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Island Hopping in Greece: Your Ultimate 7 Day Vacation Itinerary

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There are no islands in Greece too small or too large to conquer. Whether in the Aegean or the Ionian Seas, your Greece itinerary should consist of the best Greek islands to visit. On the one hand, there are cosmopolitan islands, and on the other, there are islands with unspoiled beaches and pure natural beauty. 

We’ve been to Greece a couple of times and have seen several islands. That way we can tell you that Greece can keep you busy exploring forever. It’s impossible to visit all islands in one go, but to help you out we’ve created 4 itineraries of 7 days that cover the most iconic Greece islands. From there it’s up to you which itinerary you choose to do, or to combine any if you have more time to spend in this beautiful country! 

But first things first! Let’s have a look at things you need to know about island hopping in Greece! 

Things to know about island hopping in Greece

Island hopping in Greece is a sure way to endless fun, as you explore the best Greek islands and sign up for the best Greek tours. However, some things need to be mentioned, first. For instance, keep an eye out for ferry routes, as not all islands are connected. What a bummer, I know, but that’s how things are. In addition, keep in mind that a ferry ticket is usually more expensive than a flight ticket. That said, if you intend to come to Greece with a lot of luggage, a ferry might be the better choice. 

One of the best pieces of advice that I can give you is to book ferry tickets in advance, especially when visiting the more popular islands in the high season. A little planning is more than necessary to avoid getting disappointed. So, considering how touristic the Greek islands are, it’s almost impossible to go with the flow when island hopping. 

I understand that traveling costs time and that it’s exhausting, at times, too! It’s perfectly normal to want to relax during your holiday. Therefore, don’t try to visit 5 islands in just 7 days. Pick the ones you find more interesting, and spend at least 2 to 3 days on each.

Last but not least, it’s definitely more expensive to bring a car on a ferry than to rent a new one on every island. Auto Europe is my recommendation for car rental! Remember, though, that public transport is satisfactory on most Greek islands, too. 

How to reach Piraeus port

Since most ferries to the Greek islands embark from Piraeus, you need to know how to find the biggest port of Greece and the third busiest in the world. To arrive at Piraeus from the center of Athens or Athens International Airport (El. Venizelos), you take either a taxi, the metro, or bus. For a taxi, expect to pay up to €50 per ride, while a ticket for the metro costs €1.40. Meanwhile, if you opt for a bus (be on the lookout for the X96), a bus ticket costs €6.00. The time to reach Piraeus varies depending on the traffic. A typical journey may take 30 to 45 minutes.  

Itinerary 1: Islands close to Athens

  • Hydra
  • Spetses
  • Mykonos
  • Naxos
  • Santorini

Let’s begin our island hopping in Greece with the islands closest to the Greek capital, Athens!

There are two categories of islands close to Athens, the Athenian escapade islands of the Argolic/Argo Saronic Gulf, Hydra and Spetses, and the famous ones of the Cyclades, Mykonos, and Santorini. 

Reaching the islands of the Argolic Gulf is a piece of cake. Both are easily reachable by ferry from the Piraeus Port. From Piraeus, there are Catamaran and Flighting Dolphin departures to Spetses. On top of this, you use your own car to reach the island. Take the national road, cross the Corinth Isthmus, and head to the exit for Ancient Epidavros. Drive to Kranidi, Porto Heli, and Kosta. Once there, you can take the sea taxi that will bring you to Spetses in 5 minutes. Likewise, Hydra is reachable by ferry from the Piraeus port. 

To arrive at the islands of the Cyclades, you have the option of flying on an airplane. Mykonos and Santorini have designated international airports, so taking a plane to visit them is very convenient. That said, Naxos isn’t reachable by airplane but by sea. Frequent service by ferry and catamaran is available from both Mykonos and Santorini and vice versa if you opt to travel to Naxos first via Piraeus or the Rafina port.

Hydra

The island has a charming and friendly atmosphere and is the first choice among Athenians for a short escapade. Over the years, Hydra has been a retreat for famous personalities, such as Greek opera singer Maria Callas, billionaire Aristotle Onassis, and Candian poet Leonard Cohen. With sumptuous stone mansions, modest churches, a wonderful waterfront, and donkeys walking around, Hydra is reminiscent of a fairytale! 

What to do

  • Climb the bastions: To protect themselves from the Ottoman Empire fleets in the 18th Century, Hydra secured the use of cannons. They were an essential precaution and can still be seen today on the sides of the harbor. Climbing the bastions gets you a fascinating view of the Aegean sea. 
  • Day cruise to the Saronic Islands: What’s better than visiting Hydra? Going on a scenic day trip from Athens, and experiencing the fabulous islands of Poros and Aegina, too. That’s the best bang for your buck! 

Where to stay

Spetses

This is an island with a naval tradition and a cosmopolitan character. Like Hydra, Spetses is a popular weekend destination in summer for Athenians, and a great traveling choice if you are island hopping in Greece. 

What to do

  • Bouboulina Museum: The most interesting sightseeing in Spetses is the Museum of Bouboulina, the home of the heroine of the Greek War of Independence originating from Spetses.  
  • Cave of Bekiris: A gorgeous cave, albeit a bit challenging to access. You can visit it by boat or use the track path from Agioi Anargyroi beach. There’s a sandy beach inside and formations of stalagmites and stalactites. 
  • Lighthouse: Located near the old harbor, it’s one of the oldest lighthouses ever operated in Greece. 

Where to stay

Mykonos

The most glamorous of the Greek islands, and one of the hottest tourist destinations in the world, Mykonos is one-of-a-kind. With iconic windmills, boutique shops, flower-filled lanes, and golden beaches with crystal waters, Mykonos is a masterpiece. 

What to do

  • Windmills: The picturesque whitewashed windmills are one of the principal landmarks of the island. Visiting them, therefore, should be a priority and one of the main things to do in every traveler’s itinerary! 
  • Little Venice: Cushioned in Mykonos Town, Little Venice is a unique location known for its romantic aura. Some of the most idyllic sunsets can be experienced there, under the picturesque balconies of traditional Cycladic houses perched just above the Aegean Sea. 
  • Cruise to Rhenia Island and Delos: Sign up for this tour to explore the archaeological site of Delos, the birthplace of Apollo. At the same time, enjoy swimming and snorkeling in the Aegean near the uninhabited Rhenia island. 

Where to stay

Naxos

Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades, and one of the most beautiful Greek islands, too. Overshadowed by the super famous Santorini and Mykonos, Naxos is relatively unknown. And definitely, one you don’t want to miss when island hopping in Greece.

What to do

  • Cedar Forest: Above the white sand and pristine waters of Alyko beach, there’s a unique cedar forest with fascinating sand dunes. Close by, there’s also an abandoned hotel repurposed into a public gallery for street artists. 
  • Venetian Castle: Located in Chora, the capital of the island, this is one of the most well-preserved Venetial castles in the Cyclades. Inside, there are Roman Catholic monasteries and schools, the Archaeological Museum of Naxos, antique shops, and a café operating since 1739! 
  • Admire the sites: Naxos is packed with major sites, such as Kouros of Melanes, Demeter Temple, Panagia Drosiani Church, Kalamitsia Monastery, and Kouros at Apollonas. These statues and buildings are very important to Naxian History and must be admired. 
  • Go for hiking: A beloved activity on the island of Naxos is hiking. Trekking on the top of Mount Zas, the highest Mount of Cyclades, or going on a hike near the Potamia village is an adventure you won’t regret! On that note, do check out my informative Greece hiking guide to know the best hiking places of this magnificent country! 
  • Day cruise to Rina Cave and Koufonissi: Hop on a sailboat and go for a cruise to Rina Cave and the islands near Naxos, such as Koufonissi. 

Where to stay

Santorini (Thera)

One of the most renowned holiday destinations worldwide and the most visited Greek island, by far, Santorini, is a magical place, offering the most dramatic views of the Aegean! The Santorini volcano, the enormous cliffs dotted with Cycladic whitewashed houses, and the breathtaking sunsets are some of the reasons you’re going to love this island! 

What to do

  • Enjoy the Hiking Trail Fira-Oia: This is the most known hike on Santorini, and it will lead you throughout the villages of Fira, Firostefani, and Imerovigli as you go higher above the caldera. Eventually, you end up in Oia via a spectacular path. On your way to the top, you get dramatic views of the volcano, the caldera, and the deep blue Greek sea. 
  • Akrotiri Archaeological Site: Don’t miss out on seeing the excavations of the prehistorical Akrotiri settlement. It’s a must-see site for history lovers! 
  • Volcanic Island cruise: Considering that Santorini was formed from a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago, going on a cruise to admire the volcanic islands of the region is a must-do activity for any traveler. Plus, you get to swim in incredible hot springs, too!
  • Wine tour: Santorini is famed for its Assyrtiko wine, where the vines are trained in a basket shape to protect the grapes from the intense winds. Sign up for this tour to taste the island’s viticulture and have an exclusive look at 2 different local wineries. Don’t skip this tour, if island hopping brings you to Santorini! 

Where to stay

Itinerary 2: The Ionian Islands in the West 

  • Corfu
  • Zakynthos
  • Cephalonia

The Ionian islands are in Western Greece. You can reach them either by airplane or ferry. There are airports in most of the Ionian islands, such as Corfu, Cephalonia, and Zakynthos which makes them perfect for quick and easy island hopping.

The airports receive domestic flights from Athens and Thessaloniki. From abroad, however, there are only charter flights during the summer season. As to the ferries, they are operated from ports in Western Greece. Ferries from Patra go to Cephalonia, while from Igoumenitsa, you can take a ferry to Corfu. To visit Zakynthos by ferry, however, you have to take one from Killini. 

Corfu

This is one of the most romantic Greek islands of the Ionian island group. Amidst rich green hills, grand mansions, unique museums, and idyllic beaches, Corfu is a seriously brilliant destination! Combining elements from the Venetians, the British, and the French, Corfu is charming, reminiscent of past empires and cultures. 

What to do

  • Achillion Palace: One of the top places to visit in Corfu, the Achillion Palace is the former retreat and residence of Princess Sissi of Austria, and where the late King Phillip of Britain, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, was born. 
  • The Liston: Unwind by taking a slow and gratifying walk at the Liston, the iconic pedestrian street. Constructed by the French in the 1880s, the Liston imitates the rue de Rivoli street in Central Paris. 
  • Casa Parlante: A 19th Century noble mansion comes to life, as it features, animatronic figures, period interiors, and objects. Casa Parlante delivers a true insight into bygone Corfu. 
  • Corfu Aquarium: Relatively unknown, the Corfu Aquarium is an incredible place to bring your kids. Plus, it’s in the Paleokastritsa area, just under the Paleokastritsa Monastery, one of the top tourist spots of Corfu. 
  • Day cruise to Paxos, Antipaxos, and the Blue Caves: With this convenient day cruise, you can visit the islands of Paxos and Antipaxos. At the same time, explore the sea caves by boat, and stop for a swim in the town of Gaios. 

Where to stay

Zakynthos

Praised by multiple travel guides and homeland to the noted Navagio (Shipwreck) breach, Zakynthos is a breathtaking Greek island. Characterized by exotic beaches with fine white sands, emerald waters, and unparalleled nightlife, Zakynthos is packed with picturesque hilltop villages and fabulous monasteries, too. 

What to do

  • Turtle Island: The Marathonisi, as it’s locally known, is a small islet with tropical beaches and numerous sea caves outside Keri Beach. As its name implies, sea turtles swim around, which is a magnificent spectacle! Turtle watching is seriously one of the best activities to do while island hopping. 
  • History War Museum: Founded just in 2018, this small museum offers interesting pieces of Greece’s history during World War II. 
  • Shipwreck (Navagio): This place is a must if you’re on the island. When you see pictures of the shipwreck, you believe that they’re digitally enhanced. But they’re not. That’s how breathtaking the Navagio is. To reach it, you’d need a car or take a boat. 
  • Monastery of Panagia Skopiotissa: That’s a magnificent Eastern Roman Church, located on the top of a mountain. It offers dramatic views of the Ionian sea. On the back of the monastery, there’s a rocky hill that you can climb if you’re into rock climbing. 
  • Stand-up paddleboarding tour: Take part in some stand-up paddleboarding and glide smoothly over the turquoise waters of Sulfur Beach.  

Where to stay

Cephalonia (Kefalonia)

Located right in the heart of the Ionian Sea, the exotic island of Cephalonia is the largest one of the most beautiful Greek islands of the Ionian group. With a scenic natural landscape with fascinating beaches, secret underground caves, and charming fishing villages, Cephalonia is an incredible destination for island hopping in Greece. Nature enthusiasts will absolutely love it!  

What to do

  • Sea kayaking: Pay a visit to the Sea Kayaking Kefalonia to book a kayak trip or kayak course in the warm Mediterranean waters of the Ionian and explore the Cephalonia’s scenic coastline and calm waters. If friends ask you what to do in Greece, tell them to go kayaking. It’s that good! 
  • Visit the caves: Cephalonia is renowned for two of the most incredible caves in Europe, the Cave Lake of Melissani and the Drogarati stalagmitic cavern. The latter is known as the Concert Cave, too, due to having unbelievably good acoustics. 
  • Cruise to Ithaki island: A full-day sailing around Ithaki island, a destination with beautiful beaches and water activities, such as snorkeling. Ithaki is the home island of Odysseus, the legendary Greek king, and hero of Homer’s epic poem Odyssey. So, if you’re going to Cephalonia, don’t miss out on sailing to Ithaki, an island with deep Ancient Greek roots. 

Where to stay

Itinerary 3: The Dodecanese Island Group in the East 

  • Rhodes
  • Kos
  • Ikaria

Booking a flight to Rhodes, Kos, and Ikaria is a piece of cake. The Dodecanese islands receive domestic flights from Athens all year round, and in summer, they also receive charter flights from abroad. To reach the islands by ferry, one has to go to Piraeus. From there, there’s an abundance of ferries to the Dodecanese. That said, be warned, as the trips from Piraeus to the Dodecanese are long and exhausting. Additionally, there are ferries to island groups from Agios Nikolaos and Sitia in Crete, but in summer. 

As a final note, there are also ferries to Turkey in summer. Tourists residing in Kos may take the ferry to Bodrum, while those in Rhodes may visit Marmaris. Both of these ferries carry passengers and cars. 

Rhodes

Known also as the Knights Island, Rhodes has a rich past. Filled with historical monuments and buildings, Rhodes Old Town has a heavily influenced medieval atmosphere. Stone-paved alleys, glorious mansions, and imposing walls take travelers back in time to the age of the noble knights! 

What to do

  • Palace of Grand Master: The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes is one of the grandest places to visit in the world! History is reviving in the whole structure itself. On top of this, the Knights’ Castle has imposing gates, exciting fortifications, charming mosaics, and a beautiful courtyard.  
  • Kalithea Springs: Since Antiquity, the waters of Kallithea have been famed for their beneficial qualities. Visit these baths for a rejuvenating experience! 
  • Day trip to Halki island: Sign up to embark on a day trip to the picturesque Halki island and the colorful Valley of the Butterflies, a natural paradise and a reproduction spot for butterflies. One of the best Greece tours, for sure. 
  • Day trip to Lindos island: Visit by boat the stunning Acropolis of Lindos on this fantastic day tour. 

Where to stay

Kos 

Kos is one of the largest Greek islands of the Dodecanese group and is famed for sandy beaches, palm trees, fantastic nightlife, and peacocks! Located between the islands of Nisyros and Kalymnos, Kos is influenced by diverse cultures. 

What to do

  • Asklepieion: This is the most important archaeological site of Kos. In ancient times, it worked as a healing center. It received its name from Asklepios, protector of medicine and health. 
  • Ottoman Mosques: The Ottoman mark on the architecture of Kos is prevalent, as these imposing mosques serve as reminders of the Ottoman rule on the island, which lasted for almost four centuries. 
  • Neratzia Castle: Also known as the Castle of the Knights, Neratzia Castle was built in the 14th Century by the Knights of Saint John. Located near the port entrance, Kos Town, the castle is easy to reach.  
  • Day trip to Nisyros Island Volcano: Enter a volcanic crater on Nisyros island while experiencing the sound of lava underneath your feet! Walk around the narrow streets of Mandraki, too, and then visit the monastery of Panagia Spiliani on this full-day trip. 
  • Jeep safari: Discover the secrets of the Kos landscape and the Hippocrates islands on a dynamic 4X4 tour as you head to the peak of Mount Dikaios on mountain roads. See traditional villages and take in the best dramatic views of Kos! 

Where to stay

Ikaria (Icaria) 

Located on the Eastern Aegean, Ikaria is a worldwide famous island due to its natural beauty and the longevity of its inhabitants. By far, Ikaria is the best place to recharge, away from the hectic routine. Time seems to have come to a stop, as the Ikarian people don’t seem to take life too seriously. As such, the laid-bad environment is the main reason why Ikaria has become so popular for island hopping in Greece.

What to do

  • Stone houses: Marvel at the Ikarian stone houses, constructed in such a way to resemble massive rocks. Ikarians used to hide inside to protect themselves from enemies. 
  • Temple of Artemis: Ruins of a glorious Temple dedicated to Artemis, Goddess of Hunt. 
  • Ancient Hot Springs: The Terma region in Ikaria has been known for hydrotherapy since the 4th Century BC. Just outside of Agios Kirikos, travelers can experience the same ancient hot springs!
  • Koskina Castle: That’s an Eastern Roman fortress built during the Crusades, standing atop a mountain. To reach it, you have to hike, but once on the top, take a breath and enjoy the breathtaking views above the valley. 

Where to stay

Itinerary 4: The Northern Sporades

  • Skopelos
  • Skiathos

By far, the busiest airport of Sporades is in Skiathos. It receives domestic flights from Athens and Thessaloniki and, like most Greek islands, charter flights from abroad during summer. To arrive at the Sporades by ferry, you travel to the Volos and Agios Konstantinos ports in Central Greece. Ferries go to Skiathos, Skopelos, and the third island of the Sporades, Alonissos. As such, Central Greece is a perfect camp for island hopping. 

Skopelos

Skopelos is a picture-perfect island with an unspoiled charm, making it a great holiday destination. It has become internationally known as the filming location of the Hollywood movie Mamma Mia. In fact, the Church of Agios Ioannis Kastri, where the wedding scenes took place, is now known as the Mamma Mia Church! 

What to do

  • Venetian Castle: Built on the ancient ruins of Peparithos city, this Venetian Castle is located inside the main town. It was built during the ruling of the Ghisi family, a Venetian noble family from Padua or Aquileia, in the 13th Century. 
  • Pirate Graves: According to the legend, on the location Sendoukia (meaning treasure chests in Greek) at Mount Karia, there are pirate graves. On top of this, there are actual ancient graves carved on the rocks, on this spot, too. 
  • Monasteries: This island is full of monasteries, perfect for pilgrimages. Travelers can visit the Monastery of Timios Prodromos, the Monastery of Evangelistria, the Monastery of Taxiarches, and the Monastery of Agia Varvara, to name a few. Most monasteries were erected in the Late Middle Ages. 
  • Snorkeling: Skopelos has a couple of dive centers offering underwater experiences with snorkel tours in the open waters of the Sporades. They can be found in Panormos Bay, a famous destination for sailing. 
  • The Mama Mia tour: Visit the Chapel of St. John (Ioannis), also known as the Mamma Mia wedding church, and enjoy a day full of adventure.

Where to stay

Skiathos

As we said before, the Sporades group is great for island hopping in Greece. One of the most famous Greek islands of this island group is Skiathos. Tis island is packed with gorgeous pine trees and natural scenery, very distinctive to the barren mainland. Featuring countless beaches, Skiathos is a paradise for every nature lover. And thanks to its crazy nightlife, every summer, Skiathos attracts thousands of visitors, rivaling the islands of Mykonos and Santorini! Nevertheless, Skiathos is a fantastic destination for families, too. Include this isle in your Greece itinerary, no matter what! 

What to do

  • Bourtzi: This is a small peninsula at the port entrance, dividing it into two district parts. A fortress used to be there in the 13th Century to protect the town, but only ruins are today. A popular pine-clad spot for recreation, nonetheless. 
  • Biotope: Located in Strofilia Lagoon, the biotope is beautiful and peaceful. 
  • House of Papadiamantis: Alexandros Papadiamantis was one of the most important modern Greek writers in the 19th Century, and his home has turned into a museum. 
  • Sea Caves: They are on the northern side of the island and can be reached by boat. The wild landscape and the turquoise waters are breathtaking, for sure. 

Where to stay

That’s it, folks! Thanks so much for reading this blog post about island hopping in Greece! I hope that you found it enlightening and that you now know what to do in Greece, plus what are the best Greek islands to visit. For more posts on this beautiful country, check out our Greece page.

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