Samos is the closest of all the Greek islands to Turkey, from which it is separated by the 3km-wide Mykale Straits. Visits into its interior are rewarded with unspoilt villages and mountain vistas. In summer the humid air is intoxicating with heavy floral scents, especially jasmin. This, and the impressive greenery of the landscape, lends Samos an exotic, tropical air. Orchids are grown here for export and a most exceptional wine is made from the local grapes. The island’s capital is the large and bustling Samos Town (Vathy). Perched on the hillside surrounding the bay, 19th century red-tiled houses cascade down the hillside from charming Ano Vathy. The resort town of Pythagoria is a convenient base from which to visit the ancient sites of Samos, such as the 1034m long Evpalinos Tunnel (524 BC). There is also a fascinating museum of paleontology. On the lower slopes of Mt Ampelos through thick pine forests, you will find the beautiful village of Manolates, its old stone houses. The narrow lanes and squares are decorated with whitewashed floral designs. There are numerous secluded beaches to explore around the island.
Ikaria is a rugged mountainous island, abundant with cypress trees, pine forests, olive and fruit trees. At present, tourism is low-key, but it is slowly being discovered. Ikaria’s beaches at Livadi and Meshati, near Armenistis have to be rated as among the best in Greece. Its therapeutic radioactive springs are believed to be the most effective in Europe. Agios Kirykos, the capital, is a pleasant, relaxed little town with several kafenia along a tree-shaded waterfront. Sailing along the northeast coast to the Cape of Drakano, you will discover a number of exquisite, secluded coves and beaches. Armenistis is 15km west of the island’s second port Evdilos. Armenistis is Ikaria’s largest resort with two beautiful long beaches of pale golden sand. It is also a good base for exploring some of the quirky, laid back mountain villages. Lying between Ikaria and Samos is the tiny, mountainous island of Fourni. It is ideal for those seeking a quiet retreat, a number of good beaches dot the coast.
Chios is a large island spanning 859 sq km. It is separated from the Turkish Karaburum Peninsula by only 8km. Southern Chios is mainly made up of medieval villages that were built by the Genoese colonizers in the 14th century. Here the hills are overrun with mastic trees that were the main income for these settlements, hence the name Mastihoria (mastic villages). The largest of the Mastihoria is Pyrgi, one of the most extraordinary villages in the whole of Greece. The arch covered streets of this fortified village are narrow and maze like. The building facades are decorated with intricate gray and white designs. The patterns are rich in variation, some are geometric and others are floral, leaf, and animal. For those looking to relax head to Emboreios, a quiet holiday resort. The beach here Mavra Voila Beach has black volcanic pebbles.
Off the northeast coast of Chios you will find a cluster of nine tiny islets, known as Inousses. Only one of these, also called Inousses is inhabited. It may be small but it is the ancestral home of a number of exceedingly wealthy Greek ship owners, consequently there are some luxurious mansions. Tourism here is very low-key. The island has one settlement, the charming little village Inousses Town. It has but a couple of good tavernas and a waterfront bar. There are several lovely beaches and coves around the island.
Lesvos is the third largest island after Crete and Evia. The south and east of the island is fertile, with numerous olive groves. In contrast the west has a rocky and barren mountainous terrain. Lesvos has an impressively well-organized set of trekking trails in the north and south of the island. Bird watching is also another popular activity on Lesvos. There are a number of museums to visit in the capital port town of Mytilini, which also boasts a lively nightlife. To the north you will find beautiful Molyvos. Its impeccable stone houses reach down to the harbor from a castle crowned hill and the winding, cobbled stone streets are shaded by vines. There are some lovely tavernas at the far end of the harbor. A few kilometers beyond the traditional inland village of Eresos is Skala Eresou, a popular beach resort. Although it gets crowded it has a good laid back atmosphere. It is here you will find the loveliest stretch of beach in Lesvos. Nearby you can visit the petrified forest, which some experts estimate to be 20 million years old.
The island of Limnos is practically severed in two by Moudros Bay. Made up of quaint little farms, Limnos has a unique and subdued appeal. In spring brightly colored wild flowers dot the landscape, and in autumn purple crocuses bloom forth. Large numbers of flamingos wade along the lake of eastern Limnos and the coastline is graced with some of the best beaches in the North-Eastern Aegean. You will not find mass tourism here. Surrounded by massive, volcanic rocks is the capital and port town of Myrina. A Genoeses castle towers dramatically over the town. There is a lovely sand beach right in town. The road to the northern tip of the island is worth exploring, there are some traditional Limnian villages and the often-deserted beach at Keros, is popular with windsurfers.
Located 32km from Alexandroupolis, the island of Samothraki, scenically is one of the most awe inspiring of all Greek islands. It may be a small island but it is endowed with a most diverse and dramatic landscape. Below the mighty peak of Mt Fengari (1611m) you will find valleys of huge twisting oaks, thick forests, and wet shaded glades where waterfalls cascade into deep, icy pools. On the gentler western slopes there are corn fields dotted with wild flowers. You will be pleased to learn Samothraki does not have package tourism. Hora concealed in a fold of the mountains above the port of Kamariotissa, is one of the most spectacular of Greek island villages. The crumbling red tiled houses are stacked up two neighboring mountainsides. The village is totally authentic; there is no yielding to tourism here. The ruined castle at the top of the main thoroughfare is fascinating to explore. The massive site of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, is a must see, it is one of the most enchanting in the whole of Greece. You should not miss the walk along the Fonias River to the Vathres rock pools; the water is pretty icy but a real treat on a hot day.
The main draw to Thasos are its excellent beaches and the many archaeological remains in and around the capital of Limenas, which is built on top of the ancient city, ruins are scattered all over the place. The adjacent villages of Panagia and Potamia are quite lively and picturesque. The long sandy Golden Beach is the islands best. The west coast consists of a series of seaside villages, the least touristy is the delightful fishing village Skala Marion. Between here the lively resort town of Limenaria, lies a stretch of uncrowded beaches.