The archipelago of Greece is split into 6 areas that have over 6,000 smaller islands just waiting to be discovered. Of these, around 230 are inhabited, including Rhodes, Crete, Mykonos and Corfu. When planning a trip to Greece, forget about the tourist-clotted resorts; there are a number of smaller islands to explore in both the Aegean and Ionian seas, many of which offer some peace and tranquility in the Mediterranean sunshine.
Flickr Photo by MarcelGermain
The islands of Greece are essentially split into four main archipelagos: the Aegean Islands, Ionian Islands, Cyclades and Dodecanese, each with a number of larger islands with clusters of smaller, uninhabited islands. Ferry services are present in each region and provide an excellent opportunity to hop between the islands, which can be a great way to take in multiple Greek Islands in one excursion as well as some stunning coastal views.
You can either make a booking with a travel group and follow an itinerary or travel independently, giving you the freedom and choice to explore the islands at your leisure. Many island excursions begin in Athens, where ports such as Piraeus, Rafina and Lavrio offer a departure point for cruises around the Greek islands.
Flickr Photo by MarcelGermain
One of the most popular routes sets sail from the volcanic island of Santorini – with its famous black sand beaches – to the historic island of Naxos, reputed for its castles and ancient fortifications. The bizarre shape of the island of Santorini is the result of a volcanic explosion centuries ago. Approaching the island by boat, you’ll catch a glimpse of the towns built on the slopes of the crater. The beaches of Santorini vary in color due to the volcanic nature of the island, giving you the chance to relax on beaches that are slightly different to the white sandy ones found elsewhere in Greece.
Flickr Photo by otrocalpe
Mykonos is one of the most popular Islands to visit in Greece – playing host to a number of nightclubs and beach bars that are packed in the summertime. Away from the hustle and bustle of the clubs, Mykonos has a number of ancient Greek artifacts on show in the islands’ museums, as well as a number of 16th century windmills – one of the most recognizable features of the island, and one of the first sights you will see as you’re coming into port.
Flickr Photo by Christopher Chan
Tinos is home to a number of historical buildings, including the Panagia Evangelistria church – which contains a shrine to the Virgin Mary, making it one of the most religiously significant icons in Greece. Around the island you’ll find a number of windmills as well as the Venetian fortifications.
Back in Greece, the island of Rhodes gives you a taste of Greek history through a number of ancient ruins, including the Temple of Apollo and the walled city of the Old Town. Rhodes was also once the site of the Colossus – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and although it was destroyed in an earthquake many centuries ago, you can’t help but try and imagine the great bronze statue towering above you as you approach the harbor entrance.
Flickr photo by pictalogue
Turkey Coastal Towns
Boat excursions are organized on a regular basis, with stopovers at many large tourist-laden destinations such as Mykonos. Some routes will also give you the opportunity to disembark and explore coastal towns in Turkey. Driving in Turkey can be an excellent experience: hop over to the market town of Bodrum, where you can browse for a bargain at the numerous stalls, and then continue on to the port of Kusadasi – where you can disembark before going to explore the ancient ruins of Ephesus, a popular tourist attraction in the region.
Flickr photo by Alaskan Dude
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