Greek Islands travel advice

Filippos Venetopoulos, from our small group adventure specialists Intrepid Travel, says:

Pick an island, any island

“Each island has its uniqueness, character and beauty. If I had to pick a favourite it would be based on the mood of the day! So today, I’d pick Paros. Paros is located in the Aegean Sea and has some of the most beautiful beaches and bays... and last but not least I’m getting married on Monastiri beach next year for all the aforementioned reasons!”

Secret Santorini

“What is there not to like? The quiet sunset drinks and natural meditation at sea? The natural swimming pool of the Aegean Sea? The local traditional food each island has to offer? One day you are in Santorini, watching the astonishing cliffs and calderas and the next day you are in Folegandros (aka secret Santorini), with no tourists!”

Greek greetings

“The one thing that really surprises travellers is the hospitality. You will see people on the streets smiling, chatting and relaxing with the zen rhythm of the Greek Islands. Food-wise, you can never go wrong with fresh local fish, but you can also try traditional platters such as fava, tzatziki, and Greek salad (most islands have their ‘own’ version).”
Annie Antonatou, from our eco-sailing holiday specialists Mystic Blue, spoke to us while sailing around the Greek Islands:

Go small

“I really like the smaller islands, like the Small Cyclades or a couple of islands in the West Cyclades because they’re more unspoiled. Now, from July until the end of August, it’s busy wherever you go. It’s unavoidable, because everyone takes their holiday then. But on these small islands, if you walk away a little bit you can always find a place to relax. Plus, there’s more islanders.”

Remote islands

“What sets the Greek Islands apart is the amount of remote places you can go. There aren’t many places in southern Europe where there’s only a small village with one tavern, with one family and a fisherman living there, and the fish is cooked by the family. You can find many moments like this in the Greek Islands.”

Slow it down

“People are surprised about how relaxed, how easy life is in Greece. It’s laid-back in general – you can just sail into a bay and jump into the water for a swim. And for some reason, people are also not aware of how good the food is – healthy and fresh. They look at the pictures and they know there are going to be beautiful bays, but the food is a surprise.”

Naturally unique

“The nature in the islands is very unique compared to the rest of Greece. The most important species is the Eleonora’s falcon, which comes from Madagascar and breeds in the islands, so many people come from all over just to spot it. There are many deserted islets where there are no dogs and cats, so it’s an ideal ground for birds to nest.”

It’s all in the timing

“May, June, September and October are my favourite times of year. It’s not so crowded, it’s more laid-back, and you have more opportunities to meet local people, learn and socialise. In spring (March, April and May) you have lots of wildflowers you can only find in this part of the world.”

Health & safety in the Greek Islands

HEALTH

Summer in Greece is hot – but breezier on the islands. Always carry water and stay out of the midday heat. Or even better, travel outside of June to early September. Most islands have a clinic, but the hours might be unpredictable, so it’s handy to carry a first aid kit for minor scrapes. Pharmacists are also trained to help with minor ailments. Hospitals are far and few between on the Greek Islands. Choose a private hospital if you can; public hospitals are massively underfunded thanks to the economic crisis, and what you might consider as basics (meals, for instance) might not be provided. It’s also a good reason to have foolproof travel insurance for unexpected expenses. You can call the emergency services on 112 (the European emergency number) or 166 for emergency medical help in Greece. There’s a shortage of ambulances on some islands, so there could be a wait. Most mosquitoes are (quite literally) a pain in the behind, but they don’t carry malaria. Asian tiger mosquitoes, however, carry several viruses. Prevention is your best bet, so stock up on repellent and remember to pull down any mozzie screens on windows. Water shortages mean that tap water isn’t always drinkable on the Greek Islands. Check with your guide or a local; sometimes buying bottled water is a necessary evil. Try to recycle the bottle whenever possible. Accessibility for travellers in Greece has made a little progress since the Athens Paralympics in 2004, but the Greek Islands are still lightyears behind. If you live with a disability, travelling is doable, but difficult. Talk to your tour operator about any accessibility requirements you might have. You just need your regular old childhood vaccinations (MMR and diphtheria-polio-tetanus jabs) for the Greek Islands. Check Travel Health Pro for up-to-date health information.

SAFETY

Greek roads (and drivers) don’t always stay on the straight and narrow. Listen to your guide when cycling and keep an eye on the next bend at all times. Snakes and the occasional stinging jellyfish are the only dangerous animals in the Greek Islands. Pull up your socks and wear long trousers when hiking in long grass where vipers like to sunbathe. Violent crime against tourists is rare in the Greek Islands, but pickpocketing is common in central Athens. Keep an eye on your belongings when travelling through busy ferry ports on your way to the islands, too. Every dry, hot summer kicks off a season of wildfires. They’re dangerous and unpredictable. Don’t discard cigarette butts and don’t light barbecues anywhere. Even unintentional forest fires are a criminal offence in Greece. Localised stormy weather is always possible. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts while staying on the islands, as high winds and stormy seas may affect ferry sailings.

Our top Greek islands Holiday

Naxos and the small Cyclades walking holiday, Greece

Naxos and the small Cyclades walking holiday, Greece

Walk and discover Naxos and the unspoilt Small Cyclades

From £592 to £914 10 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2020: 28 Mar, 4 Apr, 11 Apr, 18 Apr, 25 Apr, 2 May, 9 May, 16 May, 23 May, 30 May, 6 Jun, 5 Sep, 12 Sep, 19 Sep, 26 Sep, 3 Oct, 10 Oct, 17 Oct, 24 Oct, 31 Oct
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Greek islands or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Greek Islands tips from our travellers

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often...other travellers. 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 Island travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday – and the space inside your suitcase.
Take time to just stop and be still and listen to the silence broken only by goat bells and the cry of a bird of prey.
– Lisa Lazuli
“Be ready for some serious but very enjoyable walking and unpredictable weather. It was very windy and cool for much of our two weeks in March/April, but it didn't stop us enjoying ourselves!” – Steve Gattey

“Sunscreen is a must. Also, try to learn a little Greek before you arrive. It's a way of showing respect for your hosts and I found people truly appreciated the effort to speak their language.” – Susan Leeds

“Some bus journeys are split, having to change buses half way, which it does not tell you on the bus timetable.” – Joy Cornforth

“In the bigger towns always seek out the restaurants in the smaller alleys – ask the locals where's good to eat. They almost certainly will be run by a family who pride themselves on giving you a lovely meal at very reasonable prices. Never order a pudding as one is almost certainly on its way as a gift to you, plus some raki!” – Sue McNuff
Photo credits: [Page banner: lupu robert ciprian] [Top box: Jon-Eric Melsaeter] [Eleonora's falcon: Jurgen Dietrich] [Health & safety: Brandon Atkinson] [Review: chris.chronis]
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