When people think of Greece, they think of the beautiful blue and white buildings that dot the landscapes of a Greek island. Many people want to visit as many of those islands on their Greek holiday but they may be daunted by the task of figuring which islands to visit and how to go island hopping in Greece.
This guide will not only tell you what to do on these amazing Greek islands but how to get to there. The main way of Greek island hopping is to pick a set of islands and take the ferry from each one. Don’t worry; taking the Greek ferry is easy and a fun way to get to all the Greek islands you desire.
You will want to find islands that are interconnected by ferry. Many islands are close to each other but the ferries may not go to the island you want even if it seems logical that it would.
Keep in mind this is just a small sampling of itineraries you can create for yourself. There are about 200 inhabited Greek islands to explore and a few island chains I don’t cover here. To see where the ferries go, check out Ferry Hopper’s planner.
Cyclades Island Hopping
The Cyclades Island chain is probably the most popular of all the Greek islands. This is the set of islands that include Mykonos and Santorini, but there are 39 islands. 24 of those islands are inhabited so there are tons of different islands to explore. You can’t hit them all in one trip but you can hit anywhere from 3 to 7 islands depending on how long your trip is.
Santorini – Naxos – Mykonos
If this is your first visit to Greece, you most likely want to visit Santorini for its beautiful caldera views. To start this island-hopping adventure, I would recommend flying to Santorini to use your time efficiently. Some must-see things to do in Santorini are the hike from Thira to Oia along the caldera, visiting the ancient destroyed town of Akrotiri, and visiting a Greek winery. After spending a few days, you can then take the ferry to the largest Cycladic island of Naxos.
For great hotel with a caldera view, book a room at Strogili in Oia.
Naxos sits between Santorini and Mykonos, making it a great stop and a less touristy island than the other two. This island features some of the best beaches in Greece, and because of its size, it has large agricultural activity. Naxos has tons of great restaurants as a result with wonderful local ingredients. Spend a few days relaxing here before heading to Mykonos.
While Mykonos is well known, it is still worth a visit for its great nightlife. Dance the Greek summer night away at one of its many beach bars. During the day, you can explore the island. Make sure to check out the Mykonos windmills for an iconic photo of your trip to Greece. Finally, you can catch the ferry back to Athens directly from Mykonos, making it a great island to end your Greek holiday on.
Naxos – Paros – Milos
As mentioned before, Naxos is an amazing island to visit and especially a favorite among families. To get to Naxos from Athens, you will want to catch the ferry at Piraeus. The ferries to Naxos usually leave early in the morning, so I recommend sleeping in Piraeus the night before to save time. If you really want to be closed, I recommend the Triton Hotel as it is one of the few hotels that serves breakfast early enough to eat before you catch the ferry. The hotel is no-frills but not a problem for one night.
The ferry ride to Naxos takes about 4 and a half hours but is totally worth it. Watch the blue Aegean sea go past on the deck, and you will be starting your holiday right. After spending a few days exploring Naxos, head to Paros. The ferry to Paros might be the same one you came on to! It is a short hop to the Paros port. In Paros, explore the Church of 100 Doors and the fishing village of Naousa.
Stay in Naousa at the centrally located, Liparando Hotel.
After spending a night or two in Paros, take one of the fast ferries to one of the further Cycladic islands of Milos. Milos has some other worldly-looking beaches due to its volcanic past. The beach that best represents this is Sarakinikio beach, made up of white smooth rocks. Sailing to some of the more remote beaches is one of the most popular things to do in Milos because you can’t reach them by car. Milos is a smaller island, so you may only need a couple of days here before catching the ferry back to Athens.
Tinos – Ios – Folegandros – Santorini
If you have a bit more time for your Greek holiday, consider hitting some out of the way and smaller islands. Again you will catch the ferry from Piraeus to Tinos. Tinos is a stunning island known for its artists and dovecotes. There are so many villages to explore on Tinos; you will want several days to explore this natural beauty.
After you explore, Tinos catch the ferry to Ios. Ios has something for everyone, from vibrant nightlife to stunning beaches and some amazing history. The island small, so take this opportunity to relax on the beach and eat some of the amazing local cuisine before going to Folegandros.
Book your room at my personal favorite of Kritikakis Village Hotel.
There are so many islands in the Cyclades that I cannot list all possible routes but you can see here how easy it is to island hop in the Cycladic islands.
Saronic Island Hopping
The Saronic islands are the closest islands to Athens. These make a great option if you don’t have a long time to spend in Greece. Many of these are also great options for a day trip to an island from Athens.
Aegina – Agistri
Getting to Aegina is one of the fastest ferry trips to an island, with the fast ferry only taking about 40 minutes from Piraeus port. You can also take a slower ferry that takes about an hour from Piraeus. Aegina is a beautiful island with plenty of things to do. If hitting the beach is your top priority, then head to Agia Marina on the island’s east side. A few of the ferries go direct to Agia Marina in the high season. While on that side of Aegina, make sure to stop at the Temple of Aphaia. The Temple of Aphaia dates to around 500 B.C. and is a great spot for views of the island and surrounding sea.
Book a room at the Aphrodite Art Hotel in Aegina.
After spending a night or two on Aegina, take the short ferry ride to Agistri. Agistri is mostly covered in forests but offers some amazing beaches. This island is not very touristy and gives you an idea of what life is like on a smaller Greek island. This island is perfect for relaxing. You can see I did just that in the video below.
Book a room at Hotel Alexandra that is featured in the video above.
Poros – Hydra – Spetses
Hitting Poros is a great option if you have a car as it is one island you can reach by car. However, you can still go by ferry, and it is faster than driving. Poros is a great place to practice the Greek art of people watching and boat watching. Because of its harbor layout, you can sit in almost any cafe and watch boats docking. If you want to get a higher view, walk through the town to the clock tower for a great sunset view.
Book your ferry tickets to Poros here.
After spending a day in Poros, head to the island with no cars! Hydra does not allow cars on the island. However, if maritime history sparks your interests, Hydra boasts a small but wonderful museum located in the port. It is called the Historical Archive-Museum of Hydra. While the name doesn’t sound nautical, there is plenty of nautical history there.
Book your stay at the Orloff Boutique Hotel Hydra.
Spend a few days in Hydra and then catch the ferry to Spetses. This island is also home to two great museums that happened to be inside historic homes. Museums on Greek islands are great places to escape the heat after hitting the beach. Spetses also has some stunning beaches to go for a swim at and relax.
The Dodecanese Islands are far away from Athens but are close to Turkey. The largest island is Rhodes. While you can take the ferry from Athens, it will be a long ferry, so I recommend flying to one island to start and then start your Dodecanese island hopping experience. Visiting the Dodecanese may require a longer trip due to their location and where you fly into Greece.
Leros – Patmos – Kalymnos
Leros is a great place to start in the Dodecanese Islands as there is an airport and the flight is only an hour-long! While Leros is not a large Greek island, there are tons to see. It is an island of great architecture with interesting buildings, churches, and castles to visit. Once you have explored all the buildings, head over to one of the many beautiful beaches for a nice swim. There are tons of Leros beaches to choose from.
Once you spend three or four days on Leros, catch the ferry to the island of Patmos. Patmos is known for its religious history as it is supposedly the place where John wrote the book of Revelation. You can even see the cave where John wrote the book. However, you don’t have to be religious to enjoy this lovely island. Patmos has some amazing beaches and is a great spot to scuba dive.
Kalymnos is known for its rock climbing activities, and there are tons of options. But, even if you aren’t into rock climbing, there is still plenty of things to do on Kalymnos. There is an archaeological museum housed inside an old mansion that is definitely worth exploring. And it wouldn’t be a Greek island without some great beaches to visit.
Astypalaia – Tilos – Kos
Astypalaia is a stunning island with a castle at the top. It is a great island to start with as it has an airport. The Venetian castle is the highlight of this Greek island. But there are other things to see such as the beaches and the Drakos Cave. Not only is it a cool natural attraction, but it is also rumored to be where pirates stored their treasure!
Book a room at the Kallichoron Art Boutique Hotel.
Tilos is the island for relaxing! The island is known for being one of the greenest places in Greece. However, there isn’t much to do but enjoy nature. Hiking is a popular activity on Tilos, and there are tons of old pathways.
Once you have relaxed enough, take the ferry to Kos.
Kos is one of the most popular islands to visit in the Dodecanese island chain. There is so much to do in Kos; you could spend at least a week exploring. If ancient sites are your thing, make sure to visit Asklepieion. Asklepieion is a temple built to honor the god of health, Asklepios. It was built after the death of Hippocrates. Another great ancient site on Kos is their Ancient Agora. Much like the Agora in Athens, it has ruins of temples and baths. Spend at least a few days on Kos so you can see it all.
The Sporades Islands have been famous by Mamma Mia. Much of the first film was filmed on the island of Skopelos, well, at least the outdoor scenes. While you can easily ferry hop between these four islands, you can’t do it from Athens. You will either need to fly to one to begin or drive to Volos or Agios Constantinos on the mainland to catch the ferry. You can only island-hop from three of the four Sporades as ferries to Skyros only leave from Kymi on the island of Evia, so I will give you things to do on each island, and you can decide the order!
Most people will want to hunt for film locations of Mamma Mia on Skopelos, including the church. The church is called Agios Ioannis Kastri and is located on the eastern side of the island towards the north. Once you hike to the top, head to a beach to relax. If you need more to explore, check some of the many monasteries on the island.
Book your hotel room at Aeolos Hotel in Skopelos.
Skiathos has something for everyone. The island boasts beautiful beaches, diving spots, party spots, castles, and churches. Not to mention all the wonderful Greek tavernas to visit. If you want to island-hop in a more traditional way, Skiathos offers many options for days sails that take you to Skopelos and Alonissos!
Said to be the most beautiful island of the Sporades, Alonissos is for the nature lover. There is a marine park to explore, plenty of hikes, and a cave to explore. Around Alonissos are several small islets that have churches on them and there are boats that will take you to them to explore.
Ionian and Northern Aegean Islands
The Ionian and Northern Aegean Islands are harder to island-hop on a ferry. Many places only go to one island from the mainland on these islands. For example, you can catch the ferry to Lemnos but not to another island from Lemnos. For islands like Corfu, you can catch more local ferry lines to one or two islands, but most of them are far from each other. Technically the Northern Aegean islands aren’t an island chain at all but get grouped together.
Let me know if you have done any island hopping in Greece and what your favorites were!