Greece is a fantastic destination, but some places can get very busy! Here are some of our favourite quiet Greek islands in the Cyclades where you can escape the tourist crowds.
Which is the best Greek island?
There’s no argument that visiting Santorini is a once in a lifetime experience. The iconic Greek island is totally worth the hype.
Even with the thousands of tourists visiting daily in summer, it’s worth going. Although you could consider visiting Santorini in winter if you want to escape the crowds!
This doesn’t mean that Santorini is the best Greek island however. The same can be said of Mykonos.
We’re not big fans of Mykonos because the lifestyle it represents. While the nightlife in Mykonos may be pretty unique, it’s not our cup of tea – never was. We were fortunate to see Mykonos without the crowds in 2020, and we have to say we loved the beaches. It wouldn’t quite be so appealing with masses of other tourists though.
Thankfully, Greece has another couple of hundred islands, of which 33 are in the Cyclades. Are Santorini and Mykonos the only ones worth visiting? Definitely not – and in our opinion, some other islands are a lot more enjoyable.
Quiet Greek Islands
Many people, however, are after the really quiet Greek islands. They are looking for secluded beaches, beautiful nature, pretty villages, and a relaxed, laid-back vibe.
They prefer to visit non-touristy places that haven’t changed much in the past decades.
If you are after Greece’s authentic side, here are our favourite quiet Greek islands close to Santorini and Mykonos!
Iraklia – My favourite quiet Greek island
Iraklia is a small mountainous island close to Naxos and Ios in the Cyclades. It belongs to a group of islands called Small Cyclades, of which the most famous is Ano Koufonissi.
Fewer than 100 people live permanently on Iraklia. It’s one of the best places to go in Greece if you want peace and quiet!
The main settlement, Agios Georgios, is right on the island’s port. This is where you will find most of the island’s rooms for rent and tavernas. There are also a couple of mini markets and an ATM. That said, it’s best to pick up everything you want, including sunscreen and any medications, from Athens or Naxos.
On some days of the week, you can get to Iraklia on a direct ferry from Piraeus port. Alternatively, you can catch the Skopelitis Express boat from Naxos, Amorgos, or the other Small Cyclades.
To get around the island you can ask if the municipal bus is running, or rent a motorbike. Other options include hitchhiking, walking, hiking and taking a boat.
What to do in Iraklia
Iraklia has several lovely beaches. The easiest option is the port beach, but the nicest is Livadi, a lovely, long, sandy beach. Other beautiful beaches on Iraklia include Alimia and Karvounolakkos, which you can only reach on the “Anemos” boat. Alimia is great for snorkeling and diving, as there is a sunken German plane from WWII!!
The island is a paradise for nature lovers, and there are eight hiking trails on the island. The most popular routes pass by Panagia, the second main settlement, and the Agios Ioannis cave.
If you feel like trekking, you can also reach Iraklia’s highest point, Papas. From up there, you can enjoy the superb views over the Aegean. Eat your dust, Santorini!
If you are going to Iraklia in summer, try to be there on the 28th August, for the feast of St John. On that day, a candlelit mass is held inside Agios Ioannis cave. It’s unlike anything you have ever seen!
The massive cave is not officially open, but you can explore it regardless. Unless you are visiting on this special day, you might prefer to go with a local guide. The entrance is hard to find, and you will have to crawl to enter the cave.
Iraklia has a number of excellent tavernas. We’ve had fantastic Greek food on this small island! Apart from Akathi, you should also try Eolos and Maistrali, and definitely go to Surfin Bird for a drink. This open-air bar has some of the best views you will ever enjoy in Greece.
I have to admit, I am a bit torn about revealing my favourite quiet Greek island! That said, most people might find Iraklia too quiet. This is exactly why it has a special place in my heart!
Schinoussa – A stylish quiet Greek island
Schinoussa is another one of the Small Cyclades islands, close to Naxos and Amorgos. Due to its naturally protected bays, it attracts a large number of yachts and sailing boats. Therefore, the ambiance is still authentic, but quite stylish too.
Around 200 people live in Schinoussa. Visitors can stay on several areas around the island, each one with its own charm. You can choose to stay in the main town, Chora, or on one of the beaches. This small, pretty island is fairly flat, and you can easily walk around everywhere, or perhaps hire a bicycle.
Schinoussa is on the same ferry route with Iraklia. You can there directly from Piraeus on some days. On other days, you can get a small ferry from Naxos or Amorgos.
What to do in Schinoussa
Schinoussa has some pretty amazing beaches. Even though it’s a tiny island, there are many coves and stretches of sand worth exploring.
If you are going to Schinoussa during July or August, you will probably come across the Meltemi winds. These are strong seasonal winds that come from the north. It’s easy to avoid them in Schinoussa, as you can always choose a beach looking to the south, west or east.
Some of our favourite beaches in Schinoussa were Livadi, where we were staying, and Psili Ammos, on the north-east. We also liked Aligaria, Kambos and Gagavi beaches, to the south – you’d need to bring your own shade though.
Most of the beaches on Iraklia can be reached on foot, and the island is ideal for walking. Alternatively, you can take the Aeolia boat to get around the less easily accessible beaches.
In terms of food, Schinoussa will literally blow your mind away. Every single meal we had in Chora was superb. Make sure you taste the local fava beans and the home-made cheeses. Or just be adventurous and try a bit of everything. Order anything you can get your hands on, and you can’t go wrong!
We now have a book available on Amazon about Schinoussa and Iraklia.
Andros – Just an hour away from Athens
If you like beaches and hiking, Andros may be your next favourite Greek island which you haven’t heard of. Its beautiful, green nature will take you by surprise, especially if you’ve been to some of the driest Cyclades.
Just over an hour away from Rafina port near Athens, Andros is quite popular with Greek families, particularly during August. Regardless, you can always find last-minute accommodation, and therefore it’s possible to visit Andros spontaneously, even for a day trip.
The lively Chora is one of the most culturally-rich towns in the Cyclades. Boasting a few historical and art museums, it can easily be your base in Andros. Alternatively, you can stay in Batsi, a coastal town close to Gavrio port which comes alive at night. Don’t expect tons of clubs though – it’s more tavernas and bars.
In fact, it’s strange that not too many tourists have discovered Andros. But we won’t complain, as it has kept an authentic vibe that we loved!
What to do in Andros
Andros is quite large. Even a week isn’t enough to see everything, especially if you want to hike the amazing trails.
One of the main reasons why people visit Andros is its fantastic coastline. Apparently, there are over 170 beaches in Andros. Many of them are easily accessible, while others can be reached by driving on steep dirt roads. Some of our favourite beaches on Andros include Korthi, Fellos, Kourtali, and the more remote Vlychada and Pyrgos.
We didn’t visit the famous Zorkos, Ateni or Achla, as it was too windy due to the Meltemi winds. Speaking of which, the island is also ideal for watersports and other beach activities. You can get in touch with the knowledgeable team of WeSurfin on Kypri beach for advice and windsurfing lessons.
For people who like nature, Andros is paradise. There are 18 hiking trails covering over 150 kms. You could literally stay here for weeks and explore the island! The landscapes are magnificent, and while hiking you will see bridges, windmills, chapels and monasteries. You will also perhaps come across a goat or two.
Andros has a lot to offer in terms of culture. For a unique and authentic experience, visit the Olive Oil museum in Ano Pitrofos. If you are into art, start with the famous Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art and the Kydonieos Foundation in Chora. Then ask around for any temporary exhibitions, which seem to happen frequently.
While the Archaeological Museum didn’t exactly impress us, we loved heading all the way up to Panachrantou Monastery. There are several other monasteries in Andros, but this was quite unique. Getting there is a lot of fun too!
All in all, there is lots to do Andros, which explains why so many Greeks return every summer!
Tinos – Religion meets authenticity
Tinos is the third largest of the Cyclades islands, after Naxos and Andros. It combines pristine beaches with dozens of incredibly picturesque villages, some impressive landscapes and a very rich religious culture. We find it really surprising that Tinos isn’t very well known amongst foreign visitors, but we are rather thankful.
Tinos has been an important religious centre in Greece for several decades. The main Orthodox temple in the Chora the Our Lady of Tinos Church (Panagia Evangelistria), is particularly rich and impressive.
I have never seen as many churches, chapels and shrines anywhere else in Greece, maybe even the world! If you drive around Tinos, you will be definitely be impressed too.
Tinos is one of the few places in Greece where there are not only Orthodox, but also many Catholic churches. There are also many monasteries, both Orthodox and Catholic, that you can visit.
On the 15th of August, the Assumption of Virgin Mary is celebrated in Tinos. This is a massive religious event with huge cultural importance all around Greece.
If you want to visit Tinos around that time, make sure you book your accommodation in advance. Otherwise, you should be ok even if you are going last-minute.
You can get to Tinos in just a couple of hours from Rafina port in Athens on a fast ferry. Tinos is directly connected with Andros and also Mykonos.
If you are not planning to rent a car, it might be best to stay in Chora. However, we would recommend renting a car and staying anywhere on the coast. We liked Agios Ioannis Porto, where we stayed, and there is also plenty of accommodation on Agios Sostis or Kionia. In our experience, any part of the coast is really relaxing!
What to do in Tinos
Tinos is one of the best Greek islands to visit if you are into photography. Without exaggeration, all of its villages are amazingly picturesque. Some of the best villages to visit in Tinos include Pyrgos, Kardiani, Ysternia, Volax and Agapi.
That said, each village in Tinos has its own unique character that sets it apart from the others. Just drive around the island and you will discover dozens more villages that are all worth stopping by.
As you are going around Tinos, you will notice hundreds of pigeon houses, or dovecotes.
Tinos has a rich tradition in marble crafting, and there are many beautiful artworks in many of the villages. In Pyrgos, you can visit three museums explaining the importance of marble craft for Tinos.
Do not miss the impressive Museum of Marble Crafts, which is a little out of the village. Also, swing by the cemetery, which is full of unique marble tombstones.
In terms of beaches, Tinos has many beautiful ones, with crystal clear waters. Even if you visit during the windy Meltemi season, there will always be at least one protected beach.
Our favourite beach was Kolymbithra, to the north, which is also ideal for watersports. The more remote Agia Thalassa, close to Ormos Panormou, is also lovely. In fact, all the beaches we saw on the island were way above average.
Finally, Tinos has many hiking paths, and there is an ongoing project for their maintenance. You can see more information for all routes here. If you are looking for something more extreme, rock climbing and bouldering are available in the Volax / Exombourgo areas.
All in all, Tinos has so much to offer, that you can’t see it all in one visit. We are definitely going back soon!
If you want more information about Andros and Tinos, we have written an extensive travel guide available on Kindle. It combines Andros and Tinos islands in Greece and goes into a lot of detail. Check it out!
Quiet Greek islands – Is that all?
These are just four of the quiet Greek islands that we’ve been to recently. There are many more that we’ve visited, like Kea, Serifos, Sifnos etc, but it’s been a while.
We’ll update this article on quiet Greek islands when we go back – hopefully in summer 2021. Stay tuned!
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