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Greek Islands 101

We’ve crafted three trips that cover all the bases, from Crete’s rustic charms to the no-holds-barred glamour of Mykonos and Santorini to the majestic history of Rhodes

By Jane Foster

Updated on January 25th, 2013

Knossos. Elafonissi. Delos. Oia. Vlychada. Psarou. Symi. We’ve organized a potent array of Grecian wonders into three easy itineraries that include some superstars of the ancient world, little-trod beach gems, well-known-but-worth-it cliffside havens, and entire islands just under the radar. On Crete, the seat of the ancient Minoans and a world unto itself, we delve into lovely Venetian-era port towns and a sprinkling of remote beaches where merely wading through the turquoise water is an event. On Santorini and Mykonos (in the Cyclades), which continue to cast a spell over international celebs and merrymakers, we find the stunning sunsets are worth the hype and Psarou Beach is actually more paradisiacal than Paradise Beach. In the Dodecanese chain of islands, where Rhodes still reigns with the majesty bestowed by the Crusaders, there’s much to be gained by venturing out to Symi, Leros, and Patmos, where sites like the Cave of the Apocalypse are really old hat and untouched villages beckon with low-key charm.

Tourism is still Greece’s No. 1 industry—hardly surprising considering the Greeks’ well-known flair for hospitality—and after the 2004 Olympics, the services for tourists are smoother and sleeker than ever. Recent updates to the transport systems have made it easier to navigate the new Athens airport and metro. Mykonos hotels have adopted a white minimalist look and added luxurious wellness centers. On Crete, all-but-abandoned rural farmhouses have been reborn as eco-friendly agritourism centers. Likewise, in medieval Rhodes Town, historic buildings have been converted into small hotels, many furnished with Ottoman-style antiques. And modern Greek taverna fare, a lighter and more experimental version of the original, has been gaining a foothold in chicer destinations.

But perhaps just as appealing as what’s changed is what’s remained the same: Age-old traditions like Easter lamb roasts, grape and olive harvests, and saint’s day celebrations are still big to-dos, attracting participants of all ages. This heady mix makes for an undeniably crowded high season, but don’t despair. Our three trips will steer you to both marquee attractions and lesser-known treasures, so you’ll end up on a perfect island, in a perfect bar, watching a perfect sunset, after another perfect day.

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