Anyone who’s ever seen a calendar featuring gorgeous shots of Santorini has likely dreamed of doing a little Greek Island hopping. After all, with fabulous scenery, delicious food, and interesting archeological sites, the Greek Islands have a lot to offer.
There are two ways to approach seeing the Greek Islands. Flexible travelers with a spirit of adventure or those on a budget can take the ferries that connect the islands. Those who prefer having all the arrangements taken care of for them can choose from a number of Greek Islands cruises.
Your best bet, if you’re doing it on your own, is to travel between May and September when ferries are frequent and the seas are relatively calm. During this peak season there will be daily service to the most popular islands. After that, the winds pick up and cancellations due to bad weather are more frequent.
It’s important not to try to keep to a tight schedule. Delays are inevitable and the current political situation in Greece means that strikes are a very real possibility too.
If you’re not terribly choosey about accommodations, you won’t need to make reservations in advance. You can just ask what’s available at the tourist office near the dock when you arrive. This will allow you to stay longer than planned in the places you really enjoy.
One mistake many people make is to try to visit too many islands in one trip. You’ll enjoy the experience more if you only try to visit two or three and stay a fair length of time in each place.
You can also base yourself in one place and do day trips to other islands from there.
Santorini and Mykonos are expensive and during August, they can be very crowded with cruise ship passengers. Lesser known islands like Milos, Sifnos, Serifos, and Skiathos are more affordable and more low key.
Several different kinds of ferries are available. Hydrofoils will get you where you going the quickest, but at around twice the price.
Since you’ll be carrying everything with you, you’ll need to pack light. But it’s so casual, that you’ll be fine with a bathing suit and a few pairs of shorts.
Greek Island cruises.
Taking a Greek Island cruise will let you visit several islands in a short span of time. You’ll arrive refreshed, walk down the gangway or take a tender ashore, then be able to spend the day sightseeing or enjoying the beach.
Most Greek Island cruises leave from Athens and end in Istanbul or Venice, although longer cruises leave from many different Mediterranean ports. MSC Cruises offers 7-night sailings from Ancona or Bari, Italy.
Fares for one-week Greek Island cruises can be as low as $499 per person. When you consider that they include not only transportation, but also meals, the right cruise can be almost as inexpensive as doing it yourself.
For the best experience, choose the smallest ship you can afford. A 3,000-passenger vessel can completely overwhelm what would otherwise be a charming place.
Some travel agencies in Greece also arrange Greek Island tours that include ferry tickets and accommodations. For those who want to remain independent, this option can provide a little more structure and usually some cost savings.
Read our list of recommended hotels in Piraeus.