Visitors planning their trip to Greece often lump the country’s over 2,000 islands – among which over 200 are inhabited – together as if they were one homogenous mass. When they arrive and begin exploring for themselves, however, they quickly realize that each of the islands has its own distinct character and culture that warrants more time than they have to get to know properly. If you are struggling to work out which of the islands is best to visit for your personal tastes and preferences, the following guide will help point you on your way to getting the most out of your time in the diverse archipelago.

1. Santorini

The undisputed glamor capital of all the islands in the chain, Santorini is typical of what most people imagine they will find when they first decide to splash out on Greek island holiday. The towering multicolor cliffs which jut out from the serene Mediterranean Sea appear to be dusted by the whitewashed facades of the island’s traditional architectural style. With its phenomenal vistas, volcanic sands and picture-book sunsets, the essence of Santorini is so uniquely Greek that it is no surprise that the island attracts over two million tourists every year, each hoping for their own slice of paradise.

Santorini was formed by ancient volcanic activity, and this provides an explanation for its characteristic black sandy beaches and caldera-lined coastline. Some of the best things to do include sunset walks along the clifftops, sampling the island’s famous white wine at a local vineyard and visiting the informative Museum of Prehistoric Thera (“Thera” is the official name for Santorini) to learn about the downfall of the ancient Minoan city of Akrotiri.

2. Mykonos

If partying is the main aim of your trip to the Greek Islands, then Mykonos will not disappoint. The towns of the island feature the same bright white buildings and turquoise seas as its sister island Santorini, but the atmosphere is something quite different. Leave your hotel for a nighttime jaunt around the island’s capital (also named Mykonos), and it will not take you long to get your groove on in the stylish bars and restaurants that line the city’s lively streets.

The action in the daytime is mainly located along the Mykonos’s southern shores. Those looking for adventure can take part in a wide range of leisure activities, including waterskiing, jet-ski rent, windsurfing, horseback riding and parasailing. There are some fantastic diving opportunities, with trips to fantastic wrecks, caves and walls that will satisfy diving enthusiasts of all ages and abilities. For visitors that value their privacy, a more laid-back and secluded atmosphere can be found along the island’s northern beaches in which to swim and absorb the sun while enjoying your favorite cocktails.

3. Naxos

Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades island chain. It is known for its lush vegetation and emerald green landscape which is marked deep gorges and high mountains. The island’s traditional culture remains largely intact, with locals still going about their daily business in the clifftop towns and villages wearing the traditional garb of the region. Much of what is consumed on the island is the product of a thriving agriculture industry, and the gastronomic delights really are something special. Make sure to try areseniko, a hard goat’s cheese, xynomyzithra, a crumbly soft cheese, and Naxos fries, the island’s potato-based specialty dish. 

The island is home to a wealth of sites of considerable historical interest. Any history buffs are sure to be enchanted by Naxos’s stunning churches, monasteries, towers and Venetian castles which tell the story of the island’s enthralling history. The island is also famous for its many cultural events. Visitors will do well the time their trip so that it coincides with one of the host of fantastic festivals that take place throughout the duration of the summer. In order to time your trip right, make sure you do not encounter any potential issues when applying for a visa by checking whether you are eligible for the new ETIAS visa waiver scheme. Make sure to consult a reliable ETIAS guide which gives step-by-step instructions to make the process as smooth as possible.

The Greek Island archipelago deserves its reputation as one of the hottest holiday spots in Europe. To make sure your island adventure turns out to be the trip of a lifetime, you can’t go wrong in choosing one of the locations mentioned in the article above.