Field Notes

A Beginner's Guide to the Greek Islands

Salty swims in turquoise waters, halloumi cooked to perfection (no squeaks here, thanks) and seemingly eternal sunshine? Welcome to your next Greek Island holiday.

Dreaming of a Euro summer but don’t know where to start? Fortunately, the Greek Islands offer the ultimate holiday for any type of traveller.

If you’re planning to go but are a first-timer and need a bit of a steer of which islands are the best fit for the kind of vibe you’re seeking, we’ve highlighted our favourite spots in the Cyclades to give you a taste of what to expect, following a journey on Celestyal’s seven-night Idyllic Aegean cruise.

Heraklion, Crete

Scenery | Vibe: Foodies, Heraklion is the city for you. While Crete, Greece’s fifth largest island, boasts a rugged, mountainous terrain, its capital Heraklion offers narrow streets lined with cafés, tavernas and specialty shops that’ll keep you entertained for days.

Food | Drink: Beat the heat with a visit to Sarandauga, a tiny 99-year-old Greek café, or kafenio, where you can enjoy small plates of Cretan mezze accompanied by bottles of raki.  If you’re after a heartier bite, don’t miss Monastiraki Kebap for an authentic Greek gyros.

Cretan mezze and raki in a Heraklion kafenio

Activities | Play: When you’re not busy biting into the flakey, custardy goodness of a bougatsa from Zimoto’s, there’s a rich history to be consumed in Crete, too. Visit the ancient Knossos Temple and be amazed by the first European civilisation of Minoans, or check out the truly stunning collection of Minoan artefacts at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. 

Ruins of the Knossos Temple


Scenery | Vibe: It’s not hard to see why Santorini is considered the pearl of the Cycladic archipelago. While Oia’s iconic vistas of whitewashed houses and blue domes may draw in droves of tourists, there’s an undeniable magic to this island to be discovered, especially if you choose to break away from the crowds.

Food | Drink: Escape the hordes with a 15-minute walk from the main square of Fira and head to restaurant Aktaion. Established in 1922, this hidden gem offers al fresco dining with uninterrupted ocean views. Be sure to try the kalogeriko, a mouthwatering homemade Greek pasta dish that’s worth the journey alone.

Kalogeriko pasta at Aktaion

Activities | Play: For the wine enthusiasts, don’t miss a visit to Venetsanos estate. What started as a family-run business producing wine for the island, went on to become the first industrial winery in Santorini. Stop in for a tasting on the terrace – do try their Assyrtiko – with breathtaking views of Port Athinios and the caldera.

Cloudless blue skies and wine at Venetsanos winery

Main section image: Views over Santorini by Aleksandar Pasaric


Scenery | Vibe: While it’s known for its thriving nightlife, Mykonos really does offer something for all travellers. From lazing on sunbeds by the beach to jewellery shopping, this picturesque island does not disappoint.

Food | Drink: Once you’ve tried the famed Jimmy’s Gyros, swing by Elia Beach before 11 a.m. to snag a sunbed at Super Paradise Beach Club. Despite the partygoers flocking here much later, mornings here offer an astoundingly tranquil vibe. Enjoy a serene swim as you sip on one of their seasonal cocktails and bite into what must be one of the most iconic club sandwiches you’ll ever come across.

The outlook from a sunbed at Super Paradise Beach Club

Activities | Play: Just when you thought you’d done it all in Mykonos, there’s Art Mosaic. Irene Syrianou is the mind and creative behind Art Mosaic, teaching the art of mosaics to adults and children alike for the last 20 years. Her workshops run out of a large, airy courtyard where you’ll learn how to create mosaic art the traditional way; cutting the mosaic tiles by hand.

Main section image: Mykonos backstreets by Jimmy Teoh


Scenery | Vibe: If slow-living amongst colourful fishing villages and secluded coves sounds like your jam, then Milos is for you. With a far less touristy vibe and more of a small town feel, you can walk, eat, swim, read and nap on repeat to your heart’s content here.

Food | Drink: Boasting waterfront views and the kind of warm hospitality that sticks with you for years to come, the quaint Glaronisia restaurant in Trypiti village provides the ultimate Greek Island holiday vibes. Be sure to order their tzatziki (and consequently ruin any other kind for yourself forever).

Activities | Play: Get in loser, we’re going boating. You can’t go to Milos without touring the coastline by boat, it’s just the rules. Reach the likes of Kleftiko and Gerontas beach via tour boat and snorkel your way through these majestic cliff-side waters. Finally, head to Sarakiniko, a beach with a lunar type landscape, where travellers cliff-dive and explore other-worldly waterholes amongst the white volcanic rock.

Main section image: Taty Gkiozos


All words and images by Amy Pozzar (unless specified in image captions). Concrete Playground travelled as a guest of Celestyal Cruises.

If you’re curious about cruise-based exploration of the Greek Islands, Celestyal Cruises recently announced the arrival of its newest ship: the Celestyal Journey (her maiden voyage set sail in September of 2023). The new Celestyal Journey will initially be taking over the Celestyal Crystal’s program on its popular seven-night ‘Idyllic Aegean’ itinerary.


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