Greece not only possesses the Mediterranean’s most extensive coastline, at 8,562 miles, but it’s also renowned for remarkably diverse beaches that grace its islands and the mainland.
In the Cyclades islands, family-friendly Naxos’ Prokopios beach offers long, golden stretches of sand, translucent waters, lounge chairs, and umbrellas for hire and water sports.
On romantic Milos island, Sarakiniko’s stark white volcanic rock formations will trick you into thinking you’ve landed on the Moon.
To the west, the verdant Ionian islands are lauded for their warm turquoise seas and sandy or pebbled shores. Zakynthos’ poster child Navagio beach features dramatic cliffs that plunge to a cove where a shipwreck lies half-buried in the sand.
Corfu, one of the Ionian’s best-loved bucket and spade destinations, is teeming with gorgeous beaches framed by pine and fir forests. Glyfada, on the western coast, is one of the island’s liveliest beaches. Families prefer it for its ample sunbeds and umbrellas, water sports, gently shelving sea bed and restaurants at the ready. It’s also a hotspot for sunset parties, particularly at Pazuzu beach bar, which attracts international DJs and an energetic crowd. At the northern end of the beach, it’s a little quieter and more sheltered from the occasional wind that whips in from the Adriatic.
How to get there: Flights are available from Athens. Buses run between Corfu Town and Glyfada.
Navagio (Shipwreck Beach), Zakynthos
Bird’s eye views of Navagio, also known as Shipwreck Beach, have starred in tens of thousands of Instagram posts. Located on the Ionian island of Zakynthos, it’s rightly considered one of the world’s most magnificent beaches. Surreal teal waters wash up to the coarse sand shore where a rusty shipwreck ("navagio" in Greek) lays partly-submerged in the sand, surrounded by soaring cliffs. MV Panagiotis ran aground at the secluded cove in the northwest of the island due to mechanical failure and foul weather in 1980. Take care when swimming as currents can be quite intense sometimes.
How to get there: Flights are available from Athens. Navagio beach is accessible only by boat, and there are multiple companies offering tours that include a stop there, some longer than others. Coach tours allow you to capture the beach from above, from the safety of a viewing platform.
Fine, creamy sand that is tinted pink at the shoreline thanks to millions of tiny seashells, Elafonisi Beach is a must-see when visiting Crete, Greece’s largest island. In a remote location southwest of port town Chania, it is actually an island divided from the mainland by a shallow lagoon and sandbar. Coach tours stop at Elafonisi, which means that it is hectic in the summer months, particularly on the umbrella-filled mainland beach. Wade through the lagoon to the islet, a protected nature reserve where rare plants thrive and lay out on the sand. September and October are good months to visit, as Elafonisi is considerably quieter.
How to get there: Flights are available from Athens to Chania. Buses run between Chania and Elafonisi, a distance of 46 miles, in the summer months. Coach tours of western villages include a stop at Elafonisi.
Young revelers descend on the Cycladic island of Ios, a star player on the Med party circuit, in July and August. Even in the height of summer, there is always space to stretch out on vast sandy Mylopotas beach, which lies a few minutes by bus from Ios’ capital Hora. Get comfortable on a sun lounger, order a cocktail from a beach bar and cool off in the cobalt waters of the Aegean. If you’re in the mood for an adrenaline hit, water sports operators offer tube rides, windsurfing, and water skiing. As dinnertime rolls around, try one of the seafront restaurants, like Salt.
How to get there: Fly to Santorini then take a fast ferry to Ios. Buses run from the port and Ios town to Mylopotas.
Anthony Quinn Bay, Rhodes
Named after Anthony Quinn, who swam in the hidden cove in between takes during the filming of "The Guns of Navarone," this is one of the most exquisite beaches on the Dodecanese island of Rhodes. Rocks dotted with wildflowers rise out of sparkling aquamarine waters, and pebbles populate the shore. Couples are particularly enamored of Anthony Quinn Bay as was the actor, who bought land nearby but never received the titles. As the beach faces the northeast, you’ll need to turn up early to take full advantage of the sunshine. Late afternoon is still lovely, and there are fewer beachgoers. A sole bar-restaurant serves drinks and light meals.
How to get there: Flights are available from Athens. Buses run from Rhodes town to the beach.
Ornos is a bustling yet laidback family-oriented beach on Cycladic party isle Mykonos with sandy shores, calm waters, and every facility you could hope for within a self-contained resort area. Lay back on a chaise longue and count the sailing and motor yachts anchored in this well-sheltered spot 2.1 miles south of Mykonos Town. Youngsters can safely swim in waters that deepen gradually. It’s a handy base from which to explore the rest of the island. There are a few hotels with direct beach access, chic seaside restaurants, supermarkets, a bakery, pharmacy, and a clutch of smart boutiques.
How to get there: Flights are available from Athens and fast ferries from Piraeus. Buses run from Mykonos Town to the beach.
Tall cliffs give way to white shingle shores that lead to luminous seas ranging in hue from lapis to royal blue. Myrtos beach is the most impressive beach on the Ionian island of Kefalonia. If you’re driving, make a roadside stop on the way down as you’ll want to capture the striking visuals from above. Situated in the northwest, it’s a popular all-day destination for couples, families, and groups of friends, who stick around to witness a dramatic sunset. Keep a close watch on the kids as the waters deepen quickly, and currents can be intense. Beach bars offer refreshments, and there are a couple of tavernas nearby.
How to get there: Flights are available from Athens. Buses run from Argostoli to Myrtos.
Antipaxos, a minuscule islet south of Corfu island, lays claim to Voutoumi. It’s one of those beaches that seem unreal until you witness it with your very own eyes. Its deep, flat pale cerulean waters are so translucent you can see down to the sandy sea bed. One of the best ways to experience this Ionian Sea idyll, a smaller sister to Paxos island, is to arrive via sailing yacht and drop anchor for a day or two. Charter a boat from Corfu or Lefkada and create an itinerary that encompasses Antipaxos. Alternatively, arrange to stay at Paxos and take a day trip to Antipaxos. September and early October are the quietest times of year to visit.
How to get there: Fly from Athens to Corfu and take a fast catamaran to Paxos. Water taxis run between Paxos and Antipaxos. Alternatively, day tours of Paxos and Antipaxos depart from Corfu.
Agios Prokopios, Naxos
Long, sandy beaches with shallow waters are one reason why the Cycladic isle of Naxos counts among Greece’s best family-friendly island destinations. Agios Prokopios beach, 3.8 miles south of Naxos’ capital, has granular sand that brushes off the skin quickly and doesn’t stick to beach towels. Toddlers can bathe safely in the pale aqua waters while teens keep busy with the kayaks and paddleboards available for hire. Like other beaches on Naxos, mile-long Agios Prokopios is ideal for windsurfing and particularly well suited to newbies. At the western end of the beach, you’ll find the chapel, after which the beach is named. With numerous beachfront accommodation options, it makes for an excellent jump-off point for exploring the island.
How to get there: Flights are available from Athens as well as ferries from Piraeus. Buses run between Naxos Town and the beach.
The volcanic island of Milos, located in the southwest Cyclades, has more than 70 beaches and is a geology buff’s dream destination. Sarakiniko, in the north of the island, features blindingly white curved rocks composed of pumice tuffs and limestone that give it a moonscape appearance. An inlet leads to a small beach nestled in a cove behind which you’ll find abandoned mining caves. Try cliff diving into the sapphire waters of the Aegean or snorkeling through undersea caves but beware of sudden swells. To the east, there is a shipwreck lodged in the seabed. Sarakiniko is best experienced in the morning on days with little to no wind.
How to get there: Flights are available from Athens as well as ferries from Piraeus. Buses run between Adamas and Sarakiniko.
One of just two palm trees species native to Greece is what makes Vai, an exotic sandy beach on the eastern coast of Crete, so unique. Situated in an otherwise arid area of Lasithi prefecture, Vai is home to a protected forest of some 4,500 Cretan date palms, the largest in Europe. Stories abound as to how the palms, which date back 2,000 years, including one claiming that Arab pirates who brought dates with them, ate them and discarded the pits. Palm trees have existed in Crete since ancient times. Once a hippie enclave, today, Vai is a tranquil swimming spot that’s well worth visiting. Expect it to be busy in the peak of summer.
How to get there: Flights are available from Athens as well as ferries from Piraeus. Buses operate between Sitia and Vai.
Couples gravitate to this golden sand crescent-shaped beach, whose name translates in Greek as the less romantic “ox belly.” Rather than describing the shape of Voidokilia, it is linked to an ancient myth involving Hermes stealing oxen from his brother Apollo. Hidden off the coast of the Peloponnese prefecture of Messinia, azure waters are flanked by rugged cliffs rich in vegetation. If a westerly wind is blowing, take shelter at the southern end. There, dunes lead up a hill offering views of Voidokilia and the Gialova wetlands, a haven for bird spotters. Bring suitable footwear if you want to hike up to Nestor’s Cave for a spectacular panoramic vista.
How to get there: Buses operate between Athens and Kalamata. From Kalamata, take a bus to Pylos and from there a taxi to Voidokilia.
Stunning Simos beach is found on Elafonisos, an islet lying off the southern coast of the Peloponnese’s Arkadia prefecture. For years it was a favored wild camping spot for naturists. Today there’s a campsite, with all the mod cons, just 164 feet away from the beach and its beautiful blue-green waters. Loll about on the dunes, some of which reach 33 feet high, though keep an eye out for endangered sand lilies and other plant species found on Elafonisos, a protected area within Europe’s Natura 2000 network. Aim to visit in May or September when there are significantly fewer fellow beachgoers.
How to get there: Take a bus from Athens to Neapoli in Arkadia. From there, ferries depart for Elafonisos.
Karpathos is one of the lesser-known islands in the Dodecanese, yet it has several beaches that rival the best in the Cyclades and Ionian. Heading north along the eastern coast, 11.8 miles from capital Pigadia, pine-forested slopes give way to the breathtaking spectacle that is Apella beach. Bright white pebbles set off vivid emerald waters to brilliant effect. Revel in the generous shade of a tamarisk and humming cicadas, rather than a rented parasol. Even on windy days, it is one of the best-protected beaches on Karpathos. Apella sees fewer visitors in June and September.
How to get there: Flights are available from Athens. Buses run between Pigadia and Apella. Boat tours also depart from Pigadia.
Halkidiki, a peninsula in northern Greece that resembles a trident, plays host to some astoundingly beautiful beaches. Lush Sithonia, the middle prong of three, is especially blessed. Kavourotripes is a string of dreamy beaches on the eastern coast tucked beneath thick pine forests with fine white sand and crystalline seas. Marvel at Seychelles-like sandstone formations on the main beach, where there are parasols, loungers, and a canteen. Stock up on refreshments and head to one of the adjoining Kavourotripes beaches, which attract fewer visitors.
How to get there: Flights are available to Thessaloniki. Buses operate from Thessaloniki, with a stop at Kavourotripes.