Best Times to Explore the Greek Islands by Ferry

Fulfill your Greek island fantasies by ferry-hopping among the picturesque Cyclades. From the renowned party island of Mykonos to the lyrical “Island of Winds,” postcard pretty villages, stunning beaches and incredible ruins await.

The weather is warm and the crowds are thinner in spring, a great time for an island-hopping adventure.


The Greek islands are an archipelago, and they don’t all have the same weather. Some, like Santorini and Mykonos, are famously hot and sunny year-round, while others—like Lesvos or Ithaca—are known for a more rugged, natural charm. To experience the most varied island-hopping adventure, choose your travel dates carefully.

May, June, and September offer pleasant temperatures without the stifling crowds of peak summer. The waters are still warm enough to comfortably swim, and the islands are lush with flowers and greenery.

July and August are the hottest months of the year, but the Meltemi breeze—a north wind—tempers soaring temperatures, especially around popular island destinations. However, it can also bring high airfares and peak season hotel rates.

By September, the seas have warmed up, and beaches are pleasantly empty of schoolkids (with the exception of UK mid-term holidays). Airfares are much more affordable, and hotel prices are lower than during the summer.

The islands are well-served by a comprehensive ferry network, with the massive port of Piraeus at the capital serving as hub for the entire Aegean. From long-haul overnight ferries to tiny inter-island ferries that look more like fishing boats, there are many routes from Athens to the Peloponnese and northern mainland, as well as to the major islands. It’s best to reserve tickets in advance online, as ferries can sell out during peak season.


The peak season runs from the start of July through mid-August, when many islands attract the most visitors. Temperatures are warm, and beaches and attractions operate on their peak-season schedules.

The shoulder months of May, June, and September offer comfortable weather, fewer tourists, and lower prices. However, the temperatures can be chilly on high-altitude islands like Santorini.

In the fall, island-hoppers can explore the pine-clad landscape of Agistri or sample the cuisine of Samothraki and Salamis on day trips from Athens. Alternatively, cruise to cosmopolitan Paros and its buzzing nightlife. Frommer’s notes that autumn also gives you the chance to avoid the summer’s inflated prices, high temperatures, and crowds.

A few island festivals take place in the fall, including the Hydra Festival of Admiral Miaoulis (June), the Cretan Diet Festival (October), and the Chestnut Festival (October). Travelers should be prepared for some rain and shorter museum opening hours during the winter, when hotels shut down, some tourist activities run less frequently, and ferries may be delayed or cancelled. However, it’s a great time to explore some of Greece’s lesser-known islands.


The Greek islands can seem magical at any time of year, but in the fall, the summer high season is winding down and the cobalt waters are still pleasantly warm. By September, school holidays have ended and beaches are empty, making it easy to enjoy the sun without battling crowds for the best views or finding that dreamy spot for a nap. Hotels are also cheaper and airfares easier on the budget.

The shoulder seasons of May, June, and September are ideal for exploring the Greek Islands by ferry. The weather is warm but not stifling and you’ll find that restaurants and beach bars are open, but without the high season crowds. Each island group has its own weather patterns, so make sure you research the specifics for your itinerary, but with a little effort, you can still enjoy a relaxing vacation.

No matter when you plan your trip, the Greek Islands offer a wealth of experiences, from the clifftop towns of Santorini to the cosmopolitan beach life of Ios and Paros. With 6,000+ islands, the options are endless, from sun-soaked coves to mountain-backed villages, buzzing harbour town tavernas to secret secluded beaches, and rugged rock formations to sprawling lands scored by mountains and threaded with gorgeous stretches of golden sand. For tips on where to go and what to do, check out our Ultimate Guide to Island Hopping in Greece.


The Greek Islands are year-round destinations that offer beauty, culture, and experiences beyond treasured beaches. Whether you crave adventure in spring, a family escape in summer, or want to explore ancient ruins and village life in autumn, the best time to visit depends on what you plan to do.

If you want to avoid sweltering temperatures, shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, and inflated hotel prices, consider planning your ferry trip for late spring or early fall. In these shoulder seasons, you’ll have the chance to enjoy sun-drenched shores, azure seas perfect for swimming, and fewer people around. You’ll also be able to see the islands at their most authentic, without the summer tourist swarms.

During the months of May and October, you’ll find many islands empty of school kids (with the exception of UK mid-term holidays). This gives you plenty of room to spread out on a beach and sleep in the shade. In addition, travel rates are much lower than during the summer peak season.

Winter can be chilly, but most island cities don’t shut down during this time and are filled with locals instead. The deep cobalt waters of the Aegean remain warm enough for swimming, while you can stroll streets veiled in ochre and red hues and discover new aspects of Greek heritage and culture.