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Greek Island Hopping – A Detailed Guide for 2021!

Greek Island Hopping

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 in 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 it ideal for island hopping!
  • The only pass that gives some discount on Greek island is the Interrail Greek Islands Pass. Have a look. It might 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 the 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 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 the Aegean sea and secondly the Ionian Sea.

In Aegean, there are four main areas that we will focus on!

  • Saronic Gulf islands
  • Cyclades
  • Dodecanese
  • 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 to Piraeus, so it should be your first choice!

Rafina: If you want to visit Mykonos and Andros, from Rafina port the journey is quite faster, but the connection to this harbour is only by car or 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 the 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 visit and has a lot to see (like the fantastic Temple of Aphaea)!

Hydra – in 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! You can find our mini travel guide about Spetses island here!

 
 
 
 
 
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Poros is a little bit different from 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!

Daily trips from Athens

Hydra

Cyclades

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 a headache from the wide range of islands!

We will recommend some of our favourite routes, but then you can create your own ones!

Just be creative and ask us in 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.

Mykonos Island Hopping Greece

Paros is my favourite choice as it offers options for all ages and also families and young couples! I have gathered all the necessary information here!

Naoussa Paros island

Naxos has beautiful beaches, excellent food, and it is quite significant to keep you intrigued and interested!

You can find our travel guide here and the best hotels in Naxos here!

 
 
 
 
 
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Now, about Santorini, I don’t think that I have to tell you much, as it is impressive! You can find here the best things to do or where to stay.

Secret Greece travel startups

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. Here we have written two posts about the best beaches in Tinos and where to eat!

Or you can remove one island from the route, for example, Naxos.

As I mentioned above, it totally 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.

Island Hopping in Greece

Serifos island

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 their traditional character.

From the 4 of them, Koufonisia has become quite popular in the past years (find our detailed travel guide here!), but the other three aren’t under the massive tourism radar yet.

Donousa is getting more popular lately but I think it has kept its character and authenticity! I spend 2 weeks there and I totally enjoyted! You canfind my epxerience and my travel guide about Donousa here!

Karnagio restaraunt in Koufonisi

Koufonisia Island

 
 
 
 
 
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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 the 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)!

Amorgos island

Amorgos Island

Dodecanese

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 the 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!

The 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 the island a wonderful personality.

Leros island Hidden Greece

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. You can check our mini-guide here!

Saint Antonios Tilos island greece

Sporades

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 in the Pelion area! Learn more about this amazing area, on our special mini travel guide about Pelion and our list of the best hotels and apartments in the area! 

All three islands are green with great nature and amazing beaches!

Skiathos is a vibrant island with beautiful beaches and very interesting nightlife! Here is our travel guide about the island and where to stay!

Skopelos was featured in the Hollywood movie Mama Mia, and Alonissos has an incredible Marine Park!

Skopelos Greek Island Hopping

Skopelos Island

Eptanisa

In this part of the Mediterranean, there is no single starting point for Greek island hopping. It can be from Igoumenitsa, or you can fly to any of the biggest islands (like Corfu) and start from there!

Corfu – Paxoi – Lefkada – Kefalonia – Ithaca

This route is not so straightforward as it sounds. 

Paxos Greek Island Hopping

Paxos island

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 on your itinerary, you have to options.

You can take the plane from Corfu to Kefalonia, which is cheaper and quicker than ferries and buses!

Alteratevely, if you are in Paxos then you can go to Igoumenitsa port in mainland. Then, from there, you can get the bus to Lefkada and then another bus to Nydri!

And from Lefkada you can use Ionian Sea Ferries and arrive at Fiskardo Kefalonia! It sounds a little bit complicated!

Apologies for that!

Do you have any question about the Greek Island Hopping?

Don’t hesitate to ask us or leaving us a comment below!

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15 Comments

  1. Hi there!
    Is it possible to visit the islands 1-2 days each? Specifically for Mykonos, Paros, and Santorini. I am leaving 3-4 days for Athens

    1. Hi Morgan,

      This can be a tricky question as it depends on what you want to see each time that you visit an island or a city.
      Personally, I think one day for these islands is not enough. You will need at least 2 days for each of those 3 islands and indeed at least 2 days for Athens.

  2. How long would you recommend for the diamond route?

    1. Ηi Manni! It depends on what kind of holidays do you want! If you want just take a taste and see all the important things, I think 3 days minimum to each island would ok.

  3. Hi We are a couple looking for a sailing holiday hopping around some greek islands. I’m a bit overwhelmed by the choice and finding it hard to know where best to choose – no real sailing experience either but would like opportunity to try. We love food and less touristy places. Also, some “yachting” holidays seem not to be actually sailing (motor powered mainly) Do you know of any companies to recommend and/or island groups to focus on.

    1. Hi Julia,

      I have only sailed in Greece twice, one in Ionian islands with some friend’s sailing boat and one in Sporades islands using Sail with us. I totally recommend both areas.

      Ionian islands I think is perfect for beginners as usually the winds are quite smoother than some other areas in Greece and you can find beautiful beaches.

      Sporades islands are as well as superb for sailing as you can visit 3 main amazing and green islands Skiathos(the most touristic), Skopelos, Alonissos (the quietest and not so touristic) with stunning beaches. There are also some small and uninhabited islands that you can visit! I am totally satisfied with “Sail with Us” so I totally recommend you, but I am not sure if they rent the whole boat or you can book some individual tickets. They have awesome customer support, so contact them (https://sailwithus.gr/) and ask them if they can help you or advise you on anything else!

      Not sure if I helped but let me know if you need anything else!

      1. Thank you so much for your reply – I will check out Sail With Us
        Also, your website has so much useful information thank you for taking the time and effort to share your knowledge
        Best wishes, Julia

  4. Hi, we’re interested in seeing “green” locations with beautiful coves and beaches combined with dining in great restaurants at night. What islands would you recommend? Are sail tours operating this summer?

    1. Hi Alison,

      From what you describe to us we think Sporades island would be a good choice and more specifically Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos islands.
      They are full of trees with really beautiful beaches and many coves! The food is also delicious, but overall don’t expect too fancy restaurants (only in Skiathos probably) but nice and original taverns! And this summer quite few sail tours are operating.
      If you are interested in sailing in that area we can recommend one company that we have used in the past and we were very pleased.

      1. Hi, I’m really interested in doing island hopping in Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos early next month (September 2020). I’ve been to Skiathos and Skopelos before but many years ago. Any recommendations on companies to use would be appreciated. I am a solo female traveller for UK.
        Thanks 🙂

        1. Hi Chrissie.
          Happy to help but what companies do you mean? Ferries-activities-sailing-experiences?

    1. Thanks Ulli! That’s perfect! I added to the article!

  5. We’re looking at doing a bit of Greek island hopping next year (2020). We want to go to Nidri and will hopefully have 2 weeks. Which other island(s) near or places in lefkada would you recommend?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Claire!

      As it says on the article, you can combine it with some other islands that are close, like Kefalonia and Zante or even Corfu! If you need some extra information, just write us an email!

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