20 Greek islands you may not have heard of

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The dazzling colours and great food of Greeces famous islands extend to these lesser-known sand-fringed destinations, which boast wonderful places to stay especially for late- or out-of-season breaks

Despite its many crises in the past few years, tourism is booming in Greece. Most travellers, however, still rarely venture beyond the more famous islands and a little exploration is all that is needed to take you to some lesser-known gems. Here are 20 of our favourites.

All accommodation prices are for a double room in low season and include breakfast, unless stated otherwise. In most Greek tavernas you can eat and drink well for 15-20pp, but if a place is more expensive, I have indicated this.

NORTH-EAST AEGEAN

Lemnos

Myrina
Myrina harbour. Photograph: Alamy

Mainly visited by Greeks, its size and large population mean that Lemnos (aka Limnos) avoids becoming simply a tourist destination. The capital, Myrina, is a working fishing port and you will still see fishermen mending their nets by the harbourside. Its low coast has several great beaches.
What to do Perched on a headland above the capital is a large, 13th-century Venetian castle, now inhabited by wild deer. The spectacular view stretches as far as the monks republic of Mount Athos on the mainland.
Where to stay The
Arxontiko (70, ) was Lemnos first hotel and is still one of its best, mixing a traditional guesthouse with modern boutique style. It is in the centre of Myrina, but on a quiet side street and a short walk to the beach.
Where to eat Grammofono (on Facebook), on the main square by a taxi rank, is not in the best location, but this little meze bar takes its food seriously and is great value. Try a seafood pikilia, or mixed plate calamari, shrimps, mussels and various small fried fish. There is often live music in the evenings.

Ikaria

Toxotis
Toxotis Villas, Ikaria

The island owes its existence to Icaruss plunge into the sea after the wax of his wings melted. Ill-fated people have been visiting ever since it was a place of exile for left-wingers during the civil war and the Colonels dictatorship. Dont let this put you off; the locals revel in their quirky reputation and the varied landscape rewards exploration.
What to do Talking of quirky, how about bathing in radioactive hot springs? Apparently, this is actually beneficial to the health
researchers are exploring whether this is the reason for the islanders legendary longevity and can be experienced at several bathhouses.
Where to stay Toxotis Villas (from 110) is a group of seven gorgeous villas, which combine a fantastic location with luxury, privacy and a traditional style.
Where to eat Theas Inn is a proper Greek taverna in the pretty village of Nas, focusing on local food, including meat and vegetables from the owners organic farm.

Ammouliani

Alykes
Alykes beach, Ammouliani. Photograph: Alamy

Nestled between two prongs of the Halkidiki peninsula, this small island has great sandy beaches and is a welcome relief from some of the bigger resorts on the mainland. Most visitors are Greek and it retains an authentic atmosphere.
What to do Boat trips around Mount Athos can be arranged, which is the closest most of us will get to this male-only monks republic. It is well worth having a peek the cliff-hanging monasteries are spectacular.
Where to stay If you are young and/or adventurous it is perfectly possible to bring a tent over to Greece and camp nights are warm, campsites are well-equipped, and most sites are right on the beach. Try
Alikes Camping (pitches from 5 per tent, plus 5 each per adult).
Where to eat Tzanis is a seafood taverna right by the water. The clams are particularly good.

IONIAN

Meganisi

Vathi,
Vathi, on Meganisi. Photograph: REX

This small island consists of only three villages and a population of just over 1,000. Just across from popular Lefkada, its not usually considered a destination in its own right, and is mainly visited on day trips. Staying on the island means you can explore its many hidden coves at your leisure.
What to do There is much debate as to which beach is Meganisis best. Most can only be reached by foot or by boat, so it will take you a while to review them all. Limonari, with its isolated clean sands, would be in most peoples top five.
Where to stay Tucked away in the winding alleys of Spartochori,
The Teachers House (studio from 65, family apartment from 100) has been expertly renovated, and split into a studio and two apartments that share a small pool. The contemporary interior design gives a light and airy feel.
Where to eat Lakis Taverna is a solid, family taverna at the heart of the village. Its Greek Night on Thursdays is great fun, but may not be everyones shot of tsipouro.

CYCLADES

Antiparos

The
The Beach House, Antiparos.

Paros is well known, but relatively few make it to the island opposite. For those in the know, including a fair few celebrities, Antiparos provides a relaxing haven in this often busy group of islands.
What to do The large cave in the centre of the island is awe-inspiring, but be warned, there are lots of steps.
Where to stay On its own sandy and sheltered cove,
Beach House (80) is a stylish little hotel, with good-value small rooms for couples, but try to splash out for their larger rooms, including family suites. It also has a great restaurant, lots of family-friendly beach activities and a massage service.
Where to eat Two good signs to look for when hunting down a seafood taverna are octopus hanging out to dry outside, and the ability to toss your olive stones and fishbones straight into the sea from your table. Captain Pipinos is a win on both counts.

Kythnos

Church
Kythnoss Church of Panagia Flampouriani. Photograph: Getty Images

Its proximity to Athens, fabulous beaches and famous thermal springs mean that this island gets rammed with visitors mainly Greek in August. Come out of season, however, and it can be perfect.
What to do Take a sea taxi to Kolona, a narrow strip of sand connecting to a small island. The two bays on either side have azure water which is rarely without a few yachts at anchor.
Where to stay Due to its popularity, Kythnos is not the cheapest, but
Xenonas Afroditi (70) is a more reasonable option in the spa town of Loutra. And it is exactly what you expect from a Greek hotel: whitewashed, simple rooms, and by the beach.
Where to eat Chartino Karavi (+30 22 8103 3004) is a reliable little tavern on the backstreets of Dryopida, a pretty inland settlement. When its not too hot there is a footpath that winds the 2km up to here from the islands capital, Hora.

Serifos

South
A peaceful bay on Serifos. Photograph: Getty Images

Serifoss main town, Hora, is one of the most picturesque in Greece, its whitewashed cubes clinging to the side of a mountain. Its aspect is one reason so many artists choose to settle on the island.
What to do Livadi, the port town, is a pleasing throwback to what the Greek islands used to be like. Its heart is the grandly named Yacht Club, in fact an old-style kafenion. It is the ideal place to sip a Greek coffee and chat to the locals.
Where to stay Apanemia (40) is an old-fashioned rooms-only place in Hora. Its nothing fancy, but clean, well-cared for and at the centre of this lovely town.
Where to eat To get the most out of Serifos you need to hire a car and explore youll certainly need one if you want one of the islands best food experiences. Aloni taverna could trade on its great views, but its local food is also excellent try the slow-cooked goat, or mastelo saganaki, a fried goats cheese similar to halloumi.

Sifnos

Eleonas
Eleonas Hotel, Sifno.

This is another island that, while relatively unknown to Brits, is an achingly trendy destination for the Greek set. It can get crowded, but the atmosphere is authentic and it has a culinary reputation one of the first famous Greek chefs, Nicholas Tselementes, came from here, and it still attracts the foodies.
What to do Sifnos has a fantastically well-maintained and mapped selection of hiking trails to suit all levels of fitness. An excellent guidebook is available locally.
Where to stay The main town, Apollonia, is where the trendy go to see and be seen, wandering up and down the Steno, its buzzing, narrow main street. Surprisingly close to this, but hidden in their own peaceful olive grove, are the Eleonas apartments and studios (65).
Where to eat Rambagas is the smart spot to experience local food mixed with the latest on-point experiments. Start with a sea-bass tartare in traditional lemon and oil sauce, and end with chilled melon soup for dessert. The setting, just off the Steno, is gorgeous too.

Folegandros

A
A rural landscape with interesting flora on Folegandros. Photograph: Getty Images

Folegandros has similarly dramatic cliffs and hillsides to the magnificent volcanic landscape of Santorini, and is far less visited.
What to do The main town, another Hora, perches on the cliffs, and wandering around its pedestrianised centre from square to square beneath the bougainvillea is what Greek dreams are made of.
Where to stay Everything about the chic Anemi Hotel (from 153) is blindingly white, from the walls to the decor. But it is also surprisingly family friendly, with babysitting, a playground and even a kids cinema. The adults will be kept happy by one of the best bar/restaurants on the island.
Where to eat Some dishes at Blue Cuisine sound a little over the top (deconstructed Greek salad with feta sushi?), but the local ingredients, including cheeses and cured meat from the surrounding islands, are superb.

Amorgos

Traditonal
Fishing boats in Amorgoss main port, Katapola. Photograph: Getty Images

This dramatic island does have good beaches, but is better known for its hiking and diving (French film The Big Blue was shot here).
What to do The extraordinary whitewashed monastery of Hozoviotissa, which dates back to the 11th century, clings to the cliffs of the dramatic south coast. It is well worth a stiff climb up many stairs to reach it (but if youre not modestly dressed the monks will send you straight back down).
Where to stay Decorated in classic white and blue, Emprostiada (from 50) is a comfortable guesthouse at the edge of the islands main town (inevitably named Hora). Out of season, the rooms are a real bargain.
Where to eat The green tables and chairs of Tranzistoraki fill a little side-alley in the main town. The cute setting is matched by some interesting local food and a good selection of meze.

Koufonisia