F is for Folegandros
Is it the quintessence of the Cycladic island? Sugar cube village, clifftop monastery, bright bays accessible only by boat, or vertiginous dirt tracks – check, check, check. Folegandros isn’t the hippie haven it once was, but it still has enough rustic charm and barefoot carefree to be calm and intensely cool.
Fly to Santorini then take the high-speed ferry (seajets.gr) in Folegandros. Family-run Anemomilos (00 30 22860 41309; anemomiloshotel.com) has stylish cliffside studios, from Â£ 145.
G is for Gorges
You might have a perfectly lazy beach vacation in Crete, but the true nature of the island is hidden within its spectacular gorges. Samaria is the most famous, but there are dozens of less difficult options. Maria Mylonaki, Crete Diktynna Travel specialists, recommends Aradena Gorge, which begins in an abandoned village and ends with a swim in the Libyan Sea; Agia Irini, shaded by ancient olive trees; or Zakros, whose caves contained Minoan tombs. âThe canyons resemble the Cretan character: rugged, rough, to be approached with caution, but still generous and by no means boring,â explains Mylonaki.
Diktynna Travel’s (00 30 28210 41458; diktynna-travel.gr) hiking guides are not only wilderness and wildlife experts. They will unlock frescoed chapels and pre-order fish soup at the best tavern.
H is for Hydra
“Ouzo, intrigue et Leonard Cohen”, is how one review described A Theater for Dreamers, Polly Samson’s novel about the maturity of an ingenuous in the bohemian whirlwind of Hydra of the 1960s. The Heady Island and languid hasn’t changed much since: its architectural integrity is intact, motor vehicles are still prohibited, and the jasmine-draped courtyard taverns are still teeming with artists, writers and muses. Yes, it is steep, expensive and there are hardly any beaches; but Hydra’s allure remains irresistible.
Bring the gang and the shack to Kamini House, (00 30 6932906377; hipawayvillas.com), the image of blue and white perfection, with terraces shaded by exuberant bougainvillea. From 800 â¬ per night, 8 beds.
I is for the Ionian Islands
“A love affair between romantic Britons and the Ionian Islands has been going on for 200 years,” says Ileana von Hirsch, originally from Ithaca and founder of the luxury villa agency Five Star Greece. âThe islands were part of the British Empire for 40 years. Edward Lear painted the landscape of Corfu and Lord Byron was offered the crown of Ithaca by the locals (unfortunately he refused it, but was tempted). The Durrells followed a respected tradition of fleeing the wet and grimy shores of Albion for the clarity of the Ionian water, the gentle breezes, the sweltering mountains, and the shady groves of cypress and olive trees.
With stunning views, stylish interiors, and access to a private jetty, Corfu MC is a testament to the good taste of its Anglo-Greek owners. From â¬ 18,000 per week, sleeps 8 (020 8422 4885; fivestargreeece.com).