The Greek coast has a total length of approximately 16,000 km. Half of these are on the thousands of Greek islands, while the rest extends along the mainland. What characterises the famous Greek coasts is their unique diversity (beaches stretching over many kilometres, small bays and coves, sandy beaches with dunes, pebbly shores, coastal caves surrounded by steep rocks and with the characteristic dark sand of volcanic soils, coastal wetlands), their clean and transparent waters which have made them renowned all over the world and, for this reason, extremely popular.
Most of the thousands of Greek coasts are freely accessible and you have the opportunity to discover and enjoy them without the presence of a large number of swimmers. There are, however, also many organised beaches in the country with the necessary infrastructure providing high-quality services (umbrellas, reclining chairs, changing booths, cafes, bar-restaurants etc), where, apart from swimming, you can enjoy water sports (water ski,windsurfing, diving etc) as well as other means of having fun in the water, such as the parachute for one or two persons, “tyres” and the “banana”, pedalo, jet ski etc. All organised beaches also have lifeguard towers ensuring safe swimming in the area.
The islands are Greece's chief morphological trait and an integral part of the country's civilisation and tradition. The Greek territory comprises 6,000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Sea, a truly unique phenomenon on the European continent; of these islands only 227 are inhabited.
The Greek Archipelago takes up 7,500 km of the country's total 16,000-km coastline, offering a highly diversified landscape: beaches stretching along many kilometers, sheltered bays and coves, golden stretches of sand with dunes, pebbly beaches, coastal caves with steep rocks and black sand typical of volcanic soil, coastal wetlands... Many Greek beaches have been awarded the blue flag under the programme Blue Flags of Europe . Apart from swimming, they lend themselves to scuba diving, snorkeling, water skiing, sailing and windsurfing. As they are the cradle of some of the most ancient and prosperous European civilisations (the Cycladic, Minoan civilisations, etc.), the islands boast unique archaeological sites, an outstanding architectural heritage and centuries-old, fascinating local traditions of a multifaceted cultural past. Moreover, 58.5% of the country’s lodging establishments and 62.6% of hotel beds are found on the islands (data for 2003). All the above, combined with the ideal climate, the safety of Greek waters and the short distances between ports and coasts, have rendered the Greek islands extremely popular among Greek and foreign visitors.
Most islands lie in the Aegean Sea and are divided in seven groups (from north to south):
The Northeastern Aegean Islands
The Argo-Saronic Islands
A group of 56 islands, its most important ones being Amorgos, Anafi, Andros, Antiparos, Delos, Ios, Kea, Kimolos, Kythnos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Santorini, Serifos, Sikinos, Sifnos, Syros, Tinos, Folegandros, as well as the “Minor Cyclades” comprising Donousa, Irakleia, Koufonisia and Schinoussa.
The Ionian Islands
The islands of Gavdos (situated south of Crete), Elafonissos (in the Gulf of Laconia) and Trizonis (in the Gulf of Corinth), although not forming part of any group, are of unparalleled natural beauty.