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Aegean Islands – Island Hopping, Routes, Itineraries, And Beaches
If you’re dreaming of visiting the Greek Islands this summer, you are probably already planning the different stages of your trip. When considering island hopping in Greece, it is a good idea to remember that not all the islands are close to each other as you may wish. So, instead of thinking about what routes and itineraries are better to see more islands quickly, it is necessary to understand the location of the Greek Islands first.
To do so, nothing better than first learning what islands belong to which group? In fact, when hopping the Greek Islands, it is often easier to remain within a specific group to find more frequent ferries, easier connections, and, of course, reduce travel costs.
For this reason, this article comes in handy to understand the best island hopping routes in the Aegean, while it also provides a few quick ideas of routes and gives you the best beaches in each of the islands’ clusters. Let’s begin by checking which island groups are located in the Aegean.
Which Are The Aegean Islands
Although we tend to confuse the Aegean Islands with the very popular Cyclades, it is good to remember that there are subgroups of islands that belong to this category. In this article, we will be covering some of these groups, while others have already been discussed in other articles.
The Islands of the Aegean can be divided into the following smaller groups of islands:
Islands In The Northeastern Aegean
They are located in the northeastern Aegean Sea and along the Turkish coast, and these are the most important ones:
Islands Of The Dodecanese
Also known as Southern Sporades, Dodecanese literally means twelve islands; however, the group counts 15 relatively large islands and over 150 smaller islands, 26 of which are uninhabited. This group of islands marks the eastern limit of the Sea of Crete. The most important (and popular) islands in this group are the following:
- Rhodes, which can often be included both in this group and the previous one
This is an archipelago formed mainly by not very big islands, popular for being reasonably close to the coast and within easy reach from Athens from where regular ferries depart daily. These are some of the most remarkable Saronic Islands:
These are probably the most popular islands in Greece, and in fact, the ones we tend to describe as the Aegean Islands without even noticing that there are many more islands.
The Cyclades are located southeast of mainland Greece, and they are just one of the island groups that form the Aegean archipelago.
One curious thing to remember is that the name the Cyclades refers to the islands standing around the sacred island of Delos. So, whenever you talk about Santorini or Mykonos (to name just a few), remember it’s more accurate to call them the Cyclades to avoid any confusion. These are some of the most important Cycladic Islands, but remember, they are many more! This will be of help to understand that there are more islands in Greece and that not all of them belong to this group.
- Syros (the capital of the South Aegean unit)
Another important group of islands, home to beautiful beaches and landscapes, are the Sporades, also known as the Northern Sporades.
These 24 unique islands are probably not as popular and visited as the islands in the previous group. In fact, their name, which means “scattered,” indicates precisely that they are outside the central group of the Cyclades.
The Sporades can be the ultimate Greek-island-hopping alternative if you’re looking for, offering untouched shores and quite affordable accommodation, so keep in mind that choosing the Sporades can be a smart alternative for tranquil holidays in Greece. And this is precisely the reason why we have devoted a whole article to the routes and island hopping ideas for the Sporades. In any case, these are the most important Sporades Islands:
Bigger Aegean Islands
Often considered independent and separated from the rest of these groups, these are the two biggest islands in Greece and belong to the Aegean Islands group. They are Crete and Euboea (also known as Evia).
Popular Routes, Itineraries, And Beaches Within The Aegean Islands
Itineraries, routes, and island hopping in the Islands of the Northeastern Aegean
Typically less popular than the Cyclades and the islands in the Dodecanese, this group of islands are not so easy to reach, but with a bit of planning, you can go a long way. The best way to reach them is via ferry, which generally leaves in the afternoon for you to get there quite early in the morning.
These islands are not really close to each other, and they are also quite big. They offer a lot to explore and do, so we highly suggest these islands for those wanting to explore just one or two destinations.
These are not really the destinations you would have in mind for island hopping; for that reason, we just include the best of each of them for you to discover one Northeastern Aegean Island at a time. Here we have the three most popular islands: Chios, Ikaria, and Lesbos.
Learn more by checking these guides:
One of the loveliest destinations in this island group is Chios, an island big enough for you to need at least a whole week to discover. The island offers unique hiking trails, several towns and villages worth visiting, and fantastic gastronomy, unique for including a product growing only in Chios, mastic.
Mastic is a chewy resin produced only on one side of the island by an endemic tree. This resin is used in the cosmetic industry and the local cuisine. One of the things you can do in Chios is to explore the small villages where this product has been manufactured for ages. The best way to discover such a big island is with your own car, so renting a car is probably the way to explore better.
Best Beach In Chios
Karfas Beach is among the most popular shores on the island. Featuring white fine sand and clean, shallow waters, this is probably the best beach on the island for families. It is about 5 km south of Chios Town in a fairly touristic area.
Rugged and wild, Ikaria has been long known as the island where traditions have, for the most, remained unchanged. With a solid culinary culture, and a passion for singing, dancing, and entertainment, locals have made their lifestyle popular among those looking for an extremely relaxing place, where time seems to stop and where rushing around has never been in fashion.
Best Beach In Ikaria
Although beaches are not the main trait in Ikaria, some are indeed a gem and shouldn’t be missed. Probably the most famous of them is Seychelles Beach, paradisiac white sand (and white pebbled) beach with crystal turquoise waters and imposing clear cliffs on both sides.
Another big and important island that would need a lifetime to discover is Lesbos. The third-largest Greek Island, right after Evia and Crete, is better known for its interesting cuisine, ouzo, and sardines.
It offers unique villages to discover a rich history to marvel at and amazing beaches, some of which are perfect for families with children since they are shallow, clean, and quite wide.
Best Beach In Lesbos
There are dozens of beaches to consider when visiting Lesbos; Plomari Beach is probably one of the most beautiful shores to visit. The beach is about 40 km from the island’s capital and features a picturesque port, dozens of pine trees, crystal, and relatively shallow waters.
Routes, Itineraries And Island Hopping Within The Dodecanese
Island hopping and family-friendly itineraries become easier when you move to the Dodecanese cluster of islands. Distances are pretty shorter and ferry routes more frequent; therefore, it is relatively easy to see more islands during your trip.
It is easy to reach other islands, starting from Rhodes, probably the most popular spot in the Dodecanese, including Kos or Kalymnos.
There is also more info about these islands in the following articles:
The Best Routes And Island Hopping Itineraries In The Dodecanese
- Rhodes – Karpathos – Kastellorizo
- Rhodes – Halki – Symi
- Karpathos – Kasos
- Patmos – Lipsi – Leros
- Kos – Kalymnos
Best Beaches In The Dodecanese
Agios Pavlos Bay is a fantastic beach in Lindos, on the island of Rhodes, often considered among the most beautiful in Greece. Also, on this island, another beach not to miss is Anthony Queen’s Beach, its original name is Vagies, but the beach became famous when the author filmed The Guns of Navarone in the area.
Moving on to other islands in the cluster, Karpathos is home to some fantastic shores as well, some of them with incredibly pristine and clean waters and safe for families too. One of the best beaches to check on Karpathos is Kyra Panagia.
Patmos’ best beach is Psili Amos, while Kos is home to some fantastic beaches too, including the most famous of all, Kefalos Beach.
Routes, Itineraries And Island Hopping Within The Saronic Islands
Island hopping around the Saronic Islands is, together with hopping the Cyclades, one of the most popular areas for you to include as many islands as you can, even when time is limited. Since the Saronic Islands are quite small and easy to explore, it is even possible to see up to three of them in just a day! That, of course, does not mean that there is nothing to do in the area but quite the opposite!
Learn more by checking these guides:
The Best Routes And Island Hopping Itineraries In The Saronic Gulf
- Poros – Hydra – Aegina
- Spetses – Hydra
- Aegina – Agistri
- Agistri – Aegina – Salami
Best Beaches In The Saronic Islands
There are quite a few beaches not to miss in the Saronic Gulf; in general, the islands with the best beaches are Poros and Agistri. However, also Aegina has one of the best beaches in the archipelago, Marathona Beach, which is on the western side of the island, and it is a fantastic family-friendly shore. When in Poros, do not miss the picturesque Love Bay, while in Agistri, pay a visit to Halikiada Beach, a heavenly coast, not organized, perfect to disconnect from the rest of the world completely.
Routes, Itineraries And Island Hopping Within The Cycladic Islands
The most developed area in Greece when it comes to touristic routes, itineraries, island hopping, accommodation, organized beaches, and entertainment, visiting several of the Cyclades during just one trip is easy and sometimes even affordable.
There are tons of routes to consider, and if traveling during summer, all you need is a good ferry search engine to purchase the tickets and design your own itinerary.
For better using your time, we highly recommend not to include more than three islands if you have one week available, and never more than four if you have two weeks. Although visiting more islands in less time can be tempting, you also need to consider the time you will spend on the ferry, which often ends up reducing the effective time you spend enjoying all that each of these islands has to offer.
When planning a trip to the Cyclades, check these guides:
- Things to do in Ios
- Things to do in Antiparos
- Closest islands to Santorini
- Things to do in Syros
- Things to do in Naxos
The Best Routes And Island Hopping Itineraries In The Cyclades
- Santorini – Mykonos
- Santorini – Anafi
- Milos – Sifnos
- Milos – Folegandros – Santorini
- Mykonos – Ios
- Sifnos – Serifos – Kimolos
- Andros – Tinos
- Paros – Antiparos
- Naxos – Paros – Antiparos
- Naxos – Ios – Santorini
- Ios – Amorgos
- Amorgos – Astypalaia
Best Beaches In The Cycladic Islands
All of the Cyclades has some incredible beaches to visit; even Santorini, the island that you would probably never choose for beach life, has some impressive volcanic beaches to see, such as Perissa, Santorini’s black sand (and pebble) beach.
However, when thinking of Greek beaches, you also think of heavenly fine sand shores with azure waters, then check Naxos and its long Plaka, or Paros, with the unique landscape of Kolymbithres. Mykonos is also home to some stunning beaches, such as the gay-friendly (but also family-friendly) Elia Beach.
If you prefer to move to less popular islands, consider discovering Mylopotas Beach in Ios, the picturesque Vathi Beach in Sifnos, or Psili Ammos in Serifos.
Routes, Itineraries, and Island hopping within the Sporades Islands
We have written a whole article regarding the routes around the Sporades as the islands are unique in beauty and quite unexplored. These two characteristics make island hopping in the Sporades an unusual holiday idea.
The best routes and island hopping itineraries in the Sporades:
- Skiathos – Skopelos
- Skiathos – Skopelos – Alonnisos
- Alonissos – The island is huge, and it is better if visited alone instead of making it part of an island-hopping itinerary.
Best Beaches In The Sporades Islands
The Sporades have some really stunning beaches where blue waters, white sand, and lush green forests are the predominant landscapes and colors to find.
The most famous of these islands is Skiathos, home to large sandy beaches, especially on the island’s southern coast. The most exotic beach in Skiathos is Lalaria, which can only be reached by boat.
Moving on to other islands on this group, when in Skopelos, do check Stafilos Beach and Agios Dimitrios Beach in Alonnisos.
Routes And Itineraries For Crete
The biggest island in Greece is a destination on its own. And although it is sometimes combined in other Greek Islands itineraries as a port of call during the island hopping holiday, you would need more than a month to discover the most important landmarks of Crete. Therefore, if Crete is the island you pick to visit, it would be a better idea to check two or three of its four regions at a time and forget about the rest of the Greek Islands.
And if you really want to add another island to this itinerary, it might be a better idea to make a day trip to Santorini than splitting your time between Crete and two or three other islands.
When planning a visit to Crete, check the following articles:
- How to get from Santorini to Crete
- How to get from Mykonos to Crete
- How to get from Athens to Crete
- Driving in Crete
Best Beaches In Crete
The island has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean, and it would be challenging to choose only a few of them.
However, three of the most popular beaches in Crete are Elafonisi, known for its pink sand, and the shallow turquoise waters that form the Lagoon. With an exotic, almost Caribbean vibe, Balos is another top beach on Crete, perfect to combine a hiking experience and some relaxing moments by the sea. This article has more tips on visiting the best beaches in Crete.
Finally, in the southern area of the Heraklion region, Matala Beach is a famous spot in Crete with its hippy history and stunning caves to explore.
Routes, Itineraries For Evia
Less touristic than Crete, Evia is a huge Greek Island part of the Aegean group not far from the mainland. Evia is a tranquil destination that — just as Crete — needs a lot of days to be explored and appreciated.
A good advantage when picking Evia as a vacation destination is that this is a huge island quite close to Athens. So it can even be reached by car driving along a long bridge without any ferry travel.
The southern area of Evia is quite close to the Cycladic Islands of Andros and Kea, but since there are no ferry connections among the three of them, we cannot really include this island in a Cycladic-hopping itinerary.
Best Beaches In Evia
Right in the central part of the island, Chiliadou Beach is about an hour from Halkida, the capital of Evia. It is well-known for its fantastic crystal clear waters, offering a sandy area that’s perfect for kids and a rocky area too.
Featuring extraordinary deep blue waters and golden sand, Agia Anna Beach is another famous beach on the island. A third and good option on Evia is Mourteri Beach; for many travelers, the best beach on the entire island, with deep blue waters and a stunning landscape all around the shore.Share