Must Read Tips For Island Hopping in Greece
The Greek archipelago is a destination where you can quickly lose yourself in time. A visit to Greece is never complete without a stay on and island, or two or three! There are an estimated three thousand islands or islets scattered along the Aegean Sea and Ionian Sea. There are party islands, quiet islands, and then there are those steeped in history and ancient sites. Some have wide sandy beaches, while some are rocky. Some are deserted, while others are lively and well populated.
The islands of Greece are categorized into distinct clusters and are comprised of the Ionian, Saronic, Sporades, Cycladic, Dodecanese, North Aegean and Crete. The most visited islands are Santorini, Crete, Ios, Mykonos, Corfu, and Zakynthos. Choosing the perfect islands for your visit can be challenging. Here are our must-read tips for island hopping in Greece.
Enchanting ruins, magnificent caves, and revelry
Santorini, famous for the views overlooking the sea from the little village of Oia, is known for its beaches of volcanic ash and the one most visited islands by tourist. The natural harbor was created over 3,000 years ago by a violent volcanic explosion resulting in the dramatic cliffs around Santorini. The island also houses excellent wineries.
Crete is the largest island in Greece, and there are enchanting ruins, breathtaking mountain ranges, stunning beaches and towns that have a lively nightlife with plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from. The hills are a treasure trove of hidden monasteries and mosques, and the Minoan Palace of Knossos should be on your itinerary.
Travel to Ios if you want to discover Aegean architecture and have a tan at one of its golden beaches. Homer’s Tomb is a must-see, as are the over 300 churches on the island. Take time to explore Chora, the central town with its quaint old streets that are always bustling with life.
Mykonos is picture perfect, and the long Elia beach is easily accessible. You could also visit Little Venice that has houses resting on the edge of the sea. A trip to neighboring Delos is for the ones who want to enjoy the quiet.
Corfu is one of the more popular north Ionian islands and has so much of an Italian feel that you could forget you are in Greece. In fact, Italy is easily accessible by ferry from this town.
The island of Zakynthos is the sunniest and is a rich amalgam of culture, beaches and sports activities. Take a boat trip to the Navagio Beach, a hidden gem accessible only by boat and surrounded by high cliffs. If you are the adventurous types, you could go for diving and other water-sports activities.
When you are in the Cyclades, do visit the Antiparos islands that are just five minutes away by ferry from the laid-back town of Paros. The prime attraction in Antiparos is its incredible stalagmite caves. They are said to be 45 million years old, and the experience of going down the stairs is fantastic.
Kimolos is another group of islands easily accessible from Athens by boat. The tiny town of just 22 square miles is associated with intriguing stories of piracy, is sparsely populated and has some wonderful hot springs and crystal white beaches.
Chugging on the ferry
While most islands are connected by flights these days, by Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air. But the old-world charm of taking the ferry should not be missed. As you hop onto a ferry and settle down for a laid-back journey, you get to enjoy the rock faces, and hill faces rolling down to the sea, glimpses of caves, and the beauty of the turquoise waters as you sail past the islands. You can feel the fresh air, the warmth of the sun while you laze around on the deck. Also, you can take advantage of the new affordable Greek island ferry pass from Hostelbay.
The islands that are nearer to Athens are easily accessible and involve a 3-6 hours journey. The ones farther away from Athens offer overnight options and take 10 to 20 hours, so you can sleep your way to the islands. Piraeus on the southern coast of Athens and Rafina, which is to the north of the city are the two main departing ports for ferries. Most islands have ferry connectivity from Athens but for some of the more remote islands, the services may be infrequent, or you may need to change ferries. Check with the local schedules before planning.
Whether you go by plane, by ferry or by cruise ship, be sure to visit both the mainland of Greece and several of its magnificant islands!
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