Answer: One good source for information on the Greek islands is Joanna Kakissis, who has written several times about Greece for the New York Times Travel section. She currently has half a dozen articles on the Greece destination guide of nytimes.com/travel, including "Trying to Be Green, With Very Little Water" (Aug. 19, 2007) on sustainable Mediterranean resorts and "Days of Wild Oregano and Goatherds" (July 27, 2008) about eastern Crete.
"I would definitely recommend they see Crete," she wrote in an e-mail message. To steer clear of the most touristy areas there, "avoid big cities like Iraklion and go for smaller cities such as Rethymno, especially villages such as Sfakia in the Chania prefecture and Palaikastro in the Lassithi prefecture."
Rethymno has one of the best open-air markets on the island and a "wonderful community of artists and musicians." In small towns in the Dikti mountains in Lassithi "you'll see shepherds, farmers and grandfathers having afternoon coffee at outdoor cafes."
Her other choice is the less well-known island of Chios, near the coast of Turkey. Kakissis likes the island's beautiful architecture, long history and a vibrant economy based on mastiha, the aromatic resin of the lentisk tree used for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals now sold all over the world. You can visit the mastihochoria, the villages where the lentisk trees are farmed, and should stop at the 11th-century monastery Nea Moni, a World Heritage site that houses mosaics from Constantine IX's reign. Benedict Nightingale visited Chios for his article "Where Every Landmark Tells a Story" (Oct. 25, 1992) on the history and sites of the island.
For Mykonos, Santorini and Naxos, you'll also find articles and slide shows, listings and reader comments on The New York Times' online destination guides.