Summer holidays in Greece means sunbathing on a sandy beach on one of the countless islands in the Aegean Sea or the Ionian sea. It also means a good opportunity to go island hopping in Greece and discover the different customs and landscapes that make each island unique.

While the word island hopping may pop into your head images of billionaires owners of luxury yachts, in Greece it’s actually a quite easy and affordable experience for everyone.

You don’t have to do a cruise or rent a sailboat to experience island hopping in Greece. Regular ferries can do the trick and take you in no time and with less than €50 to the country’s most spectacular islands. All you need is to get a basic idea of the main islands clusters in Greece and good planning.

Island hopping in the Saronic Gulf

Aegina, Agistri, Poros, Hydra and Spetses are the most popular islands in the Saronic Gulf. Located close to Athens and with regular ferry routes departing from Piraeus port, these 5 islands are the perfect destination for one-day trips. There are two different combinations for island hopping in the Saronic Gulf. You can either choose to visit Aegina and Agistri or head to Poros and then Hydra and Spetses. Aegina is around 40 minutes from Piraeus by flying dolphin and around 70 minutes by ferry. From Aegina to Agistri it takes 20 minutes by ferry and 10 by flying dolphin.

If you choose to island hop from Piraeus to Poros Hydra and Spetses you’ll find 2 ferry companies that operate daily routes. The duration of the trip between Piraeus and Poros varies from 1 hour to 2 hours and 30 minutes depending on whether you’re taking a ferry or a flying dolphin. Poros to Hydra takes around 30 minutes and Hydra to Spetses takes one hour the most.

Island hopping in the Cyclades and the Dodecanese

Including islands such as Mykonos and Santorini, the Cyclades is the most known cluster of islands in Greece. It consists of roughly 30 islands located in the central part of the Aegean Sea and it has become one of the hippest summer destinations due to the islands’ unique architecture and majestic beaches. With so many adjoining islands connected directly with ferries, The Cyclades is the ultimate destination for island hopping. Naxos which is the largest island in the Cyclades is connected with over 20 islands in the Aegean Sea and with Crete. From Mykonos, which is one of the most popular party islands in Europe you can go to Andros Syros, Tinos, Naxos, Sifnos, Milos, Folegandros, Santorini, Ios, Koufonisia and Amorgos. You can also hop to islands that belong to the Dodecanese such as Patmos, or visit Samos and Ikaria in the eastern Aegean and Chios, Lesvos, Lemnos in the northern part.

Each one of the Cyclades islands has its own unique atmosphere. Some of them such as Mykonos or Ios are known as Greece’s party islands while others such as Syros or Andros attract travelers looking for a tranquil place to spend their holidays.

a guide to island hopping in greece

Island Hopping in the Ionian Sea

The Ionian islands are scattered in the western coastline of the country. Here the landscape changes completely. This island cluster consists of 12 small and large islands. Corfu (Kerkyra), Paxi, Lefkada, Ithaki, Kefalonia and Zakynthos are the six largest and most known islands of the Ionian Sea. Along with the island of Kythira, they comprise what is known as the Eptanisa cluster which translates to 7 islands. Until last year island hopping in the Ionian Sea wasn’t possible as there was no direct ferry connection. In May 2018 though, the High Speed Azimut Joy Cruises vessel started operating routes from Corfu to Paxos, Lefkada, Ithaki, Kefalonia and finally Zakynthos three days a week. Hopefully, the ferry will sail again in summer 2019 allowing locals and tourists and travel easily and fast between the breathtaking Ionian Islands.

Unlike the Cycladic islands, the Ionian islands boast lush forests with dense vegetation. It’s a great destination for nature lovers seeking opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking and windsurfing.

Island Hopping in the Sporades

The Sporades is an archipelago in the northwest Aegean and east of the mainland and the beautiful city of Volos. The main islands are Alonnisos, Skiathos, Skopelos and Skyros. Aside from the port of Piraeus, these 4 magnificent islands are also connected with Rafina, Agios Konstantinos in Phthiotida, Kymi and Mantoudi (Evia) and Volos. The Sporades home to scenic landscapes and are less crowded than the cosmopolitan Cyclades and the elegant Eptanesa. They are great destinations for family vacations and for those looking to avoid the flock of tourists disembarking on the Aegean Islands.

In summer there are daily ferry routes from Piraeus to the islands in the Aegean and the Ionian sea. However, if you’re already on an island you’ll have to check out the timetables before embarking on your island-hopping adventure because ferry routes aren’t that frequent. Ferryhopper is a great site for planning your sailing tour around Greek islands. All you have to do is type the island you’re on and the one you’re planning to visit and it will present you all the available connections, timetables, prices.

All You Need to Know Before Going Island Hopping in Greece photos courtesy of Aliki Seferou