Actually two islands, Kato and Ano (meaning lower and upper) Koufonisia, with the former almost uninhabited, are like a land that tourism forgot, mainly because the quickest ferry from Athens takes six hours.
Home to only a few hundred residents, Ano Koufonisi is tiny, just 2.2 square miles, so walking or cycling round the island are the most efficient modes of getting about.
The main industry, apart from the creeping reach of tourism, is fishing, and the main town of Chora retains the feel of an untouched fishing village, with small boats bobbing in the harbor.
There's not a whole lot to do here, but that's the idea.
You can hire a caique (traditional wooden boat) for a trip to the nearby island of Keros, where examples of early Cycladic figurines have been carefully excavated.
Otherwise life settles into a slow rhythm of going to beaches like Finikias, Platia Pounta, Fanos and the naturist-friendly Pori, taking a caique trip to the deserted strands of sand on Kato Koufonisia, or visiting the churches of Agios Nikolaos, Profitis Ilias, and Agios Georgios,
Where to stay: The white-on-white Aeolos Hotel is close to the port, has bright rooms with flashes of pastel color, and a decent pool ringed by stone tiles.
Aeolos Hotel, Koufonisia; +30 22850 74296; doubles from $130
Best couples getaway: Folegandros
Santorini is often the go-to island for couples in these parts, but another Cycladian island where houses perch on clifftops is an even better escape for lovebirds.
The mountainous, mostly treeless Folegandros doesn't get the crowds of the islands around it thanks to sparser ferry service, a boon for twosomes in search of some solitude with their sun and sand.
The main village of the island, Chora, set on a cliff plateau 650 feet up, embodies the archetypal image of Cycladic buildings of small white houses with blue doors lining cobblestoned street.
The Kastro, the Venetian part of Chora, is well preserved while the majority of the island appears as it has for centuries, devoid of buildings in favor of open landscapes.
Donkeys remain a widely used means of transportation and goats scramble up and down the sun-baked hills. Painters and writers from Europe come to Folegandros for quiet inspiration and the most enduring memories of a visit here are the silence and the bays with crystal clear water.
The one not-to-be-missed site is the northeastern cave of Chrysopelia, where ancient names are written in clay into the walls, a custom from the Hellenistic Period.
Where to stay: In the port village of Karavostasis, Anemi Hotel has a gorgeous infinity pool and a clutch of two-story buildings with rooms that have modern furnishings and exposed wood beams. It also accepts pets.
Anemi Hotel, Karavostasis, 84011, Folegandros; +30 22860 41610; doubles from $340
Best food: Crete
A 90-minute high-speed catamaran ride from Santorini, Crete is Greece's Wild West, where the locals are fiercely independent and have a fondness for guns (used, I'm assured, only to shoot at street signs or into the air during festivities).
Its 3,200 square miles are blessed with scores of microclimates, fertile soil and crops that haven't succumbed to the scourge of industrial farming. Which means that the tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, strawberries, watermelon and other fruits and vegetables that grow here taste as nature intended.
The topography of central mountains ringed by shimmering coastline allows two growing seasons -- lower elevations in the winter, higher elevations in the summer -- and Crete is a hub for olive oil, cheese and wine production.
Eat at a traditional taverna (even a touristy one) or kafenio (Greek café) and you'd be hard pushed to have a bad meal because the raw ingredients are so darned good.
Elounda, on the island's northeast coast, is surrounded by some of the island's great agricultural areas, like the Lasithi plateau, has a selection of hotels for all budgets, and some excellent examples of what makes Greek mainlanders sigh when they think of the divine freshness of Crete's cuisine.
Ergospasio Restaurant, a former old stone carob factory, serves just-caught seafood overlooking Elounda harbor. The Ferryman Taverna is a local favorite, and for reason -- the mezes make great use of Crete's agricultural bounty.
Manolis Kafenon on the main square is a great spot to share meze and raki (a fiery alcoholic drink made with grape leaves that locals drink after a meal) with Cretans.