Greek islands are a popular summer destination and it’s easy to understand why: the sea, the sun, the whitewashed villages, the delicious food! Pins like this help as well, right? But when the time comes to sit down and actually plan a trip to the Greek Islands, logistic questions arise: which islands to choose when it’s the ideal period to visit, how do I get there and so on. I come across these questions ever so often so I decided to tackle them one by one:
1) When is it the ideal time to visit the Greek Islands?
If you like seeing lots of people, crammed streets, and overpriced hotels, then July and August are your thing (no really, there are people who like this kind of vacations). For me, June and September are the best months. In September (and even early October) the sea is warmer than June so that you know *wink, wink*
Related: Postcards from Amorgos
2) Which islands should I visit?
Now that’s a really good question! I know that all of you get “bombarded” by photos of picturesque villages and beautiful beaches and don’t know which island to choose. That was the question I had in mind when I wrote my post “Which Greek Island is ideal for you” which I strongly encourage you to read.
Related: 10 Greek Beaches you shouldn’t miss
3) How to get to the islands?
Most islands have international airports, so there are direct flights from Europe and of course from Athens. Here you can find a map of all Greek islands that do have airports. Smaller islands have ferry connections with nearby larger islands. For example, the Small Cyclades islands (Schinousa, Donousa, Koufonisi) are connected to Naxos. Now let’s tackle the islands in groups.
The Cyclades have very good ferry connections with Piraeus port (the vast majority), Rafina port (Andros, Tinos, and Mykonos) and Lavrio port (Kea and Kythnos). There is a metro line that connects Athens to Piraeus port, while for Rafina and Lavrio KTEL Attikis buses (regional buses) are your best bet. Their starting point is Mavromataion street. You can find the website here, but unfortunately, it’s only in Greek.
In order to visit the Dodekanese, I suggest you fly to Rhodes or Kos and then take a ferry. The Norther Aegean islands are also connected with Piraeus via ferry but it takes lots of hours, so it’s advisable to fly there.
Sporades (Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos) are connected with Volos and Agios Konstantinos (a coastal town 170 km north of Athens) via ferry and flying dolphins (the latter sail only from Volos, are faster, do not take vehicles and cannot sail if it’s super windy).
The Ionian islands are connected with mainland Greece in the following way: Zakynthos and Kefalonia (and Ithaki) are connected with Killini (in the region of Ilia) via ferry. Lefkada is accessible by car and Corfu is connected to Igoumenitsa (major port in NW Greece) via ferry.
Related: 24hrs in Corfu Town
Heraklion and Chania in Crete are connected to Piraeus with the ferry which sails overnight butdoeso have day routes as well during weekends in the summertime. Ferry travel takes approximately 8 hours for Heraklion and maybe a little less for Chania. There are three ferry companies that sail to Crete: Minoan Lines (only to Heraklion), ANEK (to Chania and Heraklion) and Blue Star Ferries (to Chania and Heraklion).
Related: 2 days in Chania
4) Is island hopping possible?
Of course, it is, but it depends on which islands you want to visit as they are not interconnected. First of all check out the map of Greece to have an idea, where the different group of islands is located. I’ll give you some examples: Serifos-Sifnos-Milos are on the same ferry route. Santorini and Ios are on the same ferry route. Mykonos can be combined with Andros and Tinos (if you sail from Rafina). Paros and Naxos are also on the same route. But if you want to visit Milos and Naxos, for example, you have to return to Piraeus and then get on a different ferry.
You check out the website Open Seas where you can look for connections between islands, and also book ferry tickets. It’s essential to determine which island(s) you want to visit beforehand, so as to plan your transportation accordingly (and determine downtime as well).
For island hopping between smaller islands, I suggest you check out Hopwave app and plan your island hopping efficiently.
I’m also linking to the websites of the 3 major ferry companies in Greece (for the Aegean sea, as the Ionian has only local routes): Hellenic Seaways, Blue Star Ferries and Aegean Speed Lines. This will give you an idea on ferry routes and if your island hopping is doable!
Pro Tip: One thing you should keep in mind is that not all vessels are equal in terms of amenities and of course modernity. There are older vessels that are cheaper but takes them longer to reach their destination and then there are the so-called High Speed vessels which have shorter trip time.
5) Do I have to book ferry tickets and accommodation beforehand?
As far as ferry tickets go, I’d say yes especially for popular destinations like Mykonos and Santorini. A friend of mine almost didn’t get from Heraklion to Santorini because he hadn’t booked tickets in advanced and the ferry was full (that happened at around 23rd of June. On a Monday).
As for accommodation, you can definitely get away with not booking in advance especially in early June and September. I personally tend to be proactive with booking in advance. You can find the vast majority of hotels on Booking and off course holiday homes at Airbnb.
You can find my posts about the Greek islands right here. On a side note I started a Facebook page for my blog, where I’m not only going to share my posts but also share travel related inspiration and tips as well as lifestyle inspiration and tips! You’re more than welcome to join me there as well!!