How-to: Island hopping in Greece

Greece’s roughly 3,000 islands and islets are scattered far and wide across the eastern Mediterranean. Most are in the Aegean Sea (south and east of mainland Greece), while fewer but even prettier are in the Ionian Sea (west of the mainland).

The Greek islands are divided into distinct clusters:

1.The Ionian Islands, traditionally called the Heptanese (i.e. the seven islands) closer to Albania and Italy than to Athens, are Greece’s northwest gateway to the Adriatic and the rest of Europe. They’ve had more foreign invaders and rulers (from Venice, France, Britain, Russia, Austria, and so on) than anywhere else in the country. These are Corfu, Paxi, Lefkada, Ithaca, Cephalonia, Zante & Kythira.

2.The Saronic Gulf Islands (Argosaronikos), conveniently wedged between the Peloponnese and Athens, ooze lots of island charm and give you a chance to get away from it all without actually going very far. They are Aegina, Agkistri, Spetses, Hydra, Salamina, Poros & Metahana.

3.The Sporades Islands, due east of Athens, are dominated by the giant Evia island, which is attached to the mainland by a bridge. Thickly forested and less touristed by international visitors, the Sporades are a popular and handy weekend getaway for Athenians.

The Sporades islands fall into 5 different Sporades groups, which are:

Thessalian Sporades: Skopelos, Alonissos, Skiathos, Kyra Panagia, Peristera, Gioura, Skantzoura, Piperi and Tsougria
Thracian Sporades: Thasos, Samothrace, Imbros, Lemnos and Agios Efstratios
Western Sporades: Salamis, Aigina, Poros, Hydra, Spetses, and the other islands of the Saronic Gulf and the Myrtoan Sea
Eastern Sporades: Samos, Ikaria, Lesbos, Chios, Tenedos, Psara, Oinousses and other smaller island groups
Southern Sporades (They correspond to the Dodecanese plus a few northern islands — especially Samos and Ikaria -; also included are the islands of Chios and Lesbos.)

4.The Cyclades — a bit farther south, between Athens and Crete — are the prototypical “Greek islands,” boasting chalk-white houses with colourful windowsills and doorways; rocky, sun-parched landscapes; delightful beaches; old-fashioned white windmills topped with tufts of grass like unkempt hair; and an almost overwhelming crush of international visitors.

The Cyclades comprise about 220 islands, the major ones are Amorgos, Anafi, Andros, Antiparos, Delos, Ios, Kea, Kimolos, Kythnos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Folegandros, Serifos, Sifnos, Sikinos, Syros, Tinos, and Thira or Santoríni. There are also many minor islands including Donousa, Eschati, Gyaros, Irakleia, Koufonisia, Makronisos and Schoinousa.

5.The Dodecanese Islands, literally 12 islands, at the sunny, southeastern end of the Greek lands, are more rustic and less developed than the Cyclades. Their proximity to Turkey and historic ties to Venice give them a hybrid Turkish-Venetian flavour and they are a group of 15 larger plus 150 smaller Greek islands, of which 26 are inhabited. Τhis island group generally defines the eastern limit of the Sea of Crete. They belong to the wider Southern Sporades island group.

The most well-known is Rhodes, which has been the area’s dominant island since Antiquity. Some of the others are Kos, Patmos, Agathonisi, Astypalaia, Kalymnos, Karpathos, Kasos, Leipsoi, Leros, Nisyros, Symi, Tilos, and Kastellorizo. Other islands in the chain include Alimia, Arkoi, Chalki, Farmakonisi, Gyali, Kinaros, Levitha, Marathos, Nimos, Pserimos, Saria, Strongyli, Syrna and Telendos.

6.The North Aegean Islands lie roughly between Turkey and Thessaloniki (at the northern end of mainland Greece). The southernmost of these, Samos, is a particularly handy springboard for Turkey, as it’s very close to the Turkish port city of Kuşadası (near the remarkable ancient Greek site of Ephesus).

7. Crete is Greece’s biggest island and practically a mini state of its own (in fact, from 1897 to 1913 it was an autonomous state within the Ottoman Empire). While many of Greece’s smaller islands merit a day or two of fun in the sun, Crete could occupy even a busy traveler for a week or more.

So now you don’t need to get the same old Athens — Santorini — Mykonos’ group trip but rather you can plan your own island hopping to Greek islands according to what you really want to do in your holidays by simply search & book a flight at Skyscanner that perfectly suits your needs (days, times, arrive and departure airport etc.)

If, for instance, you want to explore the Sporades islands, you should look for a flight to Thessaloniki airport but if you want to visit the Ionian islands, it is better to look for a flight to Aktion (i.e. the airport serving Preveza and Lefkada in Greece. It is also known as Lefkada Airport).

Bear in mind that, if you arrive to Aktion and your first island is Lefkada, you don’t need to book a ferry ticket as Lefkada is the only island in the country that is connected to the mainland with a bridge.

You can then search for your ferries tickets here

and book your accommodation in any of these islands here below

Which Greek islands will you visit this year?

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