The Aegean Islands are the group of islands in the Aegean Sea, with mainland Greece to the West and North, Turkey to the East, and the island of Crete delimiting the sea to the South. The vast majority of the Aegean Islands belong to Greece, and it is the main reason that Greece is among the top countries in the world in regards to number of islands and length of coastline.
The Aegean islands are significant tourist attractions. Some of the top destinations of Greece and the whole world are part of the Aegean Islands: Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Kos, Paros, Naxos and many more. A total of five UNESCO World Heritage sites are located in the Aegean Islands; these include the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse on Patmos, the Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos in Samos, the Nea Moni of Chios, the island of Delos and the Medieval City of Rhodes.
See below for more information about important places of the Aegean Islands, especially beaches and places of gastronomy interest.
** part of the material and photos on this section are from the Official Tourism Page of Region of South Aegean and the Official Page VisitGreece.
The Aegean Islands are subdivided into smaller groups, from south to north:
- South Aegean islands – Dodecanese & Cyclades
- Northeastern Aegean Islands – from Samos, Icaria and Chios, to Lemnos and Lesvos (Thasos & Samothrace are part of northern Greece)
- North Sporades – including Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos and Skyros
The Aegean Sea has been historically important, especially in regards to the civilization of Ancient Greece, who inhabited the area around the coast of the Aegean and the Aegean Islands. In ancient times, the sea was the birthplace of an ancient civilizations, the Cycladic Civilization, the same period with the Minoans of Crete and before the rise of the Myceneans in the Peloponnese, the “predecessors” by the Golden Age of Athens.
In terms of Geology, the rocks making up the floor of the Aegean are mainly limestone, though often greatly altered by volcanic activity that has convulsed the region in relatively recent geologic times. The current coastline dates back to about 4000 BC; before that time, at the peak of the last ice age (about 18,000 years ago) sea levels everywhere were 130 metres lower, and there were large well-watered coastal plains instead of much of the northern Aegean.
The climate of the Aegean Sea largely reflects the climate of Greece, which is “Mediterranean”. Most of the Aegean is classified as Hot-summer Mediterranean (Csa), with hotter and drier summers along with milder and wetter winters. In the north of the Aegean Sea, the climate is instead classified as Cold semi-arid (BSk), which feature cooler summers. The Etesian north winds are a dominant weather influence in the Aegean Basin, especially during summer, keeping the tempreture not as high as in other Mediterraanean regions.
Destinations of the Aegean Islands
With its bright green hills, beautiful valleys and uninterrupted line of golden beaches, Rhodes is truly a blessed place – beautiful beaches, a long history, and numerous cultural and archaeological sites … and you’ve got the perfect holiday destination.
Gastronomy of the Aegean Islands
Welcome to the Aegean Sea’s world of taste: rich white or red sauces; tenderly cooked pulses; home-grown tasty vegetables traditionally grown on dry soil; bread and rusks with the robust flavour of the local wheat and barley varieties; and fresh goat cheeses, as filling to fluffy little pies wrapped in thin dough, are some of your options as you follow our gastronomic map of the area.
The local culinary traditions date back to ancient times and they are an intrinsic part of the Aegean Culture. Top quality ingredients wear the aromas of the earth: oregano, thyme, bay leaves, rosemary, lemons, and olive oil. Each island’s microclimate has contributed to the growth of flavourful produce, some of which are unique across the world. The Aegean cuisine is based on a central backbone composed of fresh and incomparable taste, seafood, local meats from fine breeds and vegetables from unique varieties, delicious, anhydrous, and grafted with copious of sun. But the most beautiful of all, is that on every island, the cuisine is so different that this heterogeneous approach to a similar gastronomic culture is surprising. Flavours with the same DNA, but so unique and special. The reason? The rare products grown by hard-working producers, carefully standardized by craftsmen, consciously cooked by traditional and modern cooks in cafes, tavernas and restaurants.
The Aegean Cuisine Initiative
The Aegean Cuisine Initiative was founded to utilize and exploit the wealth of Aegean gastronomy, highlight local products and wines, and to promote thematic tourism in these islands. It is a network of businesses in the islands of the South Aegean that aim to offer visitors the Aegean gastronomy experienceq; it belongs to the Chambers of Commerce & Industry of Dodecanese and Cyclades and is supported by a number of local stakeholders. We invite you on a journey in time to live the unique experience of flavours, scents and an introduction to our culture. More than 300 certified restaurants in 50 islands of the Dodecanese and the Cyclades await you to visit them so that you can go back home with memories full of the Aegean experience. Visit the Aegean Cuisine new website: http://www.aegeancuisine.org/
European Region of Gastronomy 2019
The South Aegean was designated as a European Region of Gastronomy in 2019. The Region of Gastronomy Award provides credibility for regions, as it is given by an independent and international panel of experts. A region is not awarding itself the title, but has proven to a panel of experts that it has developed sufficient gastronomy related projects and programmes to merit holding the Award. The Award provides the occasion for communities to work together towards a shared objective and, therefore ensures great benefits in terms of local cohesion. Raising citizen awareness about the food they eat, the value of local products and the need to innovate in order to protect local produce are key areas of the programme.
Read details of the project as applied in the South Aegean Region, through a series on projects and events: http://www.aegeangastronomy.gr/
The cuisine of the Aegean offers generously, flavours with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) or Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), that cannot wait for you to discover: tomato and fava from Santorini, potatoes and the famous gruyere from Naxos, gruyere San Michalis from Syros, buffalo cheese from Lipsi, kopanisti from Mykonos, extra virgin olive oil from Rhodes (PGI) and Lesvos (PDO), ladotyri from Lesvos, kalathaki from Limnos, Ikaria’s anamatomelo, world-famous PDO Mastic of Chios and the island’s fragrant clementines (PGI), sardines (papalines) from Kalloni bay of Lesvos, wine Malagouzia from Paros, Assyrtiko from Santorini, and local varieties from Rhodes, Kos, Leros, and Lipsi, sweet dessert wines of Samos and Limnos, made from Muscat and Muscat of Alexandria grapes, several types of ouzo from Lesvos and local beers from Tinos, Rhodes and Kos, all of them true experiences, that worth passing from… mouth to mouth.
And there are many more rare delicacies that challenge you to explore them: Tinos artichoke, salted fish from Leros, melekouni from Rhodes, beans from Katavia in Rhodes, Andros volaki cheese and Milos pellets, Schinousa and Koufonisia wild goats, sitaka from Kasos and Karpathos, Kithnos macaroons, Anafi boiled cheese, Ios cheese, Kea and Kimolos sour cheese, fried zucchini flowers on most islands, stuffed squid from Skopelos, pickled bonito (lakerda) from Lesvos, handmade pasta called “flomaria” from Limnos (served with plenty of grated cheese), sofiko on Ikaria (layered summer vegetables).
The raw materials of this cuisine also include the thyme honeys of Serifos, Sikinos and Kalymnos, the gylomeni manouri cheese of Sifnos, the wild herbs of Folegandros and Heraklia, the Psimeni of Amorgos, the sun-dried octopuses of Antiparos, the xinomizithra of Donoussa, salt from Symi and more.
Sightseeing & exploring in the Aegean Islands
In this section you can find information about places of special interest, and possibilities of visits and tours to archeological sites, museums, historical monuments and landscapes of special natural beauty, which constitute the heritage of the Aegean Islands. Some of them are close to producers of our Network or Hotels with our products and most of then caan be combined with activities in the area. Volcanic landscapes in Milos, Akrotiri, Caldera and the Fira-Oia hiking in Santorini, the Medieval City (with the Palace of the Grand Masters), the Valey of Butterflies, Lindos and the Monolithos Castle in Rhodes, the Delos island, the Medieval villages Pyrgi, Olympi, Volissos, and Anavatos in Chios, the petrified forest in Lesvos, the big churches and small monasteries in Tinos, Paros and Naxos, Patmos and Evoia, UNESCO Monuments of Heritage and numerous archaelogical sites are just some places worth visiting.
However, the landmark of Aegean Islands is their beaches, maybe the best in the world, gathered in such a small area.
Every year, Greece is ranked by the Blue Flag Program among the top three countries with the best quality beaches and coasts. In short, in the Aegean you can find a huge nnumber of well-known fabulous beaches, sandy or pebbled, secluded or organized. Some of them are:
St. Paul, Tsambika, Faliraki and Antoni Quinn in Rhodes, Agios Prokopios and Plaka in Naxos, Sarakiniko in Milos, Lalaria and Koukounaries in Skiathos, Reb Beach in Santorini, Kolympithres and Chryssi Akti in Paros, Mylopotas in Ios, Super Paradise in Mykonos, Stafylos in Skopelos, Kolona in Kithnos, Thermes,Kefalos and Psalidi in Kos, Kyra Panagia and Apella in Karpathos, Tiganakia in Arkioi, St George Disalonas in Symi, Koutsomitis in Astypalaia, Livadi Geranou in Patmos, Platis Gialos in Lispi, Seychelles in Ikaria, Pori and Megali Ammos in Koufonisia to name just a few..
Places of Ineterest
The Valley of the Butterflies is a natural park located in the island of Rhodes, 23 km southwest to Rhodes town. It belongs to a Natura 2000 Protected Zone together with Seven Springs and ….