The dazzling splendour of the Greek Islands, entrenched with history, beauty and mystique, are one of the top draws of Europe. Spending a summer island-hopping these beauties is a holiday fantasy for many travellers, but if you want to turn your dreams into reality, you might well be considering which of the more than 2,000 islands that make up the archipelago is right for you. Whilst beautiful beaches, breath-taking views, a good range of water-sports and delicious cuisine is par for the course through this region, if it’s a historical holiday you seek, we’ve selected the top five islands for the job.
Whilst Rhodes may reel in younger travellers keen to maximise on its thriving nightlife, this charming island has another side to it entirely. Discover the ancient history of this fascinating island by taking a trip through the walled Old Town as well as the Acropolis of Rhodes which dates back to the 2nd and 3rd century BC. Here you will find the ruins of the mighty Temple of Apollo, an ancient theatre and an assortment of interesting monuments and public buildings. The island also plays host to the Acropolis of Lindos with its magnificent Temple of Lindian Athena, accessible only by a steep hike or donkey ride, and Ancient Kameiros with its Temple of the Goddess Athena.
If dropping by sophisticated Mykonos is on your Greek Island itinerary, be sure to take the time to hop aboard the ferry to Delos, one of the best loved relics of the Ancient world. Steeped in mythology, Delos supposedly sprang from the sea and provided a safe haven for one of Zeus’s many mistresses from the jealous wrath of his wife, Hera. This is where the heavenly twins Apollo and Artemis were born in the fables and, amongst the ruins of the town, well-preserved monuments to both can be seen. There is also a rather brilliant museum on site showcasing some exquisite mosaics and other relics of a long-lost civilisation.
Visit the island where weary Odysseus was washed ashore during the trials of his odyssey and prepare to be astounded by the welcoming people, untamed natural beauty and vibrant culture. Whilst some of the coastline has been given over to overdeveloped resorts, particularly to the north of Corfu Town, rest assured this jewel still has plenty of space to escape the madding crowds. In between exploring quaint villages, craggy coves and a fertile interior, dotted with olive groves, visitors can trace the island’s history in the Venetian, British and French architecture that can be found in the picturesque Old Town. Take a step further back in time with visits to sites such as the Kassiopi Fortress and the ruins of Paleopolis, the ancient city of Corfu.
The majestic scenery of Crete, nestled in the southern regions of the Aegean Sea, makes it one of the most popular Greek Islands for ancient sites. Here, the mighty Minoan civilisation came to power and relics to this great culture can be discovered all over the island. Look out for the Minoan Palace of Knossos where the royal family resided – many famous legends have developed from this abode, most notably the myth of the bull-headed Minotaur and the tale of Icarus who flew too close to the sun.
Naxos is the Greek Island that offers something for everyone. From ancient sites and traditional villages, to a thriving kiteboarding scene and a network of atmospheric walks, there’s fun to be had for all the family. It was here that Theseus, after slaying the Minotaur, abandoned Ariadne; fortunately, the princess did not take long to nurse her broken heart and swiftly found herself the object of affection of Dionysos, god of wine. Spend the days visiting sites such as Portara, a huge marble doorway perched on the islet of Palatia, and the glorious Temple of Demeter; nights can be spent indulging in that famous Naxian wine. Dionysos himself would be proud!
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