Greece's smaller islands have real sparkle, says Katie McGonagle
They say the best things come in small packages, and that’s definitely true of the gorgeous Greek islands. Getting to know some of the smaller islands – which offer a totally different experience from their larger, more commercial counterparts – can boost your sales by appealing to a wider market.
If clients are put off by the extended travel time to islands with no airport, suggest a twin-centre with the gateway island to get the best of both worlds.
Here, we profile some of Greece’s most beautiful lesser-known islands, with ideas on how to sell them and how to fit them into a wider itinerary.
Where: Ionian Islands, west of Lefkas.
Best for: Hiking and cycling.
Getting there: Fly to Preveza then take the ferry from Lefkas.
Island info: Meganissi is one of the biggest sellers in Cosmos Holidays’ 2012 programme, which features 10 smaller Greek islands for the first time. It’s covered in lush greenery and packed with tavernas, markets and tiny villages. The island has great cycling and trekking routes, although fly-and-floppers won’t be disappointed by the beautiful beaches.
Suggest wandering through the olive groves, watching fishing boats at Atheni Bay harbour, or visiting the cave of Papanikolis, named after the submarine that sheltered there in the Second World War.
Sample product: Cosmos Holidays offers a week’s B&B at the four-diamond Hotel Esperides from £528 including flights but not transfers.
0871 423 8518
Where: Saronic Gulf, near mainland Kosta.
Best for: Upmarket escapes.
Getting there: Two-and-a-half hours by hydrofoil from Athens’ Piraeus port.
Island info: Spetses has long been the weekend playground of rich Athenians, so it’s maintained an air of exclusivity – with prices to match. It’s a great couples’ retreat as there are no private cars on the island, so tourists rely on horse-drawn buggies.
Wander to the Old Harbour to admire the yachts, stop for coffee and almond cake (a local speciality), or go out and explore the many secluded bays and charming little villages. It combines well with a few days in the bustling capital of Athens, but during Greek holidays it’s busy so book ahead.
Sample product: Classic Collection Holidays offers seven nights’ B&B at the iconic five-star Poseidonion Grand Hotel from £1,045 in June based on two sharing, including flights and private transfers. Three-night prices start at £693.
0800 294 9318
Where: Sporadic Islands.
Best for: Nature lovers.
Getting there: Fly to Skiathos then a ferry to Patiriri harbour.
Island info: Alonissos is the largest of the northern Sporadic islands but the least touristic, known for its natural beauty and crystal-clear waters. It’s part of the National Marine Park and home to rare monk seals, birds and occasionally dolphins, and a haven for snorkelling and diving, with Padi courses available.
Wildlife enthusiasts will love exploring on foot, either by themselves or with a guide. A boat trip around the coast and its beautiful coves is an absolute must, as is sampling local wines with the catch of the day in one of the many fish restaurants dotted around Alonissos town.
Sample product: GIC – The Villa Collection features Villa Paprouna from £3,105 for a week’s self-catering for a family of four, including flights and car hire.
020 8232 9780
Where: East Aegean Islands, southwest of Samos.
Best for: Old-world Greece.
Getting there: Fly to Samos then a three-hour ferry.
Island info: Ikaria is a rugged island that doesn’t immediately lend itself to tourism, but has hidden gems for clients keen to get off the beaten track. Its mountains seem to rise out of nowhere – perfect for hikers and explorers – and it’s renowned for saints’ days festivals in summer.
Suggest visiting Christos Rahes, or ‘vampire village’, where the extra-long afternoon siesta means shops stay open until the early hours. The natural hot springs around Therma are a popular attraction, along with stunning beaches such as Agios Giorgis. Twin with Samos to break up the journey.
Sample product: Seven nights’ B&B at the secluded Eftichia Studios costs from £798 with Sunvil Holidays, including flights and transfers.
020 8758 4758
Where: Dodecanese Islands, north of Rhodes.
Best for: Watching the world go by.
Getting there: Fly to Rhodes then a two-hour ferry.
Island info: Symi’s horseshoe-shaped Yialos Harbour is one of the prettiest in Greece. Avoid day-trippers from Rhodes by getting there first thing or waiting until evening. Next, wander through Chorio old town, spend an afternoon in the small fishing village of Pedi Bay or visit Panormitis Monastery, which dates from the sixth century.
Photis Lambrianides, commercial director of Olympic Holidays, says: “Symi is my favourite Greek island. It’s small and beautiful, with very little traffic. It resembles a picture postcard and is exactly how one would imagine a Greek island.”
Sample product: Olympic Holidays offers a week’s half-board at the three-star Pedi Beach Hotel for £435 in June, including flights and transfers.
0844 499 4449
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