Greek Islands: Local’s Guide To Island-Hopping Greece

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Post author Gabi

Written by our local expert Gabi

Gabi is an award-winning writer who lives on the Island of Crete in Greece. She is an expert in Greek travel and writes guides for the everyday traveler.

Although most of us close our eyes and dream about the enchanting images of white Santorini, there are so many more Greek islands to choose from that you never know exactly where to start island-hopping in Greece..or where to finish!

So, please let me help you island-hop Greece like a local, using my own travel experience of living in Greece for many years. 

Greece Travel Blog_How To Island Hop In Greece

There is nothing more magical, romantic, and adventurous than boarding a Greek ferry and sailing the sea to explore the beautiful beaches of Greece. The Greek islands are blessed with stunning landscapes and feel like an authentic slice of paradise.

You must first know that the Greek islands are divided into different island groups. As well as that, some islands are extremely popular among Greek island-hopping tourists, while others, equally enchanting, are almost unknown and offer a great vacation spot for those looking for less crowded places… which often come with much lower price tags too!

So, let’s get started and show you the best way to island hop in Greece;

The Greek Islands Groups

Let’s take a look at the islands of Greece and what groups they belong to.

Cyclades

These are the most popular islands in Greece. When you go island-hopping in the Cyclades, you can visit gorgeous beaches and places like Santorini, Mykonos, Sifnos, Syros, Serifos, Paros, Milos, Naxos, Amorgos, Ios, Tinos, and Folegandros.

Dodecanese

This beautiful slice of Greece includes islands such as Patmos, Samos, Kos, Tilos, Symi, Kalymnos, Leros, and Rhodes. The latter is one of the most popular destinations and often features on Greece island-hopping itineraries.

Ionian Islands

These islands are easy to visit when visiting Greece from Italy, one of the many popular Greek island hopping routes. Corfu, Lefkada, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, and Ithaka are some of the best-known Ionian Islands.

Argo-Saronic Gulf Islands

Easy to reach as they are relatively close to Athens, the most popular Saronic Islands include Aegina, Poros, Hydra, Spetses, Salamina, and Agistri.

Crete

Crete is Greece’s biggest island. It’s a major destination on its own, a place where you could spend a week or more exploring amazing beaches and ancient sites.

However, Crete is also a much-visited destination among people who are island-hopping in Greece. It is, for example, a great base from which to visit Santorini on a day trip.

Evia

Evia is the second biggest island in the country, and it is also easy to reach from Athens.

Northeastern Aegean Sea Islands

Some of the islands in this group are Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Ikaria, and Thasos.

Sporades

These beautiful green Greek islands include Alonissos, Skyros, Skiathos, and Skopelos.

As you can already see, there is no one best Greek island for island-hopping – you have to see a few. Let us show you how many islands you can see on your island-hopping around Greece adventure with the ferry routes below.

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Ferry Routes To The Most Popular Greek Islands 

When planning those unforgettable Greek island-hopping adventures, deciding where to go first or how long to stay is a decision that will be subject to the Greek islands’ ferry routes, ferry schedules, and your Greek budget.

Are you ready to start planning your Greek island-hopping vacation? Let’s go! This article gives you a sweeping panorama of how to island-hop in Greece. But, first things first, are you starting on the mainland? If so read this section:

From Athens To The Main Greek Islands

Greece With KIds - What to do in Greece with kids - Athens - Parthenon, Akropolis

Athens, the capital of Greece, offers access to all the islands, either by plane or by ferry routes to the Greek islands. Popular islands, including Rhodes, Corfu, Crete, Mykonos, and Santorini, can be reached by flying out from Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport.

The most popular tours from Athens:

  • 🏝️ Book this 13-day Greek islands tour in Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, and Rhodes and admire the beauty of each island!
  • 🏞️ Grab the opportunity to visit the most cosmopolitan destination in Greece – Mykonos Island – on this day trip from Athens
  • 🚢 Visit the most famous Greek islands – Santorini and Mykonos on a 2-day trip from Athens
  • 🛥️ Spend four days traveling around some of Greece’s island hotspots by joining this trip with ferries, flights, and accommodations included
  • 🚢  Book your ferries with Ferryhopper in advance

 

Athens Ferry Ports

It’s also a popular choice to travel by sea. You can reach most Greek islands from the main Port of Piraeus, about 30 minutes from the center of Athens. However, it would help if you also kept in mind that there are other ports from which you can depart, too. Lavrio and Rafina are two smaller island ports in Athens with regular ferry services to different Greek islands.

  • From Lavrio: you can reach the islands of Chios, Lemnos, Andros, Folegandros, Ios, Kea, Kimolos, Kythnos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Sikinos, Syros, and Tinos.
  • From Rafina: instead, it’s possible to visit the islands of Crete, Andros, Folegandros, Ios, Amorgos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Sifnos, Sikinos, Syros, Tinos, and Santorini.

You can choose between fast ferries to the Greek islands that carry boat cargo on this route. These are ideal if you want to take a rented car or motorbike with you. 

Corfu To Santorini, Crete, And Mykonos

There are no direct flights from Corfu to Santorini, Mykonos, or Crete. Therefore, if flying is a must, the best way to get there is to fly to Athens and then take another flight to the island of your choice.

Other alternatives include taking the ferry from Corfu to the mainland and, from there, boarding a bus to Athens. Once in the capital, you can choose either a ferry or a plane to reach Crete, Santorini, or Mykonos.

Another alternative is to reach Larissa from Corfu and take a train trip to Athens.

Crete To Santorini

Guide To Where To Stay In Crete, Greece - Elafonisi Lagoon

There are no direct flights from Crete to Santorini, but a ferry route connects both islands during the high season with at least 2-3 daily ferry crossings.

The ferry times between these Greek islands range between 2 and 4 hours, depending on whether you take a fast or regular ferry. The cost of the ferry trip between Heraklion and Santorini is about 50 euros, and it can be a great day trip if you’re staying in Crete. This is one of the most popular ferry travel routes on the Greek islands.

Rhodes To Crete

How To Visit The Greek Islands From Turkey In One Day - Rhodes, Lindos bay

The trip from Rhodes to Crete can be quite long on a ferry. That’s why most travelers choose to fly from Heraklion, Crete’s capital. The flying time is about 50 minutes, and prices tend to be considerably high, so booking in advance is a good idea.

The ferry route connecting Rhodes to Crete is covered by the sailing company Aegeon Pelagos. There are four weekly connections and the traveling times range between 11 and 15 hours.

It’s possible to board the ferry with a car, a motorbike, or a camper van. Since it’s such a long trip, the vessel offers facilities, including restaurants, bars, and shops, to make the journey more pleasant.

LAND ROVER TOUR RECOMMENDATIONS

Mykonos To Santorini

Easter In Greece - Santorini Church

The only way to travel between Mykonos and Santorini is by boarding a ferry since no direct flights connect the Aegean Islands.

You can save some money traveling with regular service (about 4 hours), pay more, and cut off your traveling time by at least two good hours.

Since this is probably the most famous sea route during summer, it’s a better idea to book your ferry tickets well in advance – we suggest Ferryhopper for that here. The trip from Mykonos to Santorini is among the best Greek island hopping experiences you can have.

Book your Santorini Day Trip From Mykonos here

Naxos, Paros, Ios To Santorini

The three islands are connected by ferry routes all year round, with a considerable increase in services during the high season.

The best way to travel among these islands is by boarding a fast ferry. The ferry travel times between these Greek islands vary from 2 hours to 45 minutes (Paros-Naxos).

The three islands can also make an excellent escape from the bustle of Santorini and are the perfect destination for a one-day trip or a weekend away.

Rhodes To Santorini, Mykonos, And Other Cyclades

The best way to travel between the Greek Cycladic Islands and Rhodes is by boarding a ferry to Athens and, from there, boarding another ferry to any of the Cyclades Islands (or Rhodes).

It’s not common to find ferries departing from Rhodes with a stop on the Cyclades, but if you manage to book a vessel making a stop either in Naxos or Paros, it would unquestionably be a winning choice. Check with your ferry operator to find the best Greek island-hopping route for your trip.

Italy To Greece

How To Get From Greece To Italy (& Italy To Greece) - Ancona Port
Ancona

As we mentioned in this post about traveling from Italy to Greece, there are comfortable ways to connect both countries by plane or ferry. Ferries depart from Italy’s main ports, and it’s possible to board most vessels with a rental car or a motorbike.

Some of the ports are Bari, Ancona, and Venice, and they usually connect Italy to the Greek ports in the Ionian Sea, including Corfu, Igoumenitsa, and Patras.

Of course, routes (and prices) increase during the high season, which in Europe goes from June to September.

Which Greek Islands Have Airports

Let’s go island-by-island.

What Greek Islands Have Domestic Airports

  • Chios Island
  • Ikaria Island
  • Kalymnos Island
  • Kythira Island
  • Milos Island
  • Naxos Island
  • Paros Island
  • Skyros Island
  • Syros Island

What Greek Islands Have International Airports

  • Astypalea Island
  • Corfu Island
  • Crete Island
  • Karpathos
  • Kefalonia Island
  • Kos Island
  • Lemnos Island
  • Lesvos Island
  • Milos Island
  • Rhodes Island
  • Samos Island
  • Santorini Island
  • Skiathos Island
  • Zakynthos

Best Greek Islands For Island-hopping

Ideas For Things To Do In Corfu In Winter For Everyone - Old Byzantine fortress

Deciding which Greek islands to include in your Greek island-hopping itinerary can be difficult. It depends on what activities you love doing and how you prefer to spend your vacation time.

Do you love sunbathing and swimming on sandy beaches? Do you dream of soaking in the whitewashed landscapes of Greece? Are you eager to climb mountains and fill your trip with incredible adventures? Do you want epic Greek nightlife?

There’s an island for every taste and every traveler… People usually choose to visit the most popular places either because they heard about them or because some other travelers suggested so.

People often flock to places such as Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu, Hydra, and Crete, for the best beaches, totally unaware there are hundreds of other islands worth visiting in Greece.

If you’re visiting Greece for the first time and eager to discover some of the best islands, the best thing to do is travel around on a ferry. You can get to even some of the less-visited islands with ease.As you can see above, tons of ferries connect the Greece islands, making it super easy to have an unforgettable Greece island-hopping experience.

This is not only the most good option when it comes to ticket prices, but it is also the favorite way to travel for locals. You will immerse yourself in the right atmosphere that will set the pace for a relaxing trip.

One of the best Greek island-hopping tips we can give you is: don’t run against the clock. The most enjoyable way to visit Greece and the islands is to take one place at a time and enjoy it to the fullest. When it comes to island-hopping the Greek Islands, I think that less is definitely more.

GREEK island-hopping FAQS

What is the best time to go Greek island-hopping?

The best months to enjoy a Greek isle adventure has to be when it’s warm, but the hordes of vacationers have left – making that May, June, and September. Of course, the summer months of June, July, and August are the most popular as that is when people have summer break – but that is also when the prices are higher and crowds bigger

Is it easy to island hop in Greece?

YES! With hundreds of islands and decades of tourism experience, Greece has an excellent, well run and efficient ferry network, making hopping from island to island easy and cheap 

How to island hop Greece?

We have provided you with many tips; plan in advance and don’t rush from place to place for the best experience

Can I take a self-guided Greek island-hopping trip?

It’s the best way! Going on a cruise ship with hundreds of other people is nowhere near as fun

Is it expensive to island hop in Greece?

Yes, and no. Budget travelers can find low-cost accommodations, or you can also stay in 5-star resorts. Just as you can enjoy low-cost street food or eat in the finest restaurants. Greece offers something for all budgets

How long do you need when island-hopping in Greece?

You can rush, but then you would not get to fully immerse yourself in the authentic way of Greek life. At a minimum, we recommend that you spend three nights on each island. So if you have just 10 days in Greece, do not island-hop more than three islands, and spend at least one day in Athens or Thessonaliki 

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

The cheapest – and easiest way to get around the Greek Islands is by jumping on the Greek ferry system. With several ferry companies offering ferries to and from all of the islands all year, you do not need to spend much

We hope that island-hopping Greece has been made easier with this guide on planning a Greek island-hopping holiday adventure.

 

Comments (8)

  1. Hi,
    Great reading your site.
    We have 21 days to explore the Cyclades Islands starting in Santorini and ending in Athens, we want to do this leisurely using Ferries.
    We like the thought that less is more but we have a nice length of time. What route would you suggest ?

    Best wishes,
    Jim

    1. For a leisurely 21-day exploration of the Cyclades Islands starting from Santorini and ending in Athens, you can enjoy a wonderful island-hopping experience. Here’s a suggested route that balances relaxation with exploration:

      Day 1-4: Santorini
      Day 1-2: Arrive in Santorini. Spend your first two days exploring Fira and Oia, enjoying the sunset views, and perhaps a wine tour.
      Day 3: Visit the Akrotiri Archaeological Site and relax on the Red Beach.
      Day 4: Take a boat tour of the caldera, including the hot springs and Thirassia.
      Day 5-7: Ios
      Day 5: Take a ferry to Ios. Enjoy the beaches like Mylopotas and relax.
      Day 6: Explore Ios Town (Chora), visit the windmills, and enjoy the local cuisine.
      Day 7: Spend a day on a secluded beach or partake in water sports.
      Day 8-10: Paros
      Day 8: Ferry to Paros. Explore Parikia and visit the Panagia Ekatontapiliani church.
      Day 9: Day trip to the picturesque village of Naoussa. Enjoy the beaches.
      Day 10: Explore the interior of the island or take a short boat trip to Antiparos.
      Day 11-13: Naxos
      Day 11: Ferry to Naxos. Visit the Portara and explore Naxos Town.
      Day 12: Explore the inland villages like Apiranthos and Filoti. Visit the Temple of Demeter.
      Day 13: Relax on beaches like Agios Prokopios or Agia Anna.
      Day 14-16: Amorgos
      Day 14: Ferry to Amorgos. Visit the Monastery of Hozoviotissa and the Chora.
      Day 15: Enjoy the serene beaches and explore the island’s hiking trails.
      Day 16: Relax and soak in the traditional island life.
      Day 17-19: Syros
      Day 17: Ferry to Syros. Explore Ermoupoli and its neoclassical architecture.
      Day 18: Visit the Ano Syros, and enjoy the panoramic views.
      Day 19: Relax on the beaches or visit the local museums.
      Day 20-21: Athens
      Day 20: Ferry to Athens. Explore the historic sites like the Acropolis and Plaka.
      Day 21: Visit the National Archaeological Museum and spend your last evening in a nice Athenian restaurant.
      This itinerary gives you a mix of popular and lesser-known islands, each with its unique charm, allowing for a well-rounded experience of the Cyclades. Remember to check the ferry schedules in advance as they can vary, especially outside of the peak summer months. Enjoy your trip!

  2. Hello.What island to choosef rom September 15 to30 so that it is possible to swit. Thank you Edvardas.

  3. Greetings,

    I am planning a trip to Greece to Island Hop in July. Please advise on the best way to travel between (Athens, Mykonos, Naxos and Crete). I was thinking; Atlanta to Athens (flight) with first island Mykonos (High Speed Ferry or flight) then Naxos (High Speed Ferry) and then Crete (flight) and back to Athens (flight) then fly back to the USA. While in Crete we will likely do a day trip to Santorini.

    I have visited Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini in 2017. How many days should I plan for in Naxos and Crete? Please recommend hotels in Mykonos, Naxos and Crete.

    Thank you,

    LaShaunda

  4. Hi SJ,
    I was thrilled to find your blog. Croatia was my last vacation (before Covid) and I finally booked a “post Covid” vacation for April 2023, We will be taking a Windstar cruise from Barcelona, thru a few ports in Italy and ending in Athens. My plan is to add a few days in Greece after the 8 day cruise. We will sightsee in Athens for 2 days and then I would like to see one (or two) of the Greek Islands.
    Can you recommend which island we should go for the best overview of Greece. We are 60+ years old so I don’t car about the nightlife of dancing and partying. I want culture and food! Thanks
    Gail G

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