Few places evoke the feeling of summer like the Greek Islands. Spread over the sparkling Aegean and Ionian seas, these sun-bleached destinations come alive in the summer months, calling on travellers from across the world to experience their ancient ruins and landscapes whipped by warm, pine-scented breeze. Over 6,000 isles make up the Greek archipelago, and each island group and island in itself is entirely unique. The Cyclades are best known for their whitewashed villages, windmills and hotspots like Santorini and Mykonos, the Dodecanese Islands by their Byzantine churches and Medieval castles, and the Saronics, for their jumbles of colourful houses and car-free lanes. Located in the eastern Mediterranean, the Greek islands are some of the closest European summer destinations from the UAE, with an average flight time of 4.5 hours – making it one of the most accessible summer destinations. Here are the Greek islands with direct flights from the UAE this summer.
The Cycladic Isle of Mykonos is perhaps Greece’s most famous island hotspot, a party paradise known across the world for its whitewashed windmills, charming cobbled towns, waterfront tavernas and insatiable nightlife. While the island draws partygoers with its flashy clubs and concepts like Zuma, Nammos and the newly opened La Cantine du Faubourg Mykonos (from Dubai’s Rikas Group), there’s also a more authentic, slower side to the beautiful island, if you look beneath the surface. After all, its extreme natural beauty is what drew crowds here in the first place. Head north for more peaceful beaches and a nature reserve, or stick to the south for the party atmosphere and iconic Mykonos glitz. Visit local tavernas like Fokos – set in a whitewashed villa overlooking the relaxed Fokos beach – and Kiki’s Tavern in the hills overlooking Agios Santos. Head to hotspots like Beefbar, Bagatelle, and La Cantine Du Fouberg for flash – all given Myconian makeover. From Mykonos, it’s also possible to hop on a ferry and explore its Cyaldic sisters, with dreamy Paros, Naxos and Milos all a short sail away.
Where to stay in Mykonos this summer
More laid-back places to stay include Papyrella, a beautiful six-bedroom with views of the harbour, and Tigani House, a villa for rent combining the traditional and modern with vistas over the Aegean, an infinity pool, its own beach and gardens of olive trees and fragrant rosemary and lavender. Myrsini Beach House has a strong Seventies feel – reminiscent of the decade that first drew people to the rugged island for languid summers – and is a series of cube-like structures that look like a small village. For something elegant, slightly flashy, and breathtaking, there’s another like Kalesma Mykonos – built into the cliffs to resemble a Myconian village with private pool villas, winding lanes and bougainvillaea.
Starts 21 June on Flydubai, from AED2,100 each way
Santorini is often regarded as the most romantic and naturally striking Greek island. Also located in the Cyclades, Santorini sits on a volcanic crater, and a tremendous volcanic eruption in the 16th century BCE shaped its land. An eruption which shaped its rugged topography of black sand and red lava pebble beaches and mountains. Santorini has two main towns, Fira and Oia, built on the cliffs above an underwater caldera (or crater), where visitors clamour to visit to get that iconic sunset shot. Its beauty is otherworldly, windswept and, in many ways, hostile, but full of life, beautiful five-star and boutique hotels, Airbnbs, artisan shops and restaurants. Travellers can fly to Santorini on Flydubai this summer in just four hours and 50 minutes, with the route opening on 19 June.
Where to stay in Santorini this summer
Santorini’s array of accommodations is wide and varied, from globally known contemporary brands to smaller, family-run guest houses. The most famous, and most expensive, are found in the town of Oia, clinging to the cliffs and overlooking the deep blue Aegean. Splash-out spots include Katikies, spread across a former 18th century home and sugar cubs villas tumbling down the clips – connected by rooms, public area and swimming pools, and Grace Hotel, Auberge Resorts Collection – sitting on a clifftop dangling over the caldera with just 20 rooms. More trendy, contemporary hotels are also on Santorini, including the new Nobu hotel – set in leafy, rugged Imerovigli -, design-led Nous Santorini in the lesser-known village of Mesaria on the caldera. Nous has 121 spacious rooms and bungalows, a spa, and private gardens, and its architecture is inspired by the villages that once inhabited this corner of the island home.
Corfu is one of the larger and most naturally-rich Greek Islands. Surrounded by pine-covered mountains and framed by soft sand beaches, it ticks all the boxes for travellers looking for a Greek island summer escape. Nature and adventure lovers flock to this island to hike and bike on its coastline and forested hinterlands hiding ancient monasteries and historic villages, including many UNESCO-listed and cultural sights spanning a Venetian fortress. Swimming and diving are also popular, on its many Blue Flag beaches and in the cerulean seas. The island sites at the far west of Greece’s reaches in the cerulean Ionian Sea, off the coast of Albania, and’s culture is shaped by a history which included Ottoman and Venetian rule. While the capital of Corfu town is buzzing – and home to a fascinating Corfu Old Town – there are plenty of chic hideaways and beach hangouts across the island. Corfu is reachable from Dubai on Flydubai with a flight time of five hours and 20 minutes.
Where to stay in Corfu this summer
Book a room at Domes Miramare, the former home of Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, to taste the glamour of Corfu’s heyday. This adults-only retreat lies within ancient olive groves and has its own private beach, with the main hotel retaining many of the original 1960s elements, like chic marble floors and chandeliers. For a glimpse into the island’s Venetian past, Grecotel Eva Palace is old world and rustic with all the modern comforts, located along Corfu’s olive and pine-scented Kommeno peninsula on a golden sandy beach. Rooms are romantic and whimsical, with four poster beds and wicker furniture, while discreet, greenery-covered bungalows offer sea views and private pools. For a secluded escape, head to Grecotel Corfu Imperial – a glamorous resort set on a wooded peninsula with an old-world feel and design touches include palazzo villas with vaulted ceilings, hand-painted murals and chandeliers. For an impeccable private rental, there’s nowhere like Ultima Corfu – accessed by boat, sleeping 12 people and built into the cliffs.
Starts 1 July on Flydubai, from AED2,100 each way; flydubai.com