Greece is a country that has a significant amount of territory, with much of this spread over the hundreds of islands. You could easily spend months exploring this fascinating and historic area! Some islands are famous for their beaches and natural features, while others have a significant nightlife scene or strong cultural traditions.
However, traveling on the Greek islands also requires some planning and preparation, as there are some tips and precautions that you should know before you go. Here are some of the most important ones to help you have a safe, enjoyable and memorable trip.
Choose Your Islands Wisely
With dozens of islands in Greece to choose from, it’s a tough decision – trust me, I know. Every year I wrack my brain and spend hours researching my next island adventure. But it’s worth it, because each island has its own unique character, culture and attractions.
Some of the most popular islands are Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, Rhodes and Corfu, but they can also be very crowded, especially in the peak season of June to August. If you want to steer clear of the crowds, head to the more serene islands, like Astypalaia, Ithaca, Donoussa, Sikinos, Kimolos, Tinos and Andros.
Another factor to consider is what kind of experience you are looking for. Do you want to party all night long, relax on the beach, explore ancient ruins, hike in nature or sample local cuisine? Depending on your preferences, you can find an island that suits your style. For example:
- The best beaches: Naxos and Paros
- The best for natural beauty: Crete
- The best for low-key luxury: Antiparos
- The most charming: Hydra
- The most romantic: Santorini
- The best for college-aged partying: Ios
- The best for 20 to 30-something partying: Mykonos
Plan Your Transportation
The Greek islands are spread over a large area in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, so getting around them can be a challenge. The main options are by air, by ferry or by sailboat.
Some of the larger islands have airports that can accept international flights, such as Rhodes and Corfu. However, not all of them do, so you may have to fly into one of the main hubs like Athens or Thessaloniki and then take a domestic flight or a ferry to your destination. You can check the availability and prices of flights with domestic carriers such as Aegean Airlines, Olympic Air or Sky Express.
Ferries are still the most common way to travel between the islands, but they can vary in speed, comfort and price. You can book your tickets online with platforms like Ferryhopper or at the port offices. Make sure to check the schedule carefully, as some routes may not operate every day or may be affected by weather conditions. Also, be prepared for delays or cancellations, especially during peak season.
If you want more flexibility and adventure, you can also charter a sailboat with a skipper and hop between islands at your own pace. This can be a great way to see some of the smaller and less accessible islands that have no ferry connections. However, this option is also more expensive and requires some sailing experience or a license.
Packing for the Greek islands can be tricky, as you have to balance between comfort, style and practicality. Here are some tips to help you pack smartly:
- Bring light and breathable clothing that can keep you cool in the hot weather. Cotton, linen and silk are good choices.
- Bring a swimsuit or two (or more) as you will spend a lot of time on the beach or in the water.
- Bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun. The UV index can be very high in Greece during summer.
- Bring comfortable shoes that can handle different terrains. Some islands have cobblestone streets, rocky paths or sandy beaches that can be hard on your feet.
- Bring a light jacket or sweater for the evenings or windy days. The temperature can drop significantly at night or when there is a breeze.
- Bring some dressier outfits if you plan to visit some upscale restaurants or bars. The Greeks like to dress well when they go out, so you may feel underdressed if you wear casual clothes.
- Bring a power adapter and a portable charger for your electronics. The voltage in Greece is 220V and the plugs are type C or F. You may not find many outlets or reliable wifi on some islands, so it’s good to have a backup.
- Bring some cash and a debit or credit card. Most places accept cards, but some smaller shops or restaurants may only take cash. ATMs are available on most islands, but they may charge fees or run out of money.
Respect the Local Culture and Customs
The Greek islands have a rich and diverse culture that dates back to ancient times. They have their own traditions, festivals, cuisine and music that reflect their history and identity. As a visitor, you should respect and appreciate the local culture and customs, and avoid any behavior that may offend or annoy the locals.
Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind:
- Learn some basic Greek words and phrases, such as hello (yassas), thank you (efharisto) and cheers (yamas). The locals will appreciate your effort and may be more friendly and helpful.
- Greet people with a smile and a handshake. You can also kiss them on both cheeks if you are close friends or relatives.
- Be polite and courteous in your interactions. Say please (parakalo) and excuse me (signomi) when necessary. Don’t raise your voice or argue in public.
- Be punctual for appointments or meetings. The Greeks may have a relaxed attitude towards time, but they still expect you to be on time or at least inform them if you are running late.
- Dress modestly when visiting churches or monasteries. Cover your shoulders and knees, and remove your hat or sunglasses. You may also have to wear a skirt or a shawl if you are a woman.
- Don’t take photos of people without their permission, especially if they are elderly or religious. Ask politely before you snap a picture, and respect their wishes if they decline.
- Don’t litter or damage the environment. The Greek islands are beautiful and fragile, so you should leave them as you found them. Dispose of your trash properly, recycle when possible, and don’t pick flowers or plants.
- Tip generously for good service. The standard tip is 10% of the bill, but you can give more if you are satisfied with the service. You can also round up the bill or leave some change on the table.
The Greek islands are a wonderful destination for travelers who want to experience the beauty, culture and hospitality of Greece. They offer something for everyone, whether you are looking for relaxation, adventure, romance or fun. The most important tip is to enjoy yourself and make the most of your trip.
Have a great time on the Greek islands!