Diverse, beautiful, and majestic, the Greek islands are a major draw for tourists. With over 6000 islands, it can be overwhelming to plan. You could never do all of them at one go, and it is best to stick to one or two archipelagos at the most. Each island has its own character and the ones that are inhabited, have their unique custom and culture. To help you, here’s everything you need to know to plan an island-hopping trip in Greece!
Planning for the islands
For the most part, the islands are divided into six main island groups, plus a significant stand-alone, Crete. When planning, you need to choose carefully depending on your preferences. While fishing villages, coastal coves, and glistening, sandy beaches are typical to most, there are significant geological differences too.
While Santorini is famous for its volcanic ash beaches and magnificent sunsets, Crete has enchanting ruins and majestic mountains. If it is churches that you want to explore, what better than to visit Ios that has over 300 odd churches.
Mykonos, Little Venice, and neighbouring Delos are picture-perfect and ideal for those who love the peace and the quiet. However, if you are excited about fun, beaches, and water sports, the sunny islands of Zakynthos are perfect for you. Get to know the best Greek Islands with Hostelbay’s exclusive pass and find the best islands that suit you.
To fly or to sail
The best part in Greece is that there are ferries serving all the large islands and many of the smaller ones. The major ferry lines serving the islands are Aegean Speed Lines, Minoan, and Blue Star. There are different sorts of ferries. There are the slower ones, some of which are overnight and sail to the far-off islands. Then there are the faster catamarans and the hydrofoils. The faster ones do save a little time, but the slower ferries are relaxing, and you could enjoy the islands rolling by, catch a glimpse of hidden coves, or enjoy the majestic cliffs while you laze in the open decks of your boat.
It could be a little difficult to plan an island-hopping trip between different archipelagos. Not that they cannot be done, but it is easier to sail between neighbouring islands. For example, if you want to do both Santorini and Corfu, then you need to fly back to Athens and then take another flight or ferry to Corfu. On the other hand, the neighbouring islands are well connected by multiple ferry trips daily.
If you are flying into Athens, then you will most likely catch your ferry from Piraeus. There are multiple ferries that ply from Athens to Santorini, Ios, Mykonos and Paros islands. If you are travelling during the busy season around Easter or August, it would be good to book your seats early. At other times, you could even get tickets the day before you travel. However, booking early could help you get the best seats. All ferries have indoor and outdoor areas. The shaded, outdoor decks are good to enjoy the sea-view.
An island-hopping trip by the sea sounds exciting, but many of us are constrained by time, or some of us may have sea-sickness. For those of us that want to fly, the good news is that twenty-five of the islands have their own airports, of which eight are international airports. You could fly from Athens by Olympic Airways or the Aegean Airways, or you could directly fly to one of the islands that are served by charter flights or seasonal carriers that operate from Europe to these islands during the summer. Do remember though that flights have a high demand and tend to fill up quicker than the ferries. The prices are also higher, so it would be a good idea to book early.
When to go
The best time to travel to Greece would be June or September when the crowds aren’t there, and the weather is also pleasant. The typical tourist season happens from mid-June to mid-September and peaks in August, when Greek families even take a vacation as schools are closed. If you are looking to experience the culture, then Easter would be a great time to visit. This happens between early April and early May, and it is an excellent opportunity to catch the Easter fervour, the religious parades, the firecrackers and most of all Greek hospitality at its best. Easter is one time when the extended families get together, and it’s all fun and gaiety. You may want to grab your wheels at Rental Center Crete to make your trip smoother.