The Best Beaches in Greece
No other beach destination in Europe, and perhaps the world, has the charm, the majesty, the history, and the sheer sexiness of Greece. Maybe it's because the Greeks have had thousands of years to perfect the white wine and grilled seafood that goes along with being at the beach. Or the fact that there are countless beautiful islands to be discovered, where waking late, eating leisurely lunches with your toes in the sand, and staying up late to dance and mingle with friends is the blissful summertime routine.
The Cycladic Islands, located southeast of mainland Greece, are home to some of the most popular destinations in the whole country. For those who want a classic Greek beach getaway, islands such as Mykonos, Milos, Paros, Antiparos, and Serifos have been luring travelers for years. On these islands, you can stay in a five-star luxury hotel, such as the Santa Marina, a Starwood Luxury Collection property on Mykonos, or, in a smaller, but equally as stylish property, such as the Cocomat Eco-Residences on Serifos. (Interestingly, though it is one of the Cycladic islands, and has mesmerizing views out across the caldera, Santorini is not known for its beaches. Still, it's worth a visit, and tops many a traveler's bucket lists.)
For the history lover, Crete—the largest island in Greece, and the second largest island in the Mediterranean—has incredible ruins, monasteries, and castles to explore, in addition to stunning, almost primordial sandy shores. For those looking to venture off-the-beaten path, the Peloponnese—a peninsula forming the southernmost part of mainland Greece—has beaches that have been touched by little development, and see mainly locals-only traffic. The destination is also known as a weekend getaway for Athenians looking to get out of the city.
Here are some of the most stunning beaches that Greece has to offer, places where the water is clear, the mood is mellow, and the Instagram opportunities are endless. Heading to Crete? We've got an entirely separate, expanded list for you, this way.
A quiet beach with soft golden sand on the southeastern side of Mykonos, Lia is removed from the party scene—and perfect for couples and families who don't want to bother wearing designer head-to-toe during the day. People come here to snorkel and sunbathe, and there's a stylish beach restaurant to check out, too, so it's easy to make a whole day of it.
Close to Mykonos town, Kapari is a beach mainly used by locals, even in the popular peak season months. There are no sunbeds, or bars and restaurants. Parking is tricky (it's next to a small cliff) and reaching the beach itself can be a challenge (you'll have to clamber over rocks to get there). But the water in this quiet cove is warm and marvelous, and you won't be elbow to elbow with tons of tourists.
Psarou Beach, Mykonos
This beach embraces Mykonos' hedonistic, see-and-be-seen vibe. In the peak summer months, this sheltered cove is chock-a-block with blue loungers—and partygoers ordering magnums of rose from the pricey Nammos restaurant, dancing to club tunes while they swim. The water itself? Turquoise, shallow, and clear, so that you can see all the way to your toes. And yes, you'll also see plenty of yachts off in the distance.
Ftelia Beach, Mykonos
You'll need a rental car (or, at the very least, one of the island's few taxis) to get to this remote beach, which is located on the northern side of the island. When the wind picks up, you'll often spot windsurfers skipping over waves, but the beach is wonderful for swimming, too. There are also two standout restaurants where you can enjoy lunch: the boho-chic Ftelia, and Alemagou, an open-air, terraced spot that draws a chic Athenian crowd.
Agios Sositis, Mykonos
Set on the northern side of the island, Agios Sostis is a stunning, protected cove, and one of Mykonos' more remote sandy stretches—no nightclubs here. Rather, the beach takes its name from a small traditional chapel, which sits just above. For lunch, stop by Kiki's, an iconic tavern serving simple salads, grilled fish, and one killer giant pork chop. There's no electricity (and no reservations) so the restaurant closes up once the sun has set.
Home to thermal springs, ancient ruins, and lovely traditional fishing villages, Milos—an island that sees less traffic than Santorini and Mykonos—also has some 80 beaches to explore. Palioxori is a lovely pebbled beach bordered by beautiful multi-colored rock formations. The water here is beautiful and clear, and there is a beach bar on-site where you can grab drinks.
Adventurous types make the trek to this beautiful white sand beach, a series of three sandy coves that lie on the western coast of the island. There are several sea caves to explore, too, but no restaurant facilities—so go with your lunch packed and plenty of water.
Located on the north side of Milos, Sarakiniko has an otherworldly, almost lunar-like quality to it. Polished white boulders, made of volcanic rock, hug this tiny cove, where the turquoise waters are shallow—and perfect for families. Swimmers can spread out with a towel on the rocks to sunbathe.
Here, at this sheltered beach where the waters shift in color from blue to green, you'll find the hip Cocomat Eco-Residencies hotel, set in a complex of former miner's houses. The resort has placed mattresses and umbrellas on their side of the sand, and there's a lovely open-air bar offering panoramic vistas of the Aegean.
Fragos (Simos), Elafonisos
During the summer season, Elafonisos, which is located just off the coast of the Peloponnese, overlooking Kythria, becomes a haven for windsurfers and beach purists. They're here to visit Simos, one of Greece's most storied sandy stretches, because it's actually two beaches in one. A small strip of white sand divides Megalos Simons and Mikros Simos, and both beaches face out to the blue-green Aegean.
Yes, there are pink coral sand beaches in Greece. Located on the southwest side of Crete, Elafonisi is a tiny islet (and a protected nature reserve). On some days, the water is so shallow that you can actually wade through the lagoon to reach the nearly mile-long islet. On the mainland, you'll find sunbeds and a beach restaurant, as well as the nearby Chrysoskalitisa monastery.
Antiparos is one of Greece's best-kept secrets. A-listers including Tom Hanks have been vacationing on this Cycladic island for years, in part because locals leave them alone. Still, in-the-know travelers have been visiting more of late, thanks to the new Beach House, an eight-suite, rustic-chic property set on Apantima beach. Come for the day to sip rose at the bar, rent boats, and visit the hotel's standout concept store.
With its charming small towns, magnificent shores, and intimate, family-run tavernas, Paros is one of the Cycladic islands you can't miss. Backed by low rock formations, Kolymbithres, a small beach located close to the town of Naoussa, draws families to its warm, aquamarine waters. Here, you can rent chairs, splash in the Aegean, and stay on until the later hours to enjoy sunset.
Voidokoilia, Messinia, the Peloponnese
This beautifully curved bay, located in Messinia, has a unique history: it is believed to be the spot where King Nestor welcomed Odysseus' son, Telemachus, who was searching for his father. Legend aside, you'll find beautiful natural attractions to explore. For an ambitious workout, head to the southwest side of the beach and hike up above the hills to reach Nestor's Cave. Ancient Greek mythology holds that this is the place where Hermes hid 50 oxen he stole from his brother, Apollo. You can also make time to see the ruins of a 13th century castle. Behind the bay is the Gialova Lagoon, a protected nature reserve with a variety of bird species.