Island hopping in Greece is a travel experience that many people daydream about, and rightly so! Few things are better than wandering through the quaint narrow passageways of sleepy Cycladic villages, swimming in clear cerulean waters, or whizzing across the sea from one beautiful place to another.
The main caveat to enjoying your Greek island-hopping adventure is the planning stage. Deciding which Greek islands you want to visit, and how you are going to get from A to B is not so easy.
After all, there are more than 6,000 islands in Greece and an infinite number of possible itineraries for island hopping in Greece! Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, and Zakynthos are the main islands that spring to mind when you mention Greek islands.
However, they are certainly not the extent of what island hopping in Greece has to offer. Indeed, there are many other beautiful destinations that see just a fraction of the number of tourists seen at these islands.
Island Hopping in Greece
Island Hopping in Greece:
Go it Alone or Take a Tour?
Greek island hopping cruises and tours are big business here in Greece. Both services purport to take some of the hassles out of planning your own trip.
However, with that, they come with a price tag that often makes your trip far more expensive than when doing everything independently. Booking your boats and accommodation by yourself rewards you with significantly better prices and more flexibility over your trip.
Greek island hopping tours often combine several islands together and do not give you enough time to truly scratch beneath the surface of each place. Instead, you will just have a few hours to explore each stopping point. Not to mention, you will do so while the entirety of the ferry passengers are also crowding the streets.
Flying into Greece to Start Your Adventure
To begin your Greek island-hopping adventure, fall in love with a handsome waiter named Stavros, and start your own Mamma Mia type story, you first need to decide upon your entry point into Greece.
Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport is the main and largest airport in the country. Many Greek islands also have their own international airports.
If you are planning to kick off your Mediterranean adventure with a large, popular island such as Santorini, Zakynthos, or Corfu, then you will easily be able to find a direct flight to that island from within Europe. If you are travelling from the United States, or other places farther afield, the best option is to fly into Athens and then take the ferry.
Ferry Ports in Greece
There are numerous ferry ports in mainland Greece. Each of them service different island archipelagos.
Volos is typically the most convenient port for the Sporades and the islands of the North Aegean. Igoumenitsa is the logical port for most Ionian islands. Meanwhile, the ports scattered throughout Athens are the closest to the Cyclades, and the Saronic isles.
The Main Greek Ferry Ports at a Glance
- Agios Konstantinos
Overnight services from Piraeus also run to islands that are a little farther afield. For instance. Crete, Rhodes, etc. It is easy to reach Piraeus from Athens airport or Athens city centre.
Rafina is Athens’ second-largest port. The port is a little trickier to reach than Piraeus.
Most services that run from Rafina also run from Piraeus. It is typically more convenient to use the Piraeus port.
Lavrio is Athens’ smallest ferry port. It is mostly for private use (affluent Athenians store their yachts and boats here). It also runs some services to Kea.
Lovely Thessaloniki is a great jump-off point for exploring dreamy Halkidiki and Northern Greece. Thessaloniki’s port is mostly commercial. However, boats run from here to Limnos, Lesvos, and Chios islands.
If you want to explore the Sporades from here, you need to go to Volos port. Similarly, you need to go to Kavala port if you wish to explore some of the Northern Aegean islands. For instance, the gorgeous island of Thassos.
Ouranoupoli is not a large port per se. However, this is the place that you need to come to if you wish to take a boat tour of the Mount Athos peninsula or to visit some of the smaller islands off the coast of Halkidiki (Ammouliani island, etc).
Volos is a picturesque port town that is well worth exploring in itself. You need to come here if you wish to take a boat to the Sporades – Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos, etc.
The port of Kavala in Northern Greece offers frequent services to Lesvos, Chios, Thassos, and Limnos. Services are more frequent from May to September.
Keramoti port sits in the Northeastern part of Greece. This is the main boarding point for ferries to Thassos island.
Patras is a university town and the home of the major Greek festival Apokries. You can take ferries from here to the Ionian islands of Kerkira (Corfu), Kefalonia, Ithaca, and Kythira. Patras is also a major port for boats travelling across to Southern Italy.
Igoumenitsa port serves similar routes to Patras. You can reach the Ionian islands and Italy from here. If you find yourself in Parga, or the Northwestern region of Greece, this port may be more convenient for you than Patras.
Agios Konstantinos port is an alternative port that you can use for the Sporades. When travelling from Athens, Evia, or other parts of Southern Greece, Agios Konstantinos may be more convenient than Volos as the journey to get here is shorter.
Airports in Greece:
Domestic and International
Numerous international and domestic airports are scattered across the Greek islands and mainland. If you get boat sick and don’t want to go island hopping in Greece by ferry, it’s possible to take domestic flights to most regions of the country.
You can find domestic flight tickets from one part of Greece to another for less than $50 each way. There are a number of budget carriers that service the various routes – including Ryanair, Jet2, Wizz Air, and Aegean Air.
International Airports in Greece
- Chania, Crete
- Heraklion, Crete
- Lefkada (Preveza)
- Thessaloniki (Halkidiki)
Note: Many flight routes to Greek island airports are seasonal. Some routes are only operational between May and September. If you are travelling out of season, you can fly into a major airport such as Athens, and then book a domestic flight onwards.
Domestic Airports in Greece
Flight booking tip: It may be easier to fly direct to an island but the prices may vary substantially. If you are somewhat flexible about your trip, try searching for flights to “Greece” on Skyscanner. You may find that it is cheaper to fly into a different airport than the one you first considered!
When to Plan Your Greek Adventure
Island hopping in Greece is very much seasonal. Although most of the popular Greek islands are inhabited year-round, the tourist season only operates from May – September. Outside of that period, most businesses are closed.
The best time of year to visit Greece is somewhat dependent on where you are going and what you plan to do when you get there. Generally speaking, you should try and avoid July and August. Travel prices soar in the peak summer months and popular destinations are heaving with tourists.
For summer sun on your chosen Greek islands, opt to plan your Greek island hopping trip in early June or late September. If you want your trip to revolve more around nature and hiking, consider travelling during the shoulder seasons of April/May and late September/early October.
Suggested Greek Island Hopping Itineraries
The options for island hopping in Greece are pretty much infinite! There are so many stunning islands here and simply not enough time to explore them all.
The suggested Greek island hopping itineraries below are rough outlines based on popular routes. Suggestions are also provided for drawing up your own itinerary.
Greek Island Hopping Itinerary Ideas
- 14 Day Cyclades Itinerary
- 10 Day Saronic Gulf Itinerary
- 7 Day Sporades Itinerary
- 10 Day Ionian Itinerary
14 Day Cyclades Itinerary
- Days 1-3: Santorini
- Days 4-7: Mykonos
- Days 8-10: Kea
- Days 11-14: Paros
The Cyclades are the postcard-perfect image of Greece that makes people dream of planning a trip to Greece. Envisage quaint Cycladic houses painted in tones of blue and white, dramatic natural scenery, and bustling cobbled pizzas teeming with life.
Days 1 – 3: Santorini
Start your Cycladic Greek island hopping itinerary in beautiful Santorini. Although Santorini is very popular among tourists, that does not detract from the island’s charm. There is a reason that some places are so well-loved!
If you spend a few days on this dreamy Cycladic isle, you will have the opportunity to explore both Fira and Oia. Spend some time exploring the quaint streets of Fira, and browsing through the elegant boutique stores that showcase the works of local independent designers.
Enjoy dinner with a view in scenic Ammoudi Bay, and dust off your hiking shoes for the 10km walk from Fira to Oia. Santorini is famed for its majestic sunsets, so scope out a good vantage point to base yourself at when the sun goes down.
Days 4-7: Mykonos
The Greek island of Mykonos is synonymous with glitz and glamour. The island has gained a bit of a reputation in recent years as being a party destination among the jet-set. However, Mykonos is so much more than that. This pretty little island has a little something for everyone.
When you arrive in Mykonos, wander up to the windmills at the Chora. This is the island’s most famous landmark. From up here, you can enjoy breathtaking panoramas across the island.
The view is especially beautiful in the evenings. At this time, the sun sets over the Cyclades, and the sky is illuminated in hues of oranges and reds.
By day, the old port at Mykonos is a nice place to hang out. This area is comprised of a labyrinth-like network of narrow passageways, boutique stores, and ramshackle coffee places where locals play backgammon.
By night, head for dinner and drinks in chic Little Venice. This district is comprised of stilted houses that emerge from the water.
Legend has it that Little Venice was once a popular hangout spot for pirates! Today, many of these stilted homes have been converted into upscale bars and restaurants.
Days 8-10: Kea
Kea is a lovely little Cycladic island that escapes the attention of most tourists. The island’s capital is Ioulis – a charming hilltop village filled with higgledy-piggledy whitewash buildings. The main draw of Kea though, is the island’s incredible natural scenery.
Kea has the largest concentration of hiking routes on any Greek island. This makes it a great destination for those who love immersing themselves in the great outdoors.
One particular route to consider is the hike to the ancient city of Karthea on the southeastern coast of the island. The trail leads past secluded beaches and coves, remote churches, and the sunbleached ruins of crumbling ancient temples.
Days 11-14: Paros
The Cycladic island of Paros provides an interesting juxtaposition of traditional Greek island life meets modern living. Here, you can find peaceful rural villages and idyllic beaches sitting side-by-side with towns that boast a colourful nightlife scene.
If you spend a few days in Paros, you will have plenty of time to relax on the island’s numerous beaches and explore various towns and churches. Naoussa, Parikia, and Lefkes are all spots worth visiting while in Paros.
Island Hopping in the Saronic Gulf
The Saronic Gulf islands in Southern Greece often get overlooked in favour of the neighbouring Cyclades. This floating archipelago is characterised by its rugged natural landscapes, its wild hiking trails, and its translucent cerulean waters.
If you visit the Saronic islands in the shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn, you will find them relatively crowd-free. These islands are only ninety minutes away from Athens – making them the perfect place to venture to if you also plan on enjoying an Athens itinerary.
- Days 1-2: Hydra
- Days 3-5: Spetses
- Days 6-7: Poros
- Days 8-10: Agistri
Days 1&2: Hydra
The Greek island of Hydra (pronounced ee-dra) is home to one of the most beautiful ports in all of Greece. Travelling here feels like taking an adventure back in time. There are no cars or vehicles on Hydra island and people get around on horses and donkeys!
The port area is home to adorable artisanal stores and seafood tavernas that are so quintessentially Greek. Most people that visit Hydra only come for the day.
Escape the port area and you will have the island’s beauty to yourself. There is a wonderful coastal trail that leads from Hydra port to the fishing villages of Kamini and Vlychos, taking you through fragrant flower fields, and stunning nature.
Days 3-5: Spetses
Spetses island is a nature lover’s paradise. Aside from the small, upscale town that encompasses the port area, Spetses is essentially one huge national park.
Just like Hydra, officially there are no cars and vehicles on Spetses island. A popular way for travellers to get around is by renting ATVs and bicycles. The hiking trails of Spetses twist and turn through woodlands to reveal hidden beaches, secluded monasteries, and fascinating caves.
Days 6&7: Poros
The charming island of Poros is a perfect place to enjoy a little R&R while island hopping in Greece. Surrounded by dense pine forests and idyllic coastlines, there isn’t much to “do” on Poros island per se. However, this is a great place to get into the laid back Greek island mindset.
Spend your summer days relaxing on the shores of Love Bay or Askeli beaches. Carve the time out of your schedule to hike to the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi, or take a boat across the Peloponnese town of Galatas.
Days 8-10: Agistri
Agistri is the smallest of the Saronic islands. However, what Agistri lacks in size, it more than makes up for in scenic beauty.
Aside from the main towns and villages, Agistri has plenty to offer. The island boasts miles of pristine coastlines, hikes through nature, and peaceful forests where figs, oregano, and lemons grow wild.
Sunseekers should head to the beaches of Chalkida and Skala. The former offers peaceful seclusion on a beach encompassed by cliffs. The latter is well-serviced and boasts plenty of places to grab dinner or rent sunbeds and parasols.
8 Day Sporades Itinerary
The Sporades are situated on Greece’s east coast and await just a stone’s throw away from Volos. These islands can be a little awkward to get to, but they are certainly well worth the journey.
This itinerary is perfect for those seeking a true beach getaway where the ultimate purpose of the trip is to kick back and relax.
- Days 1-4: Skopelos
- Days 5-8: Skiathos
Days 1-4 Skopelos
Skopelos is perhaps one of the most underrated islands in all of Greece. It was this island that provided the setting for “Mamma Mia”.
Despite the popularity of the movie, Skopelos has remained relatively under the radar. Skopelos is not filled with overcrowded resorts like Zakynthos or Corfu, and there is no indication that this island was ever the location of Pierce Brosnan’s terrible singing!
Spend some time exploring Skopelos town and Glossa. Both areas are the perfect examples of sleepy Greek island life. As you navigate through the cobbled streets, and the whitewashed Cycladic houses, you are met with old-timers playing backgammon in crowded piazzas, young locals whizzing through alleyways on mopeds, and Greek yiayias haggling at local markets.
Kastani beach is an area of beautiful coastline surrounded by pine trees and cerulean waters. It was here where numerous scenes of “Mamma Mia” were filmed. The beaches of Milia, Panormos, and Stafilos are also very worth of your time.
For some of the best natural beauty in Skopelos, be sure to spend a day at Amarandos Cape. Locals often refer to this area as “piscina” on account of its clear waters.
To find Amarandos, follow the unmarked dirt trail that veers off to the left just before Agnontas hamlet. You can find paths that lead off from the main trail towards the sea. They take you to hidden rock pools and coves that you will likely have all to yourself.
Days 5-8 Skiathos
A short boat ride from Skopelos brings you to the island of Skiathos. Skiathos is one of the most popular Greek island getaways for Greek domestic travellers.
This little island has a little something for everyone. Here you will find lush pine forests, crystal-clear waters, and a vibrant nightlife scene.
The beaches of Agia Paraskevi, Troulos, and Koukounaries are perfect for those seeking sun, sand, and sea. If you want to uncover more of the region’s history and culture, take a boat ride across to the Medieval Castle of Skiathos.
10 Day Ionian Itinerary
The paradisical Ionian islands await off the shores of Greece’s west coast where they float in the Ionian sea. This is one of the most travelled Greek island archipelagos, after the Cyclades and Crete.
Seven islands make up the Ionian. Namely, they are: Kerkyra (Corfu), Paxi (Paxos and Antipaxos), Lefkada, Ithaki, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, and Kythira.
You could easily dedicate the entirety of your Greece trip to spending 2-3 weeks on one Ionian island. Each place offers plenty to uncover. A suggested Ionian itinerary is detailed below.
- 6 days in Corfu
- 4 days in Paxi (Paxos and Antipaxos)
Days One to Six: Kerkyra (Corfu)
Start your Ionian itinerary in Kerkyra old town. The entire town is a UNESCO-protected world heritage site.
The Ionian islands were ruled by the Republic of Venice from the 14th to the 18th centuries. As such, the Venetian architecture here makes you feel more like you are navigating through the cobbled streets and bustling piazzas of Northern Italy as opposed to Greece.
Be sure to hike up to the defensive fortresses of Kerkyra old town. These were built by the Venetians as a defence against the Ottomans. One or two days is sufficient for exploring Kerkyra town.
Take the bus from the old town to Kanoni. Here you can relax upon the shores of Kanoni beach, sail out to the uninhabited Pontikonisi island, and have unparalleled views of plans coming in to land at Ioannis Kapodistrias airport.
Dedicate the majority of your time in Kerkyra to the beach town of Paleokastritsa. There are six rocky and sandy beaches here that offer picture-perfect views and some of the best scenery in Greece.
Follow the woodland “donkey trail” from Paleokastritsa to the village of Lakones. Have dinner in one of the quaint tavernas housed inside traditional, pastel-coloured Venetian houses as you gaze across the sea.
Days Seven to Ten: Paxi
The Greek islands of Paxos and Antipaxos are a true paradise lost. They are among the least commercial of Greece’s islands, and very upscale.
You can reach Paxos via a 55 minute ferry journey from Kerkyra. Antipaxos, in turn, can be reached via a 30 minute fishing boat ride from Paxos.
The islands are characterised by verdant olive groves, adorable Ionian stone villages, and tranquil white-sand beaches. Paxos is small, and it’s possible to explore its entirety on foot or by scooter.
Hike from Gaios town to Mongonissi hamlet, and to the dramatic scenery of Tripitos arch. When the sun goes down, treat yourself to an indulgent dinner in Longos. This little port town is often the vacation desetination of choice for numerus Hollywood celebrities including Morgan Freeman.
The waters of Antipaxos’ beaches are often compared to the Carribean for their turquoise shades and whitesand shores. Take the boat from Paxos in the morning, spend the day at Vrika and Vatoumi beaches, and return in the evening.
How Long to Spend on Each Island
If you have only one or two weeks to dedicate to your Greek island-hopping itinerary, it’s understandable that you may want to cram in as much as possible. At a minimum, you should spend 3-4 days on each island.
The only exception here is perhaps some of the Saronic islands where there is less to do. One or two days is enough to get a “feel” for the islands of Poros, Methana, etc.
Rushing from island to island is exhausting. Besides, if you try and cram too much in, you will find that you are spending large chunks of your trip on boats!
Practical Advice for Buying Ferry Tickets in Greece
There are a few things to consider before buying your ferry tickets for island hopping in Greece. The main queries are addressed below.
Different Greek Ferry Types
There are different types of ferries that service the various seaways across Greece. A lot of routes are serviced by hydrofoils and speedy little boats that dash from island to island in a couple of hours. Other routes require taking a ferry that equates to as much as 6-10 hours of travel time.
Many routes between the Greek islands and the mainland are serviced by both speedy hydrofoils and ferries. This means that you can choose your preference.
Hydrofoils obviously get you to your destination faster. However, they are much bumpier and perhaps not preferable if you are prone to seasickness.
Where to Buy Ferry Tickets
You can buy Greek ferry tickets online, in person at the port ticket offices, or at kiosks in several Greek airports (including Athens international). Arguably the most convenient option is to buy the tickets online.
When to Buy Ferry Tickets
You don’t usually have to buy your tickets in advance. However, for peace of mind, try and purchase them online a few days before you intend to travel.
This is especially the case if you plan on island hopping in Greece in the summer. Always try and buy yor tickets in advance if you are travelling on popular routes. For example, taking the ferry from Athens to Santorini.
Practically all boats and ferries in Greece have small bars/snack shops on board. Even if you are travelling on the small hydrofoil boats, you will be able to at least buy a sandwich and coffee. Larger ferries tend to provide larger dining facilities with seating areas.
Some of the small speedy ferries are notorious for causing travel sickness as they whizz along choppy seas. The Santorini-Athens boat is one such example. If you suffer from seasickness, you should opt for the slower ferries where you can.
The problem with some of the smaller boats is that not only do they provide a bumpy ride over choppy seas, they are also set out in airplane-style seating and you are strapped into your chair. Whether you are seasick or not, this is not the most pleasant boat experience – especially when you find that everyone around you is suffering from seasickness!
You should check the specifics of the ferry schedules before you embark on your Greek island-hopping adventure. For instance, there are connections between Athens and the Saronic, or Athens and the Cyclades. However, not every ferry stops on every island.
Do you have any further questions about island hopping in Greece or Greek travel in general? I have been living in Greece for three years now and I will gladly assist where I can.
Don’t hesitate to drop me a comment below if you need help. Safe travels! Geia sou! ! Melissa xo