Greece › Island Hopping
by Santorini Dave • Updated: April 25, 2023
Island Hopping Guides
- Athens Travel Guide
- Crete Travel Guide
- Mykonos Travel Guide
- Naxos Travel Guide
- Paros Travel Guide
- Santorini Travel Guide
- Athens Ferry Port Guide
- Heraklion Ferry Port Guide
- Mykonos Ferry Port Guide
- Santorini Ferry Port Guide
The 2023 Guide to Island Hopping in Greece
Note: In 2023, Greek ferries, routes and schedules should not be impacted in any significant way by the pandemic or health protocols. Expect a return to pre-pandemic ferry travel.
Island Hopping Essentials
- Best Time to Visit the Greek Islands
- Best Beaches in Greece
- Best Greek Islands
- Best Places To Go in Greece
- Greek Islands with Kids
- Flights to Greece
- Greek Ferries
- Paros or Naxos?
- Crete or Santorini?
- Mykonos or Santorini?
- Athens Airport Rental Car
- Greece Travel Agencies
Where to Stay in Greece
Greek Island Hopping – Tips and Information
Greek Island Hopping Cruises
Greek cruises suck. Don’t do them. It’s much better to island hop on your own. The best websites for booking a Greek holiday are Booking.com (for hotels) • Kayak.com (for flights) • Ferryhopper.com (for ferries). It’s fun and easy to book your own trip – and much more rewarding.
Greek Island Hopping Packages
The same applies for package tours. You get better hotels, better choice of flights, better prices, and a better experience by booking hotels, flights, and ferries on your own. There are no ferry passes for Greece (though Eurail does include some ferry passes for some of their European train passes). Ferry tickets need to be booked for each leg of every itinerary and there is no discount for return tickets or multiple-stop tickets.
Greek Island Hopping Tours
I highly recommend doing one of the wonderful Santorini tours, Crete tours, or Mykonos tours. These are day trips from or around each island. Smaller islands also have their own tours but are typically best booked after arrival. For Santorini, Mykonos, and Crete it’s usually better to book tours in advance.
Greek Island Hopping Itinerary
Your route is only bound by the ferry schedule. From late May to early October, there are ferry connections between most islands in an island group (the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, the Sporades, the Saronic islands, the Ionian islands) and from Crete to the Cyclades. But there aren’t ferries between every Greek island. To get from one island group to another requires a bit more planning. For example, to get from Santorini to Rhodes you may need to ferry to Mykonos and then catch a different ferry onwards to Rhodes. Once again, this is half the fun. The Cyclades – a collection of wonderful small islands that are connected by short frequent ferry routes – makes the best island group for first-time island hoppers.
Booking Hotels in the Greek Islands
The best Santorini hotels, Mykonos hotels, Crete hotels, Paros hotels, and Athens hotels get fully booked 4 to 8 months in advance. For cheaper hotels and other smaller islands you have more flexibility and last-minute bookings are possible.
Greek Island Hopping & Honeymooning
It doesn’t get much more fun and romantic than bouncing from Mykonos (great nightlife) to Naxos (great beaches) to Santorini (jaw-dropping scenery). The best Greek islands make an awesome honeymoon destination.
Greek Island Hopping from Athens
Athens makes a natural start or finish to Greek island hopping. The closest Cycladic island (the best island group for island hopping) is 3 or 4 hours from Athens by ferry – and from there the magic begins. If possible try to fly into Greece and out of Greece from different airports to save yourself the time, hassle, and expense of backtracking. For example, fly into Athens, ferry through the Cyclades and onwards to Crete, then fly from Crete to western Europe (and home) – there’s no need to return to Athens to get your return flight. The Greek islands with the most flights are Santorini, Mykonos, Crete (both Heraklion and Chania airports), Rhodes, Kos, and Corfu.
Cheap Island Hopping
Ferry tickets in Greece are not expensive but not as cheap as they used to be. The best way to save money is to make fewer stops (choose 2 or 3 islands and explore them more thoroughly instead of hitting a half-dozen islands each for a night or two). In high season the owners of small and budget hotels will meet most ferry arrivals with offers of cheap accommodations. These are nearly always legit, decent places to stay. The thing to watch for is location. Hotels will say, “yes, very close, we drive there together” and then once you get there you realize you’re not walking distance to the beach or main villages. Try to walk there with hotel owners, then you know for sure it’s within walking distance (though this isn’t practical on all islands).
Greek Islands and Public Transportation
Most areas in Greece, including Athens and all major islands, have public transportation strikes throughout the year. These strikes can affect all forms of transit, including, buses, trains, ferries, flights, and taxis. During strikes no buses, no ferries, and only a handful of trains and flights will depart on time (or at all); taxis tend to be the least affected mode of transport. Though strikes can occur any time, there is always a huge strike on May 1. Avoid booking any ferries, flights, or trains that day.
- Greece Travel Guide
- Santorini Travel Guide
- Mykonos Travel Guide
- Crete Travel Guide
- Athens Travel Guide
- Amsterdam – Best Hotels
- Athens – The Very Best Hotels
- Barcelona – Best Hotels
- Dublin – Best Hotels
- Florence – Best Hotels
- Istanbul – Best Hotels
- Lisbon – Best Hotels
- London – Best Hotels
- Naples – Best Hotels
- Paris – Best Hotels
- Prague – Best Hotels
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I am planning my honeymoon and flying from Los Angeles, CA. We have 14 days and we want to do Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, & Milos. Do you think this is enough time for all 4 islands? What’s the best route/order to do for these?
With 14 days I typically recommend visiting 3 or 4 islands. So, you’ll be moving around a bit but it’s completely doable. There are so many different routes for those 4 islands that there is no “best order”. You’ll just have to do the research on ferry schedules and see what works with your dates.
Do ferries run from Santorini to Mykonos in November? Couldn’t find one on Ferryhopper.
Ferries between Santorini and Mykonos run until the end of October (for sure) and sometimes into the first week of November. After that you’ll need to travel via Naxos, Paros, or Syros.
Hi!!!! This page is AMAZING!!! I have some questions since I’m building my first trip to Greece.
I think I could do 10-12 days last 2 weeks of August and would love to visit Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, Zakynthos, Naxos and/or Corfu or Milos, not sure if this is possible. From there then fly to Croatia.
My question is what would be the best routes/island for this?
For starters, drop Zakynthos and Corfu as they’re a long way out of the way from Athens and the Cyclades. You’re much better to focus on Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos, and Milos with only 10 to 12 days. Try flying directly into Santorini from a large airport in western Europe, then ferry to Milos or Naxos (you won’t have time to do both), ferry to Mykonos, and ferry to Athens. From Athens, you’ll be able to fly to Croatia.
Hi Dave, we have 9 nights for island hopping and will be leaving from Athens. Can you suggest a good itinerary ending with our last night in Santorini, as we will fly out from there. I have been to Santorini and Ios before and want to steer clear of Mykonos as we are more into the less touristy islands. Thinking of 2 nights per island. Thanks
Paros to Naxos to Santorini would great. Milos if you want to do a boat tour (similar to a Santorini caldera boat tour but with more snorkeling). Or Sifnos if you want something off the beaten track.
Hi Dave. Such a great website, thanks. We’re coming from London I’m looking for two weeks in Greece with kids 6 and 8. I really want to see the white-washed buildings against bright blue seas and skies. We’re thinking of doing an inclusive resort for 1 week so the kids can make friends and have kids club, then looking for hotels/villas for a little island hopping. We’re not really sure where to start. Any recommendations? Is Crete a good base for the resort week?
There are very few all-inclusive resorts on the Greek islands. Crete might have a few, but Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos, and Paros have none. All the Cycladic islands are great for kids and families. Check out Antiparos if you’re looking for something smaller and quieter where you’ll almost know everyone on the island after a week.
For first-timers, would you recommend Naxos, Paros, Crete, or Corfu? We are definitely flying into Athens to explore and then Mykonos and Santorini.
Paros is the most like Mykonos. Crete really deserves a week or more (and I’m assuming you just have a few more days to fill). Corfu is a long way from Mykonos and Santorini (and would require flying via Athens). So I would go with Naxos. Great beaches, local food, and small traditional villages.
We are planning an ‘island hopping’ trip next year with our three young (Ranging 2-12) , but well travelled children. We’re after a mix of beaches, nice hotels with pools, and a few days exploring towns. Would you please be able to recommend the islands best suited to this. We’re after a duration of around two weeks, probably staying 3/4 nights most places and would be flying from London.
Many thanks 🙏- this site has been such a source of travel inspiration!
Great islands for kids and island hopping: Naxos, Paros, Milos, Sifnos, Serifos. Santorini and Mykonos are also great but busier and more expensive. Both Santorini and Mykonos have direct flights from western Europe which makes them great bookends to your trip. Fly into one. Island hop through a few other islands. Then finish at the other and fly home.
My friend and I would like to do 10 days in Greece on our way to Turkey in May. We will fly into Athens and would like to do Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, and Sifnos if possible. Which route would you recommend?
Ferry Athens to Sifnos to Mykonos to Santorini to Crete. Could also fly to Crete to start and then ferry back to Athens in reverse order as above. (Most likely you’ll need to fly from Athens to Turkey.)
We are a family of four in need of island transfer from Crete, preferably Chania but at this point any port will do, to Paros on May 2nd. I prefer to ferry rather than fly but am having difficulty finding a company that does this route. Is it too early, perhaps they don’t start until June ?? We’d also be up for going to Santorini, spending the day, and ferry to Paros in the evening.
Can you point me in the right direction?
Thanks so much for your help.
There should be a daily Heraklion to Paros ferry (with stops in Santorini and Naxos) in early May. Check Ferryhopper.com for details. You would need to spend the night in Santorini to have time to see the island (as there is no evening ferry on this route).
I have found your information so helpful! Starting with 4 days in Athens, and then 10 nights in the Cyclades. Travelling with 2 adults and well traveled 9yo. For the “islands” portion of our trip (10 nights), I am wondering if just Naxos/Santorini will be a little too long at 5 days each. Maybe cut down to 4 nights each with two nights somewhere else. Plan is to fly back to Athens from Santorini. Any insight very much appreciated!
I don’t think that’s too long on Naxos and Santorini. But yes, you could easily add a two-day stop in Paros, Mykonos, or Ios. Or if you’re wanting to do a boat tour then Milos and do the full day boat tour around the island.
We are taking a short trip for my big 4-0 birthday. It is on my bucket list to see the Greek islands. Santorini is too on the list. What itinerary would you recommend from Chicago for 7 days in Greece?
Santorini for 3 days, Naxos (beaches and traditional villages) or Mykonos (beaches and trendy nightlife and restaurants) for 3 days, and 1 day in Athens.
We have set our hearts on Athens to Hydra for 2 days then Spetses for 2 days then back to Athens for our flight home. But can’t find any ferries, is that because its not doable.
The Athens/Hydra/Spetses ferries run year round. If you’re looking too far in advance they might not be listed yet. But there will definitely be ferries running that route. Book tickets about a month in advance just to be safe but there are many daily ferries and they rarely sell out.
We’re planning a honeymoon in Greece through Athens (1-2 Nights), Santorini (3 Nights), Mykonos (3 Nights), and Kreta or Rhodos (3-4 Nights), but we’re not sure which island is better and which island has more beautiful beaches: Kreta or Rhodos? How would you divide and plan the route from Germany ?
Both Rhodes and Crete have great beaches and interesting towns. The biggest difference (for your itinerary) is that Crete is a short daily ferry ride from Santorini and Rhodes is a long 2/weekly ferry ride from Santorini. So I would definitely do Crete (ferry to Heraklion and then spend most of your time in Chania). Then fly home from either Heraklion or Chania airports – hopefully without having to fly via Athens.
Hi Dave, We are a family of 6 going to Greece for the first time. I am flying into Athens. I want to see Santorini and Mykonos. What do you recommend as far as which Island to go first and what means of transportation to use, Ferry or fly. We have 8-9 days to spend in Athens, Santorini and Mykonos. We will be flying back to U.S. after vacation. We have kids as young as 6.
I would ferry from Athens to Mykonos, ferry from Mykonos to Santorini, then either fly Santorini to Athens or (even better) fly Santorini to Western Europe (Paris, London, Amsterdam, or Rome) and fly directly home from there.
Hello. We will be visiting Greece in January. We would like to do some Island Hopping from Athens. What Islands do you recommend at this time of year. We would like to see Santorini, do you think we should? If so, what islands should we stop at along the way? We want to visit islands for about 7 days. We have to finish in Athens because we are flying to Morocco next. Thank you very much for your help.
Santorini and Naxos or Paros are best (and best ferry connections) in January.
We’ve narrowed down our islands to Naxos, Santorini and Milos. We’re able to stay 3-nights on 2 of those islands and 4-nights on 1 off them. Which island would you recommend to spend the 4-nights on? I’m thinking Naxos or Milos. Of those 2, what has more to do where an extra day would be beneficial? Thanks so much.
Of Naxos and Milos, Naxos definitely has more to see and do. Though Milos has more interesting boat tours.
Quick question on how would you divide and route flying to Greece from San Francisco? 14 nights in Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos and would it be sufficient time to see most highlights of Greece. Thanks a bunch. Any info is greatly appreciated.
It of course depends on what flights are available which varies greatly depending on the time of year. But most likely you’ll need to fly via London, Paris, or Amsterdam. From these western European hubs I would recommend flying to Athens but returning from Mykonos or Santorini – or even Heraklion in Crete. For example, fly SFO to London, fly London to Athens, ferry to Mykonos, ferry to Santorini, fly Santorini to London, fly London to SFO. This does require a fair bit of flight searching to see what’s available on each route – but it’s worth the effort so that you don’t have to retrace your steps to Athens and waste time and money. 14 days is enough time to see some of the highlights of Greece – but all of them? Not even close. Focus on 3 or 4 destinations and don’t feel rushed.
Hello, I am traveling from New York to Greece for the 2nd time. I traveled to Greece about 5 years ago and split my trip between Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini. This year I’m in between Paros, Ios, and Crete and confused if I should all three or which to do and the order. Was hoping you can provide expert travel advice and let me know what would be ideal for us to do. We are looking to relax on the beach, nightlife, party, and restaurants. Have about 10 days. Thank u
I’m thinking you love Greece and will likely make another visit in the coming years. If that’s accurate then visit Paros and Ios on one trip (best for the high season summer months of late May to early September) and Crete on the other trip (great in summer but also fine in the shoulder season of April, early May, late September, October, and early November). Both are good destinations for 10 days but visiting all 3 in ten days would be rushed.
We are planning a honeymoon through the Cyclades. Our plan is to stop in Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, and Ios. Is there a “best-route” for these 5 islands. We have not booked any flights or ferries yet so are open to any itinerary. We’ll be flying from NYC and visiting London and Paris on the same trip.
My recommended route would be
• Paris fly to Athens
• Athens ferry to Mykonos
• Mykonos ferry to Paros
• Paros ferry to Naxos
• Naxos ferry to Ios
• Ios ferry to Santorini
• Santorini fly to London
The reverse order is fine too. This has the quickest, most direct ferry routes and the largest choice of flights.