Category Archives: Greece

A Guide to Island-Hopping in Greece

Whether you are looking to party all night in Mykonos, watch the sunset in Santorini, discover ancient archaeological sites in Crete or swim in the turquoise waters off Naxos, there is a Greek island for you.  

Greece has many islands and islets. With up to 6,000 scattered in the Aegean and Ionian seas to explore, the only question is where to start!  

Naoussa Port, Paros island, Greece

Getting There 

Travelling around the Greek Islands is easy! There’s two common ways in which you can island-hop, and this is either by flying domestically or taking a ferry. 

Taking a ferry is the most popular form of transport but don’t mistake these for a cruise, as they only have basic facilities. Ferries don’t usually have baggage assistance so if you’re needing this service, we recommend packing light.  

The next way to travel around and of course the faster way is flying. Flying is especially recommended during the months Oct – Apr when the weather is more unpredictable. If you’re opting to travel, you should still expect to take a ferry as some islands are too small to have an airport.  

If you’re opting for the Ferry route, below is our quick guide to the ferry type, frequency and duration:  

This Information is to be used as a guide only and is subject to change. All information is based on the proposed 2020 Summer schedule which typically runs April–October.

The Islands 

Believe it or not, the Greek Islands are split into 6 groups.  

The first and most popular, the Cycladic Islands. This group of islands is considered the birthplace of Apollo and home to many archaeological ruins. It showcases a variety of iconic spots you see all over Instagram and is renowned to be the home of epic parties, the traditional white and blue architecture, hiking trails and plenty of sandy beaches.  

In the Cycladic Islands is where you’ll find: 

Santorini – The island with the famous blue church domes overlooking the caldera. Perfect for couples who are opting for that romantic holiday. 

Mykonos – Popularly known as the summer party central island and iconic windmill structures overlooking the Mykonos town. 

Naxos – Only four hours away from Athens and the largest of the Cyclades island group, Naxos is the place to be for greenery and mountainous views. With high mountains and breath-taking valleys, it’s an island that should be on everyone’s travel wish list.  

Traditional street on Naxos, Greece

Ionian Islands is another group which boasts the most stunning mountain ranges, white powdery beaches, deep waters and lush landscapes. Whether you’re after food, vibrant culture, crystal clear beaches and adventure, Ionian Islands is the place to escape to.  

Some iconic islands from this group are:  

Kefalonia – Surrounded by sandy turquoise coves and rugged lush mountains, the island’s cliffs are made up of limestone, remote stretches of sandy beach and bays that are only accessible by foot. It really is one of the most underrated Greek islands that should be a point of interest for every avid traveller.  

Zakynthos – Known for being the site of the popular shipwreck cove framed by high cliffs, this island is a top pick for keen adventurers. If you are a beach lover, then Zakynthos will stun you for its beautiful iconic turquoise waters. To get the stunning cove, take a bus to Zakynthos town and catch a boat to Navagio.  

Corfu – Looking for an underrated, Instagrammable and unique destination? Look no further than Corfu. This island is known for its legendary stories and Greek mythology so if famous Greek myths are of interest to you, Corfu is the perfect spot to visit. 

Dodecanese Islands are known for being surrounded by Medieval castles, Byzantine churches, picture perfect beaches and ancient sites.  

Rhodes – The largest island in the Dodecanese, the city of Rhodes embodies the historic past of Greece which is still displayed all throughout the city. Through the golden beaches, castles and baroque style architecture, this UNESCO World Heritage site is perfect for those who are looking for the perfect balance of relaxing and action-packed holiday.  

Kos – Sightseeing, water sports, restaurants, ancient sites, thermal springs and more, Kos is the ultimate all-rounder island destination!  

These are just 3 and the most popular groups of islands and as you can already tell, there really is an island that can suit anyone!  

Zakynthos Island, Navagio Beach, Greece

Best Time To Go 

 Greece’s Mediterranean climate means the islands are generally sunny throughout most of the year. Luckily, even if it’s a bit chilly, instead of relaxing by the sandy beaches you can go hiking or explore the ruins.  

In terms of months to go, you can never go wrong with a hot Summer holiday from July – September. However, keep in mind that this is the most popular season with prices much higher than other months and larger crowds. August being the most expensive month but also the best time for partying. 

To avoid the large crowds and still take advantage of the sun, the best months to visit would be late September – early October.  

Regardless of the time of the year, Greece is still the perfect destination with so much to do for families, couples or if you’re travelling alone.  

Looking to book your island-hopping vacation with Tempo Holidays? Check out our top picks here 

Top 11 Greek Islands

We asked Tempo Holiday’s Greece specialists Nick Good & Katie Rodopoulos to share their pick of Top 10 Greek Islands.

“It’s impossible to choose!” they said, and gave us 11. The result is a detailed guide to some all-time favourites and some lesser known beauties that should feature in every Greek Island-hopping holiday.

 

#1 Santorini

Boasting stark, multicoloured cliffs and incredible sunsets, Santorini is undoubtedly the most spectacular of the Greek Islands. The remnants of an ancient volcano, Santorini’s immense caldera is home to a fantastic selection of cliff-top hotels that offer amazing views over the crater to the shining blue water below. The eastern side of the island is flatter but no less beautiful, with volcanic beaches and glorious vistas of the Aegean Sea. The wine is known for its unique taste due to the volcanic soil the grapes are grown in. Take a wine tour to the underground caves, wine storage and enjoy some local food along the way.

OUR TIP: Walks around the island include lots of steps so may not always be ideal for small children.

#2 Mykonos

Once an exclusive haven for the jet set, Mykonos can now be enjoyed by everybody. Blissful beaches, old windmills and whitewashed buildings with blue trim typify this ruggedly beautiful island. The cobblestone streets of Mykonos Town are crammed with shops and bars, and its reputation as the glamour island with a party-hard reputation is evident everywhere, especially in summer. Its also the jumping off point for the archaeological island of Delos – one of the most important in Greece and teeming with history.

OUR TIP: Mykonos can be extremely busy, especially when the cruise ships are in port. Book tours early to avoid disappointment.

Visit Mykonos and Santorini on one of our most popular island hopping packages. This package takes you to our top two islands with the opportunity to explore Athens before and after your island adventure.

#3 Crete

Crete is Greece’s largest and most diverse island. Explore and discover its treasures – rugged mountains, endless beaches with turquoise seas, exciting cities, picturesque towns and tranquil villages, stunning countryside, fantastic gastronomy and vibrant entertainment. The island is best explored by car, giving you the freedom to discover its quaint fishing ports, Venetian-style towns and Minoan archaeological sites. Be sure to visit Knossos Palace, capital of the Minoan empire. The local arts and crafts are also a highlight, you’ll find artisans on every corner of the charming villages.

OUR TIP: Try the local cuisine: cheeses, olive oils, liqueurs, dakos (like bruschetta), and fried snails!

Take yourself on an independent tour around the best of Charming Crete. A self-drive holiday is perfect for those wanting to take their time. Heraklion, Chania, Agia Galini and Sitia are just some of the sites you will see along the way!

#4 Naxos

The Cyclades’ biggest and the greenest island with impressively high mountains, lush green gorges, stunning seascapes and villages perched high on mountain tops where traditional dress is still worn. Naxos is also an island of beautiful old churches, monasteries and Venetian castles where you can admire a unique blend of Cycladic and Medieval architecture! Mt Zeus is the central focus point and a visit to the interior will uncover traditional villages such as Halki and Apiranthos where you can visit ceramics workshop, or the citrus distillery.

OUR TIP: Take a walking trail between villages for an indepth insight into the traditions and culture.

#5 Milos

Lying halfway between Athens & Crete, the island’s volcanic origins have produced surreal rock formations and beaches of extraordinary beauty, leading to its nickname ‘the island of colours’. A visit to some of Milos smaller villages is an absolute must. Hiking, hot springs and rock exploration are also must-dos. The famous Venus de Milos was discovered in a niche in the ancient city ruins of Milos in 1820 by a farmer. The iconic statue with no arms is now displayed in the Louvre in Paris.

OUR TIP: Milos is perfect for beach exploring, there are 75 to be enjoyed! Make sure you spend time finding your perfect spot.

#6 Paros

Paros is watched over by a single mountain, its gentle slopes dotted with vineyards and fruit trees. Parikia is the island’s capital, a gorgeous Cycladic township of winding cobbled streets lined with whitewashed houses. Situated on the north coast is Naoussa, a picturesque fishing village with typical Greek taverns and outstanding views. If you’re looking for a quieter, slower pace, Paros is Mykonos but without the crowds, hype and price tag!

OUR TIP: Make some time for Antiparos, only 10 mins from Paros, it feels like a proper secluded getaway, with a couple of really good beaches.

#7 Rhodes

This popular holiday island has beautiful white sands that fringe the dazzling waters of the Aegean. The medieval arches, ramparts and cobbled streets of Rhodes’ Old Town are a legacy of the Knights of St John and have earned the town a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The entire island has a rich collection of historical sites and monuments that represent Greek history and are well worth visiting. Climb the 116m rock wall to the beautifully preserved Acropolis of Lindos.

OUR TIP: Rhodes is a great option for families. Many resorts and hotels are equipped for little travellers.

Spend nine days discovering stunning Kos, Symi & Rhodes. An excellent contrast for those wanting to explore the well-known and little-known pockets of Greece. Relax in spectacular Symi away from the crowds, then discover what makes Rhodes so popular. Combined with Kos’ endless surprises and ancient treasures, this package covers it all.

#8 Lefkada

Hugely popular with kite surfers and wind surfers due to favourable winds, Lefkada is also ringed by stunning blue water and beaches ideal for sailing and diving. The only island linked to mainland Greece by road, there are also intriguing archaeological sites and a traditional island way of life to explore. The island is now attached to the mainland by a bridge, however it used to be accessed by an isthmus until the Corinthians breached it with a canal.

OUR TIP: An island of contrasts, the west coast is wild and untamed, and the east coast has been more fully developed.

On our Corfu, Lefkada & Kefalonia package, hop amongst Greece’s most picturesque spots. See the country from east to west – from Corfu, fly to Kefalonia and then ferry to Lefkada, where you’ll find yourself on some of the most stunning beaches on offer.

#9 Sifnos

Sifnos is a beautiful and dreamlike island located in the western part of the Cyclades. It is a typical example of a Cycladic Island, with traditional architecture, calm beaches, seaside taverns and low hills. The most popular beaches are located on the southern side of Sifnos and have crystal clear water and soft sand. The picturesque village of Kastro is lined with narrow paved streets, stone houses and great sea views. The island also offers a unique culinary heritage and is known for producing excellent chefs, including the creators of the first Greek internationally-distributed cookbook.

OUR TIP: An excellent choice for independent travellers, there are well-organised bus links on the island and a plethora of walking trails to explore.

Visit Sifnos, Milos & Folegandros over nine days on our island hopping itinerary away from the crowds. Beginning and ending in Athens, you will be whisked away by ferry to see the archipelago’s most stunning and best kept secrets.

#10 Symi

A perfectly painted traditional village scene is what first greets visitors while approaching Symi. Beautiful houses rise on all sides to create an unforgettable vista. The island is surrounded by blue coves and beaches, with water so clear that boats appear as if they’re floating on air. Ideal for those that want a quiet getaway in a distinct corner of Greece. Be sure to visit Horio and Pedi, the islands smaller towns. The rest of the island is mostly deserted, so a visit to Symi makes for a perfect day trip from one of the nearby islands.

OUR TIP: Don’t miss a trip to the southern-most tip and the statuesque monastery Panormitis.

#11 Amorgos

Step off the well worn path and visit an island ideal for soft adventure lovers and those who enjoy unspoilt villages and open countryside. With ancient footpaths leading through steep rocky terrain, azure waters fantastic for diving, gorgeous caves, scenic bays and a long cultural history, Amorgos is that island that offers something for everyone. Discover the extraordinary Monastery of Hozoviotissa, built into a cliff face, and take yourself on an exploration of the fascinating landscape.

OUR TIP: Visit Agia Anna, the location of scenes from Luc Besson’s cult classic ‘The Big Blue’ and perfect for a secluded swim away from the crowds.


This article first appeared in Cox and King’s Issue One of Compass Magazine – see here for more great ideas and to download your own copy!

Tempo Holidays offers many ready-made island hopping packages around the Greek Islands – or we can tailor-make the perfect holiday for you to these highly recommended islands.

Gastronomy 101: Food & Wine of the Greek Islands

There’s nothing quite like feeling the salty seabreeze on your face as you tuck into some delicious seafood. You can’t help but think, ‘Can it get any fresher than this?’ Add to that a glass of chilled crisp white wine, a salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumber, olives & fetta and you have a match made in heaven.

The Greek Islands are idyllic not just in natural beauty – they are a veritable paradise – but in the slow-paced nature of island life. Travelling in this kind of environment encourages you to slow down and appreciate simple flavours, whether that be the aniseed kick of ouzo or the tender deliciousness of crispy fried calamari.

The best way to see the Greek Islands is by boat, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to explore what the land has to offer too. Although not known for its wine on a world stage, the Greeks have been making wine for centuries and well beyond just Retsina and Domestica. With the volcanic soil on many of the islands, the wine making techniques are unique, creating very individual wines the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

All of the day tours and activities listed below can be incorporated into a ready-made or tailor-made island hopping itinerary.

Santorini

Santorini, with beautiful Oia and incredible sunsets, is an absolute must for any first timer to the islands. Not only is it home to beautiful sights and some incredible archaeological finds, it is also home to many wineries. With the volcanic soil being so hard to grow in, many vines are actually grown out of pots! After the 1956 earthquake on the island, the industry suffered hugely and was kept afloat by forming the Santo Wine Co-Operative. Today, they process 65% of the vines on the island and so are a great place to stop in for a wine tasting. The Santorini Wine Adventure will have you trying 12 of these different volcanic wines accompanied by local cheese, salami and olives.

For something a little more, our Santorini Cooking Class and Wine Tasting is a great way to learn about local cuisine and how to match it with local wines. Although many of the grapes are now processed by machines, at some select vineyards vinsanto, the sweet wine of Santorini, is still made by the traditional method of stamping on the grapes!

As well as calamari mentioned above, common seafood you’ll find around the Cyclades includes barbounia (red mullet), astakos (lobster) and marides (whitebait). Learn six traditional Santorinian recipes with our small group Cooking Class using local organic produce while tasting local wines.

Mykonos

With sweeping beaches, old windmills, winding cobblestone alleys among white washed buildings with blue trim, Mykonos is known for its wild nightlife yet equally low-key village life in daylight hours. The rugged island is also home to some delicious culinary traditions that you can discover on the Wine & Culture walking tour. This tour guides participants to local historical spots, teaches you about the folklore of the island, takes you to a nautical museum documenting Mykonos’ long seafaring history and afterwards lets you enjoy a wine tasting accompanied by traditional mezes.

Meze is a small snack sized bite of delicious local fare and can include dolmades (vine leaves stuffed with mince and/or herby rice), melitzana (eggplant – fried or as a dip with tomato & onion), gigantes (giant butter beans in tomato sauce), saganaki, briam (eggplants, zucchinis, capsicum & tomatoes) and much more.

Naxos

The biggest of the Cyclades Islands, Naxos was once centre of island life. Upon arrival in the port town, you can’t help but notice the Apollon Gate, thrust out to sea on an island head, harking back to Naxos’ rich history. The namesake town is full of white-washed houses and Venetian mansions, with a medieval castle, Kastro, at the top of the hill acting today as an archaeological museum.

Being such a big island, Naxos is an island of agriculture and they grow many citrus trees, as well as grazing sheep and goats. On the Naxos Yesterday and Today tour, discover the foundations of Naxos, visiting a ceramics workshop, a Byzantine church and a citrus distillery, where you can taste locally crafted creations. To try some delicious local fare, enjoy our Riverwalk coach day trip, following the longest river in Naxos past an old monastery, nine watermills and finishing off with a traditional Greek meal in Engares.

Koufonisia

A little off the tourist path, Koufonisia, meaning hollow islands, are three small islands that look from afar as though they are entirely made up of caves. In reality, they are a charming stop off, often known as the Mykonos of the Small Cyclades with superb beaches and a lovely array of restaurants that maintain their low-key charm and serve traditional Greek fare.

Crete

crete_restaurant_gastronomyCrete is Greece’s largest island, with an interesting history and resulting culture. It has the best of both worlds with nature, from rugged mountains to pristine beaches and is surrounded by turquoise waters. With Minoan archaeological sites muddled in next to Venetian-style town houses and quaint villages, Crete has something for every traveller – and we haven’t even mentioned the cuisine!

Almost every village in Crete seems to have its own signature cheese. Graviera is a hard cheese that is sweet when young and then becomes nutty and flavourful as it ages. By contrast pichtogalo Chanion is a softer creamier cheese, as is myzithra, a young whey cheese with a mild taste. To drink, everywhere around Crete locals brew their own raki over open fires in copper stills. This is a type of brandy distilled from grapes and is served with mezes, olives or even neat.

Try some of the delicious foods and wines of Crete on the Garden of Crete independent tour – a full day tour of food, wine, Minoan archaeology and even the chance to try creating come pottery yourself under the tutelage of a master potter.

Tastes of Crete features instruction from a local cook in a rustic 18th century farmhouse surrounded by organic gardens. Participate in wine and cheese tastings before enjoying a delicious meal matched with Cretan wines.

A popular daytrip off Crete is to visit the tiny islet of Spinalonga. Once home to a leper colony, the islet was orginally a fortress of Venetian Crete and on The Island – Spinalonga BBQ independent tour you can enjoy a beachside BBQ as you explore the island.

For a more complete Crete itinerary, have a look at one of our Crete Self Drive packages where we can incorporate one of these day tours.

“But how do I get from one island to the next?”

Well, the easiest way to see all of these magical places and enjoy the delicious flavours of the Greek Islands is to let us organise an Island Hopping Package for you. The packages include your accommodation, some meals, return airport and port transfers, fast ferry tickets and flights (where specified). Trips that encompass some or all of the above islands include Cycladic AdventureGreek Island Explorer; Island Delightsor any other route we will tailor-make just for you.

For a full Greece itinerary, check out our Land & Island Packages encompassing classical mainland Greece as well as some of the most famous and beautiful islands. Or how about going for the full holiday experience and book yourself into one of our many Cruises to experience the islands in relaxed style? Delectable meals feature on the menu with many organised day trips to wineries, markets and local restaurants ashore to ensure you get to experience all the flavours of the Greek Islands.


Are you ready for your gastronomical tour of the Greek Islands? Contact us today about one of the itineraries outlined above or we can tailor-make your perfect foodie experience, featuring the best culinary experiences that the Islands have to offer!