautiful beaches are Koukounaries, Agia Paraskevi, and Vromolimnos, all edged by stunning clear blue waters.

Skiathos Old Town is a lovely place for a stroll, perhaps starting at Bourtzi Fortress which sits on an islet at the historic harbor’s east side. 

It was constructed by the Venetians and offers a spectacular view of the old port while relaxing on terraces beneath the pine trees. 

The waterfront is especially alluring, complete with restaurants and cafes, while the labyrinth of narrow alleyways and marble-paved streets are home to one-of-a-kind shops, art galleries, and eateries. 

With whitewashed homes that have red-tiled roofs, you might think you’re looking at the perfect scene for a postcard. 


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Folegandros is Santorini’s more tranquil neighbor, with no buildings taller than two stories, no fancy restaurants, or high-end boutiques. 

You’ll never see a big cruise ship pull in as the port is too small and parts of the island still don’t have electricity.

It has a bohemian feel with unspoiled white sandy beaches and crystal-clear azure waters for secluded swims, while old wooden windmills spin in the sea breeze and goats scurry up rocky hills.

In Chora you’ll find timeless traditional Cycladic architecture lining narrow streets and traditional tavernas serving tasting authentic cuisine, often featuring local items like homemade matsata and goat cheese paired with the region’s signature beverage, rakomelo, a liquor with honey added.


As it’s shaped like a butterfly, Astypalea is known as the “Butterfly Island.” It sits in the heart of the Aegean between the Cyclades and the Dodecanese, with a barren landscape emerging from deep cobalt waters, strewn with white cubist-style homes, with eight traditional windmills lining the path to a castle in Chora. 

The castle of Ai Gianni is a perfect spot for watching colorful sunsets and after dark, stargazing on one of the beautiful beaches. 

The maze of alleyways in Chora are fun just to stroll, with homes that are splashed with brilliant colors, including blue doors and flowers. 

Discover the ancient Tarara Baths with magnificent mosaics and Drakos Cave, or Cave of the Dragon, which features impressive stalagmites and stalactites.

It was once believed to be a place where pirates hid their treasure.


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World-renowned as the mythical island of Odysseus, once you step onto the small island of Ithaca, you’ll understand why it was so enticing. 

It’s enveloped by emerald and turquoise water, with secluded coves and idyllic beaches.

Located in the Ionian sea off the northeast coast of Kefalonia, it offers an authentic Greek island experience, complete with family-run tavernas that serve mouthwatering seafood and opportunities to get to know the locals. 

Sea kayaking, diving, snorkeling trips, and hiking are all possible here.