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How to make the most of your island hopping in Greece

Athens ● Greek Islands ● 18 June 2018
We know that there is no chance you haven't heard about the amazing vacations of a friend of yours on the Greek islands. They are famous destinations worldwide, and once you spend your summer there, you become a fan! Most people make a stop first in Athens, the capital of Greece, and then they take the boat or another flight to get to the islands. Of course, Athens is something more than a stop before the islands. There, you have numerous and interesting things to do in a city break full of history, entertainment, lively atmosphere, new ideas and beautiful walks. After Athens, the Greek islands are waiting for you, and the best thing you can do is to visit more: Greek Island Hopping is your best chance to see various islands in order to get impressed by the great variety and the different things that each island has to offer to you.

Island Hopping is the best type of vacation if you are the traveller, who wants to explore every day something else. There is no way that you get bored. You stay 2-3 days on each island (that depends on your time span you have for your vacation), and then you go to another. Hundreds of photos for your summer album, numerous destinations, new pictures and the feeling of being an explorer. At the end of your vacation, you can be satisfied that you have visited more than just one of the renowned Greek islands. If you don't live in Greece and you don't come often here, this is your chance.

If you are wondering how to implement this ambitious plan of Greek Island Hopping, read here the ultimate guide and the three necessary steps.

Step 1: where to go

The first thing you have to decide is the island complex you want to choose. Inside the same island complex, the distance between the islands is very short, and thus you can easily go from one island to another in less than 1-2 hours. Remember that not all islands are situated in a close distance to Athens.

The Saronic Islands are located in a close distance to Athens (1-2 hours by ferry or boat) in the Argosaronic Gulf. These islands are Aegina, Agkistri, Poros, Hydra and Spetses and their characteristics are the crystal clear sea waters, the lush greenery with pine trees, important historical sites and neoclassical harbours.


The remotest islands are the Dodecanese, which are located in the eastern-southern side of the Aegean Sea, near Turkey. These islands are Rhodes, Symi, Tilos, Kastelorizo, Chalki, Nisyros, Kos, Leipsoi, Karpathos, Kasos, Leros, Patmos, Arkioi, Telendos and Farmakonisi. The characteristics of these islands are the hospitality of the local people, their authentic and virgin character, the deep blue crystal clear sea waters, the neoclassical well-preserved architecture and the important historical sites in islands, such as Kos, Rhodes and Patmos.

Away from Athens are also  the northern Aegean islands.The islands in northern Aegean Sea are Chios, Lesvos, Samos, Ikaria, Fournoi, Psara, Limnos, Agios Eustratios, Thassos, Samothrace and Oinousses. Chios, Lesvos, Samos, Ikaria, Thasos and Limnos are large islands with touristic facilities, while the other islands are unspoiled destinations for total peace and privacy. 

The Ionian Islands are located in the western side of Greece, in the Ionian Sea, which is part of the Adriatic Sea near Italy. These islands are Zakynthos, Kefalonia, Ithaca, Lefkada, Corfu, Paxoi and Antipaxoi. They are distinguished by lush greenery, verdant nature, Italian-style architecture and long sandy beaches with turquoise waters. Because they are located near Patras and Igoumenitsa, do not depart boats from Athens, but you have to drive there and then take the boat to one of these islands.

A very good option from Athens are the Cyclades, which are located in the middle of the Aegean Sea, and thus are accessible by boat or ferry in 2-6 hours. Cyclades are located in the southern side of Greece, in the part of the Aegean Sea that starts in Athens and ends in Crete. Some of these islands, like Kythnos, Kea, Serifos and Andros, are situated in a short distance to Athens (1-2 hours by ferry), while some other are located in the southern part of Aegean Sea near Crete, such as Santorini, Amorgos and Anafi. Western Cyclades are Sifnos, Milos, Kimolos, Folegandros and Sikinos, while in the middle of the Aegean Sea are located popular Greek islands all over the world, such as Mykonos, Paros, Antiparos, Syros, Tinos, Ios and Naxos. Around Naxos, you can travel to the subgroup of Small Cyclades (Koufonissi, Donousa, Schinoussa, Irakleia), which has small untouched by mass tourism islands. Cyclades are characterised by dry and wild nature, strong winds, sunshine, whitewashed villages, rich history and significant archaeological sites as well as impressive beaches with turquoise waters.

Not far from Athens, are located the SporadesThese islands are Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos and Skyros. Their characteristics are that they have verdant nature, traditional towns and impressive beaches with warm sea waters. The problem is that you have to drive until Volos or Agios Kontantinos in Thessaly to take the boat, because from the Athens ports no boat departs to Sporades.

Another criterion to pick your destinations, is the kind of vacation you want. There are romantic islands, ideal for couples, such as Santorini, Folegandros and Corfu, family-friendly islands, such as Crete, Samos, Chios and Rhodes, or party islands for youngsters, such as Mykonos, Paros, Ios and Zakynthos. Read how to do Greek Island Hopping whatever your company is, and choose the group of islands that is perfect for your needs.

Many travellers choose their destinations in regard to their closeness to Athens, their starting point. We mentioned earlier that Saronic islands are located near Athens, and this is true. However, there are also some Cycladic islands (Kythnos, Kea, Serifos, Andros, Tinos, Mykonos) that are neighboring to the Greek capital. In this detailed guide about Greek Island Hopping from Athens, read everything you need to know, if you want to combine your city break with island hopping nearby. 

Step 2: how to get there

Basically, there are two options to go to the Greek islands from Athens:

By ferry or boat

In Athens, there are three ports. Piraeus, Rafina and Lavrio. Rafina and Lavrio are supplementary ports, which are ideal to take the boat to a nearby island. From Rafina, you can take the boat or the ferry to go to the Cycladic islands of Andros, Tinos and Mykonos because the route is shorter than from Piraeus. From Lavrio, you can take for the same reason the boat to Kea and Kythnos. From Piraeus, you can take the boat to the all the Cycladic, Saronic, Dodecanese and northern Aegean islands as well as to Crete. To go to the Ionian islands, you have to drive to Patras, Kyllini or Igoumenitsa and take from there the boat. To the Sporades, you have to drive to Volos or Agios Konstantinos and take from there the boat.

To all these ports, there is also public road transport, while to the Piraeus, you can also go by train in less than half an hour. Another advantage of Piraeus port is that you can start from there your island hopping journey on a budget with Hostelbay island pass, a Greek island hopping ferry pass that gives you the opportunity to visit up to 7 Cycladic islands (Mykonos, Paros, Ios, Naxos, Koufonissi, Santorini, Amorgos) at the unbeatable price of only one ticket. Don't miss it!

However, you have to plan your itinerary in order to be on time, especially in Piraeus port. The distance from Athens Airport to Piraeus Port is 50 km and from Athens Center 15 km. You can go to the port by train, but, since the port is huge with literally hundreds of boats and ferries to the Greek islands, you may need a taxi to take you to the right gate. Especially at mornings, the traffic jam in Piraeus Port is so heavy that you can easily miss your boat if you don't arrive early, at least one hour before departure. Consider you may need half an hour by car for a distance of 2 km! In the other ports of Athens, things are not that bad with so heavy traffic jam, but generally remember to depart early from your hotel. If you miss the boat, it is possible that during the high season you can't find another one to go to the island you want.

Are you wondering how to choose between ferry or boat? Well, both have advantages and disadvantages. The safest and cheapest way to travel between the Greek islands is by boat. You won't feel nausea, you can sit on the deck and enjoy the sea view and the sea gulls following you. Its disadvantage is that you need many hours to reach even the closest island. By ferry, you can go to your destination quickly, and during your Greek Island Hopping, you can go from one island to another in less than one hour. However, ferry is not the best option for those, who suffer from nausea. Moreover, you should sit inside at airport seats during the whole trip because sitting on the deck may be dangerous and is prohibited. If you travel in the off-season, consider the strong winds and be prepared that a route by ferry in autumn or spring may be cancelled. The biggest disadvantage of ferry is the high price of the tickets. However, with Hostelbay Island Pass we just mentioned this is not a problem!!

By aeroplane

If you want to a remote island from Athens or you don't want to spend hours on the boat, you can also take a flight to an island, and from there start your Greek Island Hopping. Most Greek islands have airport, and there are many domestic flights with low prices that help you plan your transportation on a budget.

Which islands have airport?
In the Cyclades: Mykonos, Naxos, Paros and Santorini.
In the Dodecanese: Astypalaia, Kalymnos, Karpathos, Kasos, Kos, Leros, Kastellorizo and Rhodes.
In the Sporades: Skiathos and Skyros
In the Ionian islands: Zakynthos, Kefalonia and Corfu
In northern Aegean Sea: Ikaria, Lesvos, Limnos and Chios

From Athens center, there is suburban railway as well as subway and buses that go to the airport, which is located 40 km. The route lasts about 45 minutes.

Step 3: where to stay and what to do

After having decided where to go and how to go there, you have to plan your stay there. Booking your accommodation is essential before doing anything else and learning about what to do on the islands. Booking online your accommodation in Greece is a very good step to find great deals and offers at unbeatable prices. On the Greek islands, you will find many types of accommodation. On the famous, touristic islands, such as Mykonos, Santorini, Corfu, Crete and Rhodes, there are many five-star hotels with every luxury you can imagine, such as private pools, yoga, gym and awarded restaurants. All Greek islands have also afforded hotels for budget vacation, and there is also the option of rooms to let. Rooms to let are rooms with many facilities, such as kitchen, private bathroom, balcony and air-condition, but they are cheap, because they have no reception. They are clean, and some of them are luxury and boutique by the sea. Depending on the price you want to pay, there is great variety on the type of room to let you can rent. Moreover, on most islands of Greece, you can find high-quality, yet cheap hostels to spend the night, if you don't want to pay for a room in a hotel. Some islands, such as Santorini, Mykonos, Antiparos, Paros and Crete have famous camping areas, where you can stay on a budget.

Regarding the transportation, some islands don't have convenient public transportation. Buses are rare, and you can difficultly find a taxi with so many tourists. On small islands, such as Koufonissi or Symi, you can walk or take the caique to the beach, but in large islands, you may probably need to rent a car for some days if you want to visit remote villages and beaches.

The Greek islands are characterised by great variety, and each of them has something different to offer to you. On each Greek island, you have to take into account the following things that guarantee you great time (we have gathered for you the best islands for each criterion, but that doesn't mean you can find it also on another islands):

beaches (Milos, Rhodes, Crete, Kefalonia, Kythnos, Lefkada, Serifos): Crystal clear waters, exotic soft sand, stunning landscape. This is what distinguishes the Greek beaches. Some of them organised with touristic and water sports, some of them private and secluded, you can find anything you want. Just be prepared to spend your whole day on the beach! We have also created a detailed article about beach hopping in Greece, which can be very helpful for you, if you like going from one beach to another the whole day!

history (Rhodes, Kos, Crete, Naxos): The Greek history is rich and long. On these islands, but generally on almost every Greek island, you can admire historical sites, archaeological temples and cultural points of interest that will impress you with their ancient history and significance for the whole world. Greek islands are ideal for cultural island hopping, and some of them are super for this kind of vacations!

nightlife (Mykonos, Paros, Ios, Rhodes, Zakynthos, Skiathos, Crete): Almost all Greek islands have bars where you can have great time and dance, but these islands gather young people from all over the world that are ready to dance, flirt and drink until the dawn in world-class clubs. If we had to choose only 4 party islands in Greece, we would choose the following islands for party animals.

food (Crete, Santorini, Naxos, Amorgos, Skopelos): The Greek islands are top destinations in the Mediterranean for foodies. The Greek cuisine, part of the world famous Mediterranean cuisine, is not only healthy but also delicious. It is based on vegetables, pure meat, olive oil, fresh fish and seafood. Your vacation on the Greek islands can really be a culinary experience you won't never forget. A gastronomic paradise is waiting for you to serve you local dishes! Get ready to live an unforgettable culinary experience. Don't forget to eat the Greek super-food, souvlaki! Learn in this article about the Greek cuisine on the islands everything you need to know about it!

beautiful villages and towns (Santorini, Mykonos, Tinos, Corfu, Kefalonia, Hydra, Sifnos, Syros, Skopelos, Skyros, Symi, Andros): Paved streets, neoclassical or white-washed houses, local shops, flowers and imposing mansions. These are the Greek well-preserved towns and villages you should definitely visit, make a stroll and drink your cocktail in an astonishing scenery... If we had to choose only 6 islands famous for their Chora, we would choose these beautiful Greek islands with stunning towns.

Where to Stay

Appartment in Naxos, Greece Al Mare
Al Mare
Saint George Beach, 84300 Naxos, Greece

Al Mare is located on the beach of Agios Georgios in the town of Naxos. Naxos Port is 1 km away and Naxos National Airport is 2.6 km away.

Hotel in Pelion, Greece Pilion Terra Hotel
Pilion Terra Hotel
Portaria, 37011 Pelion, Greece

Pilion Terra Hotel is built between the popular villages of Portaria and Makrynitsa in Pelion. Pelion Ski Centre is 15 km away. The town of Volos is 12 km away.

Hotel in Rhodes, Greece Sylvia Hotel
Sylvia Hotel
114, Kolokotroni Str., 43065 Rhodes, Greece

Centrally located in the historic Rhodes Town, Sylvia Hotel lies 3 minutes walk from the beach and 10 minutes walk from the main port of Rhodes. The medieval centre of the town can be reached within 10 minutes. Rhodes International Airport "Diagoras" is at 15 km.