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Choosing Greek Island Base for island hopping

Choosing Greek Island Base for island hopping

Jul 23rd, 2017, 08:09 AM
  #1  
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Choosing Greek Island Base for island hopping

I am in the very early stages of Greek Islands vacations. Ideally, i would love to find an island base to stay for entire trip (approx. 10 days) and do several island ferry hops (within 2-3 hours each way) to other islands. If you have done a similar trip or have looked into it would love to hear your thoughts
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Jul 23rd, 2017, 08:28 AM
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I am not much of a ferry expert but my understanding is most of the ferry routes are linear. They do their ports of call then turn around in the late afternoon and return to the same ports in the early evening. For the most part that means you probably are going to need an overnight.

The most piratical island in my experience (which is just the Cyclades) would be Naxos. You can take the conventional ferry from Naxos to Paros in the morning then take the return ferry which gets in around 11PM.

There are also excursion boats from Naxos that will get you to Santorini, Delos and Mykonos and some of the small Cyclades islands.

Naxos by the way is large enough and diverse and you can spend all your vacation there and still not see it all.

If you really want to island hop efficiently then choose your islands and take the ferry hop but then stay at the next island for a few days. In 10 days you probably need to reserve at least 2 days for Athens at the end so that gives you 4 days on two islands.

Naxos Town http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr5...7632094558042/
Trip around Naxos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr5...7634605629689/
Day trip Delos and Mykonos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr5...7637922138466/
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Jul 23rd, 2017, 08:37 AM
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Which island group?

Ionian islands
Cyclades islands
Saronic islands
PetrosB3 is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2017, 09:02 AM
  #4  
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@stanbr thank you! Naxos sounds very fitting.. although i do want to see if day tripping to several nearby islands is possible before going option 2- two islands/one trip..
-is there a direct ferry connection from Athens to Naxos?
-when you say "excursion boats" you mean day trips?
-which sites should i use to look up ferry connections?

@PetrosB3 i guess i would ideally want no more than 3-4 hour connection from Athens to my base island via ferry, other than that i am open
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Jul 23rd, 2017, 09:14 AM
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An island base isn't really practical, even with good ferry connections. Every time you take a day trip to another island you are paying double, because you pay again to get back to your base. Inter-island ferries are expensive, especially highspeeds, which cost twice as much as conventional ferries. With many island routes there are only one or two ferries per day or even less, and they don't always leave at convenient times for round trips.

As stanbr wrote above, "most of the ferry routes are linear", meaning they start at Athens or another main hub, progressing along a specified route, returning to their home ports late that night or the next day. One example is the Blue Star route: Piraeus > Paros > Naxos > Santorini > Naxos > Paros > Piraeus. The ferry leaves Piraeus at 7:30 am and returns at 11:30 pm.

Much better is to island hop taking advantage of the ferry routes. For example, you could leave Athens by ferry, stop at Paros or Naxos for a few nights, then move on to Santorini. From Santorini you could join another ferry route, stopping, for example, at Milos and Sifnos on the way back to Athens. The above are just a couple of examples—there are many other possibilities.

Island groups with the most ferry connections are the Cyclades and Dodecanese. The Sporades also has good connections between Skiathos, Skopelos, and Alonnisos, but no ferries from Athens.

Another tactic is to fly from Athens to a distant island, then hop by ferry from there. For instance, you could fly to Kos or Rhodes in the Dodecanese, then hop to smaller nearby islands.
Heimdall is online now  
Jul 23rd, 2017, 10:16 AM
  #6  
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@heirndall thank you for taking @stanbr point further and explaining. i get it now and agree with following the ferry routes. what would be a best site to look for these typical ferry routes?
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Jul 23rd, 2017, 10:17 AM
  #7  
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@standbr thanks for the links i am also reading your trip reports now
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Jul 23rd, 2017, 11:06 AM
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Weekend_celebrations, if you can find a second-hand copy of Greek Island Hopping, that will give you the best explanation of ferry routes I can think of. Unfortunately the guide is no longer published, but ferry routes haven't changed much since the last edition of 2013. The timetables are out of date, and there are some new ferries since then, but diagrams showing the routes are still fairly accurate. You can buy the guide on Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Greek-Island-...d+hopping+2016

When you've learned a little bit about the routes, go to gtp.gr or openseas.gr to see the current ferry timetables. If you become a real ferry nerd you can go to marinetraffic.com, which shows all the ships in real time. Zoom in on the Aegean Sea, filter out the tankers and cargo ships, and you will see passenger ships in blue and highspeed vessels in yellow. You can actually track them as they make their way from island to island.

Incidentally, I agree with stanbr that you can take day trips from Naxos with Naxos Star and Alexander, but be aware these boats are smaller than ferries, and some people get seasick when seas are rough. Paros would actually be a better base for day trips, because the same boats that go from Naxos stop at Paros 45 minutes later, and drop off passengers at Paros before returning to Naxos. That cuts 1½ hours at sea, something you might appreciate on a windy day. Another advantage of Paros is that you can take a day trip from there to Antiparos, only 30 minutes by excursion boat from the main dock at Parikia.

My other objection to taking day trips is that you only see the island you visit during the day, when most people are at the beaches. On the smaller islands many shops close for siesta from about 2 to 6 pm. One of the best things about Greek Islands is the evenings, when the shops are open again, cafes are serving drinks and snacks, and tavernas & restaurants open for dinner. When you island hop and stops at least 3 nights on each island you will experience much more.
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Jul 23rd, 2017, 11:13 AM
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Is anyone else having problems getting Preview to work? It's not working with Safari on my MacBook, so please excuse my poor editing.
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Jul 23rd, 2017, 06:03 PM
  #10  
kja
 
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@ Heimdall: "Preview" hasn't been working for most of us since early May:
http://www.fodors.com/community/foru...ew-to-work.cfm
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Jul 23rd, 2017, 06:28 PM
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This is a link to a fairly accurate ferry route map: http://ferries-turkey.com/images/pic...etwork-800.png
brotherleelove2004 is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2017, 06:43 PM
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Love that (simple) ferry map! A take off of the London Underground map fits surprisingly well. Now I understand better for planning my own trip next year.

Thanks
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Jul 23rd, 2017, 07:07 PM
  #13  
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@heimdall @brotherleelove thank you! i am on it. planning is half the fun!
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Jul 23rd, 2017, 07:30 PM
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This ferry map is a bit outdated (it doesn't show the 3x week ferry from Santorini to Rhodes), but it's a little easier to see the actual distances between islands http://www.greeceathensaegeaninfo.co...erry-chart.htm
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Jul 23rd, 2017, 07:31 PM
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@heimdall question on pricing of the ferry routes- does one buy individual tickets for each leg or it makes sense/possible to buy one multi-leg fair?
thanks
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Jul 23rd, 2017, 11:13 PM
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There is no such thing as a multi-leg ticket—you buy a separate ticket for each journey. Unless you are travelling in high season (Jul-Aug) or Orthodox Easter, it's not necessary to prebook tickets—just buy them in Greece as you go along. There are ticket agencies at every port, and some ferry companies have their own ticket booths.

As janisj wrote, brotherleelove's ferry map is a take-off of the London Underground map, which was designed to be simple and easy to understand rather than geographically accurate. It doesn't show the Athens port of Rafina, which is the main port for ferries to Tinos and Mykonos. It is a useful tool, as is travelerjan's map, which includes frequencies of ferries. Another map I found is:
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com...b2553e8ed8.jpg
Heimdall is online now  
Jul 23rd, 2017, 11:34 PM
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The important thing to remember is that timetables change every year, and even if you get the current edition of a guidebook the timetables are out of date. In recent years a company called Sea Jets, which once had a bad reputation, added several large highspeed ferries to its fleet and opened up new summer routes. It still uses the small catamarans that gave them the bad reputation (SeaJet 2 and Superjet), but the larger ones are okay.

Every inhabited island has ferry service 12 months/year, even when there are no tourists around. Islanders need food and other supplies, and sometimes need to travel to main cities for doctor's appointments, etc.

The summer season for Greek ferries is from April to October, and it's easy to get around during that period. November to March is considered the winter season, when ferries run only along main routes to/from Athens and a few other hubs. There are still local ferries, e.g. Paros - Antiparos, but some tourist routes are discontinued. For instance, you can't get from Santorini to Mykonos in winter without going back to Athens first.
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Jul 24th, 2017, 07:23 AM
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Heimdall as usual is a trove of great info. Just to add to the fun, if you are trying to pick up on a "pattern of service" You might look at the website "OPen Seas". http://www.openseas.gr/openseas/en/ Let's say you want to know what ferry service you're likely to encounter NEXT june going on the first monday from Sifnos to Santorini. It's too early to get a listing on the most complete ferry site, gtp.gr. However, try this one with its "magic trick" ... it can roll back time. Put in your start-point (Sifnos) and your destination (Santorini). Then on the little calendar, click the LEFT pointing arrow and it will go back to June 2017. click Search and it will show what ferries went on Mondays this PAST june. If there's nothing you can scroll back or forward a day til you find a departure. This of course is no guarantee, but gives an idea of frequency ... particularly useful when dealing with islands that don't have daily ferries.


To add to the mix, already complicated, anyone planning on ferry travel in May should know that May is a "transition month" ... not winter, not high season. Some years, lots of service, others not. AND ferry lines may pull a ferry off the schedule for 2-3 weeks for a refit or tune-up for high season.

One May I went with 3-4 Newbies to Serifos, planning 3 days & then a direct ferry to Santorini. Just before departure, learned that the ferry was cancelled. Acting swiftly I switched plans to ferry to Paros for 1 night, and THEN to Santorini. On AM of day 2 on Serifos, learned the ferry to Paros was cancelled, and our only link was a ferry to Sifnos at 8pm and THEN to Santorini next AM. Luckily had friend on Sifnos who got a hotelier in the port to open her lodgings a week early to give 5 "refugees" beds for the night! If I'd been alone, would have just decided to "go with the flow" but with newbies in tow, I had to improvise. The joys of Greek ferry travel!!
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Jul 24th, 2017, 07:48 AM
  #19  
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@heimdall thanks for the new map- i understand it better than the London underground
I am afraid we might be travelling end of June-early July (bc of school holidays as we want to include college and school age kids) so prebooking will be necessary. i suppose final choice of islands will also be determined by available accommodations- would love to find a reasonably affordable house to share with friends (that would be another thread i suppose).
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Jul 24th, 2017, 07:55 AM
  #20  
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@traverjan good to know! i suppose if you stick to more established routes and high season there are fewer cancellations
(I dont even see a line between Santorini and Serifos on the map!)
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