Surrounded by the Aegean, Ionian, and Mediterranean Seas, consists of more than 2,000 islands (227 of which are inhabited) and about . That equals countless beautiful beaches, breathtaking bays, and lovely coves to explore. Some are white, some are red, some are pink, and some are black. Some have fine sand and others are made from pebbles. Some attract hordes of tourists while others remain under the radar. In fact, there are so many options that it can be difficult to choose. Competition is stiff, but we’ve outlined 12 of the best Greek beaches below. Tip: If you are beach-bound, the is generally late May to early October, when the sun is shining and the water is warm enough for swimming.
1. Navagio Beach, Zakynthos
Sheltered by steep limestone cliffs, Navagio Beach is only accessible by boat. Once a secret spot, it may just be the most photographed beach in all of Greece these days. In addition to white sand and turquoise water, visitors will find a rusted, beached boat along the shore here. As the legend goes, the ship was smuggling cigarettes, wrecked nearby, and was left behind in this seemingly secluded bay. This has earned Navagio Beach nicknames like Shipwreck Beach and Smuggler's Cove. Those interested in visiting can set sail from Porto Vromi, Agios Nikolaos, or Cape Skinari. You can also get that quintessential Navagio Beach shot from a lookout point above. Just don't expect to be the only beach bum around. The rugged western coast of Zakynthos has attracted a lot more tourists lately. While you're on the island, leave time for the Venetian Castle and Keri Lighthouse.
Zakynthos Hotel Pick:
2. Lalaria Beach, Skiathos
Named for the glistening white pebbles that line its shore, Lalaria Beach on the northeastern tip of Skiathos has been a protected reserve since the 1960s. You could face a fine of over $1,000 for trying to take one of the famed pebbles home. Along with the natural rock arch and emerald waters, these pebbles contribute to the beach's postcard prominence. But Lalaria is more than picturesque. It gets pounded by northerly winds, which has created a unique topography. The surrounding sea caves and cliffs make it the perfect beach for adventure-seekers. Boats and sea taxis are available from Skiathos Town whenever the waves are calm enough to allow visitors. Just be sure to take some water shoes to protect your feet.
Skiathos Hotel Pick:
3. Myrtos Beach, Cephalonia
Myrtos Beach isn't just one of the best beaches in Greece; it's regularly featured on lists of the best beaches in Europe and even the world. Situated between the feet of two verdant mountains (Agia Dynati and Kalon Oros), and reached via a winding road, the beach's stunning views begin before you even step foot on the pure white sand. The mile-and-a-half stretch offers plenty of space for travelers who dare to traverse the hike down to it. It's hands-down the biggest attraction of Cephalonia island -- and a killer spot to watch the sun set.
Cephalonia Hotel Pick:
4. Elafonissi Beach, Crete
Greece's largest island, , has a lot to offer. Its ancient history, iconic landmarks, tasty cuisine, and natural beauty leave little to be desired. Perhaps best of all, it's warm year-round. And in its southwest corner sits our favorite Cretan beach. Named for the tiny uninhabited island it connects to, Elafonissi Beach's sprawling pink sand opens up to idyllic blue-green waters. On some days, the water is so shallow that you can wade through the scenic lagoon to Elafonisi. The island is a protected nature reserve, so it's clean, and lifeguards keep a constant watch, so its safe for all ages. If you like extreme sports, look into windsurfing. While you're in the area, be sure to check out the Chrysoskalitissa Monastery.
Elafonisi Hotel Pick:
5. Plaka Beach, Naxos
The Cycladic island of Naxos is full of incredible, diverse beaches. There are wild bays for surfers, quiet coves for private sun-seekers, and calm waters for families. The southwest coast is home to Agia Anna, Agios Prokopios, Mikri Vigla, Pyrgaki, and the best of all, Plaka. It offers a bit of everything, but one of the most common activities here is simply strolling along the two miles of sun-kissed sand. The water is incredibly clear and seaside taverns are happy to serve drinks and local cuisine right to your towel. The long expanse leaves plenty of room for both tourists and local nudists who used to dominate this splendid beach.
Naxos Hotel Pick:
6. Red Beach, Santorini
Volcanic activity isn't rare in Greece, but a lasting effect this beautiful is. The Red Beach in southern Santorini is definitely the most famous on the island, outshining even the magnificent black-sand beaches like Perissa, Perivolos and Agios Georgios. The scarlet cliffs provide a dramatic backdrop for the pebbly sand and azure waters. The unique palette of colors can be reached by hiking from the Akrotiri archaeological site parking lot, driving down Akrotiri mountain, or riding a catamaran. You can rent a lounge chair or simply throw down your towel when you find a suitable spot. And pack your snorkeling gear because there are several enthralling rock formations in the water.
Santorini Hotel Pick:
7. Balos Beach, Crete
Balos is another pinkish Crete specialty. The white and colored sand stretches around shallow pools of warm and clear water, creating a unique beach and lagoon. If you time your visit right (and get lucky), you might even spot a sea turtle or monk seal. The nearby rocky island of Gramvousa has a Venetian castle perched on top. Its historical significance and incredible views are helping Balos climb the ranks of best beaches in Greece. The Royal Yacht Britannia is also rumored to have visited the island when Prince Charles and Princess Diana celebrated their honeymoon.
Crete Hotel Pick:
8. Sarakiniko Beach, Milos
Have you ever wondered what a beach would look like on the moon? Sarakiniko Beach on the north shores of Milos may give you an idea. Wind and saltwater have sculpted soft pumice rocks into intriguing horizontal shapes, dotted with small and gaping hollows. The white rocks stretch into the Aegean Sea, mimicking an extraterrestrial landscape of kaleidoscopic proportions. According to local legend, the Saracen pirates hid their plunder in tunnels beneath the shore and in the rock formations. Sarakiniko is actually a small canal and a network of narrow coves, so you may have to stage your sunbathing on the rocks. They aren't nearly as slippery as they seem. Sarakiniko Beach is also usually quiet, leaving space to find your very own lunar-looking spot.
Milos Hotel Pick:
9. Apantima Beach, Antiparos
Antiparos is one of Greece's best-kept secrets. It was once a camper's holiday and is now frequented by Tom Hanks and other celebrities looking for natural beauty and seclusion. Their presence has led to an array of stylish restaurants, buzzy bars, and trendy concept stores to explore. Overall, Antiparos is low-key, but fashionable. Set in one of the island's lovely coves is the picturesque Apantima Beach. The small, tranquil spot is fully protected from summer winds. Plus, one of the island's best culinary locales is right above the beach, promising a selection of local specialties and drinks.
10. Porto Katsiki, Lefkada
Located on the Ionian Island of Lefkada, at the foot of an enormous cliff, lies Porto Katsiki. In fact, Porto Katsiki translates to "Goat Port" because only goats were able to reach the area in the past. Luckily, the beach has opened up and stairs have been added to guide visitors to the sand and water below. It's also possible to take a boat tour or private yacht from the nearby town of Nidri. There are a few small restaurants, but it's a great place to bring a picnic. Kitesurfers, as well as beach lovers, flock to Porto Katsiki. Stick around for sunset, when the cliff turns orange. But plan to show up early before the other tourists arrive.
Lefkada Hotel Pick:
11. St. Paul's Bay, Rhodes
Situated just south of Lindos, Rhodes, St. Paul's Bay has a historical story of its own. Paul the Apostle reportedly landed at the beach in 51 A.D. to spread Christianity to the island's citizens. The bay has since become a warm and sandy religious site, complete with a small church that commemorates the event. Now, the place is popular for destination weddings, but you don't have to celebrate St. Paul or nuptials to enjoy the spot. The calm waters make it one of the best beaches for swimming on the island, plus it's popular for snorkeling and scuba diving, too.
Lindos Hotel Pick:
12. Voidokilia Beach, Messinia
This Messinia beach is best known for its unique shape, which resembles the Greek letter omega. White sand curves around the blue-green water in a perfect semicircle. Voidokilia also has a long, unique history. Occupation dating back to 4000 B.C. and ancient mythology states that it's the place where Hermes hid 50 oxen that he'd stolen from his brother, Apollo. It's also believed to be the spot where King Nestor welcomed Telemachus, son of Odysseus, when he was searching for his father. The remains of a 13th-century Frankish castle also stand at the south end of the beach, where nudists tend to catch some rays. The whole bay is surrounded by a dazzling lagoon and protected bird sanctuary, which helps keep the environment unspoiled. Take time to walk the dunes and climb the hills to Nestor's Cave for a bit of a workout.
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