Everything you need to know about holidays to Greek Islands in 2020.
Travelling will always be one of those luxury experiences that are hard to do without breaking the bank. Most of the time, it seems to be so far out of reach, that a lot of people live their lives without experiencing the rush of a new and foreign environment.
Holidays in an exotic country can get expensive, but it doesn't always have to be that way. It all depends on your research skills. The biggest mistake that travelers make is failing to review their destination before a trip. They end up spending more than necessary, at a price that might not be as worth it. Looking up a location beforehand will help greatly in lowering your expenses during the trip. It allows you to get an estimate of how much you'll need to avoid surprises at the cash register. More importantly, researching your destination will show you what deals are the best suited for your budget.
Holiday to Greek Islands
One of the most sought out tourist locations is the beautiful country of Greece. The idyllic scenes, robust culture, and diverse options attracts a variety of people, including groups of friends, families, lovers, and even solo backpackers.
Some head to Greece for the culture and history. A lot of people grow up fascinated by Greek mythologies and dream of visiting the fantastical place they imagined as kids. What they see might not be Mt. Olympus that they envisioned, but Greece will certainly live up to their expectations of beauty. Amazing ancient structures are also plentiful for your run-of-the-mill history buffs.
Greece has a lot of picturesque spots. The many Greek Islands leave a lot to the imagination, and offers an endless array of activities to do. These islands also feature amazing natural views that will definitely make your eyes bug out. The whole country of Greece is pretty Instagram-ready at any point in time.
Along with the many daytime activities to do in Greece, Greek nightlife is something to look forward to. A lot of spring breakers, backpackers, and students on gap years gravitate towards Greece because of this. There are a lot of bars and establishments to go to at night, and there's no such shortage of options there, depending on where you are.
In this article, I'll lay out tips, tricks, and deals that you can use for your upcoming holiday to the Greek Islands. Check out which Greek island speaks to you and your needs the most, so you can plan out your dream holiday accordingly.
What to Do Before You Go
There are lots of things you can do to save a few bucks on your holiday bills. But the number one thing you should not cheap out on is your travel insurance.
Thinking of possible tragedies before going on a holiday is not exactly the best way to set the mood, but a lot of things can happen while you’re in a different country. Getting travel insurance will save you from the trouble of fretting about the what ifs that come with travelling.
When you think of insurance, your mind might go straight to medical situations, which is accurate, but your insurance doesn’t stop there. Depending on the insurance you get, you can get covered for at least the basic expenses of most possible unfortunate events. It will also save you from the grief of lost baggage and delays. I mean, your stuff might still get lost along the way, but at least you’re covered if it ever happens.
As they say, better safe than sorry, right?
-Clear Up Your Budget
This is the whole point of reading this. You need to set aside a clear budget before you head out. If you’re planning on island hopping, then it’s best to scope out which places you want to venture to, what activities you’re willing to pay for, and what restaurant or food you’re interested in.
You should also make sure to save some souvenir money; in case you spot a sweet little trinket you can’t pass up on. Of course, it should go without saying that you need to set aside some emergency money for a “what if” scenario. You wouldn’t want to get stuck in a place with no funds to dip into. That’s just a big yikes waiting to happen.
When You Get There
-Getting to Greece
There are many ways to travel to Greece. The easiest, most efficient, and usually cheapest, way to do so is by flying. Most foreign flights are served at the International Airport of Athens El. Venizelos. During peak tourist seasons, some local airports even accept direct chartered flights from abroad.
It’s important to compare and contrast the flight deals available on your chosen dates. Websites like Google Flights can help you in doing this. It will also help to check out other travel booking sites to see if there are any other offers available. Similar fare aggregator websites are Skyscanner and KAYAK by The Priceline Group.
When you’re on holiday, it’s important to use your time wisely. Most people wouldn’t want to spend half a day on a landlocked vehicle, when flying for just an hour is an option. This is the most convenient way to travel from island to island, because you don’t have to waste time on commuting for hours. You can instead spend that time in immersing yourself some more in Greek culture.
It might be prudent to mention that ferries from Athens to a Greek island would take about 5 to 10 hours. A far cry from the 50 to 70 minutes it would take if you used a direct flight.
Some local budget airlines are Aegean Airlines, Olympic Air, and RyanAir. It’s important to note that not all Greek Islands have their own airports, so you’ll have to take the ferry to reach it. Here are the islands that do have them: Chios, Chania, Corfu, Heraklion, Ikaria, Ioannina, Kefalonia, Kos, Leros, Lesvos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Rhodes, Samos, Santorini, Skiathos, Skyros, and Syros.
Flights to smaller or less popular islands can be difficult to catch, so taking the ferry might actually be more efficient than waiting around for a flight. Although popular islands like Santorini have a more regular flight schedule, especially during peak seasons.
Sometimes, you’ll have no choice but to take the ferry. It might be because you want to reach an airport-less island, or you find the flight too expensive and out of budget. That, or you just want to take the scenic route.
Just like most other modes of transport, there are booking websites dedicated to Greek ferries. One of the more budget-friendly websites is Ferries in Greece.
As mentioned earlier, it’s important to plan ahead of your holiday. Note whether you’ll be travelling during peak season or during the low season. Ferry schedules depend heavily on the influx of tourists, so you’ll need to act according to the season you’re in. Check the schedules in advance, it will help you regardless of the season. If it’s peak season, you need to book earlier because the tickets are quick to sell out.
-Land Transport in Greece
Mobile transportation apps like Uber aren’t available anymore in Greece. Although taxis are abundant, you can never be sure when you’ll happen across an unoccupied one. To avoid getting stranded on an unfamiliar road, it would be better to rent a vehicle of your own, especially if you plan on staying in one location for a long time.
Cheap Holiday to Greek Islands
Planning out your holiday is the number one way to come out of it on the cheaper end. Research your intended location beforehand so you can plan out where to go and how much you’ll be needing on the trip. If you follow the little tips mentioned above, you’re well on your way through a reasonably priced holiday.
First things first, if you’re on a super tight, non-flexible budget, then you should probably avoid the more popular islands such as Mykonos and Santorini. Choosing those islands for your holiday will definitely throw off your tight budget, as the high number of tourists will ramp up prices and edge you out of the reasonably priced accommodations.
However, if you’re dead-set on going to heavily visited areas, then I recommend getting a place that’s a little out of the way from the hustle and bustle. Consider choosing Airbnbs or room rentals that are a bit farther out than most hotels. Even better, rent from locals to better immerse yourself in their culture.
For those who are willing to skip out on the popular Greek Islands, here are a few equally beautiful islands that won’t drain your savings:
The most important rule in budget-friendly holidays: free is best. Aegina has beautiful beaches that you can visit without spending anything! Marathonas Beach and Klima Beach are both beautiful spots that are great for swimming. Marathonas Beach is a nice little haven with fine sand and crystal-clear water. They have a beach restaurant called La Palma that offers free sunbeds after you purchase their food or drinks.
Klima Beach has a great bar/café, and in case you need one, they also rent out sunbeds for just 8 euros. Most tourists won’t even hear of Klima Beach, as it is more popular among locals than tourists, but it would be such a missed opportunity to not experience its wonderfully clear water. It would be best to visit these beaches on weekdays to avoid crowds.
If you have a bit of extra money, it’s worth checking out the Moni Island beach. For about 15 euros, you can travel (by boat) to an even smaller island where a beach and bar can be found. There is also an amazing cove there with an even more amazing turquoise water. Moni Island is perfect for a cheap, chill day trip.
Agistri is a tiny island in the Saronic Gulf, just a short ferry ride away from Piraeus. There are many budget friendly activities to do on Agistri. For a mere 5 euros, you can get access to Aponisos Beach, a private bathing area with a delicious fish restaurant. The small fee includes a drink, a lounger, and a shade; well worth it for the price. This is a great place to do some snorkeling because of all the marine life visible in the clear waters.
Skala and Megalochori are also places worth mentioning here. Skala is the main port, so whether you intended to or not, you’ll still get to see it. It’s a great place to look for accommodations, especially if you’re looking to escape from the rush of city life. For a lowkey walk amongst the locals, these places are just plain awesome, especially Megalochori’s beautifully plain alleys lined with bright flowers, all leading up to an 1812 windmill.
For nature lovers, specifically those who love to camp and swim, Chalikiada Beach is a good fit. From the top, you can view the Island of Aegina along with Moni Island. Locals camp out on this beach a lot, and it would be amazing to experience this as a tourist. With the great view comes the great water, although this particular beach does have strong currents that could pose a problem for bad-non-swimmers. If you ever head to this beach, it’s best to come prepared in order to avoid trekking back and forth to Skala, but it’s comforting to know that civilization is not that far from reach, even as you lay back on this cozy little hidden gem.
Hydra is a car-free island near Athens, and it has a beautifully preserved Byzantine town. Backpackers love to travel there for the timeless quality it has. Most experienced travelers recommend visiting Hydra for a short weekend trip.
For the extreme cheapskates out there, Poros is a wonderful island full of free entries. You need exactly nothing in your pocket to gain access to some of Poros’ attractions. These free entry spaces are Askeli Beach, the Clock Tower, Love Bay (Limanaki Agopis), Monastery Beach, Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi, Monument to the Fallen Heroes, Poros Beach, Poros Port, and Temple of Poseidon. Every single one of those are great, interesting places, and it would be a travesty to not visit them when you step onto Poros.
Askeli Beach offers a nice reprieve from the stress of travelling, and it’s also ideally located, with just a little distance from Poros Town.
It’s a bit of a climb before you reach the Clock Tower, but it’s totally worth the effort. The view from the tower during dawn or sunset is absolutely breathtaking. From this vantage, you get a panoramic view of Poros for free!
Love Bay has beautiful pine trees, and you can enjoy their beach bar snacks while looking out onto the crystalline waters.
Monastery Beach and Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi are both great places for those who are interested in religion. These monasteries are located in charming, serene locations, partnered with scenic views. The Monastery Beach offers sun lounger rentals for a bit more than most beaches (10 euros), but the sea view will make you want to stay. The Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi is a working monastery, so tourists can get a peek at how a typical Greek church works. It’s predictably a little strict, so when visiting the monastery, it would be polite to cover up a little more to show respect to the monks who manage the place.
Visiting Greece won’t be complete without stopping by ancient sites like the Temple of Poseidon. It might cost a little extra to travel here, because the bus routes don’t pass by this location. If you can venture out to this temple, you’ll be rewarded by a spectacular view of the island of Poros. Information boards are spread along the temple to explain interesting details about the location.
Holiday Deals To Greek Islands
Holiday to Greek Islands All-Inclusive
The most efficient way to go through your Greek holiday is to subscribe to all-inclusive packages. The most common offers for all-inclusive deals come from hotels, and though just staying at a hotel might not be a particularly adventurous vacation, most are ideally situated to local attractions. Some hotels even offer activities like water sports and mini concerts.
Booking an all-inclusive package might be a tough blow on your wallet initially, but it takes a lot of stress off of your shoulders during the vacation itself. You can just sit back and relax, bask in that holiday bliss. You won’t have to worry about food and accommodations, depending on how sweet a deal you get.
To help you decide which route to go to, here are a few highly-rated establishments that offers all-inclusive packages:
All-Inclusive Holiday Packages in Greek Islands
Aeolos Beach Resort, Corfu
Unlike most hotels, Aeolos Beach Resort has bungalows instead of rooms. Guests can choose between a garden or sea view for their accommodation. This beach resort is only a few minutes’ drive away from Ioannis Kapodistrias airport, and attractions near it are the Mouse Island, Achilleoin, and Palaiopolis Museum Mon Repos, Corfu Archaeological Museum, and Agios Gordios Beach.
Included in their facilities are the 2 outdoor swimming pools plus a children’s pool, a fitness centre, a sauna, and a tennis court. Equipment for land activities like tennis are also available for guests to use. The price for food and beverages is included in the room price.
For those who are concerned about impact management, Aeolos Beach Resort is affiliated with Green Key, which measures their impact on the environment, community, cultural heritage, and the local economy.
Agapi Beach Resort, Heraklion
A short drive away from Nikos Kazantzakis airport, Agapi Beach Resort is quite ideally situated near a lot of island attractions. Nearby is the Ammoudara Beach, Venetian Walls, Hania Gate, Natural History Museum of Crete, and St. Minas Cathedral.
Complimentary Wi-Fi and bottled waters are available at Agapi. Guests’ breakfast is included in the price, as well as the other amenities on the property like the gym and pools. Window view options are pool front, sea front, partial sea view, garden view, and premium sea view.
This resort is an affiliate of the Travelife program; their impact is measured based on the same factors of the Green Key program: environment, community, cultural heritage, and the local economy.
Kiani Beach Resort, Chania
Kiani Beach Resort is near Ioannis Daskalogiannis Airport, Kalyves Beach, and the Port of Souda. The amenities offered are all-inclusive, and the food and beverages are counted in the price for the room. Part of the amenities are the pool, Wi-Fi, parking, and spa.
Guests can choose between a mountain view, a sea view, or a partial sea view. They can also engage in the many activities offered by the hotel, among which are aerobic classes, volleyball, and tennis. The hotel also has free bicycle rentals for those who would rather roam around outdoors.
Much like Aeolos Beach Resort, Kiani Beach resort also participates in the Green Key program for impact management.
Mitsis Grand Hotel – Beach Hotel, Rhodes
Mitsis Grand Hotel offers a multitude of services. This includes 2 beautifully great outdoor swimming pools, free Wi-Fi (which is definitely a necessity these days), free buffet breakfast (7:00 AM – 10:30 AM), free parking spaces, air conditioning, spas, 8 restaurants, a gym, 2 bars, 24-hour room service, and babysitting. Depending on your tastes, you can also choose between a garden view and a sea view.
If you have plans of roaming around the Rhodes island for a few days, then getting accommodations at Mitsis is worth the price to pay. Local attractions are only a few minutes’ walk away from the hotel.
Family Holiday to Greek Islands
No matter how nice your kids are, holidays at a foreign land will never be easy with them tagging along. However, Greece has a lot to offer to such a wide range of people, kids included! Entertain your teens and toddlers with the magnificent historical sites and beautiful adventures that Greece offers.
Corfu with Kids
Corfu is a charming island of Greece, and is definitely one of the more family-friendly among the islands. It has a wonderful mix of the old and the new, which makes it a great place to take kids to. Corfu Old Town is like a frozen piece of history that will surely pique the interest of both the young and old.
Among some of the most famous kid-friendly attractions is Aqualand Corfu Waterpark. With 36 water slides, 15 adventure pools, a jacuzzi, and more, kids and adults alike will surely have something to do. Some good news for parents with babies, kids aged 0 to 4 years old can enter the waterpark for free!
Another main attraction is the Mouse Island, also known as the Pontikonissi. The Mouse Island has a great legend attached to it: according to the stories, the Mouse Island was Ulysses’ ship that got washed out in a dreadful storm. Poseidon then turned the king of Ithaca’s ship into the green rock now known as Pontikonissi. Share this story with your little history buff, and it’s sure to be a hit.
There is another, much simpler explanation behind the name of Mouse Island: from a distance, the island can look like a mouse.
The Corfu Donkey Rescue Sanctuary is one more child-friendly place that’s worth visiting. It exposes kids to a new animal, and it could also potentially show them the importance of treating other beings with kindness and charity. The sanctuary is a good place for any animal loving family.
As for the perpetually exhausted parents who just desperately need a reprieve from their parenting duties, some hotels like Aeolos Beach Resort offer babysitting services in their all-inclusive deals. Take advantage of those inclusive perks, so you can finally go on a much-needed date night with your significant other.
Rhodes with Kids
Rhodes island is one of the largest Greek islands, so it stands to reason that it will have plenty of options for the kiddos.
Number one on the list of places to visit on this island is the Rhodes Toy Museum. It’s a completely free entry museum, and you might even get some free tea and coffee with it. This museum is filled with old toys and retro arcade games, and they also have playrooms and playgrounds for kids to enjoy. The arcade games are coin operated, so those are really the only thing you’ll need to pay for in the museum.
Another museum worth mentioning is the Rhodes Folklore Museum. This museum predictably showcases authentic pieces of the island’s history, as well as some local flora. Take this chance to expose your children to different cultures and open up their horizons.
Much like the Corfu sanctuary for donkeys, Rhodes also has an animal establishment to boast about: the Rhodes Petting Zoo. The regular entry fee for adults is about 10 euros, and infants under three can enter free of charge. The zoo even offers a 15% discount for online bookings so why not seize this opportunity to get up close and personal with animals like ostriches, llamas, kangaroos, camels, and much more. Activities with the animals that are allowed by the zoo include feeding, petting, playing, and taking pictures with them.
Zakynthos with Kids
Also known as Zante, Zakynthos is among the most exotic of the islands. There are many sites to visit in Zakynthos, including monasteries, beaches, and ruins. This island is also the home of an endangered species of sea turtle called Caretta-Caretta.
This island has 2 waterparks to be proud of, Tsilivi Waterpark and Water Village. These waterparks are both truly great, but Zakynthos is known for more than just waterparks.
One of its most famous attractions is the Navagio Shipwreck Beach. Anyone who passes by Zakynthos absolutely needs to go see the Navagio Shipwreck. Especially with kids, it’s a lot of fun to imagine it as an old pirate ship. Take this opportunity to learn more about the ship’s history with your kids. The typical rate for the touring fee is about 15 euros, so there’s plenty of time for you to set aside that much for this trip. Most would recommend taking this trip in the afternoon, both to avoid the crowds and to get a little more shade against the sun.
Another one of Greece’s animal shelters is the Zakynthos Sea Turtle Rescue & Information Centre. The centre is only a little away from Gerakas beach, which happens to be another great beach perfect for family bonding. The best way to reach Gerakas and the centre is through taxi or rental car; don’t worry about the parking, because spaces are available onsite.
Zakynthos for Grownups
Maybe your kids are grownups or teenagers, I can’t really tell, but it would be a travesty if I didn’t mention some of what I consider as Zakynthos’ best attractions. It just so happens that a lot of these locations aren’t too ideal for kids.
Anyway, kick your holiday up a notch by going on a cruise to Smugglers Cove. Some travel curating websites like Viator and Trip Advisor offer deals on such escapades. A full-day cruise to the cove will begin at Zante Town, and pass through the Skinari Lighthouse and Blue Caves, until they circle back after reaching the destination.
Alternatively, another more adventurous route to take is the Zakynthos Underwater Caves. The crystal-clear blue water, combined with the eroded geological formations, formed underwater caves that are an absolute hit with scuba divers. Some underwater caves have enough high arches that allow boats to pass through, so even non-divers can witness the otherworldly beauty of these caves.
One more great thing about Greece and its islands is the nightlife. Zakynthos in particular has a very robust night scene. Since some hotels offer babysitting services, parents could take the time to check the night scene out for a bit. As for parents with adult children, this might be the time to dip your toes back into the party scene, relive the good old days of a worry-free life. Laganas alone has over 34 establishments that cater to the nightlife (more about Laganas Nightlife). The infamous Laganas Strip would give Ibiza nightclubs a run for its money, especially since the prices at Laganas is considerably cheaper than those in Ibiza.
List of less known islands in the Cyclades that are worth visiting
The island of Amorgos offers an abundance of nightlife and taverns. There are very few sandy beaches here, but some visitors enjoy swimming off the rocks or snorkeling. A nice resort area is at the northern port of Agiali, which can also be reached by ferry. The Chora, or capital town, is located in the mountains. During your stay, don’t miss the Monastery of Chozoviotissa. This monastery was built into a cliff on the other side of the island from the port. It’s a fascinating sight! There are local boat tours of neighboring islands such as Koufonisi, Donousa, Iraklia and Schinousa.
This island offers great activities and dining. There are traditional villages to explore, a shipping museum and art museum. Tourism is not encouraged here, which is great if you want peace and quiet. You can rent a car on the island and drive through the lovely green landscapes and forests. You might even see a couple of small rivers! There are connections to the islands of Syros, Mykonos and Tinos by ferry from Andros as well.
If you enjoy breathtaking scenery and untouched beauty, Folegandros is the island for you. Artists use this island as a thinktank for creativity, and to capture landscapes on canvas! Although small, the island can get crowded during tourist season, so it might be a good idea to go during the off seasons. The tourist area, or Chora, sits high in the mountains and has taverns. The port of Karavostasis offers hotels, beaches and restaurants. The ferry stops at this port. There are ferry rides available to Milos, Santorini, Ios, Sifnos and Sikinos, but only a couple of times per week.
The island of Ios is not the place for a peaceful family vacation. College students flock here like they do to Daytona, Florida during Spring break! This island connects to Naxos, Syros and Paros.
This is a quiet, peaceful island near Athens where tourism is not as frequent as some of the other islands in the Cyclades. It’s very popular with native Greeks, many of whom own summer vacation homes there. A lovely village called Ioulis has Cycladic houses sitting on the side of the mountain. There are some great beaches that can be reached by hiking. Kea also offers many great restaurants. A restaurant called Rolandos, located in Ioulida, is known for its delicious fresh fish. Kea is a great place for hiking if that’s your fancy!
Kythnos is a remote island in the Western Cyclades that doesn’t see much tourism. There are some attractive beaches and hot springs. Those who are touring the Cyclades in sailboats and yachts often stop for a visit.
Milos is a volcanic island where you can see amazing rock formations and hot springs. When you arrive, be sure to secure a rented car or bike for touring the island if possible. There are lovely beaches and villages where you can enjoy delicious cuisine and more. There are also some historic sites you don’t want to miss during your visit such as the Roman ampitheatre, Christian catacombs, Venetian museums and castles. The famous Venus de Milo was discovered on Milos!
With possibly the best beaches in Greece, Naxos is a large island that’s located near Paros, Ios and Santorini, and you can easily take a ferry to these popular islands. Naxos has an abundance of restaurants, cafes, shops and clubs. You can rent a car to tour the island or take an enjoyable walk through the valleys of Tragaia. The village of Apollon attracts many seafood lovers, and has ancient marble quarries with an unfinished statue of Apollo.
Paros is a center for the Aegean ferry system, with many boats coming through each day. It’s a crowded tourist area, especially in Naousa. Naousa is a small fishing village that attracts many tourists each year. The island has wind surfing and body surfing if you’re the adventurous type. A ferry trip here is approximately six hours from Athens. Hop over to Antiparos for a day of relaxation.
Sifnos is a handsome island that appeals to tourists of all sorts. There are beaches for the family, fine dining and scenery as well as many houses and villas for rent on the island, giving tourists a variety of choices if they want to stay a night or two. You can travel by ferry to nearby islands such as Mykonos, Ios, Paros and Naxos during the summer.
This is a poor island near Sifnos that is undeveloped besides its main port. It has nice quaint beaches that appeal to older travellers. The island is about a four-hour ferry ride from Athens and connects to Milos, Sifnos and Kythnos.
An island where mainly farmers and fishermen make their abode, Sikinos is a great place for a quiet getaway. Rooms are available for rent in the villages of Chora and Kastro.
Syros is the capital of the Cyclades that has a shipyard for ocean freighters and tankers in the harbor. The town offers very nice restaurants, old buildings and churches, and even mansions that have been restored. Cobblestone streets and cafes welcome pedestrians. The island connects with Pireaus, Mykonos and Tinos daily by ferry.
Near the island of Mykonos, Tinos has villages, landscapes and beaches for terrific sightseeing. Tinos is known for its church called the Panagia Evangalestria, which attracts people from all around who are looking for a miracle. Visitors swarm to the island each year around August 15th for a religious gathering. This is the most crowded time of the year for the island. Tinos connects with Andros, Mykonos and Syros daily by ferry.
As previously stated, the most important thing for a successful holiday is research and advanced planning. Learn what options are available within your target budget, and figure out which choices would suit your needs the most.
There is so much to do and feel and see in Greece. Greece has an abundance of possibilities for people of all backgrounds, so there is no doubt that you’ll find something that is totally worth the price you pay for.