Fishing villages, mountain trails and vineyards reign supreme on the island of Samos. Its biggest claim to fame is probably mathematician Pythagoras, who was born here thousands of years ago. You can even stay in a town named after him. That said, the island's got a lot more going for it. Nature trails lead up into the mountains, ticking off forests and sleepy villages on the way. One such mountain, Mount Ambelos, is the guardian of the island’s terraced vineyards, which produce sweet wines, like Muscat. Wine tasting aside, there are two UNESCO-rated sites to explore. The Efpalinio Tunnel is one of the oldest manmade aqueducts in the world. Then there’s the Temple of Hera – the ruins of a huge collection of ancient temples. As for beaches, most of them come equipped with a small dose of cafés or tavernas. For something completely secluded, flag down one of the local fishermen and ask them to take you to Samiopoula. It’s about an hour’s boat ride from Samos, and makes for an off-the-beaten-track beach day. The talc-white sands are accessorised with umbrellas, a tiny taverna, and little else, so make sure you bring all the essentials with you.
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As one of Greece’s greenest islands, Thassos is perfect for hiking and biking. Vineyards and olive groves decorate its interior, along with a whole load of nature trails. One of the best places to take in cloud-high views of the green-blanketed isle is from the top of Mount Ipsarion. Along the way, you’ll pass charming villages like Potamia and Panagia, where the houses conform to the traditional Greek colour-scheme of white and blue. And sea and beach views from the summit make the four-hour hike all worth it. The clifftop Archangelos Monastery also has a prime viewing position. The beaches are pretty to boot – Marble Beach is one of our faves. Here, bright-white pebbles act as sand substitutes, giving the sea its cyan-blue appearance. Then there’s one dubbed Paradise Beach for its Caribbean-like sands and waters. Snorkelers and daredevil cliff divers will love the Giola. Hand-painted signs lead you along a dirt track to this natural rock pool, which is set into a rocky amphitheatre overlooking the Aegean Sea. History fans, meanwhile, can turn their attention to capital, Thassos Town. This port town has stayed true to its roots, blending modern shops and bars with a Roman amphitheatre and ancient acropolis. Unlike the Athens and Rhodes equivalents, you won’t have to battle for elbow room to check out the well-preserved ruins.
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Despite sitting near to both Santorini and Mykonos, go-slow Naxos feels a world away from its lively neighbours. You won’t hear much chart music around here, instead it’s replaced with traditional Greek singing and dancing. Locals believe they were born dancing, so it’s not unusual to see people of all ages dressed in traditional attire and giving live shows at traditional tavernas. Plus, there are regular events at the Venetian Museum in capital, Naxos Town. Sunset concerts, guitar recitals and jazz evenings all top the bill. Alternatively, spend the evening wandering the city’s cobbled streets. Along the waterfront, you’ll find a good round-up of swish bars and eateries, while the old town is characterised by tucked-away tavernas serving classics like moussaka. The grand Venetian castle watches over everything from its hilltop postcode. Just 10 miles south, you’ll find a collection of some of Greece’s best beaches. The bottle-green cedar forest of Alyko gives way to a clutch of small, gorgeous coves. Not only are they near-deserted, but the water ranges from light mint to deep emerald in colour. Venture inland, on the other hand, and things really go back to basics. Ramble past rivers, waterfalls and flower-filled meadows and through mountainside villages like Halki and Apiranthos. The former is packed full of historic villas and tower houses, while the latter is nicknamed ‘the marble village’ for its marble-paved streets, squares and cafés. Because it’s the most fertile of the Cyclades island group, olives, grapes, figs and citrus fruit are all in good supply, too.
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This North Aegean island might be unknown to most, but it’s no stranger to the silver screen. The rugged landscapes and people-free beaches provided the backdrop for Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan in musical, Mamma Mia!. While the beans have been spilled for white-sand stretches like Kastani Beach, there are still plenty of hidden spots, if you’re willing to hire a boat out. Head north from Panormos and you’ll hit picture-perfect coves all the way up. Hovolo, Ftelia and Neraki are some of the highlights – the water here gives a whole new meaning to ‘crystal-clear’. We’re betting it was the chapel of Agios Ioannis that really won the Hollywood directors over, though. The whitewashed church perches on top of a 100-metre-high rocky headland, and it made quite the romantic location for the film’s spur-of-the-moment wedding. Time your visit for early evening for the best chance of having it all to yourself. The island’s also recognisable for its pine trees – in fact, 80% of it is cloaked in forest. So, it’s easy to find your own secluded hideaway among the vineyards, olive groves and plum orchards. Things get a little more urban as you head into the biggest resort, Skopelos Town. But it’s still traditional down to a T – the hillside is peppered with white houses and chapels, as well as a crowning Venetian fortress.
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Meganissi majors in desert island-style beaches, which is hardly surprising considering that the island has just three villages. At 20 square kilometres in size, you can even walk between the villages on a cool day, if you don’t mind sharing the path with the odd goat or two. Beach days are a real adventure here – you’ll need to head out on foot or by boat to reach most of them. The plus side? It means they’re usually blissfully empty. Even if you’re not the first to arrive, you’ll be pushed to find a beach with more than a dozen or so sunbathers in Meganissi. Just make sure you bring lunch and any essentials you might need, as most of them come with a simple backdrop of trees and shrubbery. When you need to venture into town, you’ll find all the usual tourism marks missing. In Vathi, you can forget high-rise hotels, souvenir shops and bars – it’s more about the stunning chapels and family-run tavernas. What it lacks in nightlife, it more than makes up for with some of Greece’s best cuisine. You don’t get much more authentic than the beef stifado, meatballs and moussaka cooked up in these harbourfront eateries. Spartochori, too, is pretty-as-a-picture, with its whitewashed homes decorated with pink-purple bougainvillea.
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Lefkas – aka Lefkada – is technically linked to the mainland by a bridge, but that doesn’t seem to impact its peaceful, island vibe. The island's east coast is slowly coming around to the idea of tourism. Sailboats are popping up in the harbours of traditional fishing villages, on top of a handful of family-friendly restaurants. The traditional tavernas, however, still serve local specialities like Bourdeto – fish cooked in a tomato sauce. Over on the west coast, things take a rustic turn. It’s here you’ll find some of the island’s best beaches – think electric blue waters and soaring white cliffs. Some of the best stretches aren’t easy to reach, hence the lack of sunbathers. Take Egremni – it’s now only accessible by boat, while 100 steps lead down to the swathe known as Porto Katsiki. But one glance at what awaits you will reassure you that it was worth breaking a sweat for. Inland, the island flaunts more postcard-worthy scenes, thanks to a medley of waterfalls, forests and limestone mountains.
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With highly polished interiors and a Blue Flag beachfront location, the TUI SENSATORI Atlantica Dreams Resort and Spa adds a splash of luxury to an under-the-radar corner of Rhodes.
Location is key at this hotel – it's a secluded adults-only retreat, edged by vast olive groves and the Ionian Sea.
The TUI SENSATORI Atlantica Caldera Palace is well-versed in the art of indulgence. Everything from meals to spa treatments are served with a touch of classic, Greek style.
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