How to Plan Greek Island Hopping

With over 200 habitable islands to visit, Greece is an amazing place to go for those seeking an island-hopping adventure. These isles and islets are scattered across the Aegean and Ionian seas and have been favoured holiday spots for travellers over the years.

Many tourists choose to visit the Greek islands with sheer spontaneity, which is great due to the country’s frequent ferries and ease of access to the islands. However, if you’re planning an adventure across Greece and would like to put a little more thought into your trip, you’ve come to the right place! 

We have put together everything you need to know about the Greek islands and how to jump from one to the other. After reading this article, you will be able to visit this stunning part of Europe with all the information you need. 

The Best Time to Go to the Greek Islands

The Greek islands offer so much beauty, making them wonderful to visit any time of the year. However, one of the best times for those seeking to island hop is between April and May or September to mid-October. During this time, the island’s services are up and running making transport easier and more frequent. The weather is comfortable and the pleasant temperatures provide the perfect environment for those exploring Greece. 

When deciding to visit between April and May or September and October, you will also find that there are fewer crowds, which makes transport and sightseeing spots less crowded and easier to navigate. 

If you are planning a trip to Greece for its hot summers and higher temperatures, then July and August are when you want to go. This is a favoured time of year for those who want to lounge on the beach, stroll through the towns in the evenings or relax by the pool. Bear in mind that if you are on and off ferries and travelling around the islands, the heat during this time often becomes quite oppressive. 

Which Greek Islands are Best to Visit? 

With so many to choose from, it can be hard to narrow it down to the best island to visit. That’s why we have included our top seven, this way we can give you an idea of what to expect and point you in the right direction.

The Cyclades

The Cyclades consists of a group of islands that are easily the most popular to visit in Greece. They are situated within the Aegean sea and are made up of authentic Greek architecture. Within The Cyclades, there is a collection of large and small islands. The biggest within this group are: 

  • Santorini 
  • Mykonos
  • Serifos
  • Anafi 
  • Ios
  • Kimolos
  • Milos
  • Paros
  • Kea
  • Delos
  • Andros
  • Syros
  • Sifnos
  • Kythnos
  • Tinos
  • Naxos
  • Folegandros
  • Amorgos
  • Sikinos

If you’re searching for smaller isles when visiting Greece, The Cyclades archipelago also has many of those which are known as: 

  • Antiparos
  • Iraklia
  • Koufonisia
  • Donousa
  • Thirasia
  • Schinoussa

No matter where you choose to go, you will find some of the country’s finest attractions within The Cyclades. Whether you choose to visit Mykonos for its famous windmills, Santorini for its romantic aura or Delos for its ancient ruins, there is something for everyone here.

A popular route for those visiting The Cyclades is the journey from Athens to Santorini. Along the way, hop off at the other isles such as Mykonos, Paros and Naxos to uncover even more incredible coastal scenery and white-washed architecture. This journey is made up of some of Greece’s most iconic attractions alongside an impressive display of the country’s astonishing landscape and beautiful vistas. 

If you would prefer to keep to the small islands to avoid the busier spots such as Santorini and Mykonos, the route from Donousa to Iraklia is a great option. Along the way, you can stop off at the other smaller islands such as Koufonisia and Schinoussa. This provides the perfect opportunity to explore the Greek islands whilst soaking up the serenity that these little isles offer. 

The Northern Aegean

The Northern Aegean islands are less frequented by tourist crowds, providing an authentic way to experience rural Greece. They are made up of lush greenery and a plethora of Greek history, great for those who want to uncover some of the country’s roots. 

Made up of 9 islands, The Northern Aegean archipelago is a great place to go for those who want to get all their island hopping into one trip. These isles consist of: 

  • Thassos
  • Samos
  • Lesvos
  • Ikaria
  • Lemnos
  • Chios
  • Psara
  • Forni 
  • Samothraki 

Being a smaller group of islands in comparison to The Cyclades means that The Northern Aegean is great for those who want to do some family Greek island hopping. As the isles attract fewer tourists and there aren’t as many to visit, it allows for the perfect way to see all that they have to offer without the busy crowds. 

Each of the islands has a unique offering, whether you want to relax and go wine tasting in Samos, party at the summer festivities in Ikaria or hike through the dense forest in Chios. There is something for everyone within this group of stunning Greek isles. 

The Ionian Islands

With a cooler climate, the Ionian Islands offer much more greenery consisting of lush olive and Cypress trees. These isles boast astonishing forestry and incredible coastal vistas. 

The most frequented of the islands in this group is Corfu. Many tourists go here for the beautiful sandy coves, authentic villages and space, as it is one of the larger places in Greece, perfect for escaping the crowds. 

After you have seen all there is to see in Corfu, a nice contrast is Paxi Island. Here you will find a beautiful harbour, where many boats brimming with eager tourists come in and out to explore all that this small place has to offer. Wander through the quaint streets, or sit on the seafront and enjoy the several bars and restaurants. 

In total, 7 islands belong to the Ionian archipelago, each of which offers its own beautiful scenery and tourist attractions. The Ionian group is made up of: 

  • Corfu
  • Lefkada
  • Paxi
  • Zakynthos 
  • Ithaca
  • Kefalonia 
  • Kythira

Kefalonia is particularly great for those who want to explore the many hidden coves, wander through idyllic towns and experience the island at their own pace. It is a great option for families and couples as there are multiple beaches, towns full of bars, restaurants, shops and amazing resorts. 

The Dodecanese

For those seeking island hopping that offers history alongside mediaeval architecture in abundance, The Dodecanese Islands are where you want to be. Here you will find 10 large islands all waiting to be explored and boasting a plethora of historical backgrounds. These are known as: 

  • Rhodes
  • Astypalaia
  • Leros
  • Symi
  • Kalymnos
  • Kastellorizo
  • Patmos
  • Karpathos
  • Nisyros
  • Tilos

Rhodes is a particularly favoured spot for many holidaymakers as it has so much to offer. Whether you are looking to lounge on one of the many pristine beaches, stroll through the mediaeval streets or party through the night with its buzzing city life, there is something to suit a range of itineraries. 

The volcanic isle of Nisyros is a great way to explore the rugged terrain whilst hiking through dense forests to see the steaming caldera. Patmos boasts a huge amount of religious history alongside sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. 

These islands are a great place to go for those seeking to enjoy Greek island hopping with kids as they attract fewer tourists, making them easier to navigate around. However, it is worth noting that Rhodes can get much busier during summer when large groups of people go here to enjoy its variety of attractions and vibrant city.  

The Sporades

The Sporades has fewer islands within its group, with only 4 that are frequented by tourists. These isles consist of: 

  • Alonnisos
  • Skyros
  • Skiathos
  • Skopelos

One of the most popular routes for island hoppers is from Skiathos to Alonnisos, with a stop off at Skopelos along the way. Here you will find a lot of natural beauty with each of the islands brimming with greenery and unmatched beaches. 

These islands are where you want to go if you’re looking to enjoy a relaxing and quiet break. Their position on the sea and incredible coastal views make for some of the best places to enjoy watersports in Greece. If you prefer to soak up history and heritage, then a wander around one of the many monasteries will do just the trick. 

One of the best things about The Sporades is that they offer plenty of things to do and see both on the ground and at sea, great for those who love to snorkel or hike. So however you want to spend your time here, you can do it all on these beautiful islands. 

The Argo-Saronic Islands

Within The Argo-Saronic Islands you will find 6 isles consisting of: 

  • Spetses
  • Aegina
  • Poros
  • Agistri
  • Salamina
  • Hydra 

They are close enough to Athens that they are easy to access yet still keep their countryside scenery and authentic feel. Whether you’re seeking lush green forests or secluded sandy beaches, each of these islands offers its own stunning landscapes. 

As The Argo-Saronic Islands aren’t as busy with tourists and crowds, hopping from one island to another is a great way to soak up authentic Greek culture and see how the locals live. The fewer crowds also mean that the journey between each spot is much easier as you don’t have to worry about cramming onto jam-packed ferries. 

As the islands are within a short distance from mainland ports, it makes them the easiest group of islands to visit when seeking island hopping in Greece. Visit historical and archaeological sites in Spetses, spectacular beaches in Agistri or soak up the glamorous vibes in Hydra. Hopping from one island to another makes for the perfect trip to Greece, as each of them has its own offering and wonderful atmosphere.  

Where Do I Fly To?

Where you fly will ultimately depend on what group of islands you are hoping to visit. Luckily enough, there are international flights to most of the island groups listed above. Below shows a list of the different airports you can fly into, to kick start your island hopping adventure. 

The Cyclades

  • Santorini (Thera) 
  • Mykonos

The Northern Aegean

  • Lesvos
  • Samos
  • Lemnos

The Ionian Islands

  • Kefalonia
  • Lefkada
  • Zakynthos
  • Corfu

The Dodecanese

  • Kos
  • Rhodes
  • Karpathos

The Sporades

  • Skiathos 

With international flights available, this makes for an easy way to start your island hopping, as once you have got to Greece, you now just need to make your way around the islands. Again, depending on which group of isles you want to visit will determine where the next part of your journey will take you. 

How Much Will it Cost?

The costs of island hopping vary drastically depending on several factors. Things like what islands you want to visit, what you will do whilst you’re there, the length of the trip, how many people you are travelling with and what kind of activities you want to enjoy all need to be considered for cost. 

One of the best things about island hopping is that you can make it as expensive or inexpensive as you like. For example, if you choose to visit the quieter islands that attract fewer tourists, prices immediately go down as there aren’t as many shops, bars, restaurants and other activities available. This is a great way to see Greece at a slower pace, whilst spending less money. 

If you choose to visit the busier spots such as Santorini, Mykonos or Rhodes, expect the prices to be higher. With so much to do and see on these islands, the cost of visiting here automatically goes up. 

When considering the cost of your trip, the time you want to spend here will also have to be factored in. If you plan on visiting one of the smaller groups of islands such as The Sporades, then you will need less time to see them. However, if you aim to hop around The Cyclades, this will need to be a longer trip, therefore costing more money. 

Whatever way you decide to see the Greek islands, you will be met with incredible scenery, amazing cuisine, beautiful beaches, and a plethora of sightseeing spots. 

How to Book Ferry Tickets

Greece has several great ports spread out across the country, making it relatively easy to access ferries between the islands. Places like Athens and Thessaloniki are great places to start as they offer ferry trips to the larger group of islands such as The Cyclades and The Argo-Saronic groups. 

You can usually get your tickets online, which will require a little bit of research into the different companies, alongside where you need to get them from. It is also best to book your tickets in advance, especially during the busier periods. 

There are other ways to get to the islands such as catamarans, boat excursions and smaller fisherman boats. For those who like their trip to be planned for them, there are also multiple luxury island hopping tours, the perfect way to see the islands without having to plan. Which you choose to use will depend on how quickly you want to get there, the comfort you need and the price you’re willing to pay. 

The other thing to remember is that Greece doesn’t offer ferry passes, so you will need to make sure you book each of your trips to and from the islands in advance and individually. 

Summary 

We hope that after reading all our tips on how to plan Greek island hopping, you can now visit Greece with all this information in mind. No matter where you choose to go, you will find plenty of things to do and see across this beautiful part of Europe.

Check out all our information on other destinations in Europe and start planning your next adventure now!

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