These lesser-known isles could be the answer for a summer holiday in Greece this year

·5-min read
Karpathos village - Getty
Karpathos village - Getty

A week or two on a Greek island sounds like just the antidote for post-pandemic weariness. Yet the UK’s ever changing travel rules, and restrictions in Greece itself, make it tricky to plan a late summer getaway.

Indeed, the Greek party islands saw extra police deployed last week over concerns that tourist venues weren’t adhering to Covid measures. Just the day before, the European Centre of Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned against visiting the south Aegean islands after a rise in infections.

Chatter about a plan for an ‘amber watchlist’ suggested the Greek Islands in the discussion. This unlaunched policy was scrapped before it began. New restrictions – at either end of your journey – are still possible, however.

Heidi Fuller-love, Telegraph Travel’s Greece expert, says: “There's been a rise in the Delta variant on some of the islands so you should watch out for local lockdowns. which generally last for a week to 10 days (as with Mykonos).

“This doesn't stop you from staying on the island but it just means that all live entertainment, bars (and possibly restaurants) will be shut outside of your hotel (which will continue to operate normally).”

Traditional taverna, Halki - iStock Editorial
Traditional taverna, Halki - iStock Editorial

Heidi, a resident of Greece, travelled to Corfu shortly after July 19, when UK rules were eased for double-jabbed Britons returning from Greece. She found the island to be very busy at that point.

And rules are in place. They include the wearing of face masks in public areas, inside hotels, or when entering restaurants, bars and shops. Plus, to sit indoors in bars and restaurants you will need to show proof of vaccination.

That said, it is certainly possible to enjoy a break on the larger islands. Heidi says: “Streets are busy, cafes are full and people seem very relieved to be able to switch off the Covid button for a while and just relax in a beautiful destination.”

If you’re seeking tranquility, Greece’s smaller – or lesser-known – islands could deliver in 2021. We lay out the numbers, sourced from covid19.gov.gr/covid-map-en/, and suggest six isles to consider (It should also be noted that immediate trips may be inadvisable given the fire risks resulting in parts of Europe, including on some Greek islands, due to a heatwave: check the latest advice and warnings before you book).

They include: Kasos for sleepy villages and Byzantine churches; Tilos, where the entire island is a nature reserve; Ithaca for scenic hikes; Anafi for an off-the-beaten track break and Karpathos for pretty beaches.

Sunset view of Kasos from Karpathos - Getty
Sunset view of Kasos from Karpathos - Getty

Kasos

Fully vaccinated: 53.05pc*

Test positivity rate: 1.08pc

*taken from available information on residents within the area; the rates including employees (ie tourism workers) and non-permanent residents may be higher.

Languid days filled with lounging on pretty beaches, swimming in the blue-green sea and admiring Byzantine churches: this Dodecanese idyll could offer just such a break. Kasos sits between Crete and Karpathos and has around 1,000 permanent residents.

To reach Kasos, you can fly to Crete (British Airways, EasyJet, Ryanair, Jet2 and Wizz Air are among the airlines that offer direct services). Regular ferry services operate between Crete and Kasos.

A white archway frames Livadia harbour on Tilos - iStock Editorial
A white archway frames Livadia harbour on Tilos - iStock Editorial

Tilos

Fully vaccinated: 46.25pc

Positivity rate: 1.93pc

A mere 780 people lived on Tilos, at last count. Yet it is just two hours via ferry from Kos, which attracts around 200,000 Britons in a typical, pre-Covid year. Its entire 25 square miles make up a nature reserve. Go or unspoilt beaches, verdant hills (some four hundred flower and herb species are found in Tilos) and bird watching (Bonelli’s eagles, nightingales and goldfinches are on the list to spot).

Sailing boat, Ithaca - Getty
Sailing boat, Ithaca - Getty

Ithaca

Fully vaccinated: 56.70pc

Positivity rate: 0.46pc

Ithaca, a pocket of poetry and myth, is also easy on the eye. Winter rain leaves it lush throughout the rest of the year. The capital, Vathy, was completely rebuilt after the earthquake of 1953 and is made up of orderly buildings, painted in cream, yellow and pink. Plus, it’s in reach of Filiatro Beach, which has warm, shallow waters. There’s no airport on Ithaca, but you fly from the UK to nearby Kefalonia (British Airways, Jet2 and easyJet are among the carriers that offer direct services) and take a ferry from there.

Beach on the island of Anafi - iStockphoto
Beach on the island of Anafi - iStockphoto

Anafi

Fully vaccinated: 59.17pc

Positivity rate: 3.40pc

If you truly want to get away from the tourist experience, Anafi could be the answer. Hiking is the answer for exploring the Cycladic island’s 14.9 square miles of land. Among its most attractive spots is the port settlement of Hora where you’ll find whitewashed, dome-roofed houses. There are regular ferries from Santorini, which is served with direct flights from various UK airports.

Beach on Karpathos - iStockphoto
Beach on Karpathos - iStockphoto

Karpathos

Fully vaccinated: 53.05pc

Positivity rate: 1.08pc

White villages accented with splodges of pastel and red roofs are part of Karpathos charm. It’s also in possession of a clutch of varied beaches: isolated or more developed, pebbled or sandy, it has a portion of coast to suit most tastes. Jennifer Bradley writes of the island: “With its wildflower meadows, and a safeguarded space of its own (the Regional Marine Park of Northern Karpathos), it is a perfect place for simple strollings.”

Halki

Fully vaccinated: 53.02pc

Positivity rate: 1.93pc

Among Greece’s least populated islands, Halki has just 478 permanent residents. After flying into Rhodes, you can reach its more rustic neighbour via ferry (a 75-minute ride). Head here, to swim, to stroll (perhaps head for the medieval castle built for the Knights of St John) and to entirely forget about the day-to-day grind.

Read more: Telegraph Travel's complete guide to the best hotels in Greece

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