Secret Greece: Best 10 quiet Greek islands to cruise to
Famous for the longevity of its residents - almost everyone living on Icaria reaches the age of at least 90 - this is one of Greece's most beautiful quiet islands. Framed by turquoise seas and white-sand beaches - and mineral-rich thermal spring baths - a visit to Icaria is a taste of authentic, off the beaten track Greece. It's also an island famous for its love of festivals; visit in July or August to experience the likes of religious feasts and live music and art festivals with cruise lines such as The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection and SeaDream Yacht Club, who offer Athens round-trips calling in at Icaria in July 2024 and August 2024 respectively.
One of the seven main Ionian islands, Kythira (or Cythera) is a beautifully secluded Greek island that offers golden beaches framed by fantastic nature in the form of waterfalls and gorges, alongside tiny fishing villages and fascinating Venetian architecture, castles, caves and monuments that will make you consider extending your stay! One of the only cruise lines that calls in to Kythira is Ponant, such as on its 23 July 2024 sailing on the stylish 184-guest Le Bougainville that also includes stops at the lesser-visited gems of Monemvasia and Pylos.
The tiny island of Sifnos is one of the most beautiful in all of the Cyclades, known for its excellent beach bars and seafood tavernas as well as ceramics and basket weaving. Explore its olive groves, whitewashed villages and dazzling blue bays from the lovely capital, Apollonia, or walk the surrounding hills for scenic walks. SeaDream offer 7-day August and September sailings in 2023, 2024 and 2025 round-trip from Athens, for an all-encompassing Greek Island sojourn.
One of the lesser known - and highly underrated - gems of the Cyclades group, the authentic, mountainous Greek island of Amorgos offers impressive scenery, superb hiking trails, gorgeous caves and bays and fascinating historic buildings, such as the bright-white Hozoviotissis monastery, which hugs the cliffside high above the waves. If you wish to avoid the high-summer heat and crowds, perhaps opt for an early June 2024 sailing on sleek 100-guest yacht Emerald Azzurra from Dubrovnik, stopping at nine Greek islands, while Ponant's lovely 7-night Greek Island itinerary departs in July and August 2023 and 2024 on chic 264-guest L'Austral.
One of the more popular islands on this list, you'll find the beaches on the island of Syros are much less crowded than on other nearby islands. The main town, Ermoupoli, is home to a fascinating mix of architectural styles, with several excellent beaches for swimming and sampling seafood at a classic Green taverna. We like Seabourn's interesting September 2023 round-trip sailing from Athens that mixes in calls to Turkey, Israel and Cyprus.
The rarely-visited, pine tree-framed Thasos is one of the quietest Greek islands on this list - in fact, SeaDream is one of the only cruise lines that calls here. From sandy beaches to medieval history, spend your day exploring the mountainous landscape, strolling among ancient churches or sampling local fare at an authentic taverna. Visit on SeaDream's July 2025 Athens to Istanbul itinerary on 112-guest yacht Sea Dream I that also calls in to Skopeolos of Mamma Mia fame, Ottoman-era Kavala and the beautiful volcanic landscapes of Limnos.
Limnos or Lemnos has a low-key approach to tourism compared to other Greek islands and is perfect for off-the-beaten track exploration among its volcanic landscapes and rolling green hills, with hundreds of kilometers of coastline made up of private coves and picture-perfect harbours. Explore by walking the ruins of the Venetian castle for the best views of the island's volcanic landscapes, or spend time wandering around the charming harbourside capital Myrina, sampling the wine, honey, cheese and seafood for which the island is so well known. We like Star Clippers' October 2024 round-trip Athens voyage for a tall ship cruise experience without the summer crowds, while Regent also offers an October 2024 12-night sailing from Rome on board 482-guest Seven Seas Navigator that also spends time in Italy and Turkey.
Authentic Samos is famed for its lush green hills dotted with wildflowers that tumble down to picturesque fishing harbours and white-sand beaches. Don't miss the island's two UNESCO gems: The Pythagorion - the archeological site of Samos' ancient city and its underground aqueduct - and the Temple of Hera. If possible, visit between June and September to enjoy the island's cultural events and music festivals. A voyage on Azamara's 694-guest Azamara Journey in September 2024 offers an immersive itinerary that also calls in at Turkey's Kusadasi for spectacular Ephesus, as well as charming Agios Nikolaos and sun-kissed Rhodes.
The sleepy, quiet Greek island of Symi can only be reached with a small ship, meaning more space to enjoy its beautiful blue coves and sandy beaches. While away the hours at a beachside taverna or for more active pursuits, explore the island's 18th-century monastery or neoclassical architecture at the lovely main harbour of Gialos. July, August and September see the island come to life with festivals of music, concerts and religious feasts; visit on Seabourn's August 2024 sailing on 604-guest Seabourn Encore for two weeks of Greece and Turkey discovery, or opt for Silversea's 7- or 10-night July 2024 voyage on the elegant 392-guest Silver Whisper.
Milos has gained in popularity over the past few years - though still welcomes far fewer crowds than the likes of Mykonos or Santorini. Famous as the place where the Venus de Milo was discovered by a local peasant in 1820, this volcanic island is one of the prettiest in the Cyclades group, ringed by gorgeous beaches and bright blue hidden coves among charming fishing villages, mineral-rich cliffs and rock formations and excellent seafood restaurants. We recommend visiting Milos away from the summer crowds of July and August with Seabourn's 14-day May 2024 itinerary that begins in Israel, or Windstar's Istanbul round-trip October 2023 voyage on 312-guest Star Legend.