We challenge anyone to sit though a re-run of Mamma Mia! and not feel the urge to jump on the next plane to the closer-to-the-UAE-than-you-think Greek islands for a picture-perfect holiday filled with blue seas, delicious food and stunning views. And while they're perfect for two weeks of uninterrupted lounging on beaches, you can also hop from island to island and get a taste for life across the region.
Lady Gaga, Goldie Hawn and Rihanna rate the islands as one of their top holiday getaways, and with harbour towns aplenty, scatterings of bright white villas on sloping hillsides and beaches that go on for miles, you can understand why the A-list flocks to these paradise islands every year.
The most spectacular island is definitely the volcanic formation of Santorini, which, thanks to its naturally fantastic beaches like Perissa, is one of the most popular tourist destinations. Pay a visit to Santorini and you'll find yourself spending long and relaxed days down by the shore, before heading into the town to wander around and find a little taverna in which to sample some classic Greek cuisine. And all of this to the backdrop of dramatic cliffsides, sparkling oceans and quaint town life, just waiting to be snapped and turned into a postcard moment.
A story around every corner
One of the best things about the Greek islands, as with the whole of Greece, is that everywhere you turn there's a story or legend to be told.
In true castaway style, rent a yacht and head to the deserted island of Farmakonisi, (yes it is a very glam thing to do, but no ferries stop there so it's really your only option!). The island is the spot where Julius Caesar was kidnapped and held by pirates when he was a teenager. After he was finally released when his family paid the hefty ransom, he wiped out the entire population of the island in revenge - and it remains deserted to this day. Just make sure you take your own supplies on your day trip delving into history as, of course, there's no supermarket on this island.
For more recent history, book yourself a villa in Corfu's idyllic Kalami Bay and stay in the exact spot where British writer, Lawrence Durrell, penned Prospero's Cell: A Guide To The Landscape And Manners Of The Island Of Corcyra [Corfu], which, as the name tells you, is written about the region he loved.
Deceptively simple Greek food is one of the most delicious cuisines in the world, and as you would expect on the country's islands, it's all about the seafood. And whichever isle you head to there's guaranteed to be a harbour packed full of family-owned seafood restaurants that will serve you a delicious catch of the day, cooked to order.
If you've had your fill of tavernas and little bars, head to the incredibly posh 1800 restaurant in Santorini. The converted sea captain's house serves up the most delicious food on the island, and their most celebrated dish is Red mullet wrapped in grape leaves, served in tapenade sauce (visit oia-1800.com for more info). If more relaxed dining is your personal holiday style, then Corfu's Beachcomber's Bistro, with its uninterrupted views of Agios Stefanos beach will be right up your street (beachcombersbistro.com ). You'll be wooed by the delicious home-style Mediterranean food they serve up, but it's the restaurant's setting on the north-west of the island that makes this a once-in-a-lifetime experience; with its enviable location treating evening diners to a breathtaking view of the flaming sunset that simply has to be enjoyed with a traditional glass of ouzo.
Mamma Mia!, The Bourne Identity, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Life In Ruins, Big Blue, The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants
Emirates flies directly to Athens from Dh3,000 return. From Athens you can take Aegean Airlines to most of the major islands, including Kos, Rhodes and Corfu from about Dh350 return, or take a boat from Athens' port of Piraeus to Santorini (the high-speed five-hour option costs Dh140). Visit www.emirates.com
Budget: Palms And Spas Boutique Apartments, Corfu
Overlooking Corfu's stunning sandy Messongi Bay and set on the green hillside, here you'll find a private retreat that boasts uninterrupted sea views, personal hot tubs and a spa that offers a host of relaxing treatments. The resort is just a short drive to the nearby Messonghi Village, which has plenty of dining and nightlife options. From Dh300-per-night.
Mid-Range: The Old Markets, Symi
Every building on the island of Symi's port is protected by a national preservation order and celebrated for its heritage. The Old Markets hotel is steeped in history and is a must-stay if you're looking for a more rustic option. There's a Mediterranean feel at its heart, a bubbly breakfast that lasts until 1pm, a spa at which to take some well-earned R&R and a collection of fine artwork and antiquities that furnish the property. Rooms start from Dh630.
Luxury: Perivolas Suites, Santorini
This hotel is fully integrated into the landscape, with 17 bright suites set in restored caves, which stand out from the azure Aegean horizon. The adults-only hotel boasts a spa with a hamman cave, a sauna and an infinity pool. The hotel is only open in high season, from April to November, and if you book directly with the hotel your rate will include a daily Mediterranean breakfast, a welcome bubbly cocktail by the pool and more VIP perks. Rooms start from Dh2,000-per-night.
If you need to get a connecting flight through Athens, take advantage of the stop-off before you head off to your island and pay a visit to The Parthenon. The largest temple on the Acropolis - which dates back to 500BC - was originally dedicated to the goddess of the city, Athena.
The paradise island of Gavados is the southernmost island in Europe and life on the island, which has fewer than 40 permanent inhabitants, hasn't changed very much since the 1950s. If you're after heavenly beaches, lounging in tavernas and relaxing with arty-types from around Europe, this is the place for you. But know that if the wind is blowing the wrong way, boat services to the island are cancelled.
With its stark white houses and picturesque windmills, Mykonos town, or Chora, is a must-visit. Get lost in the winding alleyways, stumble upon boutiques and cafés during the day, and bars and restaurants come nightfall.