Essential Greek island escapes

Island hopping across the Ionian, Aegean and Crete seas is the hottest holiday trend hottest this summer. Andy Round previews the treasured islands that will make you feel like a Greek god. [18 images in total, text continues below]

There are thousands of good reasons to go Greek island hopping this summer. And that’s the problem. There are so many of them, all bewilderingly beautiful, all astonishingly different, that it’s hard to know where to start. You know what you want – a thick white-washed luxury villa soaked in honey-coloured sun luxuriating in a glassy emerald sea – but where do you find it? For those of you looking for concrete tourist ghettos marching down the beach, look away now. We are about to enter the chic and cheerful world of exclusive luxury living. See you down the taverna…

Cephalonia

Immoralised as the setting for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Cephalonia continues to enchant. Penelope Cruz and Nicholas Cage may be long gone but the magic of Myrtos’ white crescent beach in a crystal-clear Mediterranean setting endures. Wild horses still roam the fir-lined Mount Ainos National Park, the giant cave of Drogarati continues to ring with the melodies of Maria Callas’ famous performance and the colourful port of Fiskardho still provides a living for the fishing community and the setting for the heated infinity pools of the elegant Emelisse hotel. It’s no wonder Robert De Niro is a confirmed fan and Charles and Diana stopped off here on their honeymoon…

Corfu

Corfu may have struggled to shake off its beer belly reputation, but the smart set know that far from the buckets and spades, there is the irresistible charm of its elegant Venetian-British capital. The arcaded streets, esplanade and soaring classic Georgian buildings house a classy legacy. Apparently it’s home to three quarters of Greece’s classical musicians. As a result Corfu is naturally a magnet for summer arts festivals and open-air concerts. The Byzantine Museum and Museum of Archaeology are also surprisingly exciting cultural finds in their own right. At night there are plenty of clubs to enjoy, but the nightlife appeal of Corfu is strolling the cobbled streets after dark, sipping an ouzo in the fashionable Liston arcade or at the rooftop bar of the Cavalieri Hotel.

Hydra

The secret celebrity hideaway of Hydra has never gone out of fashion. The happy home of tragic singer Leonard Cohen, über diva Joan Collins and the picturesque backdrop to the pneumatic Sophia Loren in Boy On A Dolphin, Hydra may have banned cars on the island but its donkey-accommodating streets are crammed with writers, artists, celebrities and the wealthy Greek glitterarti all on their way to the stunning mansions, gourmet restaurants and designer boutiques overlooking the tiny port.

Ithaca

If you find Hydra a little too mainstream, you could always follow Madonna’s example and book yourself on the island of Ithaca. There’s more than a hint of Venetian architecture here as well as the obligatory postcard views of harsh mountains, rich valleys and endless beaches. And that’s all very well, but true exclusivity comes in the form of the island’s Skinos beachfront estate where Madonna likes to stay. Skinos has its own yacht, speedboat, beach and that all important luxury essential, 400 acres of pine-scented hills, vine terraces and cypress trees.

Mykonos

It’s hardly worth booking a room on Mykonos, because you’ll be out partying all night. It’s ritzy, it’s glitzy and this summer it’s the expensively exclusive epicentre for eastern Mediterranean fashionistas. Designer Julien McDonald adores its hedonistic cubist St Tropez-vibe capital and is a regular at Matsuhisa’s famous Nobu at Hora’s Belvedere Hotel (regulars also include Sarah Jessica Parker). Naturally, the island’s superclub, superstar DJ reputation is always immaculately dressed (particularly at vintage favourite Cavo Paradiso) and for style spotters light years away from when Shirley Valentine arrived to realise life was not a dress rehearsal. Some things never change: in Mykonos life is for living seriously. That’s why the Greek smart set has been coming here for years.

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