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Discover the Real Greece: Seven of the Most Authentic Greek Islands

Tourism is booming in Greece, with holidaymakers drawn here to admire the dazzling colours, relax on sun-kissed beaches, explore archaeological sites and savour traditional cuisine. But many people don’t venture beyond cosmopolitan islands, like Santorini, Mykonos and Rhodes.

If you want to know the real Greece then it pays to get off the beaten track and seek out the lesser-known gems. Here are seven of the most authentic Greek islands.

1. Nisyros

Nisyros is popular with daytrippers from Rhodes and Kos, keen to experience its smoking volcanic crater. But this authentic Greek island is otherwise untouched by mass tourism.

The charming port town of Mandraki – the island’s sleepy capital – along with the picturesque village of Nikia clinging to the rim of the volcanic crater are bursting with traditional architecture and tavernas filled with welcoming locals. 

2. Folegandros

Only a short ferry ride from Santorini, Folegandros is a whole different world. Sparsely populated, this barren landscape is similarly dramatic to its tourist-trodden neighbour, but this is Greece at her most alluring.

Discover remote, untouched beaches lapped by crystalline waters and wander narrow alleyways and bougainvillea-covered courtyards. Dine in authentic tavernas and watch the spectacular sunset from cliff-top Hora – without the crowds!

3. Paxos

One of the smallest and least commercialised of the Ionian islands, Paxos is a captivating beauty covered with lush vegetation and lapped by aquamarine waters.

This is an island people visit to wind down and escape from everyday life. Sip coffee in a seafront café, observe fishermen bring in their catch, swim in tranquil coves, and people-watch in picturesque squares.

4. Tilos

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Tilos may be ahead of the times when it comes to green principles, being the most eco-friendly island in the Mediterranean. But the moment you step off the ferry, you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to the Greece of old.

There are no fancy hotels or trendy beach bars here. Instead you’ll encounter traditional Greek island life, with small villages, tranquil beaches, wonderful walking, amazing food and a very warm welcome.

5. Astypalea

Butterfly-shaped Astypalea offers a throwback to a slower, gentler pace of life. Little known outside of Greece, the architecture of this Dodecanese island is heavily influenced by its Cycladic neighbours.

Whitewashed houses cling to dramatic hilltops dotted with vibrant bougainvillea and blue-domed churches, while hiking trails lead to hidden coves and sandy beaches. It offers all the charm and beauty of the more popular islands while retaining its traditional character.

6. Halki

A tiny island off the coast of Rhodes, what Halki lacks in size it certainly makes up for in character. This is an island where time stands still (literally – the harbour clock was stopped for being too noisy!).

The island’s only town, photogenic Emborio, is the perfect place to amble and people watch, while the sleepy atmosphere makes exploring the deserted town of Horio and medieval castle a delight.

7. Amorgos

Filming location for Luc Besson’s The Big Blue, Amorgos is one of the most authentic Cycladic islands. What it lacks in fancy tourist facilities, it makes up for in stunning beauty.

This craggy island attracts hikers and divers but is blissfully off the Cycladic island-hopping route, so you can enjoy the deserted beaches, ancient ruins, mountain trails and traditional tavernas all to yourself.

Visit the Authentic Greek Islands of Nisyros, Tilos and Halki with Nissia Holidays

Nissia Holidays specialises in the tiny, unspoilt Dodecanese islands of Halki, Tilos and Nisyros. If you fancy a glimpse of authentic Greek island life, check out our accommodation today.

For more information on the most authentic islands in Greece or to book your holiday in Halki, Tilos or Nisyros, contact Nissia Holidays on 01455 289421 or email us: info@nissiaholidays.com.


Jo worked on Tilos in 2006, as the last Island Manager for Laskarina. She now runs a travel writing business and travel blog, The Wandering Wordsmith, and spends much of her year travelling. But Greece, especially Tilos, will always hold a special place in her heart.

  1. Mike and Penny Wade says:

    We always sniggered at people who went back to the same holiday destination year after year.
    Then we discovered Halki and Tilos.
    Yes, we go back to both, year after year!

  2. Esther says:

    I really like your website!
    I also love to visit the small, more authentic Greek islands, especially in the summer, as because of my work I am tied to the high season then.
    From the islands you mentioned on your website I’ve been to Sifnos, Folegandros, Astypalea, Paxos, Amorgos (only 1 night) and Halki (2 separate day trips from Rhodes in February). I loved them all, but I would also suggest some other Greek islands as authentic and not too touristic in the summer. These islands are Kimolos (one of my favorite, been there four times), Anafi, Syros, Serifos (in August too crowded for me) and Kalymnos (been there in December/January).
    Next summer I’ve planned to visit Tilos for the first time, besides Astypalea and Kimolos again.
    Outside the high season I often visit Corfu in May and October, as it feels like my ‘second home’ there, many friends live there.

    1. Many thanks Esther, for your kind words and comments! We share the love for our unspoilt Greek islands and it is great that you’re visiting Tilos next summer! Let us know if we could be of any help and make sure you read our guides on Tilos in our blog to be prepared.

      Happy Holidays!


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