Island Hopping In Greece: The Top Must-See Islands
A holiday in the Greek Islands is always the right decision, but choosing specific destinations on these ancient shores is no simple task. From the seas that surround them to the islands themselves, each destination has its own flavor, charms, and even cultural and historic attractions. The ideal holiday is to see them all, but if you only have a limited amount of vacation time (as most of us do), the following islands and their signature attractions are must-see destinations. If possible, try to island hop between a few to truly appreciate the contrast between one island and another; Greece is one of Europe’s most economical holiday locations, so you’ll be able to stretch your Euros much further than you think!
By Air, most islands only connect via Athens, however the best way to island-hop is to use a vast array of ferries. Nikos Kazantzakis, the famous Greek writer had once wrote “lucky is a man, who at least once in his life, gets to travel on the waters of the Aegean Sea by boat”. There are hundreds of routes to choose from using various ferry lines. A quick look on sites such as ferries.gr for travel times, destinations and pricing will help you plan your route. Some lines offer super fast ferries that will get you to the next island in no time.
As the largest and most populous island in Greece, Crete boasts many holiday resorts and tourist hot spots. Yet, the island is large enough to suit a myriad of tastes and interests. Ancient ruins of the Mycenaean culture will thrill history buffs while the Samaria Gorge is a favorite scenic locale and a World’s Biosphere Reserve. The crystal Mediterranean beaches of the northern island are a playground for water sport and resort life, but the southern beaches, more rugged and remote, are ideal for exploring and relaxing in a quieter atmosphere. Be sure to spend time in Herklion and Chania where cultural attractions like museums and gardens and delightful cafes and cuisine will enchant you—and may even tempt you to move to Crete!
My own vacation to the islands could never be complete until I saw Rhodes and sailed around the ancient Aegean Sea that surrounds it. Famed as one of the sites of the ancient wonders of the world—the great Colossus of Rhodes, the island is home to a medieval Old Town that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While one of Greece’s most popular islands among travelers, Rhodes has been peopled since Neolithic times and its archaeological sites are among its most extraordinary attractions. Because Rhodes is closer to Asia Minor than to the Greek mainland, the island is a cultural melting pot that is filled with influences from surrounding cultures.
Thera (a.k.a. Santorini)
Known throughout the classical world as the island of Thera, it is also called Santorini today and is a famous tourist destination among the Greek Islands. Like many of the Greek Isles, Thera has an ancient past that includes the notorious Bronze-Age volcanic eruption that led to the downfall of the Minoan civilization. Of course, many travelers simply come to the island because it has been hailed as one of the best islands in the world. A thriving wine industry, twinkling Aegean Sea, and glorious sun—what’s not to love and why in the world go anywhere else when beautiful Thera beckons?
Situated in the Ionian Sea, Corfu is a treasure trove of ancient landmarks and cultural attractions as well as sun-kissed beaches and vibrant nightlife. With an area less than 615 square kilometers, Corfu boasts a wealth of things to see and do from world class museums and libraries to ancient coastal gardens and coves. Corfu also offers ferry trips to other nearby islands making it the ideal central location for an Ionian Sea holiday.
While I tend to prefer holidays filled with captivating museums and scenic vistas of sea and land, I go to Mykonos to affirm the pleasures of life—dancing under the ancient stars, indulging in sumptuous sips of wine, and mingling with other pleasure-seekers from around the world. Mykonos has a reputation as a place to party, but the true spirit of the island is pure joy. The dance clubs are hot on Mykonos, but travelers will also discover medieval architecture, picturesque villages, and exciting beaches. Pleasure seekers continue to converge on Mykonos for good reason—they find what they’re looking for!
To get the most out of your Greek Island experience, plan well in advance so you can tailor your itinerary to truly suit your ideal holiday. Get yourself in the mood by reading about the history and myths of the islands. A rereading of The Odyssey would not go amiss. When researching the islands further, be sure to read reviews of restaurants and hotels so that you can plan your stay accordingly. Reading information posted on travel websites and blogs can also be a great way to get yourself in the mood for Greece’s unparalleled island charms.
About The Author: Mike Harpham wrote and contributed this guest post on behalf of Deals.org.uk. Mike is a freelance travel writer. He recently had his own Odyssey on the Greek Islands where he spent 3 weeks. His articles appear on travel blogs.
Photo Credits: FLickr: #1 byrdiegyrl, #2 sisaphus, #3 Bruce HH, #4 BluEyedA73, #5 Mickpix, #6 L. Richard Marten Jr.