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Greece island hopping: A guide to the best routes and how to explore Greek culture

Greece island hopping: A guide to the best routes and how to explore Greek culture

Greece’s wide scattering of differently sized, culturally distinct islands makes it a dream for a multi-stop trip. Come May and June, ferry services ramp up for summer, with hops between different islands taking as little as 20 minutes.

Some islands are vast and ripe for exploring, requiring a taxi, hire car or moped to get across their width. In others, you’ll simply find a bijou port and a forested interior, fringed by rocky or sandy coves you can stroll to. Wherever you go, you’ll find waterfront tavernas, petite churches, hushed beaches and sunkissed portside bars.

But where to start? Greece’s ferry networks are complex, with different services available at different times of year; it’s best to use a journey planner such as to check ahead for timings and operators. Services can run late, so leave plenty of time between your last ferry and your flight home – an easy (and stressful!) first-time mistake to make.

Read more on Greece travel:

Best for first timers: The Argo-Saronics

Route: Athens-Poros-Hydra-Spetses

Close to the capital of Athens and its port, Piraeus, these islands huddled around the Greek mainland are fab for a first go if you’re not sure island hopping is for you. Spend a few cultured nights in the capital, then hop on the ferry to nearby Poros, just over an hour away: here you’ll find a smart little red-roofed port topped with a clock tower and a handful of hotels and apartments. Dine by the waterfront, then go off in search of the emerald waters at Love Bay.

Hydra: tiny but glamorous

(GNTO_Y Porfiropoulos)

Just 35 minutes’ boat-ride from here isHydra, a tiny but glamorous speck which has attracted artists, musicians and photographers since the Sixties. Bask in its romantic port and sunset bars, then walk the coast road to find secret pebble bays, or take a boat trip to its quietest corners.

Next up is Spetses, 40 minutes away – the mellow, car-free island where recent film The Lost Daughter was captured. Seek out its Cave of Bekiris, tiny whitewashed churches and one of the oldest lighthouses in Greece; then take the 2hr50m catamaran all the way back to Piraeus for a flight out of Athens.

When to go

These undiscovered islands don’t get as much footfall as the Cyclades (below) so you can go in peak July and not feel too much of a crush. However, September is a delightful, quieter time to…

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