Most first time visitors to Greece quickly realise why many people return again and again. With so much to see and do and so much diversity across the country you will always be left longing for more. Island hopping in Greece is a concept that’s been around for decades and evokes images of easy, spontaneous short trips from island to island in a fairly carefree manner. Whilst this can be done, if time is an issue it can be challenging for first timers or people who have a limited time to explore. This article will help you design Greek Island hopping itineraries that work best for you.
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WHEN TO VISIT GREECE
Firstly its a good idea to work out the best times to visit Greece. Visitors between late October and April will likely find many businesses on the islands closed and the weather cold and gloomy. Ferry services and flights during these months are also limited so island ‘hopping’ would be restricted to the main commercial centres such as Rhodes, Syros and Corfu.
The best months to visit are between April-June and September-October.The weather will be mild and most places wont be crowded. High season is late June to early September, and prices will reflect that as will the crowds, the number of cruise ships and accommodation availability.
In saying that Summer is not exactly terrible especially in some of the lesser known spots. The water is warm, there are blue skies every day, the bougainvillea are in full bloom and a fabulous holiday atmosphere abounds, as Greece is at its absolute prime. They say this is when the Gods smile down the most and even in the most popular tourist towns and islands its easy to find a quite spot, a cove, beach, laneway or entire village that retains complete authenticity year round.
Easter is an especially wonderful time to visit Greece as it becomes very festive with parades, parties, and on many islands there are bonfires, fireworks and other activities and traditions. There are other festivals throughout the year that can vary for place to place and can be fascinating to witness and even participate in.
Best beach and swimming weather: June to September
Best sightseeing weather: March to June and September/October
HOW TO ISLAND HOP AROUND THE GREEK ISLANDS
The ferry network in Greece is extensive and the ferries are big, comfortable and generally efficient. Many are like small cruise ships with restaurants, bars and even overnight cabins on the longer routes. Ferries generally cost less than flying although will take longer but it is usually a very pleasant and very ‘greek island’ experience that we highly recommend.
The main port of Athens, and one of the biggest ports in Europe, is Piraeus. This is where the main ferries run regular routes to the major islands in the Cyclades, Crete, the Saronic Gulf Islands, the Dodecanese chain and the Northern Aegean Islands. A smaller port in Athens, and even closer to the airport, is Rafina, which has ferry services to Evia, some of the northernmost Cycladic Islands and many of the Northeast Aegean Islands. Both are easily accessible both from the airport and downtown Athens.
If you’re traveling to the Ionian Islands off the west coast of Greece, most ferries leaves from Patras or Kyllini on the Peloponnese or Igoumenitsa in Epirus.
Tickets and timetables
Be mindful that timetables can change and they are not normally published for the coming summer season until only a few months in advance. Each year routes, boats and prices change so don’t take anything you read this year too literally for next. Seats can get booked out on the most popular routes in peak season but if you buy your tickets a day or two ahead ( ie. when you arrive in port) you are generally fine. You will see ticket sellers/agencies in all the ports.
If you do want to book in advance and/or keep an eye on routes and what ferries are running your routes we use and recommend Ferryhopper.
Some people worry about seasickness but many of the ferries have stabilisers and can handle the roughest seas. If conditions are too rough they are cancelled. Always have travel insurance!
Modern medication is also helpful but generally in the summer months at least, the journey’s are quite pleasant.
Suggested itineraries for the Greek Islands
* these all start and/or finish on islands with airports to give you more transport options for arriving and departing Greece and the Greek islands ( apart from Aegina-Poros-Hydra which are the closest to Athens)
Paros – Naxos – Santorini
Lefkada – Ithaca – Kefalonia
Aegina – Poros – Hydra
Rhodes – Symi – Kos
10 – 14 days
Paros – Mykonos – Santorini – Milos
Corfu – Paxos – Antipaxos
Skiathos – Skopolos – Alonissos
3 – 4 weeks
Mykonos – Naxos – Ios – Santorini – Milos – Sifnos – Serifos – Kea
Rhodes – Symi – Tilos – Kos – Patmos – Samos – Chios – Lesvos
Zakynthos – Kefalonia – Itahca – Lefkada – Corfu
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