If your dream is just to grab a ferry and hop from one island to the other, from one paradise to the other, then I think Greek islands are what you are looking for!
Here you won’t only find a complete guide for Greek island hopping, but we recommend specific routes based on your main interests!
Update: Due to Coronavirus, there will be many changes this summer. We wrote an article (more information here!) where we explain the current measures and situation, and we will update it as often as possible!
Feel free to leave your own experiences or suggestion on the comment section! The more ideas, the better for everybody!
But before starting, let’s begin with some necessary information:
- Note that unfortunately, there are no ferry passes for Greece. Therefore, you will need to book ferry tickets for each leg of every itinerary, and there is no discount for return tickets or multiple-stop tickets. There are many ferry booking platforms, but the best one is Ferryhopper. It supports multiple destinations, which makes ideal for island hopping!
- The only pass that gives some discount on Greek island is the Interrail Greek Islands Pass. Have a look. Maybe it will suit you!
- If you select some of the famous islands like Santorini, Mykonos, you have to book many months in advance. Don’t forget that, otherwise you will get disappointed.
- If you are looking for activities on the islands, I use GetYourGuide platform, which has a variety of experiences.
- The best website for booking a hotel in Greece is Booking.com. From my experience nowadays Airbnb apartments are also included in Booking.com, which I find it easier and more reliable.
- My recommendation is – if you can – fly into Greece and out of Greece from different airports to save yourself the time and money perhaps! The Greek islands with the most flights are Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, Crete (both Heraklion and Chania airports), Rhodes, Kos, Zante, Kefalonia and Corfu.
- Affordable Greek Island Hopping: Ferry tickets in Greece are not cheap as they used to be. So, I think it would be better if you make fewer stops (2 – 3 islands) and explore them than visiting more without really enjoying them!
- Greek Island Hopping & Honeymoon: You have so many choices when it comes to honeymoon. You can check some of our recommendations here!
Introduction to Greek Island hopping options
The main island-hopping area in Greece is Aegean sea and secondly the Ionian Sea.
In Aegean, there are four main areas that we will focus on!
- Saronic Gulf islands
- Sporades island
Athens has three different ports. Piraeus, Rafina and Lavrio.
Piraeus: It is the largest port in Greece and one of the largest in Europe, and it is well connected with both rail and overground. Most of the islands are linked from Piraeus, so it should be your first choice!
Rafina: If you want to visit Mykonos and Andros, from Rafina the journey is quite quicker, but the connection to this port is only by car and coach. You can visit islands like Mykonos, Andros, Naxos, Tinos, Syros and a lot more. Here is a timetable for the coaches from Athens to Rafina port.
Lavrio: It is a little bit further from Athens, but it is a less crowded port and an ideal to save some time if you want to visit specific islands, like Kea (Tzia), Kythnos, Syros etc.
Our initial starting point for Greek island hopping in Aegean would be Piraeus, and later we will check if you can mix the things even more! I will explain later!
Saronic Gulf Islands
Saronic Gulf islands are very close to Athens, and it is ideal if you have limited time in Athens, and you want to get a quick taste of the Greek Islands. Aigina and Agkistri are the closest islands to Athens.
Aigina isn’t so picturesque as the other Greek islands, but it is easy to go and has a lot to see (like the fantastic Temple of Aphaea)!
Hydra – to my opinion – is the most picturesque island in Saronic Gulf, but it can get busy. Spetses island is larger and quite lively. No cars are allowed to Hydra and in Spetses the use is limited!
Poros is a little bit different than the other island with more options, and you can get there by car through Peloponnese and pass thereby small boats!
Saronic Gulf islands are well connected, and it is quite easy to get from one island to the other!
Here you can find the iconic white houses with blue coloured windows (or at least at most of Cyclades islands). You have more combinations to choose from, which is awesome but it can create you a headache from the wide range of islands.
We will recommend some of our favorite routes, but then you can create your own ones! Just be creative and ask us on the comment section below!
The Route of Diamonds: Athens- Mykonos – Paros – Naxos – Santorini.
With this route, you can visit 4 of the most beautiful islands not only in Greece but in the world as well!!
Mykonos is famous for its fantastic nightlife and beaches. Lately, it has become quite trendy, which means that it gets quickly crowded and it is quite expensive.
Paros is my favourite choice as it offers options for all the ages and also families and young couples! I have gathered all the necessary information here!
Naxos has beautiful beaches, excellent food, and it is quite significant to keep you intrigued and interested!
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And there are more even choices if you want to explore more islands from Santorini. Find more information here!
You can, of course, add some more islands, like one day trip from Mykonos to Delos, which belongs to the incredible list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Greece or even Tinos, which is a magnificent island under the radar of massive tourism.
Or you can remove one island from the route, for example, Naxos. As I told you above, it depends on your preference, budget and time!
The Underrated Route: Kythnos – Serifos – Sifnos
Kythnos is relatively close to Athens. 1.40′ from Lavrio port and around 3 hours from Piraeus. It is small with great hiking routes and still quite traditional.
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Serifos is of my favourites islands, and I cannot be objective as I have spent some summers there working locally.
It is quite wild, with fantastic beaches and picturesque Chora village.
Sifnos has probably the best food that you can try on the Cyclades and many, but many small churches!
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The route of Small Islands: Donousa, Koufonisia, Schoinousa, Iraklia
These four islands are called Mikres (=Small) the Cyclades, and they are unique and have kept its traditional character.
From the 4 of them, Koufonisia has become quite popular the past years (fin our detailed travel guide here!), but the other three aren’t under the massive tourism radar yet
They are quite small, so don’t expect big hotels and resorts. These are for travellers that prefer more wild and quiet places and experiences.
The Hiking Route: Naxos – Amorgos
Both islands provide beautiful trails, but I think Amorgos is one of the two best islands in Aegean for hiking and in case you are wondering, the other is Andros! Amorgos is an island with wild beauty and with one of the most beautiful, traditional central villages (Chora)!
Kos – Kalymnos – Leros – Patmos
I like this route as it begins from one famous and busy island and goes through some more hidden islands in Aegean.
Kos is one of the most touristic islands in Greece with big resorts and sandy beaches.
You can spend a couple of days there and then you can visit Kalymnos, which is one of the best destinations in Europe for climbing!! Except climbing, there are routes for hiking and some great one day trips to close small islands!
Next stop can be Leros is one of the most underrated islands. It is quite small, and it has kept its character. Its Italian influence has given to the island a wonderful personality.
And last and probably best is Patmos. One amazing island with great religious history and great beaches and beautiful architecture!
Rhodes – Symi – Nisiros – Tilos
Rhodes is very famous, with fantastic history and beaches!
But I want to focus on the other smaller islands, like Symi. This picturesque island will provide you with remote beaches, great food and unique moments. Discover more about this island on our travel guide here!
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Nysiros is another island (the other is Santorini) quite wild, and it has an active volcano (but not erupting).
And Tilos is one of the small islands that you just become one with the locals, and it has kept its traditional character.
The Green Route: Skiathos – Skopelos – Alonissos
You can start your Greek island hopping from either Volos or Agios Konstantinos port. If you are in the Volos area, you can explore some of the best beaches there!
All three islands are green with great nature and amazing beaches.
Skiathos is a vibrant island with beautiful beaches and very interesting nightlife!
Skopelos was featured in the Hollywood movie Mama Mia, and Alonissos has an incredible Marine Park!
On this part of Mediterranean, there is no single starting point for a Greek island hopping. It can be from Igoumenitsa, or you can fly to any of the biggest islands (like Corfu) an start from there
Corfu – Paxoi – Lefkada – Kefalonia – Ithaca
This route is not so straightforward as it sounds. From Corfu you can visit Paxos, which has some of the most amazing beaches, using a boat from New Port – “Kamelia Lines”.
Now if you want to add Lefkada and Kefalonia. You can take the plane from Corfu to Kefalonia (which is cheaper and quicker than ferries and buses) or from Paxos (Gaios port) you goto Igoumenitsa. Then from there get the bus to Lefkada and then another bus to Nydri and finally you can use Ionian Sea Ferries and arrive at Fiskardo Kefalonia.
Do you have any question about the Greek Island Hopping?
Don’t hesitate to ask us or leaving us a comment below!