Dreamy whitewashed towns rising from the azure sea. Sunsets over the domes of Santorini. Sunrise parties in Mykonos. It's easy to see why the Greek Islands have held traveler's imaginations for centuries. Rachel Beard lines up the ideal island for every type of traveler
Best for Beaches: Milos
This untouristy volcanic island in the Aegean Sea has an otherworldly landscape made up of colorful, surreal rock formations, hot springs and more than 50 beaches. Head to the north coast, where the sea has eroded channels between alabaster white rocks, producing brilliant beaches (Sarakiniko and Kapros) and the Papafragas sea caves. Park your towel on the tiny strip of sand and take a dip in the fjord-like waters.
How to get there: Flights from Athens take 45 minutes, the high-speed ferry from Piraeus port in Athens takes around four hours.
Best for Foodies: Lesvos
Just fives miles off the Turkish coast, lush and lovely Lesvos is an island of pine-covered mountains, hot springs and olive groves. Arrive with an empty stomach and taverna-hop your way around to indulge in local specialities like creamy ladotyri cheese, salt-cured sardines and red mullet. The island is famous for its olive oil (it's studded with more than 11 million olive trees) and its ouzo (typically served with meze dishes). Head to the restaurants that hug the harbor to tuck into fishy feasts, washed down with a boozy aniseedy shot. Dimos taverna caters to local fisherman and offers a 24-hour foodie fix.
How to get there: Flights from Athens take 50 minutes or the high-speed ferry from Pireaus port in Athens takes around seven hours. Alternatively, ferries depart every day from Ayvalik in Turkey and take around an hour and a half. Ayvalik is around a seven-hour drive from Istanbul.
Best for History Buffs: Crete
The largest Greek island is home to the mighty Minoan masterpiece, the Palace of Knossos. Walk the sprawling grounds of this Bronze Age settlement, past crumbling ruins, replica frescoes and ancient thrones and follow up with a visit to the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion to ogle the impressive collection of Minoan Art.
How to get there: Multiple airlines operate 50-minute flights from Athens to Heraklion Airport on Crete.
Best for Partying: Mykonos
The bronzed and the beautiful flock to this hedonistic haven in the Cyclades to pose and party throughout the summer. Hit the beach or the boutiques during the day and bar hop by night. Start with a sundowner in Little Venice, a charming spot lined with medieval fisherman's houses turned chic bars and finish up at Cavo Paradiso, an open-air club on a rocky bluff, home to an oversize swimming pool, dance cabanas and big-name DJs.
How to get there: Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air operate 35-minute flights from Athens. High-speed ferries from Piraeus port in Athens take around four and a half hours.
Best for Diving: Alonnisos
The waters around the tiny island of Alonnisos, declared a National Marine Park since 1992 are home to one of the Med's best-preserved marine ecosystems. The coastline is made up of small coves, underground caves and rocky islets that provide shelter to endangered mammals like the monk seal. There are a few scuba diving centers on the island that take divers out to Byzantine shipwrecks just offshore and the sunken city near neighboring Psathoura Island.
How to get there: There's no airport on Alonnisos. Olympic Air operate 50-minute flights to Skiathos from Athens. From there, it's a four-hour boat ride.
Best for Escapism: Patmos
It's tricky to get to (there's no airport and it's a seven-hour boat ride from Athens) but that's part of Patmos's charm. The tiny island is made up of remote shingly beaches, secluded coves, rugged mountains criss crossed by ancient pathways and simple beach tavernas. Oh, and a sacred grotto -- the Cave of the Apocalypse is said to be where St. John saw his apocalyptic visions that formed part of the Book of Revelation. Dotted with tiny chapels and monasteries and steeped in myth and legend, it's a safe bet for those in search of peace and solitude.
How to get there: There's no airport on Patmos but you take a 55-minute flight from Athens to Samos and a one-hour hydrofoil boat, or a 55-minute flight from Athens to Kos and a two-hour hydrofoil boat or a two and a half hour catamaran.
Best for Romance: Santorini
There's a reason courting couples and honeymooners pick Santorini for their Greek island fix. Watching the sun sink into the Agean Sea over a jumble of whitewashed houses and multicolored cliffs really does deliver on its superlative promise. Bypass the crowds, who flock to Oia's castle ruins every night in their droves, and hop aboard a boat instead to see the sun flush the island's windmills before setting in the sparkling sea. Canny couples nab a room with an outdoor Jacuzzi tub to soak up the views as well as the bubbles.
How to get there: Twice-daily 45-minute flights depart from Athens. The high-speed ferry from Pireaus port in Athens takes around five hours.