greece

Island Hopping in Greece

Package holidays include Greek island hopping with all accommodation at each stop of point pre-organised. The internet too has had a profound effect. Holiday makers who are not entranced with organised package deals can pre-book their rooms on each island with the security of knowing that they will be well looked after in clean, modern and licensed accommodation.
You can, however, still find people advertising their rooms at the ports and harbours, but now their rooms will be licensed and inspected.

Backpacking and island hopping in Greece is still popular and not just for the young and unconventional tourists. Those that were young back in the 1960s and 70s are still coming and hopping around the Greek islands, but the conditions of travel and accommodation are not as cheap as it was during the 70’s

Legislation has also been introduced governing the amount of passengers on ships. Tickets can not longer be purchased on board but must now be bought at kiosks at the ports. The ships are clean, well run, fast and super modern.

For example, back in the ‘bad old days’ going by Ferry from Piraeus to Crete used to take twelve hours. Today, with the super fast boats the journey takes only six hours. New forms of sea transport have also been introduced like hydrofoils and katamarans which makes island hopping faster and more enjoyable.

Many Greek islands now have an airport. Some of these are tiny receiving one flight a day from Athens but many of the larger islands have several daily flights and charters departing and arriving from all over Europe.

Island hopping in the Cyclades

cyclades islandsThe Cyclades is the ideal Greek Island hopping group, having frequent ferries and short journey times. Many who opt for island hopping in the Cyclades will fly to Mykonos or Santorini as these have airports that will take international and charter flights.

Flying to Mykonos can save time, as the island is set in the heart of the Cyclades, but Santorini has advantages in being on one of the main ferry routes between Piraeus (Athens) and Crete.

As far as ferry journeys within the Cyclades are concerned, Syros, Paros and Naxos are the main hubs for the local ferry services, all having good harbours and plenty of overnight accommodation. Most of the other Cycladic islands are within easy ferry hopping distance of both Paros and Naxos and many of the smaller islands will have regular daily ferry services.

Island hopping in the Dodecanese

dodecanese islandsIsand hopping in the Dodecanese is relatively easy with good connections to many islands. The Dodecanese offer a variety of popular Greek Islands with lots of historical interest plus the possibility of a trip to nearby Turkey or even a ferry all the way to Crete.

Fast ferries link the islands all the way up the Turkish coast from Rhodes, in the south, to Leros, Lipsi and Samos in the north, so Greek Island hopping here is probably at its best although the bigger ferries can be expensive. Many of the islands have small ferry boats that have daily routes to the smaller islands either as daily schedules or as tourist excursions.

Daily trips to Turkey are also very popuar among these islands as so many of them are just a few kilometres from the Turkish mainland.

Island hopping in the Sporades

sporades Island hopping in the Sporades is basically confined to trips between Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos. Good hydrofoil and ferry services run between all the three islands so Greek Island hopping is pretty well confined to this trio. As the islands are so different to each other it can still make for a decent island hopping holiday.

Skiathos is by far the most popular and has a plethora of sandy beaches along its south coast. Charter planes land here and the port is only a short taxi drive away. Skopelos and Alonissos may not have the beaches but they more than make up for it in atmosphere.

Skyros is part of the same group but another matter as far as island hopping is concerned. It can only be reached via Evia and there are no easy links from here to the other island groups.>/p>

Island hopping in the Ionian

ionianThe Ionian islands are hugely popular with holidaymakers with relatively short flight times from the UK. Despite the islands being close together the Ionians don’t lend themselves to Greek Island hopping.

Ferries are fewer and links not as direct, with many Ionian islands acting only as a port of call for ferries sailing between Italy and mainland Greece. There are regular sailings from Italy that call in at Corfu and Lefkas with links to mainland Greece ports of Patras and Igoumentissa.

There are sailings between Corfu and Paxos, between Lefkas and Meganissi and between Kefalonia and Ithaca, but ferry sailings between the big four – Corfu, Lefkas, Kefalonia and Zante – are few and irregular.

Island hopping in the North Aegean

samosThe Greek Islands in the North Aegean are well spread out and ferry connections are not particularly good. Those who go Greek Island hopping in these waters usually spend a good few hours sailing between the islands.

Thassos has a good daily service from the mainland at Keramouti and less regular sailings to Kavala. Getting to Limnos can be tiresome with long ferry journies, Lesvos is not much better and Chios is even longer.

It is only when you reach Samos, the most southerly island in this group that things get better as it is here that ferry services link with the Dodecanese group of Greek Islands which have much more frequent services. From Samos there are also regular daily ferry services to Turkey.

Island hopping in the Argo Saronic

aeginaGreek Islands in the Argo Saronic are very popular with Greece mainland holidaymakers, particularly those staying in the Athens area. Several holiday islands in the Argosaronic Gulf lie just a few miles from the capital and close the the port of Piraeus.

Frequent daily ferry services – particularly to the popular holiday island of Aegina – make these a favourite not only with UK holidaymakers but also with weekending Athenians keen to escape the noise and bustle of the capital. In the summer, Flying Dolphins have daily sailings to Aegina, Methana, Poros and Hydra as well as to Spetses. There is also a regular ferry connection between Aegina and Angistri.

In addition to regular ferry services there are several caiques offering trips between the various Saronic islands as well as excursions organised by travel agencies.

Greek Island hopping tours

hopping toursSeveral firms now offer Greek Island-hopping tours. These usually consist of a predetermined route around the more popular islands with hotel reservations and ferry tickets. Often there is a “party night” to start and end the tour and the overnight hotel stop will probably include breakfast. Until the next ferry leaves your time is your own on the island.

On the plus side you avoid all the hassle of booking ferries and finding decent hotels. The downside is that chosen routes are usually the most well-travelled, that is those where ferries are frequent (thus avoiding the problem of cancelled ferries) and in peak season (for much the same reason). Larger ports are usually chosen so there is plenty of hotel accommodation and, of course you can’t linger on an island that you may like.

Independent travelers may face missed ferries, sub-standard rooms and getting stuck on an island for a few days but they get the freedom to choose, can linger where they like and can head off into the unknown if they feel adventurous. For many, myself included, that is what Greek Island hopping is all about and in many years I have yet to be disappointed. But for first time visitor to the Greek Islands, and for those who prefer a more structured holiday, an island hopping tour could be just the ticket.