Hopping from one Greek island to the next is a wonderful experience. You get to visit an exciting new haven every few days and explore everything afresh. Yet it can be difficult to know where to begin – after all, there are over 100 inhabited islands to choose from in Greece, and endless combinations of ferries to take.
But don’t worry – we’ve put together a number of top island hops so you don’t have to waste precious hours planning. Covering the Ionian, Cyclades, Sporades, Saronic and Dodecanese chains, each itinerary has been chosen so you get that perfect mix of the popular and the lesser-known.
We’ve been careful to opt for islands with regular ferry connections during the holiday season, where journey times are kept to a minimum – ensuring you’re not left hopping mad on your island travels! What’s more, you can fly direct to each of the starting points on our list, saving you more time to enjoy the islands.
The Ionian islands
With its interesting Old Town full of Venetian architecture and tree-lined arcades, there’s no better place to start your island hopping adventure. You’ll find world-class beaches, ancient monasteries, and a nightlife that can be as laid-back or full-on as you wish. Have your picture taken at Corfu Fortress, an impressive Venetian citadel built in the 1500s, and enjoy the island’s best seafood at the harbour.
From the port in Corfu Town, take the ferry to the tiny island of Paxos. The journey should take about an hour, with the first ferry leaving at 7.30 am. The water here ranges from deep blue to emerald green, and is perfectly clear – don’t forget to bring your snorkel. The island’s vineyards are said to produce the best wine in Greece, so be sure to indulge before heading to your next destination!
Just 15 minutes from Paxos by ferry , the hotel-free Antipaxos is perfect for a day trip. The water here is exceptionally clear and blue, more like the Caribbean than Europe. There are a number of tavernas behind the main beach for barbeques and refreshments. You can also hire sunbeds and parasols for a chilled-out day on the sand.
Start your adventure by touring the incredible ancient ruins dotted around the island, including the 3rd century Agora and the Castle of the Knights. Walk through the narrow streets of medieval Old Town, and spend the day on beautiful pebble beaches. Kos Town is the place to be for a night out on the tiles, and you’ll also find the ferry port here, ready for the next leg of your journey.
Approaching the pretty island of Symi, you’ll be struck by the colourful buildings perched above the harbour – have your camera at the ready! Take your time to explore the island, as you discover countless churches and monasteries. There are hidden coves to find too, as well as beaches only reachable by water taxi. Agios Nikaloas is the pick of the bunch with its impressive vertical cliffs and tiny whitewashed church.
From Symi, it’s an easy 1 hour ferry ride over to Rhodes, the biggest island in the Dodecanese. Stroll around the medieval city of Rhodes, before heading south to Lindos, where you get to marvel at the Greco-Roman Acropolis overlooking the Aegean.
Just north of Lindos, you’ll find Tsambika Beach, a serene half-mile strip of golden sand with clear turquoise water. If you fancy a spot of nightlife, stop off at Faliraki on the east coast before making your way to the harbour in Rhodes Town for the return journey to Kos.
Skiathos is the ideal base for island hopping in the Sporades. Everything is within easy reach on this compact island, so you’re never far from an idyllic cove or hidden bay. Don’t forget to visit the beach at Koukounaries, often voted the best in Greece. You’ll find mesmerising blue water and a white sandy beach backed by dense forest.
From Skiathos, it’s a 2 hour ferry ride to Alonnisos, an island paradise full of charm and tranquillity. Here you’ll find picturesque hilltop villages, like Chora, with its white-walled buildings and terracotta roofs – the perfect place for an al-fresco dinner looking out over the shimmering Aegean ocean. You’ll also be treated to outstanding beaches, both pebbled and sandy, where you can either soak up the Greek sun, or venture into the clear ocean with your snorkel.
Just 30 minutes on the ferry is all it takes to get to Skopelos, filming location for hit musical Mamma Mia. The first thing you’ll notice is the amazing greenery covering the hills – a striking compliment to the deep blues of the surrounding sea. Entering the harbour, you get the perfect view of Alonissos town, nestled on the hillside. Spend an evening in town overlooking the boats as they bob on the ocean, or head to an unspoiled beach for a romantic sunset.
You’ll find plenty to see and do on this upmarket island, a famous celeb hangout in the summer months. Make your way to Mykonos Town for nightlife and pretty beaches, or head slightly north to Agios Sositis – a secluded bay with crystalline water. Inland, you’ll find Ano Mera village, with its charming town square, traditional tavernas and 16th century monastery.
When it’s time to hop to your next island, there are two ferry ports in Mykonos, with highspeed catamarans and ferries leaving from Tourlos, and hydrofoils from the old port. Either way, there are plenty of departures daily, and you’ll need to arrive at least 45 minutes before leaving dock.
The unhurried island of Naxos is the type of place made for exploring. With verdant valleys, lemon and olive groves, and rugged mountain peaks, it’s time to get your hiking boots on! Make your way to the top of Zas mountain, the highest point in the Cyclades. This 1000 m peak is said to be the birthplace of Zeus, and offers unparalleled views across the island and beyond. For amazing, Insta-ready sunsets, head to St George Beach, just a short walk from Naxos Town.
Just 30 minutes on the ferry from Naxos lies Greece’s best-kept secret, Paros. With an abundance of natural beaches, mountaintop villages and Venetian architecture, there’s a lot to fit in. At Parikia, you’ll discover whitewashed cubic buildings, neoclassical mansions, and an 800 year-old Frankish castle. While at the fishing village of Naoussa, cobbled walkways wind their way gently downhill to one of the prettiest harbours in the country.
The Saronic islands
Home to the iconic Acropolis, Athens is the ideal launching pad for your island hopping experience. Visit the awe-inspiring Parthenon, the 2,500 year-old temple built to honour Athena, and stand at the top of the Herodian Theatre for incredible city views. Head to the port town of Piraeus to explore the ancient city walls, and from here, jump aboard a boat for you next port of call.
Just an hour from Athens, this Greek idyll is small but popular. You’ll find plenty to see, from neoclassical houses and churches, to quaint marinas and historic harbours. Set in a pine tree forest in the middle of the island, you’ll find a 6th century temple built to honour Poseidon, god of the seas. Spend a morning on the Aderes mountain to walk among a forest full of lemon trees, before heading for an afternoon of serenity on the sand at Aliki Beach.
Just half an hour on the boat is all you need to reach the unspoiled island of Hydra. With no motor vehicles allowed, the only forms of transport here are donkeys and water taxis. That said, everything you need to see is just a short walk away, including the beaches, shops and restaurants.
There’s a cosmopolitan yet laid-back vibe on Hydra, which means you get the convenience of having everything at hand, with a relaxed island atmosphere. This is an island full of nature, art, and hidden coves, so take your time to explore before heading back to base.