Greek Odyssey: five beautiful islands to discover this summer
Once you’ve partied in Mykonos, take your time to hop around Greece’s other charming islands. From laidback Lefkada to heavenly Hydra, travel writer Georgia Hopkins shares her favourites
By Georgia Hopkins Tuesday 25 June, 2019
Mykonos is the island you come to if your vibe is dancing barefoot in the sand at sunset – or perhaps on top of a table. Beach clubs, endless magnums of rosé, DJs, hip hotels, cute boutiques and great restaurants are the order of the day in this 24-hour party place.
Where to stay: For me, the real allure of Mykonos comes down to two places: the whitewashed boutique hotel, San Giorgio, where I love the Casa Veranda rooms and the Grande suite for the stunning views from their private terraces; and 10 minutes’ walk away, Scorpios, a gathering place for the creative community founded on five main rituals – art, design, music, food and healing.
What to do: If you can pull yourself away from either (hard to do, I can assure you), there’s plenty to discover on this Cycladic island. Spend a day at the super laid-back Alemagou Beach Bar, book a table at Spilia, a restaurant inside a beautiful cave at Agia Anna, and enjoy sundowners at 180° Sunset Bar before dinner on the terrace at Interni, hidden away in Mykonos Town. It’s magical here.
Just two hours by ferry from Mykonos, in the Cycladic archipelago, Andros is a delightful surprise. Lush and rugged, there are endless beaches and hilltop villages to explore here.
Where to stay: Stay at the very darling B&B of Italian-born Allegra Pomilio, Mèlisses. Meaning “bees” in Greek, Mèlisses is a rustic, character-filled stone house perched on the edge of a clifftop 10 minutes outside the busy village of Batsi. The dreamiest home-away-from-home, you’ll enjoy genuine laid-back hospitality and Allegra’s exceptional breakfasts. Book the Coral Apartment for the best views across to Syros and your own private pool.
What to do: Make sure you arrange a 4WD for your stay – it’s essential for exploring the island. Allegra will arm you with all the best tips, but be sure to visit the remote and untouched beach of Achla (drive there, if you’re game, or catch a little boat from nearby Chora). While in Chora, shop for linen dresses and contemporary jewellery at Waikiki Andros and enjoy a long lunch at O Nonas restaurant by the sea, for their salads, keftedakia, fava and shrimp saganaki. Delicious. Lastly, don’t miss a sunset dinner and swim at the beautiful Agia Marina tavern, not far from Mèlisses and right on the water.
Stay at Mèlisses here.
Connected to mainland Greece by a bridge, you can choose either to drive to Lefkada (six hours) or fly from Athens. A big, loveable Ionian island, base yourself in the southern village of Vasiliki – it’s not fancy, but it feels super-local and friendly.
Where to stay: I love the simple (but small) rooms at Melina’s Rooms. Melina, who is also a yoga teacher back in Athens, has a gorgeous boutique in the village where you can find amazing Greek brands – everything from bags to kaftans, sandals to jewellery.
What to do: Make sure you visit the nearby beaches of Agiofilli (not far from Vasiliki), Porto Katsiki, and Egremni, which is now only accessible by boat after the earthquake of 2015 made it impossible to reach by road. These beaches and their vibrant turquoise waters will blow your mind. For sunset drinks and dinner, it has to be Rachi, a sky-high taverna in the hilltop village of Exanthia. If you’re not ready for bed, stop for a nightcap back in Vasiliki at 155 bar.
Stay at Melina’s Rooms, or a private villa in the nearby port town of Sivota.
Historically a playground for the Athenian elite, Spetses is a slightly fancier island experience.
Where to stay: Book a suite at the grand dame herself, the Poseidonion Grand Hotel, home of Spetses glamour for more than a century. With its beautiful seafront location, looking out on the island’s lively piazza and over the water to the Peloponnese coast, this is old-world grandeur at its finest. Full of beautiful marble, decorative archways and mosaic-tiled floors, the Poseidonion is a delightful experience.
What to do: While on the island, eat at Tarsanas for amazingly fresh fish, Ombra for Italian, and Water of Love for quality seafood. Hire a scooter (or electric bike) to explore all the island’s nooks and inviting beaches. Spend a day flitting between the Kaiki Beach Club, Zogeria Beach (for its cute and laid-back beach taverna), and Vrellos Beach. Back in town, and looking for a snack? Grab one of Greece’s best gyros at Souvlucky, and for a sundowner, check out Nuovo 1800, or the Poseidonion’s own ‘On the Verandah’ bar.
Stay at Poseidonion Grand Hotel here.
The most charming island of all, Hydra is full of magic. With no cars allowed on the island, only pedestrians and donkeys walk its cobblestoned streets. It is quiet, small and extremely beautiful. The birthplace of five of Greece’s Prime Ministers, and the home of Leonard Cohen right up until his death in 2016, this island offers an incredibly relaxing getaway on the Aegean Sea.
Where to stay: Book a room at the ever-charming Bratsera Hotel. A former sponge factory (an industry for which the island is renowned), this 25-room boutique hotel sits in a pretty garden in a quiet pocket of town with a lovely pool and impressive breakfast offering. Room 23 is my pick of the bunch.
What to do: While away your days at the Spilia Beach Club – baking in the sun and swimming off the rocks, only pausing to sample the delicious food. Walk around the path from the port a little further to the gorgeous beach of Kamini and eat at Petkakis, just above the swimming rocks – it’s tiny but serves delicious food. If you have enough time, take a little boat around to Bisti, one of the most stunning beaches on the island, or get up early one morning and tackle the one-hour hike up to the Monastery of Prophet Elias to watch the sunrise. Sitting at 500m above sea level, you will be rewarded with spectacular views over the hills of the Peloponnese.
Stay at Bratsera Hotel here.
Georgia Hopkins is the Melbourne-born author of the travel blog It’s Beautiful Here. You can follow her on Instagram @itsbeautifulhere
Lead image: View of the sea and a church in the Greek island Hydra, and a cake made in Andros (Its Beautiful Here)