History-crammed landscapes, dazzling azure coves, charming seafood tavernas, that pupil-tightening combination of brilliant whitewash against cobalt blue skies… Greece has long been the ultimate summer-holiday destination. But which romantic island or pine-lined coastline to pick? We point you in the right direction with our go-to guide to the best Greek getaways, from honeymoon hotels on volcanic slopes to luxury beach boltholes.
BEST FOR ROMANTICS: SANTORINI
Coastline Azure Aegean Coast life Lazy days; candlelit dinners
Why to go The southernmost of the Cyclades, this rugged beauty is famed for its sunsets, wine and the turquoise sea that surrounds it. Take a hotel room facing the vast volcanic bay (the caldera) and, as you watch ships criss-cross below, you’ll realise that you’re looking at one of the most awe-inspiring, and romantic, views on the planet.
Where to stay For romance in all sense of the word, it’s hard to beat a stay in a 300-year-old cave conversion at Perivolas near Oia: perched in an amphitheatrical landscape of curves stepping down to a pool that flows over the edge of the cliff into the horizon, the hotel grounds encompass 14,000 square metres of vineyards and wild fig trees. Minimal decor and an abundance of white pull focus on those stunning caldera views. Down the coast in Imerovigli village, overlooking the volcanoes Palea and Nea Kameni and set just above the famous Theoskepasti church, family-owned Kapari Natural Resort is another honeymoon-perfect retreat. We love Room 102 for its bed in the loft, reached by climbing a set of whitewashed steps, and its luscious light, which streams in through duck-egg-blue shutters.
BEST FOR ESCAPISTS: FOLEGRANDOS
Coastline Unspoilt paradise Coast life Laid-back island time
Why to go Looking for an alternative to Santorini? Meet its sister island: quieter, less-visited Folegandros, just 45 minutes away by catamaran. This sun-baked, treeless isle – where goats are rife and traditional tavernas abundant – has all the stunning ocean panoramas and secluded sandy beaches you need for a Greek island getaway par excellence.
Where to stay Sleek and stylish Anemi Hotel (right) has a view to write home about. The spacious Junior Pool Suites are honeymooners’ heaven: there’s a large bedroom and separate living room, and you can lounge in your private pool while admiring your sweeping sea vistas. Request a picnic hamper and set out to explore the island: the mediaeval settlement of Kastro is an amazing clifftop spot with spectacular views. Or take a boat ride to get a glimpse of Chrysospilia, a deep cave tucked into the edge of a cliff 30m above the sea, on the north-east side of Folegandros.
BEST FOR ADVENTURERS: HALKIDIKI
Coastline Pristine beaches and pine forests
Coast life Sails, snorkels and sunsets
Why to go Halkidiki’s beautiful Blue Flag beaches are underpopulated, unsullied and utterly Instagram-worthy. Much of the action takes place away from dry land and out on the water. Take to the sea from the gulf of Vourvourou in Sithonia and you can dive captivating coral reefs or cross piercing blue lagoons to moor at deserted coves in craggy archipelagos; from the little port of Ormos Panagias, you can sail to the Unesco-protected mountain of Athos.
Where to stay On Halkidiki’s central ‘finger’, Sithonia, Ekies All Senses Resort is perfectly placed to make the most of this peninsula’s array of distractions. With a sun-drenched beach, palm-fringed pool, eco spa and hipsters’ wet bar falling into the Aegean, it’s about all-natural, barefoot luxury. Sip ouzo in a hammock stretched over aqua seas, sun-soak on bleach-white sands, borrow mountain bikes and explore, or set sail for undersea adventures or make a pilgrimage to holy Mount Athos, dotted with monasteries.
BEST FOR HEDONISTS: MYKONOS
Coastline Sprinkled with sugarcube houses
Coast life Cosmopolitan party people
Why to go With a perfectly curved bay, mazes of whitewashed alleys and picturesque windmills peppering the hills to the south, Mykonos was one of the first Greek islands to be ‘discovered’ in the 1950s, and its happening harbours became a must-see for any island-hopper. A long-time favourite of the jet set, it’s a summer party hotspot for a coterie of toned and tanned model types.
Where to stay Housed in a cluster of white-washed stone buildings, boho beach bolthole San Giorgio Mykonos channels the Ibiza villa vibe with its laid-back atmosphere and on-trend trappings – it’s the perfect post-clubbing crash-pad. Party-seekers can head to Paradise Club, the sleek hangout for the island’s well-heeled crowd run by San Giorgio’s owners: guests get free transfers and VIP treatment. Alternatively, within a walk of the buzz of Mykonos Town, beachside Bill & Coo is achingly hip and refreshingly chilled: prop up the elegant poolside bar for mojitos and midnight seduction.
BEST FOR RURAL RETREATS: EAST PELOPONNESE
Coastline Cobblestones, castles, ancient architecture
Coast life Submerged cities, secret shores
Why to go This remote, timeless region and its ancient churches will keep Byzantine fans busy for days; flora flourishes in a landscape of vineyards, olive trees and orange groves, and there are mountains to the east and west.
The peninsula boasts golden beaches, buried cities and caves to navigate by boat. Don’t miss Sparta, home of Helen of Troy; Mystras, a deserted fortified town; and stopping off from long drives at one of the roadside tavernas serving souvlaki and saganaki.
Where to stay High in the hills in eastern Laconia, Kinsterna Hotel lets you be king of the castle: you can overlook the fairy-tale rock city of Monemvasia from a prime point, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, on an ancient Byzantine estate. Help out with some grape-crushing; personalise the label and name the wine in your honour, and the hotel will have it shipped to you once it’s ready.
BEST FOR FAMILIES: CRETE
Coastline Treasure island
Coast life Minoans, myths and merry-making
Why to go Birthplace of Minoan civilisation, the largest Greek island was bound to be beautiful, cultured and rich in history; its Riviera-rivalling beaches, mysterious caves, verdant olive groves and deeply traditional, hospitable locals are unexpected extras. Ottoman mosques, Byzantine monasteries and the ruins at Knossos, Malia, Zakros and Phaistos thrill culture-seekers of all ages; and the weather stays sunny until almost November, making it the perfect shoulder-season stay.
Where to stay No need to sacrifice style on a family holiday: look for boutique villa-style accommodation for family-sized stays that come with all the luxe trappings and flexibility you need when you’re en famille. We love Domes of Elounda, which has spacious suites, a pretty little private beach (above), and three restaurants, including Anthos, helmed by Michelin-starred chef Philippe Geneletti. Make the voyage across the bay to the hauntingly atmospheric island of Spinalonga; it’s both an ancient fortress built long before Christ and a former leper colony.
Paradise Island Villas (right), a small-scale, family-run set-up with wonderful hospitality, sits scattered between the mountains and Mediterranean, just outside Anissaras. Terracotta tiles and bougainvillea-clad walls lead to earthy, minimal interiors. Outside, private gardens have their own pools, dining areas and Jacuzzi jets. The nearest beach? Just a 10-minute stroll…
For more information about travel in Greece, go to http://visitgreece.gr. Find your perfect romantic Greek holiday destination on Mr & Mrs Smith, or browse our hand-picked family-holiday hotels on Smith & Family.