WHY WE LOVE IT
- Exotic, ancient, atmospheric: sugar-cube villages, white-sand beaches, domed monasteries, classical sites, the sparkling sapphire Aegean Sea.
- A new breed of intimate high-design hotels on trendy islands contrast with simple, rustic accommodations on lesser-known ones. High-rises and large resorts are rare.
- Great variety—from jet-set Athenian hideaways to sleepy, rocky outposts that have hardly changed in centuries. The most popular islands are Santorini and Mykonos.
- If you want everything to run like clockwork and require first-class transportation, this might not be your ideal getaway, as you'll be walking and taking ferries and local buses, not to mention the odd mule.
- Good buys: fishermen's hats, stoneware pottery, Metaxa brandy, handmade leather sandals and worry beads.
WHEN TO GO
Summer is high season, with July and especially August almost too crowded for comfort. On many islands, spring is a bargain and quite lovely, with blankets of wild flowers and a breezy warmth. Most places are closed in winter, so November to March is off-limits.