Millions of visitors flock to Greece each year to seek out its cultural treasures and natural beauty. Some rubberneck with the crowds chasing sunsets in Oia on Santorini, or seek out raucous revelry on ultra-chic Mykonos.
Far beyond the usual Greek island suspects are less-touristy gems where you experience a more authentic Greek lifestyle without forfeiting vibrant village life and sun-splashed beaches.
Of Greece’s nearly 6,000 islands, islets and rocks in the sea, 227 are inhabited. That means holidaymakers and global explorers have a wide range of options to choose from when planning a trip to Greece. There is an island for every taste, and while most are easily accessible, some are so off the beaten path that they may require a bit of ingenuity to visit.
In the Aegean Sea, the Cyclades Islands are the most-visited group and include some of the most popular islands, including Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, Naxos, Milos and Ios. Ferry rides from the Athens port of Piraeus take four hours on high-speed boats.
The good news is you can sidestep the large crowds by escaping to these five lesser-known Cyclades Islands that are easily accessible, yet less interrupted.
In the last decade, Folegandros has received its share of positive press and gone from a sleepy hidden island in the Cyclades chain to a favorite among Greek island-hoppers. There are three main settlements on the island: Karavostathis is the port of entry and has a beach and lodging; Chora or Folegandros town is the island’s capital and is laid out as a small labyrinth lined with trees and many hotels, nightlife and dining; while the ancient village of Ano Meria remains a step back in time.
Don’t miss: Like its neighbors Milos and Sifnos, the island is known for its regional cuisine. In Chora, dine at To Spitiko restaurant for the meal of matsata, which is a traditional handmade pasta served with local rooster, goat or veal. In the rural and less-visited Ano Meria, Irini’s Place is an authentic taverna where Irini cooks by day and greets visitors during dinner. The beaches of Angali, Agios Nikolaos and Livadaki sparkle in color palettes of blue and green. Water taxis transport beachcombers to and from Angali.
Where to stay: Chora might be the most romantic traditional medieval capital in the Cyclades. The local Greek Aria hotel collection has its Aria Boutique Hotel in Chora Folegandros. Or stay right on the beach of Angali at the traditional Cycladic whitewashed apartments Kymanemi Folegandros, run by locals who treat you like family.
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