Visiting the Greek Islands allows travelers to step back in history, exploring places like the Parthenon in Athens and savoring the unmistakable Mediterranean flavor in charming seaside taverns with crystal-clear waters.
What does the Greek islands offer?
The Greek Islands offer something for every type of traveler. History enthusiasts will relish archaeological sites and museums. Beach lovers will enjoy some ranked among the world’s best. Those seeking culinary experiences will discover a myriad of tempting flavors at each stop. It’s a great journey for those venturing into the world of cruising.
What should I consider when choosing my ideal cruise?
When choosing a cruise for the Greek Islands, cruisers have as many options as there are different types of travelers. All major cruise lines have itineraries visiting Greek ports. Here is where you decide what kind of experience you want.
Larger cruise ships, like those operated by Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, or Norwegian Cruise Line, typically visit the larger and more popular islands and ports like Piraeus (Athens), Mykonos, Santorini, or Crete. Smaller ships may also opt for lesser-known, less crowded ports like Skiathos or Hydra.
In both cases, it’s important to note that disembarkation usually involves using tenders (small boats) in many of the Greek islands to be visited.
Which is the best season?
If we follow the model of cruise seasons in the Eastern Mediterranean, ships travel the Greek Islands from late April to late October (though it extends each year). The peak season would be between July and August, when you’ll see the highest number of cruisers in ports, coinciding with temperatures that can reach 37/40 degrees Celsius.
Cruise itineraries for the Greek Islands:
The most common ports from which ships touring the Greek Islands depart are Venice and Athens (Piraeus). However, occasionally, you may see itineraries starting in Barcelona or Civitavecchia, but with a longer duration.
Most stops on cruises through the Greek Islands are made via tenders (small boats) that provide regular service throughout the stop to transport passengers from the ship to the dock. Remember the last tender time, especially in Santorini and Mykonos.
Here’s what you’ll find at some stops:
This popular Greek island has two cruise ports, Chania and Heraklion. Of the two, Heraklion is better known. From this port, you can visit the impressive Palace of Knossos, one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. Crete holds a significant place in Greek mythology and was important in Hellenic civilization. In Heraklion, you will dock next to the Venetian port, just outside the ancient city walls.
Cruise ships usually arrive at the old port of Kerkira, right next to the historic area of the city of Corfu. It is the second most populous island in Greece and one of the largest islands in the Greek country. With paradisiacal beaches it also allows travelers to explore its rich past and history by simply accessing the walled area of the city.
Katakolon is a popular port of call during a cruise to Greece. It is also called “the gateway to Olympia.” This small port is conveniently located along the eastern Mediterranean and is especially popular for visiting the ancient ruins of Olympia.
This Greek island is world-famous for its spectacular beaches. If, instead of a day by the sea, you prefer to explore the island, you will encounter the unmistakable windmills, typical of the island. If you’re lucky, you might come across Petros the Pelican, the island’s mascot, a descendant of the famous pelican that arrived on the island and was rescued by a fisherman.
Only smaller ships can dock at the Patmos cruise port. Larger ones will anchor in the bay and take tenders to the port of Skala. Closer to the Turkish coast than the Greek one, this island is famous for being a place of Christian pilgrimage, due to its mention in the Book of Revelations.
The apostle John supposedly received the Revelations on the island while in a cave, now called the Cave of the Apocalypse. If history fascinates you, include Chora in your visit, exploring its white Byzantine buildings.
The port of Athens is located in Piraeus, about 15 kilometers from the city center. It is a major port that serves as a dock for numerous ferries to the islands and international ports, with two cruise terminals. It is the gateway for travelers to discover the city that was the cradle of Western civilization, Athens.
From here, you can visit the Acropolis, Agora, Dionysus Theater, National Archaeological Museum, or the Temple of Olympian Zeus, among other wonders. It is undoubtedly the port with the most departures for cruises to the Greek Islands.
The most famous island in the entire Greek archipelago, especially for its sunsets. This island created by volcanic force allows us to get the most iconic photos of Greece with white domes from the top of the city of Fira, accessed after a funicular ascent (better not to use the popular donkeys) from the dock. The small town of Oia, to the north, offers magnificent views of the caldera and the island’s spectacular cliffs.
Also located very close to the Turkish coast, Rhodes offers the traveler one of the best-preserved medieval cities in the world. The cruise port is in the east of the city, in front of the Gate of St. Catherine and the remains of the ancient walls. It is world-famous for the Colossus that once stood in its port and is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Don’t miss the Temple of Artemis dating back to the 4th century BCE.