The land of ancient ruins, feta cheese, leisurely living, and, of course, wondrous beaches. What’s not to love about Greece? We’ve written about the delicious eats and the historic cities before, so now it’s time to focus on the nature. And ah, how majestic it is… we’re talking tiny traditional villages, rolling hills and deep blue seas. And although these waters can be found pretty much all over (the country boasts a casual 227 inhabited islands), it’s harder to find beaches worthy of the ‘best beaches in Greece’ accolade.
Enter our expert guide. Intrepid runs trips in Greece that range from foodie tours to island hopping extravaganzas, meaning we’re pretty well placed to advise on seaside hotspots. Below are 9 of our favorites, ones that are soon to become 9 of your favorites too. Whether you like secluded bays or buzzing bars, windsurfing or full-on relaxation, there’s something for everyone. Enjoy!
Faros Beach, Sifnos
Why we love the island: Let’s start with somewhere truly underrated. Sifnos is ‘the real Greece’ but has nightlife as well as calm. There’s whitewashed villages, fertile valleys and fantastic beaches. Oh, and it also has the best pottery in the country and great connections to the neighboring islands of Milos, Serifos and Kythnos.
Why we love this beach: Scenic and sandy, Faros Beach is unassuming (like the island as a whole) but just lovely. The seaside village it’s close to is home to churches, mines, a lighthouse and two other beaches – Fasolou and Glyfos – in addition to Faros. Venture there for the sea but leave satisfied thanks to the tasty fish taverns lining the beach.
How to visit: Spend the day in Sifnos on our new 8-day ‘‘Cruise the hidden gems of Greece’ trip. Included in the itinerary is a Kamares Town orientation walk and a pottery workshop demonstration. Then you’ll experience the thrill of a midnight sail to Santorini.
Mylopotas Beach, Ios
Why we love the island: One of the Cyclades islands, Ios is classically Greek. In other words, it has all the blue-roofed white buildings, golden beaches, relaxed vibes and hedonistic parties you could wish for. Yes, that’s not a contradiction. In the main summer months parties are rife, but visit any other time and you’ll find it easy to explore under-the-radar hikes, small farms, windsurf spots and more.
Why we love this beach: The most-visited beach in Ios, Mylopotas is known for its crystal clear waters and its abundance of beach bars and water sport opportunities. Although it is very popular (especially with young people), the atmosphere remains pretty low-key and the crowds certainly don’t detract from the gorgeous landscape.
Balos Beach, Crete
Why we love the island: The largest of the Greek islands, Crete has everything. That’s no exaggeration – it has the longest growing season in Greece (therefore the best local food), ruined Minoan palaces and towns, unbelievable mountain ranges and gorges, and, of course, an array of beaches. Head to the island’s north for the longest, sandiest stretch of them.
Why we love this beach: Balos Beach is in fact two sand bars that connect the mainland with an uninhabited island, complete with a Venetian castle. The water between the sandbars creates a shallow lagoon. Honestly, what’s not to love? It’s probably one of the most photographed beaches in Greece. Witness the turquoise waters for yourself (and even spot a monk seal) and you’ll see why.
How to visit: Venture to Crete with our sister company, Peregrine Adventures, and you can visit Balos Beach on a day trip from Hania. Check out the 12-day Greek Island Odyssey here.
Super Paradise Beach, Mykonos
Why we love the island: Despite its reputation for glitz and glamor, Mykonos remains charmingly down to earth. The main town is full of chic galleries, old churches and tiny restaurants, and the beaches can be as secluded or as party-filled as you like. Mykonos also gets bonus points for being super close to the nearby island of Delos, one of the most important archaeological sites in the country.
Why we love this beach: Though crowded in peak season, Super Paradise Beach is simply iconic. Reachable by taxi-boat and local bus, it offers great watersports, beautiful sand and crystalline waters. The all-day beach bars and parties aren’t half bad either.
How to visit: Explore Mykonos on Intrepid’s 8-day Athens to Santorini island hopping adventure, and you won’t regret it. You’ll spend the night in Mykonos, visit Delos, and even have a gorgeous sunset picnic with your group.
Plaka Beach, Naxos
Why we love the island: The largest and lushest of the Cyclades, Naxos really is a gem. Whether you’re visiting its historic castle, watching sunset by the Temple of Apollo, or inspecting the fascinating Archaeological Museum, you’ll be impressed by the islands’s offerings. The best beaches are in the south of the island, but don’t neglect the mountainous hiking scene either.
Why we love this beach: A sprawling white-sand beauty, it’s hard not to love Plaka Beach. Though an unofficial nudist beach, it’s actually very welcoming to all. Yep, the long beach offers up countless swimming opportunities and a ton of seaside taverns. Most of these boast great, local cuisine and are happy to serve you drinks and snacks right on the beach.
How to visit: This 8-day Santorini to Mykonos trip is a great option. When it gets to Naxos you can go on an optional jaunt out into the countryside to visit one of the oldest temples in Greece and enjoy a hillside lunch at a family tavern. Here, you’ll taste the local brew, Kitron (a sort of lemon liquor), and finish up with a walk along the beach.
Golden Beach, Paros
Why we love the island: Some view Paros as Mykonos minus the hype and price tag, but we just adore it for the natural beauty, traditional villages and countless hiking trails. Escape to the hills of Paros, where the impossibly charming towns of Lefke, Marpissa and Naoussa await. And then go explore the numerous beaches lining the coast. There’s something for everyone!
Why we love this beach: Though the north coast’s Kolimbithres Beach is the most famous (think swimming coves formed out of naturally sculpted rocks), we love the 700-metre-long Golden Beach. Also known as Chrissi Akti, it is one of the most popular places in the Mediterranean for windsurfers. So much so that it hosted the Windsurfing Wold Championships for years. Even if you’re not into the sport, you’ll enjoy the waters, bars, restaurants and all-round beauty.
How to visit: Hit up Paros on our new 8-day cruise through the hidden gems of Greece. It visits islands off the usual tourist trail (from Paros to Sifnos to Amorgos) and, as a result, is truly unforgettable.
Navagio Beach, Zakynthos
Why we love the island: It’s easy to throw around the world ‘beautiful’ all the time when writing about Greece, but Zakynthos really deserves the term. The third largest of the Ionian Islands, it has a hilly interior, jagged coastline and array of attractions. For instance there’s the Venetian Castle, Keri Lighthouse and some amazing vistas from the Bochali lookout point. But it’s the beaches that rightly steal the limelight, particularly in the rugged west coast.
Why we love this beach: One of Greece’s most famous beaches, Navagio means ‘shipwreck’ (thanks to an actual wreck of a ship, and a belief it was involved in smuggling activity). It is also pretty much a code-word for Instagram-worthy, because the deep blue waters and secluded cove are pretty otherworldly. You can admire them from a lookout point above, near the village of Anafonitria, or from up-close, taking a small boat from the ports of Agios Nikolaos or Porto Vromi.
Galissas Beach, Syros
Why we love the island: Syros is one of those precious few Greek islands that isn’t all about tourism. It buzzes with life year-round, has a bunch of great restaurants, and also has beaches that never get too crowded. The best, least inhabited of these are north of the fishing village of Kíni (some of which are only accessible by boat). Other attractions include the fortress-like village of Ano Syros, the magnificent town hall, and the ever-popular Apollo Theatre.
Why we love this beach: You just can’t go wrong with one of the largest and most popular beaches on Syros. Galissas Beach really does have all the ingredients for a great coastal spot: calm waters, soft sand, seaside tavernas and shade-providing trees. The two other best aspects of the beach are the shallow water and enclosed bay it’s in. Super child-friendly, it’s quite the winner.
How to visit: Spend the day in Syros on our 10-day ‘Greece Sailing Adventure’. Even with limited time you’ll be able to appreciate the relaxed atmosphere, neo-classical architecture and authentic Greek eats.
Red Beach, Santorini
Why we love the island: We don’t really need to explain this, do we? The contrast of Santorini’s whitewashed houses with the deep blue ocean and the setting sun is iconic for good reason. Hike around the awe-inspiring caldera (volcanic crater), dine in Fira the pristine capital, visit a winery or two, and, of course, check out the island’s volcanic beaches.
Why we love this beach: Though we love Santorini’s black beaches (like Perissa, Vlhada, Perivolos or Agios Georgios), Red Beach is even more dramatic. Surrounded by red cliffs of volcanic origin, the pebbly beach is world-famous (therefore, often busy). Snorkel here, or just admire the view from the nearby car park.
How to visit: Our 8-day ‘Athens to Santorini’ trip is a pretty good bet. Go on a half-day trip to the volcano and hot springs or check out the archaeological site of Akrotiri. And then tuck into the island’s delicious food – the nutrient-filled volcanic soil makes the ingredients grown here full of flavor.
Ready to experience the magic of these islands and beaches for yourself? Check out Intrepid’s range of small group adventures in Greece.
(Image credits from top to bottom: Intrepid Travel, iStock/photo_stella, iStock/FilippoBacci, iStock/nicolasboivin, Intrepid Travel, iStock/AleksandarGeorgiev)