With a total of 6,000 islands of which 227 are inhabited, navigating your way around with ease requires local knowledge.
Basking under the Greek sun on a beautiful island is what comes to mind when dreaming of Greek summer holidays. So, whether it’s a gentle walk along the idyllic scenery, a quiet authentic lunch in a small fishing village or turbo rides for those keen water sport enthusiasts, there is something for everyone.
These are some common traps novice travellers may experience:
About the ferry system
Traveling to your island wish list requires minimal planning.
There are direct ferry connections to neighbouring islands.
Ferries run daily from every island making island hoping a breeze.
All Island hopping commences from Athens.
About the airport system
There are direct flights between islands with airports.
There are direct international flights to major islands.
Commuting Around the Islands
I remember when the kids were very young and we decided to go island hoping using the ferry system, we left everything to chance, even hotel booking. Back then, it was not uncommon for little old ladies to meet the ferry at the port and offer travellers a room in their homes. With two tired little kids, this is how we found our much needed accommodation in Crete. Even for a young family, island hopping was fun and sort of charming.
Today however, with increased demand on Greek holidays, the personalised B&B has been replaced with fancy hotels and a much-changed ferry system. There are many ferry boat companies who fight over the popular routes leaving the smaller islands with connections back to major ports like Piraeus.
We recently visited Lefkada and trying to get to Zakynthos which wasn’t very far, proved to be very difficult and time consuming. So, we opted out.
No longer can you make a list of islands you want to visit and hop on the boat to the first one and make connections to the rest with ease.
You can still visit your islands of choice; it just requires some planning.
The Ferry System
The ferry system is set up on a hub and spoke system. The hub is a major port like Piraeus in Athens and the spokes are the islands.
Ferries run from Athens to islands within a chain.
There are other main ports, like Igoumenitsa, located on the western side of mainland Greece. This port receives passengers from Italy and is a hub to commuting to the Ionian islands. Equally, the Greek islands can also be reached from Turkey, and Cyprus.
Athens Ferry Ports
Athens has 3 ports: Piraeus, Rafina and Lavrion.
Piraeus Port - Southwest of Athens and is the busiest and largest port in Greece.
Rafina Port - Northeast of Athens and the second busiest. If you’re arriving at Athens airport and heading out to the islands on the same day, this port may be your best choice as it is closest to the airport.
Lavrion Port - Southeast of Athens, serving routes to Kea and Kythnos among others.
Choosing the Right Vessel for You
There are a number of different vessels that could be considered. The main choices are between standard ferries, high speed ferries and flying dolphins. Depending on what is available on the route of my choice, I may select based on budget or speed if timing is critical.
Typically, these are the slowest vessels. They offer deck space in open air or semi enclosed decks, indoor bars indoor ‘airplane’ seats and possible cabins for night trips. They are the cheapest option.
High Speed Ferries
They are quick, comfortable, smooth and a little more expensive than the standard ferries. The big newly built vessels are the best option overall, providing shorter travel time.
These are small vessels commuting on shorter, popular interisland trips. A little on the noisy side with ‘airplane’ seats reach your island destinations really quickly. It should be noted; weather conditions may impact their schedule including cancellations.
Procedure for Ferry Check-In & Boarding
The check-in process for ferries is somewhere between airplane check-ins and long-distance bus trips.
In any case, check-ins are mandatory and should be done either at the check-in desk or ticket office of the shipping company. Having said that, not all shipping companies provide check-in desks. In those instances, check-in is considered at boarding point.
For international routes, it is advisable to be at boarding point 2 hours prior, especially if your vehicle will also be boarding the ferry. For domestic routes, be at boarding point 1 hour prior to departure.
For the check-in you will need:
The electronic ticket (reservation). A printed copy is advisable.
Identification documents for each passenger (passports or I.D. cards)
Registration documents for each vehicle (if traveling with a vehicle)
The island Airport System
Popular and larger islands have airports. This makes travelling to them much faster, especially if they are relatively a distance away from Athens, like Rhodes.
During the busy periods, typically from May until late October, additional domestic flights are scheduled to various islands.
Similarly, many international airlines offer direct flights to various islands based on demand.
In some cases, if your island destination doesn’t have an airport, like Paxos, you can fly direct to Corfu from most European airports and a short boat ride to Paxos.
The Airplane or Ferry does not suit?
If flying to your island of choice is not an option and you don't want to depend on the ferry schedule and a private, customised travel arrangement appeals more to you, then why not rent a private yacht?
Whatever your preference, Magical Sunset will help you take the guesswork out of your next holiday planning and provide you with unique options to plan your once-in-a-lifetime holiday in Greece.
Homeland to the mythical gods and where legends come to life, a new Odyssey awaits you!
So, come and experience an exhilarating ‘true to life' journey under a magical backdrop.
We also offer small tailored tours. Here are two of our UPCOMING TOURS to get you inspired:
Comments and feedback are welcome!