Everything you need to know about island-hopping in Greece (2023)

Scattered like pearls across the shimmering Aegean and Ionian seas, the Greek islands have lured in many travelers. From Jason and his adventuring Argonauts to Frankish Crusaders and Mamma Mia film crews, myth and enchantment envelop the islands much like their ribbons of sugar-soft sand.

There’s nothing quite like spotting the shoreline from a sun-drenched ferry deck or sailing into a vibrant port. In Greece, getting there is an essential part of the adventure and, thankfully, island hopping is a breeze.

Introducing the Greek Islands

When is the best time to go to the Greek islands?

While the Greek islands are stunning at any time of year, aim to visit between Orthodox Easter (usually April) and the end of May, or from September to mid-October. During these times, services and amenities are up and running, temperatures are balmy and crowds are thinner. From June until the end of August, you will definitely have warm sea water and hot weather, but you’ll be sharing it with the masses, paying top bill, and the meltemi (dry northerly wind) can play havoc with ferry schedules. In the low winter season, many ferry routes cease to operate, and hotels and restaurants shut up shop.

Depending on which Greek islands you're hoping to visit, it's a good idea to also check the local calendarsforpanigyria. These Greek summer festivalsare unique cultural experiences that can be a lot of fun, but they also might affect ferry schedules, opening hours at attractions, and produce crowds and parades that can otherwise complicate the logistics of getting around.Panigyria onIkaria,for example, occur all summer long on various saints' days, and some of the festivities run from dusk until dawn.

(Video) Greece Islands Travel Guide: Travel Tips For Greek Island Hopping

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Everything you need to know about island-hopping in Greece (1)

Should you plan your Greek island-hopping trip in advance?

In reality, it’s best to plan a little and leave a little to chance. A bit of planning can definitely take you a long way. Deciding where you want to go and understanding the ferry schedules before you go will take the work out of your vacation. Having said that, Greece is known for its laid-back attitude, and it’s worth emulating this while island-hopping. Ferry schedules are always subject to change, even pre-booked and pre-paid journeys. Anything from windy weather to worker strikes can mean delay or cancellation at short notice. Building a little flexibility into your schedule is wise.

Best time to go to Greece

Everything you need to know about island-hopping in Greece (2)

What are the best Greek island-hopping routes?

You can definitely pick a few options from various groups of Greek islands and create your own route; however, many ferry lines service specific island groups, so planning can be easier if you stick to a single area.All flights lead to Athens – or so it seems – and arriving in the capital not only gives you the opportunity to take in its jaw-dropping sights, but it also brings you close to the port of Piraeus for boats to the Cyclades, Saronic Gulf islandsand even more remote island groups like the Dodecanese. Athens also neighbors the port of Rafina for routes to the eastern Cyclades and further afield. To visit the Northeastern Aegean islands, land in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city.

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If you’re planning to spend most of your time in a specific island group, it’s worth catching a domestic flight from Athens to get you started – it will save you both time and money. Practicality aside, there’s nothing quite like descending in a twin engine onto a tiny airstrip in the middle of the bright blue sea. Some island destinations are also served by international flights in high season.

Finding the right Greek island

Everything you need to know about island-hopping in Greece (3)

Which Greek islands are best to visit?


The appeal of the Cyclades is undeniable, and it’s here that you’ll find some of the most popular islands. Be prepared to share, especially in high season. From Piraeus, hop a ferry to Mykonos, the most glamorous of the Greek islands. Overlooked by its iconic windmills, you’ll rub shoulders with the famous as you explore the flower-filled lanes and boutique shops and cafes.

From here, day-trip to the tiny island of Delos with its ancient sun-bleached ruins. Carry on to Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades, with a walled seaside capital surrounding a hilltop castle. Even further south, you’ll reach Santorini with its iconic sunsets, black-sand beaches, vineyards and incredible Minoan site. Complete the loop with a stop in laid-back Milos, with dozens of beaches and charming villages to explore. At the end of the day, hop a ferry back to Piraeus.

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Everything you need to know about island-hopping in Greece (4)


In the Dodecanese, you’ll see and taste the historical influences of the parade of cultures that have passed through, from Romans and crusading medieval knights to Byzantine and Ottoman rulers. Think plenty of pasta, sugary baklava, stunning minarets, walled cities and crumbling mountaintop castles. The catamaran service that regularly connects the islands makes island-hopping simple. Begin by catching a flight to Rhodes, which abounds in sandy beaches, ancient history and a buzzing city life.

Visit volcanic Nisyros to hike through its verdant forests and into its steaming caldera, and Karpathos for its timeless hilltop village of Olymbos. Kalymnos will call climbers and divers with its undersea wrecks and limestone cliffs, while Patmos has an ethereal quality, where life is in tune with the monastery bells and where St. John experienced his revelations. If you’re visiting around Orthodox Easter, Patmos is the place to be. Loop back to popular Kos for an endless strip of brown-sugar sand, nightlife, easily cyclable roads and an airport with regular flights to Athens.

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Everything you need to know about island-hopping in Greece (5)

Ionian Islands

Nestled along the coast of the Peloponnese in the Ionian Sea, the Ionian Islands have a slightly cooler climate, abundantly forested mountains and countless stands of olive and cypress trees. From Athens, you can fly to Corfu where you’ll be wooed by Parisian-style arcades, Venetian alleyways and Italian-inspired delicacies. Corfu is large enough to escape the crowds to cypress-studded hills, lofty villages and sandy coves.

(Video) GREEK ISLAND HOPPING using the Greek Ferry system

The next island is tiny Paxi, with beautiful harbor villages, rolling hills and ancient olive groves. Visit Lefkada for its sandy beaches and Kefallonia to kayak along the magnificent cobalt-blue bays. Take in time-forgotten Kythira for sugar-cube architecture and unspoiled wilderness. Far flung to the south, you can ferry back to Piraeus from here.

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Everything you need to know about island-hopping in Greece (6)

How to book ferry tickets

With a network covering every inhabited island, the Greek ferry system is vast and varied. The slow rust buckets that once plied the seas are nearly a thing of the past. High-speed ferries are increasingly common and cover most popular routes. Local ferries, excursion boats and tiny private fishing boats (called caiques) often connect neighboring islands and islets. Meanwhile, plush catamarans can drastically reduce travel time and cope better with poor weather. For long-haul ferry travel, you can travel in serious comfort.

Many ferry companies have online booking services. Not surprisingly, high-speed boats sell out faster than slow chuggers. For overnight ferries, it’s always best to book ahead. These resources are useful for planning and booking:

  • Danae TravelA good site for booking boat tickets.
  • Greek Travel PagesUseful search option and links for ferries.
  • GreekferriesSearch ferry schedules, including accommodation options and multi-leg journeys.
  • Open SeasReliable search engine for ferry routes and schedules.

Everything you need to know about island-hopping in Greece (7)

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Tips for traveling the Greek islands

  • When you book a ticket, you'll find that deck-class is just that: access to the deck and interior but no bunks, berths or cabins. Keep in mind that unless you state otherwise, you will automatically be given deck class when purchasing a ticket. For more luxurious or overnight accommodations, prices climb with airplane-style recliner seats right up to private cabins with bathrooms.
  • If you are considering taking a ferry overnight, it's worth remembering that abed for the night in a cabin from Piraeus to Rhodes can be more expensive than a discounted airline ticket. It’s worth shopping around, depending on where you land in the Venn diagram of considerations like cost, travel time, comfort and a desire to experience of sailing the high seas.
  • If you're traveling aroundGreece with kids, children under five years of age travel for freeon many ferry services, and tickets for those aged between five and 10 are usually half price.
  • Food on ferries can be overpriced and underwhelming. Bring your own snacks and water, or save your appetite for the famously robust food scenes in destinations like Rhodes and Symi.
  • You might not have much appetite if you veer towards seasickness. The water can be rough, sostare at the horizon, not the sea. Stay on deck for fresh air and don’t be tempted to read or use binoculars.
  • If you're hoping to explore the Greek islands by car, note that bringing a car on the ferries is expensive and generally requires advance booking. Car rental on the islands is relatively cheap and possible on almost every island.
  • If you've got some energy left, or extra room in your itinerary after returning to the mainland, remember that Piraeus is more than just the gateway to the Greek islands. You can easily spend a whole day in Piraeusitself, or at the very least check out the city's vibrant nightlife at popular clubs likeBelugaandMadama after you disembark the ferry.

This article was originally published in September 2019.

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What is the best way to island hop in Greece? ›

The best method of Greek island hopping is by ferry. The travel time between them ranges from 45 minutes – 2 hours. Ferry tickets need to be bought in advance, at least 24 hours before departure.

How easy is it to island hop in Greece? ›

A Greek island hopping holiday is pretty easy to plan because the islands are easily accessible by ferry. The bigger islands, such as Mykonos and Santorini, even have their own airports, meaning you can fly between islands.

How much money do you need for Greek island hopping? ›

US $30-36 (€25-€30) per person per ferry ride and being smart in your travel planning: choose to hop between islands within the same chain and also on the same route, cut down on the number of islands you visit, choose a slow ferry with outside seating as opposed to a faster, more expensive ferry with an indoor seat.

Where is the best base for island hopping in Greece? ›

There are direct ferries between certain islands in the Ionian sea. Yet, the Cyclades are the most popular islands if you want to island hop. Some of the main islands are only an hour or two away from each other. This makes the Cyclades the perfect islands for an island hopping vacation in Greece.

How long should I island hop Greece? ›

How long do you need for Greek island hopping? In order to fully immerse yourself in the authentic Greek life and culture and explore as much as possible, we recommend spending at least 2-3 nights on each island, so if you're planning to visit the four ones mentioned above, it would take you a little over a week.

Which Greek island should I visit first? ›

Which Greek island should I visit first? Santorini is most people's choice the first time they visit Greece. Other nearby islands that you could visit in the same trip include Milos, Naxos, Paros and Crete.

What is the cheapest way to island hop in Greece? ›

Getting around the Greek Islands

The easiest – and cheapest – way to get around the Greek Islands is by taking the Greek ferries, which can cost as little as 7 Euros. There are multiple ferry companies offering passenger services around the Greek Islands.

Is it better to fly or ferry between Greek islands? ›

To save time, consider flying. Compared with boats, flights are less likely to be delayed or cancelled, tend to offer more frequent connections, and are much faster — but often more expensive. Two major Greek carriers offer daily flights from Athens to many Greek islands are Olympic Airlines and Aegean Airlines.

What is the cheapest way to travel between Greek islands? ›

Quick tips for budget backpackers in Greece

Take an overnight ferry to other islands and save almost half the price of a speedy ferry ticket. Rent a moped as cheap transportation and see the beautiful surrounding area. Visit less traveled to islands such as Corfu and Milos to save money.

Do you need cash in Greek islands? ›

It is important to always have some cash money when traveling to Greece and the Greek Islands. Although most hotels, restaurants and tourist shops in Greece accept credit cards, you might encounter few studios or small shops in less-touristic islands that ask for cash.

How much money do you need for a 2 week trip to Greece? ›

Greece trip cost

Based on my estimates, your Greece costs will be about $4,455 per person for two weeks. Remember, this estimate is based on visiting the most popular islands (Santorini and Mykonos), which are also the most expensive.

Do you need a lot of cash in Greece? ›

Should I carry cash in Greece? It is a good idea to carry cash in Greece and to make sure that you always have plenty of smaller denomination notes and coins on you. While cards are widely accepted, Greece is still very much a cash society.

Which is the prettiest of the Greek islands? ›

Santorini, commonly known as Thira, is an island in the Cyclades archipelago. Santorini, Greece, is one of the world's most beautiful islands. This is without a doubt one of the most appealing Greek tourist attractions that every visitor would like to visit.

Which Greek island is the most touristy? ›

1. Santorini. Santorini is the busiest of the Greek Islands. It is a paradise of bars, cafes, restaurants, and more all in one place.

Is it better to fly or take ferry from Athens to Santorini? ›

If you want to maximize the use of your time on vacation, you should definitely fly from Athens to Santorini instead of taking a ferry. If you want the experience of sailing on a Greek ferry, or want to save a little money, taking a ferry to Santorini from Athens might be better.

Is it better to go to Mykonos or Santorini first from Athens? ›

Athens and the Greek Islands of Mykonos and Santorini

It doesn't matter if you go to Mykonos or Santorini first – they are both very different islands. If traveling in the summer months, make sure to book those ferries well in advance! From the last island you can take a ferry or fly back to Athens.

How do I book island hopping in Greece? ›

Greek Island Hopping Cruises

The best websites for booking a Greek holiday are Booking.com (for hotels) • Kayak.com (for flights) • Ferryhopper.com (for ferries). It's fun and easy to book your own trip – and much more rewarding.

Which Greek islands are best without a car? ›

Here are 9 Greek islands where you don't need a car:
  • Antiparos.
  • Hydra.
  • Chalki.
  • Schinoussa.
  • Agistri.
  • Donousa.
  • Gavdos.
  • Leipsoi.

Which Greek island has nicest beaches? ›

The Greek islands with the best beaches are Crete, Mykonos, Naxos, Milos, Paros, Ios, Lefkada, Zakynthos, Rhodes, Karpathos and more. The best for families with kids are Agios Georgios Beach in Naxos and Agios Nikitas in Lefkada. The best for partying are Paradise Beach on Mykonos and Pounta beach in Paros.

What is the cheapest month to travel to Greece? ›

Cheapest Time to Visit Greece

According to Skyscanner, the cheapest months to book a flight to Greece are September, October, and November.

Do you need to book Greek ferries in advance? ›

Do Greek island ferries sell out? Not all Greek ferries sell out. However, we suggest you book your ferry trip in advance, especially if you're planning to take your vehicle aboard. Also, you should keep in mind that some Greek ferries are seasonal and have limited onboard seating.

Can you bring luggage on ferries in Greece? ›

One large piece of luggage per person is typically allowed on board. For ferry routes in Greece passengers are entitled to carry luggage up to 50 kilos. If you wish to carry additional luggage or special sports equipment, please consider using the alternative courier services available during boarding.

How far in advance should I book Greek ferry? ›

Most ferries do not sell out. But for peace of mind, book tickets 2 to 3 months in advance. If a ticket purchased online doesn't have a barcode that usually means you'll need to pick up a paper ticket when in Greece. This is most often done at the ferry port 30 to 45 minutes before departure.

What airlines fly from the US to Greece? ›

Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, Delta, American Airlines, Finnair, Iberia and British Airways all fly non-stop to Greece.

How far apart are Mykonos and Santorini? ›

How far is Mykonos from Santorini? The distance between the new port of Mykonos and the port of Athinios in Santorini is 64 nautical miles (around 118 km).

Is there Uber on Greek islands? ›

Uber services are available in Santorini since 2021. Do you recommend using Uber in Greece?

Does Uber work in Greek islands? ›

No, there is no Uber in Crete, including the major cities of Heraklion, Chania, or Rethymno. In Greece, Uber has expanded to Athens, Thessaloniki, and Santorini, but has not yet made its appearance on other islands in Greece.

Can I use US dollars in Greece? ›

Can you use dollars in Greece? No you can't spend dollars in Greece. You will need to either exchange your US Dollars for Euros, use your cards, or withdraw Euros from an ATM when on vacation in Greece.

How much is $1 US in Greece? ›

Convert US Dollar to Greek Drachma
1 USD320.121 GRD
5 USD1,600.6 GRD
10 USD3,201.21 GRD
25 USD8,003.02 GRD
7 more rows

Can you use American credit cards in Greece? ›

Credit cards are widely accepted in Greece, particularly in the tourist areas. It's actually a legal requirement, as a response to the financial crisis, that working Greek citizens aged below 65 have a credit card so most hotels, shops, cafes and restaurants should offer the option of paying by credit card.

Should you tip in Greece? ›

There is not a strong tradition of tipping in Greece, particularly among the locals, but it's become expected that tourists leave a small tip while travelling through the country. In restaurants it's common to leave a cash tip for whoever is looking after you – 10–15 per cent is standard.

Can I use a debit card in Greece? ›

You should be able to pay for retail transactions with debit and credit cards, but always check beforehand as not all business hold a machine for processing card payments.

What time of year is cheapest to fly to Greece? ›

The cheapest months to book a flight to Greece: September and October, followed by November. Booking a flight in September can see as much as 13% savings compared to the average yearly flight price. The most expensive months to book a flight to Greece: May and June.

What can't you bring into Greece? ›

Greece Prohibited and Restricted Items
  • All forms of asbestos fiber.
  • All products containing the biocide dimethylfumarate (DMF)
  • Antiques.
  • Atlantic red tuna fish (Thunnus Thynnus) originating from Belize, Panama, and Honduras.
  • Certain U. S. Beef Hormones.
  • Computer software.
  • Cosmetics.
  • Dangerous Goods as defined by IATA (Intl.

Can I use my Iphone in Greece? ›

If you wish to use your mobile/cell phone while in Greece and you are not from an EU country, you'll need to either pick up a local SIM card or activate global roaming before you leave home.

What card is best for Greece? ›

In Greece, Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted cards. Diners Club is less widely accepted. And American Express is still less frequently accepted because it charges a higher commission and is more protective of the cardholder in disagreements.

What island was Mamma Mia filmed on? ›

Millions of people worldwide loved the 2008 blockbuster movie, 'Mamma Mia'. Many of the scenes of the popular movie were shot on the Greek Islands of Skopelos and Skiathos under the pretence that the story was set on a totally fictional island called Kalokairi.

Which Greek island has the bluest sea? ›

Which island has the clearest water in Greece? Kefalonia island is surrounded by crystalline waters of magnificent blue.

What is the most relaxing island in Greece? ›

Agistri, the idyllic

It is one of the most quiet Greek islands, popular for its relaxing atmosphere and beautiful nature. Agistri is perfect for a quick getaway from the Greek capital, as it is one of the islands closest to Athens. The ferry from Piraeus to Agistri lasts about 1 hour.

How do I choose a Greek island to visit? ›

Best Greek Islands to Visit based on your preferences
  1. If time matters, choose the Saronic Islands.
  2. If partying is all that's on your mind, choose the Cyclades.
  3. If you want to experience the best of Greece's cuisine, choose Crete.
  4. If you're an architecture fanatic, choose the Ionian Islands.
Jul 25, 2022

Where did the Kardashians vacation in Greece? ›

The Kardashians stayed at Celestia Grand (back when it was part of neighboring Volcano View Hotel) in Santorini during their vacation in Greece. It's an awesome luxury villa collection, located south of Fira (about a 30 minute walk into town or an easy ride with a taxi or their complimentary shuttle).

Is Santorini worth it or too touristy? ›

Overall, a day on Santorini isn't worth it especially if you factor in the travel required from other locations such as Athens, Mykonos, Crete, Naxos and Paros. When you build into your day ferry schedules, buses, and flights, you're left with very few hours on Santorini to truly enjoy what the island has to offer.

How do tourists not stand out in Greece? ›

Visiting Athens for the first time? These 12 helpful Athens travel tips will help you NOT look like a tourist
  1. Don't visit in August. ...
  2. Do drink coffee several times a day. ...
  3. Don't wear the “ancient Greece” themed clothes sold in souvenir shops. ...
  4. Don't talk about how you visited “the Greek islands” ...
  5. Do wear black – all year.
Feb 16, 2023

What is the best way to travel within Greece? ›

Cars are the best and most secure way of transportation when you are in a specific location and want to get around. There are car rental agencies in the most popular places in Greece and the Greek islands.

Which Greek island is best without a car? ›

Top islands in Greece for car-free vacation
  • Koufonisia.
  • Antiparos.
  • Hydra.
  • Chalki.
  • Schinoussa.
  • Agistri.
  • Donousa.
  • Gavdos.

How do you avoid looking like a tourist in Greece? ›

Visiting Athens for the first time? These 12 helpful Athens travel tips will help you NOT look like a tourist
  1. Don't visit in August. ...
  2. Do drink coffee several times a day. ...
  3. Don't wear the “ancient Greece” themed clothes sold in souvenir shops. ...
  4. Don't talk about how you visited “the Greek islands” ...
  5. Do wear black – all year.
Feb 16, 2023

What You Should Know Before Travelling to Greece? ›

15 Important Things to Know Before Traveling to Greece
  • The Greeks Are on Island Time.
  • Shops Close on Sundays.
  • Haggling Is Expected.
  • Always Have Cash on You.
  • Greece Isn't the Most Disability-Friendly.
  • Greeks Practice Hospitality at Its Finest.
  • Drink, But Don't Get Drunk.
  • Driving Can Be Difficult.
Jan 18, 2021

How can I save money when traveling to Greece? ›

Here are 5 ways you can save money for your Greece trip:
  1. Choose the cheapest flight. As you plan for your Greece excursion, remember to look around for inexpensive flight options. ...
  2. Book ahead and book wisely. ...
  3. Limit your stopovers. ...
  4. Avoid expensive excursions. ...
  5. Look out for delightful ferry deals.
Nov 7, 2017


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