I have visited Greece a lot. It’s one of my favourite countries in Europe and I love nothing better than island hopping in Greece.
There are many great holiday deals in Greece and plenty of people return year after year visiting different islands. However a lot of people don’t realise how easy island hopping in Greece is. People assume island hopping is for the backpackers on month long trips but this isn’t true. On a week long holiday it’s easy to fit in three islands at a fairly leisurely pace and you can double that for a two week holiday and get to six islands.
Obviously an island hopping trip does require a bit of forward planning and ferry timetables are often not available more than a few months in advance which scares a few people away, worried they wont be able to get a connection. To plan an island hopping trip in Greece you need to be fairly open and not stress too much. Flexibility is key.
Here are some top tips if you are thinking of planning a trip island hopping in Greece.
#1 Travel in one direction
If you are wanting to see as much as possible don’t book a return flight in and out of the same airport. If you do it means at some point you will have to double back on yourself and perhaps return overnight to a place you have already been. These days it’s quite easy to get cheap flights with low cost carriers in and out of different airports. A popular route would be into Athens and out of Heraklion in Crete.
You can then travel by ferry down through the Cyclades and easily stop off at Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, Milos, Ios and Santorini before getting to Crete. A great trip which mixes Ancient Ruins, small islands, iconic islands and party islands.
However you shouldn’t always follow this tip – if you are planning on doing islands close to Athens then a return flight in and out of course makes sense. It also may be cheaper to get in and out of the same airport.
#2 Be flexible……
Unless you are travelling during the very height of season chances are you will not have trouble finding accommodation. You can leave your itinerary open and move on when you want to. Most islands have ferry booking agents and you can easily get tickets the day before. On arrival in any port you will be greeted by hoteliers trying to sell you a room.
It’s a fun way to travel and let’s you keep your options open. If you really love a place you can stay longer and if you’re not so keen on somewhere else it’s easy to leave early.
If you’re not so keen on finding accommodation on arrival then use the internet! Technology these days makes it easy to reserve a room somewhere the day before you arrive and you can check photos and reviews too.
#3 ….but have a rough plan
Generally it’s best to know which islands you are wanting to visit before you go. That way you can get an idea of ferry timetables and when the best days to move on are. It’s always worth making sure you get to your last destination at least a night before your flight. Ferries can be delayed and whilst that 5 hour gap you have left may seem enough to get from the ferry to the airport on many occasions it wont be!
My most recent island hopping trip was to the Cyclades and I did actually fly in and out of the same airport. I flew to Athens and as I had spent plenty of time exploring the city before managed to get an overnight ferry straight to Santorini. This might seem crazy, why didn’t I just fly to Santorini? Well the answer is simple, cost!
My return flight to Athens and overnight ferry to Santorini with a private cabin was cheaper than a one way ticket to Santorini and technically included accommodation for one night of my trip! If budget is a big consideration then always think about these options.
Once I got to Santorini I then actually travelled back towards Athens. Stopping off for some partying in Ios and then relaxation in Paros. This is what I love about island hopping you can visit crazy places and then leave to relax somewhere else. You can also visit places you love and want to return to but not feel bad as you are combining new islands too.
If you are beginning to plan an island hopping trip then drop me an email I am happy to help out with questions. Matt Barrett also has a great site which gives a lot of personal information and recommendations – http://www.greektravel.com/
For ferry information then http://www.openseas.gr/ tend to have the most up to date info. Bear in mind that whilst the expensive fast ferries are generally bookable 6-8months before travel you will often find the slower ferries schedules are only released a 3-4 months prior.