Navigating Paradise – A Comprehensive Guide to Ferry Travel in the Greek Islands

Navigating Paradise A Comprehensive Guide to Ferry Travel in the Greek Islands

Greek island hopping is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that whisks you to the edge of southern Europe, where pine-clad mountains rise over perfectly azure seas.

If you’re planning to island hop, it helps to know which ferries connect where and when. To help you navigate the island-hopping maze, this comprehensive ferry guide to the Greek islands is your ultimate companion.

Ionian Islands

Located on Greece’s western coast, the Ionian Islands are a popular destination due to their Venetian influence in culture and hosting some of the most exotic beaches in Greece. Unlike the Cyclades, most of the Ionian Islands are not directly connected to mainland Greece by passenger ferry.

Travelers can easily island-hop in the Ionian Islands, hopping between Corfu (Korfu), Paxos, Ithaki, Kefalonia (Cefalonia) and Zakynthos. Corfu is one of the most famous Ionian Islands, and while it may be a bit over-touristy in some areas (such as the center of Corfu town) the island offers many scenic spots where travelers can escape the crowds.

The best time to visit the Ionian Islands is from spring till mid-June when temperatures are warm enough for swimming but not yet too hot. During this period the island is also less busy and there is little chance of rain, which makes it perfect for hiking in the mountains on Lefkada or Corfu.

Getting around the Ionian Islands is easy, with a handful of central ferry agency locations that are open all year round. In peak season, most islands are served by several ferries per day. If you purchase your ferry tickets online or in advance from an authorized seller, you can skip the line and head straight to the boarding gate on the day of your departure.


Since most of the islands in the Cyclades don’t have airports, the only way to get around is by ferry. It is best to book in advance as ferries can sell out during high season. You can use online search engines such as Open Seas and Greek Travel Pages, or local travel agencies (who also sell tickets).

The first step is to decide which islands you want to visit and in what order. Then, you can look up the schedules of various ferries and routes to find what works best for your itinerary. Be sure to check out the fares, as they can vary considerably. You’ll also want to factor in if you will be taking a passenger-only or car-friendly ferry, and whether you need a ticket for children.

A good length of time to island-hop in the Cyclades is 10 days, as it allows you to comfortably spend a few nights on each island. The key is to choose islands that are close enough together so you can minimize your travel time and maximize your time on the islands.

The best times to visit the Cyclades are the low season (spring through early summer) and autumn (mid-September through mid-October). Prices are cheaper, attractions and hotels are less crowded, and temperatures are a lot cooler than the scorching summer heat.


The Dodecanese are home to a stunning array of Greek islands that are perfect for everything from cosmopolitan vacations to peaceful and tranquil getaways. This collection of 12 islands also offers a glimpse into fascinating aspects of more recent Greek history, with the majority of the islanders having been born under Ottoman rule.

In many of the Dodecanese’s towns, you can still see the influences of the area’s various ruling powers over the years, from the Byzantine churches to the Venetian architecture. On the island of Patmos, for example, you can visit the monastery that houses the Cave of Apocalypse, as well as the renowned Library, which holds rare parchments and manuscripts. In addition, don’t miss a visit to the beautiful village of Platanos and the nearby castle that overlooks the port of Lakki.

As with other ferry trips across the Greek Islands, patience is a virtue when it comes to traveling in the Dodecanese. While ferries are relatively quick and efficient, they can sometimes get delayed due to bad weather or mechanical issues. This can be frustrating, but it also provides the chance to take advantage of a different kind of adventure—a chance to explore roadside shrines, empty beaches, or inland villages that might otherwise be missed. In these cases, the delay is an opportunity to practice a very important aspect of Greek life: the art of seizing the day.


The Sporades — or “scattered ones” as the locals call them — are a stunning set of islands just off the coast of Pelion. They are home to gorgeous beaches, verdant green forests and a vibrant nightlife scene that attracts a lot of younger people looking for a great holiday experience.

The three most popular islands in the Sporades are Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos. Despite their popularity, these islands have kept the charm that first attracted visitors and are not overly commercialized. It is also easy to combine these three into island-hopping itineraries, especially as they are all close together.

Ferries connecting the Sporades travel quickly between them (around 1.5-2 hours), making it a breeze to explore these islands. In high season, ferries can be very busy. It is also a good idea to book tickets in advance, especially if you are travelling around Orthodox Easter when many Greeks travel to be reunited with their family members.

Blue Star ferries operate large conventional vessels on numerous routes around the Aegean. These ferries are relatively cheap, with plenty of indoor and outdoor space for passengers to relax, big garages, cabins and a range of restaurants and cafes. The company offers a variety of seating options and, for longer or overnight trips, you can choose to book reserved “airplane” seats.