These 6 islands offer the most in terms of interest, diversity, and accessibility and are where you will find an abundance of sea life, history and shipwrecks, and natural cays and artificial reefs to explore.
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Where is Zakynthos?
Zakynthos is one of the Greek islands in the Ionian sea. It belongs to the Ionian Islands, the closest islands to Italy, and it is the third largest island of the archipelago. It is south of Corfu, Lefkada and Kefalonia.
How to get there
You can reach Zakynthos either by airplane or by ferry. Zakynthos has an airport that receives domestic flights from Athens and Kefalonia and international flights from numerous locations around Europe.
The ferries to Zakynthos depart daily from Killini, a town in the Peloponnese, and the ride is about an hour long. There are a number of great towns and villages to stay in Zakythnos, which caters to all travel styles and budgets.
Diving and Snorkeling in Zakynthos
With its two different coastlines and a marine park established to safeguard the nesting of loggerhead turtles, Zakynthos is one of the best Greek islands for snorkeling. The perfect area for snorkeling in Zante is the south coast, where you can find Laganas Bay, where the rare sea turtles live.
The island’s west coast also hosts incredible snorkeling spots: more rugged and rocky, the area has higher visibility, but it is more suited for advanced snorkelers.
One fantastic snorkeling spot is Porto Limnionas Beach, with gleaming turquoise waters and a variety of caves and well-sculpted rock formations where you can spot urchins, reef fish, and sea turtles.
For diving lovers, around Zakynthos’ southwestern promontory, there are numerous submerged caves. A popular diving spot is Lakka beach, with an undersea arch at a depth of 12 meters. The area is covered in colorful sponges, and you can meet all kinds of fish, from blennies to parrot fish.
Lakka is ideal for beginners and intermediate divers. For those with more diving experience, the Cave Tunnel is the spot to be. It is also known as Butterfly Cave for its peculiar entrance. The last part of the cave develops into a wonderful narrow and sinuous tunnel in which you can see countless animals, such as crabs, shrimps, lobsters, and – if you are lucky – the monk seal.
Another incredible diving spot in Zakynthos is Dafni beach, characterized by a huge labyrinth of large rocks and sandy floors home to marine creatures and ancient amphorae perfectly preserved. In Dafni’s seabed, you can also see a sunk motorcycle guarded by big scorpionfish.
There is no better spot to take an incredible photo to remember your vacation!
Where is Crete?
Crete is located between the Sea of Crete and the Libyan Sea, south of the Peloponnese. Crete is Greece’s largest island and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean Sea.
How to get there
You can travel to Crete either by ferry or airplane. Various harbors in Crete offer numerous ferry connections to mainland Greece and the other Greek islands. During the summer, there are daily ferries from Piraeus (the port of Athens) to Crete’s harbors of Chania, Heraklion, and Sitia.
The port of Heraklion serves regular itineraries to Rhodes and Santorini, while from Chania, there are ferry connections to Kythira, Antikythira, and the mainland town of Gythio.
The port of Sitia is also connected with Kasos and Karpathos, and a few local ferries to Dodecanese leave from Agios Nikolaos. The port of Paleochora in southern Chania serves ferries to Gavdos island three times a week.
Crete also has three airports. Chania and Heraklion have airports that serve international and domestic flights from mainland Greece, the Cyclades Islands, and the Dodecanese islands. The smaller airport in Sitia only serves domestic flights.
Diving and Snorkeling in Crete
Crete is considered to have among the best snorkeling and diving in Greece, thanks to its sandy bays and rocky coves, suited for all levels. There are dozens of sites to choose from, with spectacular caves, reefs, wrecks, and even sunken ancient cities!
If you want to snorkel or dive without being surrounded by many people, you should head to Crete’s southern coast. Pro divers cannot miss the Elephant’s Cave on the northwest coast, near Chania. The partially filled underwater cave houses red and white stalagmites and stalactites that you will love admiring.
Deeper inside the cave, you will see the fossilized remains of extinct giant elephants that used to inhabit the island at the end of the Ice Age. Around Chania, there are also incredible stone arches and shallow water reefs, which are the ideal spots if you are a beginner.
Another incredible diving spot in Crete is the Bay of Elounda, where there are the ruins of a city from the Minoan period, sunken following a large earthquake. The seabed in the waters between Elounda and Agios Nikolaos is covered by archeological remains, from ceramic vases and amphorae to World War II aircraft wrecks.
The best place on Crete to admire marine sea life by snorkeling and diving is the north coast, especially the area around Skinaria.
Where is Alonissos
Alonnisos is an island in the Sporades Islands, in the western Aegean sea north of Athens. The island is located east of mainland Greece, and it is the least touristy and developed island in the Sporades archipelago.
How to get to Alonissos
There is no airport in Alonissos; the closest one is located in Skiathos, which services domestic flights and some International ones too in summer. Once off the plane, you need to take a ferry to get to Alonissos, and the trip from Skiathos to Alonissos lasts two hours.
Alonissos is connected by sea to Volos, Evia, Kymi, and Skiathos. Unfortunately, there are no direct ferry routes from Athens to Alonissos.
Alonissos Diving and Snorkeling
The Sporades islands are a great Greek destination if you plan to explore the underwater world. The small island of Alonissos is particularly amazing for snorkelers.
Alonnisos is inside the largest natural marine park in the Mediterranean, home to the rare Mediterranean monk seal.
The ‘National Marine Park of Alonissos and Northern Sporades’ is one of the best-preserved ecosystems in the Mediterranean, the perfect place to spot all kinds of marine life. The waters around Megalos Mourtias beach, on west Alonissos, are inhabited by many moray eels, stone fish, octopuses, and massive groupers, that you can admire while snorkeling.
Another great spot to see marine life is the Gorgonian Gardens, where you can spot many beautiful red and yellow gorgonians with small crabs and other animals living in the rocks. However, this site is located at a great depth so that it can be explored only by advanced divers.
Among the best diving spots in Alonissos, the Blue Cave is perfect for beginners and advanced scuba divers alike. At the Blue Cave, you will find amazing marine life, such as nudibranchs, scorpionfish, groupers, and caves at different depths, from 5 to 20 meters.
The area around Alonissos is also full of underwater caves as well as incredible archeological remains. A true underwater treasure is located just south of Alonnisos, near the tiny island of Peristera. Here lies one of the most important ancient shipwrecks ever found in Greece.
The 5th-century BC Greek cargo ship carried 4,000 mostly intact amphorae lying in the seabed at around 30 meters of depth. The dive, suited for intermediate divers, is truly spectacular! This remarkable site is in the process of being turned into an underwater museum.
Where is Rhodes?
Rhodes is one of the Dodecanese Islands in the southeastern Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean, near the coast of Turkey. The Dodecanese archipelago is formed by a group of 15 larger plus 150 smaller islands, with Rhodes being one of the most historically relevant islands alongside Kos and Patmos.
How to get to Rhodes
To get to Rhodes, you can fly or a catch a ferry. The island has an international airport that serves flights from several European cities. As for domestic flights, direct ones regularly leave from Athens and Thessaloniki.
Rhodes is connected via ferry with Athens, Crete, Santorini, and Mykonos – among others. It is also connected to Turkey.
Diving and Snorkeling in Rhodes
Rhodes is a great island for diving, thanks to the large size of the island, the extremely clear waters, and the interesting geology of its coastline.
However, due to the abundance of antiquities hidden in the waters around the island, for scuba diving in Rhodes, you need to have proper authorization or be accompanied by a recognized diving instructor.
Among the most interesting diving sites in Rhodes are the Great Cave Cleobulus Tomb in Lindos, the Mediterranean Reef in Saint Paul’s Bay, and the Complex of Caves in Pentanissos islet.
These sites are perfect to explore while snorkeling; as for diving, some sites are ideal for beginners, while others are only for experienced divers.
The most popular diving spot is Kalithea Bay, on the northeastern coast, which is home to over 30 different fish species and plants.
Among the amazing things you can see in Kalithea, don’t miss the Blue Hole, a cave that looks pitch-black inside, but as soon as you go in, everything will shine thanks to the daylight streaming in from above.
Kalithea also has a fantastic spot for snorkeling, the Crystal Fish Alley, where you can often spot huge schools of tiny fish and barracuda.
Moving down the island’s coast, an unmissable diving site is at Plimiri beach, with the stunning Giannoula shipwreck and the underwater life with shoals of tuna, barracuda, and dogfish. Plimiri beach is one of the best spots to dive in Rhodes, but it is only for experienced divers.
For beginners, you can admire the shipwreck at the dive site in Kamiros: thanks to the shallow waters, you can have a wonderful experience of the Greek underwater world.
Where is Santorini?
Santorini is part of the Cyclades Islands in the Aegean Sea. It is located halfway between Athens and Crete, and it is one of the most popular destinations in Europe.
How to get there
Santorini can be reached by either air travel or ferry. The island has an airport that serves direct and international flights. Usually, flights from Europe are operated by low-cost airlines.
There are regular ferries to Santorini from Athens and the town of Rafina, in eastern Attica, as well as many other Greek islands, including the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, and Crete. High-speed ferries can reach Santorini from Athens in four hours, while conventional ferries take approximately eight hours.
Diving and Snorkeling in Santorini
Santorini offers plenty of exciting options for scuba diving enthusiasts. The volcanic eruptions have created countless underwater lava formations and caves where marine animals and plants have found their homes.
While it is possible to enjoy Santorini’s fascinating seabed snorkeling, diving is the best way to explore it.
One of the most popular diving spots is the small uninhabited island of Nea Kameni. It is located inside one of Santorini’s flooded calderas, which was formed by one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history.
Unmissable is a visit to the wreck of the sunken vessel Santa Maria, a 34-meter-long passenger boat from the 1970s.
The best part is that you can discover this incredible site even if you are a beginner diver. Another exceptional amateur-friendly diving spot in Nea Kameni contains the wreck of a WWII boat.
If you are an advanced diver, you should instead visit the Tugboat, an impressive wreck that lies 30 meters deep, which is the only deep wreck in Santorini.
Santorini offers several other amazing diving and snorkeling sites, such as Kamari beach and Vlychada beach.
Kamari beach is located on the southeastern side of the island, and its reef is inhabited by colorful corals, fish, and sponges. Vlychada beach, on Santorini’s southern coast, has an underwater museum full of statues and amphorae for you to explore.
While in Santorini, don’t miss a dive to the nearby small island of Palea Kameni, which offers great options for drop-offs and wall dives. Large deposits of pumice and dacite formed the island, and inside and around the stunning lava formations, you can admire some spectacular marine life, including seahorses, octopuses, squid, and moray eels.
Further reading: Head to our Santorini page for heaps more!