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Crete, Europe, Greece

🏴‍☠️ Pirate guide to our favourite affordable Greek islands 🇬🇷

If you've got your sights set on Greece for your 2024 holiday, but aren't sure where to go or when, we're here to help. We've got the lowdown on our top Greek islands that are actually affordable, plus tips on when to go and how to save. We've even given you some great hotel recommendations. Read on and book away!

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Crete: the best all-round destination

From beaches to mountains for hiking and cultural attractions, Crete has a bit of everything. The north of Crete is more touristy, while the south is more unspoilt. Being Greece's largest island, Crete is ideal for families, couples or those looking for their first Greece holiday experience on a budget.

When to go on holiday in Crete

Tourism in Crete is highly seasonal. In the spring, Crete is in full bloom. By April, the thermometer is already over 20C and the sea is warm enough to swim in. It hardly rains until autumn. We would call this the sweet spot for a holiday break in Crete.

The months of July and August are hot, with temperatures exceeding 30C. While this isn't a problem by the sea, those who are hoping to go hiking inland or doing extensive sightseeing should look to the shoulder season.

As early as mid-October it becomes very quiet outside the larger cities; hotels and taverns close, buses run less frequently and ferry traffic along the south coast is stopped.

Where to stay and how to save on Crete

Hotels in Crete come in all categories and price ranges. The island's main tourist centres are around Chania and Rethymnon and to the east of the capital, Heraklion. There are numerous hotel complexes between the seaside resorts of Hersonissos and Malia. Those looking for a beach holiday should book a hotel in the Chania region, which boasts some of Crete’s best beaches, many of which have been awarded a Blue Flag.

If you prefer a quieter stay, many of Crete's smaller hotels are located in picturesque villages that are also close to the coast and make up for their lack of proximity to the beach with unforgettable views.

Our top picks for hotels include: 5-star TUI BLUE Insula Alba and TUI BLUE Elounda Breeze, the 4-star Harmony Rethymno Beach and the 4-star Elounda Ilion.

Those looking to cut costs will see savings with hotels or holiday apartments that are located further back from the beach or in the mountains. We've found a 7-night stay at the 3-star Sarpidon Apartments in April from under £400 per person, which includes flights, luggage and transfers.

We also suggest booking your holiday during one of the shoulder seasons, either just before summer holidays in April or June, or after in September or October.

Pirate tip 🏴‍☠️: If you want to save even more, skip the rental car and take one of the island's many cheap buses. Most places worth visiting are well-connected and easy to reach. Public buses will take you all over the island from April to October.

Rhodes: the best for a beach holiday

Located in the eastern Aegean Sea, Rhodes is the largest of the Greek Dodecanese islands. It's also considered the sunniest of the Greek islands and was associated with the sun god Helios in ancient times. Despite this, the island is green and densely forested in places.

While Greece is packed with amazing beaches, Rhodes is our pick for the ultimate beach holiday. Fine sandy beaches, picturesque bays and ancient heritage make Rhodes a top choice.

When to go on holiday in Rhodes

Thanks to its location, Rhodes has one of the longest sunny seasons out of all the islands, which lasts from the beginning of April until the end of November. Plus, unlike some of the other islands, Rhodes doesn't close down completely in the winter months, which means it's also possible to visit and still enjoy the island year round.

Where to stay and how to save on Rhodes

Head to the island's east coast if you've got sand and sun on your mind. The coast boasts almost 80 km of uninterrupted sandy beaches and seaside.

Here, you'll also find many of the island's holiday resorts. Faliraki is perfect for the party animals among us, largely catering to the 18 to 30s crowd. Those looking to get away from the crowds should try Pefkos, known for its Blue Flag beach, or Kalithea and Kolymbia, quiet coves perfect for sunbathing.

Check out the newly renovated 4-star Myrina Beach in Kolymbia, or the newly refurbished 3-star TUI SUNEO Falaraki. Some of our other favourites include the 5-star Amada Colossos Resort and the 4-star Grecotel LUXME Dama Dama both located in Kalithea.

Since Rhodes is one of the most popular Greek Islands, it's not always considered the cheapest island. However, it's all relative! If you're looking to save or bag a bargain then we definitely recommend travelling during spring or autumn when the weather is still sunny, the tourists are fewer and the accommodation prices are moderate.

Pirate tip 🏴‍☠️: Look for package holidays with added value, such as free luggage and transfers, to make your money go further.

Kos: the best for families & couples

Although Kos is the third largest of the Dodecanese islands, it is relatively small compared to Rhodes. On Kos, you can simply relax and enjoy your Mediterranean holiday.

When to go on holiday in Kos

The best time to visit Kos depends mainly on your preferences. If you want a beach holiday with high temperatures and plenty of sunshine, the best time is between May and September. Temperatures average between 30C and 35C. The water is also pleasant to swim in at 19C to 25C.

If you don't want to just sunbathe on the beach, spring and autumn are probably better for you. When the temperatures are a little less sweaty, you can enjoy nature in a more relaxed way. If that's what you're looking for from your holiday to Kos, then March to May and September to November are the right times to go.

Where to stay and how to save on Kos

Life on Kos takes place on the coast. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the bay and the longer the sandy beach, the more hotels, nightlife and water sports you will find. The beaches at Tigaki in the north or Agios Theologos in the south-west are particularly recommended. Kos has a wide range of family-friendly hotels and many gently sloping sandy beaches.

The capital, Kos Town, in the east, has more activities and sights to offer than any other region on the island and is, of course, one of the most popular holiday destinations on Kos.

If you like it quieter, head south to the Kefalos peninsula, where the landscape is rougher, the bays smaller and there are fewer tourists.

If you're looking to save, book holiday packages that include flights and hotel. We suggest looking at aparthotels that allows for comfort, but at a cheaper price. We can recommend the 3-star Aspro Spiti Hotel Apartments or the 3-star Jonathan Apartments. Both of these are solid self-catering options for couples and families from under £500 per person in May. For a bit more, you can upgrade to the 4-star TUI BLUE Oceanis Beach, which offers all-inclusive deals from under £800 per person in May.

Corfu: the best for nature lovers

Corfu is located in the far northwest of Greece in the Ionian Sea. Due to its lush vegetation, Corfu is considered the greenest island in Greece. The island's capital and largest town, Kerkyra, is located on the east coast, where it's more densely populated than the rest of the island. You'll also find most of the larger hotels are located along this coast with long and sandy beaches, with calm waves.

While the island is great for nature lovers, if you are more interested in culture, you can visit the old town of Corfu Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

When to go on holiday in Corfu

Much like the other islands we've recommended, the months of May to September are the best for a holiday in Corfu, with many hours of sunshine, warm temperatures and few rainy days.

However, Corfu is designed for the summer seasonal tourism, which means you might find things a bit quiet in the winter season. You can expect highs of 15C in the day, and 5C at night. Of course, some would argue that it's the best time to avoid crowds and find a bargain, but it's really just about what your expectations are for your holiday.

Where to stay and how to save on Corfu

Kerkyra and the east coast are very lively and cater for the party animals among you. The smaller resorts south of Kerkyra are ideal for families; they are well-connected to the capital by bus and have all the amenities.

You might be able to snag some sun and a great bargain deal in April or October. And while the temperatures in April are warm enough for a long swim in the Mediterranean, most of the beach towns are still deserted, hence the lower prices. In the north and north-east, where there are few large hotels, you should be able to find out of season bargains, and you may even have the beach to yourself.

Our top picks for hotels include: 4-star Destino Blue Hotel & Spa and 3-star Agua Y Sol both of which offer bargain self-catering packages under £500 per person for a week this spring.

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