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Best Month for Island Hopping Greece?

I'm putting together a Greek Island intensive two-week (plus) itinerary for 2014. Thoughts on best time to go? Beach time is definitely on the wish list. Are some months too hot? When does full ferry service start/end?

Any info on favorite islands/towns or good budget lodging options are always helpful too.

Thanks,

Posted by
2556 posts

Hi Brad!

Months to avoid: July/August, when mega-planes arrive & dump all of N. Europe on the isles, jam-packing them. Also, it's MAJOR hot, mid-day can be 100°F. Aside from that, May-June and September are the faves, temps are ideal. I myself like late May into late June ... rains are gone but the "green" isles are still lush, everything's open, nothing's crowded, Greeks have time to socialize with you (and they LOVE to talk!) ... you get more for your $$, room rates lower, also u get 1 1/2 days for every day because sun doesn't set till nearly 9 pm. Only thing, water is a little brisk until late May, but unless you're from deep South US, it's just fine. In Sept, water is divinely warm, BUT, without rain for 4 months, things begin to look a bit dry/brown, and also-- the Greeks are a bit burned-out after high-season mobs, & are getting ready to close shop & get their kids in school, so a bit different mood from June.

Ferry service? May is "transition time"; service more frequent after June 1, tho still some last-minute changes. However, if you stick to major ferry routes, you'll be Fine. Most Greek Isle newcomers from US start with the cycladic islands ... just don't stick the the US-favored cliche of Santorini-Mykonos. Other nearby isles to consider depending on your interests, include Naxos, Paros, Sifnos, Ios, Milos, Folegandros. But don't ask us to recommend when we know nothing of your priorities. Here's a good online Overview by a young greek guy who llikes both ruins AND beaches, culture AND nightlife: http://www.greek-islands.us ... I also recommend gooing to Library & getting "GREEK ISLAND HOPPING" -- best book for planning a 2-week budget trip. & also advice on managing the ferry routine. BTW, if you want to maximize your fun time and minimize travel time, consider choosing a flight that arrives in AM so that on arrival in ATH airport you can jump on a domestic flight o your farthest island (cost less than $90 if you get a "bargain" flight rate), then you waste no time getting to an island & reliving. Enjoy your planning.

Posted by
1246 posts

Brad

I'd probably opt for mid to late September. Schools in Europe have mainly returned and so there are less tourists about. The sea is warmer than in May, because it has had all summer to warm up, and it is still really warm without being completely baking. Ferries are still running summer schedules and everywhere on the islands is open.

Sifnos is a nice and not too busy island. We've written up our most recent visit there

http://www.greekramblings.org.uk/Sifnos.html

We also really like Andros, but it is a bit out of the way for a hopping holiday. Having said that you can get there direct from the airport via Rafina -Athen's second port - and can then link down to Tinos and the rest of the Cyclades. (There's also stuff about Andros on our site.)

Having said I'd opt for September Janet' suggestion of May is also a good one if that suits your plans better.

Alan

Posted by
11798 posts

Thanks for the excellent suggestions. I think I'll definitely plan for June or September - probably depending on which lines up with a good flight deal or convenient time to take off from work.

Warm water would be nice, but I grew up in San Diego and am fairly used to chilly water. If it's over 60 degrees, I can get used to it pretty quickly. If not, it'll be quick dips to cool off.

I really like the idea of flying directly to the furthest island and working back - that's a great time saver.

As for which islands, I like the idea of getting a little off the beaten path but may face a revolt if there isn't some night-life involved. I may need to mix in some of the big names with some more out of the way.

Posted by
2556 posts

Brad, in early-mid June the "off the beaten path" idea is not so necessary ... except for Mykonos/Santorini, most of the other Cycladic islands are quite lo-key until high season. And when you say "mix in some" THat begins to sound like a full hand of islands ... and you just have 2 weeks! I would suggest no more than 3 islands (+ maybe a day-excursion), plus 1.5 days in Athens at the end, just to see the Biggie sights. For nightlife, Santorini's good any time of year, and all the others have some good low-key nightlife in the main port towns. Scenarios that could work might include:

(1) Fly to MILOS (3 days), ferry to SANTORINI (3 days) ferry to NAXOS or PAROS (3-4 days), back to ATH (ferry 4-5 hrs, flight 90 minutes), ATH 2 days.
(2) Fly to NAXOS, 1 flt per day (3 days) Ferry to SANTORINI (3 days) overnight ferry to RHODES (3-4 days), O'nite ferry OR flight back to ATH (2 days).

Posted by
11798 posts

Thanks for the suggested itinerary. I'll check them out.

Three islands is probably right for two weeks. I want enough time in each place to actually include some relaxation. I'm not looking for all-night raves with giant crowds, but I'll answer to my fellow travelers if there isn't at least something lively on some of our nights.

Posted by
2556 posts

Brad, I understand you may be considering adding 4-7 extra days, making it nearly 3 weeks. My suggestion, if you want really to enjoy a less-known gem (at least for Americans; Europeans & Greeks know about it but don't want to tell us) ... I would add 3-5 days in the Argolid area of the Pelopponese. On return to Athens (and here I would suggest the Flight back to athens, because a ferry would make it a loooong day) ... get a car at the Airport, then zip off on Greece's MOST modern highway (2-3 lanes each way, an intercity expressway), over the Corinth Bridge to Nafplio. This enchanting city, at the tip of a peninsula (thus, surrounded by water, feels like an island), has an Old Town that Greeks consider the most beautiful in all Greece. Buily during Venetian rule (thus golden-yellow stone, terra-cotta roofs), stunning vistas of the Bay of Argolid. Enjoy exploring town for a full day or more, then drive to major sites in area... Epidaurus, Mycenae and -- on way back to Athens -- Nemea, a Sacred Games site next to Olympia but with no tour crowds. Oh, and plus, wonderful beaches around (Tolo, Asine etc). http://www.visitnafplio.com/visitnafplio.com/Home.html shows the highlights, and Trip Advisor has MANY threads about magical Nafplio. this is the favorite weekend getaway for chic Athenians, so go M-F for most lodging options. After this, you can end your trip by Athens sightseeing.

On my first trip (of 30 days) to Greece, at my last island stop, I said, I guess I'll spend 5 days in Athens & do day trips, and my artist friend Angela said, NO, you will spend one night, leave your biggie bag at the hotel, take a shoulder bag, and a bus to Nafplio; the most beautiful Old Town in Greece. You'll thank me. And I've been back there at least 6 times, each time discovering something new, and each time I have to send renewed thanks to Angela.

Posted by
5208 posts

I would agree with the Three Island plan, most people think Island hopping is a different place everyday, but I found both on the mainland and the islands, travel mostly occurs in the middle of the day, takes longer than planned (late starts or arrivals, other issues) and basically chews up most of a day by the time you get settled again somewhere. If you plan only two nights, that really only gives you a day to explore, three nights gives you a couple days, letting you just relax on the beach for most of one.

Also make sure your islands have efficient ferry connections between them. Some people choose islands that sound nice, but no way of getting from one to the other without backtracking to Athens or having to spend a night in a port to make a connection.

As for time of year, I too am in the September camp, end of May is nice, but we enjoyed September much more.