If I asked you to name some Greek Islands, I bet most of you would kick off your list with the hall of famers. Mykonos. Santorini. Crete. But did you know that there are 227 inhabited islands in Greece? So why does it seem like 95% of vacationers only go to these 3 biggies? Perhaps it’s because that’s where most cruise lines and tour groups decide to stop. Perhaps they get the most press. Maybe they are thought of as the A team. Don’t get me wrong, each of these Grecian gems are well worth the visit but what about the other 224?!
Getting Our Bearings
Greek Islands are connected by ferry and knowing how the ferry system works can be the key to unlocking other, less touristy islands. These ferries will sure get you to whatever island you are interested in. However, they can be a bit of a time eater. Between boarding schedules and tickets, ferries do the job for the day tripper but might not cut it for the traveler looking to really get away. Good thing there is another choice!
Here’s my thought:
For a true Greek Island experience, may I suggest renting a catamaran with some friends and family? I bet you think that it’s way too much of a splurge to really justify it. Consider this: Let’s say a catamaran costs $12,000 to rent for 7 days. Oosh! That’s way too steep! But what happens if 6 friends can share the cost? Well, your part is now $2,000 inclusive. Better? Now, add in the fact that 2 of your meals and your alcohol tab are included with your room and transportation! Well, well, well. Things are looking up!
So, you’ve committed to a little island hopping. Exactly which islands will you see? You will quickly find out that islands are grouped together with names like The Cyclades, The Sporades, The Ionian, and more. Focusing on one of these clusters would definitely help. For our purposes, let’s focus on the Cyclades.
Recalibrate Your Traveling Mind
Sometimes when we travel, we do so to enlighten ourselves; to learn more about another culture. While there are moments that cater to this all over the islands, don’t expect cultural understanding to be the focus. Instead, set your course toward relaxation, food experiences, and local village life. Because that’s what the Greek Islands are made for!
Launching into island mode started in the old port of Lavrion which is opposite the main port of Pireas. Our boat had three staterooms and was manned by a captain, Vasilis, and a host slash chef named Leoni. Once settled, Leoni turned on the music, poured the wine and made us feel right at home in true Greek style.
Each day, we would sail to a different island, stopping in small coves along the way, and stay the night in a new port of call. It becomes very easy to get into an island rhythm: breakfast, sail, swim, lunch, swim. dine, repeat. It’s that easy. Have I convinced you yet? Are you ready to go?
In our week, we spent time on the following islands~
- Kythnos- has plenty of charm and was perfect for a daytime hike up to the top for fabulous views. Stay down by the water for famous Kolona Beach.
- Syros- home to Ermoupolis, Syros offers a great harbor with plenty of outdoor cafes and bars. The streets are literally paved in marble from Florentine times.
- Paros- grab a blue chair at a white table and enjoy island life without the over indulgence of cruise ships.
- Mykonos- home to those famous white washed winding streets full of bougainvillea and shops. Known for being a party island, it can be overcrowded by day but super fun at night.
- Sifnos- a small but fun spot to enjoy some down time, drink some local wine and take in the salty breeze.
- Serifos- with a great harbor, the food here is wonderful and the calm island had plenty of charm.
- Sounion Bay- home to Posiedon’s famous temple, there’s a small beach with choppy water but the hike up to the top is bucket list worthy.
- Athens- We started and ended our trip with a few days in Athens. There we enjoyed the Plaka and climbed up to the top of the Acropolis.
9 Tips To Make Your Greek Island Adventure Perfect!
- Be flexible! Our captain did a great job of bringing us to islands where the weather was great. He was able to skirt around storms to keep our sailing smooth. In other words, you may not get to 6 islands in a specific order. Instead, expect to jump in to a group of islands and let your skipper lead the way.
- Pack wisely! You won’t need much! A few pairs of tops and shorts, good sandals, your swimsuit, and two or three sundresses or skirts to throw on top of your bathing suit. That’s it!
- Prepare for chilly water! Contrary to what you may think, some waters are a bit colder than you may expect. Don’t get me wrong, you will still adore it!
- Timing is everything! Check the average temperatures before you book so that you will have sunny, warm days and cooler nights to sleep. Most boats don’t have AC.
- Get sick, fast! This may be a bit gross but the quicker you get over your inevitable sea sickness, the quicker you can get on with your holiday.
- Know your islands! When you book, be sure to ask about the possible islands that you may visit. You can then research each and find your favorite thing to do on each island regardless of where you go.
- Go big! And go small. When you book be sure to let them know that you would like to enjoy all kinds of islands. Cosmopolitan, quaint, Euro-friendly, family-friendly, historic, the list keeps going. Be sure to let your agent know what you want- and that should include at least a day at an icon like Mykonos or Santorini depending on your timing.
- Get to Athens! Don’t come this far and not check in with Athens to see this great city!
- Leave the kids! While there is no where in the world that you can’t take your kids, some places lend themselves far better to the pint sized set than others. Greece is not one of those places. Yes, there is a ton from the Bible and a ton from ancient times. Yes, you could make an amazing trip to the islands with the kids, I just think there are better places to take them than here. Enjoy yourself as an adult for a while, the kids will be fine!