The Greek Islands
Amazingly, Greek sovereign land includes 6,000 islands and smaller islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, of which only 227 islands are inhabited. When you drill down further, only 78 Greek Islands actually have more than 100 people living on them. Crete is the largest of the Greek Islands and is of course a hugely popular holiday destination but with so much choice with this area, many people visit a number of islands at a time which is called ‘Island Hopping’. August is the hottest month in the area with an average temperature of 26°C (79°F) and the coldest is February at 10°C (50°F. July has the most daily sunshine hours at 14. The wettest month is January with an average of 169mm of rain. The best month to swim in the sea is in August when the average sea temperature is 26°C (79°F).
Some of the oldest European civilizations developed on the Greek islands (Cycladic, Minoan civilizations, etc.) so it is an amazing fusion of history, colour and fun. The Greek islands are divided into seven main groups, Argosaronic Gulf, from which we feature Aegina, Agistri, Hydra, and Spetses. Cyclades, including Andros, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros and Santorini. Dodecanese, with Halki, Karpathos, Rhodes and Symi. Sporades, with Alonissos, Skiathos and Skopelos. Aegean, with Thassos. Ionian, featuring Ithaca, Kefalonia, Lefkas, and Zakynthos. Crete, the largest is not far from the coast of North Africa.
The beauty of the Greek Islands is obvious and is perfect photographic material. While Santorini is probably visually the most recognisable of the islands (who can forget the whitewashed villages featured in the hit movie ‘Mamma Mia’?), the other islands are just as stunning. Agios Nikolaos is a lovely Crete city facing the sea on three sides. Kos Island - the ancient Roman ruins of the Nymphaeum on this island is an opulent archaeological site and would make a fantastic day visit or the Antoni Queen beach, which is considered to be one of the best beaches on the island of Rhodes.
A small Greek restaurant or cafe is known as a taverna and these are commonplace throughout the island. When eating out, it is advisable to order an assortment of mezédes (appetisers) to share, rather than selecting expensive main courses. Bulk (hýma) wine (by the quarter, half or full kilo) is cheaper than the bottled version and usually fine. Beers cost between €4.50-€6, cocktails from €7-€8.50. The only budget drink may be island rakí (a strong alcoholic spirit) or mainland tsípouro (a pomace brandy) in a small carafe.
Due to the multitude of long sandy beaches and a forested interior, the islands will be a perfect spot if it is an activity based holiday that you are after. There are many different hikes you can take to explore the islands with lots of local information available to help you choose the best one for your level. Water sports like diving and snorkelling are very popular especially in islands like Karpathos, Milos, Paros, Kastellorizo.
Timing of Travel
If you have decided on the Greek Islands as your holiday destination, next you will need to decide when to travel there. It is important to note that during July and August, like many sun destinations, you will have to contend with both large crowds and intense heat. The other factor to consider is the ‘meltémi’ which is well known as being the northerly wind which blows across the beaches all afternoon. A well thought out decision then would be to travel to the area mid-May to late June, or alternatively selecting a September date. You will then be able to source discounted room rates, better taverna (restaurant) service and moderate weather. If you plan on travelling in the winter months, the options you have are Kérkyra town, Haniá or Réthymno on Crete, and Hydra. Greece is always a popular destination with Irish people. Previously it might have been seen as a destination fit for only the partying age group in the late teens to 20’s but this is no longer the case. The Greek Islands are an amazing destination with beautiful scenery on offer as well as many interesting sights to be seen. Irish people continue to travel to Greece in their thousands annually with good sun holiday deals on offer.