Greece has around 6,000 islands and islets but only 227 of them are inhabited, and this travel guide, I’ll help you choose from among the most popular small Greek islands that feel like a world away from the European summer crowds on your next vacation.
These 16 popular small Greek islands include those ranging in size from the tiny island of Lipari at 17 square kilometers to the sacred island of Tinos at 194 square km and from a few hundred residents to a few thousand.
Getting to Small Greek Islands
Ferries are the most popular way for hopping between Greek islands that are less than a few hours from each other.
To move between the mainland and the islands, or between the different island chains, flying is the fastest option except for the islands close to the mainland.
There are three ports in Athens, the capital of Greece, and all of them are busy with ferry traffic to and from the Greek islands.
Many travelers fly into Athens and then take the X96 bus to Piraeus Port to board their ferry or catch a connecting flight. Flights may be canceled or moved forward depending on the winds.
This seems to happen a lot for Santorini flights!
Map of the Best Small Greek Islands
Location: Saronic Gulf | Size: 52 sq. km
How to get there: Reach Hydra by taking a high-speed ferry or a catamaran from Piraeus Port in Athens, which takes about 1.5-2 hours.
Hydra is a picturesque island with a rich maritime history, known for its stunning architecture and charming cobblestone streets.
But that’s not why it’s so famous – it’s a whole island with no cars and motorcycles allowed, and there’s something special about what is a very peaceful atmosphere.
It’s also popular because it is so close to Athens and lots of Athenians head to the closest Greek islands on weekends.
You’ll love the ‘slow travel’ of Hydra as you spend time wandering around Hydra town (Chora) or taking scenic hikes to nearby monasteries.
The island is also famous for its art scene, with numerous galleries and museums to visit.
Swim in crystal clear waters at the beaches of Vlychos, Bisti, and Mandraki, and for at least a half day, hire a boat to explore hidden coves and swim off the boat.
Don’t miss out on the sunset at the harbor while sipping a cocktail at a local café.
2. SYMI (SYME, SIMI)
Location: Dodecanese island chain | Size: 58 sq. km
How to get there: Reach Symi by taking a ferry from Rhodes, which only takes 75 minutes, or a long ferry trip from Piraeus Port in Athens which will take around 12 hours.
Symi is a surprisingly unknown gem in the Dodecanese islands, overlooked by its larger and much more famous neighbor, Rhodes, 21 miles to the south.
Discovered by about 6000 day trippers each day during the summer months, it is a laid-back island to spend time exploring.
Symi has a pleasing number of neoclassical mansions, colorful houses, and a lovely harbor. Its lower town around the harbor is called Yialos, and the Upper town is called Ano Symi.
Discovering its historic buildings and squares is one of the best things to do in Symi.
Symi is a mountainous island and hiking is a reason many people choose Symi for a holiday, especially a hike to the ancient ruins at Kastro, as well as hikes to other Byzantine, Roman, and medieval sites.
The Monastery of the Archangel Michael Panormitis provides stunning views of the island and is a major religious pilgrimage site as well as being the biggest monastery on the island.
The island has countless coves, beaches, and uninhabited offshore islets that can only be accessed from the sea.
Hiring a boat is the best way to explore this small Greek island at your leisure and find deserted swimming and snorkeling spots, even in the middle of summer.
Location: Ionian islands chain | Size: 30 sq. km
How to get there: Reach Paxos from Corfu on a 1-hour ferry ride from Igoumenitsa on the mainland, the ferry takes 90 minutes.
The myth says that Poseidon struck his trident onto the ground of Corfu, breaking off a piece of land that is Paxos.
I love that he did this because he and his wife wanted to get a little bit of peace and quiet!
Paxos is quiet but also exciting because of its many sea caves (the Blue Caves are the best known) that can be explored by boat.
The beaches are every bit as beautiful as those in Corfu, especially Voutoumi, Kipiadi, and Levrechio.
The mountainous peaks and valleys are covered in olive groves planted down to the rocky coves (and rock formations like Tripitos Arch) and turquoise waters of the Ionian Sea.
The mountain villages of Gaios, Lakka, and Loggos are definitely worth exploring.
Location: Cyclades island chain | Size: 35 sq. km
How to get there: Reach Antiparos on a 30-minute ferry ride from Parikia Town on Paros. You can also get a boat from Pounta, further south, where the crossing only takes 10 minutes.
Antiparos is a much smaller island than Paros, and also much more serene, offering crystal-clear waters, sandy beaches, and traditional Cycladic architecture.
The main village, Chora, is all winding narrow streets, whitewashed houses, and the ruins of an old Venetian castle.
Beaches such as Psaraliki, Soros, and Glyfa provide perfect spots for sunbathing and swimming in the warm Aegean Sea.
Beach bars and designer shopping have become a mandatory part of the Antiparos experience, but the Antiparos Cave is a major attraction.
The Cave is also called Oliarou and is believed to be the oldest cave in Greece, about 45 million years old.
There is an archaeological treasure on the nearby uninhabited and pretty much unknown Greek island of Despotiko – an ancient Temple of Apollo and other ruins are being uncovered and you can visit them on a short boat trip from Antiparos.
Location: Cyclades island chain | Size: 32 sq. km
Folegandros is another charming Cycladic island with villages perched on top of dramatic cliffs. The picturesque Chora, with its medieval castle and narrow alleys, is perfect for leisurely exploration.
Location: Cyclades island chain | Size: 74 sq. km
How to get there: Reach Sifnos by ferry in 3- 4 hours from Piraeus Port in Athens.
Sifnos is known for its rich culinary tradition, picturesque villages, and beautiful sandy beaches.
The island’s traditional settlements such as Apollonia, Artemonas, and Kastro, are built as labyrinthine alleyways and Cycladic architecture.
Discover the island’s rich pottery heritage by visiting local workshops. Check out the island’s best beaches: Platis Gialos, Vathi, and Faros.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the historic Monastery of Chrissopighi, set on a rocky cape overlooking the sea.
Location: Dodecanese island chain | Size: 41 sq. km
How to get there: Reach Nisyros on a 1-hour ferry from Kos, or from Piraeus Port in Athens, on a 12-hour ferry journey.
Nisyros is a volcanic island with a fascinating landscape, traditional villages, and popular thermal springs in Loutra.
The island’s main attraction is the impressive volcanic crater at Stefanos, where you can walk along the rim of the crater.
There are a number of picturesque villages, especially Mandraki, Nikia, and Emborios, featuring traditional architecture and colorful houses.
Like all the Greek islands, the beaches of Nisyros are a drawcard, especially Pali, Lies, and Hohlaki.
Location: Cyclades island chain | Size: 108 sq. km
How to get there: Reach Ios on a 5-hour ferry trip from Piraeus Port in Athens, or from Santorini, which takes about 1 hour.
Ios is famous for its vibrant nightlife, golden beaches (such as Mylopotas, Manganari, and Agia Theodoti), traditional Cycladic architecture, and for being the birthplace of the ancient poet, Homer.
Explore the charming Chora, with its white-washed buildings and narrow streets, and visit the iconic Church of Panagia Gremiotissa for stunning views.
Location: Cyclades island chain | Size: 126 sq. km
How to get there: Reach Amorgos on a ferry from Piraeus Port in Athens, which takes about 7-8 hours.
Amorgos is a dramatic island with steep cliffs, crystal-clear waters, and a rich cultural heritage.
The main attraction is the 11th-century Monastery of Hozoviotissa, built into a cliff and offering breathtaking views.
Explore the traditional villages of Chora and Tholaria, or hike along the island’s numerous trails to discover hidden spots.
The best beaches are Agia Anna, Mouros, and Aegiali.
Location: Cyclades island chain | Size: 38 sq. km
How to get there: Reach Anafia by ferry from Piraeus Port in Athens in 5-6 hours, or from Santorini in 1.5 hours.
Anafi is a serene and unspoiled island, perfect for those seeking tranquility and natural beauty.
Visit the picturesque Chora with its traditional white-washed houses and winding streets, and enjoy panoramic views from the hilltop Church of Panagia Kalamiotissa.
The island’s beautiful beaches have absolutely crystal clear waters, especially, Roukounas, Klisidi, and Agios Nikolaos.
Anafi is also known as a prime walking destination whose trails lead to ancient ruins and deserted coves. So close to Santorini, but a million miles away.
If you’ve seen the tiny suburb of Anafi below the Acropolis of Athens, which was created by people who moved from Anafi island – just imagine that in the middle of the Aegean Sea!
Location: Cyclades island chain | Size: 194 sq. km
Disclosure: I’m in love with Tinos!
Tinos is a spiritual island known for its iconic Church of Panagia Evangelistria, which attracts thousands of pilgrims each year but in recent years has been prioritizing ecological housing and lifestyles.
Tinos has fascinating traditional villages all over the island like Pyrgos and Volax, where visitors can discover the island’s marble-sculpting heritage.
Having written that sentence, I don’t think it captures the unique quirkiness of Tinos. It is an island of artists and there are little marble plaques on walls and pavements with every kind of Aegean symbol on them. The houses and shops reference the unique architecture and crafts of the island by incorporating the decorative patterns of the dovecotes. It’s just magical.
Tinos also offers beautiful sandy beaches, like Agios Sostis, Kolymbithra, and Agios Fokas, perfect for swimming and sunbathing.
Mostly, though, the island is the best island in Greece for walking and hiking with numerous trails that lead to hidden chapels, ancient ruins, and impressive viewpoints.
Whole valleys are dotted with Venetian dovecotes and being so close to Mykonos, it’s just a matter of time before it becomes Greece’s newest hottest destination.
Location: Cyclades | Size: 36 sq. km)
To get there: Reach Kimolos on a 30-minute ferry from Milos, or from Piraeus Port in Athens, which takes about 7 hours.
Kimolos is a hidden gem of volcanic landscapes. The charming village of Chorio, with its traditional architecture and well-preserved Castle of Kimolos, is a popular day trip from Milos.
There is only a 1 km-wide channel separating the two islands.
In addition to the Castle and the gorgeous beaches of Prasa, Bonatsa, and Aliki, visitors head to the unique rock formations at Skiadi.
Location: Small Cyclades | Size: 26 sq. km
How to get there: Reach Koufonisia by ferry from Piraeus Port in Athens, which takes about 6-7 hours, or from Naxos, which takes about 1.5 hours.
Koufonisia is a group of two small islands, Ano Koufonisi, and Kato Koufonisi. Ano Koufonisi, the inhabited island, features a charming village, while Kato Koufonisi is mainly uninhabited.
Not much happens on lazy Koufonisia apart from swimming and sunbathing at the island’s beautiful beaches, such as Pori, Finikas, and Fanos, and exploring the nearby tiny islands, islets, and sea caves by boat.
Location: Sporades Islands | Size: 64 sq. km |
To get there: Reach Alonissos by ferry from Skiathos in 2 hours), Volos in 4-5 hours, and nearby Skopelos in 40 minutes. It’s also possible to reach Alonissos from Thessaloniki on the mainland.
Alonissos is especially lush, covered in green hills and pine trees, and surrounded by crystal-clear waters and gorgeous beaches.
Its rich marine life makes for a very special experience for nature lovers and its extensive series of hiking trails is a great drawcard if you want to have an active holiday.
The National Marine Park of Alonissos and the Northern Sporades is a sanctuary for the endangered Mediterranean monk seal.
As with all these best small Greek islands, you will love exploring its villages, especially Chora which was the island’s capital until an earthquake caused most people to move to the new capital of Patitiri on the south coast which is the main port.
Exploring by boat, scuba diving, snorkeling, and enjoying the island’s beaches, such as Megali Ammos, Chrisi Milia, and Agios Dimitrios, round out the most popular things to do.
Location: Dodecanese island chain | Size: 17 sq. km
How to get there: Reach Kastellorizo by flying to Rhodes and then taking a ferry that takes either 2 hrs 30 minutes or 4-5 hours depending on the type of ferry.
Alternatively, take a twice-weekly ferry from Piraeus Port in Athens for a long journey of 21 and a half hours.
Kastellorizo is known officially as Megísti and this is also the name of the capital of this small island only 2 kilometers from the coast of Turkey.
It is home to the most beautiful (and biggest) Blue Cave in the whole Mediterranean but you won’t find a sandy beach to flop down upon on this tiny island.
Instead, there are diving platforms and underwater caves, neoclassical mansions, an 18th-century Ottoman mosque, and seaside tavernas specializing in cooking fresh fish
Above the harbor on the east side is the Castle of St John and on the west side is the Acropolis of Paleokastro.
If you add ancient ruins, underwater caves, fascinating architecture, the Blue Cave, and turtles lazing in the waters of the harbor, this is one of my very favorite islands.
Location: Dodecanese island chain | Size: 17 sq. km
How to get there: Reach Lipsi by a 4-hour ferry ride from Rhodes or a 9-10-hour ferry journey from Piraeus Port in Athens. There are lots of ferries on the Patmos-Leroi route that make a stop at Lipsi.
I’ve saved one of the best small Greek islands for last. Lipsi is tiny and tranquil, encircled by pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters. In fact, like Kastellorizo, you’ll see turtles in the water in the harbor!
It is part of a group of islets (called Lepsoi, but sometimes also called Lipsi), southwest of the Turkish coast and south of Samos.
The picturesque village of Lipsi is the only inhabited part of the island and as a result, once you arrive, you’re a villager.
You have coffee with everyone in the mornings and reconvene in the evening to eat and drink ouzo.
During the day you swim, sunbathe, and snorkel at the island’s beautiful beaches, such as Platis Gialis, Kambos, and Kamissia, or from a boat.
Don’t miss the chance to visit the nearby uninhabited islets and their secluded beaches, or explore the island’s hiking trails leading to panoramic viewpoints.
You won’t want to leave once you’ve become a Lipsi villager!