If you’ve ever taken an excursion to the Greek Islands you know just how amazing the Aegean Sea can be. The wine dark waters, tiny whitewashed houses speckling the horizon, the salt and olive air. It’s simply like no other place.
If you’ve never been but are considering exploring this stunning region, good for you! Island hopping isn’t difficult and absolutely worth every penny. For the average traveler there are a few different ways to do it, the most common being with the Greek Ferry system.
You can get to most inhabited islands on the national ferries; giant ships, replete with restaurants, sleeping cabins and common areas departing from Piraeus, a port town about 5 miles southwest of central Athens. The ferry schedules have them departing either early (around 7am) or in the evening. Evening departures do often involve overnighting on board and can include the added option of a sleeping berth. Ferry tickets are moderately priced, between $20 and $40 each depending on which seat or bed-type you want and where you’re going. Tickets are available from any travel agency in Athens or in the towns on the islands you’re going to. You can also get them in advance at the Greek Ferries website. This site has gotten a lot better over the last few years now has options to prebook actual tickets, get schedules and read reviews.
Another method of wandering the islands could be more memorable. Chartering a sailboat will get you to any island you choose and at the pace you, not the government, decides upon. You can charter a sailboat in 3 different ways:
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- Bareboat: you have your own boat on which to hit the high seas. Obviously this is the most private and adventurous option but you’ll need to prove your experience before they just give you a sailboat. Take along your sailing résumé — you’ll need it to get on board. Please leave your pony at home.
- Flotilla: it’s like the bareboat charter but you’ll travel with regatta of other sailboats to each island stop. If being out there on your own is a little riskier than you’d like, this is a great option.
- Crewed: comes with an English-speaking skipper, a small crew to deal with the dirty work and private cabins to sleep in. The skippers are usually interesting characters and will let you try your hand behind the wheel if you want.
The charter option is an incredible way to part the waters. And when factoring in the costs of buying ferry tickets, hotels and meals, the added expense is negligible. Charters are usually rented by the week and have a huge range of prices depending on
the size of the sailboat, the number of cabins, the season and whether or not there’s a crew. If you’re interested in a crewed charters a 2-cabin vessel will run in the $2000 – $3000 neighborhood depending on how much luxury and enmities you want. Most include at least breakfast and lunch.
There are a few other minor charges to be dealt with as well: fuel (it’s a sailboat but navigating harbors and the capricious meltemi winds requires an engine), tipping the crew and cleaning costs money. Ponies as well are extra.
The most dependable charter site is Greek Seas with a huge list of sailboats and routes available. For bareboat charters, the Yacht Charter Guide lists several companies for your researching pleasure.
For further info on sailing and sailboat chartering in the region read here.
If doing it on your own isn’t in the cards, there are also organized cruise ship options to choose from. You can also simply fly from Athens to the islands for a quick and easy relaxation rescue. Both Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air fly to the three airport locations in the islands: Mykonos, Santorini and Heraklion in Crete.