If there's one thing that Greece is known for, it's the thousands of islands scattered around the mainland. There are a few islands in the Ionian Sea, with the majority of the Greek islands found in the Aegean Sea to the east. If you've ever been to Greece you've most likely visited at least one of it's famous islands.
In order to see the picturesque Greek islands, you'll need to first make your way there. There are different ways and different companies that will get to the islands, however, not all are as cost efficient and comfortable as others.
Your options for the best way to get to the islands will depend on which island you're visiting and when you book your transportation.
If you're looking to book early you'll want to check the prices of flights, as many airlines have great deals from Athens to many of islands. You can get prices like 50 Euros round trip from Athens to Santorini, if you book early enough. In some cases, it can workout to being cheaper than taking a ferry. If you're not sure what the best website is to search for flights, checkout my blog post on how to get the cheapest flights.
If you can score yourself a great flight deal, you'll be cutting your travel time, in some cases by many hours, even if you factor in having to get to the airport 1.5-2 hours before your flight.
There are however, certain disadvantages to flying to the islands as opposed to taking a ferry. Many airlines don't include checked baggage in their ticket price, so if you plan on bringing more than just a carry on bag, the cost of adding checked baggage could negate the deal you scored on your ticket, making flying end up costing more.
Also, if you plan on visiting more than one island flying likely won't make sense. There aren't any island to island flights meaning if you plan on flying to Santorini and Mykonos you'd end up having to fly back from Santorini to Athens, to then catch a flight from Athens to Mykonos, which would take much longer than taking a 2-3 hour ferry between the 2 islands.
If you have a fear of flying or there aren't any flight deals available, then you'll have to take a ferry to the islands. There are countless ferry companies in Greece and not all are the same. I've been visiting Greece for almost 30 years and I have traveled with many of these ferry companies.
This past summer I ended up finalizing my travel plans late, so the flight deals that I had found to Santorini and Mykonos a few months before were long gone, and prices for a flight were upwards of 100 Euros. I looked at the prices, time of departure and travel time, and ended up deciding on Seajets. Their boats were faster than regular ferries and it only took 5 hours to get to Santorini from Pireaus, instead of between 7-8 hours, which the other ferries take. They weren't the cheapest option, but for slightly more, saving a few hours was well worth it.
This was my first time traveling with Seajets and I was very impressed. I was pleasantly surprised with Seajets as they were extremely organized. As soon as I got on the boat they had separately labeled racks for your luggage, depending on where you were traveling to. The seats were comfortable and quite large, like first class airplane seats.
There were employees coming around collecting people's garbage and sweeping the aisles throughout the trip, which I hadn't encountered on other ferries.
Probably the most surprising for me was that you can order food and drinks from any of the crew members and they would bring the food to your seat so you don't even have to leave your seat. I think I've been spoiled and with that kind of service I don't think I can go back to traveling with any other ferry company.
Getting off the boat was also very fast, as we were allowed into the garage to collect our luggage a few minutes before docking, as opposed to having to stay lined up in the stairwell until docking, before being allowed into the garage to get our luggage like other ferry companies do.
Prefer not to have to fuss over flights or ferries?
Not all islands require a flight or a ferry to get to them. There are also a couple of islands that are connected to the mainland by bridges so you can drive, or catch a bus. Evoia is a large island not far from Athens with lots to offer that you can easily drive to. Lefkada is the second island connected to the mainland by bridge, which is on the Western Ionian coast, around 3-4 hours from Athens.
With over 200 inhabited islands it might take a couple of lifetimes to visit them all, but now that you know the best way to get there, it won't hurt to try.
What island have you always dreamed of visiting?
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