The Intricacies of Greek Ferry Networks

Island Connections The Intricacies of Greek Ferry Networks

If you’re planning to do some island hopping in Greece this summer take note of the islands that have regular ferry connections between them. This makes your trip much easier.

For example, the high-speed ferries like the Aeolis Express (pictured above) are like airplanes on the sea and will get you to your destination in half the time.

1. The Cyclades

The pristine island landscapes of the Cyclades are famous the world over and their beauty can easily make for an incredible vacation, but there is so much more to this archipelago than its beautiful beaches and charming towns. It is also home to some of the most ancient civilizations in Greece and evidence of their thriving culture still survives today.

From the earliest Bronze Age, it appears that the Cyclades were the cradle of a unique cultural identity, which thrived until around 1400 BCE. At this point, the islands begin to show clear influence from the Mycenaean culture, as reflected in jugs and other pottery found during excavations of early tombs. It is around this time that the Cyclades become a hub for shipbuilding and maritime trade, but the decline of these industries soon leads to a population exodus from the rural areas of the islands and a gradual abandonment of the old ways.

Today, the Cyclades are a premier global tourist destination and a summer paradise. From the cosmopolitan, yet surprisingly intimate, Santorini to the sculptors’ paradise of Paros, bountiful Naxos, and exotic Milos, to the hidden gems of Tzia/Kea, Kythnos, Serifos, Amorgos, Sikinos, Anafi and Folegandros – there really is something for everyone in this magnificent group of islands.

2. The Dodecanese

The Dodecanese, the larger group of 15 or so major and 150 smaller islands in southeastern Greece, offer a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you’re interested in beaches, history, or food, there’s something here for everyone.

Rhodes, the largest island in the Dodecanese, is a living monument to several millennia of human activity. The streets are lined with palm trees and historic buildings, and a wide network of tree-lined roads lead to impressive squares and parks.

The westernmost island in the Dodecanese, Astypalea, will steal your heart with its magical beaches and architecture. The island’s capital, Hora, offers a stunning view of the open blue sea and is one of the most beautiful towns in the Aegean.

High-speed car ferries are popular among those traveling to the Dodecanese because of their speed and convenience. However, if you want to take it easy, opt for a traditional ferry with fewer passengers.

There are 119 daily sailings and 535 weekly sailings to the Dodecanese from Rhodes. Ferry schedules change throughout the year and can become much busier during the peak summer season. Use our deal finder to search for current prices and availability.

3. The Ionian

The Ionian Sea is a Mediterranean basin bordered by Sicily, the Salento peninsula and Calabria in Italy in the west and Southern Albania in the northeast. The westernmost island of Corfu is famous for its beautiful beaches and cliff views, but the other islands in this group also offer some stunning scenery.

The best-known are Corfu, Zakynthos and Lefkada. But there are many other wonderful islands to discover as well, including Ithaca and Paxos. Corfu is directly across from Sarande in Albania, and there’s even a ferry that connects the two islands.

Ferry speeds are measured in knots, rather than kilometers or miles. Generally, conventional ferries travel at 20-25 knots (37-45 km/23-29 miles per hour), while highspeed vessels can achieve 38-40 knots or 70-74 km/44-46 miles per hour.

As you can see, there’s a lot to take in when it comes to the Greek island ferry network, but if you plan ahead and book well in advance, you can be confident that your journey will be smooth. Getting around on the ferries is very easy and in summer it’s often cheaper and more convenient to go island-hopping by ferry than by air. It’s worth noting that some ferry companies don’t allow online booking and will require you to collect tickets at the port prior to departure. You can find out more about these policies by visiting the company websites.

4. The Sporades

In ancient times many Aegean islands were collectively referred to as Sporades. These include the cosmopolitan Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos and the less-visited Skyros and remote Alonnisos.

While the dozens of gorgeous beaches on Skiathos earn it its nickname as ‘The Mykonos of the Sporades’, this island is also known for its lively nightlife and lush forests. The charming port is lined with adorable white houses and ochre roofs. It’s no wonder that this is where Phyllida Lloyd chose to shoot the film Mamma Mia – starring Meryl Streep as a bride-to-be who invites three potential fathers to her wedding in search of her biological parents!

The next island to the east is Skopelos, covered in pine trees and a main town that feels like a fairy tale. This is the most traditionally beautiful of the Sporades and boasts a wealth of picturesque villages and hundreds of churches. It’s a much quieter option than Skiathos but still offers a stylish line-up of restaurants and bars.

Across the bay from Skopelos is the island of Alonissos. This is where you’ll find the National Marine Park of the Northern Sporades, a sanctuary for seabirds and rare marine mammals including the Mediterranean monk seal. With a more low-key vibe than the rest of the Sporades, Alonnisos is perfect for relaxing and taking leisurely strolls surrounded by rugged natural landscapes.