Best for: Sailing, hiking, exotic food, beaches, photography (21 days)
Athens • Piraeus or Lávrio • Kéa • Sérifos • Mílos • Amorgós • Astypálea • Kálymnos • Nísyros • Tílos
Many of the Aegean Islands are simply made to be walked, with their bleached-white sands, ragged coastal stretches and abundance of medieval castles. Half the fun lies in just getting around, negotiating ferries (albeit often inconsistent outside of high-summer) or bagging your own yacht.
Begin in Athens before heading to Piraeus to charter a boat, or Lávrio to book a ferry. For those looking for a good trek, Kéa is a good place to start. Part of the Cyclades group of islands, it actively caters to walkers and is distinguished by its oak trees, which partially shade trekkers on the best trails from tile-roofed Ioulída to Otziás Bay, or to ancient Karthaia.
Next, sail to the island of Sérifos, south of Kéa. Its eponymous capital is one of the Aegean’s most striking Cycladic villages, painted a glistening white. Waymarked and numbered trails radiate out from here across the island, while good south-facing beaches lie either side of the main port.
Continue on to the volcanic island of Mílos, which has some of the finest beaches in the Aegean – the sand at Paleohóri is even warmed by steam vents. Photographers gravitate to fishing village Klíma for its boathouses or the island’s coastal rock formations, created when lava hit the sea. Beautiful emerald beach, Greece (Shutterstock)
Further on, the island of Amorgós has the premier Aegean walk: a five-hour traverse between Hozoviótissa monastery and Egiáli port in the far north-west, where an easier loop-hike links in other villages.
Next, leave the Cyclades islands and explore their Dodecanesian neighbours, known for their medieval architecture. The island of Astypálea lies south-east of Amorgós and is graced with a gorgeous hilltop village huddled below a Venetian castle, while its south-western beaches are good but remote.
Beyond Astypálea, Kálymnos is almost urban and relatively untouristed. With its traditional sponge-gathering livelihood extinct, ‘alternative’ tourism rules here, with world-class rock-climbing, as well as hiking along a network of medieval paths and Italian roads. Capital Póthia has pastel-coloured mansions and intricate wrought-iron balustrades to point cameras at.
Finally, Nísyros isn’t just volcanic, it is a volcano – albeit currently dormant. Colourful north-coast Mandráki and volcano-rim Nikiá offer the main photo ops. From Nikiá, the island of Tílos is clearly visible opposite; it’s no longer so undiscovered but merits a visit for good walks among its secluded beaches and half-dozen castles.
When to go? April–June and September for walkers; May–October the Aegean is swimmable.
This article is supported by the Greek National Tourism Organisation, but it is impartial and independent - just like all Wanderlust editorial
Main Image: The cycladic windmills of Sérifos Island, overlooking the Aegean Sea (Dreamstime)