The seas surrounding Greece are home to hundreds of inhabited islands, each offering a unique culture, landscape, and local cuisine. Some of the most popular islands for visitors are Santorini, Crete, Mykonos, Naxos, and Corfu, among others.
Many of the Greek islands have international airports and can be accessed directly by plane. Others can be reached via ferry from Athens, Patras, or another port on the mainland.
To experience multiple Greek islands in one trip, many visitors choose to "island-hop" from one to another via ferry. You can learn more about this with our Ultimate Guide to Island-Hopping in Greece.
Duration: 1 hour flight, up to 1 day by ferry depending on destination
To get from Athens to the Greek islands, you have the option of either flying or taking a ferry.
Direct flights leave regularly from Athens Airport to the Greek islands. Flight times range from 40 minutes to just over an hour, depending on your destination. If you are planning to visit an island that is far from Athens, such as Crete or Rhodes, flying can save you a significant amount of time over taking the ferry.
If you do choose to take a ferry, you can book your tickets in advance, or at the port. You will often have the option of booking a reserved seat, shared cabin, or private cabin for an additional fee. High-speed ferry options are available on some routes.
Most ferries leave from Piraeus Port, although there is also another port in Rafina, a town in Eastern Attica about a 45-minute drive from Athens. Rafina is closer to the airport than Piraeus, so it may be an option worth considering if you plan on leaving directly from there.
To reach Piraeus from downtown Athens, you can take the M1 (green line) of the Athens Metro, rent a car, or book a private transfer. If you have a rental car, note that some ferries can accommodate vehicles, sometimes for an additional fee. However, be sure to check with your rental company to see if it would be OK to bring your car to the islands.
Ferry times can range from under one hour to over a day. Keep in mind that some islands, like the Ionian islands, can’t be accessed from Athens by ferry—to reach those, you will have to take a flight.
From Patras to the Ionian Islands
Duration: 1-4 hours
Patras is Greece’s third-largest city. Due to its location in the north of the Peloponnese peninsula, it is a good base for accessing the Ionian islands.
One flight per week leaves from Patras Araxos Airport heading to Corfu. The flight takes just 40 minutes.
You also have the option of taking ferries from Patras port to the islands of Kefalonia or Ithaca. Or, to get to Zakynthos, you can leave from Kyllini: a port town about an hour’s drive west of Patras.
From Thessaloniki to Crete, Rhodes, or Santorini
Duration: 1-hour flight
Despite the fact that Thessaloniki is a port city, few companies offer ferry connections to the Greek islands from there. The best way to reach the islands from Thessaloniki is to fly.
Direct flights leave from Thessaloniki’s airport to island destinations such as Crete, Rhodes, Santorini, Paros, and Ikaria, among others. Times and dates can be sporadic, so be sure to take this into account when planning your trip.