In celebrating Greek Independence Day, the national daily broadsheet newspaper in the UK, The Daily Telegraph, asked its travel experts to turn their gaze to Greece, think about their past experiences, and choose their favourite island destinations in Greece.
The islands are the main characteristic of Greece's morphology and an integral part of the country's culture and tradition. According to official data from the Greek National Tourism Organisation, Greek sovereign land includes 6,000 islands and islets scattered in the Ionian and Aegean Seas, of which only 227 islands are inhabited. This is a unique phenomenon for the European continent.
The Greek archipelago comprises 7,500 kilometre of the country's total 16,000 kilometre coastline, offering a highly-diversified landscape. Featuring multi-awarded golden sand, white or black pebble beaches that stretch over many kilometres, sheltered bays and coves, coastal caves with steep rocks and dark-coloured volcanic sand, coastal wetlands, historic monuments, and stunning natural landscapes, it would have been a relatively easy task for the Telegraph to ascertain what they consider to be the best of Greece's offerings.
Best for families – CORFU (Kérkyra)
With the passage of time, the island may have changed but visitors can still feel the spirit of a distant glorious past. With its rich multicultural heritage, historic monuments, stunning natural landscape, crystal clear beaches, and excellent weather all year round, Corfu is one of the most cosmopolitan Mediterranean destinations.
Interestingly, unlike the rest of Greece, Corfu (Kérkyra) never fell under Ottoman rule and oppression. Due to the successive dominations of the Venetians, the French, and the British over the centuries, the island has primarily become part of the Western rather than the Levantine world.
"If I could give a child a gift, I would give him my childhood," said Gerald Durrell, the author and conservationist, shortly before his death in 1995 – a ringing endorsement for Corfu where the Durrells spent four years from 1935-1939. Much has changed since his time there, but away from the excesses of Kavos in the south, you'll still find idyllic, sleepy spots. Tourist development is quarantined on certain coastal patches and once inland you really seem to be on another island, even another era," says Marc Dubin, the Telegraph's Greece expert.
Best for Beaches – ZAKYNTHOS
The Ionian Islands can't be beaten for sandy beaches backed by dramatic coastlines. Myrtos Beach on Kefalonia and Porto Katsiki on Lefkada are among the most photogenic, but according to the Telegraph, Shipwreck Bay on Zakynthos, only accessible by boat, trumps them both – even if it does get a bit crowded.
"Visitors to Zakynthos should avoid the boozy corners of the south coast and stick to the beautiful, un-spoilt north and mountainous west of the island," says Telegraph Travel's Joanna Symons.
"Or base yourself on the pine-forested Vasilikos Peninsula in the south-east, most of which has been protected from large-scale development because of the loggerhead turtles that breed on Gerakas beach. Gerakas itself is a perfect curve of golden sand. Those turtles know how to pick a good spot," she adds.
Best for wine – KEFALONIA
The biggest Ionian island - immersed in lush green scenery, breathtaking beaches - and crystal clear waters of greenish-blue colours is a beloved destination to many. According to the Telegraph's travel experts, apart from its pristine beaches - with Myrtos among the best in the whole of Greece - culinary traditions, picturesque villages, and the wine is a drawcard. Despite the fact that there's wonderful wine to be quaffed in Crete and Santorini, Kefalonia's wine, whose Robola winery is responsible for the tipple of choice of drunken Father Arsenios in Louis de Bernières' classic novel Captain Corelli's Mandolin, is being praised.
Best for watersports – LEFKADA
"Large bays and consistently blustery winds attract droves of sailors and windsurfers to Lefkada, with the coastal towns of Vassiliki and Nydri popular spots for hiring boats and boards. The island has plenty more to recommend it, from its glorious beaches to its steep interior. The gorgeous former capital of Karya is a highlight."