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8 replies
Best Greek islands??
lhiester
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Hi,

I’m flying into Athens and I hope to spend about a week in Greece. What are the best Greek islands? Which are the safest, most fun, etc.?

Thanks!

I am leaving from Seattle, WA with $7000 for 62 days
Athens, Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Santa Margherita Ligure, Genoa, Venice, Verona, Turin, Menton, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Antibes, Nice, Barcelona, Toulouse, Barbizon, Paris, Salzberg, Munich, Frankfurt, Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam
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I am leaving from Houston with $1800 for 14 days
Dublin, London, Belfast, Kilkenny, Kinsale, Kenmare, Doolin, Galway
I am leaving from Houston with $1800 for 14 days
Dublin, London, Belfast, Kilkenny, Kinsale, Kenmare, Doolin, Galway
I am leaving from Houston, TX with $15000 for 185 days
Amsterdam, Utrecht, Bruges, Luxembourg, Paris, Lyon, Madrid, Lisbon, Seville, Valencia, Barcelona, Nice
luv_the_beach
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lhiester,

Firstly, I strongly recommend going to your local library and checking out the most recent guide book(s) on Greece to get yourself acquainted with the country. Or take a trip to your local bookstore and buy a guidebook (or two), if you’re more serious and plan to spend a considerable amount of time in the country. Also, do a search here in the Eurotrip forums; a lot has already been asked and written about the country, and browsing past threads will help answer your very general question. Reason I’m saying all of this, is because you asked a question that is far too vague to be answered properly in a single post. To be helpfully frank: simply asking people for the “best islands to visit” is the lazy way to get acquainted with a foreign country, and it won’t get you the best results. I don’t mean this in a mean way (I know this forum is titled “Favourite Places”); but it’s arguably the best travel advice anyone will ever give you. Once you get better acquainted with the country, you’ll be able to ask specific questions. But here are a few things to keep in mind:

As for which island is “best” and the “most fun” is entirely up to you: your tastes, the type of vacation you’re looking for, what you want to see and learn, as well as your budget and time constraints. I would also advise not to neglect the mainland, as there are many highly worthwhile places to visit on the mainland, from Classical era ruins, to amazing medieval sites, towering mountain ranges, and pristine Mediterranean beaches, and you will even need to cross the mainland if you plan to incorporate both the Aegean Islands (east of the mainland) and the Ionian Islands (west of the mainland) into your itinerary.

Different islands are different. Most islands are grouped into geographical island groups, such as the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, the Sporades, and the Ionian Islands, to name the best-known groups. Each island group has a distinct character, culture, architecture, and microclimate. If you’re thinking of the famous white-washed cubic homes and small domed churches (an image that many consider “quintessentially Greek”), then you’re thinking of the Cycladic Islands. On the other hand, expect more Neoclassical and Gothic-influenced architecture in the Dodecanese, and expect Baroque in the Ionians. (Although, there are some islands that differ architecturally from the rest of their respective group). But, generally speaking, this is an example of how the architecture varies between island groups, and so does the landscape: the Cyclades are famously dry, the Ionians very green, and the Dodecanese are in-between. Within an island group, each island will also have its unique character. For example: within the Cyclades you have the famous party island of Mykonos, while next door is sophisticated and cultured Syros, next door to religious Tinos (an island that revolves around Our Lady of Tinos Church, a major Christian pilgrimage site.)

As far as safety is concerned, there are no concerns. Just avoid the towns of Kávos (on the island of Corfu), Faliráki (on the island of Rhodes), and Malia (on the island of Crete). These three towns are notorious for young budget travelers from Northern Europe who get piss drunk, get rowdy, and cause trouble. It’s become a major issue in Greek public discourse, and blame is evenly placed on these rowdy tourists themselves, the bars that serve them, as well as the tour operators from their home countries that promote this type of behaviour. (If you ask me, it also boils down to cultural differences between Northern and Southern Europe…the former drink alcohol infrequently but go overboard when they do drink; the latter drink alcohol frequently, but always in moderation). But outside of these 3 towns, everything is civilized, there’s nothing to worry about. Aside from the usual precautions, it’s a very safe country, even with the very high volume of foreigners who come and go on an annual basis.

All of the heavily populated and/or highly touristed islands have frequent ferries and/or flights connecting them with the mainland, this includes islands like Crete, Rhodes/Ródos, Kos, Páros, Náxos, Syros, Mykonos, Santoríni, Spétses, Hydra, Skópelos, Skiáthos, Corfu/Kérkyra, Cephalonia, Zákynthos, Lefkáda, Sámos, Chíos, and Lésvos. Ferry companies that connect Athens and Thessaloníki to the Aegean Islands include Blue Star Ferries, Minoan Lines , Hellenic Seaways, and ANEK Lines, while Minoan also connects Pátra to the Ionians, and several small ferry companies operate short-distance routes connecting, for example, Corfu the the nearby mainland town of Igoumenítsa, or Zákynthos to the nearby mainland town of Killini. The country’s major airlines Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air connect Athens and Thessaloníki to several islands, as does a new low-cast carrier called Athens Airways. Inter-island travel is also possible both by air and by ferry, particularly with Blue Star Ferries, but also many smaller ferry companies that operate short routes. As a general rule of thumb, don’t expect direct ferry service between any random island pair; less populated islands and less touristy islands will only have direct service to a nearby larger island and even some of the more touristed islands will only have direct ferry service only to islands within the same island group. That being said, Blue Star Ferries offers quite a few routes that connect, for example, the Dodecanese Islands with the Cycladic Islands. There’s also a growing number of inter-island flights in recent years: Crete-based Sky Express has a pretty dense network in the Aegean, and Athens Airways offers inter-island flights in the Ionian.

Hope this information serves as a great starting point. Let us know if you have any more questions. Smile


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positiveman
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Santorini and Crete are great.. Far though.

I say Santorini and one of the other popular ones like Mykonos or so… Crete might be too far for your time period in addition to Santorini.

Santorini is a must IMO, because it’s such a beautiful physical setting. Rent a scooter(be careful..) and just cruise all over. That’s what I did… Loved it. See the sunset too – a must..

Cil
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Loved Corfu, Crete and Santorini—Santorini was breathtakingly beautiful.
Have heard really good things about Rhodes.
We flew from Corfu to Crete, and then worked our way back to Athens over about 10 days.

oldlady
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I like Rhodes because it’s big enough to have a large variety of stuff. Ancient ruins, medieval history and ruins, beaches, night life. Mykonos is picture postcard beautiful but fairly touristy and expensive.

lhiester
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Thanks so much, all of you! I really appreciate the advice. I will go to the library and check out some books on Greek islands, but I will keep your recommendations in mind! My best friend’s family is from Santorini, so I can stay with her relatives if I venture over there.

I took a class on Greek and Roman history in college, and I am looking forward to seeing both the ruins and the beautiful landscapes I learned about in that class.

How difficult did you find it to communicate with the locals in Greece? (I’ve traveled to France and other European countries before, but I speak French and had no trouble getting around…)

I am leaving from Seattle, WA with $7000 for 62 days
Athens, Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Santa Margherita Ligure, Genoa, Venice, Verona, Turin, Menton, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Antibes, Nice, Barcelona, Toulouse, Barbizon, Paris, Salzberg, Munich, Frankfurt, Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Budget, Itinerary, Nightlife, Food, Sights
I am leaving from Houston with $1800 for 14 days
Dublin, London, Belfast, Kilkenny, Kinsale, Kenmare, Doolin, Galway
I am leaving from Houston with $1800 for 14 days
Dublin, London, Belfast, Kilkenny, Kinsale, Kenmare, Doolin, Galway
I am leaving from Houston, TX with $15000 for 185 days
Amsterdam, Utrecht, Bruges, Luxembourg, Paris, Lyon, Madrid, Lisbon, Seville, Valencia, Barcelona, Nice
Cil
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I did not have any trouble communicating.
I had a Greek phrasebook which did come in handy, but many Greeks spoke some English.

oldlady
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Santorini is a good choice because it’s very easy to get to from Athens and has good connections to other islands. It’s one of the few islands with multiple daily ferries from Pireas in the winter.

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How difficult did you find it to communicate with the locals in Greece? (I’ve traveled to France and other European countries before, but I speak French and had no trouble getting around…
Unless you get really far off the beaten tourist track you’ll have no language problems. Everyone in the tourist industry speaks English and many Greeks have studied English and/or worked in UK or US.

hasselhoff
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I have only been to Crete one time and i have to say that it’s worth a trip. But this island has quite a number of tourists – so certainly it’s a bit more expensive than other islands.