10 small Greek islands to visit this year

·4-min read
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Greece is set to welcome British travellers from mid-May (Getty)

With domestic holidays pencilled in for 12 April and foreign holidays set to possibly start on 17 May, it’s likely you’ve started to think about where you can escape to this year.

Greece has said it will welcome British travellers from mid-May and tour operators including Jet2 and TUI have reported a surge in bookings to the Aegean nation.

Read more: These are the countries most likely to open for Brits this summer

Yet, transport secretary Grant Schapps said on Wednesday 10 March that it is too early to book foreign holidays.

Schapps told BBC Today: “Yes, in as much as we know that the Global Travel Taskforce that I’m running reports on April 12.

“We’ve said that it will remain illegal to travel internationally till at least May 17. That’s an ‘at the earliest’ date.”

Just 7% of the Greek population has received its first vaccination compared to 32% of Brits. The Greek tourism minister has said the smaller Greek islands will be prioritised when it comes to vaccines as it “makes sense” to vaccinate the whole island rather than just the elderly on the island.

Read more: The holiday destinations everyone is rushing to book post lockdown

While all holidays are currently banned, below we chart the small Greek islands to visit for when we can travel.

Sifnos

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Kamares, Sifnos (Getty)

Just two hours by ferry from Athens, Sifnos is a heady mix of beautiful bays, whitewashed villages and endless walking trails. If you’re not set on discovering the island by foot, it’s best to rent a car to explore every inch and visit those tucked-away tavernas and to pick up the pretty pottery the island is known for.

Paxos

Loggos village in Paxos (Getty)
Loggos village in Paxos (Getty)

Also known as Paxi, Paxos is part of the Ionian island group and, despite its small size (just 13km long) there’s a lot to love here. With three harbour villages to explore, there’s also a host of seafront tavernas, private coves and sparkling teal-hued waters (best seen at the white pebble Erimitis Beach).

Symi

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The main port of Symi (Getty)

Part of the Dodecanese group, just off the coast of Turkey, instead of whitewashed homes the main town of Ano Symi is filled with vibrant neoclassical buildings instead. While most of the island is largely undeveloped, there’s still plenty of tracks leading to small beaches and coves.

Folegandros

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Aggali Beach, Folegandros (Getty)

Plonked on the southern edge of the Cyclades, Folegandros is just south of Milos and Sifnos so it makes a great combined trip. Its clifftop town of Hora is particularly beautiful and the island is easily walkable - it’s just 12km long by 4km wide.

Syros

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The town of Ermoupolis in Syros (Getty)

One of the Cyclades' smallest islands, it boasts one of the largest populations in the area (just over 21,000) as it’s the ferry hub of the northern islands. Often overlooked for its more shouty neighbours (perennial party island Mykonos lies just to the east), Syros shouldn’t be dismissed - its pastel-hued homes hugging the hillsides makes for a stunning sight and the beaches are never crowded.

Hydra

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Arriving in Hydra (Getty)

Part of the Saronic Islands group, Hydra is ideal for the slow traveller. There’s a no wheeled vehicle policy here, which means you won’t see cars or scooters anywhere in sight and there’s no street names either, making it primed for wandering. For when you want to visit one of its coastal beaches, water taxis are on hand.

Serifos

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An emerald beach in Serifos (Getty)

An exceptional pick for a classic Greek Island experience, on Serifos you’ll be met with whitewashed villages, blue domed churches and golden sand beaches all without the usual tourist onslaught found on nearby Santorini. Trails wind their way around the island’s rugged landscape but, for those short on time, it’s probably best to rent a car.

Skopelos

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Stafilos beach, Skopelos (Getty)

If Skopelos looks familiar, it’s because this is the island where the first Mamma Mia movie was filmed. Sitting just to the north of Athens, there are plenty of hidden beaches, olive groves and small churches to discover (including the famed church of Agios Ioannis Kastri that featured in the aforementioned film).

Patmos

Monastery of Saint John the Theologian in Patmos (Getty)
Monastery of Saint John the Theologian in Patmos (Getty)

Perched in the sunniest corner of Greece, just off the coast of the Turkish mainland, Patmos is ideal for a quieter holiday. There’s an 11th-century monastery sitting high above the hilltop village of Hora, while the capital of Skala is home to a slew of tavernas and eateries - try out the cheese pies and local dairy products during your stay.

Astypalea

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Chora village in Astypalea (Getty)

One of the most picturesque islands in the Aegean, the historic whitewashed villages of Astypalea beautifully offset the surrounding azure waters. Ferry services here are limited, meaning tourist numbers are low and beaches are near-deserted.

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