It is not known exactly how many islands Greece has, because different sources inform differently. The Greek Tourist Organization talks about 6,000 islands, other sources about 2,000. There are about 200 inhabited islands.
One thing is certain, Greece has, for sure, more islands than the most known and visited. And they are just as worth a visit. For many of them there are no flights, and certainly not directly from Poland and other countries.
So how do you get them? By water!
As a country with such a large number of islands, navigation is very developed, and passenger ferries, especially in the summer season, plenty.
Some tips on how to use them below.
Ferries reach all inhabited islands. Much more often (even several times a day) for larger or more touristic ones. There are far fewer ferries for these smaller, less popular ones. You can’t always get to them directly, e.g. from Athens, you often need to change ferry on one of the closer islands.
This site and this are the best places to check the entire schedule and connections between different islands. You can of course do it directly on the companies’ websites, but here you will have full overview of all ferries, even smaller ones, and you can also easily compare prices.
Remember to choose the date correctly, the schedule may not be the same on different days of the week.
2 ) Where to start from
The easiest way probably will be to fly to Athens and start from there. This is easiest way because there are many flights there, also with low-cost airlines, for example Ryanair from Poland.
Athens has three ports: Piraeus, Rafina and Lavrio. From the largest, Piraeus, you can reach most of the islands. It is also easy to reach the port by direct metro from the center. It may not be the most pleasant district, but the port is close to the bus taking you to the terminals.
Rafina is much closer to the airport, less than half an hour by direct bus. Ferries depart mainly towards the Cyclades.
The smallest is the port of Lavrio, close to the airport, although about two hours from the city center.
You can also plan your trip according to individual needs, fly to one of islands like Crete or Santorini (practical information about this island here) and go to the next island directly from there.
It is worth remembering to make reservations or buy ticket in advance. Boats in high season have high occupancy.
Reservations are made directly by phone or through the website of the carrier. There are quite a few of these companies, and Blue Star Ferries and SeaJets are the best known. Blue Star Ferries are usually larger ferries, Sea Jet faster.
It’s best to go to the schedule website given earlier and there will be information about the company name and link.
The reservation is not always a boarding pass. You can check directly on company website of they use e-tickets. If not, before departure, go to the special place in port and exchange the reservation number for the card.
Additional tip – in Piraeus these places are located right next to the terminal, so do not worry that everything is closed when you get to the port gates.
4) Night ferries
A good idea if you want to save time and funds. Night ferries do not reach every island, it is also worth checking the timetable, because they may not be every day. There are different categories of tickets. The most popular are economy tickets and airplane seats (airseats). Personally, I recommend the latter, few euros more expensive, but the difference in comfort is significant. You don’t have your seat in economy tickets, and the seats are taken on a first come, first served basis and these are the armchairs at the cafes. Alternatively, the floor if you have a sleeping bag with you.
Airplane seats are actually much more comfortable than on an airplane, large, soft, you can sleep. Of course there are also cabins, but tickets are much more expensive, and not all routes pay off, because sometimes you just go too short.
5) Many islands, circuit trip
You can go to one island, but you can also take such a round trip from island to island.
I recommend you to do so. It requires more organization and matching of schedules, but it’s worth it. During the week you are able to visit 4 islands for sure.
How to do it cheaper? There is such a thing as Interrail. Special ticket for cheaper train travel around Europe. It also includes a Greek Island Pass card. There are two categories of this card: 4 trips (or actually 4 days in a month) only in Greece or 6, including two international (i.e. you can make a trip to Italy). The price is 90 and 176 Euro respectively, there are also discounts for people under 28 years old. My calculations show that you can save at least 50 euros, so it may be really profitable. The most you can save when you plan longer routes, like to and from Athens. If you plan shorter routes recalculate and check if it’s worth it.
All details and orders here.
How it’s working? First you need to order a card that arrives by delivery within a few days. When you have your card number, you book ferries and you collect your boarding passes on the spot.
Important – you can use only a few carriers (Blue Star Ferries and Hellenic Seaways). SeaJets does not accept pass, so if you plan to travel with them, the card may be less profitable.
Additional tip – booking on Interrail you have only for economical places. You can also buy extra airseats for 5 euros, already at the reception, as the ferry will leave the port.
I encourage you to look at the map of Greece and plan this type of trip. I hope that the information provided will make it a little easier.