Greek Island Hopping Itinerary:
13 Islands You Should Visit
If there’s one country I repeatedly come back to, it’s Greece. Ancient temples stand tall on cliffs overlooking the turquoise seas, olive trees grow amongst a rugged landscape, cobblestoned streets lead to local tasty tavernas and best of all… sandy beaches that stretch out for miles. In Greece, there are 6,000 beautiful Greek islands to choose from. With the help of some fantastic female travel bloggers who also love Greece, we’ve rounded up our favorite islands to go off the beaten path including amazing beaches for your Greek island hopping itinerary!
Some links in this article may contain affiliate links which I may earn a small commission from at no extra cost to you.
Cyclades Islands in Greece
Best of the Cyclades: Andros, Syros, Mykonos, Serifos, Antiparos, Paros, Naxos, Ios, and Santorini
Don’t try to cram all the islands into one itinerary, pick a few to visit for your trip and spend 3-5 days on each beautiful Greek island.
If you like…
- Low-Season Travel: Paros, Mykonos & Santorini
- Beaches: Andros, Naxos, and Ios
- Quiet Greek Islands: Syros, Serifos, and Antiparos
Written by: Steph of The Mediterranean Traveller
Of all the tourist destinations in the Aegean, the least mentioned is surely Andros—yet it’s the second largest of the Cyclades (after Naxos) and one of the closest islands to Athens. This is great news if you want to get off the beaten track without a long ferry journey.
Things to do in Andros
When I first arrived in Andros, I was so blown away by its beauty that I missed my bus stop and ended up in the middle of nowhere. It has a slightly different feel to the rest of the Cyclades, it’s refreshingly low key, and there’s something quite striking and stern about the landscape with its swathes of dark green vegetation and natural springs.
The handsome and elegant Chora is the island’s capital and the cultural hub—a good choice if you like neoclassical architecture and art galleries. But you’ll also find some excellent golden sand beaches around the island; the pretty whitewashed village of Batsi is the main seaside resort.
Recent attempts to open the island up to tourism have been blissfully low key. Over 300km of hiking trails across the island have been established, making this an ideal getaway from Athens for nature lovers. It’s no surprise that alternative tourism is flourishing.
I’ll definitely be back one day to tackle the 10-day route across the island.
Written by: Teresa of Brogan Abroad
Located in the heart of the Cyclades and very close to its most famous neighbor Mykonos, Syros is the epitome of Greek island life. It is known as ‘Lady of the Cyclades’ and ‘Nymph of the Aegean Sea’, for its beautiful neoclassical architecture and its hills covered in pastel-colored buildings, making it look like a wedding cake.
Things to do in Syros
Ermoupuli, the main town in the island, is the administrative capital of the Cyclades, which include Mykonos and Santorini. Despite this, Syros only gets visits from mostly Greek tourists, so it feels very much off the beaten path.
You will find some of the best seafood restaurants here, and being able to enjoy the local food overlooking the sunset, is just magical. And it’s got plenty of gorgeous beaches too, with my favorite one being Galissas, on the west side of the island, with its secluded shell-shaped bay.
Syros is becoming more and more popular, so getting to explore it now is key if you’d like to see the ‘real Greece’.
Written by: Sonja of Migrating Miss
While Mykonos may notoriously be a party island, it is possible to venture there and find more off the beaten track adventures.
Things to do in Mykonos
Mykonos town itself is charming, but be sure to wander off into the back streets rather than sticking to the more popular areas or visit in the morning when there are fewer people around. If you want to visit the picturesque Little Venice and the windmills, go during the late afternoon or early evening.
There are beautiful beaches to be found in Mykonos, but try to visit in the shoulder seasons or offseason for fewer crowds, go to lesser known beaches like Agios Sostis, or take a boat to some of the more secluded beaches that are difficult to reach on land.
Hiking is a great way to get off the beaten path in Mykonos, literally! Check out trails on the west side of the island around the lighthouse.
Written by: Mel from BRB Travel Blog
Located in the west of the Cyclades, Serifos is only 3 hours away from Athens by speedboat. Forgotten by the mass tourist loop of Santorini and Hydra, this hidden gem is full of white and blue houses, old windmills and churches with blue domes.
Things to do in Serifos
The abandoned area around the mines provides surreal hikes with amazing viewpoints mixing nature, rusted mining bridges and rail cars.
Chora, the capital, is situated at the top of the hill and gives you breathtaking views of the island and the Aegean Sea. The mountains and their arid landscapes offer a perfect contrast with the blue water and the white architecture.
Livadakia is the most vibrant beach situated in the south of the capital and has several amenities to enjoy a perfect lazy day with small restaurants serving local cuisine and bars.
Written by: Lena of Travel Monkey Blog
If you are looking for a really relaxing Greek island holiday, Antiparos island is the place to go.
A much smaller neighbor to Paros, this is one of the hidden pearls of the Aegean sea. Many people overlook it for its size, after all, it only has one small village in the entire island, but that’s the beauty of Antiparos. There are a few stunning traditional Greek villas scattered across the island, but they are usually far away from one another, giving you that feeling of exclusivity.
You can have the whole island to yourself, well, at least the whole beach. Rumor has it that even Tom Hanks and Madonna bought villas on Antiparos to have some privacy and enjoy the beauty of clear skies and crystal clear sea water without paparazzi stalking them.
When it comes to the beaches, just choose whichever one is closest to you. With very little people around, they all have that pristine feeling to them. You can rarely meet other people on the beach even in the peak season of August. Some beaches to check out include:
- Panagia Beach – offers picturesque views and that stunning turquoise water
- Soros – An unorganized beach where you can find your own private spot. Just beware it is nudist friendly!
- Livadia Beach – While it is a pebbled beach, this is the best place to go if you want complete privacy
- For other beaches, check out Trip Advisor’s recommendations
Often times, when people think of a picturesque Greek island on Aegean sea, with villages with whitewashed houses and the blue shutters, they may be thinking of an island like Paros. Paros, has the traditional Cycladic houses along with cobblestone streets, beautiful pink flower trees growing all around, and churches with blue domes.
Things to do in Paros
Parikia is the capital of Paros which has some of the best restaurants in the Cyclades, plenty of cafes, boutique shops, and great ancient sites to see. Click here to find the top Greek dishes you definitely have to try!
Parikia is the main place tourists stay but if you are looking to go a little more off the beaten path, make sure to visit the charming village of Lefkes which has whitewashed windmills and the Venetian castle of Antiparos which dates back to the 13th and 16th centuries.
Also, take a one-hour hike on a marble stone road from the Byzantine period to the beautiful village of Prodromos.
Best of all, are the beaches where Paros has some of the best in all of Greece. There are a total of 38 beaches on Paros to choose from.
- Kolymbithres and Monastiri are popular and offer great spots for snorkeling
- Santa Maria is perfect for wind sports
- If you are looking to get away from crowds, Ambelas, Molos, and Farangas offer seclusion.
Just a hop away from Paros is the less touristy island of Naxos. While I was visiting in August with my husband, there were only beautifully tanned Greeks who were on their own vacation here. If the Greeks go to Naxos, then it must be good, right? Yes!
Things to do in Naxos
Naxos is one of the quieter Greek islands with a lot to offer for outdoor enthusiasts. Hike along traditional footpaths or rent a bike and explore the 21 beautiful villages on Naxos. Ride up to the Greek God Zeus’s childhood home on Mount Zas or cycle to ancient archeological sites like the Temple of Demeter or Portara; the ancient door that leads to nowhere.
My favorite part of Naxos though is the beaches. There are 18 beaches to choose from on Naxos!
- Agios Georgios and Agios Prokopios are the most popular tourist beaches with plenty of sunbeds and umbrellas lined with restaurants and cafes.
- For quieter beaches on Naxos, check out Plaka, Aliko, Kastraki, and Pyrgaki.
- Just beware that Aliko, Agia Anna, and Sahara beach are all nudist friendly.
Written by: Cristina of LooknWalk Greece
Ios, the well-known party island which stands just ½ h by ferry from Santorini. Or 5 h from Athens. That place that falls off your radar unless you are a party goer or enjoy watersports. We don’t fall into either category, so how did we end up on Ios?
A very good friend calls Ios home and that has sparked our interest. So for our 5th wedding anniversary, we combined a weekend in Athens with a week on Ios.
Things to do in Ios
The first thing to do? Since we traveled in late May, the tavernas were opening for the season. So for the duration of our stay, we ended up going to many season openings. All featuring amazing food and people.
Then, we wanted to check out what the island has to offer. Best way to do that? A guided tour with our new friends. We discovered the Bronze Settlement of Skarkos, climbed up to Paleokastro, and had an amazing meal at a remote taverna.
On our anniversary day, it was time to discover the beaches. Since we don’t drive and the public transportation was limited still, we ended up checking out Mylopotas, the most developed beach, located about 5 km from Chora, as well as Gialos, Tzamaria, and Koumpara near the port.
Oh and those sunsets. There are some good places to see amazing sunsets and we loved the view from the Church in the port.
For more to Ios, check out Cristina’s 5 Day Itinerary.
Santorini is by far the most visited island in Greece with flocks of tourists visiting every year and prices soar. Although I always prefer less touristy destinations, I still wanted to visit this beautiful Greek island.
Things to do in Santorini
My favorite thing to do though happened to be free with little encounters with other tourists even during the peak season. This activity was hiking the beautiful route from Fira to Oia with exceptional views of the caldera. The hike takes 2-4 hours and you need to start in the early morning in summer to beat the heat.
Other activities to go off the beaten path in Santorini include:
- Soaking in a sunset on Profitis Elias Hill
- Fantastic photo ops at The Faros Lighthouse
- Cooling down with cliff jumping at Amoudi Bay
- If you are a foodie like me, you will have to visit Santos Wines which offers tours and tastings of some great Greek wine
Although Santorini isn’t known for its beaches, some are quite unique and worth a visit.
- Check out the volcanic lava red rocks and pebbles that form Red Beach, which also offers great snorkeling.
- Also, visit the black sands at Perissa Beach and the white rock landscape on Vlychada.
- If you want to escape the tourists, go to Koloumbos or Katharos Beach which offers more seclusion.
The Saronic Islands
The Saronic islands are a great choice for any Greek island hopping itinerary because they are the closest group from Athens. They are so close that Aegina and Agistri can be reached from Athens by highspeed boat in just an hour. If you are short on time but still want to see some beautiful Greek islands, the Saronic islands are a great choice.
Best of the Saronic Islands: Hydra and Spetses
Others: Aegina, Agistri, and Poros
Duration: 7 days
Written by: Rebecca of Life Beyond Borders
Many people want to travel far to the Greek islands, not realizing there are some fantastic islands nearer Athens, literally just over an hour’s ferry ride away.
Hydra (pronounced ‘idra’) is one of those.
Things to do in Hydra
Donkeys and mules roam the cobbled streets, Hydra is special in that it has no motorized vehicles, except one fire truck and ambulance—people do get sick, after all, even on a remote Greek island and need to be tended to. The donkeys help shift the visitor’s luggage to the small, boutique hotels on the island, or shift farmers’ belongings; it’s not unusual to find a donkey herding some goats, for example.
Yes, Hydra is like stepping back in time, except with wi-fi freely available.
The main attraction of Hydra is its artistic scene and many famous people worldwide come to Hydra—they know they can stroll the streets and get left alone. Indeed, Leonard Cohen had a house here.
As it’s not a traditional package holiday island—thank goodness—it does not really attract beachgoers as there aren’t that many beaches with long white sandy stretches, something readily available on other Greek islands.
However, if you’re prepared to explore, there are hidden pebbly coves and swimming spots to be discovered.
Avlaki Bay is my favourite; a sheltered cove accessible by climbing steep steps from the walking path. You launch yourself from a swimming platform straight into the turquoise waters…it’s bliss.
If you’re looking for a Greek island holiday with a difference, be sure to consider Hydra…away from the usual package holiday crowds, you might just sit across someone at dinner who you’re sure you’ve seen before, before realizing it’s actually because they’ve been on TV!
Read more about Hydra Island – The Greek island with a difference.
The beautiful affluent island of Spetses, located in the Argolic Gulf, is famous for its naval and cultural traditions. This is one of the most cosmopolitan islands in Greece which attracts many artists and celebrities.
Spetses Beaches and things to do
There are several beaches on the island of Spetses, family friendly beaches, secluded ones and for those who enjoy activities and sports.
- Vrellos beach and Agioi Anargyroi are best for tranquility and untouched natural scenery
- Agia Marina beach and Scholes beach are more popular organized beaches
There are also many historical sites to visit on the island like the House of Bouboulina, Church of Panayia Armata, The House of Hatzigiannis Mexis and more.
Spetses is accessible by boat or Flying Dolphin from Hydra, Aegina, Poros or the Port of Piraeus. We took a boat from the Peloponnese, only 15 minutes away, since we were staying at Amanzoe. Stop in the old harbor or Dápia to enjoy a lovely lunch at Poseidonion Grand Hotel Spetses or dinner at Nero Tis Agapis, an excellent restaurant by the water that serves meat and fish dishes. Take a stroll or hop on a horse-drawn carriage and admire the grand mansions that line the little cobble-stoned roads. Spetses has so much to offer and is definitely worth a visit!
Other Greek Islands
Must Visit: Rhodes and Kefalonia
Duration: 5-7 days for either island
There are a lot more amazing islands to choose from. For the complete list, click here.
Written by: Hélène of Flight to Somewhere
Rhodes belongs to the Dodecanese group of Greek islands located just off the coast of Turkey. Even though its most famous sight, the Colossus of Rhodes, hasn’t made it present day, there are still plenty of fantastic things to see here.
Things to Do in Rhodes
Rhodes Town has a beautiful old town area, an acropolis, and medieval windmills, so it’s definitely worth a day trip if you can tear yourself away from the sun lounger at the beach.
Another must-see on Rhodes is Lindos, a stunning whitewashed town with narrow winding streets, crowned by an acropolis site at the top of the hill, offering far-reaching views. The beach here is lovely as well, with crystal clear waters and soft sand. The only downside is the popularity of the location, with Lindos being favored both by both weddings and bus and boat tours.
If you want to drive around the island some more, other great places to check out on Rhodes are Kalithea Spa, Butterfly Valley, and Seven Springs.
Kefalonia– Ionian Islands
Written by: Sarah of Earth Lists
A true gem of the Ionian Islands, where rugged landscapes meet white sandy beaches and bustling marina towns are the stages for blockbuster movies (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin anyone?). Kefalonia is idyllic and unspoiled. What’s more, it’s not packed with as many tourists, who opt for Rhodes or Crete.
Things to do in Kefalonia
There is an abundance of things to do; take a boat trip on the lake cave of Melissani and marvel at the crystal clear waters. Enjoy a seafood dinner at Fiscardo a picture perfect harbor town or jump on a ferry to the mystical island of Ithaca, thought to be the home of Odysseus. An absolute highlight of mine!
If you’re after beaches, Myrtos is one of the most famous beaches in Greece and is worth a visit for the pictures alone. My personal favorite beach is Lixouri which wins the battle due to its lively beach bars, to top it off you can rub clay from the seabed onto your skin and while away the hours soaking up the sun and the music vibes. Bliss.
The majority of the islands are in the south so start your trip by flying into Athens. Athens while not an island, is a beautiful city to explore with a vibrant street art scene, amazing ancient sites, and a lot of tasty food. Find out more about Athens.
The easiest way to go on a Greek island hopping trip is to travel by ferry. During peak season, ferries run daily to many of the islands while the offseason the schedule will be reduced. If you are going during the high season, book your tickets a few weeks in advance.
Ferry providers operating in Greece include:
Some of the more popular islands like Santorini, Rhodes, and Mykonos have airports where budget airlines fly to. Sometimes you can score cheap deals with flights under $50. Just beware that while the flight may be cheap, the budget airlines will often have a hefty fee for any checked bags so you should travel with hand luggage only.
Some of the airlines to check out include:
Phew! Now that you’ve gone through our favorite islands, it’s time to start planning your trip! Which of the beautiful Greek islands will you visit for your island hopping itinerary?
Pin it for later!
Still Want More?
If you are looking for some more European inspiration check out:
- A foodie road trip through Italy
- Exploring the Isle of Skye, Scotland
- Day trip from London: Hiking Dover’s Whitecliffs