The descendants of Ulysses are still a population of sailors and shipowners: virtually every island, however small, is served by every type of vessel, of various sizes.
The ship, or rather the ferry, is a good alternative to the airplane if you have plenty of time or if you want to bring along your own means of transport, or if, by appealing to your own spirit of adaptation, you would want to save something on the trip.
Certainly the first island-hoppers, as backpackers, preferred to use as much as possible the ship: I remember the races towards boarding, to conquer a day-bed or a quieter recess where to lie down to sleep, at the cost of a deck passage!
From Italy to the Greek islands by sea
From Italy you can reach the nearest ports of Greece (Igoumenitsa, Corfu (Kerkyra), Patra) from the following cities: Trieste, Venice, Ravenna, Ancona, Bari and Brindisi.
The so-called associateds, but that only depart from Ancona, Bari and Brindisi and take between 8 to 10 hours depending on the port of departure and destination. To leave from Trieste or Venice, instead expect full days of navigation.
Igoumenitsa is an important junction to reach the Ionian islands, namely Cephalonia, Ithaca and Corfu, although the latter is served by a few direct connections from Ancona and Bari, but only in high season.
From Patras instead, with a KTEL bus you can reach Athens and the rest of Greece (site www.hri.org for all time-tables and long distance connections, complete with prices).
From Europe to the Greek islands by plane + ferries to the Aegean Sea
Another alternative to get to the islands is to fly to Athens, then go by metro or bus to Piraeus, from where depart daily, ferries and fast catamarans throughout the Aegean Sea.
At least once I recommend you to do it, it’s really an exciting spectacle to witness the landing or embarking operations and to breathe the cosmopolitan atmosphere of yesteryear!
The Terminal is huge and so it is better to inquire before on the dock position from where your departure will take place (the number of the pier itself or gate, will be on the ticket) taking advantage of the shuttle buses that ply from one end of the harbor to the other.
Useful to consult the site of the same Port www.olp.gr/en/ full of useful information. Do not worry if you get lost, the staff of the Port Authority Police found in the squares is very kind and ready to help.
The fleets of the main shipping companies operating from Piraeus are modern and reliable: nothing to do with the “barges” that until a few years ago still stood around the Aegean.
The largest shipping companies (BlueStarFerrries / Superfast, Nel Lines, Anek, Minoan, Hellenic Seaways are the best known) have diversified fleets: the conventional ferries, are slower but less expensive and also carry vehicles as well as passengers. Cars and motorcycles can also be embarked on large catamarans “Highspeed”, which are faster, but also more expensive than the ferries.
Finally, there are the Flyingcat and the Flying Dolphin, respectively, catamarans and hydrofoils used for passengers only, of which tickets are quite expensive.
Warning: the large conventional ferries are the slowest of all, but also ensure the links in the event of rough seas, while hydrofoils and other fast vehicles remain stranded. Therefore plan accordingly, so as not to run the risk of perhaps losing the return flight home!
Where to buy the tickets?
Online, on the websites of major companies; at the kiosks of the companies at the loading ports, but also at the Athens airport: in one of the corridors of the sector “Arrivals” you will, in fact, find some shipping agencies, but that only accept payment in cash.
On the islands, almost everywhere you will find an agency at the port or, where there is none, in general Tickets are sold at the general store of the main town: after all, even the residents make use, throughout the year, of the connections by sea.
A key site to find all the information and schedules on international and domestic maritime links, with lots of courses and the indication of the companies’ sites, is Greek Travel Pages www.gtp.gr.
A treat? Here’s a site where you can enjoy yourself and see in real time the location of ALL the vessels that ply the seas of the world: click on Greece and then on the area that interests you and you’re done! www.marinetraffic.com.
As I wrote in the previous post, each archipelago is a story in itself, so try to take it into account when organizing your Island Hopping: However, there is an island -joint, where ferries that touch virtually all the different islands stop: it is Syros, in the Cyclades.
In general, however, “jumping” from one archipelago to another is a big waste of time.
How to move around the Greek islands
Once you arrive in an archipelago in ferry from Athens or with a direct flight, after a while you want to move to other nearby islands?
You can again take one of the means of transport that originates from Piraeus, which usually make several stops many times a week.
Or, one of the small local ferries, true “mules” of the sea, some of which have become true Myths among the impassioned of the Greek islands.
The Nissos Kalymnos, for example, that goes up and down in the Dodecanese, touching the islands of Kalymnos and Samos, sometimes reaching up to Astypalea. Or the Express Skopelitis, that shuttles from Amorgos to the Little Cyclades up to Naxos.
It is not just about ferries, but of real institutions that preserve the inhabitants from isolation, while also ensuring the arrival of supplies and medicines, even in winter.
You cannot say to really know the islands of Greece if you have never traveled at least once on one of these historic ferries.
Think that Skopelitis, also called the “Underground of the Small Cyclades” is run by the namesake family of sailors since 1958, when Mitsos Skopelitis (Captain and also a violinist) inaugurated the connection with a small caique, the Panormitis: its history has inspired also a book, on sale on board, and a beautiful documentary that can be seen on YouTube:
To move from island to island in the summer, you can also make use of little boats that make day trips for tourists, boarding passengers only and are generally more expensive.
Have I forgotten something?
Of course, the Sea Taxi: it’s not that they can be found at the harbor with lots of signboards as in Venice, but they exist. Inquire at the pier, usually the little boats that take tourists on excursions are also willing to lend this service, provided that the sea conditions allow them to.
They are quiteexpensive, but in an emergency they are precious!