Island hopping give you a wonderful sense of freedom
Island hopping is not only reserved for young people with backpack and hiking boots. Island hopping in Greece is just as fine with a suitcase on wheels, sandals and when you are getting on in years. We were in our late fifties when we decided to try island hopping in Greece for the first time. It was fun, easy, exiting and relaxing.
We bought cheap flights to Mykonos. I checked ferry routes and rates on the Internet and planned which islands to visit. I did not bother to book any hotels because I wanted us to have the freedom to change the route and to continue to another island if we were not satisfied with the one we were at. Our island hopping started at Mykonos and we went straight from the airport to a ferry taking us to Tinos. We had some days on Tinos and then the journey went on to Syros and from there to Amorgos. We ended the trip on Naxos and Antiparos before we headed back to Mykonos and stayed there for one night in order to be sure we catched the flight back home.
Our holyday was only 14 days and it was wonderful not having to decide before hand how many days to stay at each place. We were also free to change the route if something exciting came up. We went in the last half of August, which is the end of the tourist season and had no problems finding accommodation. In each harbor we met people with signs promoting their B&B, hotel or a private room to let. It may pay to check out the room before you agree on the price. Offers may vary from very modest to luxurious. And it is possible to haggle on price.
Our island hopping was limited to the group of islands called Cyclades. We travelled by ferry but sometimes on the old slowly ones and other times on the modern fast ones. The old ferries are more charming and we spent the time on deck enjoying the sun and fellow travellers. If you have time, I recommend the old and slow ferries. They have a lot of charm and the voyage is an adventure in itself.
Mykonos is famous for its windmills and its white houses with blue doors and windows. Mykonos is like a glossy picture of Greece. Especially popular is Mykonos city and the area by the harbor also called Little Venice. Here you will find many restaurants, bars and small art galleries. Mykonos has an airport and is therefor a very good starting point.
We went straight to Tinos in order to join the Feast of the Dormition of Maria, August 15. On this day the orthodox and eastern Catholics celebrate the assumption of Virgin Maria. I had read about it on the Internet and on Tinos this was a big and important celebration centered around the Virgin Maria Cathedral. Many pilgrims from all around the world arrive on Tinos for this celebration. Its time for penance and many pilgrims will be crawling up the hill from the harbor to the church situated on a top with a view of the city. For the Greek Gypsies this is an important religious celebration and it looked like the all had come to Tinos. Everywhere we saw people staying on the sidewalks and in the parks overnight. We managed to rent a private room with a family in the center of the city.
Festivals and religious holidays give you a good insight into the culture of the country you visit. We never miss it if something is happening where we are staying. And we never regretted our stay on Tinos. All the buzz and excitement when the Virgin Maria figure was carried out of the church and slowly down the hill was unforgettable.
Tinos is also famous for its many dovecotes and you will also find some nice beaches.
Syros has a completely different atmosphere. The biggest city Ermoupoli is situated on a slope and you has to climb many stairs to get from the harbor and up into the city. The architecture is more Italian than Greek. The Apollo Theatre is a true copy of La Scala in Milano. In the area around the town hall you will find many restaurants and bars. On Syros you can get the feeling of buzzy city life at night and enjoy the beach during daytime.
Amorgos was probably the most exciting island on our island hopping. Amorgos has no airport and less tourists than many of the other islands in the Cyclades. Those we met were either island hopping like us or people with sailboats. And there were a lot of sailboats, some of them enormous.
The French film “The Big Blue” was partly filmed on this island in 1988. The island still profit from that and the film is shown nearly every day in one of the bars along the beach. We rented a small flat on the harbor and had great fun following the activities on the dock whenever the ferry arrived and went again.
The biggest attraction on the island is the Monastery Hozoviotissa. The monastery is built into the rocks on the south west side of the island. You just have to take time to visit this place. But remember to dress decent. It requires some effort to visit the monastery. You have to climb more than a hundred stairs to get there. But in return the view is fantastic and your guide will probably tell the story about the place. Why did they choose to build a monastery at such an impassable place? The myth says that a ship wrecked just off the cliff more than 900 years ago. The ship carried the icon of Virgin Maria from Palestine and the Monastery was built to honor this icon. The myth comes in many variations. One other variation is that the icon of Virgin Maria was destroyed and thrown into the sea in two parts. One part floated ashore at the cliff and the then built the monastery. The other part floated ashore on another island where they also built a monastery.
From the harbor in Katapola you can take a small boat to one of the many beaches or just walk on the cliffs to find a place all by yourself. On the top of the island you find a small city or more like a village. Chora is an idyllic village with narrow streets and small cafes. You can take the bus up there from Katapola or rent a bike if you are fit enough for the steep hills.
We did not spend much time on Naxos. The old part of Naxos city is very charming and we had no trouble finding a nice place to have lunch. In the small and narrow streets you will find many cafes, restaurants, shops and galleries. Naxos is said to have the best sand beaches in the whole Cyclades.
This is a small island closely connected to the bigger neighbor Paros. Antiparos has child friendly sand beaches and also two nude beaches. It is a quiet and calm island where you can rent a bike and easy get around. Per rented a bike and I went snorkeling. We stayed in a small flat just some hundred meters from the village where the ferry arrives. Per is an early bird and went every morning to have his coffee at the pier. After just two days he was friends with everyone.
The biggest attraction on Antiparos is stalactites cave some few kilometers outside the village. It is absolutely worth a visit.
Everything you need to know about ferries, routes and rates check here: Greece Ferries
I would love to know which Greek island you have as a favorite!