Anastasia Miari explores the unique characters and charms of six Greek islands featured on
Azura fly-cruises in 2024
Perhaps the most photographed of all the Greek islands, Santorini’s dramatic views and light-reflecting hilltop villages are true marvels. This volcanic island gained its unique horseshoe shape after a massive eruption around 1600 BC, and its most iconic villages – Oia and Fira – are perched somewhat precariously overlooking the island’s underwater caldera.
Wine is big business in Santorini due to the mistral winds, which keep the vineyards cool in summer. On a tour of the island’s vineyards, you’ll learn how the grapevines are trained into a basket shape to protect the Assyrtiko grapes from wind damage and, of course, sample some of the zesty wines for yourself.
Santorini isn’t primarily a beach destination: the best days on the island are spent wandering the pretty villages, taking in the ocean views from on high. If you do fancy a swim, make your way to Ammoúdi Bay, a quiet fishing port below Oia, and join the locals for a morning dip.
Vistas and vines
Shore experiences in SantoriniVolcano Hike: walk to the crater on Nea Kameni island and enjoy stunning views over the caldera of Santorini.
Santorini Panorama: the best Santorini views from the Mountain of Prophet Elias and other vantage points.
Traditional Village and Wine Tasting: savour stunning vistas from clifftop Oia before tasting Santo Winery wines.
With a milder climate than some of the other Cycladic islands, Cephalonia is a wild, green place where nature thrives. Among Greeks, it’s famous for its beaches and sandy coves, many of them only accessible on foot or by boat. It’s the perfect island to adopt a slower pace of life with a soundtrack of bees, cicadas and waves lapping at the shore. Melissani Cave shouldn’t be missed. It's a lake within a cave, complete with surrounding pine forest - try to visit around midday, when the entire cave appears as though lit with an ethereal blue light. Cephalonia’s beaches are world-beating and Kalamia is one of the most beautiful with its white-sand cove cossetted by lush vegetation. There’s an area with sun loungers and sections where you can turn up and roll out your towel. The circular walk around Argostoli Bay is an easy five-kilometre stroll that takes in a coastline framed with wild orchids, the ruins of old water mills and the odd passing goat.
Known as the ‘gem of the Ionian’, Corfu’s verdant green landscape has inspired artists and authors, from Gerald Durrell’s 1956 novel My Family and Other Animals to Edward Lear’s poetry. Corfu blooms from March until November and the heady smell of oleander and pine during these months is nothing short of intoxicating. International and cosmopolitan in its make-up, Corfu has been influenced by its European protectorates. The Venetians brought olive cultivation to the island in the 1500s, as well as the gold- and red-toned architecture, coastal fortifications and narrow pedestrianised alleyways that make up the UNESCO-listed Old Town of the island’s capital. The Liston – the town’s main square – is a grand esplanade built under Napoleon’s rule and modelled on Rue de Rivoli in Paris.
It’s now at the heart of Corfiot nightlife and the spot to pull up a chair and enjoy a glass of cold, cloudy raki while watching locals take to the cobblestones on their evening volta (stroll). A short taxi ride away from town is Mon Repos Palace, where the late Prince Philip was born. Visit the grand old home to see the dining room table on which the Duke of Edinburgh began his life and explore the gardens where, tucked behind dense cypress trees, is Kardaki, a swimming spot that most locals don’t even know about. And for a treat or two, don’t leave Corfu Town without trying the dark chocolate and kumquat gelato at Papagiorgis.
Shore experiences in CorfuRoyal and Rural Corfu: this small group experience brings the island’s rich history to life, blending the riches of Achilleion Palace with local life.
In the Footsteps of the Durrells: immerse yourself in the locations and life of the famous family, who lived here from 1935–1939.
Crete is the country’s unofficial capital of gastronomy. More isolated from the other southern Aegean islands, it is pretty self-sufficient, boasting seasonal and organic produce of its own. Unique to Crete is the dakos salad, traditionally a fisherman’s lunch of vine-tomato-topped rusk with capers, olives and crumbled myzithra cheese (similar to Italian ricotta). It stars on most taverna menus, but locals love Peskesi outside Heraklion’s Theotokópoulos Park for classic regional dishes served in a rustic stone house and a garden of blooming oleander. Just 15 minutes’ drive from Heraklion town centre is the island’s most historic landmark, the Palace of Knossos. The former political heart of Crete dates back to 2000 BC and is also the setting for the famous myth in which Theseus defeats the Minotaur. To get away from it all, follow the locals to Ammoudara beach to take a dip in the turquoise waters.
Shore experiences in CreteOlive Mill and Agios Nikolaos: discover more about Crete’s famed olive oil at Vassilakis Estate then explore the cafés and eateries of fishing village Agios Nikolaos.
Knossos and Wine Tasting: soak up the ancient wonders of the Palace of Knossos before savouring local wines and the island’s famous dakos salad.
Mykonos has been luring fun-loving visitors since the 1960s. Its whitewashed villages with striking blue shutters were even used as a film location for the 1989 cult classic Shirley Valentine. Now a cosmopolitan hotspot at the heart of the inky Aegean Sea, the island offers high-end dining, beach clubs and boutique shopping, all against a bougainvillea-splashed backdrop. The squat white windmills and centuries-old fishing huts that line the shore of the aptly named Little Venice are enchanting, and are, understandably, the island’s most photographed landmarks. Little Venice is also a romantic spot for lunch or dinner in one of the many excellent restaurants. In recent years, Mykonos has become something of a destination for art lovers. There’s a handful of galleries in Chora (Old Town), including Rarity Gallery and Dio Horia. Tucked down a narrow side street, the latter supports the work of emerging contemporary Greek and international artists, and the bijou rooftop bar with panoramic views is a hidden gem. A 15-minute stroll out of Chora is the white-sand beach Megali Ammos where you’ll find turquoise waters and a relaxed vibe.
Shore experiences in MykonosMykonos Cruise and Swim: relax on board, taking in the coastline, then cool off in crystal seas.
Mykonos and Mosaic Making: explore the Old Town before creating your own special mosaic.
History buffs will love Rhodes. Combining Gothic architecture with medieval ruins and Ottoman mosques, the UNESCO-listed Old Town is a fascinating place to explore. From the grand Byzantine gates that once fortified the town to the medieval Roloi Clock Tower that has watched over the island since the 7th century, the history of the island is everywhere you look. Owing to its proximity to Turkey, Rhodes has a multicultural feel that unites East and West. The Suleymaniye Mosque – the first to be built on the island during the Ottoman rule – still stands.
Elsewhere, at kafenio (traditional cafés), locals play backgammon in the dappled shade of trees and sip on silty coffees brewed in a briki pot. For a taste of the East that’s been left behind, look to Traditional Café Symi. Order a Greek coffee with a side of loukoumi (Turkish delight). Or head to the Byzantine Great Hammam of Rhodes for a soak and an invigorating pummel in a luxe marble-clad setting.
Shore experiences in RhodesRhodes Town by Bike: admire the historic town up close and learn about its rich history.
Lindos and Rhodes Town: explore the ancient acropolis of Lindos and then the heart of Rhodes Old Town.