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Island-Hopping in Greece - Everything You Need to Know

Banu Aksu
October 14, 2023
Athens

Greece offers island-hopping enthusiasts plenty of fun. Beach bars offering refreshing tzatziki drinks, spectacular cliffside views, and upmarket shopping are among its many attractions; fly into Athens to explore Parisian-style arcades and Venetian alleyways; on Corfu you can discover lofty villages, cypress forests and sandy coves - the perfect combination.

Athens: All Greek islands feature airports, with Santorini having one of the more luxurious ones - although regional flights tend to be cheap and international airliners don't always service all islands; many island-hopping excursions take place by ferry.

Choose your island group

With more than 6,000 islands dotted throughout Greece's waters, it can be challenging to visit them all in a single trip. But with ferry boats running frequently between islands and convenient ferry schedules, island hopping in Greece can be made simple.

Planning ahead when travelling between islands in Greece, particularly during summertime, is essential. Ferry tickets should be booked well in advance and be flexible with departure dates since weather conditions can delay departures. Also consider checking local calendars for any events or festivals that might impact island hopping; on Ikaria for instance, panigyria festivals held on various saints' days can generate large crowds that delay ferry schedules.

Cyclades islands are among the most famous Greek island destinations, located in the Aegean Sea and comprised of 14 distinct island groups. Santorini stands out among them with glistening clifftop hotels and turquoise waters; Mykonos is famed for its vibrant nightlife; Milos offers sculptured white stone formations on remote beaches; while Naxos boasts beautiful coastlines and an ancient town designated UNESCO World Heritage.

Greek island hopping can also be done via flight between the Ionian Islands, where direct flights departing Athens offer direct connections. Kefalonia is among the Ionian's top islands for island hopping - known for its breathtaking landscapes, beautiful beaches, and rich history - it makes an excellent place for visitors looking to unwind.

As with the Cyclades, to avoid high temperatures and peak season crowds when visiting the Ionian Islands it's best to visit in late fall or winter when temperatures remain comfortable but crowds have diminished substantially. You will get to witness stunning autumn colours on mountains and sea. Additionally, charter a yacht with skipper to discover these magnificent islands at your own pace!

Getting there

Greek islands are scattered like pearls across the shimmering Aegean and Ionian seas, beguiling travelers since Jason and the Argonauts visited in Jason and the Argonauts to Mamma Mia film crews. From beautiful beaches to romantic churches and waterfront tavernas to quiet portside bars - their beauty draws travelers like Jason from Jason and the Argonauts all the way to Mamma Mia film crews alike. But getting there and moving around during peak season may present challenges that make traveler dreams into reality!

Ferries provide connections between Athens and its many well-known islands, and its harbor of Piraeus. Their routes vary according to weather and season; to guarantee your trip on schedule it is best to book in advance at least 10 days in advance. Buses may also provide alternative forms of transport in larger towns or affluent island destinations; taxis are another effective means of travel but expect higher charges than elsewhere in Europe - look out for yellow taxis bearing a "TAXI" sign at all times!

Car-owning tourists have access to efficient roadways in mainland Greece and Peloponnese region; driving on islands can be more complex due to narrow, winding roads with heavy traffic congestion; it may be preferable to opt for private transfers or rental car - both are available on most Greek islands.

Package tours can be an ideal solution to the hassles associated with ferry connections and car rental agreements, while many major travel companies also provide itineraries to visit various islands en masse. Travel Talk provides competitively priced island-hopping packages; Med Experience has 9 and 11 day trips to Cyclades; while G Adventures specializes in walking or cycling holidays on islands.

Plan your itinerary around how much time and activities appeal to you on each island, events, and festivals that could impede travel plans, opening hours at attractions, and crowd levels that could cause overcrowding of popular spots. Summer months tend to bring the highest concentrations of these festivities as summer brings panigyria parades that commemorate various saints throughout Greece; visiting during this period could help avoid some crowded islands!

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Fares tend to be most cost effective if booked early

Getting around

Assuming you don't plan to fly an extremely expensive charter flight, the cheapest way to island hop in Greece is via ferry. Greece's de facto national carrier Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air operate most domestic routes while smaller carriers provide competition on some of the smaller islands. Pro Tip: Fares tend to be most cost effective if booked early; when building your itinerary segment by segment. Cheap seats sell out first so purchasing separate tickets for each leg often works out cheaper.

Ferries run across the Aegean Sea, linking mainland cities and smaller islands that lie nearby with one another. Although passenger boats run year-round, their schedules can sometimes be unpredictable; to stay safe it's wise to gather schedule information online before arriving in Greece then verify it with multiple travel agencies (and possibly different ones for different schedules) upon arriving there. Food on ferries can often be overpriced and lackluster; bring snacks from home for an enjoyable island dining experience instead.

For beach and sun lovers looking for the ideal Greek island-hopping holiday, early May through mid-July and September is considered peak season for island hopping. At these times, temperatures remain warm yet not unbearably so, and crowds tend to be thinner compared to summer high-season (Otherwise known as Orthodox Easter through end August) where crowds and prices spike significantly.

If you can't wait until these dates, consider visiting during the low season, which typically runs from October through mid-November. Ferries continue to operate, yet you'll encounter fewer tourists and lower season rates. In wintertime some ferries cease operations while some larger resorts close down; on smaller islands however most services remain open and hotels are usually reasonably priced; expect disruptions on waterways and roads should sudden winter storms arise suddenly.

Staying there

Planning a Greek island-hopping journey takes planning. Ferry schedules can change suddenly due to bad weather or worker strikes, so an accommodating mindset is a necessity. Conducting some preliminary research is essential as well - Ferryhopper provides all of the latest ferry schedules and routes so as to ease stress on your travels.

Greece is known for its island hopping opportunities. The Cyclades offer vibrant villages and breathtaking beaches - ideal for an island hopping holiday! To experience them at their best, embark on a 3-island hop from Santorini, Naxos and Paros or spend more time on each island exploring their charms. Alternatively, try Saronic Islands (Aegina, Poros, Hydra and Spetses), ideal for romantic couples looking for idyllic beaches with picturesque towns nearby.

Crete, Greece's largest island and one of its main tourist destinations, deserves more exploration and is worth spending an extended stay to experience its immense history and rich culture. Home of one of Europe's oldest advanced civilizations - Minoans - this island holds many secrets waiting to be unlocked.

Sporades Islands provide a more sedate option for island hopping in Greece with gorgeous beaches and monasteries to visit, hiking trails to follow and plenty of stunning hiking spots to choose from. Although not as easily accessible from Athens like their more well-connected counterparts (Cyclades/Dodecanese), Skiathos, Skopelos/Alonisos/Skyros can still be reached with some planning from Skiathos Skopelos Alonisos Skyros and Skyros.

Ionian Islands offer clear waters and charming coastal towns for island hopping enthusiasts. Corfu stands out for its architecturally eclectic town and stunning beaches; making this choice especially appealing to Mamma Mia fans and nature enthusiasts. Meanwhile Lefkada, Zakynthos, and Kefalonia also make excellent choices to discover this region of Greece.

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Ionian Islands offer clear waters and charming coastal towns for island hopping enthusiasts.
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