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The dream vacation in Greece can be so much fun, especially if you are traveling with friends! You have been looking forward to it, but the costs are holding you back.
You need not as Greece, if planned well, can be done well within your budget and you can still hop around and enjoy the azure blue waters, take those fascinating ferry rides, and gorge on some of the best Greek food while watching those scintillating Mediterranean sunsets.
Plan your priorities
With over 6000 islands, divided into six different and distinct archipelagos, it might all seem a little overwhelming. All of them are beautiful and it is their breathtaking beauty that draws tourists from across the world. However, hopping across all of them may not really be a good idea. Most of all, ferries or flights can be costly if you aren’t careful. It is good to define your priorities.
In short, prepare your island wish list and here is a summary of what you can do and where.
Also, remember that the end of July and August is the peak tourist season in Greece and prices skyrocket around that time. Also, in winters, ferries tend to miss schedules and you may need to opt for the costlier high-speed ferries to keep off the cold. Moreover, put Santorini, Mykonos, Ios, Crete in your bucket list as visiting those is much easier now using GreekIsland and InterIsland Pass by Hostelbay.
The Saronic Gulf Islands are nearest to Athens and can be quite crowded with day-trippers. However, for the history buffs, there is the historic and beautiful Doric Temple of Aphaia and the house where Nikos Kazantzakis wrote Zorba the Greek. The island of Poros has scenic beaches and then there is the peace of car-free Hydra, a major shipping center of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Cyclades is the most visited and has wonderful clifftop villages, beautiful hillsides, significant archaeological sites, and nice beaches. The Cyclades are also famous for their houses splashed all in white, cool bars and restaurants, and black lava beaches. You could visit Delos, an uninhabited island, the Mykonos that is famed for its parties, and Santorini for the beaches and the sunset views.
The North Aegean islands that are nearer to Turkey aren’t usually crowded and has some Turkish influences. Mostly unspoiled, places like Chios with its isolated beaches are fascinating. You could see some medieval mastic villages, and sail over to Izmir in Turkey from the island of Samos, also famous for its houses with terra cotta rooftops.
The Dodecanese islands are located between Crete and Turkey. The city island of Rhodes is the biggest and has amazing Greek ruins, forts, and a decent nightlife. The island of Patmos, also known as the “Jerusalem of the Aegean” lies here and then there is the charming beauty of Simi that has preserved its architectural heritage quite nicely.
The Sporades Islands are unique and have the finest beaches that are interspersed with lush green forests, and majestic hillsides that offer hiking opportunities. The islands of Skiathos, Skopelos, and Skyros are well-known. Skiathos can be expensive though.
The Ionian Islands have a salubrious climate throughout the year. Again, there’s a lot of history here. Ithaka, the homeland of Odysseus, can be touristy. Corfu was home to Odysseus’ enemies, the Phoecians. The island of Kephalonia is the best if you choose to have a relaxed holiday enjoying the picturesque countryside.
Crete is the largest island in Greece and has the finest old Venetian buildings, Byzantine monasteries, sparkling beaches and a dizzying nightlife in Iraklion.
Sailing by the ferry
The cheapest options are always to be found in ferry trips and unless you are traveling in August, you could find yourself some happy deals. Online bookings tend to be costly as not all ferries are advertised. Experienced travelers would ask you to turn up at the port a little ahead of time and shop around for deals. You could also save yourself some hassle by booking through an agent.
However, agents would add their commissions, and rarely would an agent sell you only a ferry booking. Commissions from ferry bookings are low and hence agencies tend to club hotel bookings too, which implies higher commissions. Also, make sure you are booked on a ferry and not the faster hydrofoils and catamarans. You would miss out on the fun of seeing islands passing by or catching that awesome view of a hidden cove.
After all, you have traveled this far to soak it all in, why give it a miss?