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Travelling by Sea
There are countless ferry routes between the Greek islands and also routes to/from the mainland. Taking a ferry is one of the most convenient ways to travel between the islands for many reasons.
Distances are relatively short so cruising does not take many days but only a few hours. There are also faster ferries which reduce the required travel time even more. While islands' ports are centrally located, the total travel time stays relatively not too long and not so exhausting in every scenario.
The weather in summer is perfect for cruising on the sea. The sea is usually calm and it is pleasant to sit on an outer deck under the sunshine while enjoying summer drinks. The great weather combined with the beautiful scenery of the Greek archipelago makes cruising an enjoyable experience. It is not just moving from one place to another but also a valuable experience.
On longer routes, for example between Athens and the islands, you may stay overnight on a ferry. Cabins are inexpensive and there is no need to book a hotel.
Ferries are like small hotels. There is a lot of space, restaurants, bars and shops. Some of the ferries are super modern while some offer just the basic services. In every case, cruising on the sea is more enjoyable than flying.
Isn´t Flying Faster?
Flying between the islands is theoretically faster. For example, Volotea flies to many islands. There are seldom direct routes so on many routes, you need to connect. Connecting flights require hours and the total travel time becomes surprisingly long. Arriving early at a distant airport is also necessary. Ports are more centrally located and reaching them is less stressful. Airport on the Greek Islands are also small and do not offering many services like lounges.
If wish to visit also the mainland of Greece, flying from an island to Athens is a good choice. Flying directly between the islands is seldom possible. Only when there are direct routes, taking a flight from one island to another makes sense.
Best Season for Island Hopping
Summer is the best season to do island hopping in Greece. Unfortunately, the summer months are also the most expensive ones and the islands get crowded. The weather may feel too hot for sensitive travellers.
Travelling from April to May or from September to October is more peaceful. The weather is not extremely hot and the price level is also lower. The sea temperature in early springs may be too cold for swimming.
Read our story how we sailed from Rhodes to Santorini with Anek Lines.
Winter is the off-season and the cheapest period to travel. Unfortunately, the weather is rainy and the winter season can't be recommended for island hopping.
Planning Island Hopping Route
The first thing to decide is whether you start your island hopping from Athens or an island. Athens is easy and affordable to reach by flying or even by train but the first cruise leg may become quite long especially if you are heading Dodecanese islands. To save valuable time, it may be wiser to fly to an island directly. Investigating flight schedules and prices are recommended to find out which islands are suitable for entry and exit points.
If an island is your first destination, you need to choose a big island where there is an international airport. For example, Rhodes, Kos or Crete are good starting points because reaching them is easy. Accordingly, Mykonos, Santorini and Samos are good exit points or vice versa. Between the islands, you can move easily by ferries and visit a few of your favourite islands along the way.
Booking Ferry Tickets
In Greece, there are several reliable ferry companies. A suitable schedule is more important than the ferry company itself. Greeks are professional sailors and every company takes you to the destination in a pleasant way.
Follow these steps to make a booking in the right order:
- Choose the islands you would like to visit.
- Decide an entry and exit point from the Greek archipelago. Compare flights fares to and from.
- Compare ferry routes between the chosen islands on Direct Ferries.
- Decide the final route based on the previous comparisons.
- Book first flights, then ferries and hotels.
Moving on the Islands
Choosing the island hopping route is only half of the planning. The second part includes the plan of how to move to the islands, where to stay and what to do.
On the Greek islands, hiring a car is a flexible way to travel around. The public transport networks are not that good and a car gives you freedom. Rental cars in Greece are also inexpensive.
If you have never hired a car before there are a few important things to take into account.
Choose carefully only trustable rental companies and read some of their reviews beforehand. A big brand does not automatically mean the company is reliable. We have often used small almost unknown companies without any issues.
Make sure that the car has a Collision Damage Waiver (CWD) and a Theft Protection (TP). Consider reducing Excess with extra insurance. Examine the car well at the pick-up for any existing damages. Check especially tires, windows, and the surfaces. Photographing the car is strongly advised.
Not all people like driving in foreign countries. Another easy way to move around islands is to attend organised tours. In the summer season, the tour selection is good and we are sure that travellers will find interesting activities. However, tour advertising on the spot is aggressive and every seller claims to have the best tours. Booking in advance from GetYourGuide is recommended. We use this service regularly to find well-organised tours.
Our tip is to get familiar with the tours before the journey. You may plan the program already at home and the holiday becomes less stressful.
Budget travellers may save by using the public transport network. Then, we recommend visiting only the bigger islands where the public transport network is good enough to see the main spots.
- Which ferry company is the best for island hopping?
- We do not have recommendations. Compare prices and schedules and find the most suitable according to your needs. You may use different ferry companies on different routes.
- How many islands are recommended to be visited?
- Visit at least two islands. Three could be optimal for a single journey.
- Which island is the most beautiful in Greece?
- They are all beautiful. Why not start from Santorini?
- Where can I find schedules and ticket prices of ferries in Greece?
- We use often Direct Ferries to find ferry schedules all over the world. You can book tickets right away after finding a good deal.
- Is hiring a car on the Greek Islands the only way to move around?
- No, but it would help a lot. Moving will be much faster.
- Do the Greek islands have public transport networks?
- Some of them have but the networks are not extensive. We recommend using a hire car.
- How is the weather in Greece in winter?
- The weather is humid, rainy and cloudy. The winter is not the best season to visit Greece.
- Can I fly between the Greek islands?
- Yes, you can but there are not many direct flights. Using ferries is faster.
How to Book a Ferry Ticket?
For easier booking, follow our simple checklist:
- Compare prices on Direct Ferries.
- Choose the most suitable connection.
- Include extras, like a buffet. Paying services separately on the ferry costs usually more.
- Decide if you need a cancellation cover.
- Double check all the details CAREFULLY before the payment.
Greek islands are a perfect destination for people who love beaches, grand and romantic sunsets in addition to the great weather and beautiful scenery. And we should not forget the delicious Greek cuisine. Even though the islands are popular and the top sightseeing spots become easily crowded, the atmosphere is still relaxed and Greece is generally a safe country to travel to.
Have you been to the Greek Islands? Comment below your best island-hopping tip!