The Aegean Islands refer to the hundreds of islands and islets found in the Aegean Sea. These islands and islets are often classified into seven groups, based on their location in the Aegean Sea. The main reason behind the sorting of the islands into groups is for administration purposes. The seven groups of islands are as follows:
- The North Aegean
- West Aegean
- Saronic and Dodecanese Islands
North Aegean Islands
As the name suggests, the North Aegean Islands are the northernmost of the Aegean Islands. Some of the islands that make this group include Lesbos, Chios, Psara, Ikaria, and Samos islands in Greece; and Tenedos and Gokceada islands in Turkey. These islands have been under permanent human settlement since the 50th century BCE, and their strategic position in the Aegean Sea transformed into important centers for marine trade.
Euboea/ Western Aegean Islands
The Western Aegean Islands group is comprised of one large island; Euboea. The island is the second-biggest in the Aegean Sea, with its land area of 1,422 square miles only exceeded by Crete. Euboea is elongated, with a maximum width of 31 miles but a maximum length of 110 miles. The island is among the most populous of the Aegean Islands, with a population of about 0.2 million people.
The other group is known the Sporades or the Thessalian Sporades. The group of islands is made up of 24 islands, the major ones being Alonnisos, Skopelos, and Skiathos. The islands all sit on an archipelago, in the northern Aegean Sea.
Another group is the Cyclades Islands group. The islands in the group are all found in the South Aegean Sea’s northern portion.There are an estimated 220 islands that make up the Cyclades group of islands and cover a combined land area of 93 square miles. Kythnos, Anafi, Delos, and Naxos are some of the major islands in the group.
The Saronic Islands are scattered near mainland Greece’s eastern coastline, on the western part of the Aegean Sea. The group gets its name from the Saronic Gulf, where they are situated. There are seven main islands in this group; Aegina, Dokos, Hydra, Poros, Salamina, Agistri and Spetses, all of which are inhabited. Salamina is the largest of the islands in the group, covering a land area of over 37.06 square miles.
Another group is the Dodecanese Islands which is made up of more than 160 islands and islets. Also known as the Southern Sporades, this group cumulatively covers a land area of 1,048 square miles. These islands are all found in the South Aegean Sea and are all in Greece. Some of the major islands in the group include Syrna, Alimia, Chalki, Nimos, and Marathos.
Like Euboea, the last group is made up of a single island of Crete. The island is the largest of the Aegean Islands, covering a land area of 3,206 square miles. The island also represents the southernmost part of the Aegean Islands and is the only one that also sits on the Libyan Sea. Crete also has the highest population of any of the Aegean Islands, with a total population of over 0.62 million inhabitants.