If you are planning an amazing island-hopping vacation in Greece then chances are you may be quite confused about the multiple Greek Islands ferry hopping routes that are possible! Here we cover all the main potential routes that the ferry companies cover including the most popular routes in each island group, some suggested itineraries based on how many days you have, as well as some alternative routes to lesser, or even unknown islands.
TIP ♥ Interconnecting Ferry routes
in the Greek Islands
The purpose of this article is to help you understand the way the ferry routes work and to help you decide which islands to visit in the easiest possible way. That usually means sticking to a route that the ferry companies cover for each island group.
Many ferry routes do not connect with each other. They are simply too far apart and would require long overnight or multi-night journeys. It is simply easier to fly between those groups but stick to ferries on local routes.
Greek Island ferries routes that do not usually interconnect
The Cyclades with the Ionians, the Saronics or the Sporades
The Ionians with any other group apart from Kythira which connects with Crete
The Saronic Islands with any other group
The Sporades with any other group
The Northern Aegean Islands do not connect with the Cyclades apart from Chios – Mykonos
The Dodecanese only connect with the Northern Aegean and Cyclades Islands
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When to visit the Greek Islands
The best times to visit Greece are April-June and September-October. The weather is lovely and tourist numbers are fairly low. The high season is late July and August, and prices will reflect that as will the crowds, the number of cruise ships and accommodation availability.
Summer is still great, especially for beach time and in some of the lesser-known spots. The water is warm, there are blue skies every day and a fun holiday atmosphere.
Easter is an especially wonderful time to visit Greece as it becomes very festive with parades, parties, and on many islands bonfires, fireworks and other activities and traditions.
Best beach and swimming weather: June to September
Best sightseeing weather: April to June and September/October
The Eastern Cyclades Islands
Tinos – Mykonos – Paros – Naxos – Amorgos – Iraklia- Ios – Santorini
Greek Island island-hopping route for 14 days:
Mykonos – Syros – Paros – Naxos – Santorini
Route for 7 days:
Paros – Ios – Santorini
Alternative Cyclades Islands route with no airports:
The islands of the Eastern Cyclades are home to the two most famous Greek Islands, Santorini and Mykonos, as well as dozens of other beautiful destinations. This is where you will find the iconic sugar-cube white architecture, the narrow, winding alleys and laneways, the picturesque fishing harbours and town squares and lots of other things to see and do.
Most first-timers will want to see the Golden Triangle – Athens, Mykonos and Santorini but we strongly advise trying to add at least one other island too, for a more authentic experience.
Islands without airports are, of course, the least developed and less likely to be overrun with tourists. These are the places many people regard as their most memorable.
How to get to Mykonos
You can travel to Mykonos by ferry or by plane. Flights take just over 30 minutes and a Ferry from Athens takes as little as 90 minutes. Ferries depart from Piraeus and Rafina Ports.
There are many ferries each day, year-round.
TIP: Both the port and the airport can be quite nuts in summer and there can be long waits for taxis. It REALLY pays to have a private transfer waiting for you!
Where to stay in Mykonos
For couples: For a truly incredible experience in Mykonos Town check out nearby Boheme with its ultra-cool Boho interiors and Mykonos Blanc is where many couples love to stay.
For families and groups: A great mid-range hotel in Ornos is Dorion Hotel while Filoxenia Apartments are great value for money and excellent for families.
For families and groups looking to self-cater near Ornos Villa Thalia is incredible value offering 4 bedrooms, a big swimming pool, and beautiful views over the area. It can also sleep up to 12!
Solo: Portobello Boutique Hotel which is a lovely mid-range option.
For budget travellers, our pick is Andriani’s Guest House which is a great location and is excellent value.
Further reading: 10 Best Villas and Airbnb’s in Mykonos
Things to do in Mykonos
- Hang out at the many excellent beaches, some with world-famous beach clubs and lots of celebrities!
- See the Historic Sites including the iconic Windmills, the village of Ano Mera, Paraportiani Church
- Do a day trip to Delos Island, believed to be the birthplace of Apollo and one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe
- Do a BBQ cruise around the beautiful southern beaches
- Take in a sunset cruise and be mesmerizing by the Greek Islands glow!
- Learn how to make the local cuisine with an authentic cooking course
- Have sundowners at Little Venice – the much instagrammed picture perfect former fishing village
Further reading: A complete guide to Delos Island
Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades Islands. It is famous for its lush and fertile lands along with its picturesque, whitewashed villages and towns and beautiful beaches.
In fact, as many of the beaches are wide, shallow and often calm some people say Naxos has the best beaches in the Greek Islands!
With a small local population and large area of mass there is actually quite a lot to see and do and its easy to see why Naxos is so popular, especially with families.
It’s also a very affordable island and represents great value for money for all types of travellers.
Where to stay in Naxos
For couples: Antony Suites are gorgeous, right near St.George beach and are Adults Only
For families and groups: Ippokampos apartments are in the Chora and can sleep up to 5 while Aegean Land has 2 bedrooms apartments right on the beach at Plaka
Solo: Mystique of Naxos is right near the beach in the Chora and has stunning rooms and a great little rooftop pool and sundeck. Walk to everything and cheap too!
Things to do in Naxos
- Explore the Chora including the Old Market
- visit the Kastro
- Visit the Portara at sunset
- Hire a car and venture out to other parts of the island;
- Visit some of the other wonderful beaches on the island
- see the port and the tiny island Church at Panagia Myrtidiotissa
- visit the Cedar Forest of Alyko
- drop into the Fish and Olive Museum in the village of Chalkio
- see the remains of one of the famous Kouros Statues in Melanes
- learn about the famous Naxian food on a half-day cooking class in a local taverna
- Do a boat trip around the Small Cyclades Islands. Crystal Clear aquamarine water, sea caves, tiny churches, swimming and lunch – a day you will never forget!
Further reading: The Best Beaches on Naxos
For many people Paros is the perfect Greek island. Not too small nor too big, with something for everyone. It’s also strategically located as the first ferry port from Athens to the popular Cyclades islands and therefore a great place to access the mainland coming from the other direction.
We like to stay in Naoussa on Paros which many say is like a small, cheaper version of Mykonos with a lively mix of tavernas, bars, and nightclubs as well as lovely whitewashed alleys full of great cafes and boutiques and gelati stores.
The port town of Parikia is also very nice and a little more affordable than Naoussa.
Where to stay in Paros
For couples: Lilly Residence is stunning and Adults Only or Senia Hotel is a perennial favourite year-round.
For families and groups: Paliomylos Hotel and Spa is where we chose to stay for special birthday celebrations with 38 family and friends. Chrys and the team are amazing!
Solo: Parian Village Beach Hotel is right across from the beach near the port town of Parikia and has great value single rooms with beautiful sea views and a nice pool.
Things to do in Paros
- Explore the villages of Naoussa or Parikia depending on where you are staying.
- Naoussa: don’t miss the Venetian Fort, the old fishing port, Kapopoulos Fine Arts Gallery, the ducks at the Harbour Bridge and the Church of the Virgin Mary ( Panayia).
- Parikia: The Church of 100 doors ( and its museum), the Frankish Castle, the Archaic Temple of Athena, the myriad of shops and cafes in the back alleys and the Port.
- Hire a car and do a loop of the island taking in various villages and beaches along the way
- visit Moraitis Winery in Naoussa
- spend a few hours at Paros Park – an historic nature reserve with a lovely beach and beach club
- visit the Medieval village of Lefkas
- do a day trip to neighbouring Anti-paros
Further reading: Paros or Naxos?
Santorini is a bucket list destination for most people and for good reason. Despite the cruise ships and the crowds, it remains one of those places that not only meets your expectations but probably exceeds it.
It can get a bit crazy when the cruise ships come in each day so a room with a pool and terrace makes for a great escape for an afternoon siesta and sundowners. When you reemerge for dinner most of the tourists will have floated away!
We love to stay in Oia which is considered the most picturesque village, although a lot of people also enjoyed Imerovigli which is about a 20 minute walk along the nice flat footpath that runs along the Caldera seam.
There are a surprising amount of things to do on Santorini with beaches, wineries, hot springs, great shopping and some of the worlds most iconic and photographed sunsets.
How to get to Santorini
You can travel from Athens to Santorini by ferry or by plane. Return to Athens from Meteora either on your overnight tour, by driving or by train.
The small international airport has several flights to Athens a day as well as regular flights in summer from other European destinations like Rome and England. Check flight schedules HERE.
There are also many ferries each day, year-round. Most service either the Western or Eastern Cyclades Islands and on to Athens whilst some come from Crete. Book ferry tickets HERE.
TIP: Both the port and the airport can be quite nuts in summer and there can be long waits for the cablecar, taxis and donkeys. It REALLY pays to have a private transfer waiting for you!
Where to stay in Santorini
For couples: Ducato Di Oia ( adults only) suites in Oia or Above Blue Suites in Imerovigli for more isolation and at a lower price point.
For families and groups: White Harmony Suites have 2 bedroom suites or Theoxenia Boutique Hotel have squad rooms and are not far from, dare I say it, McDonald’s.
Solo: Kivotos in Imerovigli for a splurge or Abelonas Retreat on a tight budget
Things to do in Santorini
- explore the maze of streets in Oia including Panagia Platsani Church
- visit famous Atlantis Books for a unique bookshop experience
- a half-day tour of the island
- tour the world-renowned wineries with a sommelier
- do wine tasting AND a cooking class
- swim at Black Beach, Red Beach and Kamari Beaches
- visit authentic Pyrgos village and see what Santorini is like for long time locals
- do a sunset fishing trip with dinner and drinks
- attend a ‘traditional’ Greek wedding!
- have a professional photographic session done – hard to beat the backdrop!
Further reading: 3 days in Santorini – a complete itinerary
The Western Cyclades
Folegandros – Milos – Kimolos – Sifnos – Serifos -Kithnos – Kea
The islands of the Western Cyclades are equally as beautiful and fascinating as their Eastern neighbours but much less affected by tourism and development.
The ferry companies service this route from Santorini to Athens and it’s easy to island-hop from one to the other.
Milos has increased in popularity a lot in recent years but then its very close neighbour Kimolos still sees hardly any tourists despite being only 1.5 kilometres away.
This is where you will find everything the Eastern Cyclades has but with endless empty beaches and authentic local villages still frozen in time.
Milos is an incredible island that is starting to gain popularity as word gets out about its amazing lunar landscapes, technicoloured beaches and delicious food scene.
It’s a lot quieter than Santorini but there is still quite a lot to see and do and you would not be disappointed with several days or even a month on this island. It’s not small and you will need a car but driving is easy – there are no traffic lights and little traffic.
Milos has a long and prosperous Mining history and there are 200 mines still in operation today, although they are mostly hidden away where tourists cannot go.
It is often referred to as the ‘island of colour’ due to the dramatic mineral compositions seen across the island, from the dramatic pure white of Sarakaniko Beach to the multiple yellows, oranges and reds in the southern beaches.
It is also home to the colourful fishing huts called ‘Syrmata’ which are clustered together in a couple of very charming villages. Some of these are now available for rent!
How to get to Milos
There is a small domestic airport on Milos so it is possible to fly there which is a good choice for the start or end of your trip. You can ferry on to the other islands from the port town of Adamas.
Where to stay in Milos
There are no big chain hotels or all-inclusive hotels on Milos. Rather it has a number of small family-run hotels and some incredibly unique accommodation like converted fishing huts.
Choosing your Milos hotel largely comes down to personal preference. Some people will prefer to stay near the port which is also very central whilst others might prefer the more upmarket boutique feel of Pollonia or one of the tiny fishing or beach villages. Either way, you really can’t go wrong – it’s all marvellous!
Our favourite hotels include;
- Captain Zeppos – Pollonia
- Delmar Suites – Pollonia
- Arethousa – Plaka
- Psaravolada Hotel – Southern beaches
- Artemis Deluxe Rooms – Southern Beaches
Things to do on Milos
- world famous lunar Sarakiniko Beach
- A sailing tour to Kleftiko ( pirate cove and caves with amazing swimming)
- authentic fishing villages and Syrmata – fisherman’s huts
- the delightful seaside fishing village of Pollonia
- the colourful Plaka
- Kayaking Tour to Tsigrado & Gerakas Beaches
- The Milos Mining Museum ( Dragonstone!)
- amazing O’Hamos paddock-to-plate Taverna
- day trips to neighbouring Kimolos island
- Best of Milos tour
Further reading: The Best Beaches on Milos
How to get to Sifnos
Sifnos does not have an airport so this island can only be accessed by sea.
There are only a few taxis on the island so if you want to explore it pays to book a hire car at least for a day or two.
Where to stay in Sifnos
Many people stay in the port town of Kamares which has a long, sandy beach and a number of excellent cafes and tavernas along the waterfront.
Sifnos House + SPA is an gorgeous boutique hotel in Kamares that is fairly new and a short walk to the waterfront. Margado is also very good.
The capital, Apollonia is in the interior but it is also the dining and nightlife hub and can be busy at night in summer and a lot of fun. There are some truly excellent restaurants such as Cayenne. Great hotels there include Arhontou and Gerofinikas.
Platys Gialos is the busiest beach town but it is still very laid back. Check out Platys Gialos Hotel Sifnos and Alexandros Hotel for excellent accommodation or Elies Resort further around the cove at charming Vathy which is very quiet but very lovely.
Things to do in Sifnos
Sifnos is renowned for its food, its charming villages and its outdoor activities such as hiking. Also:
- The Church of Seven Martyrs
- Sifnos Beaches
- Shopping and Galleries
- numerous hiking trails
- Arts and crafts, especially ceramics and pottery
Further reading: A complete Guide to Sifnos
Where to stay in Folegandros
The main town on the island is called Chora and is where you want to be for dining, shopping and convenience. This is also where you will find the much-photographed path and Monastery on the hill.
Polikandia Hotel is a much loved family-run hotel with a great swimming pool and Aegeo Hotel is a picture-perfect spot and the epitome of stunning Cycladic style.
The Port town of Karavostasi is also a great spot to spend some time with hotels like Vrahos Boutique Hotel that has great sea views.
For complete peace and tranquillity and amazing sunset views check out Blue Sand Boutique Hotel with its absolute beachfront location on the western side of the island.
Things to do in Folegandros
There isn’t a whole lot to do on this island which is a big part of its appeal to many. It’s the perfect kind of ‘flop and drop’ place where the beach, the terrace, the dramatic scenery and the views are enough to make anyone happy.
If you can drag yourself away from your hotel these are some things worth checking out:
- Pounta Square in Chora is where you will find the locals relaxing and where the main shops, boutiques and restaurants are.
- Rent a car or ATV and explore the island. There are countless hidden beaches, coves and caves to discover.
- Hike to Kartergo Beach which is very beautiful. It’s an easy hike on mostly flat land.
- Visit the Ecological and Folklore Museum.
- Do a local boat trip and perhaps some diving too with Sea U Diving and Tours.
Further reading: A Complete Guide to Folegandros
The Dodecanese Islands
Rhodes – Symi – Tilos – Kos – Karpathos -Kalimnos – Nisiros- Leros
Lying close to the Turkish coast, the name ‘Dodecanese’ literally translates to the number twelve. Despite this, there are actually 15 major islands and a further 150 smaller isles that make up the grouping.
The islands are amongst the most historically significant in Greece, especially Rhodes, which was said to be the home of one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, the Collosus of Rhodes.
Many of history’s greatest thinkers trace their origins back to the Dodecanese, including the medical philosopher Hippocrates. Ottoman influences are everywhere and other groups, including the Byzantines and Venetians, have also left a mark on the Dodecanese Islands.
A number of the islands are close together so island hopping is an easy and very enjoyable possibility.
Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese and the 4th largest Greek Island. It is home to over 120,000 people and is known for its beach resorts, ancient ruins and remnants of its occupation by the Knights of St. John during the Crusades.
The climate I sub-tropical summers are usually moderate and winters mild, which is also a big part of its appeal.
If you are visiting Rhodes, you certainly don’t need to choose between intriguing historical sites as well as incredible natural beauty as the island offers the best of both worlds, with so many things to do in Rhodes for everyone.
In addition to the stunning landscapes and intriguing archaeological attractions, Rhodes also enjoys a lively cultural scene with lots of great cafes and restaurants, as well as plenty of nightlife.
It’s no wonder it’s been a popular tourist destination since Roman times!
How to get to Rhodes
There is an international airport in Rhodes, Diagoras Airport, so this is a good place to start or finish your trip.
You can also catch a ferry from Athens – we recommend the overnight BlueStar which is like being on a cruise. Book a cabin, have a meal and wake up ready to go in Rhodes!
Book a transfer to your hotel and explore this fascinating island for at least a few days.
Where to stay in Rhodes
We highly recommend Old Town as one of the best places to stay in Rhodes.
It has charm in spades, but it’s also a lively place with an excellent selection of restaurants, shopping and some nightlife. It’s not as frenetic as some other places (like Faliraki), but there’s certainly more than enough to keep you busy during your stay. There are buses to elsewhere on the island, making it a very convenient base.
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed area is cloaked in history, with incredible historic sites found all around the area.
We love In Camera Art Boutique Hotel and Saint Artemios Hotel and Oriental Suites. In Summer Rodos Park is a great choice with its beautiful swimming pool and it is located just outside the town gates.
For beachfront accommodation check out Port Royal Villas and Spa in Kolimbia.
Things to do in Rhodes
This island really packs a punch when it comes to activities with beach life and outdoors co-existing nicely with all the history and culture.
Highlights of the island are:
- Hanging out at the various beaches – Eli, Faliraki and Kolymbia have lots of watersports and facilities too
- Visit Kallithea Springs Beach
- Climb the Acropolis of Lindos
- Do a day trip to Symi island – one of the most photographed in Europe!
- Visit the Palace of the Grand Master
- Enjoy a beautiful sunset dinner cruise
- Families love the Valley of the Butterflies and the Toy Museum
- Do a sailing cruise with snorkelling and lunch
Further reading : Things to do in Rhodes
The island of Kos, in the Aegean Sea, is the third-largest and second-most populous island in the Greek Dodecanese Islands.
Located just over 2 hours from Rhodes by ferry, Kos also has an International Airport so it’s easy to see why so many many people choose Kos holidays as their summer escape.
The islands beautiful white sandy beaches alongside a myriad of archaeological sites just ripe for exploration. Between the fantastic weather, laid back feel, incredible beaches, and some of the best Greek food you could ask for, Kos is a paradise just waiting to be explored.
How to get to Kos
Kos has an airport – the Kos Island International Airport – which receives flights from not only all over Greece but often other countries too, especially in Summer.
For ferriesKos routes connect with Rhodes, Patmos, Leros, and Kalymnos, as well as the nearby Turkish town of Bodrum, which also has a ferry route to Kos, if you’re approaching from the east.
Where to stay in Kos
The majority of the hotels on Kos are in the island’s main city, also called Kos. The rest are largely concentrated along the northern coast.
Albergo Gelsomino Hotel is a beautifully restored building-turned-hotel sitting right at the water’s edge on the eastern shores of Kos, with the beach only steps away or White Pearls Luxury Suites is an Adults-Only resort located along the northern coastline just a few minutes outside of Kos, right by Lampi beach.
Blue Lagoon City Hotel offers luxury at a low price so great for travelers on a budget. Open year-round even during the tourism off-season, the Blue Lagoon is a few minutes from the beach but compensates by having an indoor and outdoor pool, gym facility, and spa with sauna.
A great place to stay with a difference is Sails on Kos, an Ecoluxe Tented Village right near the beach. These two-room, air-conditioned tents have their own bathrooms and the complex is very family-friendly with an on-site swimming pool and playground
Things to do on Kos
Kos is a small island, but many of its towns and villages (particularly the more remote, less-traveled ones) have been well preserved and make for wonderful day trips.
These towns boast world-renowned beaches, archaeological landmarks, and natural wonders.
Highlights of the island include:
- The Roman Odeon of Kos: a second-century open-air amphitheater.
- The Casa Romana: an ancient Roman-style villa that has been restored.
- The Plane Tree of Hippocrates: a huge, ancient tree in the center of the city where Hippocrates, the father of medicine, supposedly taught his students.
- The Temple of Hercules: this temple ruin is located near the Plane tree of Hippocrates.
- The Asklepion Kos: one of Greece’s many Asclepions (healing temples). This particular ruin was the site of Hippocrates’ medical practice.
- Spend time at the many great beaches, including Agios Stefanos, Kardamena, Golden Beach, Marmari, and Cavo Paradiso.
- Many people head over to the Turkish towns of Turkey, Bodrum, Turgutreis, and Datça for the day where prices are low and there is plenty to see and do.
- a 3-island day trip with lunch which is very popular as well.
- Day a day trip to Nisyros island and its volcano
- Explore the island on a full day jeep safari
- Further Reading: A Complete Guide to Kos
The Northern Aegean Islands
Samos – Fournoi – Ikaria – Chios – Lesvos – Limnos- Samothraki – Thassos
Located between Greece and Turkey, it’s perhaps no surprise that the North Aegean Islands have had such a fascinating and turbulent history. Beginning with settlement in around 5000 BC, the islands flourished thanks to their location along a significant trade route.
Covering a large area, the islands – including Chios, Ikaria, Limnos, Lesvos, Samos, Samothraki and Thassos – are quite large in size, and some distance from each other. This means that while they are not ideal for island hopping, they do offer plenty of room to explore.
How to get to Chios
There is a domestic airport in Chios so it is a good place to start or finish your island-hopping adventure in the Northern Aegean Islands. You can also arrive or leave by ferry but it takes roughly 8 hours to reach Athens and it’s an overnight ferry. A great experience though!
Where to stay in Chios
Most people visiting Chios tend to stay either in Chios Town or Karfas, a modern beach resort town about 20 minutes south of Chios Town that is still fairly quiet compared to its counterparts on some other islands. Karfas has a nice wide beach so is a great spot for families in particular.
Argentikon Luxury Suites are the only 5-star hotel on Chios at the time of publication. It is a restored medieval mansion built in the 16th century, set in beautiful gardens and includes a spa, swimming pool, and every luxury amenity. Located about a 10-minute drive inland from the sea it is centrally located in the beautiful village of Kambos.
For something, a little more budget-conscious Emporios Bay Hotel is located in the quiet, southern fishing village of Emporios Bay with excellent tavernas and close to remote beaches.
Sideratos Apartments are stylish self-catering apartments on the seafront in Karfas with great sea views and just a short stroll into the village centre. To experience staying in a traditional castle Mesta Magic is located on the western side of the island and provides an authentic experience the kids will never forget!
What to do in Chios
This island is quite unique in many ways and has a number of things that set it apart from all the other Greek Islands.
Things to see in Chios include:
- Visit the many beaches including Mavra Volia ( Black Beach, stunning Vroulidia and popular Karfas Beach.
- Check out the extraordinary medieval village of Pyrgi and its unique decorative etchings on all the buildings.
- Also visit Anavantos, a very important site in Greece’s history and sadly abandoned after the Massacre of Chios in 1822 during the Greek War of Independence.
- Learn about the Mastic trees that you will see growing around the island – sample its products too!
- Visit the many museums including the Archaeological Museum, which has extensive Neolithic, Mycenaean and Roman exhibits, the Byzantine Museum, housed in the Mecidiye Mosque on Vounakiou Square, and the Maritime Museum which houses paintings, ship replicas and navigational instruments from the islands Naval history.
- Explore Chios Castle, a settlement that today still has a population of around 640 residents. Enter the main gate, Porta Maggiore and you will soon see a restored 15th-century mansion, Giustiniani Mansion, that is also a museum.
- Visit the Ottoman Baths, Bayrakli Mosque and the Ottoman Cemetery off the main square are other prominent Ottoman monuments.
- Nea Moni Monastery was built in the 11th century
- Do a day trip to nearby Oinoussas Island and even Turkey!
Further reading: A complete Guide to Chios
The Saronic Islands
Aegina – Agistri – Poros – Hydra – Spetses
The Saronic Islands are the group of islands closest to Athens, so they are popular with daytrippers and overnight visitors from the capital.
Most of the islands – Salamina, Aegina, Agistri, Hydra, Poros, and Spetses – are less than an hour from Athens by ferry so they are popular year-round.
This is also helped by the fact that they are largely sheltered from the strong winds experienced on many other islands which makes them more pleasant to visit and good for people who are prone to seasickness.
The islands have long been considered historically significant. Aegina, in particular, has a number of points of historical interest, including the Greek temple of Aphaia which was constructed in 480 BC. Around the same time, the straights between Attica and Salamina) were the site of an intense battle between the Ancient Greeks and the Persians.
Hydra and Spetses are famous for their cool bar scenes have been home to a number of writers, actors, and Poets, most famously Leonard Cohen for over 20 years. Both islands do not allow motorised vehicles and have beautifully restored neo-classical mansions lining their harbours.
Hydra is one of the closest islands to Athens and is popular, and quite unique, for a number of reasons. Many believe it has one of the most beautiful harbours in all of Greece and it is dotted with restored homes mostly belonging to wealthy Athenians.
There are no cars or scooters on Hydra which also adds significantly to its appeal. Transport is only by water taxis, boats, donkeys, bicycles and feet.
Hydra was home to a number of famous people including one of Greece’s most important 20th-century painters -Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas Painters and poets such as Seferis and Katsimbalis.
Katsimbalis was visited by Henry Miller, who wrote about it in the Colossus of Maroussi. Soon after the Australian playwright George Johnston and his wife Charmain Clift moved to the island and were joined by the famous Canadian musician Leonard Cohen, who went on the live in Hydra for 20 years. These people, and their friends, became the original ‘bohemians’ blending their artistic endeavours with the carefree lifestyle.
Nowadays, Hydra remains a much-loved hotspot but has avoided the mass tourism of some other well-known islands. This is partly due to stringent planning regulations, which have ensured that the island’s quaint charm remains intact. As a result, Hydra oozes charm and charisma, with donkey carts and hodge-podge houses commonplace.
How to get to Hydra
There is no airport on Hydra or, in fact, any of the Saronic islands. The closest one is Athens.
A trip to the Saronics will always involve the sea even if you drive to the Porto Heli Peninsula on the mainland and catch a small ferry over to Poros, Hydra or Spetses.
From Pireaus Port Hellenic Seaways Flying Dolphin and Hydrofoils run daily trips to Hydra and several times a day in Summer. Tickets are usually €28 per person and the journey takes 90-120 minutes.
These islands tightly hug the Saronic gulf and are probably the most protected in Greece in terms of wind and bad weather. It is highly unlikely you will experience seasickness in this area and ferry cancellations are not common.
Where to stay in Hydra
Most visitors to Hydra stay in Hydra Town (also known as Idra). It’s basically impossible to land on the island without taking in the beauty of Hydra Town. The town is wrapped around the island’s port, which is also one of the most beautiful sights on the island.
Here, you’ll find most of the island’s amenities and attractions. The bars of Hydra Town have long attracted an eclectic mix of visitors – from 1970s rockstars to local Greek youths indulging in a good time. Equally, there’s fabulous diversity in the eating options too – from small traditional tavernas to upmarket restaurants.
Hotel Sophia is an excellent mid-range family-run hotel and is very centrally located while Hydrea Exclusive Hospitality is a gorgeous small luxury hotel in a converted 19th-century mansion with panoramic views of the harbour.
Around the cove in Kamini, Kamini Hydra Thea is a lovely luxury villa with a massive private terrace and Kaminia Cozy House is an excellent budget option.
If you want to stay near the beach then Vlichos is the place to stay. Like most of the beaches on Hydra, Vlichos Beach is pebbly rather than sand, but it’s still a great spot for relaxing by the sea.
As well as the beach, you can also spot a charming old Church and some gorgeous homes as well.
We recommend checking out Hydra Erato and Four Seasons Hydra Luxury Suites.
Things to do in Hydra
For a small island with limited transport, there is a surprising amount of things to see and do.
- Hiking up Mount Eros
- Checking out the many shops and galleries
- Swimming at one of the beaches including Vlychos, Bisti, Saint Nicholas, Mandraki Bay and Avlaki.
- Visiting the many Museums including The Museum and Historical Archives of Hydra, Lazaros Koutouriostis Museum and the National Merchant Marine Academy.
- See the Castle of Kavos
- Find Leonard Cohens House
Further reading : A Complete guide to Hydra
Located some 31 kilometres west of Hydra is the island of Spetses.
Like Hydra, it is a prosperous island and is home to a number of holidays homes and hotels favoured by wealthy Athenians. It also has a not car policy and is an easy destination to explore on foot, horse-drawn carriages or bicycle, although there are Taxis in the main town.
The island is quite green compared to most in the area and it has a number of pine forests.
There are several events held in Spetses each year that attract many domestic visitors including The Spetses Classic Yacht Regatta, The Spetses Mini Marathon and The Armata Festival which celebrates a victorious battle against the Ottomans that occurred at sea nearby.
Spetses is also one of nine European cities that participates in the European Network of Historical Reconstructions.
How to get to Spetses
There is no airport on Spetses nor on any of the Saronic Islands. The nearest airports are Athens or Kalamata on the Mainland.
Spetses is the last Saronic island on the ferry route of this group and is only a 30 minute trip on the Flying Cats Ferries from Hydra.
It is located quite close to the mainland and the small port of Kosta which can be reached in less than 10 minutes by Ferry or Water taxi. This is on the Porto Heli Peninsula which is where a number of luxury resorts and hotels are located including the most exclusive in Greece, Amanzoe.
Many people will move onto the mainland here from Spetses to enjoy the Corinth and Argolis regions and indeed the broader Peloponnese, one of the most incredible places in Greece.
Further reading: A Complete Guide to The Peloponnese
Where to stay in Spetses
The Poseidonion Grand Hotel is one of the most famous hotels in Greece. It was built in 1899 by a wealthy Greek-American tobacco baron who returned to his place of birth with a vision inspired by the French Riviera. This hotel quickly became the centre for high society in the early 1900s and to this day stands pride of place in the beautiful Venetian harbour and is a wonderful place to stay.
Nearby Kastro Hotel is also lovely and a fair bit cheaper while Alexandris is a great budget choice with lovely views.
Things to do in Spetses
Apart from the aforementioned Festivals, there are a number of things to see and do on Spetses. Strolling the harbour and waterfront is a perennial activity of course as is the evening dining scene and nightlife, especially in summer.
Other things to do include:
- Enjoy the beaches, especially Ayia Paraskevi Beach, Vrelos Beach and Bekiri Cave
- Visit Bouboulina’s Museum and see Bouboulina’s statue on the waterfront ( a war hero)
- Visit the many Art Galleries
- Horse Riding
- A day cruise around the island
- A day trip to the Mainland
- Take in a movie at Cine Titania or Spetses Cinema
- Explore the Choros Kasteli Archeological Site
Further reading: A Complete Guide to Spetses
The Sporades Islands
Skiathos – Skopelos – Alonissos – Skyros
The Sporades Islands are located in the northeast of Greece and are the greenest of the island groups. There are 24 islands all up with 4 inhabited permanently.
“Sporades’ means ‘scattered’ ( as opposed to sporadic). The islands are known for their beautiful beaches, green forests and abundant marine life including the Alonissos Marine Park, the first of its kind in Greece and currently the largest marine protected area in Europe.
Skiathos is the closest Sporadic Island to the Mainland. Skopelos and Alonissos and eventually, Skyros are to the east.
These islands are very popular with yachts as they are not as windy as the Cyclades and they are relatively close together (apart from Skyros). There are numerous beaches, coves and caves to explore, often deserted, but also enough towns and villages to provide endless magical summer evenings in local tavernas and bars.
Since the release of the film ‘Mama Mia’, Skiathos (and its gorgeous neighbour Skopolos) have become a lot more popular with fans keen to recreate the laid back vibe of the movie and see the iconic filming locations.
It’s not just its role as a movie backdrop that makes Skiathos such a popular Greek island holiday destination. It’s earned itself a reputation as the “boomerang island”, with so many visitors returning over and over to keep enjoying the unspoiled landscapes, laidback lifestyle and spectacular beaches.
How to get to Skiathos
There is an international airport on Skiathos so this is often how many people arrive in the Sporades and where their trip starts and finishes.
You can also arrive by ferry from the Mainland towns of Agios Konstantinos, about 2 hours drive north of Athens and Volos, a further hour north.
Where to stay in Skiathos
A great choice for your first time staying in Skiathos is the island’s largest town, known simply as Skiathos Town. The town has a permanent population of just under 5,000, but as numbers swell with visitors in Summer it really comes alive.
Here, you’ll find a great selection of markets and restaurants that are just as popular with locals as visitors. In the summer months, it can become crowded with stylish travellers booking into the many waterfront restaurants. In particular, the seafood restaurants are delicious, while after a great meal you may want to enjoy the town’s bustling nightlife.
We recommend checking out La Luna Hotel with its enviable beachfront location in Troulos or Kallisti Apartments in Skiathos Town.
Skiathos Avaton Hotel is arguably the best luxury hotel on the island while Babis is one of the best budget options.
Further reading: Skiathos Accommodation Guide
Things to do in Skiathos
Apart from the beautiful beaches and excellent swimming and snorkelling conditions there are many things to do and see on the island.
Do a full day sailing trip around the island
- Agios Nikolaos Church and Clock Tower
- Visit the Monastero Di Panagia Evangelistria (Monastery)
- Climb the Il Kastro
- Check out the many Art Galleries
- See Skiathitiko Spiti Historic House
- Explore Skiathos Cemetery – this may sound morbid but it is very interesting, and beautiful!
- Hang out at the many stunning beaches including Kriffi Ammos, Kecharia, Troulos, Tsougrias and Lalaria – all wonderful!
Situated off the western coast of Greece, not far from Italy, the Ionian Islands are some of the most beautiful of the Greek Isles.
Rich in history and natural beauty, the six main islands attract many tourists every year but still retain a sense of authenticity and charm.
The most well-known of the major Ionian Islands is Corfu, while Kefalonia and Zante (Zakynthos) are also popular. The other major islands – Lefkada, Paxos and Ithaca are a little more peaceful and relaxing, as are the minor islands south of Zakynthos. Here, you’ll find almost deserted beaches and picture-perfect traditional villages.
Having been occupied by the Romans and Venetians at various times throughout history the Italian influence is evident in the architecture, wine, and even some of the food.
These islands are relatively easy to explore by ferry with regular connections between them, with the exception of Corfu and Paxos/Antipaxos which are located a lot further north and usually requires a ferry connection via the mainland at Igoumenitsa.
Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands, and one of the most dramatically beautiful of all the Greek Isles. It boasts amazing sandy white beaches and dazzlingly clear water, as well as lush mountains and rocky cliff-faces. If you love nature and the outdoors then this is the perfect island although there is plenty of great food and pretty villages to hang out at as well.
The island is also extremely historic, having withstood many invasions and battles over the years. From well-preserved villages to ancient ruins, there are many significant historical sites to discover and stories to learn.
The mythical island of Ithaca is located close to Kefalonia and can be visited as a day trip or as another option for your island-hopping adventure.
How to get to Kefalonia
There is a small international airport on Kefalonia so most people arrive by plane to start their island-hopping holiday of the Ionians.
There is also an airport in Zakynthos and it is also a good choice as it is the southernmost island and you can embark on a northerly route.
It’s also possible to arrive on Kefalonia by ferry from either the mainland at Patras or Kyllini or from the islands of Zakynthos, Lefkada or Ithaca. You can also arrive on the overnight ferry from Brindisi in Italy.
Where to stay in Kefalonia
Kefalonia is a big island so unless you have a few weeks it’s likely you will only discover perhaps half of it.
We like to base ourselves in Agia Effimia on the east coast which is a short drive to famous Myrtos and Antisamos beaches and has easy accessibility to visit Assos, Fiscardo and the island of Ithaca. Here we recommend Fotini which overlooks the water at the end of the main road and next to our favourite Taverna, Paradise. Santafemia is also very good.
In picture-perfect Assos, Romanza Studios have great reviews for good reason while in Fiscardo check out Faros Suites (Adults only) and Balhambra Suites.
In the Southern part of the island, Lixouri is the most popular beach resort and has a number of great accommodation options while places on the coast south of the capital, Argostoli such as F Zeen and White Rocks hotel are excellent.
Things to do on Kefalonia
You will never tire of things to do on this island. With so many natural attractions you could visit a different beach every day for a month but there are other things to do too, including:
- Explore Argostoli Harbour with its many fishing boats and Sea Turtles
- Do a short boat ride into Melissani Cave
- Hike in Mount Ainos National Park
- Visit the Mosastery of Agios Gerasimos
- Spend a day or two in lovely Fiscardo
- Visit the Nautical Museum of Sami
- Do a day trip to Ithaca ( or spend a few nights)
- Take the kids to Odysseus ZooLand
- Learn about beekeeping and Kefalonia’s world-famous honey at Dias Beekeeping
- Do some wine tasking at Petrakopolous or Robola Wineries
- Do a day trip to Zakynthos
Corfu – Paxos – Antipaxos
Corfu is a beautiful island in the Ionian sea close to neighbouring Albania to the north. For centuries it has been popular with holidaymakers from all over the world and has played an important role during wartime.
The island has been occupied by the French, Germans, Italians and Brits and the Venetian influence is evident everywhere with colourful neo-classical buildings and lots of pasta dishes.
How to get to Corfu
There is an international airport in Kefalonia so many people arrive there. As the most northern Ionian island is can be a good idea to start on Corfu and head south.
There is an international airport on Kefalonia, in Corfu Town, so many people arrive there. It is also a busy cruise ship port and popular with sailors exploring the Dalmation Coast and/or the Ionian Islands.
It’s also possible to arrive on Corfu by ferry from either the Greek mainland at Igoumenitsa or Kyllini or from Lefkada or Kefalonia. You can also arrive on the ferry from Brindisi or Bari in Italy.
Where to stay in Corfu
Many people like to stay in the busy resort towns of Kavous, Gouvia and Dassia. Kavous is where most of the nightclubs are and they can all be quite lively at night, especially in summer.
The Grecotel Daphnila Bay Hotel in Dassia has fantastic amenities as does Paradise Hotel in Gouvia.
The village of Agios Gordios is quite charming and has great mountains and sea views. Check out Agios Gordios Beach Resort or Kadith Apartments.
We love to stay in Paleokastritsa ( ‘Old Castle’ ) which is on the north-western side of the island and is compromised of 3 beautiful west-facing bays. There are lots of water activities and boats for hire and it can get quite busy during the day with day-trippers but at night it is quite magical and romantic. Zefiros Hotel is basic but very quaint and right across the beach or, for something a little more upmarket have a look at Akrotiri Beach Hotel.
It’s also worth spending a night or three in Corfu Town. The historic capital is situated on the eastern coast of Corfu and is home to the island’s main airport and a busy harbour. There is quite a lot to see and do and it really is a very charming town with a cool cosmopolitan vibe.
Check out the Mayor Mon Repos Palace Art Hotel and Rodostamo Hotel and Spa.
Things to do on Corfu
There is a lot to see and do on Corfu. Highlights include:
- Walk up to the beautiful Paleokastritsa Monastery
- Explore Corfu Old Town including:
- The Museum of Asian Art
- A guided, walking food tour
- The Church of Saint Spiridon
- the beautiful paved Liston pedestrian street
- the Old Fortress
- Casa Parlante
- Spianada Square
- Platia Leonida Vlachou Park
- catch the boat over to Vlacherna Monastery and island
- Do a cruise over to the beautiful town of Parga on the mainland
- visit Archilleion Museum
- help out at Corfu Donkey Rescue
- catch the ferry to Albania!
- Learn all about Olive Oil at the Governors Olive Mill
- have fun at Sidari Water Park or Aqualand
- visit Old Perithia – the oldest village in Corfu
- swim at the many excellent beaches including Arillas, Mirtiotissa, Paleokastritsa, Bataria and Alymros
- Hang out at cool beach bars like La Grotta and Malibua Summer
- Do a day cruise to the Paxi Islands and the Blue Caves
Further reading: A Complete Guide to Paxos
These Greek Island-hopping itineraries offer endless opportunities for fun, adventure and the full Greek Island experience.
Do one, two or all of them on your trip to Greece for a holiday experience like no other!