The Greek Islands - 8 Days

First-timers often describe their trip to “the Greek Islands,” as if they were one monolithic entity, easily popped into and out of and in between, like boutiques in a mall. It’s only once a visitor gets to know the country that the magnitude and diversity of the archipelagos become clear. The truth is that there are over 200 inhabited islands in Greece — and over 6,000 isles of varying sizes altogether. Of the islands with residents, each has its own character, from the whitewashed cave homes of the Cyclades to the lush, green Italianate Ionians, to the Dodecanese capped with Crusader castles.

Getting Around Greece

By air: Twenty-five islands have their own airports, all served from Athens by Olympic Airways and Aegean Airways, two domestic carriers that have merged. Eight are international airports that are also served by charters and European carriers such as British Airways, Air France, and EasyJet in summer. Although many of the islands have several flights a day in high season, the planes fill up quickly; aim to book four months ahead. Every single domestic flight is under an hour from Athens (keep in mind that the landmass of Greece is slightly smaller in size to the state of Alabama).

By sea: All large islands, and many small ones, are served by ferries, both of the slow and fast variety, from multiple lines, included Blue Star, Aegean Speed Lines and Minoan. Ferries don’t fill up as quickly as the flights do; you can often get a ticket the day before, but it’s always a good idea to book as soon as you know your itinerary, especially during peak times like Easter or August.  While it’s always smart to secure tickets once you know when you’re travelling, it’s not necessary to book too far ahead unless you’re travelling at peak times or in a large group.

By car: The major car agencies operate out of Eleftherios Venizelos in Athens and most island airports. It is possible to “drive” to an island by taking a car ferry, and since some islands are not frequently served by ferries leaving from Athens, you may have to, for example, arrive in the Athens airport, drive a rental car to the town of Volos port of Agios Konstantinos in central Greece, and sail to the islands of the Sporades. As in the rest of Europe, most car rentals are manual shift; automatics are more expensive and rare and must be booked well in advance. Here’s a work-around: If you’re just one or two people travelling together, a Smart car is inherently automatic, easy to find, affordable, and costs less to take on a ferry because of its teeny size.

For the most part, the islands are divided into six main island groups, plus a significant stand-alone, Crete. It’s easier to travel between islands within one group than to archipelago-hop, although that can be done. (For example, if you want to go between Mykonos and Santorini in the Cyclades, there are multiple ferry and hydrofoil options in high season, but to get from Santorini to Corfu, in the Ionian, you’ll need to fly or sail into Athens, then fly to Corfu.) See our handy tip sheet below to find the island(s) that sound best for your next vacation.

Day 1
Depart for Greece

Depart for Greece

Day 2
Arrive in Athens

Arrive in Athens, the classical capital of Greece. Make your way to your hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure to discover the ancient wonders of this city known as the cradle of Western Civilization and the birthplace of democracy

Overnight: Athens

Day 3
Full Day in Athens

Today is at leisure to explore Athens independently. At Constitution Square, perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of the colorfully-costumed Evzone guards, outfitted in the traditional Greek style. Alternatively, join the optional Athens city tour that begins with a panoramic drive through the city center. View the Panathenian Stadium, the ruins of the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch. Continue on to visit the Acropolis, the ancient architectural masterpiece built during the Golden Age of Athens and the new Acropolis Museum. Tonight, perhaps walk through the lively Plaka area, the oldest section of Athens, a neighborhood of charming restaurants, shops and sidewalk cafes

Optional: Half Day Athens Sightseeing (AM)

Overnight: Athens

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 4
Ferry to Santorini

Today, head to the port to board the ferry* to Santorini. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. The island of Santorini, with its sapphire blue water, snow-white architecture and multicolored cliffs is considered one of the world’s most enchanting getaways. This evening is yours to independently discover the delightful restaurants and nightlife

Overnight: Santorini

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 5
Full Day in Santorini

Today is free to explore this Greek paradise. Be sure to walk the streets of bustling Fira, the island’s iconic capital city, a vision of pristine whitewashed buildings. Take time to visit the Archaeological Museum containing Minoan artifacts that offer a glimpse into the historic and religious make up of this beautiful village. Explore the shops and cafes along the narrow footpaths, and be sure to grab a seat at an outdoor cafe as you wait for the colorful sunset. Perhaps join the optional Santorini Private Island Tour*, where you will visit the famous clifftop village of Oia, stop by the lighthouse of Akrotiri and the famous Red Beach before experiencing a local wine tasting. Alternatively, join the optional Santorini Wine Tour* to explore the world of Therian volcanic wines and enjoy tastings at three family estate wineries

*The Half Day Santorini Private Island Tour (PM) and Half Day Santorini Wine Tour (PM) operate simultaneously. Passengers may opt to participate in only one of these tours.

Optional: Half Day Santorini Private Island Tour (PM)*

Optional: Half Day Santorini Wine Tour (PM)*

Overnight: Santorini

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 6
Full Day in Santorini

Enjoy a second full day at leisure in Santorini. Thousands of years ago, one of the most devastating volcanic eruptions in history occurred here. This event is believed to have led to the demise of the ancient Minoan culture and inspired several Greek myths. To learn more, join the optional Santorini Volcano Cruise* aboard a motorized sailing boat that circles around the island. Sail to the nearby volcanic islands of Palia Kameni and Nea Kameni for leisure time before returning to the port of Athinios. Perhaps decide to join the optional Santorini Catamaran Cruise* to spend a relaxing day sailing in the blue waters of Santorini. Savor a freshly prepared lunch, and enjoy time to swim at the famous Red Beach

*The Half Day Santorini Volcano Cruise (AM) and Half Day Santorini Catamaran Cruise (AM) operate simultaneously. Passengers may opt to participate in only one of these tours.

Optional: Half Day Santorini Volcano Cruise (AM)*

Optional: Half Day Santorini Catamaran Cruise (AM)*

Overnight: Santorini

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 7
Ferry to Athens

In the early afternoon, make your way to the port to board the ferry* to Athens. The ferry ride from Santorini to Athens is approximately 6 hours. Upon arrival, continue to your hotel in Athens

Overnight: Athens

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 8
Depart Greece

Head to the airport for your departure flight

Meals: Breakfast

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The Greek Islands
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