Greece Island Hopping: Your Complete Travel Guide
Planning that perfect island escape this summer? Read on to discover a whole lot of inspiration on the best way to see the islands in Greece.
Soak up the sun and discover the perfect Greek island hopping guide to make your dream of wondering through white-washed villages, sailing along the Mediterranean, and seeing some of the most iconic and picturesque places in all of Greece a reality.
Greece has over 6,000 islands and the absolute best way to experience the charm and beauty of the Greek Islands is to island hop. In this Ultimate Guide to Island Hopping in Greece, my friends from In The Mediterranean will teach you how to get to each of the islands, what their best attractions are, where you can stay, how you can get around, and some tips on what to do when you get there.
You will also discover the best Greek Island hopping routes and itinerary suggestions to help you plan that once in a lifetime vacation.
Plus, we’ll share with you how to see as many of these gorgeous islands in Greece on your trip as well as how much it will cost!
Grab your Greek travel planner and let’s get started…
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Wait, where is Greece located?
Greece is located in Southern Europe, on a large peninsula that also includes Italy and Turkey.
By land it is separated from Bulgaria by a strait of water known as Wistula River, and from Albania by another strait of water known as Corfu Channel.
At its greatest length, mainland Greece covers about 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers). More than 120 islands are scattered throughout Greek waters, with the largest island being Crete.
What makes Island hopping in Greece special
Is it worth island hopping in Greece?
Rather than following a typical tourist path, island hopping allows you experience some of Europe’s most beautiful and secluded islands and regions.
With no hotels, crowds or familiar brands, you’ll feel as though you have stumbled upon a hidden paradise.
Islands allow people to slow down and enjoy life without all of today’s modern pressures. There are few places that make it easier to disconnect from reality and find oneself again.
The Best Islands to Visit in Greece
While you can certainly explore and stay on any Greek island that tickles your fancy, these are some of our favorites.
If we had a month, we’d try every one:
Santorini for beaches, Crete for hiking, Ios for partying, Amorgos for off-the-beaten path tranquility, and Mykonos for sheer party atmosphere.
Other islands in Greece worth visiting? Corfu, Naxos, Rhodes, Paros and Zakynthos.
Not as crowded and touristy as Santorini or Mykonos, Crete has a unique vibe that makes it perfect for travelers who want off-the-beaten path.
From beautiful beaches, ruins, and plenty of history to ancient towns and tons of good food and wine, Crete is a great option if you’re looking for some real culture while on your vacation.
Watch out though, it also attracts a huge crowd of drunken sailors; also known as European students. They gather around Hersonissos to celebrate graduation in the months of May and June. Make sure to stay away from Hersonissos when looking to explore the quiet and calming spaces of the island.
Home to gorgeous beaches, charming windmills, and some of Europe’s most prominent gay bars and parties.
Those who don’t want any action or excitement can relax on one of Mykonos’ many sandy beaches or take a walk through what is considered by many visitors as one of Mykonos’ must-see attractions, its blue-domed church.
The island of Paros is on any Greek travelers must-visit list.
This small, green island attracts vacationers all year round with its rugged cliffs, beautiful beaches and hidden caves.
Since Paros is only 27 square miles, there isn’t a ton of variety when it comes to activities. However, there are some great experiences in Paros that make it worthwhile to visit and they don’t require a lot of effort or time investment.
Hop on a ferry from Paros and you’ll arrive in Antiparos, one of a string of islands that include Agios Kirikos, Dokos, Filousmeni, and Schinoussa.
Though still quiet and relatively unexplored compared to bigger destinations such as Santorini or Mykonos, many travelers are making it their first choice for holiday-makers.
The reason? The island is home to some of Greece’s most beautiful beaches, including Tsilivi Beach which was voted Europe’s best beach in 2016.
It also boasts a number of ancient sites including an ancient theater which was used during Roman times and Byzantine churches.
And while most visitors will spend their time relaxing on white sand beaches, there is plenty more to do including hiking trails through green pine forests where you can see deer roaming freely.
An experience of a lifetime, Santorini is one of Greece’s most famous islands.
If you’re looking for beaches, you can visit Perivolas Beach and Kamari Beach. If ruins are more your thing, then head over to Therasia or Akrotiri. You can also enjoy boat trips around Fira and Oia and head up to Mount Iktos for amazing views. Or just swim, relax, walk and enjoy life on Santorini.
There’s no shortage of things to do!
The capital Fira sits at its center, making it easy to explore both beaches and breathtaking mountain views.
On your trip to Santorini, don’t miss visiting Oia. This coastal town on Santorini island is famous for its romantic beaches. Kick back and relax as you watch fishermen bring home their catch at sunset.
Known for its striking blue domes and white-washed buildings, Santorini is an exciting spot to visit and is arguably the most famous and popular island in Greece.
Hopping From One Greek Island to Another: All You Need Is the Ferry
When touring across the islands, it is not hard to hop from one to the other. Not all islands have international airports, so the ferry is the way to go!
The only thing you need to take into account are the ferry schedules. It is however easier when you stay within one island group.
Usually there is one ferry company handling those waters. The nice thing about ferries is that you can take your (rental) car onto the ferry. This allows for a perfect combination of water exploration by ferry and island exploration by car.
To ensure the trip does not get too difficult, it is best to price check and book the ferries in advance. The prices are not high, but may be different for morning or afternoon ferries.
The booking in advance also ensures you have a spot on the ferry, as tickets are known to sell out quickly. The ferries even allow for business class upgrades. This will give you a spot higher above sea level, which is recommended if you have sea sickness.
There is also the option of scheduling your island hop around the ferries by booking an interrail pass for some days specifically for the islands. Find out more here.
Take into account that ferry timetables change with the seasons. There are more options in summer than there are in winter.
The best Greek Island Hopping Routes: Itinerary Suggestions
The best way to plan an island hopping vacation is to realize that there 5 main island groups scattered across the Aegean and Ionian Seas in Greece.
It is best to pick one island group and stick to the islands within that group to make the best use of your limited vacation time.
This also has the added benefit of saving time and stretching your holiday budget.
The 5 main island groups are:
- Saronic Gulf islands
- Ionian islands
- Dodecanese islands
- Sporades island
• Saronic Gulf islands
This island group is the closes to the capital, Athens. They are less than an hour from Piraeus port and is ideal for those that are short on time or don’t want to travel too far for a Greek island experience.
Main islands: Hydra, Poros, Aegina, Salamina, Agistri, Spetses
• Cycladic Islands
Which Greek island is best for island hopping?
The most famous island group in Greece, the Cycladic Islands are the go-to choice for many who choose a Greek vacation. As a result many of the islands in the Cyclades are some of the most expensive and commercial of all the islands in Greece.
These islands are best for those who are looking to experience a vibrant nightlife, dramatic landscapes, world famous vistas, and fulfil a fantasy of what island hopping should be like in this part of the world.
Main islands: Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Ios, Amorgos, Andros, Antiparos, Delos, Milos, Folegandros, Sifnos, Syros, Tinos.
Other islands: Koufonisia, Iraklia, Anafi, Donousa, Kea, Kythnos, Sikinos, Kimolos, Schoinousa, Serifos, Thirasia.
• Ionian Islands
This comprises of the group of islands found on the west coast of the Greek mainland. It is ideal for those looking for something different to the customary Aegean island experience.
Main islands: Corfu, Zakynthos, Kefalonia, Lefkada, Paxos, Ithaca.
Other islands: Kythira, Antipaxos, Meganisi, Antikythira, Kalamos, Diapondia, Echinades islands, Kastos.
• Dodecanese Islands
This is the name given to the group of islands in the Aegean Sea, off the southwestern coast of Turkey in southeastern Greece. This region is a magnet for those travelers interested in ancient ruins and Greek mythology.
Main Islands: Rhodes, Patmos, Tilos, Symi, Kalymnos, Astypalaia, Karpathos, Kastellorizo, Leros, Nisyros.
Other islands: Agathonisi, Pserimos, Chalki, Arki, Kasos, Telendos, Marathi, Lipsi.
• Sporades Islands
This archipelago along the east coast of Greece is found in the northwest Aegean Sea are renowned for their beaches, coastal diving, wooded terrain, and a marine park that’s home to a number of marine animals.
Main islands: Skiathos, Skopelos, Skyros, Alonnisos
Here are some popular island hopping routes in Greece to help you build a Greek itinerary of your own:
- Athens –> Mykonos –> Paros –> Naxos –> Santorini
- Athens –> Poros –> Hydra –> Spetses
- Rhodes –> Symi –> Tilos –> Nisyros –> Kos
- Athens –> Santorini –> Ios –> Paros –> Mykonos
- Kos –> Kalymnos –> Leros –> Patmos –> Samos
- Volos –> Skiathos –> Skopelos –> Alonnisos
- Athens –> Paros –> Naxos –> Ios –> Santorini
- Corfu –> Paxos –> Kefalonia –> Zakynthos –> Ithaca
- Athens –> Aegina –> Agistri –> Poros
- Athens –> Serifos –> Sifnos –> Milos –> Folegandros –> Santorini
For the most part, Piraeus will be your starting port of your island hopping adventure in Greece.
This is the biggest and main port on the Greek mainland and from which most of the islands can be reached.
However, if you do decide on flying, here are the….
Best Airports in Greece
Greece has an international airport near its capital city, Athens, called Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport.
However, a greater number of travelers fly into or out of another major airport called Athens International Airport.
If you’re looking for cheap flights from your home country into and out of these airports, simply use sites like Expedia and Kayak, which aggregate flight data across multiple airline companies.
Budget flights can also be found on the domestic routes between some Greek islands. Budget carriers include Aegean Air, Ryanair, Jet2, and Wizz Air.
Here are some of the best airports to arrive and start your journey of island hopping in Greece.
• Rhodes International Airport (RHO)
There are several flights per day between Rhodes and most major European cities. If you book ahead of time, flights between Rhodes and these airports can be cheap.
• Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport (ATH)
This airport is located 16 miles from Athens. If you want to fly into and out of Athens, you’ll land here.
However, it’s a little tricky when you want to Greek island hop — since it’s located inland, you will have a long drive on congested Greek roads if your final destination is one of those lovely islands like Santorini or Mykonos.
The best way to get around? Book an airport transfer ahead of time with a reputable travel agency that can pick you up at the airport and drop you off at your resort. They will even help with baggage storage while you are away.
• Mykonos International Airport (JMK)
Located on top of a hill near Mykonos Town, there is no need for transfers.
All flights go into Terminal 1, except for flights coming from Europe, which go into Terminal 2. For those flights using Terminal 2, take a bus or taxi directly to Mykonos Town.
• Chania International Airport Ioannis Daskalogiannis (CHQ)
Chania International Airport, better known as Ioannis Daskalogiannis, is an airport that serves Chania.
The airport serves charter flights from various European destinations during high season. During low season there are no international flights to and from Chania, with traffic limited only domestic flights.
• Other Greek islands with international airports
• Greek islands with domestic airports
Best Hotels in Greece
• Hotel Grotta, Hora, Naxos
Nestled on a picturesque beach on Naxos’s northern shore, Hotel Grotta is known for its scenic white-rock swimming spots and laid-back atmosphere. It offers numerous water sports, sea kayaking, windsurfing and scuba diving.
The hotel has a spa with an indoor pool, sauna and massage treatments. Rooms have balconies with views of the Aegean Sea or Mount Zas. The restaurant serves Greek dishes as well as seafood specialties such as grilled octopus and lobster spaghetti. The hotel also has a bar that overlooks Hora harbor.
• Perivolas, Santorini
The 5-star Perivolas Hotel offers an infinity pool with magnificent sea views.
This family-run boutique hotel is located on the cliffs high above the Aegean Sea and provides unmatched views of the dramatic scenery that surrounds this unique island in Greece.
• The Rooster, Antiparos
The Rooster wellness resort, located on Antiparos island, has an incredible view of Paros and Naxos islands. It is ideal for families or couples looking to getaway from it all.
In addition to these, here are some recommendations on how to find the best Greek villas to stay.
Best Restaurants in Greece
There are so many amazing local restaurants all throughout Greece and its islands that you’re not going to have any problem eating like true mediterranean royalty.
• Eat at Argo in Fira
Fira is home to some of Santorini’s best restaurants and cafes, but don’t miss out on lunch at Argo. The restaurant serves a variety of fresh fish dishes, as well as vegetarian options. The views are also lovely!
Although it’s only open for lunch and dinner during high season, make sure you get there early or be prepared to wait a bit.
The restaurant serves seafood and meat dishes, as well as vegetarian meals – although make sure to let your waiter know if you want anything made vegetarian.
• Eat at Ammoudi Tavern in Oia
The beautiful, rocky village of Oia is one of a few spots where you can see Santorini’s world famous beautiful sunset.
In between grabbing a cocktail at sunset and trying out a new wine, it’s worth your time to have dinner at Ammoudi Tavern, which serves delicious local cuisine cooked by chef Christos Kargas.
The cuisine is prepared with ingredients from nearby farms that are picked fresh daily and served on top of traditional Santorinian dishes.
Dishes like stuffed tomatoes and grilled octopus are perfect for sharing over a bottle of local wine, while dishes like baked eggplant or homemade moussaka will keep you full for hours. If you don’t want to commit to an entire meal, grab some fresh bread and olives from their appetizer menu instead. You won’t regret it!
In between all that island hopping, be sure to make some time to try some of these…
Best Local Dishes in Greece
The food on Greek islands is one of a kind, and each has its own unique taste.
From simple seafood appetizers and exotic flavors to sweet-and-sour local wines, you can’t miss out on tasting some of these famous Greek dishes while visiting. Make sure to check out our guide to Greek wines, for the perfect pairing with your next greek dish. Yamas!
• Meganisi Artisti della pasta
In Meganisi, you must try a dish of pasta cooked by pasta artists! In Agios Kirikos, you will find a place called Talia’s where they make these types of dishes.
One of the best dish is their Pastitsada (Greek minced meat and onions served with pasta) which also has vegetables such as zucchini and tomato on top. Make sure you grab some fresh lemonade or wine while you eat.
This is a Greek dish that includes spiced ground beef or lamb with eggplant, tomatoes, onions, and potatoes.
This dish tastes similar to lasagna due to its layered appearance. Moussaka is best served hot and tastes great when topped with tzatziki or ktipiti sauce.
If you’re visiting Greece, it’s hard to miss moussaka; it’s a staple at most restaurants throughout the country.
• Fresh fish
It’s no secret that fish is a staple of Greek cuisine.
From grilled sardines to roasted sea bass, seafood, especially fresh fish and shellfish, is a common sight on menus across Athens and beyond.
The freshest seafood can be found at markets, where it’s still swimming. Piraeus Market (Piraeus) and Poseidon Market (Paleo Faliro) are two of Athens’ best seafood markets.
Have an amazing time on the islands of Greece. A truly once-in-a-lifetime experience!
If you have any other travel questions on how to island hop in Greece, be sure to let us know and we’ll be more than happy to help you plan that perfect Greek getaway.