While it's impossible to definitively say one Greek island is the most popular, depending on how you calculate it, there are several "most popular" Greek islands. But travelers beware: The most popular Greek islands are usually the busiest and most expensive as well, and they may not be the most beautiful. Visit the one that fits your own travel style.
Most Visited: Santorini
By most counts, Santorini is definitely the most-visited Greek island.
It's a regular stop on most of the cruise lines serving Greece and can also be easily reached by plane, ferry, and hydrofoil from mainland Greece and many other Greek islands. Coming in second is Crete, followed by Corfu, Rhodes, and Mykonos. But Santorini is not the most popular island for local Greek travelers.
Most Popular for Weddings: Santorini
Santorini takes top honors in the wedding sweepstakes, with more foreign weddings taking place there than on any other Greek island. It's also the top honeymoon location.
Most Popular for Greeks
Many Greeks find Santorini too expensive and too overrun with foreign tourists, though it still ranks highly for romantic getaways. They most often flock to Paros, Skiathos, Aigina, and Evvia.
Most Popular for Gay Travelers: Mykonos
The international jet-setting island of Mykonos was the first Greek island to become popular with gays, and it still holds this distinction.
For gay female travelers, the Greek island of Lesvos or Lesbos is a kind of pilgrimage spot as the home of famed Greek poetess Sappho.
Most Popular by Nationality
Residents of the rest of Europe love to travel to Greece, and certain islands seem to almost belong to tourists of one nationality or another.
Why are some islands popular with one nationality and not with another? Usually, it's one of three reasons: history (the island may have been owned or invaded by that nation in the past), literary (a native writer from that country wrote about that particular island), and cinematic (a movie about that island was popular in that nation).
While everyone is welcome everywhere if you are more comfortable spending your vacation in Greece with your fellow citizens, here is a list of some of the islands by tourist origin.
- Amorgos: French travelers visit this island, the filming location for the Luc Besson film "The Big Blue."
- Crete: Germans, British, New Zealanders, Australians, Americans, and former residents of the Soviet Bloc. The Germans invaded and occupied Crete during World War II, displacing the British and New Zealand troops on the island. Veterans and descendants of all of these nationalities still visit, and the current large American base at Souda Bay assures a steady flow of travelers as well.
- Corfu: Italian, British tourists. Corfu was under the control of both at different times.
- Skiathos and Skopelos: British, Greek, and "Mamma Mia the Movie" fans of all nations.
- Kefalonia: Italian, British, German.
- Rhodes: British and Italian.
- Zakynthos: British and Irish.