DESTINATION FOCUS • June 2019
Sunsets, cicadas and seriously slow living – there’s nowhere quite like the Greek islands for laid-back summer fun. Writer Emma Howarth, who’s been exploring and writing about Greece for more than 20 years, picks the perfect island for your next trip
Why: How this striking Ionian island (connected to mainland Greece by a causeway) and its rugged coastline has remained under the radar is anyone’s guess, but mass tourism’s loss is Lefkada’s gain. Get in there quick for hardcore windsurfing, peaceful walking trails, wild olive groves, mountainous inland villages, beautiful beaches (Egremni, accessible only by boat, is a must) and spectacular sunsets at foodie hotspot Rachi. Top off your trip by hiring a boat to explore unspoilt islands such as Meganisi – big skies, clear waters and sun-dappled serenity, the stuff of family holiday dreams.
Why: You don’t have to spend long on this small Sporades island to understand its appeal. Families make a beeline for the south coast where swathes of sand (there are more than 60 beaches), calm waters and sleek hotels such as Skiathos Princess, Atrium and brand-new Elivi turn fly-and-flop into an idyll. On the wilder north side, the ancient fort of Kastro clings to the cliffs while pine-scented walking trails pass monasteries and whisper-quiet churches. Don’t leave without visiting the uninhabited islands of Arkos and Tsougria (local legend claims this as the island The Beatles tried to buy in the 1960s), eating fresh seafood by the sea at Kechria or trying to spot island regulars Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn as you wander Skiathos town’s yacht-lined harbour.
Why: Thanks to its sandy beaches, fertile valleys and proliferation of hotels, bars and restaurants, Kos, like neighbour Rhodes, has long been a Greek island big hitter. Look up from your sun-lounger, however, and there’s plenty to discover on this busy Dodecanese island. Explore ancient landmarks such as the tree of Hippocrates, the Agora, the Asclepeion healing temple and the harbourside castle; wander the abandoned ghost village of Haihoutes (don’t miss the little museum and lovely café); swim next to ruins at Agios Stefanos or glam up for dinner at stunning art hotel Kos Aktis.
Why: This hippie deluxe spot in the Cyclades has been dancing till dawn for decades. Old-timers might lament the supermodel/super-yacht invasion (Kate Moss, Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner have all taken over where original super-fan Jackie Onassis left off) but the bohemian spirit and vibrant scene that made Mykonos a magnet for artists, creatives and fashionistas remain the island’s heartbeat. Go all-out for glitz at starry Nammos beach club, strike a sunset pose at Scorpios or dive into the saltwater pool at new kid on the block SantAnna, which opened with much buzz in summer 2017. There ain’t no party like a Mykonos party.
Why: Everything tastes better in Greece, and nowhere more so than Sifnos. Its claim to fame is that the godfather of Greek cuisine, Nikolaos Tselementes, author of 1950 book Greek Cookery, was born here. Better still, plenty of imaginative chefs have been born or drawn to this peaceful Cyclades island since. Arrive hungry and dive straight in with breakfast at all-day hotspot Rabagas and super-fresh seafood for lunch at beachfront Omega 3, before spending the evening devouring chickpea stew (traditionally served on Sundays) and mezedes at O Drakakis. Stop eating for long enough to appreciate the island’s low-impact tourism, striking white monastery and beautiful beaches, and you’ll know you’ve hit the jackpot.