The Northern Aegean islands are unique and beautiful destinations for those who wish to explore the authentic beauty of Greece away from the hustle and bustle of the Cyclades. Although these islands such as Samos, Ikaria, Chios, Lemnos, Lesvos, and many others are stunning and full of hidden treasures, they remain mostly unexplored. During the last few years, however, more and more travelers have visited them to enjoy their beauty, natural landscape, and authentic hospitality.
The rich history of these islands is magnificent, and the natural mostly mountainous and rough landscape adds to the mystery for those eager to discover more. On top of that, in the Northern and Northeastern Aegean, you can find one of the most stunning and unspoiled beaches in Greece!
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A Guide to the Northern Aegean Islands
Where are the Northern Aegean Islands?
The islands are not formed into a complex but cover the northern part of the Aegean Sea to the eastern part opposite the Turkish coastline. Thasos is located opposite Kavala in Macedonia, and Samothrace opposite Alexandroupoli in Thrace. Lemnos, Lesvos, Samos, Ikaria, Chios, and the rest are located along the coastline of Turkey.
How to get to the Northern Aegean Islands?
Most of these islands are remote, as they are way up north or all the way east from the mainland. However, there are good ferry connections to and from Athens and other cities in mainland Greece, such as Kavala and Alexandropouli. In addition, some of these islands, like Chios, Lemnos, Ikaria, Lesvos, and Samos have airports for those who wish to avoid long ferry rides.
Generally, island hopping the Northern Aegean islands is not easy, because of the locations and the distance between the islands, as they do not form an island complex. However, there are opportunities for some island hopping as there are some ferry routes connecting some of them. For example, you can get to Fournoi island from Ikaria from Agios Kirikos with a small boat. Similarly, you can also get there from Samos. If you use Samos as your starting point, you can also visit Thymena island and Psara, while there are also connections to Ikaria and Chios.
From Chios, you can find a daily ferry to Oinousses during the summer months. You can also check for daily boat rides from these Northeastern islands to Turkish places such as Ephesus from Vathi in Samos.
When is the best time to visit the Northern Aegean Islands?
Because of their location, the northern islands of the Aegean are known for colder winters and harsher climates, so the summer months of June, July, and August are the right choice for these destinations. Islands such as Thasos and Samothrace tend to get a lot of rain and storms during the fall months, so if you aren’t prepared for chilly weather and precipitation, don’t choose fall. Summer is hot there, with approximately 30 degrees Celsius, clear skies, and little air.
Now, as we move to the northeastern islands, the winters get a bit warmer but are still pretty cold. Again, choose the end of May to the start of September to avoid rainfall and cold for islands such as Lemnos, Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Ikaria, and the other smaller ones.
Samos is an island of rich history and heritage from ancient times, as it is the place of birth for the mathematician Pythagoras, the astronomist Aristarchos, and the philosopher Epikouros. You can find glimpses of this brilliant past in ruins, monuments, and museums. But you will also find stunning beaches nestled among pristine nature, laid-back people, and many opportunities to relax.
Explore the lush beauty of Samos by going on a beach hopping experience:
- Located 13 km from Vathy, you can find Lemonakia, a partly organized bay with turquoise crystal-clear waters. You will find a beach bar to eat or drink.
- Go to Kedros Beach, which is unorganized and peaceful, with lush vegetation and amazing waters.
- Visit Tsamadou Beach, one of the beaches with the most mesmerizing waters of the Northern Aegean islands. This pebbly beach is considered the only official nudist beach in Samos. It is organized with taverns and cafeterias.
- Hire a car (preferably a Jeep) and continue beach-hopping in Potokaki, Mykali, Psili Ammos, Posidonio, Platanakia, or even further away in Potami Beach.
What else to do in Samos:
- Go to Pythagorion Village, where you can see Blue Street, the Archaeological Museum of Pythagorion, the Roman Baths, and the wonderful beach.
- Go sightseeing at the ancient ruins of Heraion (the Temple of Hera from 570–560 BC).
- Explore the traditional villages with their authentic hospitality and delicious food: Kokkari, Ambelos, and Manolates.
- Hike through the Tunnel of Eupalinos, a 550 BC noteworthy monument.
- Hike around Samos in its many trails, or head for the mountaintop of Mount Kerkis.
How to get to Samos
Samos has an international airport “Aristarchos” servicing flights from Athens, Thessaloniki, Chios, Lemnos, Rhodes, and Lesvos all year round. You can catch a flight and conveniently reach Samos.
Alternatively, you can hop on a ferry to Samos from the port of Piraeus in Athens (a 12-hour ferry trip). Thankfully, Samos is also connected to other islands such as Syros, Ikaria, Fournoi, Chios, and even Mykonos.
The upcoming island of the Northern Aegean, Ikaria is a hub for nature lovers, camping enthusiasts, and off-the-grid adventurers. It is known for its rugged landscape, unspoiled locations, hidden beaches, and authenticity. It also has a very vibrant nightlife thanks to the famous “panigiria” in the summer with live music, drinks, food, and a lot of dancing!
Once in Ikaria, you should start exploring its wonderful beaches and secluded coves. Start with these:
- Go to Seychelles beach, found 20 km outside of Agios Kirikos, considered one of the best beaches in Greece. It had rugged cliffs and emerald waters to dive into, and the shore is mostly pebbly with some rocks here and there. It is unorganized and you need to bring your stuff.
- Visit Nas beach for a swim, by heading 6 km outside of Armenistis. There, you will find an earthly paradise in a lush forest, where the Chalares River flows and merges into the sea. You have to hike there to get to Nas Beach, but you can find restaurants in the parking area.
- Head to Iero Beach if you wish to avoid the crowds. It’s a hidden bay close to the airport on the road to Faros, with a partly pebbly partly sandy shore and crystal waters.
What else to do in Ikaria:
- Go to Armenistis village to try fresh seafood and hang around a top location on the island. You can also swim at Armenistis Beach with its thick golden sand and blue waters, nestled among pine trees. You can find facilities near the beach.
- Take part in the “panigiria” celebrated all summer in different locations. Don’t miss the 24th June “Agios Ioannis Kleidonas” panigiri in Raches, and the biggest one on 15th August ‘Koimisi tis Theotokou” in Lagkada.
How to get to Ikaria
You can fly to Ikaria from Athens from Eleftherios Venizelos Airport or hop on a ferry from Piraeus to Evdilos and Agios Kirikos ports. The ferry route lasts about six hours. Additionally, you can find frequent crossings to and from Samos. Samos has 3 ports that connect to the two ports in Ikaria. The trip lasts 1.5 hours.
Fournoi is a stunning island complex next to Ikaria, consisting of many islands and islets, mainly Fournoi and Thymaina, which are also inhabited. It is the perfect getaway from the crowds, with lovely beaches to swim at and traditional food to try around the picturesque villages.
- Swim at Kassidi Beach, 6 km from Fournoi Town, with exotic waters and a sandy shore.
- Go to the white pebbly beach of Petrokopio for some peace, to enjoy one of the island’s most majestic waters.
- Go to the closest beach, Kambi, where you can enjoy a swim only 1 km away from the town.
- Continue beach-hopping to other secluded beaches including Psili Ammos, Chrissomilia, Agia Triada, Vlychada, Ambelos, Kamari, and others.
- While in Fournoi, don’t miss the popular windmills in Kambi.
- Head to the Acropolis in Ai Giorgis Hill with panoramic views over the island for amazing photos and a stunning sunset.
- Visit the Ancient Quarry in Petrokopio with scattered marble parts.
How to get to Fournoi
To get to Fournoi, you have to hop on a ferry. There are crossings from Athens (Piraeus) to Fournoi 3 times per week during the summer months. Otherwise, you can island-hop there by using the ferry connections to and from Samos, and Ikaria, which only lasts 1 hour and is convenient.
Among the top Northern Aegean Islands in Greece to visit is Chios, an island combining rich traditions with modern outlets for entertainment and more. There is a wide range of activities that can cater to couples, families, adventurers, and laid-back travelers. It is an island of unique beauty with lovely landscapes and the famous “mastic trees” that only grow there.
- Visit the picturesque Mastic villages, see the trees up close, and try traditional mastic products
- Go to Kampos to see the wonderful citrus orchards
- Go to Nea Moni, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its mesmerizing mosaics
- Head to the Archaeological Site of Emporio
- Visit the Archaeological, Byzantine, Maritime, and Mastic Museums to learn more
- Enjoy the imposing views of the Temple of Fanaios Apollo
- Go church-hopping to Agios Isidoros, Panagia Krina, and others
Where to swim in Chios
- Swim at Mavra Volia, the most known beach in Chios with black volcanic pebbles
- Relax at Agia Dinami Beach, where you can enjoy the sun and the waters without any interruption
- Go to Vroulidia to chill out and grab something to eat or drink while sunbathing
- For impressive views over Psara island, go to Agia Markella beach with its fine dark sand
How to get to Chios
Chios is a huge island with its own international airport “Omiros.” It receives domestic flights from Athens, Thessaloniki, Lemnos, Lesvos, Samos, and Rhodes all year round.
You can find ferry crossings from the port of Piraeus to Chios all year round. It lasts from 7.5 to 10 hours. You can also get to Chios from the port of Kavala, and the trip lasts from 10 to 15 hours. To and from Chios, you will find ferries for Oinousses, Psara, Samos, Lesvos, Lemnos, Ikaria, Fournoi, and even Lipsi and Patmos.
Psara is a tiny remote island with great history and cultural significance in Greece. It is located in the Northeastern Aegean Sea next to Chios Island. Nowadays, many travelers enjoy its pristine nature and authentic character, away from the fuss.
- Learn about the history of the place during the Turk Occupation and the Greek Revolution of 1821 by visiting the house of Konstantinos Kanaris and the Maritime Museum
- Visit some very important monasteries such as Agia Markella, and Agios Markos.
- Hike around the island up to Profitis Ilias Hill with mesmerizing views over Psara.
- Find the famous windmills and take great photos
How to get to Psara
You can find ferry crossings from Piraeus in Athens to Psara twice a week. The ferry trip lasts about 7 hours. Conveniently, Psara island is also connected with Chios, Oinousses, and Lesvos so island-hopping is a must.
Another top destination in the Northern Aegean, the island complex of Oinousses caters to nature lovers and laid-back vacationers. It consists of Oinoussa, Gaidouronissi, Pontikonisso, Archontonisso, Pontikoudiko, Laimoudiko, Panagia, Vatos, and Prassonisia.
- Go on a boat tour or cruise around the many islets and desert islands to dive into tranquil untouched waters
- Paddle your way to many spots around the coves and find hidden gems
- Swim at the stunning beaches of Zepagos, Kastro, Bilali, Hatzalis, Tzelepi, and Farkero
- Stroll around the center of the traditional settlement and see the old houses owned by shipowners.
- Visit the Church of St. Nikolas, protector of the seamen
- Learn more about its history by visiting the Naval Museum
- Take part in various feasts happening all summer round, especially on the 15th of August (Feast of Dormition of the Virgin Mary)
How to get to Oinousses:
You can get to Oinousses islands exclusively by ferry. There is a ferry connection from the port of Piraeus in Athens thrice a week, with a duration of 9 to 12 hours. There is also a connection from Kavala once a week, lasting 10 hours. The good thing is you can go island hopping to and from Oinousses, as it is connected to Ikaria, Lesvos, Lemnos, Samos, Fournoi, Psara, Chios, and even Mykonos, Syros, and Tinos in the Cyclades.
Lesvos, also known as Mytilini is an island found in the Northeastern Aegean Sea. It is a big island full of traditional villages, monuments, and amazing beaches. It also has a vibrant but laid-back nightlife popular among young visitors.
- Visit the archaeological monuments and sites around the island such as the Temple of Messon, the Acropolis of Eresos, and the Roman aqueduct in Moria.
- Explore the wetlands of the Gulf of Kalloni and the petrified forest of Sigri
- Go castle hunting by visiting the Castle of Mytilini, the Castle of Molyvos, and Sigri.
Where to swim in Lesvos:
- Swim at Eresos Beach, a long and sandy shore ideal for water sports enthusiasts
- Dive into the crystal-clear waters of Vatera. It is very long, sandy, and partly organized.
- Go to Sigri Beach, a small cove with amenities provided by taverns, hotels, and bars
- Explore more of its beaches: Molyvos, Eftalou, Agios Isidoros, Tarti, and Chrisi Ammos
How to get to Lesvos
You can fly to Lesvos from Athens or Thessaloniki all year round. During summertime, the airport “Odysseas Elytis also receives flights from Rhodes, Heraklion, Chios, Samos, and even international flights from Europe.
You can get to Lesvos by ferry. During the summer, there are daily ferry connections from the port of Piraeus to the port of Sigri. The journey is very long and can take from 11 to 17 hours. There is also the option of hopping on a ferry from Kavala, with the trip being 7 to 11 hours maximum.
Lemnos is among the prettiest islands you can find in the North Aegean Sea. It is an island for relaxing holidays, with off-the-beaten-path options and activities. It is ideal for hikers and people who enjoy nature, as it is full of dunes, rock formations, and caves, thanks to its volcanic past.
- Head to Neftina, the best beach on the island with white sand, amazing waters, and trees for shade.
- Go to Mikro Fanaraki, a shallow beach with a sandy shore and a lot of umbrellas and sunbeds to lounge at.
- Swim in Plati, one of the most popular beaches on the island with emerald waters, sand, and shallow waters.
- Go see the dunes of Keros Beach and the lush pine forest behind it. It is organized and has all amenities, and is also ideal for camping in the forest.
- For some privacy, visit the Cave of the Seal, Zematas, and Fakos (Kokkina).
While in Lemnos:
- Stroll around Myrina, the capital, and try local delicacies.
- Visit the castle of Myrina with its imposing views.
- Go sightseeing at the Archaeological Site of Poliochni and the ancient theatre of Ifesteia.
- Go marvel at the Sanctuary of Cabeiri and the Cave of Philoctetes
- Go to The Archaeological Museum of Lemnos
- Visit the Folklore Museum in Portianos
- Go to Faraklo Geological Park
- Try windsurfing on Keros and Kotsinas beaches
- Spot some flamingos in the Alyki Lake
- Explore the villages of Kontopouli, Plaka, Kontias, Atsiki, Fisini, Katalakko
How to get to Lemnos
Lemnos has an International Airport “Hephaestus”, which receives many domestic flights from Athens, and Thessaloniki, but also islands such as Ikaria, Chios, Lesvos, Rhodes, and Samos. During high season, the airport receives some flights from the UK as well.
Take the ferry from Piraeus to Lemnos with a duration of 20 hours, depending on the itinerary. We recommend getting a cabin because the journey is too long. From the port of Lavrio in Athens, you can get to Lemnos in about 9.5 hours.
You can also reach Lemnos from Kavala, which is the fastest ferry crossing of about 4.5 hours. During summer there is also a ferry to Lemnos from Thessaloniki and Alexandroupoli. There are ferry connections for island hopping to Lesvos, Agios Efstratios, Ikaria, Samos, Fournoi, and Chios.
In the northeastern Aegean, you can also find Thassos, a remote island with breathtaking views, rugged terrain among green landscapes, and wonderful beaches. While in Thassos, you can enjoy nature, authentic food, and warm hospitality and go beach hopping to enjoy its crystal-clear waters.
Here are some of the best beaches to visit in Thassos:
- Go to Alyki Beach with its soft white sand and beautiful waters. It is organized and perfect to chill out.
- Head to Psili Ammos, a long sandy beach on the southern side of Thassos, which is organized and quite popular.
- Don’t miss Giola Lagoon, a natural pool overlooking the sea, where you can swim and take great photos.
What else to do in Thassos:
- Explore the Old Port of Limenaria and walk along the promenade with its many restaurants and bars.
- Go sightseeing at the Ancient Agora and Ancient Theater in Limenas and the ancient Marble Quarry.
- Learn more about its history by visiting the Archaeological Archaeological Museum in Limenas.
- Visit the Cave of Pan
- Go to the Monastery of the Archangel Michael
How to get to Thassos
Thassos is located in the northern Aegean Sea but has good ferry connections. The shortest and most convenient ferry route is from Keramoti to Limenas. From Keramoti, the route lasts only about 35 minutes. Your other alternative is to take the ferry from Kavala to Skala Prinos, with 75 minutes of travel.
One of the best Northern Aegean islands in Greece is Samothrace, opposite Alexandroupoli in Evros. It is an island of wonders, where the famous Nike of Samothrace (Winged Victory of Samothrace) was found, which is now displayed in the Louvre Museum. The island is getting quite popular among naturists but remains untouched by mass tourism. It has unspoiled nature, natural springs and pools to swim in, Saos Mountain, and beautiful gorges to explore.
Which beaches to visit in Samothrace:
- Visit Saoki Beach and its beach bar to lounge by and enjoy a drink or snack. Several parties take place here during the high summer months.
- Head to Kipoi on the other side of the island to swim. It is a rocky beach hidden among imposing cliffs and great waters to dive into. There’s a canteen there to grab something to eat or drink.
What else to do in Samothrace:
- Visit Gria Vathra Canyon, with 3 big pools right on the hiking trails and countless others if you are adventurous enough to ascend the canyon.
- Explore the gorge of Fonias by walking along a well-trodden path that leads to a big pool and a tall waterfall. If you feel like it, hike deeper and discover Fonias Waterfalls, a mesmerizing spot with huge waterfalls and crystal-clear water.
- Go to Grigorakis Gorge, another location filled with natural pools
- and vathres” where you can enjoy a swim amongst thick trees and their shade.
- Explore Therma, the hottest hub of the island, and drink beer or a drink at the square below a huge plane tree.
- Go to Chora to spend a lovely evening with panoramic views over the sea and the rest of the green island. You can find great restaurants, cafes, and bars there.
- See the replica of the statue of Nice of Samothrace by visiting the ancient ruins and the place where it was originally found.
How to get to Samothrace:
You can either fly to Alexandropouli and then take the ferry from there to Samothrace, or simply drive to Alexandroupoli in Evros to catch your ferry. The ferry ride lasts less than 2 hours. There is also a ferry route from Kavala to Samothrace, depending on the season. Sometimes, during the summer months, there is a ferry route from the port of Lavrio in Athens to Samothraki, which lasts 15 hours. Samothrace has ferry connections to the islands of Lemnos, Lesvos, and Thassos.