The Aegean Islands and Adriatic Islands of Greece are among the most famous tourist destinations in the world. Mediterranean cruises nearly always include one or more on their itineraries. The Aegean group of islands is divided into several sub-groups, the Cyclades and the Dodecanese Islands. The former include such gems as Santorini, Mykonos, and Delos, while the latter, near the Turkish mainland, include Patmos and Rhodes, among others. Here are my choices for the best of these wonderful tourist locations. A photo album will follow shortly.
1. Santorini – Arguably the most beautiful of all the Mediterranean islands, Santorini’s land mass is basically the rim of a volcanic crater. The towns of the island sit dramatically on the precipice of the crater rim and spill down the steep sides of the crater to the water below. The volcanic eruption which created this state of affairs occurred 1,500 years ago, and is thought by some to be the origin of the Atlantis myth. The eruption practically destroyed the entire island, leaving just the crater rim. The white-washed villages of Thira and Ia are delightful to explore.
2. Rhodes – This island, very close to the mainland of Turkey, was famous as the headquarters of the Knights of St John. The village of Rhodes is a beautiful, walled, Medieval town with much to see. Its a great place for walking. The town of Lindos, to the south, is also worth a visit.
3. Crete – The largest of Greece’s Aegean Islands, Crete is also the southernmost and marks the boundary between Europe and Africa. Although there are a number of interesting towns and cities to explore here, the most important tourist site on the island is Knossos, the Minoan palace complex, the center of this important civilization which occupied the region from 2800 BC to about 1150 BC. Besides visiting the Knossos site, spend some time in the museum in the city of Heraklion where many of the discoveries at Knossos palace are housed.
4. Mykonos – This lovely island, with its white-washed villages and blue-domed chapels, is less than 100 miles from Athens’ port, Piraeus. Stroll through the charming alleys of Hora, the island’s capital, checking out Little Venice and the cluster of windmills above the lovely harbor. Mykonos is also famous for its nightlife.
5. Patmos – St John the Theologian was exiled to this island in 95 AD. It was here that he was inspired to write the Book of Revelation (the Apocalypse). The monastery-fortress which was erected in his honor still stands and is the major draw for cruise ships and other visitors to the island.
6. Corfu – The city of Corfu, the main stop on this Adriatic island, west of the Greek mainland, is known for its three castles. The narrow, labyrinthine, cobblestone streets are pleasant to explore. It is a World Heritage Site, with its many churches, the most important of which is St Spiridon’s.
7. Delos – Probably the most sacred of the Greek isles, Delos was the reputed birthplace of both Apollo and Artemis. Today, it is uninhabited, basically an archaeological site and a day-trip for tourists. The majestic Sacred Way leads to the ruins of the Sanctuary of Apollo, with its assorted temples and other buildings. Most visitors arrive at Delos from Mykonos, by boat or caique.
8. Lesvos – One of the prettiest islands, this was the birthplace of the Greek poet, Sappho, and its name is the derivation of the word, lesbian. However, it is not just for gays. The food and drinks are fabulous here and it is more reasonable than some of the other islands.
9. Sifnos – Here, visitors may still be able to see the "real" Greece. Just 5 hours by ferry from Piraeus, this beauty and authenticity of this place brings people back year after year. Fantastic beaches, a clean harbor, and great food and wine make it a fun place for the entire family.
10. Paros – Besides making a great hub for the exploration of other islands in the vicinity, Paros offers great beaches. Check out the interesting fishing village of Naousa.