Best time to visit the Greek Islands


Many islands open for business around March, revving up for Easter. Orthodox Easter (Pascha) occurs a few weeks later and is a spectacular event on many islands. The best time to visit the Greek Islands for hiking is spring or autumn, as the heat is more manageable. On Ithaca in June - July there are festivals (panigiria) with local food, drink and dancing. Check out Rhodes' Valley of the Butterflies, which emerge en masse in August. April-Oct is sailing season – but beware Ionian maistros winds.

Things to do on the Greek Islands


Things to do on the Greek Islands…

The archetypal archipelagic adventure is, of course, on a boat. Whether you are sailing the Cyclades, immersing yourself in the Ionian or drifting through the Dodecanese, Greece’s islands are a mecca for mariners. You don’t need to be an expert sailor either, with small group vacations that take you on, for example, a traditional sailing vessel from Santorini to Syros. Or on an odyssey around the eponymous god’s homelands of Ithaca and equally heavenly Oxia. On all these trips you can wake up with a swim, have a beach bbq for lunch, a late afternoon exploration of olive grove covered hills or an ancient site, and then watch the sunset from a beach bar or on board. Or combine it with a diving vacation for the ultimate Big Blue experience.
Whether you are on a sailing vacation but also like to stretch your land legs or simply seeking Hellenic hiking at its finest, then walking vacations on the Greek Islands must be the reason for the word Elysian still to exist in the world. Such as the Cycladic island of Syros where empty hilltop trails take you through medieval villages, past blue domed churches, mountain springs and gorgeous gorges. Or head to the Ionian Lefkada where wanderlust will be more than satisfied by its Faneromeni monastery, flamingo filled Gira Lagoon or up to the ancient oak forest at Skaros peak. And last but not least, Crete, where the White Mountains, Samaria Gorge and endless beaches have enticed serious hikers for generations.

Things not to do on the Greek Islands…

You can’t ignore the fact that Greece’s islands have been one of the most affected areas in the world’s most galling humanitarian crisis, with thousands of refugees landing on their shores, sometimes daily, after enduring treacherous journeys across the Mediterranean. The most severely affected islands are those in the east, closest to Turkey, including Lesvos, Samos, Kos, Leros, Symi, Agathonisi, Chios and on Rhodes. It is important that we do not overlook the Greek Islands as vacation destinations because of this humanitarian disaster, as it is a vital time to keep money flowing into the local economy. Many of the islands remain totally unaffected, particularly the Cyclades and the Ionian which are further west.
Don’t think the Greek Islands, whether you are on water or land, are just for summer. As well as searing heat which means that hiking and, indeed, sitting out on deck, becomes impossible for several hours in the day, spring brings explosions of wild flowers from Crete to the Cyclades, and autumn brings olive and grape harvests, but perfectly warmed seas for bathing in. And if you are going in summer, take all the usual precautions in order to stay hydrated. Seriously hydrated, not just a small bottle of water, but bring a hydration backpack, salts, the lot.

Greek Islands travel advice


Itinerary tips

Annie Antonatou from our Greek sailing vacations supplier Mystic Blue offers Greek Island travel advice: “We take guests to smaller, unspoilt islands of the Aegean to show the real Greece – to mingle with locals, experience delicious food grown on the doorstep. Sailing to remote islands is a unique way to discover local producers – fresh fish from the fisherman, olive oil from a small grove or locally produced cheese. You'll experience a Greek feast with traditional island music and dancing. And discover unique Aegean wildlife. Dolphins, seals and loggerhead turtles will be sailing companions, plus land species like the Skyros’ wall lizard and Milos viper – the Aegean's unique natural wealth.”

Cultural tips

Giorgos Maltezakis from our supplier Cretan Paths: “Our effort is to bring people closer to how local people live and interact, whether the experience involves a cooking class, olive oil or wine tasting, or a simple meal in a village square. We visit rural villages where the locals greet their guests – in the words of Nikos Kazantzakis – like 'small gods'! We visit establishments that put all their love and knowledge into the creation of traditional flavours that highlight Cretan cuisine – and its health benefits! We get to know Crete through trekking or walking the beautiful island landscape too. Crete is a place with spirit we urge people to explore and get acquainted with.”

Tips on when to go

Chantel Kyriakopoulou-Beuvink from our supplier Natural Greece: “The celebration of Orthodox Easter (Pascha) in Crete lets you participate in magnificent festivities unchanged for centuries. Hear hymns while the scent of incense accompanies the Good Friday procession. Next day feel the eerie atmosphere at midnight when everyone holds candles, waiting for church bells announcing Christ’s resurrection. Next comes fireworks in the church square, followed by Easter eggs and eating Margaritsa soup. Celebrate like you have never done before, with traditional dance, music - and roasted lamb on the spit.”

Greek Islands travel advice


At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Greek Islands travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation.
“Pack half of what you thought you might need; there is virtually NO storage space. Be prepared to live in the same pair of shorts and the same two tops for the whole week. Take seasickness tablets if you're so inclined, but make sure they're the not-so-drowsy type. Try new foods – we had goat and it was DELICIOUS, not what I expected at all. Make sure you can comfortably carry your luggage if you are planning on taking the bus from the airport to get to the ferry as there is a bit of a walk. Getting there in one day can be a bit of a squeeze; an overnight stay in Athens before and after the week on the boat would take the pressure off the getting there and home again.” – Carolin Sommer on our sailing vacation in the Ionian Sea

“If you wish to experience Greece and breathe its soul, then this is the tour to go on!... Be cognizant of the way of life in Greece – you will be advised not to waste natural resources (water, paper etc.)….Keep a good water proof jacket and fleece jacket handy – the weather in the mountains changes without warning – being prepared helps! Good shoes, sunglasses and sunscreen and you are all set! WiFi is available in all the places, you will be staying, but a little piece of advice from a fellow traveler – leave those phones and tablets in the room – go out there – talk to the locals, enjoy a glass of wine and hear what they have to say – you will be amazed at what you will hear and how much there is to see.” – Sarita Chitrapu on our Greece walking vacation, Naxos and the Cyclades

“If you enjoy having whole beaches to yourself, swimming in crystal clear waters with perfect air temperatures, then May is the month for you to visit the beautiful island of Ithaca. We really enjoyed escaping the hubbub and the average temperature of around 24C was perfect for our 4 year old.” – Alison Brookes Day, staying at a luxury Greek Island vacation accommodation

“Learn the phrase 'yasass', the Greek toast when enjoying the local Raki!” – Alison Crawford

“Be open for whatever happens. Things may not go according to plan and have to be changed. For me it turned out fine. Another important thing is to walk quietly, talking. Then you can more be in the moment. Really be here and now and enjoy your surroundings.” – Erik Svanes , on a Greece walking vacation
Photo credits: [Temp chart: Jan Fidler] [Itinerary tips: _dChris] [Review 1 - Violet Holley: Ken Mayer] [Review 2 - Anna Dugdale: Live Zakynthos]
Written by Catherine Mack
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