There's a lot to be said for a holiday where you can decide to move on any time you fancy a new view. Especially if the views in question are of the bright, bright blue waters, smooth, whitewashed villages and the sun warmed vineyards and olive groves of the Greek islands. And the best way to see them is to hop between them, as people have been doing since long before Homer sent Odysseus sailing.
If you like to plan you can, and book everything in advance or arrange an all inclusive option, but the Greek islands also offer an opportunity to drift between islands waiting for things to take your fancy. The main ferries depart regularly, there's plenty of accommodation options and a lot of people have a smattering of English if not more. Add to that the sparking bright blue seas, islands that vary from wooded and rocky to whitewashed and rich in culture, good local food and drink, a relaxed outlook and plenty of sun, and a Greek island hopping holiday ticks a lot of promising boxes.
Most Greek Island Hops begin and end in Athens and visit between three and five islands over two weeks. The basic trip between the most popular islands is Athens –- Paros, for the beaches and the windsurfing -- Antiparos –- Naxos -– then on to Santorini with its famous volcano and beautiful white towns cascading down the hills, or to smaller, almost car-free Ios.
Trips between the more popular islands are easier because the ferry service is more regular; to visit smaller islands it's often easier to head back to Athens and then out again. Alternatively hire your own craft and you don't have to worry about ferry timetables and arranging accommodation.
If you're interested in watersports then Naxos, Lefkada and Rhodes are great for windsurfers, and Santorini and Paros have diving schools and water parks, so plan your route around them. Otherwise it might be a good idea to plan your hop around one of the main island groups.
The Cyclades are awash with blue domed churches rounding off white villages decorated with boganvillea and cats, tumbling down to sandy, clean water beaches below and all coated in warm sunshine. Mykonos, Santorini and Naxos are the best known Cyclades, but the western islands are close enough so that each ferry hop will only take a couple of hours, and in summer the timetable allows for four or five ferries a day. They're also less popular with tourists.
For a western Cyclades hop start from Paros, pop to Antiparos for the day, or else camp here right near the beach –- Milos, which is a lower key version of Santorini, and where the Venus de Milo was found, and a good place to try sea kayaking -– Sifnos -- Serifos, which has particularly dramatic dark rocky cliffs -– Kythnos, for the traditional villages and sandy crescent shaped bays which attract predominantly Greek visitors.
The Ionian Islands are more the warm shades of Tuscany, and with the olive groves and vineyards they share some of the flavours as well. The waters separating them are more of the same brilliant blue. The most famous Ionian island is probably Corfu. Hopping the Ionian islands should be combined with a little driving and some day trips out to some of the smaller islands. Starting at Kefalonia, where they filmed 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin', for, among other wonders, Antisamos Beach -- Ithaca, the sandy, sunny home Homer's Odysseus was trying to get back to, but it will only take you a couple of hours -- Lefkada, which is technically not an island, joined as it is to the mainland, is all lush interiors and clean pale cliffs and coasts, including one of Europe's most prized beaches, Porto Katsiki. From Lefkada you can catch the bus back to Athens.
There are 32 islands in the Dodecanese group, only 18 of which are inhabited, the best known being Rhodes, Kos and the holy island of Patmos which is home to the Monastery of St. John, where the apostle complied the Book of Revelation. This group's islands appeal to both ends of the scale: these are the best islands for partying, with more clubs and bars per-capital than New York or Berlin, yet many of them are also holders of many archaeological secrets, or uninhabited and wonderful for ramblers. This region also has some pretty ideal windsurfing conditions: round Prasoisi on Rhodes, and Karpathos, which is also one of the most traditional islands in the group, here women wear traditional dress, corn is ground by windmills and bread cooked in outdoor communal ovens. Both Rhodes and Kos have international airports, so you can start island hopping from either. Rhodes -– Symi, for the classical port and a chance to really live next to history -– little visited Tilos -– Nisyros, for the volcano -– Kos.
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