When it comes to planning a holiday in the Greek Islands, there may be a few things to consider (like what you would like to see, experience and if you want to relax, party etc) but regardless of what it is you are after, Greece will be sure to knock your socks off (really, it will)!
Which Greek island is for you? Well, there are many islands to pick from and every one of them has a special bit of something to suit everyone..
Santorini is undoubtedly the most popular and well known island in Greece. Not many islands can combine amazing scenery with rich ancient history and divine food like Santorini does.
During the peak seasons from June to August, Ios is known for being the ‘number one party island in the Mediterranean’. Many tourists flock here for the nightlife, beach parties and clubs. That aside though, it is a beautiful island with so much to offer for all ages. Chora is wonderful to check out the shops and restaurants, as well as soak up the sun and relax on the beaches.
Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades, and is famous for it’s exotic beaches. Plaka, Agios Prokopios, Orkos and Mikri Vigla are among the most beautiful beaches on the island, while the western coast of the island are ideal for windsurfing due to the strong winds that blow there in the afternoon. Inland will bring you to picturesque villages and more sightseeing.
Crete is the largest island in Greece, and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean Sea. The island feels a little slower and less party orientated in comparison to other Greek Islands such as Mykonos and Ios, but there is still lots to see and do! Expect the fascinating history of Crete to blow you away (particularly throughout Heraklion), and a visit to Chania to get lost walking through the beautiful, quaint Italian inspired alleyways, some with small cafes and boutique stores.
Located on the north western side of the country, Corfu charms visitor’s with its Venetian style villages, beautiful crystally water and beaches, and rugged mountains. Paleokastritsa, Sidari, Kassiopi and Acharavi are stunning spots on the northern side of the island worth a visit, while head inland to the villages including the Old Town and it will be buzzing with charm.
Classed as Greece’s most cosmopolitan island, Mykonos is located in the middle of the Aegean sea. It is known in particular for it’s vibrant nightlife and exciting atmosphere, but also the islands famous blue and white architecture, quaint little cobblestoned streets and picturesque windmills and magnificent sunsets.
Rhodes is less cosmopolitan and more historical.. The island combines miles of beautiful beaches, archaeological and ancient sites and medieval looking towns. Rhodes’ rich history and ruins (which are some of the best preserved ruins across Europe) attract many tourists each year for this reason alone, but also the fact the island is home to some pretty gorgeous seaside views and picturesque villages.
Paros often hides under the limelight of some of the more famously known Greek Islands, however the island is just as beautiful! Known for its exotic looking water and fabulous beaches, picturesque architecture and the nightlife, Paros really has got it all. The traditional villages, particularly Naoussa, Parikia and Lefkes, are perfect samples of Greek architecture, with whitewashed houses, paved cobblestone streets and blue domes..just how you picture Greece to look!
Traveling to & from the Islands
Departing from Athens or any of the islands, ferries and hydrofoil boats are the most common way of getting around. As it seems to be the primary means of travel to and from islands, tickets are inexpensive.
The hydrofoil boats are the most sought after tickets in busier seasons (so it’s a good idea to book in advance to ensure good seating), particularly if you are travelling with a group or as a couple. Also, if you do get sea sick, take sea sick tablets with you as sometimes the seas can get rough and you will definitely feel it more on the smaller boats than the bigger and slower ferries!
All these are companies are big car ferries that feel almost like an aeroplane on the sea – with restaurants and snack bars and comfortable seating, you can sit back and enjoy the sea views around you. Some only sail to and from the various Greek islands and may not be the fastest form of travel between islands, but they are good to use if you are departing from Athens to get to the islands.
And if you are travelling between a few different Greek Islands, then I would recommend the faster hydrofoil boats!
Also just take note that some islands aren’t as assessable as others, for e.g. some ferries/boats will leave multiple times during the day on busier islands while others will only leave once per day. This will also apply to the seasons and months. Generally May through to October boats and ferries will run more frequently than off peak seasons.
Not all islands, but some do have small airports on them, that can include Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Crete, Rhodes and Corfu (just to name a few) and there are only a small number of islands who have international flights all year round. Most will fly from Athens International Airport.
Flying is interestingly not as expensive as it once was, however is arguably harder to research times and dates if you are wanting to book months in advance or during off season. Your best bet is to leave it closer or last minute to when you are leaving to be able to look up costs, times and dates etc.
Furthermore, if you don’t fancy catching a boat, a plane will see you flying directly to the island you desire in a shorter amount of time with less queues and less hassle. Olypmus Air and Aegan Airlines are commonly used to fly to and from islands. Check out http://www.intickets.gr/en/airticketsbooking/athens_greece.asp for more info.
When to go
Greece is beautiful all year round, and it’s not say that whatever time you go will be no better than another……A few things to consider are:
In terms of transportation – mid May to late Sept are when ferries and boats run frequently (daily) and gradually lessen as the off season approaches (November to April). This is not to say that in off season you won’t be able to get around, it will just be a little more difficult and less assessable.
Peak season – June- August is when tourist season is in full swing, with visitors flocking the streets around the islands wanting to enjoy the hotter summer months. The islands can get extremely busy and crowded plus very hot! Prices for accommodation and touristy attractions will skyrocket during these months also.
Shoulder season – The best time (in my option, as I like to avoid crowds) is between late April to early June (as it isn’t quite peak season so accommodation is still cheap and it’s not sweltering hot), or September through until late October when the weather and temperature is still pleasant.
Off season – Travelling to the Greek islands during off season can have its high and low points. Generally early November through till late April is very quiet and one downside is many restaurants, bars and even hotel and resorts will close their doors to re open in the busier months when business is blooming. On the plus side though, costs are at there lowest, less crowds (or no crowds at all) around and you can expect clearer and finer winter days and quiet beaches! Also, the restaurants that remain open for the locals and residents on the islands means you can be certain that you’re getting authentic local cuisine.
Basic words to know when eating out..
Entrée/ appetizers – mezédes
Main – Kyria Piata
Dessert – Epithorpia
Wines – Krasia
Drinks (alcoholic) – Pota
Drinks (non-alcoholic) – Rofimata
Can we pay the bill? – Boroomay na plirosoomay
Can we see a menu – Boroomay na doomay enna menoo
Thankyou – Efharisto
Please – parakaló̱
– Make sure you do have some cash with you, as many restaurants don’t accept credit cards. There will be various ATMs around the islands for you to use otherwise.
– Tipping is not obligatory.
Basics to know
Time Difference: +2 hours from London
Language: Greek is the official language in Greece, however English is widely spoken and understood amongst the Greek so you won’t have much trouble.
Health: No vaccinations are required prior to travelling Greece