1. Myrtos, Kefalonia
One of Greece’s best known beaches – thanks, in part, to its starring role in the film adaptation of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (it’s where the Italian soldiers make merry and the location of the mine explosion). It’s particularly photogenic viewed from the headland to the north. Other recommendations on the island include the rust-red sands of family-friendly Xi Beach, on the south coast, which offers watersports and a couple of smart tavernas, and wild Petani Beach, on the west coast, which rivals Myrtos for its spectacular location.
2. Shipwreck Beach, Zakynthos
Probably the most photographed beach in Greece, Navagio Bay, as it is also known, is a picture-postcard arc of white sand and pebbles accessible only by boat, where you’ll see the hulk of a cigarette smugglers’ ship that beached there 30 years ago.
3. Váï, Crete
Also know as Finikodassos (Palm Forest), this gently curving golden sand beach is backed by Europe’s largest natural palm grove – some 500 densely clustered trees in an oasis fed by a stream – which have stood here for more than 3,000 years. It might even look familiar – this is where the “taste of paradise” Bounty bar advert was filmed in the early 1970s.
4. Halikoúnas, Corfu
“Essentially a duney sandspit dividing the open sea from brackish Korissíon lagoon, Halikoúnas is one of the wildest, most unspoilt beaches on Corfu, stretching 3km southeast to the little Venetian-dredged canal joining the lagoon to the Ionian,” says Marc Dubin. His other recommendations for Corfu include Longás (“the ultimate sunset beach”), Myrtiotissa (described by Lawrence Durrell as “perhaps the most beautiful beach in the world”) and Gardénos (offering “clean, five-star sand” alongside a tiny fishing port).
5. Sarakiniko, Milos
Another of the country’s most photogenic beaches, Sarakiniko is backed with volcanic rocks whipped into otherworldly shapes by the sea breeze. Milos lies in the Cyclades island group and can be reached by plane or ferry from Athens.
6. Egremni, Lefkada
The west coast of Lefkada – an Ionian island that lures thousands of sailors and watersports fans each year – is dotted with beautiful beaches. Egremni, a couple of miles south of Athani, is arguably the finest. Long, sandy, and backed by sheer white cliffs, it is never crowded, largely thanks to the 355 steps that visitors must negotiate to reach it (and the absence of a WC). The shingle beach of Porto Katsiki, a little further south, is equally dramatic but there’s just 100 steps to contend with. Pefkoulia (sandy) and Kathisma (shingle), on the northwest coast, are excellent options for families.
7. Psilí Ámmos, Patmos
Meaning “fine sand”, it is just that – some 200m of it, with a selection of tamarisks for shade. “It’s only accessible by taxi-boat from Skála or an hour’s round-trip hike on a good, signposted trail from an impromptu car/scooter park at the Diakóftis isthmus,” adds Marc Dubin. “Although the sand shelves gently, it’s a reliably windy place with gentle surf. The southern third of the cove has traditionally been naturist. At the north end is a single taverna (late May-Sept), offering goat meat from herds on the surrounding hills.”
8. Hovolo, Skopelos
While the beaches on Skopelos are largely shingle or pebble, they are picturesque, backed by rocky green hills, and quiet. The closest to the capital is Glysteri, on the road north out of town and reached via a scented valley dotted with olive trees, but the best are found on the west coast. Limnonari, on the coastal road north from Agnontas, hemmed in by rocky headland, is as close to a truly sandy beach as you’ll find. Kastani, a key Mamma Mia! filming location, is equally pretty – but is the only place on the entire island that gets overcrowded. For real solitude, rent a motorboat from Panormos, and head north – you’ll find beautiful spots all the way up the coast (such as Hovolo, Ftelia and Neraki) that are inaccessible to cars and subsequently occupied only by other couples who have rented motorboats, and the occasional determined German naturist.
9. St Paul’s Bay, Rhodes
Another of Greece’s best known beaches is this spot on Rhodes, in the shadow of Lindos and its acropolis. Expect it to be busy in high season.
10. Elafonísi, Crete
“You’ll have seen it on posters or brochures long before you arrive, so will have no trouble recognising it,” writes Marc Dubin, our Greece expert. “A low islet tethered to the most southwesterly point of the Cretan mainland by a slightly pink-tinted sandspit, the two cradling a shallow lagoon with tropical-turquoise water. ” Don’t expect to have it to yourself, however. “Everybody and anybody goes – it’s one of the most promoted days out in western Crete,” he adds…