Touring the Greek islands can be an exhilarating way to spend a vacation, but it can be a difficult and daunting task to an inexperienced island-hopper. The better prepared you are for your island adventures, the more fun and memories you and your family will have. The following suggestions should turn you and your family into pros.
Pick an island chain and stick to it. The Greek islands are grouped into several different chains, each with something unique to offer. For example, the islands known as the Cyclades, such as Mykonos and Santorini, are picturesque with whitewashed buildings and cobblestone streets. Dotted with churches and windmills, these arid islands provide the classic Greek island experience. In contrast, the Ionian Islands, such as Corfu and Zakynthos, are lush and green with a milder climate. Devote some time to researching which islands best meet your family’s needs.
By sticking to islands within one group, you can maximize your time visiting as many islands as possible, taking advantage of simpler transportation routes. Visit the websites of some ferry lines to plan your routes. While you can purchase your tickets online, you must still pick them up in person from a ticket agent. Some of the main ferry lines include Blue Star Ferries, Hellenic Seaways and Aegean Speedlines. Visit online to check out special deals, such as the Greek Island Pass and the Inter Island Pass currently offered by Hellenic Seaways, allowing you to visit several islands for the price of one.
Plan ahead. Boarding ferries can be chaotic and confusing, especially with early morning departures, so your best bet is to visit a travel agent ahead of time. They are plentiful all over Greece, especially in port cities. For summer travel, it is especially important to buy your tickets early, don’t wait until the morning of your trip to Crete to find tickets. Greeks have a saying that in the summertime, Greece calls its children home. Locals and Greeks living abroad love visiting the islands during the summer months just as much as tourists, so those ferry boats can sell out quickly.
Pack for fun, not for a fashion show. Packing light is key for successful island hopping. The purpose of visiting the Greek islands is to relax and have fun. That’s tough when you injure your back lugging your suitcase up and down narrow alleys and steep staircases. Not to mention the ferry boats — what you pack, you must carry. These ships are meant to transport large groups of people, not to provide luxury. Don’t expect a porter to help you with your suitcase.
Have a back-up plan. Greek ferry workers are famous for going on strike. Luckily, these strikes are usually planned in advance. Ask ahead of time when purchasing your ferry tickets. If a possible strike is expected on your travel dates, you may need to adjust your vacation plans. Unfortunately, they aren’t always announced ahead of time, so your ability to be flexible is a must. The weather can also throw a wrench into the most carefully laid plans. When the winds get too strong, ships aren’t allowed to sail, so don’t plan your return to the mainland too close to your departure from Greece unless you don’t mind missing your flight home. Although missing flights is a huge inconvenience, there could be worse things than getting stranded on a Greek island for a few days!
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