Postcard images, panoramic sea views, whitewashed houses perched on steep cliffs and beautiful blue waters. There is no question why the Greek islands are one of the most popular vacation spots in the world.
Traveling between DIY Greek Islands It is neither expensive nor difficult and for me it was a beautiful journey, not only for the beautiful views, but also for the food, the beaches, the wonderful people and the history that reigns in walking in its archaeological sites.
I wrote this travel guide to try to help you organize your holidays in Greece in the best possible way.
- 1 - How much does a DIY trip cost to the Greek Islands?
- 2 - When to go?
- 3 - How to get there
- 4 - How to move around the Islands
- 5 - How to book the hotel
- 6 - Where to go and what to see, example itineraries
- 7 - What to pack
- 8 - Useful tips
Let's first try to answer the million dollar question: how much does a trip to the islands cost?
While answering is not easy because a lot depends on your adaptability, when and how carefully you will make your reservations, one thing can certainly be said: the islands themselves are quite cheap.
But remember one more thing: saving as much as possible is not always the best choice.
Local tavernas and restaurants are affordable, around EUR 8. Gyros are the cheapest way to eat out and will cost you around 4-5 euros. Obviously buying food and cooking it is the cheapest way, but given the goodness of the cuisine in Greece, I really don't recommend it.
If you decide to do island hopping (literally meaning “hopping from island to island”), slow ferry tickets can only cost 10 euros, but you will waste a lot of time.
Scooters or rental cars cost between 25 and 50 euros a day, but if you don't have infinite time, they are much better than public transport.
The mildest climate in the Greek islands is between the end of May and the beginning of October when there is sunshine and the water is warm.
The water temperature obviously rises during the summer months, but the sea is already nice for swimming in May. The water is warmest in August and early September.
Swimming in early May and late October is often possible but not guaranteed.
There are two main airports located on mainland Greece:
- Athens International Airport (Eleftherios Venizelos) - Airport code: ATH
- Thessaloniki Airport - Airport code: SKG
As most of you will depart from Athens International Airport, you should know that direct flights from Athens to some of Greece's most popular islands take 50-70 minutes while ferries to these same islands can take 5 to more than 10 hours.
The Greek islands can also be reached very easily with direct flights.
Many of them in fact have their own international airport that connects them, while others can be reached with a stopover in Athens (Eleftherios Venizelos airport) or by ferry from the Port of Piraeus.
Le Greek islands with international airport are (in alphabetical order): Kefalonia, Corfu, Crete (Iraklio to the east and Chania to the west), Lefkada, Karpathos, Kos, Mykonos, Rhodes, Samos, Santorini, Skiathos, Zakynthos.
Some islands of Greece can be reached by ferry and arrive at 5 destinations in Greece: Corfu, Igoumenitsa, Patras, Kefalonia e Zakynthos.
All large islands, and many small ones, are served by Ferries which, especially in high season, connect them to one another or to the port of Piraeus in Athens.
Ferries are divided into slow ferries (cheaper) and fast ferries (more expensive) and some companies are Blue Star, Aegean Speed Lines and Jet Sky.
The ferries don't fill up as fast as the flights and in the low season you can buy the ticket even the day before, but if you go in the summer it's always a good idea to book as soon as you have decided your itinerary, not only to avoid the risk of not finding availability, but most of all to find the best rates.
Qualche advice to book ferries in Greece:
- Make sure you plan ahead, especially in the high season.
- During the low season, the ferries to the islands have limited routes.
- Athens ferry port (Port of Piraeus) can be quite busy and is very large, make sure you understand where your ferry departs from before arriving otherwise be prepared to travel long distances with luggage.
book the ferry you can go directly to the companies' websites, but my advice, to have a more “global” view, is to use a price comparator.
Three of the most reliable and reasonably priced search engines are DirectFerries, Traghettilines. or (my favorite) Let’s Ferry .
We see how Let's Ferry works. If you have to move between Santorini and Mykonos, for example, you connect to the Let's Ferry website, enter the required data or travel dates, the number of passengers, whether or not you have the vehicle with you and then click on the "Search" button
What you will see is the screen you see below, that is, all the options available with departure times, travel duration, costs and availability.
At this point you just have to choose the option that is best for you and proceed with the purchase.
What I like about Let’s Ferry is that it is also possible to create multiple itineraries between the various islands!
Most of the larger Greek islands have a public bus system, but while this is personally one of my favorite ways to travel, I wouldn't count on using the bus to reach beaches and other remote areas.
Renting a car or a scooter is very cheap and it also gives you the freedom to explore the islands in total autonomy, without limits.
Renting a car is truly a great way to experience Greece in total freedom and at your own pace.
You can see and compare rental car prices from the form below.
Booking in advance is the best way to ensure that you get the lowest price and the choice of the best and most suitable vehicle for your needs.
The infinity pool of the best hotel in Santorini, the Grace hotel
One of the things you need to worry less about when organizing a DIY trip to the Greek Islands is booking your accommodation.
In fact, the available options are practically endless; From budget hostels to cliffside hotels and more, the Greek islands truly have it all, for all tastes and budgets.
But even here the rule of booking in advance applies, above all and as always if you travel in the summer: looking for the hotel in advance allows a much wider choice and often better prices.
After so many years of travel, in fact, even today I still don't understand why someone argues that it is better to book at the last minute to find better prices (the so-called last-minute): in reality the greater the offer of the rooms, the greater the competition to grab customers and therefore the prices are more reasonable.
When there are only a few rooms left, the prices soar, because the demand is high and the options left are few. This is especially true for very popular destinations, such as Greece.
Especially on some very touristy islands that are sold out in high season (see Santorini, Mykonos and others) the risk of waiting at the last minute to book accommodation is to find only very expensive choices or not to find a place in the hotel of your dreams and therefore having to fall back on a hotel that does not fully satisfy you.
Below you will find the best portals to book hotels in Greece.
The portal that I have been using for years and for all my travels. I simply know how to use it well and have always found what I was looking for.
Booking.com offers practically an infinite variety of accommodation options: from budget hotels to luxury ones, from those that are for couples to those for families. In short, the only problem may be not knowing which accommodation to choose.
Many hotels also allow free room cancellation (but read the conditions first!) Which I find very convenient when you book in advance because if due to force majeure (illness for example) you have to give up your trip, you will not miss a single EUR.
Even if on Airbnb there are great options and a lot of people use it, I don't like it for a number of reasons that can be summarized in these listed HEREBut not only.
My experience in New York was completely negative, but I repeat it in this guide because so many people use it with great satisfaction.
Folegandros in the Cyclades -
There are several groups of Greek islands. The Cyclades are the most popular, followed by Crete and the Islands Ionian (west of mainland Greece). The comfortable islands of the Saronic Gulf are a stone's throw from Athens, and Athenians regularly visit these islands on weekends.
You can also visit the beautiful islands of the Dodecanese and northeastern Aegean near Turkey. The least visited islands are the four Sporades and for this reason they are in my opinion the most beautiful and uncontaminated.
To know more you can read this article on which Greek island to choose.
Le Cyclades they are made up of thousands of islands and it would be impossible to see them all in one trip! Below you find a 2 week itinerary that might be right for you.
I suggest starting or ending the trip a Santorini, the farthest island of the Cyclades, but easily accessible either by direct flight or by ferry from Athens (about 8 hours depending on the ferry).
From Santorini, you can reach Ios, Paros and / or Naxos e Mykonos.
Articles about Santorini:
- The best beaches of Santorini and how to reach them
- Where to sleep in Santorini, guide to the best areas and hotels
- What to see and do in Oia
If you have more time, consider adding a couple of lesser-known islands to your itinerary as well. Andros it is north of Mykonos and known for its hiking trails. Amorgos it is known for its monasteries and mountains.
You can end your trip with a couple of days in Athens exploring the beautiful historical sites, such as theAcropolis, and its fun nightlife.
This 2-week itinerary includes 4 islands, in my opinion the best, among which you can travel easily: Corfu, Lefkada, Kefalonia e Zakynthos.
Why choose the Ionian Islands? Less famous than the Cyclades, the Ionian Islands are perfect if you are looking for islands with lush vegetation, caves to explore, and white sandy beaches as soft as cotton.
In addition they are the closest: Corfu can be reached by ferry (long journey that I did sleeping on a sofa) from various destinations in our beautiful country, as well as Lefkada.
You can start your travels from the airport of Corfu, then head to Lefkada by ferry (via Igoumenitsa). Lefkada, or Lefkada, is known for its incredible turquoise water!
I recommend that you dedicate at least 5 days of your itinerary to Kefalonia because it is the largest Ionian island and there are many things to do and see.
In Kefalonia you can visit its various beaches of white and golden sand, go kayaking and of course swimming. The beach of Myrtos it is one of the most famous beaches.
From Kefalonia you can take a boat to Zante.
A beautiful view from the ruins of Lindos in Rhodes -
If you want to get out of the most famous itineraries and have a great desire for wonderful beaches, history and culture, an itinerary in the Dodecanese it's probably the one for you. And the great thing is that you can combine it with a trip to Turkey to which Rhodes is connected by ferry.
Start your journey from Karpathos and enjoy its hiking trails, surreal landscapes, whitewashed windmills and crystal clear water is the place to be for snorkelers and kite surfers.
From Karphatos goes to Tilos which is a hidden and little known gem, not suitable for those who love comfort.
In fact, Tilos is full of hidden coves to discover but reachable only on foot, and very green meadows.
From Tilos reach by ferry the splendid Rhodes, known for its history, nightlife and beautiful medieval city.
From Rhodes it is possible to embark for theKos island, then head to Leros, a large island to relax in, and then to Samos.
This island is known for its waterfalls and secluded beaches. As you continue north, you can reach Lesbos, which is known for its olive oil, ouzo (traditional Greek alcohol) and thermal springs, or Kalymnos, an island where climbers cheer the limestone cliffs. From here go to Athens.
The turquoise waters of Lalaria Beach in Skiatho - by Di Cara-Photo on
There are 4 major islands of the Sporades (Alonissos, Skiathos, Skopelos and Skyros) and other smaller islets.
start your journey from Skiathos which offers stunning beaches, lush landscapes, great restaurants and a vibrant nightlife.
The island has an abundance of beautiful beaches offering all kinds of water sports - the most famous being Koukounaries, Banana Beach, Agia Eleni, Aselinos e Kanapitsa. At the port in the evening you will find not only a lively nightlife, but also excellent restaurants and traditional taverns.
From Skiathos take a ferry to nearby Skopelos, covered with pine forests: here are also olive groves and orchards of plums and citrus fruits for which the island is famous. Along the hidden object boat ride, you might spot dolphins!
Skopelos is a more pristine version of Skiathos, with numerous beautiful beaches and coves. Infinity Milian, Andrines, Chestnuts, Staphylos e Velanio, are just some of the enchanting beaches of the island!
A few kilometers from Skopelos lies the enchanting Alonissos with its pristine beaches and turquoise waters. Alonissos is a sanctuary for monachus monachus seals which are a protected species, making its coast one of the cleanest in the whole Mediterranean! A visitor can taste the local cuisine at “Patitiri”, the main port of the islands and the “old village”.
Peristera it extends parallel to the eastern banks of Alonissos. The island is uninhabited and houses only a shepherd's hut. Most of its surface is covered with vegetation and some grazing goats.
Kokkalias, Vasiliko, Kounoupas, Livadakia, Kalamakia, Tarsanades, Xylo e Spasmeni are some of the pristine beaches that Peristera has to offer.
From Peristera (where I recommend you to spend at least a couple of days) go to Skyros famous for its traditional works of art (local pottery, wood carvings and carpets)
From Peristera travel to Skyros with its famous coastal resorts of Molos e Warehouse, located under the city of Chora. The famous 'Skyriana' miniature horses are the island's trademark.
From Skyros go to Athens.
I in Rhodes, a few years ago!
We come to one of the most important parts to organize a trip, that is to pack!
The weather in summer is very hot, so you need to bring light things. Also, you should consider that the atmosphere on the islands is relaxed, so casual clothing is a must.
Having said that, probably, the garment you will wear most often will be the swimsuit!
So here is a list of what I usually pack for a week in the Greek Islands.
2-3 pairs of shorts. You will use them a lot: over the swimsuit to go to the beach, to visit the villages, to go hiking and trekking.
3 tank tops or t-shirts to match with your shorts.
1 or 2 elegant dresses for the evening, perhaps for a romantic dinner with your sweetheart, or for clubs and discos.
1 pair of long pants. They always serve!
1 light jacketAlthough it can be very hot in Greece in the summer months, especially in the islands at night, there is a sea breeze and a light jacket is a must.
7 pairs of underwear: I usually carry a clean pair for each day. If you need more, think that you can wash them in the sink in the evening and hang them: the next morning they will already be dry.
2 pairs of socks for any excursions
1 comfortable suit: I use them both at home and, if they are nice, to go around in hotels.
1 pair of flip flops: to be used on the beach (the sand is very hot), to take a shower or to go to the hotel pool.
1 pair of walking sandals. If they are elegant or in leather you can also use them in the evening. I do not recommend that you bring heels because many of the streets in the villages are cobbled and are uphill and downhill (see Santorini!). If you really can't do without heels, try to go for a pair of wedge shoes.
1 pair of Teva sandals like mine: I love them and I take them with me almost everywhere when I travel. I use them for the sea, for short walks or for visits. I use them in the city, in the countryside, at the campsite and at the seaside. I think it's one of the best purchases I've ever made.
1 pair of sneakers or hiking shoes : they are ideal for excursions
Of course, in addition to a couple of swimsuits and a towel:
Sun cream: absolutely essential, as well as the after sun. the I love and have a great time with these from Angstrom.
Sun glasses: the sun and white beaches dazzle!
A sarong: Few items are as versatile and functional for the female traveler as the sarong. This lightweight addition to your packaging list offers the promise for multipurpose use and adds color, variety and a touch of femininity to the traveler's wardrobe.
Un sun hat, serves not only to protect the eyes, but also the head from some bad sunshine. I use a panama (it's very light!) like these you find on Amazon.
These are some things that I always carry with me, they may seem useless, but I assure you that, in my opinion they are really indispensable.
Seasickness lozenges. I don't like taking pills and prefer i bracelets like these that work great. Especially if you travel by ferry, they are really indispensable.
Filter bottle. Right at this moment when we talk and pay so much attention to the environment, it is better to bring a water bottle to avoid using disposable plastic bottles that pollute a lot. If you want to drink tap water (in Greece the water is drinkable) look at this filter bottle (which you will also use in the future)
Belt to hide the money: always be careful when traveling!
- Plan ahead, deciding where you want to go: you can't see all the islands in one trip.
- Book ferries online first and check the timetables well.
- Try to travel on ferries at night, you will save a lot of precious time.
- Try not to travel on Sundays: although ferries and flights are frequent in high season you may find a lot of crowds.
- Spend at least 2 or 3 days on each island.
- For a good restaurant ask the inhabitants of the island.
RECOMMENDED SITES FOR HOTELS, VILLAS, FERRIES, TOURS FOR DIY GREEK ISLANDS:
- Booking.com is the site with the rooms, private villas and apartments more available in Santorini (more than Airbnb)
- DirectFerries e FerriesLines are the best websites for book ferry tickets or check the timetables
- Get Your Guide has the best and largest variety of tour to Greece
- Rentalcars.com is the best website for rent a car (highly recommended as you won't waste time waiting for local buses)
Now that you know how to book the hotel, how to get there and where to go, there is only one thing left to do: leave!